Discipline in Soviet Schools:
The Observations of an American
Teaching in the USSR
Discipline is a product of the sum total of the educative efforts, including the teaching process, the process of political education, the process of character shaping, the process of collision -- of facing and settling conflicts in the collective, the process of friendship and trust, and the whole educational process in its entirety.
A. S. Makarenko ( 1965, p. 56)
Three years ago, as a guest of the Soviet Ministry of Education, I taught in two Soviet schools -- Special School No. 157 in Leningrad, and Experimental School No. 4 in Moscow. My assignment in each school lasted six weeks. Both schools are ten-year schools (desyatiletki) and are attended by students from age seven to sixteen. The very titles of these schools suggest that they are not what the Russians sometimes call "schools for the masses" (massovye shkoly).
These special schools differ from the schools for the masses, or ordinary schools, in two ways. Specifically, they provide a nine-year course in English. Other special schools specialize in German, Spanish, Japanese, and so forth. In addition, children whom I asked, although I took no formal census, had parents who were professionals or white collar workers.
Since my return to America a paradox has disturbed me. In our society, where we claim respect for the individual and his rights, only four states fully outlaw corporal punishment. Yet in the Soviet Union, a nation scored for its brutal penal system and severe limitations on what we in the West consider essential civil rights, corporal punishment is illegal and is frowned upon in the homes and schools.