Civic education: where school is shrinking

«Citizens’ education aims to satisfy the need to create reciprocal collaborative relationships between school and life. Public opinion persistently warns, albeit confused, the need for Life to fertilize the school culture, and for the School to acquire a new expansive virtue that opens up the forms and structures of the associated Life. Thus began the historic decree issued in June 1958 by the then Minister of Public Education Aldo Moro, which for the first time introduced civic education in the country’s middle and high schools. In his dictation we read that “every teacher, before becoming a teacher in his subject, must be an instigator of moral and social conscience; although it is therefore true that civic education should be present in any teaching, there is the obvious possibility of an organic synthesis to provide it with a didactic framework and therefore set out schedules and programs ». This was the beginning of the long and twisted story of the most underrated subject on the Italian school scene.

A case in half

With the Fun Decree, the two-month hours of civic education they were entrusted to the professor of history, Italian and geography, while still retaining an interdisciplinary value without being given an evaluation. Nevertheless, for economic reasons, a setback came very quickly, and in the following decades the legislation underwent several changes: In 1979, it was reintroduced, but only for middle schools, while it comes under the name “Social Studies” in the program of the primary school in 1985. Act 53 / 2003 will therefore be rejected as training for the basic principles of civil coexistence.

However, the actual gear shift took place in 2010/2011, when the civic education, after two years of experiments, was transformed into “Citizenship and constitution” and it was extended to include all institutes of every order and degree. It included five basic parts: environmental education, road education, health education, food education and the Italian Constitution. For the high schools, the educational path developed within the historical-geographical and historical-social areas. Yet too many
institutes, it has been a kind of intangible for years ghost substance.

Citizen education today

Act 92/2019 (“Introduction of school education in civic education”) made the subject civic education compulsory in all school executive orders from the school year. 2020/21. The guidelines for teaching in social education, which the Ministry of Education sent to schools in the summer of 2020, have identified three support axes: the study of the Constitution, sustainable development and digital citizenship.

A step forward from the confused and incomplete previous implant? Sure yes, but as many teachers point out, they remain macroscopic confusion as to its practical application. It represents a significant weakness, firstly, that the compulsory introduction of the subject, which allows for an independent grade in the report card, was not accompanied by the creation of a chair alone or by the addition of an extra hour for it is dedicated within the weekly program. The application of this is left to the discretion of the individual class council: The subject enters the teaching across, and from case to case we are asked to decide how we distribute the provided 33 hours within a didactic calendar that is left. , the “canonical”. From this point of view, therefore, not only each address but even each class represents a microcosm that independently chooses how to deal with the problem. Another major problem is thus posed by lack of teacher training. Which is why it is almost always called to ‘pick the holes’ by utilizing their (any and not required) extra-curricular skills to touch on the three macro areas identified by the guidelines. Very often, due to a self-perceived lack of compliance or alternatively due to the possible (and deserved, if well exploited) tendency to open the school to the big problems in the outside world, teachers decide to make use of partners outside the school circle, for to utilize their specific skills. We are talking about experts in environmental policies, fact-checkers, scholars of terrorism, organized crime, international politics and so on. With the obvious consequence that the richest schools, by putting important resources on the table, can afford to pay external experts and take them behind their professorships, while poorer institutes have to cope to “make necessity a virtue” often sacrifices the discussion of at least one of the macro areas provided (which, at least the 33 hours identified by the standard, seems very few). In short, the elements of fragmentation, discretion, and injustice block the mechanism, defusing its potential beneficial effects.

Fight against the mafia: absent

“The historical-social context in which the Italian school currently operates requires of all school operators an increasingly rigorous and precise attention to some very worrying aspects of national events, which seem to register an objective decline in the awareness of the value of Legality “: in fact,”the fight against the mafia and other forms of organized crime constitute a crucial opportunity for the defense of democratic institutions ”. This is the content of the Iervolino circular from 1993, which states that “the importance of the subject requires a priority commitment on the part of school leaders aimed at promoting, coordinating and implementing the requested initiatives”, and that “it is up to teachers to enrich those with offers of their pedagogical passion and their professionalism “, as” the organizational nature of crime can only be answered with an equally organic and continuous action “. To this end, the document calls for the organization of “central and local teacher training and updating activities” in order to “involve not only teachers in disciplines that may appear institutionally suitable for specific educational responsibilities in this field, but also all teachers involved in any matter” is willing to make special promotional commitments “. Recipients of the circular were warned that “interventions currently under preparation will be implemented to verify the actions taken by individual schools”. To test the facts, but deducting the commendable commitment of “enlightened” and counter-current teachers, the dictates in this circular were completely disregarded.

In 2006, Minister Giuseppe Fioroni’s guidelines were drawn up, presented on 23 May of the following year on the occasion of the anniversary of the Capaci massacre. The program states that since “the mafia phenomenon is present, albeit in a different way, throughout the country”, then “Education in legality with the aim of fighting the mafia must offer tools to understand their different connotations in the different geographical areas of the national territory “, which offers” models of behavior and life alternatives to the mafia styles that have taken hold in the world of youth “. Excellent premises though they did not lead to anything concrete.

We often complain about how a significant percentage of our children, once they have completed their school cycle, have not developed an adequate social, institutional and political consciousness, nor the necessary tools to navigate the hybrid and problematic media ecosystem in which today’s society is grafted with full knowledge of facts. We then wonder if the time is not right to learn from the mistakes of the past. How long will it take to make civic education qualitatively equal by setting up a chair for each school address reserved exclusively for it in other official subjects? When his discussion can be enjoyed within the framework of a significant number of hours, in such a way that one has time to organically guide the children at hand in the challenging journey in stages marked by the basic principles of the Constitution and by most prominent facts in our country and our recent history of the world? We have been accustomed to a school system which, at best, formed students, often very well prepared. But the time has come to move on: to grow in the maze of associated lives, having good cards to play is not enough. First and foremost, it is necessary to be conscious citizens and develop a critical spirit. The school can not hold back: on the contrary, it must play the most important role.

[di Stefano Baudino]

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