Don Milani upside down –

Don Milani upside down –

2023-06-01 09:53:50


Adolfo Scotto di Luzio, in an essay published by Einaudi, re-examines a singular case in Italian cultural history. The prior of Barbiana was not in favor of a democratic reform of the school

It is one of the most singular cases in the cultural history of the Republic that a sworn enemy of school education as an instrument of emancipation of the popular classes such as was Don Lorenzo Milani – the author of a pamphlet, Letter to a teacherwhere this ferociously sarcastic dislike could be read on every line — has since become the tutelary deity, almost the official prophet, of the Italian democratic school. Adolfo Scotto di Luzio explains how such an extraordinary reversal of reality could have happened in a well-documented reconstruction of the political-cultural and human itinerary of the man who by now is considered the prior of Barbiana (The misunderstanding Don MilaniEinaudi).

the itinerary that begins with the scion of a rich family, imbued with upper-class culture and with a Jewish branch, who, after a tormented youth crossed by artistic thrills, decides to become a priest in Italy in 1947, in the time where politics dominates everything. But Lorenzo would always despise De Gasperi’s Christian Democrats as well as the powerful Gedda’s Catholic Action behind them, in his opinion both intent on compromise with the capitalist bourgeoisie and therefore guilty of wasting the opportunity of the great victory of 1948. That is, the opportunity to defeat communism (for which he will never show any sympathy) on his own ground: and that is, by realizing that wholly Christian society, that new Christianity that is finally a friend of the poor and the humble which is at the center of his social and religious ideal. precisely the ideal that brings him closer to Dossetti and to that authoritative group of Florentine radical Catholics gathered around the experience of La Pira.

Don Milani immediately in opposition: mainly of the Church, which in his mission as parish priest on the outskirts of Florence and in his burning faith feels too much friend and accomplice of power, too immersed in hypocrisy and in the emptiest formalism. He writes a book denouncing it (pastoral experiences) which brought him interest and acclaim, but also the thunderbolts of the Holy Office and the sanction of the Florentine curia: as a punishment he was thrown in Barbiana, a remote fraction of the municipality of Vicchio in Mugello where he will remain until his death at the age of only 44. But Barbiana more than a Saint Helena will be her Sinai from which she will preach to Italy.

In direct contact with the processes of disintegration which under the pressure of secularizing modernization are irreparably affecting the old peasant world, the prior engages in a merciless battle against the lords in defense of the people, of its irrepressible but increasingly undermined anthropological diversity. He does it from the trenches of school, a school let’s say private, full-time, very full-time, which he opens for a small group of boys from Barbiana, one of whom, however, when he tries to enter the official school circuit, is irreparably rejected. And precisely addressed to the person responsible for the above rejection Letter to a teacher which then the group writes (actually, obviously, only Don Milani is the author). And from here begins the misunderstanding that Scotto masterfully dissects, illustrating all its aspects and consequences. First of all by reading the famous text for what is really written in it, for what is really said to you, and not already for the imaginative version of convenience that has been handed down for decades by hearsay.

The Letter, in fact, not in any way a call for some kind of school reform. On the contrary, it is a frontal indictment of the idea of ​​public school and its objective result and, according to the author, intended to ratify the social subordination of the popular classes through education – an education entirely modeled, for this purpose, on cultured contents devoid of any practical use and which therefore mean nothing and are of no use to the poor. Which effectively excludes them. Even linguistic instruction, the acquisition of the Italian language, a functional element of this discriminating school which essentially ends up being only a mechanism of mortification and exclusion of the popular classes. A school which, however, even if it were successful, would do nothing else, as it is, that to break and erase the original separateness of the people, uprooting it from its anthropology. But in Don Milani’s eyes, precisely this rupture means nothing other than depriving the people of the part of an active subject in their own formation, preventing them from conquering and making their historical autonomy socially feasible. In fact, school education as conceived signifies the beginning of the absorption of popular culture and its customs into bourgeois modernity (of which the Communist Party would also be a representative in its own way), into the alienating modernity of fashions, leisure activities, foosball tables, comic strips – all things that the prior hates most. And lastly it means taking the people away from the Gospel, whereas in Don Milani’s vision education can only be a function of evangelization.

Basically, as Scotto di Luzio writes, any knowledge that went beyond the student’s daily experience was, according to Barbiana’s pedagogy, intolerable. He was as valid for language as for mathematics. And speaking of the language don Milani said verbatim: Languages ​​are created by the poor and then they go on renewing them ad infinitum. The rich crystallize them in order to make fun of those who don’t speak like them. Or to reject it. Needless to add – always our author to underline it – that by theorizing the abusive nature of school teaching to the poor both of bourgeois culture and of Italian, in fact don Milani expropriated the people of the possibility of becoming themselves leaders.

In the reconstruction of Scotto di Luzio above all to Tullio De Mauro that we owe first the transfer of this demolishing conception of education steeped in populism within a democratic perspective, and from here then its subsequent reception in the official ideology of the school of the Republic. To a De Mauro who – denying the positive judgment on the Risorgimento and on the role of the school in the emancipation of the working classes, previously expressed by himself in the first edition of his Linguistic history of united Italy — convinced himself in the 1970s that in order to be democratic, the school must accept the principles of the Constitution. Among which, he argues, is the principle that establishes the equal dignity of citizens regardless of language. It is clearly a matter of a provision for the protection of linguistic minorities, but now it is inclined to understand something previously unthinkable, namely the different uses of the same idiom. You can also speak the Italian you want, in short, the founding fathers established it. Consequently, the pursuit of democratic purposes such as the one indicated by such an interpretation must be followed by the school if it wants to be democratic itself. Don’t already look first to raise the cultural level of the country, not to embody the idea that the language conquers new speakers precisely as a result of the general expansion of culture that takes place first of all in the classrooms. With this water hammer, the way was open to put the old school in a corner and to begin the search for the Grail of a new school: where to finally put new cultural contents to the test, new masters and new professors capable of teaching, first all Italian, differently from the past.

But we are still awaiting the admirable results of this school. For the moment, the Pisa tests confirm, half of 15-year-old Italians are unable to read and understand a normal written text in the language that should be theirs. We’ll see for the future. But don Milani is certainly not to blame for this. In the end, the prior seems to have served only as a pretext, he moved in a time and in a world that was now too distant from ours, without saying that he was really of no interest in the ways of teaching. Scotto di Luzio concludes, if anything, that much more rightly can be reproached against him today: to have powerfully accredited the destructive idea, dear to 1968 but which still endures, of schooling as a consecration of the transmission of power and privilege, moreover full of intimate violence.

What sure is Don Milani does not help us at all to answer the question than the crucial one of compulsory education: what to do with those who can’t make it? Not rejecting them could also serve to put your conscience at peace: but is it really the most convincing solution?

The analysis

The essay by Adolfo Scotto di Luzio The misunderstanding Don Milani (Einaudi, pages 146, euro 12) analyzes the thinking of the prior of Barbiana and criticizes the way it was received and applied. Scotto di Luzio professor of the history of pedagogy at the University of Bergamo Don Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967) was born in Florence and became a priest in 1947. Due to conflicts with the Florentine curia, in 1954 he was sent to the small town of Barbiana, where he organized a school for local children. The book is due to the school of Barbiana Letter to a teacheran indictment of the class-based nature of public education

June 1, 2023 (change June 1, 2023 | 09:48)

#Don #Milani #upside


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent News

Editor's Pick