My teacher, the billionaire? Russians see a teachable moment.
What values should shape the next generation? Russia's President Medvedev kicked up a storm by suggesting that billionaires should share the secrets of their success in the classroom.
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"I've been accused of preparing Russian students to leave this country," she says. "But I think it should be their choice, and the best way to keep them here is to make it a good place to live. You start with the school."
Students in School 1306's "young politicians club" are divided over the president's offer to give them billionaire lessons, but say that if he means guest speakers, they've had dozens visiting their school over the years, including successful people from almost all walks of life, including businessmen, scientists, artists, soldiers, and journalists.
"I'd be interested to hear what a billionaire has to say," says 10th-grader Varvara Lobanova. "How did he find his own way? How does he define success? That's got to be worthwhile. But everybody's different; each one has different lessons to teach."
The president's idea is received more enthusiastically across town at Naslednik, a private school funded by the Moscow government that specializes in bringing up children to be business leaders. The school has a model stock exchange in which pupils learn how to trade, and they study economics from the earliest grades.
"I basically support Medvedev's idea," says Lyubov Dykhanina, the principal. "Perhaps it shouldn't just be billionaires, but also owners of mid-sized businesses with years of experience. It would be best to get people who can give our pupils an understanding of how to succeed in business amid tough and changing circumstances [to do the teaching]."
But at the more traditional School 1148, where the curriculum is heavy on the Soviet basics of reading, writing, math, and Russian literature, there are serious doubts about letting super-rich teachers into the classroom.
'Moral standing' key
"Compared to Soviet times, if you take ideology out of the picture, I think the values we teach are pretty much the same," says the principal, Yelena Kosarkhina. "I remember being a happy child in those schools. We want to educate people with high moral values, with an understanding of Russian culture and strong attachment to family.
"I am really skeptical about this proposal to put billionaires at the front of a class," she says. "Before I invite such a person into my school, I'd want to be sure he was of high moral standing. Perhaps there are some rich people like that, but I don't know of any."
The key takeaway from all this, says Mr. Ushakov, is that politicians should probably stay out of educational policy.
"We have these experiments going on in Moscow, and they will show the way," he says.
"You can only change the system by giving freedom to the practitioners and letting them unite theory with practice."