As I walk through This wicked world Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity I ask myself Is all hope lost? Is there only pain and hatred, and misery? And each time I feel like this inside, There's one thing I wanna know: What's so funny 'bout peace love & understanding? (Nick Lowe)
We live in a world where basic life necessities are threatened, many people see their rights violated, betrayed. Terrorist attacks undermine daily life, instilling a progressively higher fear of living - if you become afraid of going to the restaurant, taking the metro, or going to a concert, then you have become afraid of living. Sometimes we feel we are facing a 'struggle' that corrodes our ability to really understand who/what/if we have to defend ourselves from, and how. But it seems fundamentally clear and important to me that despite information and politics that encourage us to feel that we are in a 'war', assuming and instilling a 'defending attitude', we have to keep firm to our values. We must prioritise the constructing of common values and principles through peace and solidarity. As parents or educators, we have the responsibility to resist to any war, take the side of living in peace, and embrace solidarity, equality, and justice.
This beautiful video of the International Centre Loris Malaguzzi shows what 'Peace' means in the words of children. Working to change education gives a chance to stay firm in our ideals and more importantly spread out a message of optimism, a culture based on common rights, respects, empathy, welcoming, and involvement in building a new knowledge of the world around us. These values are the base of an education through which adults and children can create a marvellous understanding of each others and build up a complete humanity where people take care of the 'rights of others', sweeping away the fear of living.
Dr. Jacqui Cousins (educator and founder of Global Children and Eco-Angels) highlights the necessity and importance of listening to children today, in a new article written for Sightlines Initiative. She recalls to us the radical changes that can be made to the attitudes, spirits and well being of very distressed children when we listen to them and remove the unnecessary and damaging pressures.
"Unfortunately we find that current education policy is in such profound opposition to what we fundamentally believe in, in terms of child welfare and development, as to make our continued work in teaching untenable."
A few days ago parents of the Longparish primary school, in Hampshire, have read these lines in the letter that headteacher and deputy head, Alex and Peter Foggo wrote to parents, announcing their resignation. "The excitement, creativity and wonder that we came into teaching to nurture and encourage have been largely driven out by the rote learning of facts", as morally honest course of a profoundly opposition to the recent changes the Government is introducing in UK Schools (Guardian 28-4-17.) Local parents are sad and supportive: "The school is absolutely outstanding. Mrs Foggo has the deepest commitment to the education of children that I've come across in my life. For someone like that to feel that they can no longer run a school is just very worrying" was a typical response.
The 'rote learning of facts' are among the many combined factors which have pushed the couple, who worked in education for more than 50 years together, into this decision.
This an extreme and dramatic personal step for these educators, but can we make sure it adds to the springboard to raise our voice, as parents or educators, in such an important moment. Can the government afford to keep ignoring parents and teachers?
Actions to stand up and say what we think are growing. Everyone can take part:
"All children deserve education which champions their inborn curiosity, intelligence & creativity ..."
Get your candidate to endorse this in public. In the context of the current UK parliamentary election, we are promoting a 'poll to candidates': a simple statement which we (also all constituency parents) can ask All prospective MPs to sign up to:
- download and print the A4 statement (click the link to get it - there are 3 versions, so use the one which prints best for you);
- grab, meet, discuss 'what education can/should be' with her/him;
- get a smiling selfie with you, and the candidate holding the statement;
We will then publicise to the utmost on social media (we're setting this up, so when you email us we'll inform you of the locations.)
Let Our Kids Shine!
Here is a further campaign of Let Our Kids Be Kids: '...send glittery letters and cards to teachers and heads to thank them for helping your child to SHINE, despite the narrowed curriculum they are asked to deliver in order to pass the ridiculous tests.'
What should the parties put in their election manifestos about Education? This is the right moment – a moment in which we risk to lose educators of such calibre as Alex and Peter Foggo – to ask parties to make bold and visionary statements about Education and the wellbeing of our children.
Around fifteen years ago I was in my second year of biological studies at the University. I was in Italy, specifically in Tuscany, a region worldwide known for the splendour of its Renaissance art. At that time, lecturers used to took students to nature observing it for long periods: memories of my ramblings in woods looking for living creatures, from plants to microscopic animals, are still sculptured in my mind. Seeing and studying the multitude of life in all its forms and "in the field" was the guiding experience that brought me to become a biologist with a deep urge to understand biodiversity and work out solutions to preserve it.
This interest took me and my family around Europe, giving us the possibility to live in Germany and now in UK, working with colleagues from all around the world. Meanwhile I became a mother. Facing the responsibility of what education implies, I felt the urgency to re-think the responsibility of each individual in its daily life in a wider perspective and thus the importance of education in our society: we are taking the responsibility to build a sustainable society, if we want our Planet and us to survive.
From my point of view, that of a biologist and a mother, we take care of the Earth as much as we take care of our children and thus education. And the other way around. So, we have the huge duty to educate our children to take care of our Planet and its biodiversity, which sustains us every single day. In other words, we have the responsibility (and the honour!) to facilitate the love that every human being innately has for nature. When during my work I try to work out solutions to communicate awareness of Earth's biodiversity to every people, the light that leads me is ultimately the same that led me many years ago in those woods in Tuscany while I was studying the brimming of life. This light is made in its core by the sense of beauty – the same that probably inspired many Renaissance artists, like Leonardo or Michelangelo!
How do we communicate children caring for the Planet Earth? How do we let children thrive this light? Giving them time and space to nurture and let flourish the sense of beauty that they innately have in a nutshell since they are born: experiencing nature every day, playing in nature, trusting their ability to relate to nature.
Children's innate recognition of beauty and educational work that supports this have been widely studied and enlightened by eminent protagonists of the Reggio experience.