a year out of the classroom, but I don’t miss it because they destroyed it

Teaching is a bit like painting a canvas, carving wood or marble, playing an instrument: it’s not a job, it’s a grace. For almost forty years – to which they come from school and university, but obviously on the other side of the desk – I have repeated almost every day the enchanted words of Leopardi, Manzoni, Pascoli, Pirandello, I entered the silent aisles of medieval churches and Gothic , climbed the red-hot barricades of the Risorgimento, descended into the muddy trenches of the Great War, dragged myself into the icy steppe of the Russian retreat. Memorable pages of literature and history are reread hundreds and hundreds of times with the sole purpose of enriching myself to enrich them, my very young students of 11, 12, 13 years old in the most delicate passage of their lives. Sometimes they derive great personal satisfaction from it (teachers, as we know, often experience moments of tenderness towards their disciples who live almost like children), other times without much satisfaction or even enjoy the bitterness of defeat. But the seed has always fallen, and its sprouting did not depend only on me.

Exactly one year after leaving the classrooms, pushed more by the arrogance of a bureaucracy that has become unbearable than by the generation gap – which was also beginning to show itself – I do not fall into the trap of many colleagues who regret, formerly (journalism and fiction they have always kept me in shape), but I find myself – every day, even at this very moment – dealing with a series of school texts that look at me from the shelf and seem to ask me why I haven’t picked them up for a long time. Literary anthologies, history and geography books, grammar exercises that I have spent most of my life on and which now lie silent in a corner of the house, reminding me of who I have been and why.

Do I miss school? No, it had gone too far from what was and must besunk into a state of goodness that justifies and wears out everything in the name of cultural flattening, educational innovation at any cost, of education that has become a phoenix because its meaning has been lost.

On the other hand, I miss the conveyance of beauty, a purpose that goes beyond the very beauty of a poem, that one can read it for oneself without being a teacher, and that pushes one to look beyond, among the slightly nomadic rows of pews and in the sharp eyes of the boys who, one or a hundred, know how to touch the soul. I had in my hands – fragile and incomplete hands – an extraordinary task, made even more so by the fact that an educational model – I would say uneducative – in and out of school fluctuations in and out of school – more and more based on doing before thinking, about informing rather than training, about technology as an object of didactic action rather than as a useful tool to reflect on the larger reality. Which goes far beyond its material, tactile, visual, practical, immediate limits. Shout your heart out, but be polite.

Because of this teaching poetry – in a real and broad sense – it had become for me – but I think for many – more and more difficult: what for centuries, even millennia, has been the pillar on which the cultures of every country and every time have been raised (human civilization was born on the written word, theatre, art), now it has become the spare wheel that one can very well do without, in the illusion that the temple of knowledge can stand without it. We have not yet come to physically exclude literature and art history, human geography and music history from the primary school curriculum – for this we need a dose of courage, which the ministry does not yet have – but it is only a matter of time: abolition of study subjects replaced by the competences found in Northern Europe are already knocking on our doors.

It will be the end of a civilization, the consequences of which can be seen right now in the ignorance that most of the new generations are swimming in. But what does that mean? The market asks for more and the market wins. Reading on the sofa in the Leopardi or Svevo house, meeting Shakespeare or Mozart in the theater is always – if the market allows – the so-called leisure, if it really is.


Leave a Comment