होम Russian Journal of General Chemistry Is ignoramus our ideal? Or what education do we really need?

Is ignoramus our ideal? Or what education do we really need?

यह पुस्तक आपको कितनी अच्छी लगी?
फ़ाइल की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
पुस्तक की गुणवत्ता का मूल्यांकन करने के लिए यह पुस्तक डाउनलोड करें
डाउनलोड की गई फ़ाइलों की गुणवत्ता क्या है?
खंड:
83
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english
DOI:
10.1134/S1070363213060418
Date:
June, 2013
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अपनी समीक्षा पोस्ट करने के लिए साइन इन करें या साइन अप करें
आप पुस्तक समीक्षा लिख सकते हैं और अपना अनुभव साझा कर सकते हैं. पढ़ूी हुई पुस्तकों के बारे में आपकी राय जानने में अन्य पाठकों को दिलचस्पी होगी. भले ही आपको किताब पसंद हो या न हो, अगर आप इसके बारे में ईमानदारी से और विस्तार से बताएँगे, तो लोग अपने लिए नई रुचिकर पुस्तकें खोज पाएँगे.
1

Do modern Russian schools provide education or training?

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भाषा:
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On chemistry and teaching chemistry at school. Report at the I All-Russian congress of chemistry teachers

साल:
2013
भाषा:
english
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ISSN 1070-3632, Russian Journal of General Chemistry, 2013, Vol. 83, No. 6, pp. 1226–1235. © Pleiades Publishing, Ltd., 2013.
Original Russian Text © Yu. V. Novakovskaya, 2011, published in Rossiiskii Khimicheskii Zhurnal, 2011, Vol. 55, Nos. 5–6, pp. 25–33.

Is Ignoramus1 Our Ideal?
Or What Education Do We Really Need?
Yu. V. Novakovskaya
Faculty of Chemistry, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Leninskie Gory, Moscow, 119991 Russia
e-mail: jvnovakovskaya@gmail.com
Received April 24, 2012

DOI: 10.1134/S1070363213060418
INTRODUCTION
What is education? It is not a collection of facts that
are stored in our heads in greater or lesser number and
order and can be elicided sometime when we need
them. Education is an ability to adequately use the
available knowledge, thus, creating new knowledge.
Children mechanically learn everything new only until
they reach the age of eight, after which they start
analyzing information and making conclusions, which
are not limited to simple addition of the accumulated
facts. However, much earlier, from the moment when
children start uttering their first words and moving by
themselves, their natural tendency to learn everything
new and explore the world around them is already
clearly manifested. And the task of teachers and tutors
is to preserve and develop this tendency. It is easy to
suppress or even destroy it and it is hard or almost
impossible to revive it.
Therefore, speaking about education, it is necessary
to understand that primary, secondary, special, or
higher school are not just separate stages on the way of
receiving education, but an integral chain, in which a
break or injury of any link can have disastrous
consequences. We cannot hope that, if a child’s natural
desire to comprehend the world has been killed in
primary school, one can make up for it by forcing him
or her to diligently study subjects in secondary school.
Neither can we expect arousing that without interest in
children or young people in studying various subjects
in secondary school it is possible t; o provide them with

1

Here the author of the article refers to “The Minor” by
D. Fonvizin and its main fictional character, Mitrofanushka
(Translator’s note).

the minimum necessary knowledge later, filling in the
gaps in their education at the level of vocational or
higher education so that eventually they will become
well-educated people.
In both cases people will probably remember or
learn something; however, knowledge that people
acquire by overcoming themselves will never become
an integral system. In the best case such knowledge
will always remain somewhere in the back of the brain
as a heavy unwanted burden. In the worst and the most
common case it will be thrown out of the head as soon
as external circumstances (for example, completion of
studies of a certain subject) allow it. Then, what is the
result of studying the subject? Is it a formal grade in
the certificate? But the objective of education is not to
gather formal points, but to acquire knowledge, which
people can use when necessary. And no one can
predict what knowledge will be needed in a particular
situation.
Under conditions of modern life, when the
technical progress is constantly accelerating and even
well-educated people with broad erudition are not
always able to catch idea (at least in general terms) the
operation of some technological innovation without
additional study, it is impossible to determine what
knowledge and in what area people will need about a
decade. Therefore, it is necessary not to limit and
narrow the curricula of disciplines studied in schools
and higher educational institutions, but, on the
contrary, to expand them, not forgetting to build
bridges between different areas of knowledge.
However, in no way does this expansion mean a
straightforward increase in the volume of factual
material, which has to be learnt by school children or
students of higher educational institutions. In the

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IS IGNORAMUS OUR IDEAL?

presence of a well-thought and a logically organized
curriculum (for each subject) new interesting facts
(discoveries or technical innovations in the corresponding field) can be carefully woven into the
existing plot, which will not complicate the study of
the subject, but, on the contrary, will make it more
exciting. School children will see that science is not
some boring archaic set of dogmas, but a living area of
knowledge, which is constantly changing and, what is
even more important, that even in areas, in which
everything seems to be already known, it is possible to
find something that can significantly change our
understanding of nature and our abilities. They have to
realize that there are still many unknown and
unexplored things awaiting to be discovered by them.
Moreover, there is no more efficient way to make
people interested and enthusiastic than to open a
prospect of future achievements, which are to be theirs,
to them. Even if such people themselves do nothing
great, they will understand that their work is necessary,
as all qualitative changes in our picture of the world
and in our ideas about the ways of using what is given
to us by nature take place only when sufficient
information has been accumulated in the corresponding area. Therefore, any people, who extends
knowledge, are not only developing themselves, but
also help the entire mankind to develop.
It is a common objection that such is the fate of
those few who dedicate their lives to science, whereas
all the rest do not need it at all, that it is impossible to
learn everything and, therefore, there is no need to in
extending knowledge given to an “average” person.
Small general minimum of knowledge, which will
allow an individual to orient in the modern world, is
enough. As for the area, in which a particular
individual is planning to work, of course, in this sphere
he or she should receive as much information as
possible. However, first of all, there are no average
people. All people have their own features. And thirst
for knowledge, given in school, is useful for anyone.
The more people know, the more rational way they can
choose when solving any problem and, most
importantly, the more adequate upbringing they give to
their own children. Knowledge and skills of every next
generation should be wider as compared to the
previous one; this is what real progress is. In order to
understand in which area their children’s inclinations
can be put into practice in the best way, parents should
have at least some general idea about all areas, as no
one knows what genes will become dominant in the
new generation.

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Apart from that, breakthroughs in different natural
sciences are as much interwoven and interrelated in the
modern technological sphere that even to understand
which innovations offered by the market can be useful
and which can be harmful, it is necessary to have basic
knowledge in a great number of subjects. Furthermore,
it is necessary to be able to analyze the incoming
information without relying on authoritative statements
made by so-called experts. After all, very often such
experts are just those, for whom it is profitable (for one
reason or another) to convince us that a particular
product is good or that a particular innovation in one or
another sphere of our life is quite promising. We will
almost never know whether these people actually are
specialists in this area, and even if so, whether they are
aware of some side effects of this product or
innovation. This means that we have to be able to
understand a lot of things ourselves.
An ability to summarize and analyze information
and make rational conclusions is the main thing given
by education. A person can know nothing about certain
facts or even forget something (or many things) from
what was learnt in school or in a higher educational
institution, but this ability makes it possible to fill in
the gaps, recall (using corresponding reading materials)
what has been forgotten, and rationally recognize the
offered product, law etc. After all, very often our
health and well-being of our families depend on
decisions we make.
School Education Objectives
When listening to state officials responsible for
education, there is a feeling that they have chosen
Mitrofanushka and his parents, so vividly described by
D. Fonvizin in “The Minor” as their ideal and role
model. In fact, some twenty five or thirty years ago
when reading this book Soviet school children
sincerely laughed at Mitrofanushka’s skills and his
mother’s statements. That time it seemed that all
problems, so ironically presented by the author (at
least, problems in the sphere of education and
upbringing) had been left in that deep past. However,
life once again confirms the correctness of the idea
about cyclicity of development. At a new cycle, the
society is suddenly again ready to accept Mrs.
Prostakov’s2 view of the world.

2

The surname of Mitrofanushka and his parents ’s mother
can be roughly translated as Simpleton (Translator’s

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NOVAKOVSKAYA

Some people are already ready to endorse the idea
that children do not have to learn how to write orthographically, accurately, and legibly because modern
computer equipment, which they will mainly use when
writing or reading something, makes it possible to
check the spelling of words, whereas an ability to use a
pen is not needed at all. Moreover, it is possible to buy
software programs voicing written texts so that
received letters are read by the PC; furthermore, a time
when computers will create texts dictated by people
and send them is not far off. At the current cycle of
development of civilization this situation almost
exactly repeats the words said by Mrs. Prostakov, “I
can receive letters, but I always order someone else to
read them.”
In an effort to protect children from overload when
studying school subjects state officials responsible for
education completely echo Mrs. Prostakov. A propos,
it is absolutely unclear what overload is meant here. In
the 1980s, when the author of this article was studying
at school, which was a very ordinary (non-specialized)
school, together with other school children, who were
very ordinary for that time as well, no one was noticed
to suffer from excessive learning loads due to studying
too many disciplines in too large volumes. On the
contrary, talented children even felt bored and wanted
additional optional classes.
In this connection, another paragraph from “The
Minor” comes to mind, in which Mrs. Prostakov says,
“Believe me, master, that which Mitrofanushka don’t
know is, of course, nonsense.” Mr. Starodum3 answers
reasonably, “Oh, of course, madam. It is very
consoling for an ignorant man to consider everything
he doesn’t know nonsense.” I would rather not think
that today’s reformers of the secondary education
system, who are reasoning exactly like Mrs. Prostakov,
do so due to their very narrow horizon and little
knowledge. After all, absolutely everything can be
reduced to a formula, voiced by the same Mrs.
Prostakov, “But that’s not a science fit for noblemen.
A nobleman just says, “Take me there,” and they’ll
take you wherever you wish.” In this case there is no
need to study anything!
More and more often the training process is also
viewed through Mrs. Prostakov’s eyes, “You can’t say
we don’t try to educate Mitrofanushka. We pay good
3

This surname can roughly be translated as Mr. Oldthinker
(Translator’s Note).

money to three teachers. For reading and writing the
sexton, Kuteikin, from Pokrov, comes to him.
Rithmetic4 is taught him, master, by a retired sergeant,
Tsyfirkin5...The German, Adam Adamych Vral’man6,
instructs him in French and all the sciences.” The most
important is to allocate funds; what and who will teach
children is a question of secondary importance. I will
remind those readers who have forgotten the plot of
“The Minor” that Mr. Vral’man had been a coachman
before he entered the service of Mr. and Mrs.
Prostakov. As for Kuteikin7, when saying that he had
studied in the local seminary, he clarified, “I got as far
as rhetoric, but by God’s will, I gave it up. I handed a
request into the consistory in which I wrote, “Suchand-such seminarian, from a priestly family, taking
fright of the abyss of wisdom, asks to be released from
it.” It was soon followed by a merciful resolution with
the note, “Such-and-such seminarian is to be released
from all studies, for it is written: cast not your pearls
before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.”
And that is it!
Today no one cares anymore about the level of
training of the teachers who come to work in schools.
However, it is already highly necessary to train
professionals with broader erudition. They have to be
able to show school children how new ideas and
technologies emerge at the interfaces of sciences that
were initially so different and how tightly everything is
interconnected and interwoven in nature.
Everyone and his uncle are developing textbooks;
as a result, at present, there is no single approach to
composing textbooks. Moreover, no uniform methodological approaches to teaching subjects, valid from a
scientific point of view, have been elaborated. The
main indicators of the level of modern schools are a
renovated building, an Internet connection, an equipped
computer classroom, and funding allocated in strict
compliance with the number of school children. These
are Mrs. Prostakov’s principles put into practice!
A propos, speaking about the Internet and other
achievements of the modern technical thought, it
4
5

6

7

Purposefully misspelt in the original (Translator’s Note).
This surname can be roughly translated as Mr. Cipher
(Translator’s Note).
This surname can be roughly translated as Mr. Liar
(Translator’s Note).
This surname can be roughly translated as Mr. Priestling
(Translator’s Note).

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IS IGNORAMUS OUR IDEAL?

should be noted that the Internet really provides great
opportunities in terms of looking for the needed
information. In this phrase the two key words are
“needed” and “information.” First of all, a person has
to clearly understand what he or she needs, which in
turn requires a lot of knowledge. Otherwise, it is very
easy to take rubbish, filling the Internet, for something
valuable and, vice versa, to miss something really
significant as inconspicuous in this abundance of
information. Apart from that, as a rule, a search for the
needed information requires certain effort. It is
necessary to be able to sort out the unnecessary,
gradually approaching the most informative sources.
Any search for information in the Internet is constant
and inevitable switching from one site to another, from
one source to another. When a person has enough
knowledge, the required direction can clearly be
identified. However, when a person is just studying
and his or her knowledge base is not sufficiently
developed, very soon this process ceases to progress to
the intended goal. Moreover, such a way of work leads
to scattering of attention. A child does not concentrate
and analyze the incoming information. As a result, the
volume of new useful knowledge in the child’s head
will hardly increase, whereas general tiredness from
sitting and looking at the monitor appears and can
cause very serious health problems, both physical and
mental. When children start learning something, they
do not need a flickering computer display but a book,
which disposes to calm, consistent, and thoughtful
study of a subject.
Books are equally important for acquaintance with
classical literature. If children start studying classical
literature in short versions (edited by some modern
“methodologists”), especially reading it from a computer monitor or a pocket e-book display, the results
will be more than poor. Reading from a monitor or a
display provokes skimming over texts, so-called “cross
reading,” which does not provide the necessary feeling
of the text figurativeness and fullness. In this case,
there is no desire to get absorbed in the text and
imagine everything the author describes. There is no
desire to deeply go into the discussed psychological or
philosophical problems. The only desire is to find out
as soon as possible what is at the end of the book. In
this case, nothing is left from the literary work apart
from the plot outline. However, all immortal classics
are immortal because they analyze perennial problems
that face the mankind, whereas the plot is used only to
assist the reader to immerse into the corresponding

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world and to feel the acuteness of the problem. Of
course, there are rather easy classics as well, such as
adventure novels, which are so much loved by
teenagers. But even in these books there is the same
basic idea going as a subtext, although in a less philosophical version (without many psychological delicacies),
teaching that without such eternal values as honor and
conscience, friendship and loyalty, love and understanding, people are defective, capable of neither great
deeds nor true feelings. Classical literature forms a
character in an unobtrusive way, but it still does.
Moreover, it seems reasonable for the people, who
choose a path of educating and training children or
youth, acquainting them with the basic principles of
different sciences, to take an oath similar to the
Hippocratic Oath. They should be well and fully aware
of what this oath says because in the process of
training the requirement to do no harm is no less
important than in healing. This oath should be based
on at least three points of the Hippocratic Oath (in a
somewhat updated version, modified in compliance
with the discussed sphere of activity):
(1) to train and educate people, forgetting about
self-interest;
(2) to direct people to their progress according to
the teacher’s ability and judgment; and
(3) to teach people for their benefit, refraining from
causing any harm or injustice.
Thus, the task of schools is to provide the basics of
good general education and to form a school child’s
character as far as possible. Otherwise, the streets and
the Internet will form their characters. It is not hard to
imagine what it will lead to. Due to the Internet and
modern mobile communication facilities the younger
generation is already losing their ability to adequately
express their thoughts. In this context, quite a
remarkable interview was given by Nobuo Masataka,
Professor at Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University,
and Doctor of Philosophy, Osaka University, several
years ago in connection with the publication of his
work “Monkeys with Mobiles” (Keitai wo Motta
Saru). In his opinion, mobile phones are ruining the
Japanese nation. Moreover, the degradation has gone
so far that the residents of the Land of the Rising Sun
are turning into apes and because of their behavior
young Japanese can be already confused with
chimpanzees. (And such a thing happens in Japan,
where the state does everything to stimulate everyone

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NOVAKOVSKAYA

to continue lifelong education, expanding their
horizons and acquiring new skills!) Being a primate
researcher and having noticed changes in the young
people’s behavior, Masataka decided to analyze it
using the same methods that he applied in primate
research.
“Mobile” boys and girls formed groups, which
Masataka called dearukizoku (out and about tribe).
These groups of young people can spend days handing
about on around in the streets, claiming certain
districts their territory, which they leave very
reluctantly. They get tired going to new places or
meeting new people. If in the course of their
meaningless walks they feel hungry, they go into the
first store they meet on the way, buy something to eat
and right there on the curb they sit down to eat it. Or
they hang about fast-food kiosks, periodically chewing
something, as if “grazing.” The primate researcher
explains that chimpanzees do almost the same, i.e.
groups of apes hang about for a long time without
going anywhere special, eat anywhere, relieve
themselves in the same place, go to sleep where they
start feeling sleepy etc. The professor is sure that this
tendency to hang about on the streets without any
purpose has appeared and is progressing only because
of the rapid growth in the number of cell phones young
people use. Parents believe that cell phones ensure
indissoluble connection with their children and,
therefore, do not think about where and what their
children are doing. However, despite the
unprecedented opportunities offered by cell phones,
actual phone talks between parents and their children
are rare. As a result, ties between family members and
children who become uncared for are lost..
The professor summarizes, “If it goes on like that,
people will gradually lose their ability to think. Maybe,
information technologies have freed us from a large
number of everyday problems, but now the same
technologies are weakening and destroying us.” He
adds, “You can criticize me for comparing people with
apes as much as you like. However, I have studied
primates for such a long time that I can say with
certainty that it is a fact.”
Another problem, related to the use of cell phones
and the Internet, is a gradual loss of the wealth of the
Russian and other languages, created by generations
and glorified by classical authors. A possibility to
make a quick answer by writing a short message
catastro-phically increases illiteracy, as it is possible to

forget about spelling or punctuation. Finally, it is even
becoming fashionable to distort word. And after a
while people get so used to it that they cannot say how
to spell a certain word correctly. It turns out that, in
full compliance with Mitrofanushka’s ideas, a door is
an adjective when it is “adjected to its place,” whereas
a door “over there by the ladder” has not been hung
and is, therefore, “still substantival.” And once more I
feel like quoting Mr. Starodum’s words, “Then
according to you the word “fool” is an adjective
because it is applied to a stupid man?”
In this context we should recall what was said about
the language by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
classical authors of materialism. (It is possible to argue
some of their statements; however, they were
absolutely right when speaking about the language.) In
their “Critique of Modern German Philosophy
According to Its Representatives Feuerbach, B. Bauer,
and Stirner” they noted that “the language is as ancient
as consciousness itself, language is consciousness that
exists in practice for other people and therefore for
myself.” And, what is very important, for many
centuries and millennia “the development of the brain
and the attendant senses, the increasing clarity of
consciousness, the power of abstraction and of
conclusion made a reaction on labor and speech,
giving an ever-renewed impulse to further
development of both” (F. Engels, Dialectics of
Nature).
Therefore, the development and the wealth of the
language is a result of the development of the society,
its science and culture, a result of the cognitive activity
of its people. And the development of the brain is
impossible under conditions of degradation of the
ability to express feelings through speech! The richer
the language is, the more figurative people’s thoughts
are and the more productive their work is. Is it not
what the society needs, especially in our age of science
and technology development? Then why do we not
think that when we sit a child down near a computer or
give him or her a cell phone, we are killing their ability
to think?
Let us now return to the problem of teaching
various subjects in school. Justifying a possibility of
significant differentiation in teaching and division of
subjects into major and minor disciplines, the authors
of this concept believe that thirteen or fourteen year
old young people are already fully formed individuals,
who can choose their further way in a rational and

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IS IGNORAMUS OUR IDEAL?

correct manner. And once again this approach exactly
echoes Sofya’s attitude to Mitrofanushka, “Though he
is only sixteen, he has already achieved the final
degree of his accomplishments and he will go no
further.” Only such a person as Mitrofanushka can stop
developing at this age, whereas normal people study
all life long, and the more they know and understand,
the better they realize in which sphere of life they
would like to apply their skills and abilities. Of course,
some inclinations of a child can be seen at a relatively
young age. However, a lot of things inside us are
hidden even from ourselves and we can understand
them only after a while. So, do we have the right to
block schoolchildren’s way to some areas, in which
they will be able to eventually apply their natural
abilities in the best possible way, by forcing them to
make their final choice at a relatively young age and to
never know a lot of things, which under other
circumstances would allow them to later realize
themselves? Formalization is harmful in general,
whereas formalization with respect to children is an
evil and a crime.
Knowledge Evaluation Criteria and USE System
There are an enormous number of papers and
speeches made by respected scientists, higher school
professors, and experienced teachers about the
unacceptability of the USE (Unified State Examination) system. There is no point in repeating all
their valid arguments. I would like to focus on one
aspect of this problem, which is in my opinion the
most important. Even the name of the Unified State
Examination suggests unified knowledge evaluation
criteria for all school children, which is possible only
on a condition that any problem, offered to school
children, has only one definite solution. And the
question is not whether it is possible every year to
develop new sets of meaningful tasks with only one
solution, which should cover all main sections of the
chemistry, physics, or biology curriculum. And the question
is not even whether these problems, offered to school
children, always really have only one solution. (The
obvious answer to these two questions is no.) The problem is that a very important idea is put into the heads
of school children, namely that all tasks always have
only one solution. Moreover, all these solutions are
already known. The only thing to do is to learn the solutions, which is what senior school children do at school.
That is the greatest crime committed against school
children. As has been already said above, the most
important thing schools should give to children is

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specific knowledge and realization of the fact that
there are a lot of things in the world that are still
unknown, that are yet to be understood by the
mankind. How is it possible to combine this idea with
the postulate that all questions have only one known
answer? The question about the color of Natasha
Rostova’s8 evening dress really has only one answer;
however do we need it in life? Is the color of the dress
important at all? Or is it the author’s philosophical
thoughts about the meaning of life that are important?
In this case, there is already no unambiguous interpretation because the basis of the author’s thoughts
was his own life experience, whereas readers interpret
the book on the basis of their own knowledge and life
collisions. It is possible that readers will have their
own associations, which will be very far from the
author’s view. However, the most important is that
people have such associations and ideas. They start
thinking.
School children also have to think. They have to
think and understand that there is nothing defined in
science once and for all. Science reflects our rough
ideas about the world around us. And as our
knowledge about the world increases, many science
provisions change accordingly. It is not knowledge that
becomes obsolete (like some people erroneously
think), but our model concepts summarizing our
knowledge. The volume of knowledge increases and
models are refined as a consequence. New models
make it pos-sible to make new predictions, which
serve as a basis for further search etc. There are no
dead, frozen, or unchanging sciences. Even languages
dynamically develop if there are peoples who use them.
Dead languages are only those that are not spoken by
anyone anymore.
If we want to kill children’s ability to think and
doubt everything, then we should follow the USE path.
However, in this case we will kill more than the young
individual’s mental activities. We will destroy the
foundation of human cognition and, therefore,
development. As a result, we will see degradation and
transformation into ape-like creatures. And whereas
more and more often people now express doubts about
the evolutionary step from ape to man, we are quite
able to make a backward step.
In this connection, I cannot but note that the most
technologically leading countries, such as Japan or
8

Natasha Rostova is a central character in Lev Tolstoy’s novel
“War and Peace.” (Translator’s Note).

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NOVAKOVSKAYA

South Korea, have never had any USE-like systems;
moreover, the most rational Western states (Germany,
Italy, Sweden, Finland etc.) have already abandoned
such practice.
What does the USE ideology lead to (it is exactly
ideology, as a very definite attitude to the cognition
process is imposed on school children)? It leads not
only to school children’s strong belief that everything
is already known and there is nothing for them to
explore, but also to the fact that instead of analyzing
the incoming information school children are busy
learning it and storing it in their heads. Will they be
able to rationally use this information in future? No,
they will not. It is simply impossible. School children
are not taught to build links between different blocks
of this information. They are not taught to analyze it
critically. And a habit to blankly memorize new
material, which has been developed for a number of
years, leads to the fact that school children absolutely
lose their ability and, most importantly, their desire to
think. They operate as machines or, in the best case, as
computers. However, computers have one advantage,
as all the incoming information is stored inside (unless
there is some system failure) and can be processed
using relevant software. However, the capacity of the
human brain is limited. Moreover, people usually
remember well only the things they actively use. It is
clear that such an individual obviously cannot compete
with a computer. Furthermore, no one can surpass a
computer when we speak about simple memorizing
and combination of information.
I think that many higher school teachers will agree
with me that more and more often during examination
sessions students look like Mitrofanushka, when he
was given a math problem. It is possible to hear them
muttering something like, “One times three is three.
One times zero is zero. One times zero is zero,” or
“Zero plus zero is zero. One plus one... (Thinking).”
The computer in the head has hesitated as it cannot
find the required answer and it is already too late to try
to think, because they are not used to thinking or were
taught not to think while they were stuffed for the
USE.
The most important thing in an individual is
creative potential. It is creative potential which the
educational system has to develop. And the USE is
simply incompatible with this task. We have to
understand this fact before it is too late.

Training of Specialists
Any modernization of the country or innovative
economy are out of the question as long as the
lieutenant’s allowance is twice or thrice as high as the
university professor’s salary. It does not at all mean
that the state should not provide decent life for its
military personnel. However, the national security is
not ensured by the army alone. With the current state
of affairs, in the best case in two decades or, maybe,
much earlier well-educated and trained officers will be
simply unneeded because they will have nothing at
their disposal, except for obsolete equipment. There
will be nothing to control. In order to have new types
of weapons, someone has to develop them, which
requires talented designers and competent engineers.
To train a good engineer, who is able to work in an
independent and productive manner, takes about a
decade and a half, including several years of training in
a higher educational institution. No one is born a
talented designer as well. Of course, an individual has
to possess some inborn gifts, which, however, require
development. Such an individual needs corresponding
education and an extensive work experience, which
can be gained only under conditions of a wellestablished system of personnel training, whereas in
our country this system has been almost completely
lost for the last two decades. This means that even if
tomorrow we allocate great funds for modernization
programs and if relevant mechanisms controlling
spending of these funds are put into operation and this
money is managed by competent and highly honest
people, in the best case these investments will give
results in another ten or fifteen years. And this will
happen only provided that there are still some old staff
members who, despite the events of the recent years,
have continued working and believing that their
experience will be in demand and they will be able to
transfer their knowledge to younger generations.
We do need our army and police. Without them too
many people are too often tempted to take possession
of something that is not theirs, whether it be the
property of an individual or an entire country.
However, no state, even if functioning only as a
military machine, has ever destroyed science or
technology. Each government understood that they
needed highly qualified professionals. And a state that
had its own talented scientists and engineers was
always the most powerful. An exception was made by

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IS IGNORAMUS OUR IDEAL?

the United States after World War II, which happened
only because at first the country imported talented
specialists from Germany and later (or, rather,
simultaneously) created a financial system allowing it
to attract foreign experts from almost every country
without any problems. However, this system is already
established. And, at present, Russia has no chance to
change it in its favor. Neither is it very rational to
count on a global economic collapse that will destroy
this system. Then it is necessary to admit that Russia
cannot attract many foreign specialists. We have to
rely on our own strengths and resources. In principle,
such is the way a country, claiming to play one of the
leading roles in the world, should live. Moreover, to
rely on its own resources and personnel is a condition
that is necessary for independent development of any
country. Russia, which is so rich in talented people,
has such an opportunity. We simply have to train our
own highly qualified professionals, which requires an
integral and well-thought educa-tional system.
Skolkovo with some individual experts invited to
work there will give us nothing. One or even several
scientists, who have achieved even outstanding results
in a certain field, cannot teach hundreds. Moreover, it
is not beneficial for them to do so, as in such a way
they create competitors for themselves. They will just
work in good conditions created for them. In this
situation will they do anything for the country that has
invited them? I doubt it. They will simply work on
problems that are interesting for them. Will they create
anything fundamentally new in the course of this
work? Good knows. Maybe, yes and, maybe, no.
However, we need fundamentally new technologies, a
new level of training and work for a large number of
specialists. How can we achieve this goal? There is
another good example in recent history; post-war
Japan reached an almost unattainable level of
technological development within a short period of
several decades, starting with purchasing patents for
different developments in science and technology that
were advanced for that time. Later, they trained their
own specialists, who not only developed what was
initially acquired, but multiply exceeded it. And the
only thing required to achieve all this is the
understanding of the necessity of folloeing the chosen
path, a desire to work, and availability of the
corresponding funding. The latter is still in our
country’s possession. A desire to work is also great
among graduates of our higher educational institutions
specializing in natural sciences. The sole condition to

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be met is the realization of the necessity to follow the
chosen path by our governmental bodies!
This understanding is going hand in hand with
understanding that ideology is what holds the people
and the country together. At present, we do not have
any. An ideology of success and prosperity is not a life
ideology. All people cannot be equally successful
when great wealth is considered a standard of success,
because the resources available to people are limited.
In this situation not as many people can be considered
successful. We have already managed to understand
how it affects the psychological climate in the society.
Children, who have grown up in families where
parents are, in the children’s opinion, not successful
enough, feel deprived of what other children, whose
parents are much richer, have. Such a situation results
in either their isolation and bitter feelings or in a
pathological desire to achieve everything their parents
did not have or could not give to their children against
all odds. If for some reason they fail to achieve the
desired, they feel like losers and lose interest in life.
Interest in life exists when every day brings something
new, when people can (and really do) discover,
understand, or learn something.
As for adult people, who due to the features of their
character and upbringing cannot adapt, break the law,
walk over people, or simply cheat and steal, they
gradually become either aggressive or depressed. Such
people make it impossible to build a rational society. It
is simply doomed to degradation, both moral and
physical. It is impossible to bring up new generations
with the right attitude to life in the atmosphere of
degradation. It is a dead end and the only way to come
out of it is to formulate correct ideological guidelines
and follow them in all spheres of activity of the society
and the state.
These standards should be based not on commercial
success or wealth, but on human morality and a much
more perfect and just world order, which is to be built.
Only in this case people will be able to overcome both
difficulties on their way to receiving education and
various life problems. Only in this case an individual
has an opportunity to become Man and not “something
that shall be overcome,” in the words of Zarathustra.
People should not copy the thoughts and deeds of a
primitive supply manager, which was so colorfully
presented by R. Plyatt in the comedy “Spring.” Let me
remind you that, according to this character, it is very

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NOVAKOVSKAYA

easy to make a discovery: a person should sit down,
think, and discover. And the most important thing that
makes such discoveries possible is the supplies
provided by the supply manager, such as flasks,
instruments etc. However, it is not due to allocated
funds or instruments and reagents, provided by supply
managers, that discoveries are made (although,
sometimes such things play an important role as well).
There is a much more important condition, namely, the
researcher’s knowledge and interest in the performed
work. Without broad erudition, extensive work
experience, and a really great desire to understand how
something is arranged in this world or how to obtain a
certain product or result, nothing can be achieved.
Erudition, knowledge, and experience do not come in a
second. It takes years or sometimes decades. And the
more has been already invented by people, the more
difficult it is for next generations to work because they
have to look everything through already known;
understand (or feel) what has been overlooked by
previous researchers and what other way should be
taken in order to create something fundamentally new,
interesting, and useful (not necessarily in terms of
immediate application), something that would combine
the best properties of the already available
developments and some features that have not been
used before.
Intuition based on broad knowledge becomes the
main factor of development in modern science and
technology. Knowledge should be accumulated
gradually, starting from childhood. We can never
know in advance at the interface of which modern
disciplines new knowledge will emerge or a
fundamentally new idea will arise and form the basis
of a new technology, becoming a starting point for the
next stage of scientific knowledge. Therefore, it is
wronger than wrong to believe that people, who plan to
specialize in chemistry, do not have to study physics or
biology in a sufficiently large volume or that future
biologists may need some chemistry, but definitely no
physics. It is almost a crime against those we teach. In
this way, we would train half-educated people and
very narrow specialists, who in future will be unable to
completely fill in the gaps in their basic education,
arising through the fault of their short-sighted teachers.
Thus, we would knowingly provide them with a fate of
auxiliary cogs in the scientific and technological
machine.
Recently a term “creative” has become very popular;
however, this word only means creation of something

new. And the thing is that half-educated or narrowly
educated people will never invent anything
fundamentally new. They can become good specialists
in their very narrow area. However, they will never
make any fundamental breakthroughs (about which it
is also now so fashionable to speak). Only welleducated people can not only invent something
fundamentally new, but also understand to what extent
this invention can be useful or, on the contrary,
dangerous for the mankind. Only people, for whom
morality is not just a word, after understanding the
danger of a certain novelty, can refrain from
advertising it in hope to earn as much money as
possible even if the invention can cause harm to health
or safety of other people, instead trying to do everything in such a way that no one else, accidentally coming
across the same idea, could do harm to the mankind.
CONCLUSIONS
Thus, the main objective of the educational system
is to develop natural human cognition ability, i.e. to
develop the brain. This objective is achieved by
studying a wide range of subjects when school children
are given basic knowledge in every sphere (without too
much specific information), accompanied by examples
demonstrating that there is no unchanging theory,
formulated once and for all, and that everyone can
become an active participant in the process of
improving the system of knowledge, refining theories
or finding new spheres for their practical application. It
is on this foundation that a building of the individual’s
own knowledge should be built. And the broader and
stronger this foundation is, the higher the final
structure can be.
This global task can be solved provided the
following conditions are met.
First of all, it is necessary to preserve the classical
system of education. It is this education that, having
become accessible and compulsory for the entire
population of the country (rather than for some
privileged layer), ensured Russia’s transformation into a
leading scientific and technical power in XX century.
In compliance with the requirements of the time it
is necessary to modernize the curricula, developing
unified methodological approaches to teaching
different subjects, which should be correct from the
scientific point of view, and unified textbooks for all
schools, which have to meet three main criteria,
namely, logic of presentation, examples of recent

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IS IGNORAMUS OUR IDEAL?

discoveries and achievements, and illustrations of
relationships between different areas of knowledge.
New curricula and textbooks have to be developed not
by bureaucrats from the Ministry of Education and
Science or methodologists, but by talented teachers,
scientists, and higher school professors.
Next, young people have to be taught to summarize
and critically analyze information, instead of
memorizing it mechanically. In particular, it is
necessary to cancel the USE system, which is in
absolute contradiction with this task.
And, finally, the basic condition, without which it is
impossible to achieve the desired result, is to develop

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the state ideology based on moral and ethical
principles rather than on the cult of enrichment.
I would like to conclude this paper with an accurate
and concise statement, which Fonvizin put into the
mouth of Mr. Starodum from “The Minor,” “A great
sovereign is a most wise sovereign. His purpose is to
show the people what their real welfare is. The glory
of his great wisdom is to rule men, for no great
wisdom is needed to rule statues. The stupidest peasant
in the village is usually chosen to tend the flock
because it does not require much sense to tend cattle.
A sovereign who is worthy of the throne strives to
elevate the souls of his subjects.”

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