Even though Russian political science student Daria Tsvetkova is studying on an exchange program in wonderfully free Spearfish, she still has to watch what she says about Mother Russia, lest she get hauled to jail when she gets home to Moscow for referring to the war in Ukraine as anything other than a “special operation.” But Tsvetkova is able to speak what sets apart her studies at Black Hills State University from classes back at Moskovskiy Gosudarstvenniy Universtitet imeni M.V. Lomonosova:
Tsvetkova said it was always her goal to come to America to study political science because in Russia, political science is more the study of political history with no comparison to modern day politics.
“Here, in political science classes we actually talk about politics, in Russia we just learn history events, reason, and try to analyze history,” she said [Alex Portal, “BHSU Exchange Student Explains How Democracy Works in Russia,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2022.04.21].
Um, Alex—check that headline: I think Tsvetkova is explaining how democracy isn’t working in Russia. She’s also pointing out one of the ways that democracy won’t work in America if we let Kristi Noem and other demagogues narrow our curricula to prevent students from studying history and government in real-world context and ban “divisive subjects”.
Tsvetkova does note an apparent weaknesses in American democracy, our deep distraction:
Of course, Tsvetkova had her share of stereotypes about American culture when she first arrived. One that seemed to hold up is that Americans spend a lot of time engaging in frivolous entertainment.
“When I came here, everybody watch Netflix everyday, I was like, ‘oh my God,’ I never watched movies so much,” she said. “It’s like ‘Bread and Circuses’ in Rome.”
“Bread and Circuses” is a term used by political scientists; it refers to doctrine in ancient Rome of appeasing the general public by providing them with distractive basic desires such as decadent food, (bread) and entertainment (circuses), rather than through any actual progressive public service or policy-making [Portal, 2022.04.21].