Interview with Enrico Amiotti

The Enrica Amiotti Foundation today

NOVEMBER 6th 2020

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE DURING THESE PAST YEARS WORKING WITH THE AMIOTTI FOUNDATION?

My commitment to the Amiotti Foundation has been a growing one, which began in 2006, when I was appointed deputy Vice President.  Thanks to this responsibility I decided to make a commitment, first as a part time one and in the last four or five years almost as a full time to this. Foundation,  which has been named  after my aunt Enrica, the “auntie teacher” , pictured behind me. This is an oil painting commissioned by  my uncle Luigi, the founder of F.E.A.

 

Let’s say that I did commit to F.E.A because of a growing interest in the world of education, especially the education of children. I believe that education is a central theme for the civil and political growth of every country and let’s say that the school has been overshadowed too much in recent years, even by the MIUR, which was once called the Ministry of Education:  there has been little emphasis on teacher training lately.

Even now, in times of COVID, what we see is that children are put aside: we are talking about desks with wheels but not about pedagogy.

Because of to my personal experiences, I proposed to concentrate, in agreement with the Board of Directors, on four areas over the last five years, which are: education towards beauty that, if you want in a certain Renaissance or classic manner, it is the fusion, the integration between music and the arts on the one hand and mathematics and science on the other. 

A second area was education for well-being, absolutely for everyone at school, including Faculty and students. It is something we will be focusing-on a lot today and for the next three year period in this era of COVID.

The third area would be education for the commitment to an active citizenship based on which we developed our JUNECO project. It is about ethical and sustainable economics, the theme of project management for children that has given us a lot of satisfaction.  Finally, the fourth area that we are shaping in recent years  is that of education towards sharing therefore the networking of experiences and people who go to school. 

We launched the RINASCIMENTE educational model five years ago and for two years now we have focused on the theme of educating communities, in which the school, in particular the Istituti Comprensivi in Italy, which are present in all Italian municipalities, become a socio-educational centers that connects local associations, local authorities, Foundations but also the entrepreneurial network, especially micro and craft enterprises. 

The cornerstone of this idea of ​​ Comunità Educanti is a methodology called service learning

Basically, it is about helping children and teachers to test and develop their life abilities but also hard skills related to learning content, doing something useful for the community. So with Professor Italo Fiorin,  who, among other things, is perhaps the leading expert in service learning in Italy, we offered courses in this direction that gave us  great satisfaction.

This is what we are doing, we will focus a lot on educating communities, also inspired by the idea of community that had Adriano Olivetti. I , at Olivetti’s,  had my first job and Vice President Lamborghini spent his entire life in our Foundation.

Now we want each of our eighteen C.E.  and the two more we are adding in the province of Cuneo, each one of them very active as comunità educanti, to become a center of competence of a particular teaching method and a particular experience to furthermore spread them to other communities.

What we will be talking about on our conference on December 3rd 2020 is that we will put three, or rather four comunità educanti  in the spotlight. Here I will mention only two: the Tommaseo Institute in Turin will be our hub for Web TV made by children, making them become reporters but also social and environmental activists; then we want this WebTV to be replicated and spread to other comunità educanti and we will select the best of the best contents for RINASCIMENTE TV. The second is in the Convitto di Novara, the FabLab, a digital craft, with 3D printers and more. 

In Loreto Aprutino throughout the hilly area of the province of Pescara, we want to stress a lot the importance of teaching towards the territory, on the territory, for the territory, in close connection, for example, with an association that has presence all over Italy, Coldiretti, therefore also with the theme of well-being, lifestyles, correct nutrition.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FOUNDATION IN THE FUTURE? WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO TAKE IT?

I believe there will be two axes that we are sharing with the entire Board of Directors. The first axis I have already mentioned before, is this the one of comunità educanti. As of today there are eighteen, twenty C.E. maybe and I have a dream, which is that of being able to reach one hundred comunità educanti that will be very active, very present and with a strong impact on the territory by 2030.

The second axis is that of the internationalization, which was one of the first things I have done since I became president last June. 

We have started making agreements with India, Europe, Scandinavia, France, to bring contents related to STEM, awareness and wellbeing at school.

We have a project of which I am very fond of.  It was born from the 50th Anniversary of our Foundation, is called Jubelee Kids. We will launch it shortly.

The first step of it invites children, not only Italian (we are in contact with children‘s schools in South Africa, Vietnam, Estonia), to reflect on what life was like for their peers fifty years ago, in 1970. It was not so long ago, but for children it certainly is, so they have to ask their parents, their grandparents, their teachers to understand how one used to live  back then. For sure there were no personal computers, no smartphones, we ate differently, we played differently, there was a family net and an interpersonal social fabric. 

And then the second step is to make the children think about who they want and can be in fifty years from now, in 2070, when they will be adults, and what kind of life their own children will be able to live.  And so it is a bit of a challenge. 

We want to collect short films, maximum two minutes each, from children from all over Italy and around the world, because we realized that, for example, looking back at 1970, it was a relatively prosperous year for Italy, there have been the  68’s, 69’s protests, also it seemed to be a moment of great imagination in power. But at the same time during the 70’s in South Africa was the year of the greatest revolts against Apartheid, there was the war in Vietnam going on, in Estonia there was the Soviet Union and therefore in these fifty years the geopolitical Atlas has changed a lot. One can only imagine or try to imagine what it could be in fifty years or even only in five years from now. 

This is an awareness exercise that I believe is very useful for everyone, starting with children, and we expect surprises from these children.

IT SEEMS TO ME SO BEAUTIFUL AS AN IDEA AND ALSO AS A PROJECT, DOESN’T IT?
IT ALSO SEEMS QUITE IMPORTANT TO HIGHLIGHT RIGHT NOW THE URGENCY TO WEAVE RELATIONSHIPS AND COMMUNITIES TODAY.

This fabric is fraying, also due to COVID. One sees this distance learning, these children physically distanced. And then there is this unfortunate expression of “social distancing” which should only be a physical distancing but is also becoming a social distancing. We see these children with desks with or without wheels, distant, with masks, it is a very sad thing.

The school is not made up of lessons, of contents, as can happen with distance learning, but it is made above all of socializing and also of play; among other things, our JUNECO project, which allows children to play in small groups on the theme of economy and conscious consumption, of ecology, in theory could not be played now in this era of distancing because ‘children cannot be together, they can’t exchange cards. They can’t even sing. And music is a component of education towards beauty but also to fundamental social skills. Music, the neurosciences tells us, helps to connect the hemispheres of the brain, therefore the creative part and the structured part, but it also helps to connect people. It is a universal language even if it is cultural, and to make music, for example to be in a choir, to be in an orchestra, it is essential to know how to do one’s part well, therefore to be able to sing well, to know how to play one’s instrument well. But listening, listening around means knowing how to listen and knowing how to be part of a group because no good choir, no good orchestra, is made up of soloists and that’s it, who doesn’t  care about the group.

So it is something that is very educational, and it is really a misfortune, I use this word, that music finds less and less space in the Italian school, yet Italy is the homeland of bel canto, opera, and we are losing this tradition.

We will hold thematic seminars on tart, music and conviviality thanks to art.

AFTER RECOVERING THIS COVID SITUATION, WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR ITALY FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF EDUCATION?

In short, we will have to go back to hug one another even more than we did before COVID and we will have to roll up our sleeves and get down to work.

 There will certainly be a very strong economic crisis, so this idea of ​​educating communities should actually educate, they should connect, they should spread and create new skills, not only among children and young people, but also amongst teachers and families. And therefore this education also in entrepreneurship, in the spirit of initiatives, I believe is very important and is a fundamental thing for our comunità educanti and for the schools and classes that we see active.

Through the WebTV we will be able to document both situations of hardship and projects that will have to respond to these needs, to these problems and perhaps to these cries for help, collectively, not only in the school, but as a school open to the territory.

We have also been interested, for some time now, in small schools, and we are also making an agreement with INDIRE which is the body of the Ministry of Education that deals with educational innovations and which has not only the educational avant-gardes with which we already collaborate for service learning but also a branch of small schools .

My aunt Enrica, to whom the Foundation is dedicated, taught for forty-seven years in a small town in the province of Pavia called Albonese, where there was a mixedclass because there were no enough children for five teachers in elementary school, there were only two. They attended from first to fourth grades; for the fifth grade you had to go on foot to Mortara, five kilometers away. There were no school buses at the time.

And the elementary school was the school for most of the population, who were not native Italian speakers because they spoke dialect at home.  These small schools, among other things, in Albonese no longer even exist, children have to go with the school bus to Cilavegna.

Schools are a bit of a stronghold of the civil field in our country, in particular in the Apennines, in the pre-Alps. As early as  the 60’s-70 s ‘there has been a depopulation, a migration towards large centers or the sea shores, and we in the F.E.A. are very attentive to realities of this type. We have a good number of comunità educanti, about half of them located in these peripheral areas.

The peripheries need more than ever to interconnect with neighboring towns and with more dynamic cities.

GREAT! IT SEEMS LIKE A VIABLE FUTURE FULL OF LIGHT, OF HOPE!

Let’s hope that, even in an European context.  If I can say so, my life changed a lot since ten years ago, when I saw a beautiful video that I recommend to everyone by Sir Ken Robinson, whom unfortunately passed away a few weeks ago. He  explained this change of educational paradigms that are needed. This is a worldwide problem. Especially in developed countries, but also in countries that are becoming developed, like India.

There is a tendency to focus on what is measurable, so the cross tests, we talked about music, we talked about lapse key, for example the fourC’s“: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication , which are untestable with multiple choice tests but which are essential for life, not just for academic success.

Well, I believe that all Countries, certainly all the countries of the European Union, have this problem. The United States also has it in a very dramatic way, and apart from some Scandinavian countries such as Finland, where the profession of teacher is highly regarded, as was the profession of teacher at the time of the maestra Enrica, the school must be completely rethought. 

In our small way the F.E.A. wants to be a catalyst of ideas and energy and also of economic resources. We can just imagine how much money is being spend  on face masks and disinfectants and on desks with wheels. We are spending very little, since the 70s and since the 80s  also, we are spending very little on teacher training.

We are a training agency accredited by Miur, we do what we can but it is important that this issue becomes a topic of interest to the public opinion. This is a bit of the challenge that lies ahead of us and we will try to stand up to the task.

We are a training agency accredited by the Miur, we do what we can, but it is important that this issue becomes a topic of interest to all public opinion. This is a bit of the challenge that lies before us and we will try to seize it our best.

IT IS A BEAUTIFUL WAY TO SOW A DIFFERENT FUTURE, A FUTURE THAT COMES BEARING PROMISES

The Foundation premises are located  in via Copernico 1, Milan. 

Coincidentally, for us the Copernican revolution has still to happen, even within the Ministry of Education.  

We ought to put the child at the center of the educational scenario, not the teacher. As well as the sick person must be at the center of the healthcare scenario, or the healthy person must be at the center of the health project. 

And we must act upon the greater good for children. Therefore all those elements, all those laziness, those lack of courage, those lack of competence that hinder the future of our children are truly something that should be chastised in some way, and  in any case removed.

So… LONG LIVE THE CHILDREN!