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My name is Sasha and I’ve sat in a lot of classes in my life! After high school, I spent six years earning my first degree (5 years at a Russian University and 1 year as an exchange student at an American college) then I took a break and worked in Moscow eventually deciding to spend another 2 years to earn my Master’s degree in the US. I’ve spent 18 years on formal education and certainly I’ve learned a ton. However, I’ve also realized that there are many flaws in the conventional educational system. Very often, education is conflated with indoctrination and educators mold a person into another conforming worker rather than into an independent, unique, inquisitive and creative thinker. This is not right. 

I studied at a regular high school and all kinds of students were brought together into groups of 25-30 people. Despite their different mental faculties, everyone was given the same material and there was always a disparity in how quickly students picked up the material: the slower students were not treated differently at all. That made these students hate their life in high school. For those students who were coping with the material, the whole purpose of the school was to turn them into efficient test takers who could then use their test results to enter universities and make their school proud. However, nobody gave a damn about what the individual student was interested in. Most kids were competing for what their parents and teachers thought was the right fit for the students. 

I was a rather efficient test taker and I got a full ride at a university, the university that looked like the right fit for me. Soon I realized that the university experience was merely a continuation of my high school experience with more specialized classes and exams. Perhaps, it was because of my country’s complicated past: the university system was not helping the students become individuals, it seemed like the system was manufacturing new obedient factory workers. Most professors were cowards who did whatever the administrators were telling them to do. There was only one teacher who stood out in the crowd: he was my literature professor. He was not a conformist and he always said what he thought, that’s why he was not liked by lots of his colleagues. I’d say that he was the only professor in all 5 years of my studying at that university who was truly enlightening his students. 

In 2010, I went to the US as an exchange student to study at a liberal arts college in a progressive state for one year. The experience was different from that at my Russian university: it was okay to say controversial things in classes and the professors could have very different perspectives. We had all kinds of guest speakers who could have their own opinions. It didn’t seem like the professors depended on the administrators too much and I didn’t see any particular agenda that was dominating the college. It felt rather free.

Six years later, when I started my Master’s program in the US in another progressive state, to my dismay, things were different. The professors were teaching their materials effectively and the students had really high IQs but there was clearly a problem with excessive administration and 99% of the students (at least verbally) had the same views on most societal topics. On top of that, I found such concepts as safe spaces and trigger warnings appalling and contradictory to the idea of challenging your views and stepping out of your comfort zone while attending a college. Political correctness was through the roof and groupthink was taking the reins. Strangely, the atmosphere was even more suffocating than that in my post-soviet university. Something had changed in the American higher education. People who had views different from the accepted agenda were afraid to even slightly criticize the vociferous ideologues for fear of being branded a bigot, which they were not at all. It felt rather totalitarian. 

We’re building Keenston to change the perception of how people can be educated, connect those who want to enlighten and be enlightened, help people understand their potential, build their critical thinking skills, be heterodox thinkers, become creators but not copiers and understand the complex world by connecting with people from different cultures. We are going to be an English-speaking site for people who truly care about enlightenment and who want to make education better throughout the world. We will strive to make Keenston as objective as possible; so we will not use echochamber-creating algorithms but give the user as much freedom as possible. We want to foster flexible educational approaches, promote courageous educators, cherish diversity of thought and cultivate nuanced thinking!