Volume:4, Issue: 3

Dec. 15, 2012

A Letter to the Readers
Tsyrlina-Spady, Tatyana [about]

Dear friends, colleagues, faithful readers, and new visitors to our website:

I am happy to inform you that the journal is steadily growing, and the number of those who is curious about Russian and American educational heritage and present day issues is over 25,000 which is an achievement by itself. Though we have a few “blank spots” on the map – in parts of South America and Africa – but 114 countries send us readers which keeps our hopes high and helps to create meaningful plans for the future.

At the risk of sounding too enthusiastic, I still believe that this journal issue is very special in terms of its emotional strength, quality of articles, expertise of authors, and the overall importance of the topic. You would be wrong to conclude that we are going to discuss Russian school reforms, new State Educational Standards, or Unified State Exams, though we do not deny their significance. In contrast, we are trying to touch upon deep and subtle layers of character formation and moral education of our youth, allude to the mystery of human nature, and present the topic which was for a long time avoided in Russian society, and until recently, never discussed in Russian schools. I am sure, you got the clue – we are talking about the Holocaust and Holocaust education, about the attempts not only to realize the reasons, which led to the Catastrophe of the Jewish people, but also to show how timely it is to study the Holocaust in schools and colleges to prevent new genocide. It is pivotal for all of us, but first and most, for teachers and parents, if we truly love our country and our children, and if we really want to develop a new generation of young men and women who are aware of their history, capable to feel “other people’s” pain and live outside the box, embracing life and the world in all of its multiethnic and multicultural diversity.

In the early 1960s, a wonderful young Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote “Babi Yar,” and another outstanding Russian – Dmitri Shostakovich – composed “Symphony #13” devoted to the “Babi Yar” tragedy (in detail see: Gorskikh). It triggered a conversation about the Holocaust in Russian society but it took another forty years and a number of efforts from national and international leaders, public figures, and educators to officially admit the necessity of discussing this subject in Russian schools and, at least, briefly mention it in history textbooks. Of course, we are only at the beginning of the process to reach the minds of all educators on this topic – there is still much more left to do; this is why it is especially important to share the success of different Russian schools – in Yekaterinburg (see: Babich, Koryakova and Arkhipova), in Saratov (Sergeeva and Churkina); and what is more – in training and retraining Russian teachers (Kamenchuk and Listvina; Gorskikh). We can only hope that due to the efforts of clever and caring teachers the Holocaust education will be always present in schools and will never be treated as a reason for putting together just another patriotic show.

Still, there are some valid reasons why the contribution of American authors to this issue is more profound and diverse in its topics and content – the Holocaust has been given more attention in the United States although there is always room for improvement. In this journal issue you will find a wide range of different articles on the Holocaust and Holocaust education – from deep insights about the roots of evil and mystery of goodness in connection with the rescue of Jews during the Catastrophe (Hubert Locke), attempts based on Tolstoy’s wisdom to formulate ways of “reading history” (William Roden), to theoretically sufficient, inspiring, and practice-oriented papers presented by two history schoolteachers who are currently pursuing their doctorate studies at Seattle Pacific University (Kimberly Jensen; Eric Boyer); as well as a challenging description of a personal Holocaust-teaching  experience at one small Washington-based Jewish school (N. Adler) and another interesting example from a private school in the state of California (M. Pierson and K. Mareska).

I would also like to single out a short article written in a very confessional way by Ilana Kennedy, director of education from a unique nonprofit – Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center in Seattle. In a quiet and simple manner she talks about extremely important issues and activities provided by the Center that help to enlighten thousands of Washington state teachers with the content and methods of teaching the Holocaust.

And, finally, as usual, there comes one more sophisticated paper of our regular contributor to the section “History of Russian Education,” famous Russian scholar Mikhail V. Boguslavsky. This time he introduces Western readers to another unknown but brilliant Russian educator of the 20th century and author of the “Declaration of Children’s Rights” Konstantin Ventsel.

That’s about all I planned to say, and now, please go ahead and start reading. The editorial board is looking forward to receiving your feedback and comments.

Always yours,
Tatyana Tsyrlina-Spady
Editor-in-Chief
tsyrlina@aol.com

 

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