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Lorenzo Milani, The School of Barbiana and the Struggle for Social Justice


Federico Batini, Peter Mayo and Alessio Surian

This book sheds light on the work of one of the 20 th century’s foremost critical educators, the Italian Lorenzo Milani (1923–1967), on the 90 th anniversary of his birth. It provides an exposition and critical analysis of the ideas contained in his writings, ideas that emerged from his experiences in two Tuscan localities. The work of Milani and the School of Barbiana that he directed provide signposts for a critically and sociologically engaged pedagogy. Important themes include education and class politics; education and imperialism; education and the culture of militarization; the collective dimensions of learning and writing; peer tutoring; critical media literacy; and reading history against the grain. These ideas are analyzed with reference to similar and contrasting ideas by other international educators, scholars and thinkers. As the book argues, Milani’s oeuvre contains important ingredients for a social justice-oriented critical pedagogy. The spirit for this pedagogical approach is captured in the School of Barbiana’s motto ‘I care.’
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Chapter 1. Introduction: Lorenzo Milani’s Relevance to Our Times


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Lorenzo Milani’s Relevance to Our Times

Critical Pedagogy

This year we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the birth of an educator who provides insights for the development of a social justice–oriented education. In his work, and that of his students in two obscure Tuscan localities, we discover many ingredients for a genuine, internationally inspired critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy refers to the movement of educators, learners, and other cultural workers who derive their inspiration primarily from Paulo Freire, but its origins can be traced to the ideas and work of a number of thinkers and educators in North America. An indication of the range of thinkers involved is provided by the electronic site of the Paulo and Nita Freire International Project of Critical Pedagogy.1 We immediately come across the names and profiles of educators such as Henry Giroux, Deborah Britzman, Michael Apple, Ira Shor, bell hooks, Donaldo Macedo, Shirley Steinberg, Joe Kincheloe, Peter McLaren, and Antonia Darder. To these we would add, remaining within the North American fold, the recently deceased Roger I. Simon and Paula Allman (Allman was a U.S. citizen, originally from Chicago, but spent most of her academic life in Nottingham, England). Among the historical figures who have provided inspiration, we come across John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Antonio Gramsci, Lev Vygotsky, W. E. B. Du Bois, and, more recently, the Basque ← 1 | 2 → educator Jesus “Pato” Gomez. Here the range of figures becomes truly...

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