Investigating the Russian Math School

“Austin, handsomest 5-foot-7 man ever to grace the Earth with his presence, how are you going to top your two-part Mattress Firm investigation (1 and 2)?” you may be wondering. Well, hypothetical reader (because no one actually reads The Heights), the premise of that question is inherently problematic: nothing can ever top the Mattress Firm investigation. I peaked when I wrote that column.

I do, however, need to continue procrastinating on my thesis about the Taliban, which, much like Mattress Firm, is evil. Therefore, I decided to investigate another shady enterprise: the Russian math schools that populate the suburbs of Massachusetts, the least-Russian state [citation needed].

“What’s a Russian math school?” you must be asking now, still-hypothetical reader, even though I hoped that your next question would be asking me on a date.

You fool! If I knew what a Russian math school was, I wouldn’t have to investigate it.

Back in 2016, the early days of my youth, I decided to start learning Persian—partly to overthrow the Iranian government, mostly so that I could pronounce the menu items at Afghan restaurants in a voice slightly less monotone than my normal one. One day, my Persian professor cut class short—always a welcome development when you’re the only student taking Persian—and said that he had to pick up his daughter from Russian math school. I had never heard of anything so villainous before.

I had so many questions about the Russian math school, the most important being, “Who looked at a math textbook and thought, ‘I want more of this but in Russian-school form’?” Math is the genesis of all evil. Everyone who ever started a war learned math at some point, even the perpetrators of the Great Emu War.

According to Google, there are at least 15 Russian math schools within 30 miles of Boston College, a greater concentration of math than even [insert name of famous mathematicians here if there even are any] could handle. I weighed whether I should swing by the closest outpost, Russian School of Mathematics—Brookline, and ask, “Did you hack the 2016 presidential election?” and, “Has Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted you yet?” but some might consider these questions examples of “Russophobia” or “being a d—k.” I just stuck to Google, my closest, creepiest friend.

A dedicated journalist might have canvassed the deep web or emailed experts in search of the truth about the Russian math schools. I took a nap instead. Seeing as I was going through a quarter-life crisis and also this column was already a day late, I just went to Wikipedia and searched for “the Russian School of Mathematics,” which goes by the malevolent acronym “RSM.” Apparently, RSM—Newton, only a few miles from BC, is the headquarters of the entire RSM hive mind. Literally thousands of hipster Massachusetts students go to RSM—Newton after school to study God-knows-what.

“RSM must be training them to join the Internet Research Agency,” I thought.

I then read on Wikipedia that RSM trains students to take the SAT.

“Ew,” I thought.

The only time I had ever studied for a standardized test was when I pregamed the GRE, which, in hindsight, was certainly the right decision. I grew less confident, however, in my decision to investigate RSM, which seemed less like a Russian-backed criminal enterprise than a bizarrely named after-school program for math-loving nerds and children whose parents hate them. My feud with Russian President Vladimir Putin, to whom I lost a boxing match to the death several years ago, had clouded my usually unparalleled investigative skills.

Maybe I should have spent my time investigating the Peace Islands Institute (PII), an American-based front organization for a Turkish cult accused of trying to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose name I wrote in full because it’s an amazing combination of syllables. As PII (pronounced “pee”) states on its own website, it has pledged allegiance to Fethullah Gülen, a shady Turkish cleric who helped Erdoğan turn Turkey into a dictatorship, then attempted to sabotage that dictatorship. For whatever reason, Gülen is now chilling in the Poconos like a retired B-list celebrity.

“Why did he spend an entire paragraph ranting about a Turkish cult?” you may continue to wonder, even-now-still-hypothetical reader. For two reasons:

  1. PII is super shady and keeps reaching out to BC to sponsor mysterious “conferences” and “contests.” It even tried to organize a trip of BC students to Turkey that was only cancelled because of, you know, that coup d’état it was accused of orchestrating.
  2. I needed to meet the word count for my column, which I will have done with this sentence.

Featured Graphic by Nicole Chan / Graphics Editor