Search This Blog

Jun 19, 2013


Вначале немного об этом блоге. Начал я его в 2006, когда стал директором отделения подготовки педагогов в университете Северного Колорадо, и с тех пор пропустил, может быть, три или четыре недели. Парадокс работы с группой людей в том что ведь каждому не объяснишь как ты пришел к тому или иному решению. Поскольку мотивация руководителя не всегда понятна, то его коллеги сами заполняют зазоры в понимании. Так просто человеческий ум устроен – нам нужна история, нужно объяснение. И там где его нет, возникает некоторый когнитивный диссонанс.

Ну вот, началось все как инструмент управления, но блог стал для меня чем-то большим. Это и тот ящик в столе, в который складываются мысли на потом, и попытка просто разглядеть какие-то общие черты в повседневной работе и суете. Поскольку я перехожу на работу в Вышку, то и язык решил сменить. Но мои американские друзья тоже хотели продолжать, поэтому пока буду по очереди – одну неделю по-русски, другую по-английски. Все-таки за семь лет накопилось 81 тысяча просмотров. Из-за правой рамки экрана можно вытащить переводчика – робота. Он хотя и не умеет пока, но сильно старается.

Вопрос, который постоянно задают и мне, и Светлане, и россияне, и американцы – почему. Почему после 22 лет в Америке мы возвращаемся в Россию. Ведь у меня в Штатах хорошая работа, у нас много друзей, дети и внучка здесь. А ответ достаточно простой если на него взглянуть абстрактно, без имен собственных – хороший университет предложил интересную работу в одном из самых увлекательных городов мира. В таких выражениях и загадка как-бы снимается, не правда ли?

Теперь не времена железного занавеса, и переезд – это просто переезд. Мы уже живем в пятом штате (Индиана, Вашингтон, Огайо, Колорадо, теперь Роуд Айленд), и в России до того жили подолгу, по крайней мере, в трех местах. В университетской среде, времена пожизненной оседлости и пожизненной работы на одном месте проходят. Мобильность полезнее для самих университетов, и для переезжающего человека, и в конечном итоге - для его семьи. Светлана, конечно, со мной не согласится, поскольку ее карьера постоянно прерывается с нашими переездами. Но это уже другая история.

Jun 14, 2013


Saying goodbyes is an interesting experience. One rule seems to be - De profectus nil nisi bonum. Even though it reminds eulogies at a funeral, I like it! My colleagues have given me a wonderful Memories Blog of Sasha, with so many very thoughtful and kind comments and wishes. Thank you all for your warmth and welcoming spirit. RIC and its people have given me great three years. I have learned a lot from you all. Despite the eulogies, I am also aware of the many mistakes I have made. And if I offended someone, please forgive.

Unlike dead people, I will have an e-mail account, and you could always find me on my website Keep in touch. I will be very interested to know how some of the projects we started together turned out. I am also willing to help and answer questions, especially with numerous moving pieces of technology we’re using. But also, if any of you need advice, help, or a couch in Moscow, don’t hesitate to write.

There is the question of this blog. I started it in Colorado, in 2006. It has 292 posts including this one, and shows a little over 80,000 page views. Some of them are from robots that crawl the blogosphere for who knows what purposes. Most of the traffic, however, is from my colleagues, because I usually write about my work-related experiences and whatever random thoughts in relation to it. It started as a management tool, more or less. But it became something more for me, a discipline, like yoga or running or tai chi are for other people. No matter what, I will write a few sentences, no matter how poorly conceived and misspelled. It actually helps a lot to keep my mind sane (although this may be a self-delusion).

Anyway, I thought I would switch to Russian, for many of my future colleagues do not read English fluently. At the same time, I wanted to keep in touch with my American friends, most of whom do not read Russian. With John’s and David’s (and white wine’s) help, a compromise was found last night– I will alternate languages, and see how it goes.

Actually, Blogger has a translation tool. If you hover over right side of the screen, a menu slides out, and the top button instantly translates the text. It is still quite awkward, although immeasurably better than some ten years ago.

OK, enough already. Thank you all again, and if I don’t see you next week, good luck and goodbye.

Jun 7, 2013

Chosen peoples

Both Russians and Americans cherish the illusions of being special, different from other peoples. Let’s be fair, not just these two. Similar fantasies are cherished by many others, from Jews, the original chosen people, to Turks, to Chinese, and continue down the list. It is understandable, because any claim of national or ethnic identity simply implies a being somewhat different from others. But if you take those ideas a bit too far, they become impediments.

One is to refuse to learn from others. The American educational reform establishment is essentially isolationist. While there is a lot of rhetoric about catching up to other countries, very little actual learning from other countries is taking place. Finland has become the new darling of international school reformers, yet Americans manage to strive to catch up with Finland by doing everything opposite to what Finns have done. Russians right now are living through another corruption scandal connected to their state testing “YEGE.“ Many want to get rid of the tests altogether, despite the fact that every major country they are trying to catch up to use one or another form of achievement testing. Why? Of course, because of the mysterious Russian soul, and what works in the West and the East, somehow is not working in Russia.

The less exposure one has to other cultures, the more naïve is the sense of exceptionality. English is the most difficult language! Russian is a unique and most difficult language (neither is especially unique or especially difficult). The great American democracy gave the world public schooling (no, the idea was stolen from Prussian kings). Russia has the greatest original literature, music, and ballet traditions (No, all three are relatively young, and all borrowed from someone else). Etc., etc. Interestingly, the exceptionalism sometimes takes the form of “we are the worst.” For example, Russians widely believe that their country is one of the most corrupt in the world. However, it is very unlikely to be true. In the same way, Rhode Islanders think their state is the most corrupt in the nation, and it is definitely not true.

Those who interact deeply with foreigners (not just as tourists), sooner or later realize the fundamental similarity of all human thinking and especially of feeling. We are just not that different from each other. It would be interesting if we were, but we are not. While cultural practices vary, the underlying mental and affective wirings are remarkably similar. Policies and reforms that work in one place are likely to work in others. One should not ignore the demographics, but yet again, poor people in different countries have similar challenges, and resemble each other. Language learners in public schools will have similar needs and similar solutions will work for them.