Padova. Italy. April 6, 2020. While the Council of Ministers approves the so-called “School Decree”, we publish a contribution of the “Coordinamento Studenti Medi di Padova” that addresses the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in a world of education already largely transformed by neoliberalism.
Originally published by Global Project. Translated by Enough14.
Although they are often misused, education and training do not have the same meaning. Education, which characterizes our school today, is the communication of notions aimed at the student’s integration into the world of labor: didactics are sold to companies, as evidenced in the PCTO (formerly Alternanza Scuola-Lavoro) project. After high school we see ourselves abandoned in a situation of precariousness and in the Gig economy, the economy of “small jobs”, such as those of young people who rush in the evening delivering food to people at home.
We live in an economic system that generates exploitation of land and people and in which we are the final link in the chain. Climate change is a product of this system and will have devastating effects: wars, forced migration, hunger and the dangerous possibility that inequalities in access to resources will lead to nationalist and authoritarian movements and governments. In addition, the alteration of natural balances will pave the way for the spread of new viruses; something that the WHO had already said in 2007. The Corona virus is an example of that. That is why we do not believe that there will be a return to normality after the current health emergency. Is it the normality to which we want to return with people confined on Lesvos, the hundreds of people who die and are exploited every year in the world of labor, the conditions of women in society and climate change?
In the last few months we have seen and experienced the spread of Covid-19 and its immediate effects on the socio-economic system, and we can see its effects in progress: individualism VS common sense, impoverishment VS redistribution of wealth in an equitable form will certainly be two of the many elements that we should and we will be forced to face because they will involve all people; our parents, retired elderly people, the precarious generations in their thirties. The lack of school assemblies, for those who are worried about their future, will affect us.
But let us focus on what happened in school because we do not believe ourselves to be carriers of absolute truths and we want to contribute to what affects us directly. The schools were rightly closed to prevent contagion, today it is a priority to face the health emergency and start again with what will be the new normality.
The Ministry was not able to give clear directives and in fact headmasters, professors and students found themselves in a confused situation, without any kind of disposition on how to deal with the emergency.
This is probably due to the fact that some teachers have voluntarily organized themselves by contacting the students online to try to continue the programs despite the fact that the POF (Piano Offerta Formativa) have been completely skipped due to the impossibility to carry out these activities.
The disorganization meant that professors used different platforms and also relied on private companies such as Google Classroom or Adobe.
Lessons have become even more frontal and less inclusive and class and school assemblies have been suspended, the only official moments of confrontation at school.
On the basis of this data, we would like to make proposals.
Preamble: every point fits into this emergency situation, but it touches on pre-existing contradictions that have drastically exacerbated.
Precisely for this reason the debate and updates of these demands will have to continue beyond the Coronavirus, we should be aware that we should live in a way that takes into account the health, economic and social crises, not addressing them as emergencies but as structural elements of the “new normality”.
1) Promotion for all and suspension of all valuations. We’re students, we’re people, not numbers. We do not want to be given a grade at the end of the quarter as the only evidence of our skills and performative abilities. We demand training in life, we demand dialogue, we demand the ability to build and live a future that is worthy of being called such and we want this to happen within the school walls. A rejection or promotion, a sufficient or insufficient grade should not affect our school life. Red marks or averages counted on an electronic register should not define us. But instead, with the critical sense and maturity that the school should provide us with, we should be able to self-assess ourselves according to our abilities and life paths chosen by us, without imposed standards that we will always be forced to respect even outside the school facilities. An evaluation within a path that can take charge of training us to take conscious responsibility. A chapter should be opened that has historically never been defined and legislated around the discourse on meritocracy and social inequality. We believe that it is an essential element, today more than ever, to deal with social inequality that clearly determines this situation even within schools.
2) We want to have the appropriate means to stay in touch during the closure of schools: everyone must have internet access and the tool to connect to it. Currently the means available to students are unequal due to different economic, social and cultural conditions and this does not allow everyone to be equal in learning. How can we talk about students’ evaluation if they do not have the possibility to start from the same base and develop their knowledge and potential? A first proposal would be to temporarily redistribute school materials to students, now stationary in classes and laboratories. Moreover, we want the data we share not to be the object of profit for private companies, so we need to think about free and similar platforms for all materials. We want to return to discuss and deepen the topic of student welfare even after the emergency, today the central and paradigmatic node of an unequal situation.
3) Let’s rethink the topics: we want training that helps us to understand the crisis (the causes, the consequences, for example, the link between the virus and climate change) and become a basis for the construction of a different world that starts precisely from the change of study programs, aimed at the creation of analytical skills, critical spirit and sense of community for students.
This change must confront the emergency; it must help us to be part of an active and supportive social fabric during these months. It must measure itself with the Coronavirus emergency, but also with all the contradictions that we face in our society and that lead us every day towards a structural crisis (economic, climatic, social). We will use this as an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to make didactics a real student’s measure. To increase dialogue and confrontation, to introduce classes with alternative didactics that aim at our education outside the school walls, that deal with sexuality and affectivity education, environmental education, gender and race discrimination, anthropology and teaching collective and community life. Let us remember that the school must not only be a place of training but first of all a place of growth, of sharing where students not only memorize notions, but above all learn and are educated to feelings such as empathy and passion. Let’s make the school a community space for students, where everyone can learn to respect and appreciate the value of diversity.
4) Let us start: let’s convene immediate class and school assemblies that know how to build these and other proposals in schools and that are the engines of change. Class and school assemblies are not an excuse to “miss class hours”, they are what makes us students active in making decisions about our schools and spaces. In a school that wants us to be silent spectators of other people’s choices, we show that we have a voice, that we still have the ability to think, to unite and to organize. We are students who reject an oppressive and careless school system, we want answers and we want possibilities to co-construct a thought, we are starting again from us, from us being students, from our own future and from our will to build a future that is worthy of being called such.
We are in a time where life is in serious danger. There is no room for small changes, that is not enough. Let us start by opposing and affirming the limits of an economic system that has brought us in this situation today, and starting from education,we think of a world where the needs and the pursuit of happiness are within reach as much as possible for all and everyone.
Be the fuze for change!!!!
Join us and let’s start life with a new perspective, what better time than this in which nothing makes sense anymore and nothing can go back to the way it was before?!
Let’s start from us, let’s start now and do it for all and everyone starting from ourselves: only in this way each of us can be useful, outside of any individualistic logic that keeps us apart.
Coordinamento Studenti Medi di Padova, April 2020.
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