Tag Archives: Education

La scuola d’avanguardia a Rimini che può essere un modello anche oggi

Nel 1945 le condizioni di Rimini sono tragiche: 396 bombardamenti subiti in undici mesi, più di seicento vittime civili, più di quattromila edifici distrutti e tremila gravemente danneggiati, l’82 per cento della città porta i segni delle bombe. Il sindaco Alberto Ciari chiede aiuto al Dono svizzero, un programma internazionale di aiuti. Qualche mese dopo arrivano in città Margherita Zoebeli e Felix Schwarz. Lei ha 33 anni, nel 1936 durante la guerra civile spagnola ha soccorso ed evacuato i bambini da Barcellona verso la Francia, e nel 1944 ha fatto la staffetta partigiana in val d’Ossola. Lui ha 28 anni, è un architetto e ha studiato con il meglio dell’avanguardia europea. Sono due socialisti.

Con i fondi del Dono svizzero progettano un centro sociale – con docce e mense– di cui fa parte anche un giardino d’infanzia (un asilo) per 150 bambini. Trovano uno spazio nel centro della città bombardata, accanto alle rovine dell’anfiteatro, e in pochi mesi creano una struttura di emergenza con tredici grandi baracche di legno.

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Posted by on August 31, 2020 in European Union


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Coronavirus shows us it’s time to rethink everything. Let’s start with education

Imagine mentioning William Shakespeare to a university graduate and discovering they had never heard of him. You would be incredulous. But it’s common and acceptable not to know what an arthropod is, or a vertebrate, or to be unable to explain the difference between an insect and spider. No one is embarrassed when a “well-educated” person cannot provide even a rough explanation of the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle or the water cycle, or of how soils form.

All this is knowledge as basic as being aware that Shakespeare was a playwright. Yet ignorance of such earthy matters sometimes seems to be worn as a badge of sophistication. I love Shakespeare, and I believe the world would be a poorer and a sadder place without him. But we would survive. The issues about which most people live in ignorance are, by contrast, matters of life and death.

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Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Uncategorized


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Italian lessons: what we’ve learned from two months of home schooling

Most of us in Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy, remember the weekend of 22 February very clearly. To begin with there were just rumours – phone calls and messages flying around between friends – but then it was confirmed: all schools in the region were going to close for a week.

The decision was, in many ways, shocking. At that time, there had only been three deaths from Covid-19 in Italy, and only 152 reported infections. It seemed strange that education was the first social activity to be sacrificed. I guessed it was because it wasn’t perceived to be economically productive. Nothing else was closing: football grounds, bars, shops and ski resorts were still open for business, and no schools in any other European country had closed.

Still, to our three kids – Benny (15), Emma (13) and Leo (9) – the idea of a week off seemed like bliss. We had moved back to Parma from the UK three years earlier, and by comparison with the UK, education here seemed relentless. Many pupils go to school six days a week and there are no half-term holidays. But my wife, Francesca, who is Italian, and I were both worried. She works with Syrian refugees, which isn’t a job you can suddenly drop, and I had just been offered a 9-to-5 job, after 21 years of being freelance. We, like all our friends, suddenly had an acute childcare crisis.

The announcement had been so sudden that schools had few plans or resources in place to teach remotely. Italy spends a lot less on education than almost every other western country. Spending per student (from primary school to university) equates to $8,966 per annum, compared to $11,028 in the UK and $11,502 in Sweden. The under-investment is so serious that in December 2019, the education minister, Lorenzo Fioramonti, resigned in protest.

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Posted by on May 5, 2020 in European Union, Reportages


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Abolire il carcere, prove di utopia in Europa

Una mattina di qualche inverno fa, il freddo di Padova aveva seccato i terreni intorno al carcere Due palazzi e gelava il fiato di decine di persone davanti al suo ingresso. Erano giornalisti e familiari di detenuti, ed erano lì per partecipare a un convegno organizzato dall’associazione Ristretti orizzonti. Tra loro c’era una ragazza di diciotto anni. Piccola e magra, era contenta e nervosa per il padre, che doveva intervenire a uno degli incontri. Lui era in prigione da quando lei era nata. Lei non aveva mai mangiato un gelato con lui. Le chiesi qual era stata la cosa più complicata da gestire in tutti quegli anni. Ci pensò un po’ su, poi rispose: “All’inizio è stato il pensiero che mio padre fosse innocente, poi il dover fare i conti con i suoi sbagli, infine il giudizio degli altri. Per tutti sono solo la figlia di un ergastolano. Ho cominciato ad avere meno paura di questo giudizio quando ho capito che il carcere è uno specchio. Giudichiamo i detenuti e le loro famiglie, ma dimentichiamo che stiamo giudicando anche il nostro riflesso”.

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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in European Union


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Who Needs the Humanities When You Have Jair Bolsonaro?

According to President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazilian education leaves a lot to be desired. “Everything is going increasingly downhill,” he said last month, to journalists during a trip to Dallas. “What we want is to save education.”

That would seem a reasonable thing to say if Mr. Bolsonaro were, for example, announcing a new education plan or a substantial increase in spending on public schools. But instead, he was alluding to a $1.5 billion “freeze” to Brazil’s education budget. (The government insists on calling it freeze, rather than the cut it is; that’s because, in theory, the funds will be made available when the economic situation improves.) These cuts amount to 30 percent of the discretionary budgets (which cover utility bills, scholarships, cleaning, maintenance and security, among other things) at all federal universities.

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Posted by on July 15, 2019 in South America


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Why streaming kids according to ability is a terrible idea

A class of 15-year-olds. We’ve just read a scene from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I hesitate for a moment, before launching into a group discussion. Half the students have (I hope) been reading their copies of No Fear Shakespeare, a kid-friendly translation of the Bard’s original. For three students, even these literacy demands are beyond them. Another simply can’t focus. Having confiscated his iPad, I give him pens and paper to draw with. I just need to keep this one at school for as long as possible.

I can ask the terrified No Fear group to identify the key characters in this scene, and maybe provide a tentative plot summary. I can ask most of the class about character development, and how Romeo is feeling (he’s very upset, by the way) – if they were paying attention. Five of them might be able to support their statements with textual evidence. Three will be able to explain how the imagery might affect the audience. Now two curious students are wondering if oxymorons reflect Shakespeare’s thematic concerns with extremes, and arguing about whether it is better to live a life of moderation or one of passionate engagement. Meanwhile, I non-verbally de-escalate an arms race of scribbled penises that threatens to spill out onto the desks.

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Uncategorized



How our smartphones stop us from living in the moment

As a teacher who has long witnessed and worried about the impacts of technology in the classroom, I constantly struggle to devise effective classroom policies for smartphones. I used to make students sing or dance if their phones interrupted class, and although this led to some memorable moments, it also turned inappropriate tech use into a joke. Given the myriad deleterious effects of phones – addiction, decline of face-to-face socialisation, deskilling, and endless distraction, for starters – I want students to think carefully about their phone habits, rather than to mindlessly follow (or not follow) a rule.

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Posted by on October 18, 2017 in Uncategorized


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Nell’universo classista delle ripetizioni private 

“Ci sono dei professori che fanno ripetizioni a pagamento. Invece di rimuovere gli ostacoli, lavorano a aumentare le differenze. La mattina sono pagati da noi per fare scuola eguale a tutti. La sera prendono denaro dai più ricchi per fare scuola diversa ai signorini. A giugno, a spese nostre, siedono in tribunale e giudicano le differenze. Non è che il babbo di Gianni non sappia che esistono le ripetizioni. È che avete creato un’atmosfera per cui nessuno dice nulla. Sembrate galantuomini”.

Nel 1967 don Lorenzo Milani e i suoi ragazzi della scuola di Barbiana in Lettera a una professoressa raccontavano una scuola classista che discriminava i figli dei contadini (i Gianni) dai figli dei dottori (i Pierini); a distanza di cinquant’anni esatti l’accusa potrebbe essere identica e resterebbe ugualmente inascoltata.

Da insegnante di liceo mi capita spesso di partecipare ad assemblee sindacali e politiche, dibattiti e convegni, e ogni volta che pongo il problema delle ripetizioni è come se nominassi un tabù. La maggioranza dei colleghi che ho conosciuto dà ripetizioni; in alcuni casi si tratta di una sorta di doppio lavoro, in altri è diventato – in termini economici e di tempo – il lavoro principale. Eppure il tema delle ripetizioni private non ha interessato nessuna delle proteste che hanno accompagnato la legge Gelmini o quella sulla Buona scuola.

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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in European Union


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The Satanic Temple Wants to Save Kids from Abusive Teachers

Given the right context, and everyone’s permission, spanking can be a lot of fun. But that’s probably not true for public school students in the 19 states where corporal punishment is still allowed. Thankfully, though, the Satanic Temple has stepped in to help.After crusading for various free speech issues in schools, the Temple is now campaigning to end corporal punishment in public schools by launching the Protect Children Project. Children can register with the project—regardless of religious affiliation—and it will notify that child’s school board that any harm toward them is a violation of their civil rights.

Source: The Satanic Temple Wants to Save Kids from Abusive Teachers – VICE

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Posted by on March 21, 2017 in North America


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Lost in Translation

At the school in Nepal’s Lalitpur district where I work as an English teaching assistant, a large and colorful mural proclaims: “The world is a lock. Education is the key.” For Nepalese students today, though, the key is not so much education in general as competency in the English language, in particular.“Now this world is like one country,” says Rupchandra Gopali, vice principal and English teacher at the school. “English is one medium that can be used in every country, whether people know other languages or not. If they know English, they can do jobs everywhere.”

Source: Lost in Translation | Boston Review

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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Asia, Reportages


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