1996 February 12

My Two Years in a Soviet School

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Banner reading "School awaits you, friends!" over the entrance to School 45

A Jubilee Celebration of Leonid Isidorovich Mil'gram and Школа 45

From an academic viewpoint, it's possible that I learned less in my two years at School No. 45 than in any other single year of education. After struggling through Biology, Anatomy, and Botany, I cannot name anything's genus or phylum; nor do I know the parts of any plant—in Russian or English. My careful drawings of bauxite deposits in the USSR now seem as meaningful as modern art. I have only a dim idea of what really happened to Yevgenii, Chatskii, and Pechorin; and had I written this in Russian, poor Natal'ya Vasil'yevna would have shuddered to see how far my grasp of that language (which, truth be told, never deserved the 4's or even 3's she so kindly awarded me) has fallen.

From a human viewpoint, it's probable that I learned more at School 45 than from all my other school years put together.

This morning, I watched three students from my American secondary school alma mater, Bethesda–Chevy Chase High School, compete in a televised high school quiz game. Besides thanking the cheerleaders and team sponsors, the captain offered a special thanks to the students and teachers of School 45 who had visited on exchange. He'll be in Moscow himself in another month or so. He won't experience my 18-month immersion, but I hope—I believe—that many of the same doors will open in his mind.

Other pages of interest

Surrealism, Soviet-Style