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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

1. Retrieved from

Chapter 2

1. The initiative was termed the “Aventine Secession” in memory of the Plebian protest against the Patricians in Ancient Rome.

2. Chemist, poet, philosopher, proficient linguist in six different languages, Lorenzo’s father was a true intellectual. Lorenzo also had an older brother Adriano and a younger sister Elena. His great-grandfather, Domenico Comparetti, was one of the most famous Italian humanists and a well-known linguist in as many as 19 languages, while his grandfather was a well-known archaeologist.

3. His grandmother on his mother’s side was a friend of Italo Svevo, one of the most important Italian writers and novelists of the last century.

4. He was never a model student. He failed his last year of junior high school and was made to resit his exams, having obtained just 3/10 in Italian and 4/10 in Latin. After the family crisis brought on by his lack of success at school he managed to pass his resits but he failed to improve in the first year of senior high school. Incredibly he then decided, as recounted in the text, to skip a year and put his name forward for ← 105 | 106 → the entrance exams to the last year of senior high as a private candidate and succeeded in passing them, moving directly on to the final year. When he turned up to sit the exams his Italian teacher...

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