On Monday, materials for the lesson “Russian Electoral System,” dedicated to its 30th anniversary, appeared on the “Conversations about Important” website on Monday. According to the scenario developed with the participation of the Central Election Commission, schoolchildren will first be told about democracy and the importance of participating in elections, and then will be invited to take part in the vote themselves. High school students will vote for a new element of improvement in their school, and in primary school children will choose the president of a fairy-tale country. True, experts consider the proposed palette of candidates to be incomplete, and deputies believe that such a lesson should not be taught by an ordinary teacher, but by a professional “immersed” in the topic.
The lesson “Talking about important things”, dedicated to the anniversary of the Russian electoral system, will be held in all schools on September 25. His program for “primary” and high school students is slightly different, but in both cases it is planned to watch a video message from the Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Ella Pamfilova and conduct some kind of voting.
A lesson in elementary school will begin with a conversation about the past elections, which, according to the authors of the methodological recommendations, will help to generate students’ interest in them. It is important for teachers to spend “considerable time” in this part of the lesson looking at examples of government concern for education, health and culture, “so that children can conclude that elections in Russia are a real opportunity to influence the improvement of the life of the entire society.” If desired, teachers will be able to talk about specific deputies and their implemented initiatives “aimed at developing the country and improving the lives of its citizens.”
After this, junior schoolchildren will be asked to decide the fate of a fairy-tale country by electing its president. Children will be given ballots, and a counting commission will be created from among the students to count them. Some schools may even install “prototype voting booths.”
There will be five candidates on the ballot: Karabas-Barabas, Cinderella, Winnie the Pooh, Alice the Fox and Baba Yaga, each with their own election program.
For example, Karabas-Barabas promises voters “a big stage and a good salary.” Cinderella believes that life will be better if everyone works and helps others, and advocates “a family hearth in every family.” Fox Alice, on the contrary, it promises the elimination of “hard labor” and the placement of “fields of miracles” throughout the country to increase capital. Baba Yaga focuses on his age and experience, which will make it possible to make even the devil work and feed everyone healthy food from a magic stove and a milk river with jelly banks. A Winnie the Pooh emphasizes his communication skills, the ability to “agree with everyone” and “get everything done,” as well as the presence of a “friendly team” in the person of Piglet, Owl and Rabbit.
Political consultant and author of the concept of archetypes of images of politicians Evgeniy Minchenko believes that the presented five candidates come down to four archetypes: Karabas-Barabas and Baba Yaga correspond to the image of the “ruler”, Cinderella is the “orphan”, Winnie the Pooh is the “simpleton”, and the fox Alice is "jester". “The palette is quite strange. It’s interesting that there is no option for an opposition candidate, that is, the archetypal image of a “rebel” that suggests itself,” the expert notes.
According to political scientist Konstantin Kalachev, the main problem of this list is the lack of distinct advantages or disadvantages of the candidates: “For example, you could add the irresponsible Kolobok, for whom you definitely don’t need to vote.”
In addition, with a general focus on patriotism, the authors should add more characters from Russian fairy tales, because of these five, only Baba Yaga has Russian roots, the expert points out.
“The very idea of giving children the opportunity to take part in elections is good, but we need to teach them to make an informed choice. I don't understand how to consciously choose between Winnie the Pooh and Baba Yaga. It’s difficult to understand what idea the authors of the lesson want to lead the children to,” says Mr. Kalachev. In his opinion, the types should be clear: a hero and several anti-heroes, otherwise such a choice simply does not make sense.
The first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Education, Yana Lantratova (A Just Russia - For Truth), generally approves of the idea and believes that the selection of characters does not carry “any hidden meanings”: “Understandable and familiar images that may be of interest have been chosen.” Although it is still better for the developers of such lessons to “choose characters from Russian fairy tales, after all, we live in Russia,” the deputy agrees.
Before voting, middle and high school students will also be broadcast messages about the importance of citizenship and electoral institutions, but they will choose a new school infrastructure facility (swimming pool, chess club, playground, etc.). In addition, the teacher will appoint observers who must monitor compliance with the principles of democratic elections: equality, alternativeness, secrecy of voting, freedom of expression and universality. Students will also be introduced to on-site and electronic voting formats and demonstrated why each vote can be decisive.
The methodological recommendations for the lesson say that the teacher must convey respect for national history (here, according to the scenario, the most famous example of democracy is the Novgorod veche), “the values of democracy and the choice of the people.”
At the same time, gratitude should be expressed to the state “for the opportunity to express one’s opinion and make a choice, for the respectful attitude towards the choice of the people of our country.”
The partner of the lesson is the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation. Kommersant’s source in the commission noted that the anniversary of the electoral system of the Russian Federation and the related initiative to conduct a “Conversation about the Important” is just one of the natural occasions and formats for such work with younger voters.
The head of the State Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children, Nina Ostanina (Communist Party of the Russian Federation), points out that it is quite difficult to talk “about the delights of democracy” without understanding its specifics in each country. Therefore, such a topic should be taught by a professional “immersed” in it, she is sure: “In response to the general statement that “democracy is the power of the people,” the guys will give many examples where our people, unfortunately, are alienated from the formation of power. And I think this will raise more questions for children.” The deputy also recalled her experience of communicating with high school students: “The guys talked about their right to participate in protests, showed interest in elections and political parties. Therefore, I can say that this conversation is appropriate for them.”