Comparison Of Margaret Meads Coming In Age To Russian Youth

.. most important goal is the teaching of collectivism (kollektiv). Students learn that improving society is more important than self well-being which is selfish and not for the good of the whole. “Children are not praised for being different from their classmates; rather, they are told that it is impolite to show off what they know..Games also emphasize the group rather than the individual..the concept of uniformity dominates almost all of their lessons.” They begin kindergarten at three or younger and are subjected to strict military-type discipline and collective behaviour. At nap time, which is for one and one half hours, they are forbidden to get up, even to go to the washroom (Travers, l989, 8).

The Samoan education system allows a child to learn at its own pace. While the slow, laggard and inept are coddled, brighter students are allowed to display their individuality through dance which allows a “blatant precocious display”. This allows the bright child to drain off some of the discontent they feel. They live in a peaceful, complacent society in which the hot climate dictates a slower pace (Mead, 1973, 162). Although religions such as Russian Orthodox, Moslem, Judaic and Lutheran are recognized by the Russian government, they are under strict control.

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They see attendance at church and religious rituals as politically disloyal acts (Shlapentokh, 1988, 124/25). Schools advocate parental attendance in after-school lectures encouraging atheism. Schools publish atheist magazines which mock religion and say that “religion is poison”. History classes teach that Christianity started wars, killed millions and oppressed the masses. The young are taught that religion is only for the old.

This causes confusion for many young children who grow up with religious instruction from grandparents and then come home to a family divided on religion and attend schools that ridicule it. Many families have Christian mothers and atheist fathers which caused arguments and alienation in the home (Traver, 1989, 172-74). Coming from such an unstable background, they find security and stability in a youth group with their own ideas. Another form of confusion for young soviets is the lack of discussion in the home about sex. Parents and teachers feel that talking about sex or contraceptives would likely encourage early sexual relations. Often this psychology backfires and many teenagers start sex without their parents knowledge.

Their inexperience often leads to pregnancies which are terminated by abortions. In fact, the Soviet Union has one of the highest abortion rates. Although abortions have been legal since 1955, the State clinics are intimidating. No one talks to the patient, she is one of a faceless stream and often she gets no anaesthetic. There is a lack of confidentiality as it is impossible to have an abortion without one’s employer knowing. “It is possible that the cruelty of the System is intended to teach women a lesson”.

Hundreds of thousands of women have pregnancies terminated elsewhere (Wilson, 1988, 201). This system leaves the young adult humiliated and angry at society. A youth culture may offer the freedom and confidence that society does not. In contrast, “the Samoan child faces no such dilemma. Sex is a natural, pleasurable thing (Mead, 1973, 148).

“When a Samoan woman wants to avoid giving birth to a child, exceedingly violent massage and the chewing of kava is resorted to, but this is only in very exceptional cases as even illegitimate children are enthusiastically welcomed” (Mead, 1973, 118). This cultural attitude relieves the stress of guilt on the young adults and they still feel they are a valued member of the tribe. Self esteem is important for the young adult, but the Soviet youth often find themselves lacking in it. There are several reasons for this. The collective ideal has the stronger and smarter students take care of the weaker. This can lead to cruelty and rejection and children are often subjected to humiliating interference in their private affairs.

One student was humiliated in front of the whole class for having a “modern” hair-cut. Another, although pregnant, wanted to continue her studies at night school. She was treated like a delinquent and reprimanded for “loose behaviour” (Wilson, 1988, 47/48). Russian schools often cover up scandals to preserve their good name. In one instance Sasha Traskin was so badly beaten by bullies that he had to be hospitalized and the whole school board smothered the affair.

In a collective, the failure of one pupil becomes a failure of the whole collective and the feeling of guilt is very strong. To avoid this, teachers often fix marks to cover up what should be seen as an “alarm signal” to help the child. This results in arguments about who is responsible for the discipline of the child, the parents or the school. The child is left in total confusion as to who he should obey (Wilson, 1988, 48). The lack of firm rules and guidance leave the child uncertain about what is right or wrong and leaves him or her with a strong guilt that lowers self esteem.

This self esteem is often rebuilt through contact with youth groups having similar interests to the student. The Samoan youth is taught to obey any elders, no matter who they are. Proper behaviour is standard throughout the tribe and there are no doubts about a child’s upbringing. Also the youth has the authority to chastise anyone younger than themselves which gives them a sense of self-worth (Mead, 1973, 43). It is interesting that it seems most human beings not only need to be in a social group, but, one that accepts him or her as they want to be.

The Samoans and the Russians have some very close similarities. The Samoan tribe and the Soviet Political party both try to keep decision making to a minimum. Both have little regard for Christian beliefs and try to control their people with strict guide-lines. The differences, which seems to make all the difference in the world, is that everyone in Samoa has the exact same guide-lines to follow, everyone has some authority over others and individual decisions about one’s own life are respected by the others. This seems to show that self-esteem is a very important ingredient in a person’s life.

Without it people rebel, with it there is no need to. Samoan’s have no problem searching for a place in society where they feel comfortable and possess self esteem. They are allowed much more freedom than larger societies. Girls, for instance, are allowed to decide in whose family they should live. She can live with an uncle or father and her choice raises no ethical problems. Her decision is taken as a personal matter.

Others will understand that her choice was for perfectly good reasons, perhaps the food was better, she had found a new lover or had quarrelled with an older one. The choice was easy because she was never asked to make a choice involving a rejection of the standards of her social group (Mead, 1987, 149/50). In searching for a place to belong, Russian youths look for a culture they can feel comfortable with. Although rejecting formal society and parental authority, they end up in a group that still has rules to follow. Each particular youth culture has its own style of clothing and hair.

Members must conform to these styles as well as to the “political” values of the group. In essence, these groups become rooted in a social system of their own. Although often radical, they reflect what they are challenging. BIBLIOGRAPHY Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa. New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1973.

Shlapentokh, Vladimir. Public and Private Life of the Soviet People. Changing Values in Post-Stalin Russia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1989. Traver, Nancy.

Kife. The Lives and Dreams of Soviet Youth. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Vishneva-Sarafanova, N. The Privileged Generation: Children in The Soviet Union. Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: Progress Publishers, 1984.

Wilson, Andrew and Bachkatov, Nina. Living With Glasnost. Youth and Society in a Changing Russia. London: Penguin Books, 1988.