Concentrated gaze, bright mind and bold considerations: this is the stereotype of a model student. A model student is someone who decides to put their culture first, who decides to enrich their knowledge, while knowing how to carve out time for family and friends; he is someone who works hard, constantly and honestly, who decides to get involved without looking for shortcuts, who gives his best without giving weight to the goals of others. A model student is someone who cares about what he learns.
Don Milani adopted the untranslatable motto of the best young Americans “I care”, which can be translated into Italian as “Mi importa, ho a cuore”, as opposed to the fascist motto “I don’t care”, which can be translated into Italian as “Me ne frego”. This sentence, written on a sign at the entrance to the Barbiana School, summarized the aims of the education of a school aimed at promoting a form of attentive and respectful concern for the other, urging a civil and social awareness. Schools are unquestionably a platform for drawing close to children and young people. It is a privileged place for the promotion of the person. Some schools seem to be structured only for reasons of self-preservation, in fact schools are in urgent need of self-criticism. But the fear of change makes us entrenched and defensive in the face of the dangers, real or imagined, that any change could bring.
The school thus becomes a “bunker”, which protects its students from errors “from the outside”. As a result of this fear of change, many young people, after graduation, experience an insurmountable separation between what they have been taught and the world in which they live. One of the greatest joys that any teacher can experience is to see a student transform into a strong and well integrated person, someone who is aware of his knowledge and is ready to give and not just to receive, someone who portrays himself in the Socratic saying, “I know I don’t know” and who has a constant desire for knowledge.
Pope Francis, on the occasion of a meeting with students in Bologna, said:
“Today, above all, the right to a good education means protecting wisdom, that is, human and humanizing knowledge. Ulysses, in order not to give in to the song of the sirens who bewitched his sailors and made them crash into the rocks, tied himself to the mast of the ship and made his companions plug their ears. Orpheus, on the other hand, did something else to counteract the siren song: he sang an even more beautiful melody, which enchanted the sirens. Education makes us raise questions, prevents us from being anesthetized by banality, and pushes us to pursue meaning in life.”
What students need are interdisciplinary approaches and the promotion of a culture of encounter, but equally important is the ability to integrate the head and the heart.