The New Curriculum

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Subject essay: James von Geldern

Soviet schoolchildren of the post-war era were expected to behave. Wartime school reforms had already separated boys from girls in the classroom, and subjected them to a discipline that seemed appropriate in a time of war. In 1946 new rules for internal order placed teachers and other school employees under a rigorous regime that made simple infringements like a overlong lunch break subject to punishment, and made the behavior of their students part of their job performance criteria. Curricular reforms developed over the course of 1947 and promulgated on January 1, 1948 extended the discipline to the curriculum, which featured traditional subject matter in the sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts.

The wartime reform had extended the responsibility of schools outside the classroom. Homework, cultural excursions and structured activities were provided for students long beyond the school hours. Changes in the Komsomol by-laws in 1949 subjected even older children to the same strict supervision. Surely many held the ideal of quiet, neat and obedient children embodied by a circle of school children in the 1949 newsreel observing Stalin’s seventieth birthday. For many though, the disciplined classroom was a source of structure and guidance. Children were disciplined, but they were also cared for and given a sense of place. This benevolent aspect of Soviet education was described in the popular 1954 memoir of Frida Vigdorova.

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