Textbooks In The Soviet Union Cultural Studies Essay

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Totalitarian countries used to filter information, for example, political, in such a way that people received sources, materials, texts completely different than they really were. Before 1989 in the Soviet Union, information was also filtered in course books used in schools and other educational institutions. In Soviet Union learning a language provided an introduction to the English world which was a military and ideological enemy of the Soviet Union. Students learned about culture and society of the English speaking world. Following Wolfgang Pauels and Thomas Fox I would like to present what kinds of texts were used to present the cultural and historical aspects of English language.

Course book writers agree that texts should be built according to linguistic and pragmatic elements. To show reality of the course books used in Soviet Union Wolfgang Pauels and Thomas Fox focus on the description of cultural aspects of English speaking countries especially the USA. They selected texts about the USA and divided them according to topics:

Geographical Description - The information used in such topics was usually touristic and superficial. The author of such a text wanted to create a picture of an American society divided into classes, focusing on its problems. Moreover, he wanted to show differences between American and Soviet society in which all people supposedly were equal . Also, such problems of American society as the unemployment were to be underlined.

Example: "New York is one of the largest cities in the world with a population of more than eight million. It is situated on several islands and has five districts. There are many bridges between all the districts. New York is the main seaport and the financial, political and cultural center of the United States of America. The big capitalists of the USA have their offices in Wall Street. Another famous street is Broadway, which is the longest street in city. Many businessmen make money there. They have restaurants, music, halls, theaters, cinemas and shops. The people can buy clothes, shoes, food, vegetables, fruit and a lot of other things. But life is not easy in New York for those who are not rich. It is difficult to find work. Many workers live in old houses. They are very hot in summer and very cold in winter. There are many children in the working district of the New York. They are left to themselves, nobody looks after them. In Harlem, where usually Black American live, life is the most difficult. There are a lot of unemployed here - more than in any other district of New York. Black and whites are always waiting near factories and offices hoping to get some kind of work." (Starkov, A.P et al.: English, volume 8 ed, by E.G.)

People - The authors wanted to show that people who live in America are the capitalist slaves. From the texts we can also find out that America is a country of emigrants whose are usually live and work in bad condition. Also, it is shown that the government does not help people, that all money is spent on military needs. What is more, the authors show that it is very difficult to get a job in the USA. And also, that houses are in a very bad condition.

Example: New York, the largest city in the USA, is a city of a great contrasts. Side by side with wealth and comfort, poverty, and race discrimination can be found. The Statue of Liberty, standing on an island in the harbor, greets everyone who comes to New York by sea. Millions of emigrants from all parts of the world crossed the ocean, hoping to find a better life, but they did not find a country of equal opportunities. […] In New York, there are many representatives of nearly all the world's national groups, and when you walk in the streets and avenues of Manhattan you can hear practically every language in the world. In the city of New York alone, there are more than one million Negros. They mostly live in Harlem, the poorest district of New York. […] It is not very easy to find work in New York. A man in need takes up any job he finds, even the most badly paid one. But very many New Yorkers have no job at all. […] But the federal government in Washington does little to help New York to solve its many problems. There is no money for public services, for housing. Many apartment houses in New York are old, the rooms are small and dark, [..] Living conditions in such apartment houses are very bad. (Starkov, A.P et al.: English, volume 9 ed, by E.G.)

Politics - In all the texts the first author presents the objective information and then ideological information. From "Politics" texts we can find out that US political parties are servants of capitalism and also that parties are similar. Also, the author compared US parties with Communist Party which has no political significance whatsoever in the USA. It is also claimed that people in USA are discriminated and have no right to vote.

Example: The United States of America is a federal republic consisting of fifty states, each of which has its own government. The present constitution was proclaimed in 1787 in Philadelphia. The president elected for four years, is head of state and the government, and chooses the ministers. Congress consists of two houses, the House of Representative and the Senate. […] Practically, both the federal government and the state governments serve the interests of the capitalists. As a result of racial and other forms of discrimination many citizens of the USA, especially black and "colored," have no rights proclaimed by the Constitution. In the USA there are two main political parties, The Democratical Party and the Republican Party. The Democratical Party was organized in the 1820s. The Republican Party was organized in the 1850s. These Parties are not different from each other. Each party is interested only in winning elections. The Communist Party of the USA was organized in 1919. It fought against the US intervention in the young Soviet Republic. It acts in the interest of working people and the nation as whole. […] The Communist Party of the USA is a party of action, a party working for socialism. (Starkov, A.P et al.: English, volume 9 ed, by E.G.)

The School System - Such texts shows weakness of the American School system. The authors of that text present no authentic information about everyday school life. The author wrote also that government does not pay attention to public schools and also that schools subjects do not give any practical knowledge which can help to get a job.

Example: "The American system of school education differs from the system in some countries. There are state-supported public schools, private elementary schools and private secondary schools. Public schools are free and private schools are fee-paying. Each individual state has its own system of public schools. The federal government pays little or no attention to the schools. Elementary education begin at the age of six with the first grade and continues through to the eighth grade. In most states children are supposed to go to school until the age of sixteen or until they have finished the eighth grade. […] Besides giving general education, some high school teach subjects useful to those who hope to find jobs in industry or agriculture. […] At the same time, educational opportunities in the USA are formal for many people. One per cent of American citizens from the age of fourteen and older can neither read nor write. Over two million American children do not go to school, and six million attend only the first grade. (Starkov, A.P et al.: English, volume 9 ed, by E.G.)

To sum up, for student who study in countries where English is a foreign language, course book and teacher are the most important. Course books in the Soviet Union would not give a chance to develop student's opinions and interpretations. Readers should accept what the official propaganda of the Soviet Union presents about English speaking world. Russian students could receive just a little knowledge of American culture from their course books. The students was not allowed to know the truthful picture of the US, but was, instead, given a highly biased one. The course books describe America as a country without any opportunities. Course books authors present information in such a way that students should understand and accept them as typical.