KUSHNIRSKY: The Soviets Found The Perfect Way To Indoctrinate Citizens. Now The US Is Following Their Lead


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With political winds blowing from right to left, the term “equity” was introduced to replace customary equality. Since the latter stresses equal opportunity, and it is up to the individual how to use it, the authors of the new term believe that the emphasis on individual effort creates inequality. 

As Karl Marx indicates, complete equality exists only under idealistic communism, which provides resources “to each according to his needs.” The new definition of equity is about meeting the needs in the Marxist sense, but of those who live in poverty with greater needs rather than those from higher-income backgrounds. To accomplish the task, redistribution is a proven means. The process has already begun in U.S. education. New York public schools, for instance, are ending their gifted and talented programs. 

To understand where we may end up, it is instructive to review the experience of the Soviets after their 1917 revolution. From the start, the communist party leaders declared the era of mandatory education and equity. In plain language, the goal of equity is always to bring all students to the same level of educational attainment. And because all bad students cannot be turned into high performers, the only realistic alternative is to move in the opposite direction, wherein nobody could perform better than the crowd. 

The Soviet ideologues presented this as a means to eradicate “past injustices.” They shut down gymnasiums and other schools for advanced education. Tests and homework assignments were forbidden; a significant part of learning had to consist of studying progressive social dogmas. Students were divided into teams; grades were given to the team, and one could not do better than the team. 

To provide proper “social education” and eliminate competition for the minds of the younger generations, religion was outlawed and parents were forbidden under threat of punishment from taking part in the educational process. The new political and intellectual elite considered the nuclear family a great enemy to control society, so they took steps steps to eliminate it. According to a 1920s influential feminist Alexandra Kollontai, the family as a legacy of capitalist exploitation would soon die out, with the burden of motherhood removed from women’s shoulders and shifted to the state. 

WW2 interrupted the cascade of Soviet social experimentations. The draconian rules on family and expression were slowly easing, but the party grip on school curricula and content grew even firmer. Any science, when declared inconsistent with materialistic tenets, would be banned. Real life, however, presented new challenges because the country was facing competition from the U.S. in the construction of a military industrial complex and  in the development of nuclear  weapons .

The progressive ideology was not helpful at all, and the communists were forced to exempt such technical disciplines as mathematics, physics, and chemistry from their equity rules. The elevated education standards meant that being too smart was no longer a bad thing, and even rewardable. Specialized mathematics schools were opened all over the country, and knowledgeable teachers’ social background and ethnicity were frequently ignored. By virtually abandoning equity, within several decades the country was able to restore and often outmatch the famous pre-revolutionary school of mathematics. 

Yes, the U.S. is still behind the Soviet most extreme social experiments. But two similar characteristics, equity and parental removal from the education process, are worth mentioning. As to the latter, the U.S. public debate will likely encourage parents to take a greater role in the education of their children, rather than to agree on being pushed aside. To reach a consensus on equity is more problematic.

An anecdotal comparison with European countries, not to mention China, suggests that the idea of children having fun in school is much more prevalent in this country. Because equity oversimplifies the education curricula, it serves the purpose and might be supported by the electorate. Then the U.S. technological progress will depend on the willingness of qualified foreigners to come to this country for work. 

Fyodor I. Kushnirsky is professor emeritus at Temple University specializing in economic development and comparative economic systems.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.