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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 3. Lorenzo Milani and the School of Barbiana’s Pedagogical Approach


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Lorenzo Milani and the School of Barbiana’s Pedagogical Approach

Because there is nothing as unjust as trying to create equality among those who are not equal.


Lorenzo Milani has been gaining recognition as a figure who can provide insights for a critical approach to education. He is certainly revered in Southern Europe, especially in his native Italy, for his radical approach to education and schooling in particular. He has gained recognition in the English-speaking world since some of the works he wrote (those concerning his trial and tribulations) and others with which he is strongly associated, such as the Lettera, have been translated into English and have been the subject of some insightful discussions. Three years following its publication in Italian in 1967, the Lettera was published in English translation by the U.S. publishing house Random House. In Britain, the Open University used the Penguin edition of the English version of the Lettera as a text. It was a featured text in a course on Schooling and Society (E 202) that started in 1974.1 In 1988, the University of Indiana Press published J. T. Burtchaell’s A Just War No Longer Exists. The Teaching and Trial of Don Lorenzo Milani, which includes translated versions of the Lettera ai Giudici (Letter to the Judges), the Lettera ai Cappellani (the Letter to the Military Chaplains), and other material ← 50 | 51...

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