01 September 2016

Happy Knowledge Day!

Alla Bagrova, dean of our linguistics faculty, speaks ahead of the ceremonial ringing of the "First Bell."

Elektrostal's schoolchildren 
celebrate Knowledge Day
For Russia's schoolchildren and students, the summer ended today -- Knowledge Day. As I left home this morning on my half-hour walk to the New Humanities Institute, the streets were filled with children in suits and long dresses, all carrying flowers. The younger children all had proud parents with them, often equipped with cameras of all kinds. The occasion? First day of school. This annual outpouring of respect for education never fails to impress me.

At our institute, we have our own traditions. The dean of the linguistics faculty, Alla Bagrova, welcomed the students, touched on the joy of learning as well as the hard work awaiting each student, and said how glad she was to see them. Her warm welcome was echoed by our coordinator of student life, Irina Rozhdestvenskaya, who went on to introduce each of the faculty members by name.

Several of us made our own brief comments to the students. Founder Sergei Kazantsev said, "You've heard several of us say how glad we are to see you. I wonder how glad you are to see us!" Students laughed, acknowledging that they have mixed feelings about the summer ending.

Instructors representing all three of our institute's core languages -- English, French, German -- spoke to the students. I spoke on behalf of the English department. At the end of our presentations, Sergei picked up the ceremonial bell, and rang the "First Bell" signal that the fall was officially beginning.

Our students then split up into their four groups according to which of the four years of the bachelor's degree program they were in. I met with the seniors, with whom Judy and I will be working this year on a course we've never taught before: "Principles of Rendering Mass Media Texts," popularly known as "Newspapers." Drawing on print and Internet sources in both Russian and English, students will learn how to produce digests and analyses of the texts they read, and to discuss the issues involved, and the effectiveness of the texts in conveying those issues. All of the classroom work is in English. In addition, students will be keeping diaries of the additional English-language reading they do at home.

We will be teaching this course to the evening division as well. In addition, we will continue our weekly conversation sessions with students from all four levels of the Institute, and I will also continue to be a resource person for the high-school classes.

After today's meetings and consultations, the day wasn't over. Another Elektrostal fall tradition was scheduled for the afternoon: the opening of the annual joint exhibition of Elektrostal's artists, "Elektrostal Palette." I knew several of the forty artists represented in this year's collection of over a hundred works, but I also was glad to see things from names I'd never heard before. Our Institute's dean of the design faculty, Tatiana Vilde, and her colleagues Dmitri Dyomin and Alexander Makhotkin (and maybe others) were also present. I felt very glad to be a part of a school that has had a good influence on art and education in our city. But for some of the time, I just sat on a chair in the midst of one of the main halls, soaking in the colors and lines and impressions and creative freedom in evidence on the walls around me.

All in all, it was a weighty day, the first working day of a busy new academic year -- plus lots of happy children and flowers, and happy artists as well -- but as I sat down to write these thoughts, I admit it was also a relief today to be almost totally distracted from the world of election-year politics....

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A life overseas forces you to confront many ironies, injustices, deprivations, and desperations. It can clarify your hopes, and the source of those hopes. It can also cloud and confuse.
(Does hope find you? McKay still wants to know.)

Open Culture pays tribute to Gene Wilder.

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If you're feeling homesick for Chicago, this clip might just make things worse. It's worth the risk.

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