ONE latest article published in this newspaper by the lawyer Stefano Fioramontiprepared and attentive expert in environmental law, with a number of interesting considerations regarding the relationship between environmental education and civic educationmade me reflect once again on this topic and try to deepen the didactic situation of civic education.
Several considerations have arisen, which could be the subject of further debate. Indeed, the subject is not only very important, but also relates to a fundamental part of the school, which he had well understood Aldo Morowhen in 1958, as Minister of Education, he introduced this subject as a curriculum for schools of all origins and levels.
Civic: the meaning of a term
Already the term “Civic“Deserves a reminder and reflection. So let’s start with two terms.
Education comes from the verb to educatean expression that in Latin – educate– it also indicates the act of causing to grow, to develop. The term is essentially clear and refers to an activity that requires a lot of care and attention in its exercise. Problems arise when examining the adjective “street number“Which, again based on Latin, has the same root as”civilian“, what does it mean “citizen“.
By reflecting on the word citizen, we discover that the concept, both from a historical point of view and from a political point of view, takes on different tonalities and content. Looking at the Roman world, for example, it turns out that civilian – citizen – in archaic Rome has a number of connotations that tie him to the world of agriculture; then examine the description of civilian of the republican age, that which precedes the empire, we note a considerable diversity, the new civilian attaches great importance to social relations and culture.
The study could be continued by reviewing the various definitions also given in the various eras of political doctrines. However, it seems useful to make a final reference to contemporary political culture, which basically has two visions of the citizen: the citizen with inalienable rightsbecause they belong to its nature, and the subject citizen, which receives a series of privileges courtesy of the state, which comes before the citizen. It is clear that in the Western world, to which we belong by tradition and history, the citizen comes before the state and must regard the latter as an institution that contributes to making the citizen live, enabling him to fulfill his personality , make him live according to his natural inclinations.
Without these indispensable emphases, it can be said that citizenship education is a didactic activity that serves to enable the person to develop in a harmonious way with his rights and duties, taking into account that both the citizen’s rights and rights and duties have the same meaning .
A risk associated with civic education
Among the various subjects – and therefore not the only one – called to contribute to citizenship education there is also the school. I have just said that it is not the only subject, because it is not only educational institutions that participate and contribute to civic education. In fact, the family, social organizations, cultural structures, religious institutions and bodies dealing with leisure, besides the school, contribute to this formation. A significant role is definitely reserved for the school, which also stems from the professional competences that it has or should have due to its characteristics.
This presence of several subjects called to intervene in the realization of citizenship education modules serves, in my opinion, not only to offer new complementary hypotheses of educational work, but also serves to deprive the state of an educational monopoly, which from certain points look, it can be dangerous. A civic education activity entrusted only to the state, which implements it with its school structures, would end up creating a citizen who is not educated according to his inclinations, but would generate a subject who makes the choices imposed by the state his own. It is no accident that totalitarian regimes place civic education under the direct control of the government. In light of these considerations, it becomes important to build a civil education path that knows how to take into account the freedom and inclinations of individuals.
The Italian experience and its (almost) failure
Civic education, as Fioramonti well pointed out in his article, was introduced into school curricula with a provision that the then minister Aldo Moro wanted in 1958. The minister, a man of deep civic culture and guided by a solid Catholic conviction, felt the need in during the school course to contribute to the formation of the citizen who makes the students reflect with teaching lessons. If the design idea is definitely to be shared, it should also be pointed out that the result of this decision by Moro cannot be considered successful due to at least two types of problems.
The first: according to ministerial directives, citizenship education is not an independent school subjectbut it is the modular segment of another subject, history, and indeed, for evaluation, the words “History and civic education“. The consequence of this approach is obvious. The teaching of social studies is reduced to a minimum, and in the end what counts for the assessment of the student is his preparation in history. Among other things, the conviction is also generated in the students about , that civic education is a “non-subject”, which is evident from the didactic plan, no one knows why.
Specifically, in the first decades of the application of the Moro provision, things went like this: a few minutes were dedicated to this case and a few minutes, when everything went well, were dedicated to the slavish reading of the constitution. All this made it possible to write in the class register and in the teacher history section that the ministerial directive had been complied with.
But if this is the first problem, there is a much more serious second to register. Civic education, when introduced as a didactic module, is considered a competence issue for the teacher of literature in some institutes, in other institutes, particularly in upper secondary schools, it is considered a competence issue for the teachers of history and philosophy. If the latter is excluded, the other teachers have often not had the opportunity to elaborate on the subjects to be dealt with.
With a quick and superficial reference to the period in which it was introduced, the teachers have just left the universities, which do not have in their curricula avenues to educate them in these subjects. Therefore, those who are called to give this type of lecture are looking for solutions that formally allow the respect and application of the ministerial provision, of course without thinking about the fulfillment of the objectives proposed by the minister. Basically, it can be said that the first one who did not believe in the value of civic education education was precisely the scholastic institution as a whole, of course in this case excluding the minister.
The period that has passed, from 1958 to the present day, with changing events which have led to the suppression and restoration of the cause, has not helped to improve the situation much.
Rethinking civil society
Also in light of contemporary research and work, I believe that the teaching of civic education must be rethoughttaking into account some basic points.
First of all, it must be an interdisciplinary module. Indeed, if educating the citizen means making a person grow so that he is able to perform his activity as a protagonist in society, all teachers must organize their work to contribute to preparing students for social life.
After all, today we often talk – and this is the reason that led me to this reflection by reading the interesting article by Fioramonti – about the environment and environmental education as part of the wider sector of civic education, and not only the teacher history or literature. must bear the burden of dealing with these issues, but other teachers must also perform a synergistic action to contribute to the teaching of the subject.
Of course, all this presupposes an articulated preparation, which is why the Ministry must advocate for these updates, and upon closer inspection, other institutions, I am thinking specifically of bank funds, must intervene to finance the training of teachers, perhaps also introducing an in-depth on financial culture , which would represent a new but very important sector that allows citizens to avoid major fraud, even in the financial market. This would open up a reflection on the method and on the comparison between methods and content. We will talk about that in a future reflection.
Prof. Franco Peretti
Expert in training methodology