Soviet Inequality

Another thing I like about Masha Gessen’s book is that she dispels the myth about the increase in inequality after the collapse of the USSR. There was no increase. To the contrary, all evidence demonstrates that there was a slight decrease in inequality.

I always knew this but most Soviet people were unaware because they had no opportunity to observe the lives of the Soviet rich. The separation between the rich and everybody else was complete. After the fall of the Soviet regime, the elites didn’t need to conceal their lifestyle any more, so most people decided that the inequality was something new.

When I was 11, I saw a classmate of mine, the daughter of the director of the farmers’ market light a cigarette with a hundred-rouble bill. That was my father’s monthly salary. My father had a PhD in applied linguistics. Her mother (the market director) had dropped out of high school after the eighth grade. This was in 1986.

There was always inequality. Maybe not so much in the 1920s, but after that, it got worse and worse, exploding to ridiculous heights during WWII.


Right and Left

The Russian opposition to Putin is what we’d call very right-wing. The best, the smartest, the most honest opponents of Putinism are way to the right of, say, Fox News. I hope it’s clear why. (It obviously has nothing to do with Fox News. I’m just using it as a reference point).

It’s the same in Ukraine. Anybody of any intelligence and honesty is what we here would call right-wing. Again, it’s not surprising given the recent Soviet past. It’s not possible for a person with a functioning brain who experienced socialism and is still living amidst its ruins to have a positive reaction to anything that smacks of leftism.

By the way, I found the information I referenced in the preceding post on the only surviving (and barely so) oppositional newspaper in Russia.

Equally Evil

Here is a link to Brendan O’Neill’s brilliant article on the hypocritical reaction to the terror attack in New Zealand.

The very first link in my newsfeed on the terror attack mentioned Trump in the second paragraph. The second link mentioned him and Fox News in the first paragraph.

I said this before but it bears repeating. It’s ridiculous how people use such tragedies to confirm whatever their pet beliefs are and reject whatever doesn’t fit in nearly with those beliefs. The New Zealand terrorist is a fucking evil bastard. Today’s Utrecht killer is a fucking evil bastard. The Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Manchester, Nice, etc killers are fucking evil bastards. None of them is more or less evil than the others. None of them represents anything more or less evil than the others.

It’s like people are almost happy when a massacre occurs that “proves” whatever crap they need to believe. Pre-canned “thoughts prayers” are much better than this ridiculous glee.

Online Textbooks in Language Learning

I was asked on a survey what could be done to improve my students’ “digital experience” in the language courses. My strong belief is that the best thing would be to get rid of the online portion of these courses altogether. I sometimes show videos where native speakers talk that accompany the textbook, and those are useful. Other than that, all of these electronic homework assignments, labs, online workbooks, precanned online tests, automatic grading, etc are a royal waste of time. And students agree.

I’m forced to use the online textbook, and it comes up to 25% of the final grade. This system rewards brainless drones who don’t mind investing a crazy number of hours doing utterly meaningless online exercises and punishes everybody else. Anybody who is curious about the language and really wants to learn loses under this system.

This is one of the main reasons I detest these lower-level language courses. I know how to make language learning fun. And I know for an absolute fact that it only works if you tailor the activities and the assessment to each particular group. I always make my activities and tests from scratch for each group, and I’ve successfully resisted all attempts to drive me into the collective model of using the pre-made tests that come with the online textbook. But I can’t ditch the online textbook altogether. These are 4-credit courses, and one of those credits goes entirely to the online textbook where students are required to rack up a certain number of hours dumbly doing the exercises.

Ideally, I’d go without any textbook altogether, saving the university a bunch of money. I almost never use it anyway. I do great activities that I invent myself. Board games, crossword puzzles, drawing, acting, tons of group activities. I’m eminently qualified to do this because I’ve had a very extensive training in the pedagogy of language learning. I just want to be left alone to do it.