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ITALY — Amelia Gambetti Reflects on the Connection Between Education and Politics

Amelia Gambetti, Reggio Emilia Liaison and consultant of the Reggio Approach, is a repeat customer at BGC.  On this visit she shares disturbing issues that impact children and families all over the world with insights from her work as an Educator.

Amelia Gambetti, Reggio Emilia Liaison and consultant of the Reggio Approach, is a repeat customer at BGC.  On this visit she shares disturbing issues that impact children and families all over the world with insights from her work as an Educator.

The world is scary.

There is not a day in which reading the newspaper, or listening to the news doesn’t impact me.  I get discouraged, disappointed, sad and very worried.

Has the world lost somewhere the rights of society and communities? How much is this something we as educators should care about? And in terms of education? Has education failed us or can it rescue us? Is this only a political issue? Because I believe that education is politics I would like to share some reflections I have made and some questions I have asked myself that deserve answers that, unfortunately, I do not have. Maybe thinking of them together will support the development of our analysis, our awareness related to what it is happening around us.

I would like to start by mentioning the protection of country borders that seems to be connected only with the defense of human rights inside that country.  Is this isolation the solution to the well-being of the world? And what about children who are exposed to these facts? Do children still have rights? How do we consider all those children that are in serious danger? How much does the life of each human being count during this time of our life? And what about the quality of each life?

Let’s think, for example, of the tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea, the situation at the Mexico borders, the war in Syria and in other parts of the world. How much do we feel that all this is horrible and inhuman?

I would like to put our attention on children again. Children living these tragedies sometimes die, some of them do not.  Sometimes they are abandoned, quite often they travel alone from one country or from one continent to another, encountering many dangers, risks, huge challenges.  Many children face these challenges with their families, some are alone.  Have the different Governments thought of plans, of strategies to make the lives of these children safer, to protect them with dignity?

Have we become indifferent?  Do we belong to this category of people who do not allow themselves to be affected by painful events?  Does that indifference come from a feeling of powerlessness? And what about coldness, apathy, insensitivity and neutrality? Do these feelings belong to us too, and do they function as a shield to protect us from what we do not want to see or be aware of? I think we should reflect on all of this and then deeply analyze who we are and what is happening to our humanity.

How do we look at difference and diversity? Do we value differences as a variety of personalities and identity aspects, values included?  Do we see difference as a resource and richness? Or are we afraid of difference because it is something unknown, difficult to be accepted, something we cannot control?

Immigration…or migration? The passage of people from one location to another that has a strong connection with historical aspects of our global humanity even going back to the Romans, the Etruscans, is a current aspect of our society today. Why is it too often seen from a negative point of view? Something that provokes disturbance, discomfort, intolerance, what are we missing? Instead, aren’t immigrants important for us because integration means growth and knowledge? Doesn’t it mean compromise and enrichment too?

Compassion, empathy, is seen as a common pain, a commiseration, a motion of the soul that makes us feel the pain of others, and creates within us the desire to alleviate that pain.  What has happened to our compassion?  Where has our empathy gone?

Quite often I wonder about Government strategies based on the belief that isolation is the key of a good life. It is really sad and frustrating. Borders become a protection to keep the problems of others outside. I think that the more we close borders, the more we lose a grasp on reality of life and what is happening in the world; new generations grow up unhealthily.

Leadership of countries who have the power to decide has taken advantage of difficult situations, weak situations; it has taken advantage of poor people without economic and cultural resources and children have suffered.

Do we feel pain regret and remorse for the news that passes under our eyes every day? How much do we allow this pain to enter our hearts and occupy our thoughts? Are our harbors, our borders closed more or less than our hearts?  Are our thoughts, if not completely closed, indifferent or passive?  Why?

I read in my paper that…” during this period of our life there is a kind of war of the rich against the poor.” The article said that… “the poor will win this war, as has always happened in history. For one reason only, because they are biologically stronger; while we Westerners are the weakest population on earth because we are the most technically assisted. We do not have the biological strength and despair sufficient to support such painful enterprises and challenges”. Isn’t this a strong point of view that calls for our attention?

Then the article continued saying that ….” Meanwhile we fill the land with waste that we do not know how to dispose of, and so the warning comes from Gunther Anders:  ‘A humanity that treats the world as a world to be thrown away, will eventually treat itself as a humanity to be thrown away.’”  It seems to me that we have already reached this situation.

And what about solidarity, generosity and democracy?  Doesn’t it seem that the world is ill, that it has a serious almost incurable disease? I am feeling very angry and disconcerted at the turn that things have taken. Within myself I feel a very strong rebellion against aggressive rhetoric and inhumanity.  Could we change this?  Can we encounter situations in different contexts with the strength of reasonableness and humanity and consequently provoke a reaction — positive, flexible, open to change and to cooperation?

It is a bad sign, a horrible sign when children become part of the most dramatic aspects of life and of the tragedies of the world. I think it is always from the weakest, helpless human beings, especially the children, that cruelty and injustice manifest themselves and this is brutal, unacceptable, totally unfair.

The world of the adults has the responsibility to nurture, to raise, to educate children in a broader sense in order to invest in the present and in the future of society.

I think that any Government should raise the level of legality, therefore the level of rights and duties. Any Government should also have the responsibility to raise the level of schooling and education. Do they do it? I would say that I do not think so. They do not do it because it would mean raising children who will become solid citizens with more capacity to think, to have their own opinions, to express their ideas and, consequently, citizens who are less easily maninpulated; they have learned how to think with their heads.

When Governments decide to invest in education, innovative education, children will learn as individuals and group learners, strong from an early age in their competence to analyze what they encounter. They will be opinionated, with a great sense of justice and respect also for the opinions of the others. They will learn the importance of speaking up, of expressing with their creative knowledge and intelligence what they think they understand and what they do not understand. They will learn how to ask questions, request clarifications, and how to seek answers together, negotiating and finding agreements. Imagine all the children of the world regardless of race, religion, age, life conditions having these traits? Imagine adults who value the rights of all humans and understand the deep meaning of Democracy? The world will be different.  It will become a global civilized opinionated community.  Unfortunately and consequently, it is more understandable why Governments might work to keep a status of a general ignorance and to keep the words culture, education, schooling, teacher’s preparation and their meanings outside of the their context of operation.

I do not know where all this will take us, because I think that the world is fearful in this discouraging period of our life. As a consequence of being an Educator my entire life, I feel I have even more responsibility that I had before. I have the responsibility to continue to do my job as best I can:  investing in education, advocating for parents’ participation in the life of the school and in the life of their children, engaging in professional development and supporting research.  All of this is in order to offer children many experiences through which they can learn more about their potentialities, about their capabilities to think, to learn, to express their points of view, to speak up without being passive in the face of injustices in life. If we all as educators feel the same responsibility, I believe that we can make a contribution to a better society. I like to look at all this as a message of hope and optimism toward the future of humanity.

I would like to close my reflections with Loris Malaguzzi’s , the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach , Kohl Prize giving speech. Chicago 1994. Interpreter Lella Gandini

“A secure gulf is always to be found for men, for women, for children. A protected place. A more quiet place. A place where one can think better and more. What would you do all together in this secure gulf? We would think about all what we did and what we didn’t do for ourselves and the children.

 

We would think about the reasons for what we have done which is behind us and which is expected for the future. Then we probably would go out of the protected gulf with our ship with a more strong conscience and awareness of the rights of children. The rights, which the United Nations and UNESCO write for children, are not enough. Children don’t need anymore only laws and offerings. We first of all have to be convinced as adults that children not only have rights, but they also have their own specific culture and they’re capable of producing more culture and they’re capable of constructing their own culture and helping our own culture. And we should think that we have more need of being nostalgic, not so much about the past but more nostalgic about the future. The children expect us in the future where our nostalgia now sees them and I wish they will be all there.”

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