I wrote a hasty reply to MFS’ post a few days ago about a lack of curiosity. I’m not sure that a lack of curiosity is really the problem here, any more than it is in the US.
It’s the avoidance of independent thinking. We all know that the Soviets didn’t like new ideas. One friend talked about being basically blacklisted because she had expressed an interest in learning more about democracy. Under any kind of controlling government, it is safer to not think too much. You’ll see this in Iraq, in Kyrgyzstan, and in plenty of other places around the world.
In some ways the lack of curiosity is far more appalling in the US because of the opportunities we have there. I’ve always loved learning, but I have seen more clearly how lucky I am to even have the chance to be able to learn, and to continue learning. The library and the internet have been two of my best friends for continued learning, and for most people in KG, neither are available. Sure, there are other ways to learn, but the resources are seriously limited here.
My two goals with the English group I meet with every week are to give them chances to practice English in a different setting from their English classes (and with a native speaker) and to encourage them to think. While they are in school they have access to more information than they might ever have again. But if they don’t learn to think, they’re out of luck.