giovedì 28 ottobre 2010

la riforma

The teachers have been a little grumpier this year. Or, at least, the circles under their eyes have deepened. Perhaps the reason is la riforma Gelmini, the reform proposed by education minister Mariastella Gelmini and passed last year by Berlusconi's government. Gelmini began in 2008 to fire teachers, justifying her actions by saying that the school was for instructing, not for insuring jobs. This newest reform has further cut school budgets, reduced hours in certain subjects, cut hours from teacher's pay provided for substituting, and in some cases doubled the size of classes. One of my teachers has told me that this is all an effort to slowly transfer education responsibilities from the public sector to the private one.

For example, four of my third year classes at Cremona have been combined into two mega classes of thirty students. Thirty sixteen-year-olds, corralled together in one room! In my class with Prof. Scafi we divide into two groups as we've always done, but an intimate discussion is a bit daunting even with 15 students.

As a result, strikes have been occurring almost every week. But they're gentle (not in the style of the French, for sure), two times just for the first hour on Friday. Many teachers, confronted with this brevity, come to school anyway even if they agree with the idea of striking. My friend X, a middle school science teacher, told us over dinner that he thought the strikes weren't enough. Non crea abbastanza disagio, it's doesn't cause enough disruption to just skip the first hour. We need to block the schools for a week, keep the kids at home, before the power will feel anything.

Technically, the strikes are for the teachers, not the students, but of course when the kids listen to an announcement that their first hour of lessons can't be guaranteed, they hear, "NO SCHOOL ON FRIDAY!" and disappear for the whole day.

The concept of striking in general is new to me. That even the teenagers can skip school for ideological reasons seems a little tricky. It might be too easy to excuse shirking responsibilities with political motives. But still, people taking any action at all when they want to communicate their frustration with the government is già something I appreciate.

In my lesson about the Declaration of Independence in my other 30-student third year class, I began by asking the students if they had any complaints about how teenagers were treated at the school. They mumbled and a few said no. I asked them if that was the case, why did they go on strike on Friday? More mumbling, a few answered that they disagreed with the reforms. Don't forget to be informed, I told them, when you take action. Maybe they were, they just didn't want to risk explaining in English.

I'm the opposite. I think and inform myself and think and end up going about my day lo stesso. Though Fridays I don't have class, so maybe I was striking by default.

Bonus: This is the education minister on the cover of a right wing news magazine, Panaroma. Welcome to Berlusconi's administration.

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