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Gender, Policy, and Practice in Postwar Soviet Education
E. Thomas Ewing
First study of the implementation of single-sex schooling in Soviet Russia
“A very important study of policy making and popular political participation in the Soviet Union. Ewing reads well ‘between the lines’ to note how the ‘success’ of girls’ schools revealed how girls had been shortchanged in coeducational settings, even though girls also expressed stronger opposition to separation than did boys.”—James Albisetti, University of Kentucky
“Relying on an impressive range of original sources, Ewing’s study is the first to examine the implementation of separate education in 1943, the growing opposition to it, and the reasons for a return to coeducation in 1954. Separate Schools confronts multiple issues critical to an understanding of Soviet history as well as of education and gender.”—Larry E. Holmes, University of South Alabama
Starting in 1943, millions of children were separated into boys’ and girls’ schools in cities across the Soviet Union. This policy sought to reinforce gender roles in a wartime context, so that boys were prepared to be soldiers and girls to be mothers, and it marked a deliberate effort to strengthen discipline and order by separating boys and girls into different classrooms. The policy was a failure. The practices of separate schools allowed for the further deterioration of discipline in boys’ schools while provoking pupils, teachers, and school directors to warn against lowered academic expectations in girls’ schools. The restoration of coeducation in 1954 demonstrated the power of public opinion, even in a dictatorship, to influence school policies.
Ewing makes a unique contribution to the field by examining a large-scale experiment across the full cycle of deliberating, advocating, implementing, experiencing, criticizing, and finally repudiating separate schools. Analyzing the experiences of pupils in classrooms, the policy objectives of communist leaders, and the growing opposition to separate schools among teachers and parents, Ewing provides new insights into the last decade of Stalin’s dictatorship.
Based on extensive archival research, this important work demonstrates the real limitations and likely distortions that result from a policy of separate schools for boys and girls. Ewing’s study shows how a school system that had previously embraced coeducation was transformed by the imposition of separate schooling. Separate Schools will appeal to both historians of Russia and those interested in comparative education and educational history, as well as specialists in gender studies.
(2010) 301 pp., 16 illus.
E. Thomas Ewing is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Virginia Tech and author of The Teachers of Stalinism: Policy, Practice, and Power in Soviet Schools in the 1930s.
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