CNN's Education "Reporting"
If one thing can be said in the favor of the Russian government today, it's that at least it is honest when it comes to naming its agencies. It calls them "police"—the Tax Police and the Ecology Police, for example. The Russian government practices truth-in-advertising.
If only CNN were as honest as the Russian government. The post-Soviet Russian regime—which includes CNN—seems intent on perpetrating one outrage after another. As if targeting schoolchildren for recruitment as tax collection drones wasn't bad enough, the Putin administration now has ordered every school in Russia to indoctrinate these captive children with a mandatory two to three hours of military training each week.
CNN's classroom propaganda program, CNN Newsroom—which it claims is viewed in classrooms the world over—reported on this "new" development in Russian education in its March 14, 2001, program.
This militarization of schoolchildren as reported by CNN Russian correspondent Jill Dougherty was described by one of the program's hosts, Shelley Walcott, as a "patriotic club." Just think: If only the American Revolutionary Patriots had had such patriotism as these Russians!
The program's co-host, Rudi Bakhtiar, preluded the piece by explaining to the audience the basics of Russian education. "Almost all Russians can read and write. Public school is free, and Russian children attend school from age six to seventeen. Many go on for more schooling afterward. Did you know that the most widely taught foreign language is English? But today we look at a very different subject being covered at school, although it's after class."
Ms. Walcott asks us to "check out a military training program that goes way beyond physical fitness." But beyond it to what? From CNN's usual tone, it appears that its reporters have bought whole-hog into the claim that the use of military training is merely a tool toward the greater state goal of a drug-free, alcohol-free, smoke-free Russian society.
For once, couldn't CNN report that militarization of children is obviously an attempt to strengthen the state? This is, after all, President Putin's well-known, avowed, and oft-repeated goal.
The report was introduced with: "Jill Dougherty gives us an inside look at a popular club." That raises one question: If this training regime is so "popular," why does it have to be made mandatory for every child? In CNN's eyes, apparently, something ordered by the state automatically becomes popular based on a report containing favorable reviews given by a total of four children and two parents.
Ms. Dougherty reported that this whole scheme was initiated in the post-Soviet era by a Soviet-era retired lieutenant colonel, Rais Yarulov, who also serves as the deputy director of Moscow's school No. 51. He calls his program "Club Cascade"—undoubtedly in an effort to evoke images of sunny tropical climates. Ms. Dougherty described the program as "an after-hours military/patriotic club."
Yarulov explained the purpose—as he sees it—of his training regime: "It's important that our kids are healthy, that they don't become drug addicts, alcoholics, smokers. They need to have a healthy lifestyle. That's what we accomplish with our classes." Of course, the only conceivable response of statists is to resort to the brutality of military life. If only the whole of society could be militarized, surely that would eliminate all crime. Why hasn't anyone tried this before?
Ms. Dougherty described the activities of this "patriotic club" as follows: "Members of the Cascade Club, boys and girls, learn to shoot and do martial arts. There's also a healthy dose of physical fitness. The kids say they love it." Several students were interviewed for the report. "I'm not here just to get in shape. I'm here to become a real man, a defender of my homeland," one boy said, while a female student noted, "Military training is really cool stuff."
"We'll be able to stand up for ourselves anytime," another young girl said with visual military swagger and bravado. Ms. Dougherty also reported that "some parents give it rave reviews." "Mr. Yarulov gives his heart and soul to the kids. They're really happy. There aren't many places where they can hang out."
Are we supposed to buy that? Are we supposed to believe all children give rave reviews about being treated like soldiers? Where are the dissenting children and parents? Was Ms. Dougherty barred from interviewing them? Or did she even bother to try?
According to Ms. Dougherty's report, the school "also has revived a basic military preparedness course, similar to ones that used to be taught in Soviet schools. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree directing schools across Russia to provide two to three hours of military training a week. Some critics charge the courses are dangerously close to Soviet brainwashing."
President Putin's famous fanaticism for the martial arts perhaps provides at least one explanation of his favor for Yarulov's bootcamps. But one wonders: Had these Russian critics compared Putin's militarization of children as akin to the Hitler Youth, would this entire "patriotic" scheme have been so blithely passed on to children in "classrooms the world over," thanks to CNN?
Ms. Dougherty reported—almost triumphantly—that any political squabbling hasn't stopped the Cascade Club. Sadly, nowhere in this report was the confluence of patriotism, military training, and power questioned. Doesn't a country exist separately from its government? Can't one be a patriot and love one's country and not its government? Can't one take up arms if necessary to defend one's family, home, and livelihood, and not the government? Or is patriotism the knee-jerk defense of the state?
If only CNN's reporters actually knew the answers. Obviously, these "patriotic clubs" have nothing to do with patriotism at all; they simply give the Russian state more docile and obedient citizens/subjects/soldiers and an ever greater identification of state power with everyday life. These courses are not about defending one's homeland; they're about indoctrinating Russian citizens to feel gratitude to the central government for its oh-so-wise paternal forethought, rather than to local and familial authorities.
Not content to conscript young adults into its military, the post-Soviet Russian state, with its basic military preparedness schooling, now conscripts children as de facto military reserves. Haven't we seen this before?
It is to its shame that CNN, an organization not known for its dexterity in philosophical comparisons, has allied itself unwittingly with propagandizing children in the benefits of statism. This critic charges that this report—and so much else of CNN's reporting—comes dangerously close to brainwashing.