Ignat Solzhenitsyn on His Father’s Nobel Prize-Winning Fight with Communism

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard talk with Ignat Solzhenitsyn, a pianist, conductor laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, principal guest conductor of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, and son of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. They discuss his father’s legacy, his courageous work to debunk the Soviet Union’s utopian myths, and key lessons American educators and students should draw from his life, writings, and battle with Soviet communism. They also explore his warning to Western democracies in his historic “A World Split Apart” Harvard Commencement speech, about their own crippling “short-sightedness,” “loss of will,” and crisis of spirit. Ignat describes his family’s 20-year exile in rural Vermont, recounted in his father’s newly released memoir, Between Two Millstones, Book 2, in which Solzhenitsyn expounds on the vital importance of local self-government, the rule of law, liberty, and what he called “self-limitation.” Ignat describes the education he and his brothers received at home, his own impression of the strengths and weaknesses of American education, and what inspired him to become a classical musician and conductor. He concludes with a reading from one of his father’s works.

Related: 2018 op-ed by Jamie Gass: “As we mark 100th anniversary of Solzhenitsyn’s birth, we appreciate importance of historical literacy

Guest:

Ignat Solzhenitsyn is president of the Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Center, and an active conductor and pianist. Mr. Solzhenitsyn has appeared with numerous major orchestras, including those of Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Montreal, Toronto, London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Israel, and Sydney, and collaborated with many distinguished conductors and soloists. A winner of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, Solzhenitsyn is Conductor Laureate of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and serves on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music.

Stories of the Week: As Congress takes up the question of a second impeachment of the President after last week’s riot, Cara and Gerard discuss the state of civics education in America. Are we doing all we can to ensure that future generations understand the basics of our Founding Documents, Constitution, Bill of Rights, & complex national history? Also, how long will COVID-induced remote learning continue? Analysis from EducationWeek suggests that, despite the many growing pains associated with them, hybrid learning models are likely here to stay. In Virginia, a new poll of 625 registered voters shows increasing support for allowing parents to use some per-pupil funds toward home, virtual, or private education if public schools do not reopen for in-person learning.

The next episode will air on Wednesday, January 20th, 2020 at 12 pm ET with guest, Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author best known for his landmark trilogy on the civil rights era, America in the King Years.

Tweet of the Week:

News Links:

Poll: Virginians Support Funding Students, Not Systems

https://www.federationforchildren.org/virginians-support-funding-students-not-systems/

‘No Going Back’ From Remote and Hybrid Learning, Districts Say

https://www.edweek.org/technology/no-going-back-from-remote-and-hybrid-learning-districts-say/2021/01

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Cheryl Brown Henderson on the 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the lead plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, explores her family's pivotal role in the Brown case, detailing her father’s part within the NAACP's wider legal strategy.

POLITICO’s Peter Canellos on Justice John Marshall Harlan & Plessy v. Ferguson

Mr. Canellos delves into Harlan's upbringing in a prominent slaveholding family, his Civil War service in the Union Army, and his rapid rise in Kentucky politics as a Republican. He highlights John Harlan’s mixed-race half-brother Robert Harlan and key legal precedents like the notorious Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which influenced Harlan's views on race and equality. 

Colonel Peter Hayden on U.S. Cyber Command & National Security

General Counsel of U.S. Cyber Command, Colonel Pete Hayden, shares insights about growing up in western Massachusetts, attending law school, his military service, and emphasizes the legal aspects of his national security work. Col. Hayden discusses Cyber Command's mission, distinguishing it from the NSA, while stressing the importance of defending the nation in cyberspace.

Hoover at Stanford’s Stephen Kotkin on Stalin’s Tyranny, WWII, & the Cold War

Dr. Stephen Kotkin explores Stalin's origins, consolidation of power, and his Communist despotism. Kotkin delves into Stalin's cunning political maneuvers, his complex relationships with other Soviet leaders like Lenin and Trotsky, and the devastating consequences of his regime, including the forced collectivization and mass starvation of millions.

Johns Hopkins’ Ashley Berner on Educational Pluralism & Democracy

Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy director, Dr. Ashley Berner discusses educational pluralism's role in improving K-12 performance, exploring European models and the impact of U.S. school choice programs. Dr. Berner analyzes universal ESAs and vocational-technical schooling, addressing persistent academic struggles and civic knowledge gaps.

39th U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky for National Poetry Month

 Boston University professor, Robert Pinsky discusses his memoir Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet; the enduring influence of sacred texts like the Psalms; and the wide cultural significance of classic poets like Homer and Shakespeare.

U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hilary Crow on K-12 Civics Education

U.S. Chamber Foundation VP, Hilary Crow discusses the state of K-12 civics, emphasizing the Chamber Foundation’s role in addressing America’s wide civic education deficits. Crow highlights a recent national civics survey, alarming civic literacy gaps, and links between political unrest and our nation’s educational shortcomings in K-12 civics.

UCLA’s Ronald Mellor on Tacitus, Roman Emperors, & Despotism

Dr. Mellor delves into the enduring influence of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, on both America’s Founding Fathers and contemporary understanding of politics and government. He discusses Tacitus's insights on the early Roman emperors, unchecked authority, moral judgment of leadership, and the decline of the Roman Republic, as well as ancient lessons for modern governance.

Tufts Prof. Elizabeth Setren on METCO’s Proven Results

Prof. Setren discusses her recent study of METCO, a pioneering voluntary school desegregation program under which Massachusetts students in Boston and Springfield are bused to surrounding suburban districts. She discusses METCO's history, the academic performance of students in the program, enrollment challenges, long-term benefits, and disparities among students.

Pulitzer Winner Joan Hedrick on Harriet Beecher Stowe & Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Prof. Hedrick discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe's wide literary influence on U.S. history. From her abolitionist activism to the publication of international bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin, they explore Stowe's New England upbringing, anti-slavery convictions, and lasting impact on American literature and social reform in the 19th century.

Dr. Adrian Mims on The Calculus Project & STEM

Dr. Mims navigates through the contentious "math wars" and underscores the pivotal role of Algebra I as a gateway to higher math. He also evaluates the negative impact of Common Core math standards, and proposes strategies to combat pandemic-induced learning setbacks and bridge the gap in math proficiency between American students and their international counterparts.

Yale University Pulitzer Winner Beverly Gage on J. Edgar Hoover & the FBI

Yale Prof. Beverly Gage, author of "G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American," delves into the enigmatic life and career of J. Edgar Hoover, tracing his formative years in Washington, D.C., his rise to prominence as director of the FBI, and his enduring influence on American law enforcement and politics.

UK U-Warwick’s Benjamin Smith on Mexico’s Cartels & Drug Trade

Prof. Benjamin Smith, author of The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade, provides insights into various aspects of the Mexican drug trade, including its historical context and the evolution of illicit drug products over time. He discusses key cartels and their methods, the impact of the drug trade on Mexico's murder rates, the immense financial scale of the trade, its effect on Mexico and the U.S., and the challenges law enforcement face in combating it. Smith explores the relationship among Mexican cartels, other foreign countries, and the illicit drug market in the U.S.

DFER-MA’s Mary Tamer on MCAS & Teacher Strikes

Mary Tamer focuses on the historic impact of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act on the commonwealth’s students’ high achievement on national and international measures. She explores the politics of the Massachusetts Teachers Association advocating against the MCAS test as a graduation requirement. In closing, Ms. Tamer also discusses the rise of teacher strikes and their implications for education reform in the Bay State.

U-TN’s Robert Norrell on Booker T. Washington & Voc-Tech

Prof. Robert Norrell explores Booker T. Washington's early life in slavery, his transformative leadership at Tuskegee Institute amidst Jim Crow racism, and his advocacy for vocational education as a means for racial uplift. He also discusses Washington’s 1901 autobiography, Up From Slavery; his controversial White House dinner with President Theodore Roosevelt; and his often overlooked legacy following the activism of the 1960s Civil Rights era.

BC’s Dr. Matthias von Davier on TIMSS & K-12 Global STEM

Dr. von Davier explores his educational background and its influence on directing TIMSS & PIRLS, shedding light on psychometrics and standardized testing. He discusses the shift in education policy's focus, the global education data landscape, and the pandemic's effects on K-12 education around the world. Dr. von Davier addresses the alarming decline in U.S. educational performance, emphasizing the urgency to bridge achievement gaps. Drawing from international experiences, he highlights global examples for American policymakers from higher-performing countries, emphasizing the crucial links between education, skills, and innovation on the global economy.

ExcelinEd’s Dr. Cara Candal on National School Choice Week

Dr. Candal delves into the evolving landscape of K-12 education in the U.S., examining the expansion of private school choice programs post- U.S. Supreme Court decisions, changing political dynamics around charter schools, strategies of the national school choice movement in low-performing states, the role of parent-driven models during the pandemic, the significance of voc-tech education, and addressing underperformance and achievement gaps.

NYT Bestseller Jonathan Eig on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jonathan Eig delves into MLK's early spiritual leadership, the influence of Langston Hughes on his speeches, his relationship with his wife, Coretta Scott King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's challenges. He discusses historic events in Birmingham, Alabama, the March on Washington, MLK's struggles in Chicago, the Poor People's Campaign, and the events leading to his assassination in 1968. Eig underscores the multifaceted aspects of MLK's life and provides insights on drawing lessons for contemporary challenges in race relations and leadership.