79 Life Magazine 1958

Life Magazine 1958

Posted on May 17, 2010 by team


Life Magazine of 1958 1

In March, 1958, an American magazine Life published a big article devoted to the crisis of the educational system in the USA. As an example there were chosen two schoolboys - Alexey Kutskov from Moscow and Stephen Lapekas from Chikago. The magazine's correspondents were chasing the boys everywhere, watching how they were studying, what were interested in, what were reading, how they were spending their time after lessons...


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America was shocked by the results of the research. Alexey and Stephen were peers, both aged 16, but Alexey was considerably more educated than Stephen. On the pictures the readers of the article could see how Alexey made experiments at physics and chemistry lessons, played volleyball or chess, read Shakespeare, went sightseeing, was taught music. Nearly all his time he was spending for studies, he thought of entering the institute being convinced that his fate depended on it. Stephen, in his turn, didn't care much about studying though he was going to enter a college. The list of the subjects he was taught was rather shorter but even at them his progress left a lot to be desired.  Lapekas' parents even had to pay for supportive lessons. But he doesn't care much about it - he spends his time with his girlfriend, dancing rock-and-roll at never-ending parties.
America did made some conclusions from the experiment. Just after this article the educational system of the USA was seriously reformed - the academic program of schools and institutes was altered, gifted students began to receive grants and wages of teaches became substantially higher. The American school forgot about poverty and it happened thanks largely to Alexey Kutskov, a student of 10B grade of Moscow school №49.

A Soviet schoolboy Alexey Kutskov from Moscow.

Life Magazine of 1958 2

Alexey playing chess.

Life Magazine of 1958 3

At the physics lesson.

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79 Responses to “Life Magazine 1958”

  1. I believe this occurred after Sputnik. The success of this mission is what really woke people up in the USA regarding math and science. Let me say that the USSR provided a very good education for it’s people and then shoved them into a box that restricted their creativity and initiative.

    • eger_666 says:

      >>and then shoved them into a box that restricted their creativity and initiative.
      So that’s why russian main is first in the space? or that’s why movies got Oscars? I can continue…

      • There were many brilliant acheievements. Imagine if the Soviet Union incorporated a little legitimate free enterprise, outside of the black market? Instead of having bureaucrats sitting in Moscow making every market decision, and regulating what could be produced. The Soviet Union was lost because polical reform took place before economic reform.

    • maxD says:

      Indeed.
      Free thinking was discouraged [could lead to unwanted questions..], and creativity equals free thinking and free association. Authoritative ways of teaching were popular.

      The Russian educational system did not develop a lot since these pictures were made. Until the end of CCCP this is how it was. And after that an enormous decline.

      Now they send their children abroad to get good education. Russian diploma’s are worthless abroad, due to corruption and decline of education system.

      Russia is one of the least innovative countries in the world now… i.e. Germany registers more patents in one year than Russia registered over the last 50 [ !!!] years…

    • maxD says:

      Indeed.
      Free thinking was disc0uraged [could lead to unwanted questions..], and creativity equals free thinking and free ass0ciati0n. Auth0ritative ways of teaching were popular.

    • maxD says:

      The Russian educational system did not develop a lot since these pictures were made. Until the end of CCCP this is how it was. And after that an enormous decline.

      Now they send their children abroad to get good education. Russian diploma’s are worthless abroad, due to corruption and decline of education system.

      Russia is one of the least innovative countries in the world now… i.e. Germany registers more patents in one year than Russia registered over the last 50 [ !!!] years…

      • eger_666 says:

        Russians send their childer abroad veeery rarely. We still have really good education here in Russia, so you failed.

  2. MarkLenders says:

    After this article and the nice work of people like Charles Whitman, the educational system of the USA was seriously reformed – the colleges introduced: sex group in the rooms, alcoholic illegal sell, boozed people, drugs and firefights.

  3. Obormot says:

    How many KGB’s were after Alexander Kutskov along with those photographers? I have to say that the equipment average scholars have access to at these photos is pretty much superior even if I remember back my chemistry classes or physics. Alexander Kutskov is definitely lucky guy, unless he got to spent all his remaining life in a jail for breathing the same air with americans.

  4. bubba-Ho-Tup says:

    Chikago? R U sure. Following that hearty russkyj trend Nju Jork and Mayami. Standing ovation! I guess after all these years of superior education You still don’t know English!

    • momomo says:

      Yes, his English is not perfect. But it is still far better than your Russian i suppose…

      • bubba-Ho-Tup says:

        Bede musial sie niezgodzic z toba. Moj rosyjski jest calkiem niczego sobie =)

        • dennis-usa says:

          Bede musial sie niezgodzic z toba. Moj rosyjski jest calkiem niczego sobie

          I have to disagree with you. My Russian is pretty not bad
          ============================================
          Google translate this as Polish ?????

  5. J Doe says:

    So, anyone knows what happened to comrade Kutskov in later life? It would be interesting to see what actually came out of those two guys.

  6. bubba-Ho-Tup says:

    Russians, russians… is this yet another google translation of a source text written is russian?
    It pains me =) so to speak…
    Yes, there are definite differences between these two countries. The major one being that the “uneducated” american was ready to start his life right after high-school, whereas his soviet counterpart was still a big baby always dependent on his parents. Dry-knowledge-wise the Russkiy – a genius yet never successful at anything!

  7. Anrkist says:

    Chicago*

  8. DouglasUrantia says:

    Today they’re probably both retired on a pension. In the final analysis they both lived a good life I would imagine. At least they would tell you that.

    My European friends used to brag that they learned five languages in high school. So what….lots of languages aren’t really needed in the US.

  9. mad1982 says:

    amazing pix

  10. Bezdomny says:

    It’s amazing how similar these two guys look… I would love to see where both of them are now and the paths their lives took. What a shame that our countries spent so spent so much time and effort locked in a paranoid political struggle…

    Keep up the good work, ER!

  11. Erik says:

    Feels like some kinda soviet propaganda. Honestly I do admit that soviet schoolboys learned foreign languages at least unlike their peers in the USA.

    • SSSR says:

      We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.There are no Russian classes I know of so I learn Russian from compactne disks (compact disks).

    • SSSR says:

      We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.There are no Russian classes I know of so I learn Russian from compactne disks (compact disks)..

    • SSSR says:

      We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.

    • SSSR says:

      We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.There are no Russian classes I know of so I learn Russian from cd’s.

    • Kirov says:

      Foreign languages in CCCP times were quite abstract – most of the time one could do, like, English, but there was hardly any speech involved – all grammar and book-stuff. Often the teacher herself would not speak the language – after all: the enemy’s language and travel and foreign books were not common.
      I couldn’t speak or understand a foreigner at first, despite my excellent marks in English.

      • SSSR says:

        We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes….

      • dennis-usa says:

        Many North Americans (USA) wasted time learning French in school when we should have been learning Spanish.

  12. volodia says:

    In spite of better education USSR lost the cold war.
    Besides american student learnt much more needed social skills and was better prepared for real life.
    I can bet that he after his “inferior” education was better off.

    • Carlo says:

      Volodya, you are tormoz. What relation is between level of education and “..lost cold war..” The reason behind the collapse of USSR was the monopoly of power where ruling party was above the law that distanced themself from rest of the polupation. And because of absence of competition the ruling party totally degraded and was not able to rule anymore. Again that is nothing to do with the level of education.

  13. kbr says:

    I would like to know what have become of them? I wonder who is now better off?

  14. ExCommie says:

    from Stanford Magazine … “One leaves the Life article convinced that without massive and immediate school reform, the Russians will bury us. (Lapekas became a Navy pilot, then a commercial pilot for TWA; I am told Kutzkov works for the Russian equivalent of the FAA. The article so devastated Lapekas that he will not talk about it even today.)”

  15. DouglasUrantia says:

    STEPHEN (“Steve”) JOHN LAPEKAS (JR), born 7-7-1941. TWA pilot, married 1o (marriage dissolved by divorce) LOIS JUNKO OYAMA, born Stockton (CA) 12-9-1941. Graduated at East Stroudsburg University (M.Ed. in Special Education/Supervisor’s Certificate), teacher,[16] married 2o SANDRA PHILLIPS.

    The first marriage evidently produced four children. It appears that Steve became a pilot for TWA airlines.

  16. DouglasUrantia says:

    I am told Kutzkov works for the Russian equivalent of the FAA. The article so devastated Lapekas that he will not talk about it even today.

    Both men evidently spent their working life in the airplane business.

  17. DouglasUrantia says:

    Report from a 2005 article:

    “Receiving little cooperation from the Russian Embassy in my efforts to find Kutzkov, I enlisted the aid of Anne Garrels, then National Public Radio’s Moscow correspondent. In spite of the many specific facts about Kutzkov, his teachers, and his school that I provided from the article, Garrels called a couple of months later to say that neither she nor her staff could find any evidence that Kutzkov had ever existed. (“There is no way in hell that an American journalist and photographer could have gained access at that time to a typical Moscow high school,” she said.)”

    Maybe someone in Russia could find him or what became of him. Several articles I read stated that the Soviet school that LIFE visited was a ‘show school’. Who knows..that was a long time ago. Russia is a land of many mysteries.

  18. CZenda says:

    How comes the Soviet Super-Student does not socialize with girls?
    :-D :-D

  19. DouglasUrantia says:

    According to a 1991 report:
    Alexey Kutskov is the director of the Accident Investigation and Prevention Department of the State Supervisory.

    Is this the same fellow that appeared in the LIFE magazine story?

  20. Musa says:

    Fascinating Post. :) Well Done ER. Thank You!

  21. 123 says:

    LIFE should make a story on these guys in 2010. Who knows they might not last long they were born in 40s you know… oh and also maybe a story on two US and russias students nowadays.
    BTW is lapeka an estonian or maybe finnish surname?

  22. Joel says:

    Wow, nice stories. Know i know why the USSR made it first into space lol. But how is their educantion system now, I mean from the us and russia? The same? worse? Mmmm…..
    I always read this blog, very nice, interestingly enoguh I don’t read any us blog. Know I know why lol. And as a suggestion, you should make comments have a bigger font. It’s really hard to read it when you are tired. xD
    Greeting from Peru, my friends form Russia!

  23. SSSR says:

    @ Erik…We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.There are no Russian classes I know of so I learn Russian from compactne disks (compact disks)!

  24. USSR says:

    @ Erik…We have foreign languages in the states,anyone can learn them in high school.There are Spanish,French,German,and other language classes.There are no Russian classes I know of so I learn Russian from cd’s.This is SSSR,I ran into moderation on this post!!!!

  25. are you kidding says:

    Propaganda !

  26. jim-bob says:

    It also shows what the two individuals profiled valued most. The Russian student likely was hand picked by the state while the American may not have been. This is not to take away from either man, but to explain the obvious. Plus, there were far more opportunities for young people in the US to recreate than there was in the USSR as the US was far less structured.

    Also, I wonder what kind of vehicle drivetrain the Russian boy was working on? By the looks of it, my guess would be the GAZ AA truck.

    • 123 says:

      yeah and look at those nice suburban houses while the russian guy was most probably living in a small crumped block building flat or an old wooden sadzha left from pre war era or something. and most probably as most of the russians do live in ugly block buildings still does. russians were chasing better numbers while americans and other western world a better real life.

  27. Mongo says:

    And the Russian is still a virgin!

  28. Josie says:

    As someone else already said, the Russian boy was most likely selected by the state, while the American boy was picked by his peers. He seems to have been one of the popular kids in school. And I wouldn’t say he didn’t care about his education. Back then school reform in the USA wasn’t what it is today. Just because he had some fun with his friends and going out to dance doesn’t mean he cared for nothing else. On the contrary, the Russian boy seemed like he had no time or opportunity for fun at all.

  29. Kent says:

    Americans today have the best education system in the world. Compare the ranking of universities:

    http://www.arwu.org/ARWU2009.jsp

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  31. Reader says:

    As mentioned above it was a carefully staged propaganda. Here is an interview of a former KGB guy who explained how it was done.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_xdBnFPqOI

  32. TJ says:

    What the article says about changes in the US education system? Mostly didn’t change all that much. Some additional money was spent in technical areas for a few years, then that was forgotten before the moon landing. By early 1980s the US was already downgrading technical education.

    • dennis-usa says:

      And now many “Graduating High School- USA 17-18 yrs old) and hardly able to read and write American English. It is pitiful how fast our country is deteriorating. Our Politicians are failing us our corporation are taking advantage of it’s employees. Kind of strange actually but most of the world seems to be heading into some kind of chaos. Today’s Greece is the USA in 10 to 20 years from now unless some drastic changes are made. Right now our “leader” are spending money like drunken sailors! Money we don’t have either!!

  33. ocelot says:

    I don’t think comparing just two students proves much of anything, but the U.S. educational system could definitely be better. I don’t know much about Russian education now, but in an adult art class I attended just a few years ago, a Russian woman brought in her child’s textbook. According to that book, Russian 2nd-graders learn technical art skills that most U.S. MFA candidates have never been exposed to. We all got depressed thinking how much more skilled we would be as artists if we had learned these techniques when we were young.

  34. ocelot says:

    P.S. But I do think all public schools should teach dancing! I guess in the Soviet Union you would only get to dance if you were being groomed for the Bolshoi–and then you wouldn’t get to do anything else. ;)

  35. jawo says:

    The didnt dance in the cccp

    • Vadim says:

      Aww, stop trolling!
      people dance everywhere since the world’s been turning! The difference are the dances themselves… Plus of course in the USSR there were much more guys considering dancing unserious and improper than in the US, because of propaganda of labor (and dancing is definitely not about working), but you can’t beat the natural things out anyway, and dancing is one of the most natural ways of expressing emotions.

      • NJ citizen says:

        1. Yeah, but American kids were dancing to the oh-so-dangerous and degenerate rock ‘n’ rollski.

        2. I don’t think they dance in countries where fundamentalist Islam reigns; dancing in areas of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban would probably result in execution! And if music itself is banned — other than chanting the Koran — how can there be dance?

  36. Slater says:

    So they compared a prep to a dork. Good job.

  37. Anonimous says:

    But now, you see, situation with russian education system is very very bad. Now in russian school all you can see are a dorks.

  38. Mike says:

    The Soviet Union could have been the dominating power in the world, if they hadn’t been a bunch of xenophobic, and controlling zealots. They should have embraced Capitalism, with all the people and natural resources, they’d be rolling in dough.

    Instead, they have a small group of people that live in luxury while the rest of the country lives in squaller!

  39. sunny says:

    where is the USSR? Sadly, it is gone.

    Clearance! 90% Off on Louis Vuitton handbags at http://www.7amshop.com Buy 100 get 100 free.

  40. charles says:

    which country lynched the most negros?

    • NJ citizen says:

      You pose a most intriguing question. I would respond with a question of my own:

      Which country had Negros to lynch?

      While we’re on the subject, which country recently entrusted a Negro with the world’s most powerful military, along with a nuclear arsenal capable of bringing about Armageddon?

      Indeed, has any other majority-white nation elected a Negro to be their leader?

      Here’s another question: which country had better pogroms: the U.S. or Russia?

      Returning to your original comment, lastly who fared better, ultimately? America’s Negros? Or the tens of millions who were either starved or murdered outright in the U.S.S.R.’s Red Holocaust (which ironically occurred around the same time as *all of those lynchings* in America)?

  41. Not Impressed says:

    Apples and oranges. To believe schools were equal throughout the ussr would be naive. These photos would be fair representation of only a hand full of schools while the rest of the nation lived lives of peasantry. Knowledge is power. Not something the kermlen distributed freely. Typical of main stream western media.

    • NJ citizen says:

      The publication, (run by liberals even back then, I’m sure) intended, no doubt, to prove to the U.S. the superiority of the U.S.S.R.’s scientific socialism.

      Or at the very least, that the Russians weren’t all that different from us — they didn’t have two heads, so to speak — and that our fears concerning the U.S.S.R. were overstated.

      Apparently (and ironically enough), the approach backfired, galvanizing Americans to put even greater emphasis on science and mathematics to ensure Cold War supremacy.

      You’ve heard of reading between the lines? That’s exactly how those photos must be viewed: with a jaundiced editorial eye, and with the benefit of hindsight and history. Context is *extremely* important. And then, you will find that each *truly is* worth a thousand words.

      Thank you to the site for blatantly violating copyright … er, I mean sharing the images.

  42. jessica says:

    I actually met a russian exchange student last year when I was a junior and he said everything I was learning he actually learned in like 7th or 8th grade
    I do believe that the education is more advanced but also the kids are more determined because they are poor and need to do well in school unlike in my school which is supposed to be a top school where people actually do drugs in class

  43. Ivanka says:

    I was born in Czechoslowakia and during the cold war we escaped to West Germany because my parents became politically unwanted people. My father is a doctor and in Germany he soon had his own practice. My mother, who used to be an ingenier in Prague, suddenly didn’t have to work. She missed everything so much that she became really heavy and started to smoke a lot. My brother missed his girlfriend and went back after six months. They were not harsh on him, but he never made it back to the university (he is now happily married with another woman). I somehow became quite popular at my new school and I made a lot of friends. But even though I was very happy, I missed my country very much and, maybe sadly to say, I even missed the system. I missed my pianolessons, gymnastics, school (we were much more ahead of the Germans)etc… In Prague we danced till we dropped. We listened to Vondrackova, the Beatles, ABBA and Boney M! I guess a bit oldfashioned, but believe me, the Russians did the same. Only they were more afraid. We’ve always hated the Russians, because they freed us from the Nazi’s and made us ‘grateful’ for that and because they were always better then us, not particularly happier though. But in Germany I even missed the Russians. The Western society made me feel strange, unfocussed and empty. I had a lot of clothes and nice stuff, but in Prague life used to be more pure and intense. To me at least. I do not fit the Czech society anymore. I moved to another country and still feel a bit out of tuch. My children are very happy though. Maybe it was all worth it for them.

  44. Leon says:

    well, so boring a set of photos. all were so same.

    The real differences in life are in the kitchens and in the business world, and in the factory and mines.

    Show us a coal mine.. show us a kitchen for the coal miners.
    show us the bus used to transport the kitchen workers to the mines.

  45. What this proves to me is that people are people. American students (at least stereotypically) don’t like school, and in the U.S.S.R. it would have been far more rigid and from the aspect of the student, worse (or at least more of a pain). And yet we get to see these kids hanging out with their friends, chatting, playing chess, hanging out at the coffee shop, going to the theater or conservatory, generally having good times despite their situations… I’d greatly prefer the American school between the two though, and wish my school had a dancing class, haha.

  46. shlak says:

    Thats some difference in education… While American guy tries to solve a primitive geometry problem, Russian guy builds a chassis based particle accelerator cannon!

  47. Drum says:

    It saddens me these pictures. Kids are kids and people are people and have the same needs and interests. Sad that they are divided by politics and who knows, many probably would have been friends despite the political (and language) divide.

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