TO DEVELOP HUMANITY AND CULTURE
MANIFESTO FOR DEMOCRATIC LINGUISTIC EDUCATION
According to this Manifesto, the Movimento di Cooperazione Educativa (MCE) addresses the world of school - teachers, pupils, headmasters, parents - as well as the world of culture and research. Besides it involves people who are responsible for endeavoring cultural growth in countries and at school such as administrators, politicians, professionals and citizens. In particular, those who are concerned about the violent and discriminatory use of language that is being spread. The Movement is also worried about the proposals which aim at solving the problem of widespread linguistic poverty with simplistic, transmissive teaching.
1.Educating for words in order to develop humanity and civil coexistence
We believe that educating people to speak in our multicultural society means taking care of the future and having the vision of a more supportive society we want to build up,
We conceive a peaceful world where humankind undertakes a journey of awareness of different stories, various voices and languages living on the planet.
Since we believe in language as a tool for cultural growth and in the possibility of using the language not as a tool of division, we propose an education for words in order to support ideals of civil coexistence, respectful attitudes, solidarity and hospitality.
We believe that words, which allow us to share experience, thoughts and emotions, sufferings and joy, have a central place in our lives and must have a central position in the school.
We believe that educating for words must be promoted, today, facing the complexity of the present, without denying the conflicts which characterize it and taking charge of them.
However, we do not have to give up humanity and sharing meanings. Democracy can only be based on words and interaction.
Educating for Words to develop critical thinking
Since there is an inseparable link between language and thought - words support thoughts, thoughts can only rely on words to exist and to be conveyed - we believe that the awareness of the use of words and languages is a way of emancipation and a protection from deceiving information.
Since language contributes to communicate social life and to build it up, we believe that educating for words and using words other than those related to superficial ideas, uncritical thinking and ethnocentric attitudes is crucial to simplify the complexity of current reality.
We believe that educating for words can help name subjects, situations, events according to linguistic and conceptual categories based on experience and reflection.
We believe that educating for words can help reveal superficial and tendentious uses of language which can make people accept as normal many attitudes and expressions,
For example it can make one consider some categories of people dangerous, give priority to some citizens who enjoy fundamental rights.
It is a matter of revealing and condemning the deceptive use of words.
It is a matter of considering obvious situations from another perspective.
That is the reason why we believe that a school which educates for thinking must be a school which takes care of words, of their conscious and responsible use, which underlines the need of continuously investigating the meanings. It is a matter of creating attitudes which are free from stereotypes and prejudices.
In this way educating for critical thinking through words becomes the practice of democracy.
Placing language education at the core of the school
We propose that language education is placed at the centre of the school now since social and educational contexts are characterized by different cultures and languages. Educating for words is educating for the art of coexistence.
According to De Saussure’s research, we consider language a complex system of verbal and non-verbal languages. Therefore the teaching practice of the MCE tries to keep in mind this multifaceted aspect of the language, the interrelation and the intertwining among the different communicative/expressive languages, music, art, image, theatre… We believe that choosing this perspective encourages inclusion, enriching and strengthening educational proposals, giving more opportunities to everyone.
Since the language is a transversal skill, we propose that all teachers are responsible for educating for words.
We propose to dedicate all the time available to this type of learning.
It is necessary to have a proper time for dialogue, reading as pleasure and as building up of knowledge. It is essential to find the right time to discuss the meaning of words, and to enjoy the beauty of artistic expressions .
Students need time to perform the linguistic functions of interpreting and transforming the world. The time of thought, as well as the time of walking, the time of growth and the time of breathing have always marked the life of human beings.
In the difficult path of education, we suggest that adults accept the right to grant the use of the language without judgment or negative evaluation.
According to the long experience and research of teachers, educators/educators and linguists, we reject the assertion that the goal of inclusion and the highest development of students’ capacities are incompatible.
We believe that those great goals can be achieved in schools and places which deal with language education, taking small steps every day: building up cooperative school contexts and using appropriate work tools.
WHAT KIND OF SCHOOL CAN EDUCATE FOR WORDS
A listening and dialogue school
A class where there is cooperation and democracy cannot be a class to which the rule of silence applies, in which one's reasons and others' differences are ignored.
We, therefore, consider it essential to recognize and guarantee the right to speak to everyone.
Dialogue and comparison allow mutual knowledge which generates trust and they are the basis of building up knowledge.
We consider oral communication a fundamental aspect of language education, not only a prerequisite for acquiring competence in the written language, but also a fundamental competence in itself to be taken care of in all school grades.
Narrating, arguing, explaining one’s own thought, discussing, speaking in public, sharing experiences and emotions are essential in a cooperative school as they are fundamental in social life.
In every field of knowledge discussion supports the expression of thoughts, stimulates mental processes and the need of asking questions as well as searching for answers.
We also believe that training in dialogue and discussion is essential to develop the ability of assessing and choosing, which are prerequisites for democratic participation.
A Storytelling School
Narrating is a relational activity. The community is composed of shared stories.
Those stories express a plurality of voices, ideas, ways of being and living which characterize us as human beings.
Narration allows to unite the fragmentation of experiences without losing their richness.
Being able to express themselves gives people the power of being protagonists and brings them closer to others. Listening to stories creates relationships and opens them to other worlds and to other experiences.
Storytelling conveys the experience of listening which trains us to build up relationships and to think in silence,
Each story can be told at school: literature, myth, as well as the stories that everyone can share with other students.
Storytelling concerning everyday life is fundamental. It endeavors mutual knowledge and strengthens the identity of the group, showing differences and similarities of every unique human being.
A school where one uses the language to communicate
Words and writing are powerful means which keep human beings in contact with each other.
We believe in a school where words and writing are used to communicate, where they are endeavored and accepted.
The long path towards the ability to use words properly and effectively includes unavoidable mistakes in the learning process. Those mistakes must not be emphasized, but they must be considered
hypothesis and attempts. Otherwise we move away from pursuing the pleasure of communicating with words.
The Freinet pedagogy and the practice of MCE propose some techniques of life that have also a symbolic meaning: the free text, the correspondence, the school journal, the collective writing, the collective correction of the text, the book of the class life . Apart from the different ways in which they can be accomplished and updated, those techniques show us a way to follow in order to give space to the words used to express and to communicate in everyday situations. They also remind us that words, generated by human groups to exchange thoughts and ideas, can be learnt only through exchange and negotiation.
A school which welcomes different languages and language skills
We believe that, in a society characterized by the existence of different cultures and languages, educating for words means educating for the respect of all languages and different competences in the class.
At school everyone has competences in one’s mother tongue, which influences our psychological life, our memories, associations, mental patterns.
Respect for and protection of the different languages mean that no language becomes an obstacle to equality.
The school is also responsible for accepting the difficulties of those who have a less adequate starting language competence.
We know how much the lack of linguistic competence can affect the entire school career in a significant way, creating deep discomfort.
We also know how language competence is connected with physical conditions, with the family and the original social environment.
The result must be commitment in order to make choices in the methodological and didactic fields. We refuse a summative assessment based on the standard results on traditional tests.
We believe in the possibility to favor the increase of linguistic competences for everyone within a context of cooperative work.
We believe that fostering expression and linguistic exchange can help everyone follow the path of education for words and prevent marginalization which generates suffering in those who do not have sufficient resources.
We also believe in the increase in opportunities given by a school where there is a plurality of verbal and non-verbal languages.
The ability to understand and communicate is favored, in a group, by the presence of different languages. The awareness of the structures of one’s own language emerges more easily by comparing similarities and differences among different languages and help
discover potentialities and limits of a
We believe in a school which legitimizes diversity and differences allowing everyone to express themselves, to communicate, to improve their competence and awareness by going through the experience of active citizenship which can create culture and beauty.
A school which considers each language a living structure and a possible research topic.
We do not consider language a static object, a model to be known but a complex, changing reality which influences our minds. It is the common home human beings build and adapt constantly to their needs.
We propose a didactics of languages which is not only focused on learning the code or a model considered unchangeable, but open to research.
We believe that the complexity of languages cannot be faced effectively with linear teaching (based on individual elements –signs, words, phrases, from easy to difficult items). We believe that their multiple aspects should be explored: oral, pragmatic communication, semantics, linguistic structures of phrases and texts, logical connections...- putting the comprehension of the meaning at the centre of the learning process.
We consider inadequate a didactics which emphasizes grammar as teaching rules and definitions detached from texts, supported by non- functional, repetitive exercises.
In the same way, knowing the anatomy of legs does not make us faster in the race, as mentioned in the ‘Ten Rules for democratic language education’.
On the contrary, we consider it essential to work on texts and meanings, to stimulate the comparison of meanings related to words and expressions.
A school supporting the first approach to learning the written language
The approach to the written language, one of the most important stages in life, is a fundamental step for children to enter a new communicative world, which is really different from oral communication.
Children meet a new, powerful means of communication: writing allows them to leaves lasting memories and to communicate beyond the distances of space and time. Reading can open up amazing new worlds reached thanks to the wonderful power of words.
The spontaneous activity of research and exploration of the code begins for everyone in different ways before attending the school. Then it continues for a long time, so we believe that a natural method represents the best approach. It is a method not method which does not provide everyone with the same teaching stages, but facilitates the learning process within a rich context endeavouring group interaction.
A school showing books and the beauty of words
Our education for words should give students all the opportunities and strategies in order to show them the beauty of knowledge and writing in books.
At school students must find books explaining different points of view, stimulating new desire for knowledge, making their own experience of the world more meaningful.
Students must discover the pleasure of reading, to enjoy the richness of cultures, narrative and poetry: powerful evocative of images, experiences, emotions, thoughts.
We believe that it is the fundamental task of the school.
We hope that this Manifesto will help many teachers, who already operate or intend to operate according to the criteria we propose, recognize themselves as part of a large group on the way to a better school,which is inclusive and democratic.
We know the importance of the presence or absence of cultural offers, public spaces designed for meetings, libraries, support for schools activities and all places dedicated to language education.
Finally we cannot ignore the importance of teachers’ role and of the working environment where teachers do not feel isolated or overwhelmed by problems and bureaucracy.
We believe that, when didactic demands do not respect the children’s rights – the right to expression, to be consulted, to participate, not to be discriminated, we have to react with actions of civil disobedience.
Movimento di Cooperazione Educativa
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