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Modern Education

Problems of education: fiction and reality

Voronichev Oleg Evgen'evich

Doctor of Philology

Associate Professor, Department of Theory and Methodology of Primary General and Music Education, Federal State Budgetary Educational Institution "Bryansk State University named after Academician I.G. Petrovsky"

241029, Russia, Bryansk, Belorusskaya str., 50, of. sq. 39

Voronicheva Ol'ga Viktorovna

PhD in Philology

Docent, Director of MBCI CSCL of Bryansk

241020, Russia, Bryansk region, Bryansk, Sevskaya str., 4, sq. 2

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The problems of education are analyzed in close relationship with the cultural priorities of the mass consumption society.. Attention is focused on the fact that a teacher should not just be a translator of knowledge, but first of all a spiritual mentor, educator, bearer of true cultural values. Rapid scientific progress, the result of which has been noticeable, especially in recent decades, the filling of the everyday and cultural space of society with various technical innovations, has clearly actualized the problem of interaction, correlation and significance of technogenic and humanitarian components in the life of man and society. The sphere of education has turned out to be at the forefront of the confrontation of these spheres, with the obvious and aggressive dominance of the first. Signs of the crisis of modern humanitarian education are considered in the mirror of R. Young's science fiction story "30 Days in September", which describes the quite probable and already tangible consequences of the choice of a technogenic path of development by society for culture in general and the educational sphere in particular. Since material benefits are achieved and accumulated much more easily than spiritual ones, humanity needs to think about the obvious imbalance of these components of our life today and build an education system in such a way that the priority is not the desire for unified material benefits inherent in a mass consumption society, but for genuine spiritual values necessary for the development and improvement of a person as a whole personalities.


humanitarian education, teacher, culture, Robert Young, fantastic story, civilization, consumer society, robot, the dumbing down of education, leveling the personality

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The problems of education and upbringing, the formation of true cultural and value orientations in the consciousness of the individual and humanity as a whole have always worried the best minds of mankind: philosophers, teachers, cultural scientists, philologists, sociologists, artists. Of course, the future of not only an individual country, but also the entire planet and even the Universe depends on what will be invested in the consciousness of the young generation. At the same time, rapid scientific progress, the result of which has been noticeable, especially in recent decades, the filling of the everyday and cultural space of society with various technical innovations, has clearly actualized the problem of interaction, correlation and significance of technogenic and humanitarian components in the life of man and society. The ideas of O. Spengler [6], N.A. Berdyaev [1, pp. 217-230] and other prominent representatives of philosophical thought about the gradual displacement of humanitarian values by the products of technological progress, the ruinousness of the desire for everyday comfort for the development of creative thought and, as a consequence, the spiritual impoverishment of mankind, the decline of its cultural and moral level are finding more and more confirmation in the reality around us.

The sphere of education has turned out today to be actually at the forefront of this confrontation between the technical and humanitarian spheres of our life, with the obvious and aggressive dominance of the former. The most acute question arose about who, how and what should be taught in the conditions of modern technogenic civilization, about the place, role and purpose of the teacher, about the possibility of replacing it with innovative educational technologies: remote computer, television forms of education. The possibility of replacing the teacher with a robot becomes quite real. Unfortunately, it is forgotten or no longer taken into account that a teacher is not only a subject of knowledge transfer paid from the state budget, but also a person who combines different images: a spiritual mentor, assistant, friend, and that education, contrary to the bold statements of some authoritative statesmen, has not yet become one of the components the concept of "service sector".

In this regard, the culturological and linguoculturological analysis of R. Young's fantastic story "30 days in September" [7], written more than half a century ago (in 1957 in the USA, during the period of post-war economic growth, technological progress, new inventions and scientific discoveries, strengthening of the education system primarily in the field of mathematics and natural sciences), but it is not by chance due to the reasons outlined above that has become a sought-after material for serious reflection today.

The story, which sounds as a whole like a kind of warning to humanity, describes a future consumer society created "by order" and with the direct financial participation of food concentrate companies, the active introduction of technical innovations in order to provide maximum comfort to the layman and thereby educate the ideal consumer of their products, in whose life two all those needs as old as the world: bread and circuses. The first ("bread"), i.e. material wellbeing in this technogenic society is quite high (this can also be judged by the standard of living of a middle-income family - the main character Denby), and the second ("spectacles") is provided by the constant showing on television of cowboy fighters and other entertainment programs of such primitive content that the layman whose brain is deliberately filled with this low-grade surrogate of culture, no higher spiritual demands have ever arisen and he remained a guaranteed consumer of the products of food concentrate companies. These companies, in the pragmatic future described in the story, actually monopolized and commercialized everything, even human communication (the main character, feeling the need for communication, satisfies it in a closed bar booth in a conversation over a vending machine for money "25 cents for 3 minutes of conversation" with the bartender Fred).

The owners of the companies could not but monopolize the sphere of education, thereby "successfully" solving the problem of the shortage of teachers and school premises by introducing television training, the obvious economic advantage of which is that "one teacher standing in a small room with a blackboard at one end and a TV camera at the other can teach almost fifty at once millions of children." Thus, education in the future predicted by Yang is designed to please the oligarchs, who prudently took over the financing of this "congenial system" of education, which replaced schools and android teachers, to stamp out standard and reliable consumers of food concentrate companies' products.

The title of the story is very symbolic. September is the beginning of the school year, its first day, a holiday of knowledge. This is a joyful expectation of learning something new, meeting with school friends and teachers, hopes, optimistic plans, etc. Let many expectations have not been fulfilled and opportunities have not always been realized. It is important that there were high dreams and good intentions in life, and our memory imprinted them in connection with school and September, in which only 30 days are so little in comparison with the whole life and so much to feel like a living, thinking and feeling person.

In the text, the author, describing the nostalgic feelings and reflections of the protagonist, closely related to the appearance of an android teacher in his life, as well as when describing the appearance, words and actions of Miss Jones, uses the symbol word September and derived single-root words to create a kind of romantic halo of this image:

...her hair reminded him of the September sun, her face a September day;

He understood that there was not just longing for the past, irrevocably gone, although longing played a certain role in this longing for September, for a real school. He wanted passionately to come back to class on a September morning;...now I realized that September embodies not just textbooks and young dreams.

This month was a symbol of something that he had lost forever, something indefinite, but extremely necessary for him now;Suddenly a feeling of deep peace came over Denby.

The rich, abundant September days passed in a long sequence before his eyes...;

He saw with amazing clarity that in the world in which he lives, September is gone for many years;Good evening, sir," she replied, and a September breeze swept through the sausage shop on this June evening; it looked like a new school year full of meaning had come after an infinitely long boring summer.

There is also a synonymous or periphrastic name of the same symbol:

...the autumn days were full of content, beauty and tranquility, because their blue sky inspired hope and confidence that even richer and more meaningful days would come...She walked through the cluttered room: her little red sandals flashed on the dusty floor, her bright dress somehow resembled a golden autumn.

Every person must have a real Teacher in order for him to take place as a person.

The formation of a personality is impossible without spiritual guidance. In order to contrast emphasize the depth of the crisis of modern society, the bearer of the spiritual principle in the story is not a person, but a robot with the appearance of a person and a program of humanitarian education embedded in electronic memory, which was relevant half a century before the time of action. It is these "real" teachers (i.e. android robots, not real people), who were displaced from the educational space by tele-learning, but who once played a positive role in filling the meaning of the main character's life, that cause him nostalgic emotions.

However, a kind, decent, intelligent robot teacher, Miss Jones, due to her "obsolescence" as a model, is clearly not in demand in the modern technogenically modified society, in which "a TV teacher is only slightly better than a semi-educated member of congress, whose main concern is the desire to help his company profitably sell another batch of cornflakes," and "writers are forced to turn to the classics for ideas," since "their creative forces are destroyed by stamps even before they have emerged from the embryonic state."

In the described consumer world, in which creative thought has actually been exterminated, a robot teacher alien to him is now very cheap even by material standards: "Forty-five dollars ninety-five cents, plus five dollars per box."

The author skillfully uses the technique of contrasting parallelism in the descriptions of Miss Jones, who acts in the story as a source of light, knowledge, true culture, and the wife of the protagonist, with her pragmatic philistine views and primitive requests, who, like her son Bill, is the "ideal result" of modern television education, cf.:

About Miss Jones:

" there was a whisper of the September wind in her voice", "So sitting next to Miss Jones, watching every movement of her lips, seeing the frequent sweep of her black eyelashes over blue-blue eyes, he felt that September had come to their house and was sitting in the living room"; "There was something strange familiar in the way she moved, in the bright cascade of her dress, in the soft, sunrise-colored hair framing a gentle face"; "She turned around, and it seemed to him that her eyes flashed, and her hair sparkled like the sun rising on a foggy September morning"; "He continued to occasionally glance at Miss Jones. Now, when her breathing stopped, her eyes closed, the room seemed terribly empty," and p.

About his wife Loire:

" Loire asked angrily, standing with her arms crossed in the doorway"; "gasped with amazement", "Denby discovered for the first time what a mean face his wife had", "Loire's chest was heaving belligerently, and she looked quite formidable in her new golden-scarlet robe", "Loire's voice was cold and harsh", "He had never seen such a red face and angrily compressed lips on her before", "The wife's face again assumed a normal expression of limitation for her...", "cold ruthless eyes", "the wife will not want, and will not be able to understand him", "the subject of her dreams is a new Cadillette" and T. p .

It is easy to see that the sympathies of the author, therefore, and the reader are clearly on the side of Miss Jones. However, by making the machine the sole carrier of culture, the author thus sharpens the problem of spiritual impoverishment of a person who could not withstand competition with technology and became dependent on it. The main idea of the work, which can be considered both a prophecy and a warning, is that humanity, in pursuit of technological progress (to the detriment of spiritual, humanitarian improvement), can reach such a low level of morality and culture that a robot next to a person may be a carrier of higher spirituality and culture.

In the story, the author shows with amazing foresight what the depersonalization of the educational process leads to, the rejection of live communication in the student team, the maximum simplification and primitivization of learning. Describes a future in which the joy of communication and recognition, an element of inspiration and creativity has gone. Knowledge itself has devalued, because it has lost its main purpose the formation of the worldview of the individual and society. It has become an end in itself, a meaningless, boring activity. The acquired knowledge is unsystematic and does not perform an educational function, the educational space narrows to the size of a television screen, and tele-education forms the consciousness of society through primitive "rehashing" and the actual vulgarization of classical plots: the heroes of Shakespeare, Homer and Sophocles are endowed with cowboy characters and appearance, rude speech sounds from their mouths, devoid of artistic expressiveness, intellectual and spiritual content. But the worst thing is that lack of spirituality has become the norm of life. Yang convincingly shows that the main negative result of the creation of a mass consumption society is the leveling of personality.

Of particular importance for the disclosure and understanding of the author's idea is the final scene of the story, in which the main character meets Miss Jones already in the role of a seller in a sausage shop, since the robot's program includes not only the functions of a teacher, but also the ability to "sing in the house choir, cook dinner and perform the simplest sewing operations darn holes, sew buttons, lift the loops on stockings."

The author with a soft and sad irony invites the reader to reflect on the role of material and spiritual food in a person's life: "There is a long way from the September school class to the sausage shop, and the teacher distributing fried sausages is nothing compared to the teacher spreading dreams and hopes around."

Indeed, a portion of sausages is necessary to maintain physical fitness and human performance. It does not take much time and effort to absorb and assimilate them, and the same works of Shakespeare cannot be divided into portions and absorbed on the way to work or used as a seasoning for a hot dog. The skills of cooking and distributing material food are given to everyone, while cooking and serving spiritual food is a matter for the elect, but these skills, unfortunately, remain unclaimed in a consumer society where the accelerated pace of life has determined the urgent need for a fast food chain and rejected everything that violates the usual rhythm, and above all reflection.

The end of the story, on the one hand, is tragic. The guardian of the spiritual principle in modern Russian society does not realize its capabilities and is used only for the production of material goods. Education, culture, intelligence are defenseless before the pressure of mediocrity, vulgarity, lack of spirituality. On the other hand, the finale is not without optimism. Denby chooses a robot teacher as the embodiment of that September light, which he needs no less than material food, and which he lacks so much. This is a timid, completely unconscious protest against the discolored world of consumer interests, the power of machines, and at the same time an escape from spiritual loneliness. He has to cover up his emotional decision and explain it to others with a clear intention to earn more money. By sending the main character, tired of the individualism and selfishness of modern society, television falseness and vulgarity, to work in a sausage shop next to the teacher Miss Jones, in which he found a spiritually close being so necessary for sincere communication, the author retains faith in man. He, no matter how he is fooled by primitive education and no matter how much the same primitive needs are instilled in him, by his very nature it is characteristic to strive for the light of the most important humanitarian component of life, it is characteristic to ask questions about its meaning and seek understanding from his own kind. Here are direct associations with V. Mayakovsky's lines: "Listen! / After all, if the stars / light up / does it mean that someone needs it? / So it is necessary / that every evening / at least one star lights up over the roofs?!" [3, pp. 60-61].

And yet the sad ironic tone of the finale of the story and other scenes embodying the author's plan, the purpose of which is to warn humanity against a very real threat, especially nowadays, is manifested in the fact that, escaping from the pragmatic world and the power of machines, the protagonist finds solace in communicating with the same machine, but with better, according to his and our ideas, software stuffing.

What conclusions from the analyzed story of Young are relevant for us living in the 20s of the XXI century? After all, every truly artistic work, including fantastic or on a historical theme, is somehow addressed to modernity.

The clearly outlined trends in the development of modern education confirm the reality of the paintings invented by the American science fiction writer.

A modern schoolboy is stuffed with information in such a way that he is ahead of Socrates, Voltaire, and Lomonosov in terms of the number of "bytes" in memory. But it is unlikely that this superficially clip-based encyclopedicity benefits him. In confirmation of this, it is enough to give only two arguments. Firstly, the cultural level of the population continues to decline (the indicator is a qualitative change in the reading circle, viewer sympathies, a decrease in the artistry of mass art). Secondly, the level of mental disorders and diseases is quite high, one of the reasons for which is a powerful flow of information that prevents a person from developing his own value system. As a result, not finding a fulcrum in himself, a person tries to look for it outside. The natural consequence of this is disappointment in life, in loved ones, and in the whole society, voluntary withdrawal into oneself and suffering from loneliness.

The devaluation of values in the modern world manifests itself in a change of priorities: the external amenities and comfort of civilization have noticeably displaced the achievements of culture. Here it is appropriate to recall a fragment of the reflections of the protagonist of the story, in which he tries to justify for himself the supposedly reasonable expediency of the structure and priorities of modern society: "Of course, it would be foolish to say that the construction of new schools is more important than the construction of roads. After all, if you stop building new roads, the demand for cars automatically decreases, and, consequently, the economy is falling, depression is growing, and this leads to the fact that the construction of new schools becomes even more meaningless and unnecessary than at first."

A vicious circle arises: the loss of true cultural values in the pursuit of material goods and, as a result, the crisis of education breeds ignoramuses; they, in turn, devalue knowledge not only as the capital of a qualified specialist, but also as the basis for the formation of an integral personality. Nevertheless, the root cause is the crisis of education, since at the origins of the transformations are people who have not received highquality education and upbringing industrialists and businessmen, perhaps recent triples and twos, illiterate, but strongwilled personalities. The system created by them is not able to provide high-quality and comprehensive personal development, since it is not based on traditional universal values, but only distributes a certain amount of knowledge transmitted by soulless TV and computer screens. The personality of the teacher leaves education the key figure of the pedagogical process that determines the quality of any educational system. It is the human factor that makes learning meaningful and ensures the qualitative assimilation of the experience accumulated by mankind, transmitted in the form of knowledge.

Culture, as Yu. Lotman reasonably believes, begins with prohibitions [2, pp. 470-514]. Unfortunately, a new type of businessman came to replace the enterprising, but still human-looking Lopakhins and Stolts, who are striving to snatch more from life here and now.

Of course, material benefits are achieved and accumulated much easier than spiritual ones. In this case, the soul does not have to work. And the soul itself becomes an atavism a dying appendage of a civilized person who proceeds from considerations of usefulness and expediency and certainly not from useless ideas of the transcendent and existential. A modern business person cannot afford (or there is no such need) to return his thoughts to the sunny September of his childhood or to reflect on the meaning of Shakespeare's tragedies. Therefore, the word soul itself leaves its active lexical stock and takes with it conceptually related concepts: love, "conscience, nobility and dignity" [4, p. 17]. Probably, the immediate origins of this process are the ideas of reasonable egoism, growing out of O. Comte's positivism.

While the fantasy world invented by R. Young has not become a harsh reality, each of us needs to think about the components of our life today and start "squeezing out a slave from ourselves bit by bit" [5, p. 133] of a technogenic civilization, to get rid of the traits of a thoughtless consumer of the unified benefits of a pragmatic society.

Unfortunately, fiction can often be compared to the prophetess Cassandra, persecuted for her gift. If our reasonable society had taken the fantastic, but quite capable of becoming a harsh reality, forecasts of genuine artists of the word more seriously, many social problems and crises would certainly have been avoided.

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