July 3, 2008

Law Enforcement

27 June 2008

Today we visited the Juridical Institute, which is like a Police Academy and Law School combined. The cadets come from all over Russia and gave presentations on the various regions of Russia. This was really important for us to hear, as most Americans don't realize how BIG Russia is and how many languages, ethnicities, and cultures are represented in the Russian Federation. After the presentations, we had a brief discussion. There were many questions directed at the Cadets from Chechnya and Dagestan about the political situation in the Caucasus and ethnic/religious tensions throughout Russia. It was apparent that the cadets had more they WANTED to say, but did not dare. Answers were carefully constructed, but telling nonetheless. Still, it was good for our teachers to hear about the diversity of Russian peoples - excellent food for thought and a revelation for many of us.

The Institute houses a high security prison and there were many questions about how the prisoners live, what they eat, etc. Interesting.

We had a guided tour of the Dimitrius Cathedral and the Assumption Cathedral. The Dimitrius Cathedral is made of white stone, with gorgeous, intricate carvings on the outside walls. It was a wonderful, slightly ironic mix of mythological creatures and saints and simply a visual feast for the eyes. The Assumption Cathedral is one of the oldest 12th-century cathedrals and is graced with frescoes by Andrei Rublov. His scene of the Last Judgement is stunning - it is obvious that Rublov was a gentle spirit himself, who did not believe in an angry or vengeful God. His depiction shows none of the fear, fire or brimstone of other such scenes and is peaceful and serene. There is one angel that is so beautiful as to bring tears to your eyes.

We also had a panel discussion which hit on a few practical problems in education. The guests of honor were three recent graduates (as in they graduated YESTERDAY) of the Pedagogical Institute, all students of English. The most interesting part of the discussion was on cheating - strategies and methods described by the young ladies and countered by the experiences of our American teachers.

Finally, we had a pot-luck dinner at the American Home. Good food, a vodka tasting, and many toasts to our new families and to budding international friendships. Scott and Bruce did some special toast with arms linked and now they're special drinking brothers, so you can see that we are becoming a real family!

Seriously, though, I feel very honored to be with this group of teachers. We are an excellent mix of youthful enthusiasm and years of experience. These teachers are smart, savvy, and really dedicated to learning as this is the path toward better teaching. Kudos to these bright men and women from the University of Chicago interloper.

No comments: