A 21st century taste of Solzhenytsin for World Issues

If you teach World Issues this year, you might be tempted to start out the course with the whole Pussy Riot Putin protest in Russia.

Controversial yes, but it raises so many pertinent issues – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the power of social media, propaganda, the rule of law, etc.

If you are making the plunge, then make sure you read the band members’  closing statements, which are frankly profound. You might even be able to use some of it in your class. It would most likely be over students’ heads, but would introduce them to three courageous women who see their education in the arts and philosophy as their very lifeblood.

We believe the most important thing is to strive, to strive towards knowledge and understanding. This is what a person can achieve independently, outside the walls of an educational institution. Regalia and scholarly degrees mean nothing. A person can possess a great deal of knowledge, but not be a human being. Pythagoras said extensive knowledge does not breed wisdom.  Unfortunately, we are here to affirm that.

Articulate and cultured, these band members say they are following in the tradition of Solzhenytsin.

“Just like Solzhenitsyn, I believe that in the end the word will break cement.”

The music may be punk, but Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich are serious activists who  discuss the role of a proper education – with its exposure to art, philosophy, and civic studies, to combat tyranny.

If you are teaching literature, then why not read have one of your lit circles read a Russian novel – like Dr. Zhivago or Cancer Ward, or even Pushkin’s poem Eugene Onegin?

You never know which students may become hooked on the history of art as political commentary – starting when their own indignations and desire for to defy authority met with a youtube clip from a feminist punk band.

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