From the encounter with Sara Lazzaro, thoughts were raised on the relationship between school and life that is lived outside of it.
The government has given priority to the return of students into classrooms even if the epidemiological situation is always uncertain. Why do the institutions push so strongly towards the return to teaching in the presence? Is this a real interest for adolescents, or is there any hidden thought towards young people?
I don’t think there’s any real interest in teenagers, but there’s the idea that teenagers left out might do more harm so it’s best to keep them under control, using them as scapegoats to justify political failures in an attempt to control the pandemic. If there was a real interest there wouldn’t have been such a violent story about teenagers as a bunch of crazy sheep who spend their time exchanging the virus and who don’t care about anyone else.
I have the feeling that the problem is often the adult who feels strong for their own history, defends their own positions and does not know how to see the new, indeed they consider it dangerous, just because is younger. And therefore I think there’s a background envy because young people have better perspective than we do.
The school could be considered as a safe place while in all other contexts outside school safety measures are sometimes lacking or are criticized or evaded. Teenagers are the ones who suffer the consequences, forced to face this incoherence between inside and outside the school.
What solutions could be proposed to create a continuum between the school and what happens in the various contexts outside the school?
The first step is to convey a message of coherence that is fundamental and formative for adolescents. I have to secure and enforce the rules outside the school; then I can ask the teenager to respect them inside the school. One of these measures could be to rethink the transport system by creating one dedicated to students. This would mean not only to have much more control on possible infectious clusters, but it would mean to pass the message “I put in place a bus system just for you because you are important to me. Your chance to come to school is important to me”. It would mean showing a real interest in young people.
We went back to distance teaching and the government decided two time slots of entry. But why for a principle of equality should I divide the class in half, one in presence and one at a distance? Commuters are not like the others, they are already disadvantaged at the start and I have the duty to fill this disadvantage by facilitating their access to distance learning. Students who are in the city might feel disadvantaged in their turn but in reality, this way, they have the opportunity to sympathize with their classmates. This is active citizenship, this is humanity: working together to make things work.
Education in relation to the pandemic and to what happens outside of school also means working on the emotional dimension. Kids might not be concerned about their parents because they see them still strong, but they are interested in their grandparents and are afraid to infect them. We could deepen what the respect for the other means and could think on why to hold the mask and why to accept the distance.
Will the youngsters be able to become adults aware and responsible for themselves and others?
Yes. Despite everything I am confident, I find them better than adults sometimes. Or at least it will not be because of the pandemic but because of the contradictory messages that come to them from the adult world or because of the cultural model of reference that is violent and inconsistent.
Kids didn’t have any deficit and they have every chance to become adults.
To bring students to school, to bring school to students. The point of view radically changes. What could be said in this sense? By entering more into the family context through distance teaching could you reach and involve more the parents in the school path of their children and foster that continuum between the school and the outside world?
Surely what the pandemic taught us is that the school is not made only by students within an institution, within a space. The school is the community that is created regardless of the space in which it takes place. We understood that we can bring the school to the students.
Here’s a wonderful idea… since we closed museums, parks, villas, cinemas… Couldn’t the students be taken periodically once a week to have lessons within the museum spaces which are huge? To make them be “together” within a magical place of culture.
Another interesting element concerns the relationship with parents. There have been positive elements and negative elements. The negative elements were that some parents have interpreted their presence in the house during the distance teaching as a possibility to listen to the lessons behind the door and then to intervene both on the content and on the organization of the teaching, invading both their kids’ space and the teachers’ skills and right to teach as well as their freedom.
But it is also true that this distance teaching could allow more encounters with families, always very complex from the logistical point of view. To create meetings at distance could reactivate the plan of collegiality that goes back to the delegated decrees.
Staying at home should be a conscious and heartfelt choice to protect themselves and others; isolation, restrictions, prohibitions are often experienced by adults as a mere obligation, as oppression or as a punishment, proposing such prejudices and stereotypes to young people. If the youngsters are not able to reject such a situation, they adapt to the stereotype of “unruly” teenager and in this way perhaps we can explain the rabid episodes happened in recent months like the street fights and the lack of distance. What do you think?
It occurs to me that we should confront more and more the kids about what freedom is. This cannot mean doing anything without thinking about the consequences for others. I have tried to convey to my students that it is not possible to think that the temporary restriction of their ability to move and interact is a restriction of freedom. Rather, it means safeguarding health because safeguarding health is also a duty on the part of those who lead the territories and the government.
If the message passed by adults is that DPCMs (Decrees of the President of the Council of Ministers) are unconstitutional, that rules and prohibitions are a restriction of freedom, it is clear that the young person feels entitled to engage in a series of behaviours that are inadequate and dangerous in relation to the pandemic. That’s why they’re considered unruly. In reality, the young person who behaves in this way is very disciplined, because they completely identify themselves with the adult world and repeat its stereotypes. So the problem is working on us, not just working on young people.
If the unruly teenager is actually very disciplined, because in reality they adapt to the established system, how can the healthy rebellion of adolescents in relation to the current situation emerge, since on one hand they are caught in the rules and at the same time risk identification with the system?
For this, the school could play a very important role: to be able to convey the concept that rebellion is to find one’s own idea, one’s own way, to find forms of confrontation with the system, be it represented by politics, by culture, but also by parents themselves, ideas that need to be constructive and not destructive. The intention is to make them understand that rebelling is not breaking the rule just to break the rule, but learning to understand it and then challenging it by finding a better one. Rebellion is something that builds, not something that destroys. Otherwise it is only an adjustment.
If the proposed cultural model is that of the destructive adolescent, and the adolescent adapts to this model, it is clear that they are obeying. It is necessary to make them understand that rebellion can never be violent, it must be a rebellion of ideas and not a material rebellion.
Even the approach to the world of drugs, for example, which is more and more present, is a way of escaping from reality, not a rebellion. Instead, the adult and the adult culture of reference say that kids do drugs because they are rebels. This automatically makes the drug fascinating as if it were synonymous with rebellion while it is synonymous with escaping from something that doesn’t work.
Surely, we must propose a completely different cultural model even at school regarding rebellion. Think that the teachers of literature still propose as examples Boudelaire and D’Annunzio!!!
At the end of this interview with Professor Sara Lazzaro, whom we thank for the enthusiasm, the interest shown and the “human” content of her thoughts, we would like to bring back a term several times quoted in this passionate interview: rebellion.
Has anyone wondered what it’s like to be a first-grade student who has practically never seen their classmates and finds themselves in a classroom, in fact in half a classroom?
Has anyone pushed teachers to invent a new way of doing distance teaching, trying especially to address and overcome these criticalities of the new class group?
Has anyone wondered what all this will mean for the future of adolescents, who place great hopes on adults outside the family context and on the peer group?
Before we spoke of active citizenship; at the moment we could speak more of passive citizenship given the premises.
The student rebellion would be right here then. Fight to avoid divisions, to avoid discrimination, to be heard by the institutions. All this obviously without violence, but only through the refusal to be considered a social problem or to be valued only for convenience. A radio station would be needed, why not. A radio dedicated and managed by students, a station with a cultural and social schedule all in the hands of the teenagers.
A radio really… Active!
Walter Di Mauro
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article