This study aims to outline the educational changes that were promoted by the reform of the unified middle school in Italy in 1962, using, as a source, the didactic instruments offered to students: fiction books. Italian historiography has extensively studied the Reform, but without dwelling, if not occasionally, on the publishing strategies that followed it. In particular, I am examining a fiction collection called “Letture per la scuola media” [Readings for the middle school] published by Einaudi from 1965 until 1989. I attempt to show how the collection interpreted the spirit of the reform and in some ways anticipated some instances brought forward by the cultural and social movement of the Sixties and Seventies. After a long debate lasting almost a century, the 1859th law of 1962 which established the institution of the unified middle school, was finally approved by the Italian parliament, and welcomed as a practical realization of democracy. The lesson’s plans put the focus on learning the Italian language and literature: it was mandatory to read a modern fiction book. As might be expected, publishers started to design collections of classic novels, reduced in length, with several footnotes and exercises, in order to help students and also teachers with text comprehension. Einaudi, on the contrary, decided to publish books talking about recent history, which appeared in the market in the first edition for adults only few years before. The absolute innovation was to eliminate the exercises and give students the text only with short footnotes and a brief introduction, made by the author himself. The message was clear: “Read, and that’s all”, as said by one of the editors of the publishing house. The study of the correspondence exchanged between authors and editors preserved in the archives has helped to clarify the reason for Einaudi’s choice. According to him, reflecting the political aspirations of the Italian Left, students needed to know about fascism, antifascism, and the war, to make them understand the value of political participation and actively realise the democratic purpose of the Reform. Einaudi, also, thought that the new students were different and should be treated as adults, guessing the generational conflict that was about to break out. In conclusion, we might say that the collection was an ambitious project, maybe too risky for the times. As a matter of fact, unfortunately, some cuts had been made to the texts. The authors themselves removed from their works those expressions and references, concerning sex and religion in particular, that might have appeared inappropriate to the teachers. Einaudi had to deal with the conservatism of some teachers, but he also intended to give some others instruments to rediscover the social importance of their job, since the reform had left them to outline their lessons with complete autonomy and without guidelines and they had the opportunity challenge the students. This would have had consequences on the political orientation of the teachers during the Seventies and also on Italian culture in general.

“Readings For Middle School”: Lights and Shadows of the 1962 Italian School Reform Through Fiction / Lucia Vigutto. - STAMPA. - (2023), pp. 303-304. (Intervento presentato al convegno Histories of Education and Reform: Traditions, Tensions and Transitions tenutosi a Budapest nel 18–21 luglio 2023).

“Readings For Middle School”: Lights and Shadows of the 1962 Italian School Reform Through Fiction

Lucia Vigutto
2023

Abstract

This study aims to outline the educational changes that were promoted by the reform of the unified middle school in Italy in 1962, using, as a source, the didactic instruments offered to students: fiction books. Italian historiography has extensively studied the Reform, but without dwelling, if not occasionally, on the publishing strategies that followed it. In particular, I am examining a fiction collection called “Letture per la scuola media” [Readings for the middle school] published by Einaudi from 1965 until 1989. I attempt to show how the collection interpreted the spirit of the reform and in some ways anticipated some instances brought forward by the cultural and social movement of the Sixties and Seventies. After a long debate lasting almost a century, the 1859th law of 1962 which established the institution of the unified middle school, was finally approved by the Italian parliament, and welcomed as a practical realization of democracy. The lesson’s plans put the focus on learning the Italian language and literature: it was mandatory to read a modern fiction book. As might be expected, publishers started to design collections of classic novels, reduced in length, with several footnotes and exercises, in order to help students and also teachers with text comprehension. Einaudi, on the contrary, decided to publish books talking about recent history, which appeared in the market in the first edition for adults only few years before. The absolute innovation was to eliminate the exercises and give students the text only with short footnotes and a brief introduction, made by the author himself. The message was clear: “Read, and that’s all”, as said by one of the editors of the publishing house. The study of the correspondence exchanged between authors and editors preserved in the archives has helped to clarify the reason for Einaudi’s choice. According to him, reflecting the political aspirations of the Italian Left, students needed to know about fascism, antifascism, and the war, to make them understand the value of political participation and actively realise the democratic purpose of the Reform. Einaudi, also, thought that the new students were different and should be treated as adults, guessing the generational conflict that was about to break out. In conclusion, we might say that the collection was an ambitious project, maybe too risky for the times. As a matter of fact, unfortunately, some cuts had been made to the texts. The authors themselves removed from their works those expressions and references, concerning sex and religion in particular, that might have appeared inappropriate to the teachers. Einaudi had to deal with the conservatism of some teachers, but he also intended to give some others instruments to rediscover the social importance of their job, since the reform had left them to outline their lessons with complete autonomy and without guidelines and they had the opportunity challenge the students. This would have had consequences on the political orientation of the teachers during the Seventies and also on Italian culture in general.
2023
Histories of education and reform: traditions, tension and transitions
303
304
“Readings For Middle School”: Lights and Shadows of the 1962 Italian School Reform Through Fiction / Lucia Vigutto. - STAMPA. - (2023), pp. 303-304. (Intervento presentato al convegno Histories of Education and Reform: Traditions, Tensions and Transitions tenutosi a Budapest nel 18–21 luglio 2023).
Lucia Vigutto
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/950476
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