Chapter 4. Writing as Collective Literacy
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Writing as Collective Literacy
“L’indicibile dei vinti / il dubbio dei vincitori” (The unspeakable of those who have been defeated / the doubt of the winners)
The Barbiana school contributes to the history of critical pedagogy a radical example concerning how to provide a space for “voice and empowerment” (Giroux, 1988b). While the Italian school is still mainly concerned with “learning to read,” the Barbiana school provides effective socioeconomic narratives that reflect a proper ability in “reading to learn” (Smith, 2003).
In the same years that scholars such as Jerome Bruner were enhancing the fundamental role of narrative structures and of constructivist perspectives concerning the process of thinking, the writing of Lorenzo Milani and the writings of his pupils provided concrete and effective examples of how education can strengthen such a process through shared collective efforts. Such efforts always seem to respond with precision to what William Labov (1972) terms the two fundamental components of narrative structure: What happened? Why is it worth telling?
In a letter (quoted by F. Gesualdi and Corzo Toral, 1992, pp. 17–18) dated March 16, 1966, addressed to Ms. Dina Lovato, Lorenzo Milani focuses on the Letter to the Judges (October 18, 1965). He comments to her that
We wrote the “Letter to the Judges” as if we were working to produce a masterpiece. Unfortunately very few people seem to notice it among the...
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