Saturday, 12 September 2009

Il Paese Sbagliato

Supposing that others might be moved, as I was, by this book is certainly wrong. Though, as I firmly believe in what Fossati* would call "belonging", my premise is that who reads me will be likely to share those thoughts with me.

Reading some of the paragraphs in this wonderful book deeply moved me.

"Il Paese Sbagliato" by Mario Lodi, Publisher Einaudi Editore, Series ET Saggi, 1970 and 1995. The book has been translated in French, English and many other languages, but is currently available in French.

Recognizing all the freshness of those child's thoughts, pure, free of hidden motives is a blow similar to the ones you'd get with lashing ocean's waves: overwhelming and energizing at the same time.

For those who don't know the book, it's a text where Lodi collects a series of episodes and information about what he himself called one of the few "happy islands" in the Italian scholastic outline of those years: the classroom where he taught from 1964 to 1969 in Vho (close to Cremona, Italy). Lodi was, as many other elementary teachers, a member of MCE (Educational Cooperation Movement): the teachers who adhered to the movement, decided to take a distance from traditional pedagogical methods, and to replace them with a new way of teaching that placed kids at the centre of the system. Kids are therefore no longer seen as subjects/objects whom teachers had to impress with notions and rules, on the contrary they were treated as a human beings and free thinkers. As Lodi explains very well, the aim of such a didactic method (inspired by the French Freinet) is the attempt to release men from a supine attitude, making of them autonomous thinkers and therefore independent from dominant logics.

I shall mention one passage of the book for all which, I believe, is still strictly persuasive and modern:

"During World War I, Agostino (ndr. a seventy years old man who was invited to school to tell the story of his life) says that Germans were our enemies, while during World War II at the beginning they were our allied. I don't understand this mess: well who is Italy's enemy?

The conversation brings to the conclusion that Italy's enemy, like any other country's, doesn't exist. On the contrary there are different interests (like oil wells for instance) that are pushing governments to start conquer wars and therefore to "invent" each time the enemy.

[....] (ndr. during the discussion with kids) We slowly get to the atomic days.
- Is it true - asks Angelo, - that a submarine passed below the ice at the North Pole and made half a tour of the world without using any petrol nor coal, but using another thing [energy] that I know they call atomic but I don't know how it works?
- Nuclear energy is the one that freely exhales on the sun. Man was able to reproduce and lock it up, and then to use it.
- Well, nice thing, - exclaims Angelo, - and he made the bomb with it!
Angelo's statement provokes a chain reaction on what man can do with his brain. And on what he can provoke.
- We are in favour of peace, - says Fabio interpreting everybody else's thoughts.
- Otherwise...- adds Angelo, but he stops.
- Otherwise? - I ask him, inviting him to express his thoughts.
- Otherwise that stripe [meaning the line that represents Agostino's lifetime that overlooks those of Italy and of humanity**] ends there and there is no future.
- You are the ones who will write the future, - I tell him.
- Indeed, - says Angelo,- we will make a line that begins there where Agostino's one ends. - Well, you're getting rid of grandpa Agostino, - I tell him, - but I don't believe he is quite ready to close up his book yet.
- Oh all right, - smiles Angelo, - it means that we will make some way together then." page 197

Now I' asking myself which kind of adults those kids have become, if they have kept that honest look on the world, or if they were ensnared by modern life's uselessness, if they too gave in in front of the many temptations and the constant brain washing we are exposed every day? Who knows!

What remains is this important evidence, always topical as I was saying, a moving token that, I hope will never get lost amid the many books out of prints.

*ndr. Ivano Fossati is the most important living musician and song author in Italy, amid the many songs he wrote he translated from French "Le Déserteur" by Boris Vian.

**ndr. upon the teacher's suggestion, kids had made a graphic representation of Agostino's life, they traced on an horizontal line the happenings he had told them, those that had had consequences at national level, when not worldwide, together with some more personal events.

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