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Russian Education and Society, vol. 49, no. 6, June 2007, pp. 5265. 2007 M.E. Sharpe, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 10609393/2007 $9.50 + 0.00. DOI 10.2753/RES1060-9393490605

B.L. VULFSON

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. 310. A publication of the Russian Academy of Education.
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These tasks of the teacher, which have been formulated so brilliantly by the great Russian teacher and psychologist, have not by any means become obsolete. But accomplishing them has always been extraordinarily difficult, and it is not any easier now. For all of humankinds enormous scientific accomplishments, it has not managed to penetrate the secrets of consciousness, the main gift bestowed by nature. To a large extent, mans true nature continues to be a riddle. Mans anthropological and psychological properties are contradictory and ambivalent. People can exhibit patterns of altruism and self-sacrifice, decency and honesty, but they can also be aggressive, cruel, and envious. Even the best of them at times find it difficult to resist the temptations of wealth, glory, and power. Bloody wars have accompanied the entire centuries-long history of mankind. And there are plenty of good reasons to fear that in this new century as well, people will continue, as they always have, to engage in endless battles, to bomb and to destroy. . . . It seems clear that in the social organism and in the nature of man there are cancer cells of violence, which, under certain circumstances, are capable of spreading and growing rapidly. Man belongs to the few living beings who are able to kill members of their own kind. Very often he acts without regard to reason; he finds himself in thrall to unconscious anxieties, fears, phobias, and irrational impulses. All too often the most elementary regulative restrictions disappear from his consciousness, restrictions that would restrain manifestations of aggression and unpredictable inappropriate behavior. Against this background, the name we have given ourselves, Homo sapiens (man the wise) seems at times unwarrantedly boastful. The situation is not improving. Quite the contrary; there are increasing symptoms of the lowering of the ethical bar in the consciousness and behavior of many people. Certain elementary moral taboos are being lifted. Anticultural tendencies among different groups of the population are spreading. Let us note that complaints about the decline of morals and the lowering of young peoples morality have existed for many centuries. It is well known that such complaints are found even in ancient manuscripts from the era of Egyptian pharaohs. But the

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urgency of the problems really is growing in our time. Scientists in many countries have expressed extreme concern. The English sociologist Z. Bauman sees the instability and contradictions of the globalizing world as the chief cause. 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 todays 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. . . . But the majority of the preachers of morality who come down hard on this decline in morality tend to forget, to be reminded, 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, p. 66]. Even more alarming is the warning by the Russian philosopher P.S. Gurevich: The worst misfortune is not the shortage of raw materials for industry, nor is it the destruction of the ecological environment. Scientific creativity is attempting to ward off these catastrophies. The nightmare is something different: mans psychological resources are not unlimited. The trouble is not that the hole in the ozone is getting bigger, or that the oil well is drying up. It is that the human psyche might fail to hold up [3, p. 41]. All of these issues are having the most powerful impact, first and foremost on young people. The postindustrial world consists of more than just the automation of production, new information technologies, and so on. There is also the emergence of a new type of human being and the determination of his place in the modern socium [4]. It is here that fundamentally different and even opposing tendencies collide. On the one hand, there is the expanding democratization of society, the liquidation of class differences, the orientation toward the equality of all before the law, while on the other hand there is the increasingly stronger hierarchy of production and administrative functions, a hierarchy that leads to real inequality. Different levels of education make that inequality even stronger and sometimes irreversible. There are numerous types of inequality. We will confine our-

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

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

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The urgency of the problem has concerned lawmakers in various countries. In 1992, Great Britains House of Commons officially approved a report titled Video Violence and Children, 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 House of Commons passed a bill that permits the showing of video films that include elements of sadism and pornography only at night. In 1990, the U.S. Congress passed the law On Childrens Television. In 2003, 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.S. Congress and Senate. Similar legislative documents are being drawn up by the Federal Assembly of Russia. 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. But it is essential to implement a well-thoughtout state policy that is capable of safeguarding citizens, first and foremost young people, against encroachments against the moral foundations of a civilized society. Educational institutions will not be able to cope with this task on their own. Freedom of speech is a great accomplishment, but it ought not to be placed above morality or, even more so, in opposition to it. The 1960s and 1970s in the United States and in Western Europe were witness to the sexual revolution. Its first victims were traditional views of marriage and the family. An orientation toward comradely marriage became popular among young people, involving frequent changes of sexual partners and the rejection of child bearing, inasmuch as taking care of children interferes with the free development of the personality. Same-sex marriages became widespread; in a few countries such marriages were officially recognized by the state. Lesbians and gays stepped up their activism [6, pp. 24045]. Active propaganda in favor of these perversions, which are contrary to the fundamental laws of nature (what is meant here is not purely medical pathologies) is, all too often, not met with the necessary resistance on the part of the healthy portion of societies in the countries of the North. In the

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

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

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limit their childs access to information that is not in keeping with his actual needs and interests. A childs right to a personal life cannot be unlimited. For a family to function normally and perform its upbringing functions, there ought to be a hierarchy that rules out identical rights for children and parents. Of course, archaic patriarchal methods of upbringing are not acceptable today. But while we battle the old, we must not battle what is eternal. When a child has not yet fully formed the necessary understanding and skills of inner discipline, external restrictions and prohibitions are still necessary. It is instructive to note that the ultraliberal model of upbringing according to Dr. Spock, which was widely prevalent not long ago, is increasingly subjected to well-founded criticism. 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, dissipation, rising juvenile crime, and the erosion of moral norms. 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. Given the worldview pluralism in the West, we find multiple approaches and heated debates between their advocates; the theoretical educator is faced with the choice of worldview and methodological orientation. Specifically reflected in various theories of upbringing are tenets of pragmatism and neopositivism, of existentialism and neo-Thomism, of philosophical anthropology and neofreudism, and also the orientations propounded by the various schools of sociology and psychology. In many Islamic countries, the principles of upbringing are drawn directly from the norms of sharia law. Until recently in our country, there was not actually any problem of choice. Marxism was not only the sole legal philosophy, a unified state ideology. It was represented as a monolith placed above all other sciences and able to provide definitive answers to the most complex questions of existence. At the same time, Marxism was extremely primitivized, which is to be expected: when

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any social and philosophical theory is turned into a mass ideology, its scientific component will inevitably deteriorate. Since the late 1980s, the situation has changed radically. Russian educators are now given broad possibilities of formulating a variety of conceptions of upbringing that take account of our historical legacy, experience in other countries, and the achievements of present-day Russian science. However, such a multiplicity of Russian and foreign conceptions can be evaluated in different ways, either as a wealth of pedagogical thinking or, on the contrary, as evidence that it is not able to deal appropriately with the most urgent issues in education and upbringing. Specific decisions can be built both on valid and on false theoretical premises. These issues can be argued about endlessly. Only time will tell what their true value and importance is. It seems to me that none of todays philosophical and pedagogical theories and political doctrines are able to determine the basic aims and means of upbringing. This accounts, as well, for the crisis of ideals. 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, and remain unanswered everywherenot so much in poor countries as in the most prosperous and sated countries. These questions may be especially urgent in Russia. Perestroika got under way in the Soviet Union twenty years ago, giving an impetus to democratic renewal and proclaiming political and economic freedoms, the multiparty system, and the abolition of censorship. The positive importance of these changes is not to be disputed. In many ways, however, the reforms were not successful. 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. A number of illusions were shattered. Broad masses of the population in Russia, just as in other countries of the post-Soviet space, 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. Peopleespecially those who are no longer young have the impression that a historical catastrophe has occurred: the

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world in which they were born, grew up, and lived was suddenly destroyed as a result of incomprehensible causes. Of course, every generation has good reasons for complaining about its own time; history does not know any trouble-free times. 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. These days, 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, theses that were in blatant contradiction to the realities around them. The theoreticians of Marxism stated that the most urgent social problems would be solved when the proletariat came to power, a proletariat that would without pity destroy to its very foundations the way of life that had taken shape over the centuries, and would create a new, deeply humane society, namely communism. And how these attempts ended up is well known. In the 1990s, Russias reformers were pinning their hopes on the emergence and development of a middle class, which they linked to our societal and moral rebirth. But a real middle class never appeared, and most of the oligarchs who came into being, as if by some miracle, openly and arrogantly ignore elementary norms of social justice and morality. 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, while his income was barely enough to live on from one payday to the next. These days his company delays paying its personnel their very meager wages for months on end, while he himself has a number of apartments and dachas, bodyguards, and vacations in the Canary Islands, and his children attend expensive schools in other countries. . . . He not only fails to exhibit any sense of civic responsibility; even his instinct for social self-preservation seems atrophied. In todays Russia, the worsening of the material condition of a substantial portion of the population, the drastic deepening of social differences, and the intensive antireform propaganda purveyed by the mass media and certain publications, all foster the develop-

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ment of nostalgia among some of the population. An idyllic picture of prerevolutionary Russia is being purveyed under the rubric of what we have lostan honest and selfless tsar, a nobility that was truly noble, philanthropic industrialists and merchants, an industrious and God-fearing peasantry. . . . The system of education is also idealized. For example, contrary to well-known historical facts, 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, supposedly, suddenly destroyed by a gang of revolutionaries, including all too many foreigners. These assertions fail to understand the actual, deep-seated reasons for the collapse of the Russian empire, whose ruling circles were hopelessly late with the necessary reforms, just as, many years later, the communist regime also exhibited an absolute inability to reform itself. There are quite a few people who prefer to remember just the positive aspects of the Soviet erathe absence of drastic manifestations of ethnic strife, the liquidation of unemployment, and free social services. They seem to forget the mass repressions of the 1920s40s, the deportation of whole nations, the brutal dekulakization and degradation of the countryside, the constant shortage of food and mass consumer goods, the total lack of civic and political freedoms, the lies and hypocrisy of the official propaganda, and the control by the agencies of security, which permeated everything. This is the way that historical memory and historical avoidance come together. All of these factors should be considered when deciding on the content of education and upbringing in our educational institutions. Under current conditions, it is increasingly obvious that to eradicate situations of crisis all over the world regarding the development of the individual, what is essential is not the transformation of public structures in whatever form they may take, whether by revolution or evolution, but something that is much more difficult: profound changes in mentality and behavior, changes that will ennoble peoples inner world, confer new content upon their strivings, their social and esthetic ideals, and their understanding

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of good and evil. The task is to pursue the shaping of the humanistic consciousness of the individual, the group, society, and all of humanity. As an ideology, humanism has its own internal contradictions. How is it possible to reconcile the anthropocentric cult of the individual, the proclamation of the priority of personal interests, with the objective needs of society and the state? These are not abstract, conjectural considerations. They have to be reflected directly in pedagogical theory and practice. Humanism is not rooted in human biological structure; it is not something that we have at birth. Every individual has to learn anew certain elementary humanistic values. For this reason, genuinely humanistic upbringing encounters complex problems; it cannot be achieved automatically; 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, and a rethinking of certain fundamental propositions that seemed axiomatic not long ago. References
1. Ushinskii, K.D. Collected Works [Sobr. soch.], vol. 2. Moscow/ Leningrad, 1948. 2. Bauman, Z. The Individualized Society [Individualizirovannoe obshchestvo]. Translated from the English. Moscow, 2002. 3. Gurevich, P.S. Anthropological Catastrophe [Antropologicheskaia katastrofa]. Svobodnaia mysl, 1997, no. 11. 4. Bell, D. The Coming Postindustrial Society [Griadushchee postindustrialnoe obshchestvo]. Translated from the English. Moscow, 1999. 5. Lducation nationale. Ouvrage collectif. Paris, 1985. 6. Bondyreva, S.K., and Kolesov, D.V. Survival [Vyzhivanie]. Moscow/ Voronezh, 2005. 7. Kon, I.S. Adolescent Sexuality at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century [Podrostkovaia seksualnost na poroge XXI veka]. Dubna, 2001. 8. Darmodekhin, S.V. The Family and the State [Semia i gosudarstvo]. Moscow, 2001.

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