Look up

Publish date 04-07-2022

by Susanna Tamaro

In the last century we stopped thinking that educating the new generations was an important thing.
Drinking the dominant ideologies - according to which the human being is naturally good and creative, and it is society that corrupts him and turns him into a monster - we began to think of the child as a perfect being, a miracle of nature in front of which there was nothing left to do but prostrate in adoration.

The almost idolatrous cult of childhood was born in those years. The child does not need the abusive violence of our indications in order to grow, we rather have to learn from him, to make him our teacher. It will be his instinctive strength to allow him to grow in the best way. There is something true in this. The children still grow up. It is a law of nature. In whatever condition is born, the human being tends with all his strength to keep himself alive and therefore to grow. But how does it grow? Thinking of today's children, of the little kings with a useless cardboard crown on their heads, overbearing and desperate because of the indifference that surrounds them, the vision that comes to mind is that of a prairie.

Wild grass, in fact, does not need any care to sprout, it follows the rhythm of the seasons. More or less light, more or less water and, on the basis of these, it moderates its development which will be limited and uniform.
All the blades of grass are alike, they all wither and disappear when the first winter colds appear and are reborn in spring, thus confirming the regular cyclical nature of their existence.

So the grass-children grow, but under the sign of uniformity and limit. If, on the other hand, we want to grow a tree, perhaps a fruit tree, we can leave it alone in its development or we must constantly, and with wisdom, take care of it, working the soil thoroughly so that the roots can breathe and expand without obstacles, tying it to a support to keep the trunk straight, protecting the young bark from the teeth of hares and roe deer with a net, giving it to drink when it is thirsty, feeding it with fertilizer when it is hungry, pruning it at the right time, covering it when it gets cold intense?

Yes, educating and cultivating are two closely related activities. In both cases we place ourselves in an attitude of attention and care, with the hope one day of being able to enjoy the fruits of our work. If I grow an apricot, in fact, I do it in the hope of one day picking some apricots; if I raise a child, I hope one day to see the best attitudes of the human being blossom in him. Of course, you can also plant an apricot and leave it in the care of mother nature, but one day it will be very difficult to eat its fruits.
At this point we must ask ourselves what was the moment in which we surrendered to the anti-educational criterion of circularity in the school. I believe that the first and most fundamental failure occurred in the eighties of the last century, with the reform that profoundly changed the structure of elementary schools, transformed, in deference to provincial Anglophilia, into "primary". It was that reform that canceled the single teacher, starting the process of "licitization" of the elementary school, sorry, primary.

Enough with the teacher-mother, it was said at the time, it's time to modernize, the many skills require a variety of teachers and so, in addition to keeping up with the times, you avoid running the risk that the child runs into a teacher not suited to his needs, capable of perhaps creating some trauma. And then enough with these teachers capable of explaining only the elementary things - the sum of cherries, the divisions of a cake, the seven kings of Rome. To teach you must have at least the dignity of a degree. And if there is any master of specialization with an abstrusely high-sounding name, even better.

The fact that the Italians left illiteracy behind thanks to the teachers forged by that school did not touch any of the very rational minds of the time. So now we find ourselves having children who arrive at university, for example, without knowing and knowing how to use the basics of their mother tongue.
And this is not the exception, but the rule. They will become doctors, lawyers, archaeologists, teachers, without being able to write in correct Italian and making mistakes that once those who had attended even only the fifth grade would never have dreamed of making. In elementary school the teaching of the "elements" has now been abandoned and this abandonment is certainly not the fault of the teachers, who are mostly very passionate about their work, but of the ideas that lie behind them. Ideas that are all based on the concept of deconstruction of reality.

The interpretation offered is that of complexity. In such a vision, the idea that there is a common basis for all knowledge, and that this basis is necessary in order to build something that lasts over time, is not contemplated. Everything is - and must be - floating, everything is - and must be - relative, because none of us can have the certainty, much less the arrogance, of believing that there is only one version of reality.
Making the simple perversely and unnecessarily complicated is the child of this ideological vision.

Our school creates a great confusion of concepts which it then tries to resolve thanks to the abundance of crosses - either it goes or breaks it - and with the compilation of photocopies whose suspended dots indicate the direction to take. Using your hand to draw a cross or complete the dots of the missing words is very different than using it to write a thought out of your head.
Just as it is not the same thing to read information on the tablet and smartphone or underline it in the book, perhaps by writing a few notes next to it.
It is not a question of regretting the good old time but of learning about the most advanced neurological studies. The eye-hand-brain relationship is extremely complex. Simplifying it - or even worse, canceling it - means leaving thousands and thousands of neuronal connections to sleep. And the step from the sleep of connections to the sleep of reason is quite short. Is this the purpose of school?

* Susanna Tamaro, Looking up. The right to grow, the duty to educate, Solferino, 2019, pp. 42-50.

* Susanna Tamaro
NP March 2022

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