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anyone heard of Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin and Kin's School in Russia?

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e_b_ sarver

e_b_ sarver
  • 145 posts

I was sent a link to this by a friend who didn't have any additional info.  I was curious if anyone here had seen the DVD, or knew anything more about it.  It sounded interesting from the descriptions I found while searching around, though some sounded a bit weird, with references to something like "service to Motherland."

In any case, it sounded from the descriptions like the kids teach themselves for the most part, with little adult supervision, and earn degrees before most people graduate high school.  Apparently they only "require" arts, and everything else is just the kids teaching themselves and each other about the subjects that most interest them.  And of course, when one dives into any topic deeply and quickly enough, and with a young and active mind...one might just earn those degrees in no time flat.

I'd be curious to learn more about his model for education.  If anyone has more detailed info, please post.  A snip from one page I found while searching is found below, as well as the DVD information.



Source: http://www.greengardenearth.com/almanac/index.php?n=Archive.Issue200809,DVD


In his article "On the pathway to Man" professor Shchetinin writes about the goals and strategy of the school:

On the pathway to Man

“The integrity of the child as an individual — indeed, the integrity
of the environment — this is the mutual relationship of the two basic
principles underlying the concept of the school as shared by myself and
my like-minded colleagues. The very first lesson in the school ought to
touch upon the meaning of human existence.

In our world today the whole educational curriculum is
divided up into divergent layers, isolated from each other. The world
of perception is transformed into isolated ‘corridors' to such an extent
that it is sometimes hard for the pupil to believe that they are all
part and parcel of a single whole. Art draws its very strength from the
fact that it synthesises fractionalised phenomena, offers a holistic
system of education and child-raising, and inculcates a holistic

But art cannot fully address this question if children
are not immersed in an atmosphere where genuine life-values are
affirmed — an atmosphere of shared labour and searchings, where every
lesson is permeated with a sense of creativity. Then we have something
to think about. Then we have a basis on which children will be able to
appreciate art with understanding. For if there is no opportunity to
live and experience this high ideal first-hand, then the high ideal is
not truly perceived — it remains an ideal in word only, and hence begins
to compromise itself.

In our educational process we work on the basis of a three-part harmony: “I see — I analyse — I act.

It is not just that we place our own tremendous
emphasis on music, visual art and dance — they should make themselves
felt in the school on a day-by-day basis, and this is the crux of the
whole thing.

No programme, no methodology can in and of itself guarantee success in child-raising on the whole.

Together with the educators of the Children's Music
School in Kizliar (Daghestan), we emphasise the direct dependence of
success in music on the level of a person's overall development, rather
than on any special, isolated musical talents. It turns out that skill
on one area is manifest when skill is shown in many areas of life.

Young people often conquer summits simply because they
have never been persuaded that these summits are unattainable. It is
our view that skill in one area of activity is made up of skills in
others. Talent is a whole network of different gifts. Which means the
task of developing one set of skills is expanded when all of them are
set in motion together. And to bring up a specialist, consequently, one
has to bring out the overall Man — Man as a unified whole…

...Years are behind us now. I have held on to the
conviction that Man can do everything! It is precisely through making
sense of this saying that our multifunctional school, the whole school
complex, the whole school-Man, has been developed. Our purpose is not
‘knowledge—know-how—habits'. It is not endless drilling and
rote-learning, or the spoon-feeding of information. Rather, it is the
raising of Man to live harmoniously, to act in harmony with society — a
Man who, when he sees and analyses the phenomena of life which surround
him, can feel their interconnection, can perceive the world as a whole.
And no matter what he becomes — an engineer, physicist, chemist,
builder, teacher etc. — he will understand that he is going out into a
whole, complete, unified world!

We are in the process of shaping Man's ability to get
along in this whole, unified world from a very young age. Right from
childhood Man must be raised beginning with his roots, with his very
essence. And the essence of Man is his humanity. And this consists in
re-uniting, one way or another, his life-forces in the struggle against
the forces of chaos and disintegration. But the development of Man's
essence is not only the goal — it is at the same time the means to
achieving this goal.

After all, why is the idea of the harmony of the
individual so attractive and so productive? Because it alone is capable
of appreciating the harmony of the world as the most valuable treasure,
capable of preserving this integrity, this very harmony that has been in
the making over millions of years of evolution…

In regular schools we notice how our once attentive,
wide-eyed pupils seem to fall away from us. We see education gradually
turning into a two-edged lie: the young ones pretend to study, the older
ones pretend to teach. The mighty energy of the human spirit gets
squeezed out by the rigidity and inflexibility of educational
technology. It freezes up, only rarely causing faint and pitiful ripples
of disturbance to monotonously long and boring classes. But just look
at how the school's energy boils over between classes! During these long
moments of despair it reminds one of the convulsions of a dying giant.

As a rule, the overwhelming majority of pupils have
only two or three classes a day in which they are active, attentive,
concentrated and participate as active creators in the learning process.
More than two-thirds of the time spent in school is given over to
inactivity. It is as though the brain were asleep. But this is not a
sleep of relaxation. It is a sleep that is harmful to one's health.

The activity of exchanging information engenders the
activity of energy exchange. A state of sleepiness and a sluggish flow
of thought processes is reflected in a slowing down of psychophysical
functions, in a retarded flow of energy exchange. The body and its
nervous system are literally undergoing a slow death. The situation of
the one who is ‘sleeping' is exacerbated even further by being in a
state of anxiety and tension resulting from an attempt to avoid being
discouraged by one's inactivity…

The result is that for most of the time the body is in
an oppressed state. Perhaps this is why the health curve on one's
educational record falls from grade to grade, along with the
extinguishing of one's mental forces. The traditional school is not in
tune with children's nature. It is not really for them. It does not
contribute either to the flourishing of their talents or to the
development of their spiritual, physical and moral health. Like a
knife-blade, it is aimed at a very narrow target:
knowledge—know-how—habits. The focus is not on the child, not on the
individual, not on the development of the immeasurable range of the
abilities he is endowed with, of his whole universal selfhood, but
simply on producing a product of the instructional process.

Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin

"On the pathway to Man"

Contemporary Pedagogy ( Pedagogika nashikh dnei )

ed. Shalva Amonashvili et al.

Krasnodar : Knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1989, pp. 381–401.

translated by John Woodsworth. © Copyright www.RingingCedarsofRussia.org

Presented by Kin's School - Lycee of Tekos, Russia, 1989. Original article available in Russian on www.Tekos.SourceofLife.ca



  • 1 posts

Hi - I just saw your post and don't know if anyone ever responded to it. In case you still have the question, yes, I have seen the DVD. My wife purchased it. It is worth seeing and possibly owning if you are involved in any type of expanded perspective of education. Quite impressive things regarding the potential of education and human development are captured on the DVD.

The Kin School is mentioned in the Anastasia / Ringing Cedars of Russia series of books, specifically book 3, "The Space of Love," wherein the author of the series, Vladimir Megre, decribes his visit to the school and the effect this had on him. The school came to the attention of the world through being mentioned in that book and series, a series which has amassed a large following in Russia and elsewhere. Though not explicitly described, there seems to be a definite collaboration between the heroine of the Ringing Cedars series, Anastasia (who is depicted in the series as a human being who has transcended the limitations most of us still clearly work within), and the founder of the school, Mikhail Petrovich Shchetinin. The both speak the same language, that of the unlimited potential of the human being ("Man"). They both obviously have the utmost respect for each other's work.

Regarding your comment about the kids teaching themselves at the Kin School, that's an aspect that is still somewhat unclear to me even from the DVD. As an educator of many years, both in public and Waldorf education, I know that kids don't teach themselves without some guidance from somewhere. Very few people, child or adult, can pick up a guitar and teach themselves cords, music theory, advanced folk dancing, martial arts, physics, etc. The DVD depicts the kids as teaching each other in study groups, and one of the core foundations of the school is the idea of learning being most effective and profound in our lives when it is done in service to others, that is, when I learn something not to enhance my own being but in order to teach what I am learning, to share it, with someone else to enhance their being. If I learn something knowing that I am learning it in order to turn right around and teach it to my peer, then my learning has a very different quality. It goes much deeper in me, so paradoxically it enhances my own being much more effectively through this approach. In the context of the Kin School, this arrangement was specifically mentioned with regard to the construction of the buildings. Apparently one group of students was working all day on this construction, and didn't have time to stop and start that activity in order to do their academic studies. So a second group of students studied the academic curriculum in order to then turn around and teach the first group, the construction group, what they had missed.

Such an arrangement feels very plausible to me, and once plausible, also seems quite profound. However, questions arise. E.g., there are only so many buildings that can be built given limited resources and even needs. So what happens when the construction group is done with its work? And if the academic group shares with the construction group what they missed so their experience is filled out, when and how does the academic group get to experience what the construction group is learning and experiencing? Maybe they each get a turn at both activities. That would be logical, and ideal. And even when the construction is finished and all kids are back to their normal study groups, I still think the older students in the study groups teach the younger ones, but the arrangement seems to lose some of the power it had before. And certainly the group of kids doing the building construction are not doing this unsupervised. That not only would be unethical, it would be illegal. Buildings can collapse if not constructed with expertise.


So questions come up about the details of the arrangements, even after viewing the DVD. Also for me statements made about the level of mastery that is claimed of the subject matter. I believe that these claims on the DVD by the students themselves are naive overstatements, but that can be excused as simply not knowing how vast the realm of human knowledge is in its various fields. Still, the fact that the kids feel so proud of their knowledge and accomplishments also says something important about the process. It may also be an aspect of the Russian folk soul, so to speak.

One of the two troubling aspects to me of the whole experiment of the school is its strong emphasis on complete devotion to the Russian motherland. The other troubling aspect for me is mentioned on the DVD by a visiting instructor from the Czech Republic, who says that his concern is that the kids are so isolated. To accomplish what they do they must work long hours, apparently seven days a week. This is possible because it is a boarding situation. But it means that many aspects of growing up that bring balance and health, such as relaxing and having fun, do not seem to be emphasized or given their due attention in the school. I'm not sure about that, but that's the impression, and that's what this guy who visited the school felt. It says something that the makers of the DVD included this comment on the disk. In response to his criticism, the narrator acknowledges that the school isn't perfect. In fact, it is a real pedagogical dilemma to determine what one is going to leave out of the educational experience of any group of students. It is simply impossible to teach it all, or to expose the students to even a tiny fraction of the the huge range of human experience, knowledge, beauty, culture. One of the greatest tasks is to decide what the essentials are, and how these will be best experienced and mastered, if mastery is the goal. Determining the goal of education is really the linchpin that drives everything else, and the one thing that is unambiguous is that the Kin School knows its goal. Perhaps this is at least partly why its results are so impressive.

These are some thoughts and impressions. Hope they are useful.