Many because Milani would not want his

Many philosophers engaged and contributed their philosophical
reflections towards education through numerous approaches, based within the
early childhood education which values critical thinking. Amongst those, we
find Don Lorenzo Milani. Don Lorenzo Milani came from a well to do and highly
educated family; his great grandfather was an internationally known philologist.
Even though he came from a rich family, the money wasn’t of importance to him.
He was sometimes ashamed of it and didn’t want to gloat what he had. The family
chauffer would be made to drop off Milani a distance away from the school gate
because Milani would not want his friends to know that his family owned cars,
as only few existed in the region. From a young age Milani became fully aware
of the social differences of those times. His family background gave him the
confidence to speak his own mind (Mayo, 2007, pp 527). Much to his mother’s
discontent, Milani received his holy confirmation, joined the seminary and
ordained. His priesthood and gospel readings only made him closer to the poor
and brought about feeling of unity and harmony with the oppressed.

Milani wanted to make a difference to the society by changing the
educational system. His first school was in San Donato di Calenzano which was
inhabited by the labour working class and farmers. They would attend classes,
held by Milani, which dealt with a number of subjects that were related to
politics and oppression. He encouraged that for the duration of an entire week,
they would engage in dialogue of a pre-established topic.  Authorities did not agree with Milani’s
educational approach to the school and was therefore exiled. An exile that lead
to the foundation of his school. His past experience thought him pure
encouragement and also a proper curriculum were not given enough importance in
these children’s schools.

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He was deported to Sant’Andrea a Barbiana, where his renowned
educational project unfolded and ever since, was an inspirational to educators.
This was a school for poor children who backed out of public traditional
schools. It started off with only 10 poor students, of ages between 11 and 13.
A school week was sometimes a full week and was made up of a rigid and precise
curriculum of eight hours/day. The curriculum revolved around the children’s
lives. Milani came up with a year-long project all about the children’s
experiences in life and the school traditional system. It was the school focus
to observe and comprehend the problems that the children went through during
their life. These young students came up with want to learn and used natural
and appropriate resources to learn, unlike the traditional public schools. His
pedagogical approach reached out to more than just obtaining knowledge, but it
was one that contributed to a caring society. Therefore, Milani came up with
the motto and poster ‘I CARE’ which has a message relevant to back then and
todays educational system too. He says that there is no education if there is
no care. If you care, then you can learn; a teacher who cares is both a teacher
and a learner. According to Milani, if you can care then you are able to teach.
Teaching and learning can alternate during teaching practice, with care being
their pivot. To understand the context of the children, you have to care
because that’s the way we can understand them and also to build a relationship.
Children will know that you care, so they will open up to you and tell you
about their experiences (Mayo, 2013).

Relating to what was said above, Milani’s moto was the base of his
pedagogy. He wanted the walls to be bare, even though he was in favour of
poster. The walls were bare so that the children would be critical thinkers and
fill them up with their ideas, gifts and questions. A critical thinker is one
who can understand connections between ideas, can reason and can solve
problems. Milani trained the children to be active learners through his group
work and exercises. Metaphorically this base has four pillars; context,
connecting, more, austerity. Each one has its own connotation and explanation
to why Milani chose then for his philosophy of education of Barbiana. Starting
off with ‘context’, he linked it to a grave. His experience at Barbiana started
there and ended there, so to honour that, he bought grave tomb the moment he
arrived. His intentions were to say that he is here to stay. He will live
through the children’s reality and form part of their community. This is
relevant to today, reason being that he is still here to stay, through his
works. His world-renowned work is studied globally and is being applied in
school curriculums and practises. The context is getting to know the children
and their environment and backgrounds. Engaging with each and every student is
one of the main jobs of a teacher according to Milani. This is because you will
understand the child and the children will remember you for doing so and for
remaining with them through their school life. The second pillar links ‘connecting’
to a road. The Mugello region lacked basic resources; the only access to the
school was through fields as the road ended one kilometre away. Therefore,
Milani built a road, physically and metaphorically. The children and Milani
built a road together and this was part of their year-long project because
Milani wanted to teach them that this road will connect them to the outside
world. Metaphorically the road means a connection outwards to traditions,
manners, values and cultures of the outside world. This is the second teaching
that Milani wants us to remember and apply to society. We cannot just think
locally, we must explore the world with the children. Diversity is a global issue
that needs to be tackled with respect and an open mind, therefore, exploration
of different practises and traditions is of paramount to Milani and to
educators of today.

The third pillar links ‘more’ to a pool. The peasant children of the
school never swam in their life as they used to only see fields and greenery.
Milani built a small pool near to school for the children to swim in. They were
all scared but it was a risk-taking activity that Milani wanted the children to
do. His message to us is to push our limits. He wants us to experience more and
engage in risk taking activities. This is relevant today, we cannot spoon-feed
the children and not allow them to try new thing because an outcome could be
injury. The children need to experience life to the full and they mainly do
that during their long hours at school. Therefore, teachers need to give them
that sense of freedom to face new challenges. Milani wanted the children of
back then and wants the children of today to experience more. Lastly, Milani’s
forth pillar is austerity and he linked it to a saint whom he invented. He
studied in arts as a child and it was through his drawings that he became
closer to his faith and priesthood. The saint Milani came up with does not show
his face, this is because the saints face can be anyone one of his students. An
open book covers the face, according to Milani the book symbolises discipline
and the never-ending life to educate. Also, because anyone can read and learn
and therefore, anyone can be a learner especially when they put their mind to
it. Milani disciplined the children at school the same way the students are
disciplined in their farm. To conclude the picture of the saint, he is placed
reading in a field. This field shows us that learning can happen anywhere. All
these detailed drawn in the picture of the saint all relate to Milani’s forth
message to us. He wants us to know that we are all learners, we are all able of
learning something new in any environment. Clearly Milani favours school
outings because the children learn new things from new environments. He
wouldn’t even mind if we taught the children outside of the classroom every
day. This links to the first pillar, the road, because being a learner in new
places can connect us further to the outside world.

Milani based his educational work on the importance of connecting issues
of social differences. ‘Because there is nothing as unjust as trying to create
equality among those who are not equal’ (Borg et al, 2009, p.1555). By social
difference, Milani mainly referred to diversity such as race and social class
which in those times where a current affair. These affairs were often headlined
in media such as newspapers. Since Milani was very independent minded, he
included these topics in this curriculum. He thought that the media served as a
framework for teaching. Reading and critically analysing, and responding
critically to what was said in the media form part of their daily objectives.
The children could voice their opinions and this would serve as a grounding for
the future; heading into life without fear. Another objective in Milani’s
critical curriculum was the importance of the student-teacher relationship. In
this circumstance, older students would teach younger ones. This gave students
a sense of confidence because they were able to pass on knowledge and also help
others. There is a sense of a community in this technique, also the fact that
the elder ones teach the younger ones makes us feel that there is a sense of
order and leadership. In today’s times, this is relevant because his technique
links to group work. Milani was in favour of group work too as he used a
group-writing method when working on the ‘Lettera a una Professoressa’. Group
work involves teamwork and self-effort into creating a final product for others
to analyse and give feedback on. Children would perform with great effort to
receive positive feedback so therefore a sense of community is created. A
community progresses together and in Milani’s times the class would not move
on, even if one person had not understood the concept that was being explained.
To Milani, politics was very important because it talks about the ‘we’, just
like teaching is a community activity. Is it the structure through which we
engage with each other and make decisions which involve everyone and not the
‘self’.

The ‘Lettera a una Professoressa’ was a group writing that tackled the
problem of education in relation to the class-based system and its neglect to
those referred to as oppressed. Eight students wrote this book in anger,
keeping in mind the way they were treated in their past school. The fact that
students wrote this book lead to great changes because they were students and
not teachers or ideologues writing. They critiqued the Italian traditional
school system and exclaimed how the privileged received great care and
importance, while the oppressed were ignored and given up on straight away.
Those who were privileged progressed to a higher education, while the poor were
disheartened and were called failures and drop outs. This did not let them
reach a level of education that the other did, just because they were judged by
a label.  In fact, the book starts off
with a very strong introduction that grabbed the attention of readers who were
educators, part of the government, parents, journalists and critics. The book
starts:

“This book is not written for
teachers, but for parents. It is a call for them to organize. At first sight it
seems written by one boy alone. Actually we, the authors, are eight boys from
the school of Barbiana. Other schoolmates, who are now at work, helped us on
Sundays…”    (Don L. Milani,
1969)

Milani’s pedagogical approach is still applicable in today’s times. He
inspired a re-awakening (Borg, 2017). He wants educators and future educators
to inspire and encourage social justice in education and not to favour those
who are viewed as privileged and capable because we are all capable in whatever
environment. Teachers much aid those who are less skilled because they have to
potential to reach high standards in life. This must be done with care because
with care teachers can connect and understand from what and where the children
are coming from. Milani’s and his student’s writings assist as a substitute to
the current system. An educational system based upon extreme competitive
individuality which included constant testing and standardisation. According to
the letter, examinations should be removed or at least, they should be made
equally fair for all students to be able to answer (Botsford, 1993). This was
said many years ago and is something that should be looked into now as a global
change. Recently, in government schools in Malta, mid-yearly examinations have
been demolished, reason being that they take up precious time in which children
could be learning the syllabus at a more gradual pace. It only rewards the
powerful ones and neglect the ones who are willing to work and achieve goals.
Milani wants us to break this argument of social difference, he wants to fix.
He reminds us of the critical role literacy plays in a student’s life. Language
to Milani can fix the social class problem because it can empower children to
voice their opinions. No one can take the freedom of speech from them. The
current curriculum treats language as any other subject but exposing students
to the language and teaching it appropriately will empower confidence and begin
to settle differences.

Currently the correct educational system is coming into action but it’s
definitely going to need more time to reach a globally correct system. At the
University of Malta, students studying in the faculty of education are learning
all about Don Lorenzo Milani and his pedagogical approach to children, applying
it to the early years and all the way up the higher education. Such changes
will begin to make a difference and a complete will take place to better the
educational way of life. Now, Milani is known as an educator who educated the
poor and who developed methods of a new critical pedagogy, which are revealed
to us through his book ‘Lettera a una Professoressa’. 

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