On knowing

by Laura A

This post is really a response to the comments on the last one. It’s about Italian learning and the way things work–or don’t.

First, the schools: I thought some of you, especially teachers and homeschooling moms, might enjoy seeing the syllabi, which are in the following links. The two most challenging types of high school, traditionally, are the liceo classico, which, at least on paper, is a Classical educator’s dream, and the liceo scientifico. If you want to see some of the other types of schools offered, you can find the whole list here.

These syllabi are, naturally, in Italian, but since there are so many cognates and many people know at least some Spanish or French, it’s not that hard to make at least basic sense of them. Scroll past the ginnasio parts and look at the specific lists under classes I, II, and III, which are the last three years.  All Italian high schools follow a five-year syllabus, from the traditional American ninth grade year up to what Americans generally study in the first year of college.

Most interestingly, considering my last post, and the comments, logic is offered in many high schools, as a part of the philosophy syllabus.

And in fact, there is a certain kind of logic to the Italian system. It’s just that there are two different types of it, running counter to one another. The first says that everything should be done rigorously and strictly to reward hard work, encourage fairness, and discourage corruption. The second says that life is just too hard, people will take advantage of the loopholes, and so everyone needs to find ways around for himself and his friends because everyone else is cheating. Then someone passes a new and even stricter set of lawson top of the first set, to close the loopholes. Soon enough people find new loopholes, and everything is back just like it was. After rounds and round of these overlapping laws and workarounds, you get Italy today! (Being a newcomer, I could be wrong, but I don’t I think I’m far off.) There’s even a word for these loophole finders: furbi.

It’s interesting how a whole society can operate under a set of cultural assumptions. Now that I’m here, I realize just how idealistic Americans are. And being American myself, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. But I wonder sometimes if we aren’t changing, and changing fast. And of course, college is one part of the idealism/reform equation that’s on my mind a lot these days.

Just a thought, which I can’t stay on the computer to develop at the moment. But I do appreciate all your comments.  Thanks for the well-wishes, and Happy Easter!