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RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY

Russian Education and Society, vol. 49, no. 6, June 2007, pp. 52–65. © 2007 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1060–9393/2007 $9.50 + 0.00. DOI 10.2753/RES1060-9393490605

B.L. VUL’FSON

The Crisis in Upbringing
Both in theory and in practice, upbringing has always had to deal with some of the most complex questions in the study of mankind: What is man? How do people differ in terms of their biological and psychological characteristics? What determines their thoughts, desires, and actions? These eternal questions, which have confronted thinkers and scientists since antiquity, relate directly to problems of upbringing. One and a half centuries ago, K.D. Ushinskii wrote:
The teacher [vospitatel’] has to strive to know the individual, what he is in reality, with all his weaknesses and with all his greatnesses, with all his day-to-day, petty needs and with all his large requirements. The teacher has to know the individual in the family setting, in society, among people, among humankind, and alone with his conscience, in all ages, in all classes, in all situations, in joy and sadness, in greatness and in lowliness, at the top of his powers and in sickness, among unlimited hopes and on his deathbed, when a word of human consolation is already powerless. The teacher must know the causes that prompt the most sordid and the most lofty actions, the history of what generates both criminal and magnificent thoughts, the history of the development of every passion and every character. Only then will the teacher be able to draw upon the nature of the individual himself to find the means of upbringing influence, and these means are enormous. [1]

English translation © 2007 M.E. Sharpe, Inc., from the Russian text © 2006 “Pedagogika.” “Krizis vospitaniia,” Pedagogika, 2006, no. 5, pp. 3–10. A publication of the Russian Academy of Education.
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Very often he acts without regard to reason. cruel. as they always have. Anticultural tendencies among different groups of the population are spreading. which. phobias. Bloody wars have accompanied the entire centuries-long history of mankind. . Let us note that complaints about the decline of morals and the lowering of young people’s morality have existed for many centuries. people will continue. he finds himself in thrall to unconscious anxieties. But accomplishing them has always been extraordinarily difficult. Homo sapiens (“man the wise”) seems at times unwarrantedly boastful. Man belongs to the few living beings who are able to kill members of their own kind. It is well known that such complaints are found even in ancient manuscripts from the era of Egyptian pharaohs. Even the best of them at times find it difficult to resist the temptations of wealth. It seems clear that in the social organism and in the nature of man there are cancer cells of violence. man’s true nature continues to be a riddle. and envious. there are increasing symptoms of the lowering of the “ethical bar” in the consciousness and behavior of many people. And there are plenty of good reasons to fear that in this new century as well. For all of humankind’s enormous scientific accomplishments. 2:43 PM . the main gift bestowed by nature. under certain circumstances. Man’s anthropological and psychological properties are contradictory and ambivalent. But the 05Vulfson. Certain elementary moral taboos are being lifted. Quite the contrary. The situation is not improving.pmd 53 5/16/2007. to engage in endless battles. which have been formulated so brilliantly by the great Russian teacher and psychologist. restrictions that would restrain manifestations of aggression and unpredictable inappropriate behavior. have not by any means become obsolete. fears. and power. glory. decency and honesty. and it is not any easier now. it has not managed to penetrate the secrets of consciousness. . and irrational impulses. to bomb and to destroy. .JUNE 2007 53 These tasks of the teacher. but they can also be aggressive. People can exhibit patterns of altruism and self-sacrifice. are capable of spreading and growing rapidly. All too often the most elementary regulative restrictions disappear from his consciousness. To a large extent. the name we have given ourselves. Against this background.

first and foremost on young people. Different levels of education make that inequality even stronger and sometimes irreversible. The English sociologist Z. There are numerous types of inequality. while on the other hand there is the increasingly stronger hierarchy of production and administrative functions. a hierarchy that leads to real inequality. new information technologies. All of these issues are having the most powerful impact. Scientists in many countries have expressed extreme concern. and so on. The trouble is not that the hole in the ozone is getting bigger. 41]. The postindustrial world consists of more than just the automation of production. p. nor is it the destruction of the ecological environment. In his book The Individualized Society [Individualizirovannoe obshchestvo] he writes: “These days it has become common and even fashionable to complain about the mounting nihilism and cynicism that prevail among today’s men and women and to criticize them for their indifference toward long-range life plans and the banality and self-serving nature of their desires. there is the expanding democratization of society. Bauman sees the instability and contradictions of the globalizing world as the chief cause. There is also the emergence of a new type of human being and the determination of his place in the modern socium [4]. the orientation toward the equality of all before the law. . Gurevich: “The worst misfortune is not the shortage of raw materials for industry. the liquidation of class differences. We will confine our- 05Vulfson. Even more alarming is the warning by the Russian philosopher P. But the majority of the preachers of morality who come down hard on this decline in morality tend to forget. p. It is here that fundamentally different and even opposing tendencies collide.S. . 2:43 PM . It is that the human psyche might fail to hold up” [3.pmd 54 5/16/2007. or that the oil well is drying up. . Scientific creativity is attempting to ward off these catastrophies. to be reminded.54 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY urgency of the problems really is growing in our time. The nightmare is something different: man’s psychological resources are not unlimited. that the obvious tendency that they are condemning is a natural reaction to a world in which man is forced to perceive the future as a threat” [2. On the one hand. 66].

JUNE 2007 55 selves to just one example. Juvenile crime and delinquency is taking on dangerous proportions in Western Europe. This is felt most keenly in the early stages of this process by young people. usually thirteen to eighteen years of age. and prostitutes. the Vitelloni in Italy. London. narcotics abusers. delinquent groups among students even operate within educational institutions. . alcoholics. Criminal youth gangs have come to be a real social threat—Teddy Boys in Great Britain. the Skunna Folke in Sweden. hang out in city squares and parks or in courtyards. and yesterday’s villagers find it hard to adapt to them. In principle. In the second half of the twentieth century. The biggest cities— New York. The members of these gangs. robbery. and Paris—are growing at a rapid rate. Shanghai. including the network of educational institutions. the size of the world’s urban population rose by three and a half times. The ideological foundations of criminal youth gangs very often consist of slogans of nationalistic extremism and racism. The social infrastructure. the Black Shirts in France. and even murder. Tokyo. In Russia an enormous stratum of “social dregs” makes up about 5 percent of the total population: homeless and destitute people. crimes committed by children and young adults increase yearly. Even in Japan. where this situation until recently was less alarming. These people lose their former ties and they feel that they are isolated despite being jammed together in crowded public transportation. They account for the increase in legal offenses and crimes among young people. as are gross violations of discipline. the cities should constitute a concentration of the supreme accomplishments of culture. were not 05Vulfson. 2 million children in Russia had no permanent residence. . 2:43 PM . According to data of the General Prosecutor’s Office for 2000. and it makes phenomena of crisis among them even worse. is not able to keep up with that kind of growth everywhere. assault. In the United States. They are swallowing up the communities around them and forming huge megalopolises. . But urban traditions take centuries to form. the numbers of narcotics abusers are growing. and so on. Halbstarken in Germany.pmd 55 5/16/2007. they commit hooliganism. Moscow. In the past ten years there has been a dramatic increase in the pace and scale of urbanization. In the schools.

were living as vagrants. to a large extent due to processes of acceleration.pmd 56 5/16/2007. as the most prestigious jobs are held by “old folks. p. Demographic evolution is another complicating factor: in northern countries. the problem of relations between parents and children is getting more complicated. gaining strength. But it is an international situation. he is only preparing. knowledge. and were being drawn into the criminal world.56 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY attending school. But this process is not free of contradictions. One indicator of societal progress is the lengthening of childhood. In the words of the eminent French educator A. many of whom are performing their professional and public functions longer than they used to. In today’s world. cruelty. 05Vulfson. the excessive and undiscriminating consumption of TV information and other mass information can have a negative impact on the development of individuality and creative potential. 55]. women of easy virtue. American sociologists and psychologists have found a dramatic connection between the portrayal of violence on TV screens and crime among young people. and sexuality. In numerous studies. Families and schools are powerless to counteract the media’s influence on young people. More importantly. gangsters’ victories over the guardians of the law. Some young people are convinced that this is what makes it so hard for them to achieve social advancement. hooligan youth gangs are terrorizing the population. and creative potential and being inculcated with social and moral values. and nightclubs” [5. The individual’s participation in productive labor and active public life is delayed. Logier. an extended life span is leading to an increase in the proportion of aged people. The child is attracted by what he sees at the movies and on the TV screen—murder and violence.” The role of the mass media is contradictory. Many young people attain biological and physiological maturity earlier than independent social status. 2:43 PM . While its educational importance is indisputable. Russians are well aware of this from their own experience and from numerous articles. many TV programs and movies promote violence. leading to family and public conflicts and rendering upbringing more difficult. “The admonitions of parents and the pathetic lessons of morality go into one ear and out the other. In a number of cities and settlements.

2:43 PM . Freedom of speech is a great accomplishment.” In 2003. not met with the necessary resistance on the part of the healthy portion of societies in the countries of the North. Congress passed the law “On Children’s Television. 240–45]. In the 05Vulfson. pp. in opposition to it. Active propaganda in favor of these perversions. Educational institutions will not be able to cope with this task on their own. Great Britain’s House of Commons officially approved a report titled “Video Violence and Children. even more so.” Same-sex marriages became widespread. In 1992. The task is not to create or reinstate the practice of ideological censorship in order to protect the self-serving interests of the political establishment.pmd 57 5/16/2007. all too often. An orientation toward “comradely marriage” became popular among young people. which are contrary to the fundamental laws of nature (what is meant here is not purely medical pathologies) is. involving frequent changes of sexual partners and the rejection of child bearing. In 1990.S. Congress and Senate. draft laws “Protecting Children Against Sex and Violence in Video Games” and “Protecting Children Against Television Programs That Encourage Violence” were submitted to the U. Lesbians and gays stepped up their activism [6. against encroachments against the moral foundations of a civilized society.JUNE 2007 57 The urgency of the problem has concerned lawmakers in various countries.” stating that “by permitting the dissemination of such films we may be setting a delayed-action mine that can explode on the streets of our cities in five to ten years. The 1960s and 1970s in the United States and in Western Europe were witness to the “sexual revolution. But it is essential to implement a well-thoughtout state policy that is capable of safeguarding citizens. first and foremost young people. in a few countries such marriages were officially recognized by the state. but it ought not to be placed above morality or.” Its first victims were traditional views of marriage and the family. inasmuch as taking care of children “interferes with the free development of the personality.S.” The House of Commons passed a bill that permits the showing of video films that include elements of sadism and pornography only at night. the U. Similar legislative documents are being drawn up by the Federal Assembly of Russia.

To counter these tendencies. and writers on public affairs in a number of countries. The rigid structure of the authoritarian family. these kinds of school courses ought to focus on more than physiological and medical issues.S. Their most important function should be to educate people’s feelings. In principle. Teaching aids for such a course teach upper-grade students genital anatomy and physiology. sexual hygiene. a number of countries have adopted specialized school courses in sex education. Norms of matrimonial behavior are changing. All too often. It is essential that they avoid the associated dangers and undesirable consequences. with its unconditional authority of the husband and the subordinate status 05Vulfson. educators. Until comparatively recently. including Russia. who want to undermine our physical and moral health. Although the majority of young people still believe in the traditional values of marriage and family.58 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY 1980s. the family is going through a profound transformation. In the countries of the North. the schools usually did not concern themselves with these issues. in particular [7]. The age at which young people become sexually active has fallen noticeably. contraceptive use. Kon. In the Russian periodical press it is asserted that these courses constitute a “criminal eroticization” of minors and is being deliberately provoked by Russia’s enemies. But it does not accomplish moral education. When sex education courses began to be adopted in the United States in the 1960s. waves of “the sexual revolution” began to roll into Russia as well. This is useful in preparation for marriage. These new phenomena are being objectively explored and examined by the well-known Russian scientist I. and is justly criticized for this reason. in which sexual harmony plays such an important role. nonetheless the consequences of “the sexual revolution” are still being felt. however.pmd 58 5/16/2007. 2:43 PM . a new phenomenon. anti-Soviets in the guise of guardians of morality claimed that it was a “criminal gambit” by liberals acting at the behest of the Soviet special services. It seems that neoconservatives in different countries sometimes make use of the same arguments. to inculcate highly moral relations between a man and a woman. when the schools address this set of problems it provokes a negative reaction on the part of many parents.

in 2000 about 400. the top priority is unquestionably the upbringing of children. The family is the first and most important sphere of the child’s physical. While on the whole. the main channel of connection between the generations. or printed form. In most countries of Europe and North America. However. and it went into effect in the Russian Federation in 1990.pmd 59 5/16/2007. and in many ways she is the one who sets the norms of family life. In Russia these problems are becoming more urgent [8]. written. and its purpose is to safeguard them against violence and abusive treatment.” In effect. obtain. Article 13 proclaims that a child has the right freely to “seek out. As a result. these statements question the traditional and natural norms of family upbringing. It reflects society’s concern about the fate of children. In the group over thirty there are a great many more single women than available men. This function infuses the whole life of the family and relates to all of the aspects of its activity. is giving way to new relations in which the woman is aware of her equal rights. and intellectual development. Let us turn to another problem. with extremely negative consequences for their upbringing. After a divorce. 2:43 PM . For this reason.” In Article 16 we read: “No child may be the object of arbitrary or unlawful interference in the exercising of his right to a personal life.000 minor children did not have one of their parents. it contains a number of points that should not be interpreted literally under all circumstances. The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. regardless of boundaries. most often the father. in oral. and pass on information and ideas of any kind.JUNE 2007 59 of the wife. Among the many different functions of the family. it makes the family less stable. It is our opinion that parents should have the unconditional right to 05Vulfson. the disintegration of the family has its most painful impact on the children themselves. The overall humanistic orientation of this vital international document is obvious. this transformation is unconditionally progressive. many Russian women have much smaller opportunities to remarry—not because “no one will take them. emotional.” but because there is simply no one to marry. the number of marriages is diminishing while the number of divorces is rising.

rising juvenile crime. of philosophical anthropology and neofreudism. a unified state ideology.” dissipation. At the same time. which is to be expected: when 05Vulfson. A child’s right to “a personal life” cannot be unlimited.60 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY limit their child’s access to information that is not in keeping with his actual needs and interests. What worldview and theoretical guidelines should serve as the foundation for the exploration and resolution of current problems of upbringing? This problem is of great urgency all over the world.pmd 60 5/16/2007. Specifically reflected in various theories of upbringing are tenets of pragmatism and neopositivism. Spock. But while we battle the old. 2:43 PM . Given the worldview pluralism in the West. the principles of upbringing are drawn directly from the norms of sharia law. Until recently in our country. When a child has not yet fully formed the necessary understanding and skills of inner discipline. It was represented as a monolith placed above all other sciences and able to provide definitive answers to the most complex questions of existence. It is becoming obvious that the orientation toward “maximum autonomy” and “freedom of self-expression” for teenagers very often fails to lead to the development of their creative energy or the flowering of young talents but instead leads to a cult of “anything goes. of existentialism and neo-Thomism. there ought to be a hierarchy that rules out “identical rights” for children and parents. the theoretical educator is faced with the choice of worldview and methodological orientation.” which was widely prevalent not long ago. Marxism was extremely primitivized. It is instructive to note that the “ultraliberal” model of upbringing “according to Dr. we find multiple approaches and heated debates between their advocates. there was not actually any problem of choice. and also the orientations propounded by the various schools of sociology and psychology. we must not battle what is eternal. For a family to function normally and perform its upbringing functions. Marxism was not only the sole legal philosophy. and the erosion of moral norms. In many Islamic countries. Of course. is increasingly subjected to well-founded criticism. external restrictions and prohibitions are still necessary. archaic “patriarchal” methods of upbringing are not acceptable today.

However. Perestroika got under way in the Soviet Union twenty years ago.pmd 61 5/16/2007. A number of illusions were shattered.JUNE 2007 61 any social and philosophical theory is turned into a mass ideology. giving an impetus to democratic renewal and proclaiming political and economic freedoms. its scientific component will inevitably deteriorate. Broad masses of the population in Russia. Only time will tell what their true value and importance is. on the contrary. The hopes that the development of market relations and political pluralism would automatically create the kind of new individual who is free of the legacy of the totalitarian past did not come true.” What should we be striving for? What goals in life need to be pursued? Who might be chosen as a model to emulate? These existential questions are of urgent concern to young people. In many ways. experience in other countries. as evidence that it is not able to deal appropriately with the most urgent issues in education and upbringing. People—especially those who are no longer young— have the impression that a historical catastrophe has occurred: the 05Vulfson. Russian educators are now given broad possibilities of formulating a variety of conceptions of upbringing that take account of our historical legacy. however. just as in other countries of the post-Soviet space. Since the late 1980s. These questions may be especially urgent in Russia. and the abolition of censorship. such a multiplicity of Russian and foreign conceptions can be evaluated in different ways. It seems to me that none of today’s philosophical and pedagogical theories and political doctrines are able to determine the basic aims and means of upbringing. and the achievements of present-day Russian science. suddenly torn from their difficult but at least familiar life conditions. find it hard to adapt to the new system of social and spiritual coordinates. The positive importance of these changes is not to be disputed. for the “crisis of ideals. and remain unanswered everywhere—not so much in poor countries as in the most prosperous and “sated” countries. either as a wealth of pedagogical thinking or. These issues can be argued about endlessly. 2:43 PM . the situation has changed radically. the multiparty system. Specific decisions can be built both on valid and on false theoretical premises. as well. the reforms were not successful. This accounts.

and lived was suddenly destroyed as a result of incomprehensible causes. abstract slogans of democracy and liberalism are no less disappointing than the theses of “real socialism” that were rejected by so many not that long ago. These days his company delays paying its personnel their very meager wages for months on end. a proletariat that would without pity destroy “to its very foundations” the way of life that had taken shape over the centuries. . even his instinct for social self-preservation seems atrophied. In today’s Russia.pmd 62 5/16/2007. grew up. history does not know any trouble-free times. Russia’s reformers were pinning their hopes on the emergence and development of a “middle class. while he himself has a number of apartments and dachas. But the situation of the masses since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the social system that was in place for so many decades has been especially painful. Someone who got rich that way forgot shockingly quickly that until recently he lived in a communal apartment with five families and morning lines waiting to get into the bathroom. deeply humane society. 2:43 PM .” which they linked to our societal and moral rebirth. and vacations in the Canary Islands. all foster the develop- 05Vulfson. And how these attempts ended up is well known. He not only fails to exhibit any sense of civic responsibility. But a real “middle class” never appeared. namely communism. The theoreticians of Marxism stated that the most urgent social problems would be solved when the proletariat came to power. Of course. . and would create a new. the drastic deepening of social differences. bodyguards. and most of the oligarchs who came into being. every generation has good reasons for complaining about its own time. These days. . In the 1990s. while his income was barely enough to live on from one payday to the next. openly and arrogantly ignore elementary norms of social justice and morality. as if by some miracle. and his children attend expensive schools in other countries. the worsening of the material condition of a substantial portion of the population.62 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY world in which they were born. and the intensive antireform propaganda purveyed by the mass media and certain publications. theses that were in blatant contradiction to the realities around them.

what is essential is not the transformation of public structures in whatever form they may take. many years later. the brutal “dekulakization” and degradation of the countryside. the communist regime also exhibited an absolute inability to reform itself. whose ruling circles were hopelessly late with the necessary reforms. For example. The system of education is also idealized. the constant shortage of food and mass consumer goods. Under current conditions. the deportation of whole nations. philanthropic industrialists and merchants. All of these factors should be considered when deciding on the content of education and upbringing in our educational institutions.” These assertions fail to understand the actual. supposedly. confer new content upon their strivings. an industrious and God-fearing peasantry. the liquidation of unemployment. the lies and hypocrisy of the official propaganda. the total lack of civic and political freedoms. their social and esthetic ideals. They seem to forget the mass repressions of the 1920s–40s. a nobility that was truly noble. 2:43 PM .pmd 63 5/16/2007. . changes that will ennoble people’s inner world. an article published in Izvestia on 24 July 2004 categorically insists that in tsarist Russia “everyone had the opportunity to acquire a secondary education and even a higher education”! All these good things were. An idyllic picture of prerevolutionary Russia is being purveyed under the rubric of “what we have lost”—an honest and selfless tsar. which permeated everything. There are quite a few people who prefer to remember just the positive aspects of the Soviet era—the absence of drastic manifestations of ethnic strife. contrary to well-known historical facts. and their understanding 05Vulfson. This is the way that “historical memory” and “historical avoidance” come together. . deep-seated reasons for the collapse of the Russian empire.JUNE 2007 63 ment of nostalgia among some of the population. and free social services. it is increasingly obvious that to eradicate situations of crisis all over the world regarding the development of the individual. and the control by the agencies of security. suddenly destroyed by a gang of revolutionaries. just as. . but something that is much more difficult: profound changes in mentality and behavior. including all too many “foreigners. whether by revolution or evolution.

it cannot be achieved automatically. call 717-632-3535. Moscow. 1985. it is not something that we have at birth. K. the group. genuinely humanistic upbringing encounters complex problems.pmd 64 5/16/2007. Moscow/ Voronezh. 8. Dubna. and a rethinking of certain fundamental propositions that seemed axiomatic not long ago. The Individualized Society [Individualizirovannoe obshchestvo]. 2. The Family and the State [Sem’ia i gosudarstvo].K.S. S. 11. P. Z. it demands a great deal of effort on the part of teachers and upbringers as well as substantial changes in the system of upbringing itself. soch. The Coming Postindustrial Society [Griadushchee postindustrial’noe obshchestvo]. Translated from the English. Moscow. 4. vol. society. Humanism is not rooted in human biological structure.64 RUSSIAN EDUCATION AND SOCIETY of good and evil. with the objective needs of society and the state? These are not abstract. For this reason. Bondyreva. Moscow/ Leningrad. Darmodekhin. Bell.S. 7.V. the proclamation of the priority of personal interests. As an ideology. The task is to pursue the shaping of the humanistic consciousness of the individual. and all of humanity. Ouvrage collectif. 6. 2002. outside the United States. conjectural considerations. How is it possible to reconcile the anthropocentric cult of the individual. Kon. Ushinskii. Moscow. Svobodnaia mysl’. 3. They have to be reflected directly in pedagogical theory and practice. 2005. Translated from the English. Collected Works [Sobr. 1948. 1997. 2:43 PM . D. 1999. Paris. Adolescent Sexuality at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century [Podrostkovaia seksual’nost’ na poroge XXI veka]. References 1. 5. and Kolesov. no. Gurevich. 2. Survival [Vyzhivanie]. call 1-800-352-2210..V.D. I. 05Vulfson. D. S. Bauman.]. humanism has its own internal contradictions. 2001. To order reprints. Every individual has to learn anew certain elementary humanistic values. L’éducation nationale. “Anthropological Catastrophe” [Antropologicheskaia katastrofa]. 2001.