Your cheating art.

My first post-college job was teaching English at a Polish university during the last days of Soviet communism.  When I entered the classroom on the first day, the students stood at attention with a mix of ceremonial deference, existential boredom, and mild derision. (I responded with an awkward, swivel-handed ersatz royal wave.)

It didn’t take me long to realize that the standing-up thing was a trapping of respect, vs. real respect — not unlike the stiff, obligatory applause given at sclerotic Soviet apparatchiks’ public speeches. Scratch the veneer of forced patriotism and you’ll get some serious stick-it-to-the-man subversiveness.  In that classroom, I was inadvertently the man — the central authority that a population of dissidents was hardwired to mistrust.  And the students cheated like there was no tomorrow. Nie wolno oszukiwac — no cheating — was one of the first Polish phrases I learned.

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1 thought on “Your cheating art.

  1. Your post resonated at so many levels here, Brad! Thanks.

    Corruption and ‘rent seeking’ are time honored ways of making the system work for you in democratic India. In doing this work here, we are constantly struggling to help folks complexify their interests, this when ‘short term’ needs and immediate, albeit narrow, gains can seem so attractive. Lack of faith in the ‘system’ and the historic unresponsiveness of institutions contribute to a culture where looking after ‘numero uno’ (or our own kind) have become key to surviving in a hostile environment.

    We need an Indian John Keating who can help us move from sulking, ‘stick it to the man’ conformity to authentic learning and engagement- which would, indeed, be truly subversive.

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