In the first issue of Educazione Aperta (La Nuova Italia, 1967) Aldo Capitini noted the diffusion of the adjective "open" in several fields: among others, he recorded "open school" (the title of a Visalberghi book from 1960), "open method", "open Europe", "open politics", "open world", "open Marxism", "open nove" and "open work". It was the eve of the ‘68 movement, in which Capitini would not be present (he died that year): openness is certainly among the key concepts for understanding that cultural, social and political period. It was a period that profoundly impacted the world of education and the school, including the denunciation of class-based dynamics (the Lettera a una professoressa from the Barbiana School also dates back to ‘67) and authoritarianism, as well as the experimental research of new directions.
Almost fifty years later, not much of those ‘openings’ seems to remain, to the extent that the concept of ‘closure’ could effectively characterize the years we are living. Overcome by the economic crisis, by fundamentalism and terrorism, by uncontrollable and widespread fear at all levels, the society is increasingly closing in on itself. The open Europe of ‘67 became a closed continent, even physically, erecting barriers and barbed wire to reject the refugees who tried to reach it and were instead often drowned at sea. Identitarian, nationalist, and xenophobic movements flourish in this period. While communication becomes easy on a global level, thanks to the Internet (an instrument that in Capitini’s time would have been difficult to even imagine), on the other hand, effective exchange, dialogue and understanding among different peoples and cultures become increasingly difficult. Globalization is the worldwide imposition of the occidental model of development, with its violence and exploitation, rather than authentic exchange and dialogue.
The world of school and education also appears incapable of being the vanguard of society: more and more the ‘68 era is accused of being at the origin of a degeneration of the educational institution. It is a school without a strong identity, which fails in guiding a rapidly changing society, in front of which it appears stunned. Significantly, the change takes the form of technological innovation: however, it is a pseudo-change because even if it formally includes new tools, the old transmissive dynamics remain. Indeed, change does not become an opportunity for renewal, that is, for the realization of a teaching philosophy based on relationships and circularity. So, even if Interactive Multimedia Whiteboards appear in schools, the centre of the lessons remains firmly in a framework of tradition that is as reassuring as it is utopian, reiterated now by Mastrocola, now by Recalcati. The change needed is different: schools require to move within a new professional awareness in the sense of culture, knowledge, and education, as imagined in the best Faculties of Education and the best specialization schools (named today: TFA) in the country.
For Capitini, the concept of openness was not the deference of a mere trend. It appeared in his early writings, from ‘37: it was one of the conceptual levers - philosophical, ethical, existential - used to contrast fascism with its numerous, terrible closures. What did he mean by openness? He wrote: “openness is the disposition to establish relations with others and with the other, of not setting absolute conditions, of not presenting exclusively one’s own self, of facilitating the widest movement, the most varied encounter, the dialectic between different, the addition of the new, the intersubjectivity’. For Capitini, openness is: ‘not to remain in an exclusive position, but to open up the possibility of welcoming others and other, even totally different; not to remain in prejudices, but to accept suggestions and critical as well as renewing initiatives; not to remain in the enjoyment of privileges, but to make possible the use of resources to a larger number of people; not to preserve the power of all, but to extend it to the participation of many and all…” (pp. 41-42). Underlying all these openings is the openness to the ‘you’, the profound, undefended encounter with the other, the renunciation of the ego position that reduces the other to a thing, the search for something more radical than the dialogue in itself: the strong relationship, free of violence and domination.
‘Old stuff’, one might say. Outdated stuff. It’s hard to argue with that. It is old and outdated, but necessary. It is necessary precisely because it is out of date. Today, being contemporary means using the slogans of neo-liberalism, doing the education that the labour market needs, convincing oneself that one is in the best of all possible worlds and giving up thinking about a different society.
By launching a new Journal in the wake of the Educazione Democratica experience, we are resuming the proposal of an open and critical education because we believe that it can and must today indicate a direction, mark a commitment.
This commitment is characterized by a critique of neo-liberal policies and strategies in education. In particular, an ‘educational’ model based on the accumulation of credits, competencies, and skills to be spent in the labour market, which then, in reality, does not correspond to students’ expectations. Criteria of merit, of incentives that correspond to corporate models and that have nothing to do with a relational and social perspective of education. This model deteriorates human relations, effective participation and what we call ‘open education’. It is not only us who advocate this, but we draw on studies and reflections that come from the field of critical pedagogy and refer to Henry Giroux, Peter Mc Laren, Grant Banfield, Dave Hill among others. These authors can dialogue with the Italian pedagogy of nonviolence (Aldo Capitini, Danilo Dolci, Lorenzo Milani, Lanza del Vasto), the international pedagogy (Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh...), Paulo Freire's popular education, Antonio Gramsci's philosophy of praxis, the broad field of humanist Marxism (Sartre, Memmi, Fanon), the Latin American philosophy of liberation (Dussel).
The field of critical pedagogy is expanding considerably as the effects of neo-liberal policies are increasingly destructive, thus alternatives must be created.
We believe that working for alternatives and building an open and critical education means:
- Rethinking, once again, the educational relationship. Never before have the authority and authority itself of teachers and those who generally do education been called into question. Nowadays, the authority and authoritativeness of teachers and educational workers, in general, have been strongly questioned. For many this is a reason to regret the old structures, claiming lost authority. Instead, we believe that there is in this crisis the possibility of rediscovering the educational relationship as a fully human relationship, free from hypocrisy and submission, fear and threat. The central question of open education is: how is it possible for human beings to meet and communicate profoundly? Because education happens where there is this depth.
- Consider society as a circle that always opens up to welcome those who remain on the margins. Open education protests against all forms of exclusion, marginalization, and diminution; it constantly moves towards the peripheries, the margins, and the dark areas. Since the neo-liberal system is, by its very essence, a system that favours the well-being of the few at the cost of the malaise of the many, open education is a critical education that combats the insidious introduction of neo-liberal practices and logic into the world of school and education.
- Placing the problems of violence, power and domination at the centre of educational and political reflection. To seek a society in which power is distributed and to combat the culture of violence, oppression, weapons and death.
- Placing oneself in an intercultural perspective, seeking a dialogue with other cultures that can only be based on attentive and non-superficial knowledge. Educazione Aperta also considers educational models and the ethical and cultural conceptions that underpin them in African culture, South American culture, and the extraordinary Indian, Chinese and Japanese civilizations.
- Having a non-dogmatic attitude, critical of mainstream conceptions, but also critical of critical positions: always willing to acknowledge the error, to change one's mind, to rethink together.
- To be open to experiments in the educational and social fields, particularly those that promote justice and social change.
- Attempt to think of the possibility of a different relationship, not only based on exploitation, with the world of non-human living beings.
Educazione Aperta began today, but it gathers the experience of Educazione Democratica, a Journal of political pedagogy that came out in 10 issues, from 2011 to 2015, and that aimed to represent a different way of thinking about education and society in Italy. The working group, established as the Comunità di Ricerca Educazione Aperta (Open Education Research Community, CREA), is made up of people with different disciplinary and professional backgrounds, all moved by the same passion and desire for sharing. Being a Research Community represents a further challenge for us: to make the Journal not only a tool for communicating thought, but also and above all a project of comparison, shared research and, why not, a common ground battle. A community that also intends to include readers: the openness of our Journal is also a desire for dialogue and confrontation with those who read what we write. This is why all texts in the Journal are published under a Creative Commons license and can be read for free on the website (www.educazioneaperta.it).