Builders and Deserters: Students, State, and Community in Leningrad, 1917-1941

By Peter Konecny | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Training for a
New World

The Soviet higher-education system placed great emphasis on practical training. Through apprenticeship programs students became acquainted with production, the dynamics of the workplace, and the mechanics of the planned economy. I Practical training was also an integral part of ideological instruction, as it instilled in students the virtues of physical labour and a Marxist understanding of social relations. The students' task was to fulfil Lenin's demand for a union (smychka) between the peasantry and the working class. This chapter examines the political, academic, and social dimensions of practical training by looking at the activities of students in factories, villages, and remote regions of the Soviet Union.

Vocational training assumed an important role in technical education programs in the industrialized world during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In Great Britain, Germany, and the United States, apprentices received instruction through on-the-job training. Economic demands and the influence of progressive pedagogical methods after the First World War gave vocational training an additional boost. 2 Organized vocational training in Russia originated in 1884 under the Ministry of Education's "General Scheme." 3 Following the Bolshevik revolution, the state promoted further integration of enterprises, government departments, and academic institutions. By the mid-1930s, when the Party called for a retreat from experimental methods in education, vocational training at the primary and secondary levels had become less of a priority. 4 Some of the ambitious schemes succeeded, while others experienced poor apprentice-worker relations and bureaucratic confusion. For students who believed they were forging a new society, practical training became a lesson in adjusting classroom theory to Soviet realities. Their lofty goals changed after they were deposited in a village undergoing dekulakization or a factory struggling to

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