The provocation of a high school teacher of Italian: “De Sanctis will forgive us: but what sense does it make with the amount of hours reduced by the Gelmini reform to persist in translating the Promessi Sposi into current Italian”?
Looking for Ariadne’s thread along the main road of relationships between Invalsi data, ministerial policies of the MI divorced from the HM and the Italian school galaxy is like entering a labyrinth, where the walls constantly move without our knowledge. Only a few days ago the data from the Invalsi 2021 survey were presented. A bleak case emerges that accentuates the despair of us teachers on the front line, ready to fight from the trenches of a computer screen, during the first global pandemic of the third millennium: certainly, the DaD was a necessary evil, escaping from Pandora’s box in which the evils of the Italian school have lurked for decades; Covid-19 was the long manus which has uncovered the jar and the “collapse” of learning has been exacerbated by the DOD, which for most of the teachers has meant simplistically “transferring” the traditional transmission lesson into a notionism transmitted electronically.
This preamble is necessary, we come to the still not sufficiently explicit “neo-question of the Italian language”, all in an educational and pedagogical key: the DaD, with the rest of the scholastic frailties, is not the only one responsible for the lack of Italian language skills of today’s adolescents, but such wound, complained by all, must be contextualized in a broader perspective that goes beyond the exegetical “invalsization” of the protean scholastic world. It seems to me at least suggestive and – perhaps – useful to add a further step to the reflection that animates, before closing for the summer holidays, the public debate on the genesis of the phenomenon. Returning to the studies of Walter Ong in the Eighties, in the essay Orality and Literacy (Orality and writing, il Mulino, Bologna 1986), he pointed out that in ancient societies based on orality, the illiterate, due to their form of, had a participatory, intimate, empathic language learning style with the known, while in the transition to an “alphabetic” society, human thought is structured, hierarchized, re-elaborates reality in an analytical way against the intuition of immediacy (Vichian style, I would add). In our society, moreover, we are witnessing the so-called “return functional illiteracy”, that is, a difficulty in adequately using the skills of reading, writing and calculating in everyday situations. From this he warned, during the 1990s and early 2000s, Tullio De Mauro, distinguished linguist and Minister of Education for a year. Was she like Cassandra for our day?
In our hyper-connected society that as such was “saved” in the era of the epidemic, millennials, or digital natives, have an easy time considering writing as an obsolete medium and almost anachronistic, in a world where complexity is virtually trivialized. There is therefore a “social” question of writing in the third millennium, a pedagogical question for us teachers; The numerous laboratories that universities, strongholds of specialized knowledge, organize for freshmen are an indicator of this decay of the competence of written Italian, where thought becomes verbal architecture. Paradoxically, if you want to improve the writing ability of a generation of multiple-choice test series ‘crossers’, you need to make a choice of pragmatism based on intellectual honesty: with a reduced amount of hours of Italian language reduced by the Gelminian reform, what is the use of reading or rather deciphering and translating the “Promessi Sposi” into current Italian, for example, or studying authors of a glorious past for years? Certainly Francesco de Sanctis would turn in the tomb, in a famous song, Venditti could not mistake the father of his beloved for Dante and his brother for Ariosto.
Do we all agree that writing is a necessary core skill? Beyond the provocations, it is necessary to reflect starting from a news item: many aspiring judges, in the competition for the judiciary, have written papers full of spelling blunders and grammatical errors; and therefore we can ask ourselves absurdly: if they are not capable of respecting a linguistic norm, how is it possible that they can “understand” a highly complex text such as a law and write in the Italian language a sentence in the name of the Italian people, which affects concrete life of a citizen? The question is therefore varied and the lesson of language education has not yet brought to maturity its teaching potential, especially in compulsory schooling. It is necessary – it is my invitation starting from the INVALSI data – that we Italian teachers deal more with the teaching of writing, accompanied by a work on the text and for the text, and with a shrewd “politics” of guided novel readings for our pupils. Throughout the course of high school. Dad was a great opportunity to “deviate” from school programs, which no longer exist, to experiment with new forms of knowledge and learning. Reading frees minds, catapult into possible and alternative worlds, makes humanity understand within us. The literature teacher can become a “motivator” for reading, as well as a corrector of themes. Therefore, being aware of it is already a first step to find the way out of this labyrinth. With all due respect to the god Teuth, inventor of the alphabet.
*Professor of Italian and Latin at the Liceo Scientifico Leonardo da Vinci in Milan and lecturer at the University of Milan
July 19, 2021 (change July 19, 2021 | 08:30)
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