Monday, November 8, 2010

Protest Alla 1968 Returns To Lucca


Reserved and dignified Lucca City let her hair down during the first weekend of November. The place was teaming with young people dressed in weird and wonderful costumes while attending the comics fair. The population was further swelled by a huge demonstration against education cuts by Maria Stella Gelmini, the minister in charge. Education this year in Italy has undergone a huge reform.

Many courses have been cut and it was a nightmare for us with children ready to enter their first year of ”Superiore”, High school, at 14.  Schools didn’t even know exactly what courses they could offer until after the date we were supposed to register. The Italian solution as always was simple, just to extend the date. If I had still been in London I would have complained to some poor educational official about the stress that was being put on these children while preparing for their final middle school exams. I however have become as fatalistic as a true Italian and just sighed and waited. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe strongly in the importance of education and particularly state education. There are many things written about the Italian system and it is often heavily criticised. However lets not get into that complicated argument now.





The march came after students had occupied many of the “Scuole Superiori”. The fifth year pupils, many of whom are 19, organised the protest. Schools were either occupied, and the protesters slept in the school, or “autogestite”, a lighter option, when the demonstrators allow the teachers to enter and continue lessons. Students who wanted to cross the lines were sometimes harassed a little, but mostly the protests seemed to be held in good part and were carried out very professionally. I was impressed by the activities the older students laid on: there was music, banner making and indeed lectures on the constitution. Younger pupils were helped with homework. Teachers that entered their schools told me that the discipline was exemplary and that at the end of the occupation the schools were left spotless. My first reaction was to be rather shocked but on reflection no one can agree with cuts that affect academic standards and this rather old fashioned form of protest created leaders and a united front while bringing issues that affect education directly into the classroom.







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