A new grant from the US Russia Foundation will fund free online Russian lessons for Kansas high school students.
Ani Kokobobo, a researcher at the University of Kansas, says the ongoing war in Ukraine is one reason the classes are needed. High school students who enroll will learn the basics of the Russian language but also explore the country’s history, culture and politics.
“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, that’s a cool language.’ Russia is complicated at the moment,” said Kokobobo, chair of KU’s Department of Slavic, German, and Eurasian Studies. “How do you think about this culture thoughtfully and critically, also with regard to current events?”
The $220,000 grant will be based on previous funding which funded online classes for about 80 Kansas high school students last year. The new funding will cover mid-level courses for these students, as well as language courses for about two dozen new students.
KU plans to add a series of lectures focusing on Russia’s racial and ethnic diversities and the history of conflict in the region.
“It’s important for us to apply a critical lens to Russia,” Kokobobo said. “Does Russia have a colonial history, seeking to occupy other countries? Things like this are important for students to stay at the forefront of their minds and approach both the language and the culture with… a critical mindset, with just more information.
The US Russia Foundation is an American non-profit organization based in Washington, DC. She has no connection with the Russian government.
Earlier this year, the organization released a statement saying that he “condemns the unprovoked and unjustified war of the Russian government against Ukraine”.
Kokobobo said the Russian lessons are designed for high school students who want to enrich their studies and earn college credit. The course is primarily self-directed and independent study. Every two weeks, students meet online with instructors to practice what they have learned.
A five-day summer workshop, dubbed “Russia Week”, focuses on more cultural and linguistic topics, with a virtual tour of the St. Petersburg museum and lessons on Russian music, political systems, women leaders and more.
The project comes after many high schools in Kansas reduced or reduced their foreign language offerings. Only KU and the Fort Riley military base in Junction City currently teach Russian, Kokobobo said.
Secondary students interested in following the Russian program should complete an interest form on the KU website. They can also email [email protected] or call 785-864-9250 for more information.
The deadline to register is July 31.
Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.
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