Children at the state

Introduction: I am happy to have attended a nursery school and to have my children attend it. My peers are too, albeit with few, but respectable and motivated, exceptions. Should I therefore rejoice that our government is proposing to make attendance compulsory these days? No, quite the contrary. The news hurt me, as it hurts to witness a disproportionate and gratuitous violence . Because the obligation is violence: in some cases necessary, but nevertheless such. And in the flood of new obligations, fulfilments and sanctions that has been rising in recent years, the plot of a society increasingly violent in its method seems to reveal itself. Which, no longer knowing how to offer, compels. And not knowing how to convince, it imposes. Why, I asked myself, should a service to citizens become a duty? Why must one right deny another right ? Why make hateful and threatening an opportunity for growth well received by all? Why make it an excuse to shorten the leash?

As I sought answers to these questions, my malaise grew. In a tweet of February 16 , the deputy minister for education Anna Ascani explained that "extending the obligation to kindergarten means giving all children and their families more opportunities ". A few days later, the BBC gave notice of '' asylum compulsory over three years, "adding in the title:" today only attended 12% of the children. " In both cases, you don't have to be mischievous to understand that there is a big problem: both in representing an obligation like its opposite (an "opportunity"), and in suggesting its urgency by placing an inapplicable and irrelevant datum alongside it . The "12% of children" is in fact the attendance rate of nursery schools, that is, children up to three years of age, while the kindergartens covered by the proposal are already attended by 92.60% of children in our country , which thus ranks ninth in Europe (source Openpolis ). And you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand that if you prefer to torture logic and statistics instead of exposing the real reasons – shareable or not – of such a drastic choice, those reasons may not be very presentable to the public .

In trying to deepen the genesis and motives of this idea (already introduced two years ago in Macron's France, with the same dialectical fumes), I retrieved another article from the Corriere last spring which illustrated the proposals made by the Treellle association to reform the Italian school system. Before dwelling on the identity of the proposers, I anticipate that in that case the national newspaper explained in other terms the choice to make asylum compulsory. "A compulsory school with early entry (at 3 years)", wrote the journalist, "… would serve not only and not so much to raise families but precisely to reduce the weight of environmental and family constraints ". Oh, here it is. Other than "opportunities" and creative statistics: the problem would be "just" the families, that is, the " weight " of the education they impart to their creatures. A " weight ", that of the values ​​handed down from parents to children, evidently so terrible as to make the State decide to save the children by entrusting them to the care of strangers.


Who is it, what does the Treellle association do ? For some time now the subject of the attention of the researcher Pietro Ratto ( here his comment on the story covered in this article), presents itself on his site as "a real think tank " that "aims to promote quality improvement of education (education, instruction, training) in the various sectors and in the phases in which it is articulated ". Founded in 2001, it is based in Genoa, is chaired by Attilio Oliva , former president of Confindustria and member of several international agencies, and boasts among its advisors and experts important names of journalists, academics and politicians of all sides. The founding members' assembly is a showcase of the gotha Italian industrial-financial: from Fedele Confalonieri (Mediaset) to Luigi Maramotti (Max Mara), from Pietro Marzotto to Marco Tronchetti Provera , coordinated by the secretary Guido Alpa , former teacher and mentor of Giuseppe Conte . Among the supporters we find the Compagnia di San Paolo di Torino and other banks and industrial and banking foundations.

According to Ratto and others , Treellle has for years carried out the role of privileged consultant to the Ministry of Education, to which it would anticipate the objectives and guidelines to be implemented in subsequent reforms. This would be the case, for example, with Law 107/2015 (Renzi's «Good School»), whose innovations, Salvatore Cannavò wrote on the pages of Il Fatto Quotidiano on June 3, 2015, would have been dictated «by the Treellle association, a think thank industrial and Communion and Liberation ». Since, at least in my news, no other institution in Italy has formalized the proposal to make kindergarten compulsory, it is plausible to hypothesize that the current political proponents were inspired by the analyzes and recommendations of the Genoese think tank.

These recommendations can be read in the latest notebook published by the association, number 15 of 2019 signed by Oliva and Antonino Petrolino , in which some proposals are made to reform the national school system because, it is explained in the introduction, «c 'a different school is needed to face the challenges of the 21st century. And time is running out "(page 11). The text does not disappoint. There is everything, absolutely everything, what one would expect to find in a proposal that conforms to the most patinated spirit of the times: the aforementioned turbo-reformist " hurry up" , the act of faith in Europe ("our home natural: less and less a second home and now of necessity is about to become the only possible one ", page 50), the" framework of global competition "(page 13), the meritocracy that however clashes with" strong resistance " obviously from below. "Rooted above all in … union representation" (page 156), the indispensability of a "serious spending review, which reviews all the points from which resources can be obtained" (page 173), the "digital" which must be "for all and ordinary" (p. 186), plus some oddities such as the alleged superiority of the " Protestant school " which, I discover by reading, "was born [?] from the refusal of the priestly teaching: every man is a priest of himself »And therefore« students are not afraid to think independently and to say how they think »(page 112). A bizarre all the more bizarre because the scientific bodies of the association include a large representation of Catholics, including an archbishop and secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Msgr. Vincenzo Zani .

Upstream there is the #facemocome , the awareness of the "socio-cultural delay [of Italy] compared to the more advanced countries" (page 25). By adopting the sources, indicators and samples selected by the authors, we discover that we are last in all : in the rate of schooling, in the "literacy", in the "numeracy", in the "functional skills", in trust in institutions and in other. From these analyzes, on whose rigor someone has expressed more than one perplexity in the past and on whose neutrality the drafters themselves seem to be questioning at some point (p. 164), the "historical backwardness of human capital" (p. 26) of the our country and therefore the urgent need to radically rethink its education system.


The proposal to make school attendance compulsory for everyone from three years, for eight hours a day, is illustrated in chapter 6 and in other passages of the text which confirm beyond doubt the summary of the Corriere reporter, making it appear rather bland euphemism. The measure is presented from the outset as a tool to "promptly remove any negative social conditionings at a stage in which the emotional and cognitive aspects of the individual take shape, starting with language, and its judgment criteria (right, beautiful, true) "(page 21). The "negative social conditionings" are primarily those of Italian families, on which the authors project their idea of ​​the average Italian, so ignorant as to constitute a dangerous example for his own children:

… keep in mind that the adult Italian population (25-64 years) has particularly reduced levels of literacy and numeracy skills: in a third of cases, at the level of functional illiteracy. Leaving children, in such a crucial phase for the development of their future potential, in a culturally deprived context, places them at an initial disadvantage that could never be completely filled (page 94).

The concept is reiterated almost everywhere: "the important thing is that the weight of a disadvantaged environment does not have too much time to mark the personality" (page 127); "The anticipation of schooling and the long time … are designed … also to remove children from the influence of those family environments that, out of ignorance, do not exercise their educational action or do it in a negative way" (page . 128); the long time serves to "maximize the influence of school education and minimize external socio-economic constraints" (page 95). It's still:

When you start schooling at six, the differences induced by the family and social environment of origin have become firmly rooted. Even at the age of three, when kindergarten starts, it is probably late … However problematic it may be, you should take care of the children earlier [!], If possible not later than two years, and immerse them for good part of the day in a training environment that tends to counteract any negative family conditions (page 124).

"Of course," admit the writers of the document, "special attention will be needed to avoid the risks of state indoctrination." But anyway,

those of a conditioning of ignorance, of amoral familism [could it be missing?], of the scarcity of community spirit and sense of the State and, for too many sections of our population, even of the tolerance of the underworld are already now, and for a long time, more serious and concrete (page 128).

How much love, right? Still on the subject of indoctrinations to be avoided, on p. 39 affirm that the school, compared to a past in which it would have been "function of the sovereign state", should have today as its only "purpose the student" rather than to propagandize the political projects of the moment. It therefore intrigues to read among the "new missions" also that of educating to "global citizenship" (page 47). A fresh note follows:

The European Union has favored an economic development that sixty years ago seemed unreachable; it has guaranteed us the longest period of peace in our history, after centuries and centuries in which sovereign states have bled to death with each generation. Already today – and increasingly in the years to come – our young people between the ages of twenty and thirty belong to what is called the Erasmus generation, who grew up without a passport and without borders, who feels at home in Barcelona no less than in London or Berlin, which has given birth to thousands of transnational families. How can you think of going back? above all, while the push of migration pushes us if ever in the opposite direction, towards an ever greater integration with even more diverse peoples and people? (page 50)

As we try to establish the degree to which these thoughts should be placed on the scale of "risks of state indoctrination", let us enjoy the prodigy of a nationalist rhetoric that ceases to be such if the borders of the nation are widened to the continent .


Having reached the end of the reading, I consider the Treellle proposal for a compulsory long-term asylum – leaving out many others on which one could and should dwell – aberrant in the merits and motivations . Because it makes aggression against the freedom of families to educate their offspring not an instrument, but its first and declared aim. Because, in making a service mandatory, it deprives it of the incentives to adapt to the needs of users, while also denying upstream the possibility and value of a plural educational offer. Because it oozes ideological contents (globalism, Europeanism) hidden from an increasingly large part of the population and claims to inculcate them prematurely at all with the explicit intention of correcting, not of serving citizens. Because the delicate and fundamental emotional bond between parents and young children, which would like to be reduced to a few hours a day for everyone, is not worthy of the slightest attention. Because it does not take into consideration the needs of minors who experience kindergarten as an unbearable or traumatic experience, and who would therefore require more modulated paths according to the sensitivity and judgment of the parents.

But also, and worst of all, because it is based on an ostensibly elitist, paternalistic and contemptuous vision of the Italian people and their families. If you accept that on average an entire population is unworthy of raising their children, that is, they cannot even call themselves a proletarian, you agree to be able to strip them of any other less valuable asset: that is, everything .


But yet. Yet something still does not return.

Whoever formulated the proposals in the Notebook insists a lot on the value of equality, "to minimize the burden of a problematic social heritage" and to entrust the school with an equalization function between classes. Mandatory asylum is designed for the weakest: "the effect of such a measure would be all the more positive the more deprived the social and economic environment of departure" (page 124) and, therefore, "they will not earn so much the children of wealthy and educated parents, but those of deprived and socially marginal families will benefit enormously "(p. 169). Put this way, the idea seems to want to balance the extreme elitism of its analyzes with an equally extreme social Jacobinism, where the "wealthy and cultured" should spend less time with their children … to give the children of others a chance . More than dissolving, this paradox, however, clashes with a fundamental problem, an elephant in the room that peeps out of the text in one place, in the footnote on page 94 where we read that "already today, the frequency of age group 3-6 years at kindergartens (public and private) is very close to 100% ». Let's repeat it: already today the attendance of children in kindergartens is very close to 100% .


Even if we want to give all the analyzes and considerations carried out, what need would there be to make mandatory what everyone already does by choice ? It would be like introducing a new crime that no one has ever committed or dreams of committing. This contradiction is all the more enormous as the authors do not attempt to resolve it in their presentation: in the face of long paragraphs with insights, statistical series, full-page histograms and comments to "demonstrate" the backwardness of our country in areas deemed discriminating to educate the offspring, not a single line is spent to qualify the data on the non-attendance of the nursery school and thus give a numerical sense to the advanced proposal. In addition to the bold question, we would have wondered: how many children do not attend today, and why? And how many of them would need them according to the specified "deprivation" criteria? What is the distribution of non-attending students by parents' degree and educational qualifications? How many do not go to kindergarten by choice of families? And how many for material impossibility, because for example sick or lack of structures? And how many because rejected because of missed vaccinations? Only the latter, for example, would touch at least 80,000 units out of just over ninety thousand children out of kindergartens, for any reason.

One wonders if there is even the particular case of a family that is destitute and ignorant and, at the same time, keeps the children at home by choice.

In the Treelllin text there is no answer to the doubt, we do not even try. The initial malaise then becomes restless. If qualifying an obligation as an opportunity makes you laugh, if justifying it by throwing mud on the obliged is unpleasant, not fully justifying it is scary . The image of a theater appears where everyone willingly attends a show, until the actors decide to chain the spectators to the seats and to drag the few, if any, left in the hall into the hall. How can you not think that the script will soon become unpleasant and terrifying? Outside of metaphor, is there another explanation – I sincerely ask readers – that it is not a preliminary measure to prevent parents from removing children from kindergartens when they consider the programs and activities that are expected to be introduced to be unacceptable?

Since this hypothesis is never explicit, its development requires the formulation of other hypotheses that integrate the signals of the times. A first critical area may be suggested by the renewed interest of global institutions in the sexual education of the very young . Already ten years ago the World Health Organization published and disseminated its " Standards for sex education in Europe " where we discover that – guess what – «making sex (and relational) education a compulsory curricular topic is an important aspect for teaching »(page 14, italics added). If "sex education begins at birth [!]" (P. 27), it is not surprising to find a large list of "main topics or minimum standards that must be present in sex education" (p. 36) of the children already in kindergarten age. Let's read some of those designed for the 0-4 age group (pages 38-39, I quote verbatim):

  • basics of human reproduction (where children come from)
  • joy and pleasure in touching your body, early childhood masturbation
  • discovery of one's body and genitals
  • gender roles

In the next period (4-6 years, pages 40-41) the same themes are re-proposed and others are added, such as "consolidating one's gender identity" and " relationships with people of the same sex ". More than the programs, which are generally well structured as they are flattened on the fashions of the moment, what could legitimately alarm and indign a parent is the target to which they are addressed: the children of the nursery and kindergarten, or even in swaddling clothes . If we add to the desire to make the teaching compulsory the obligation to attend the kindergartens where they are taught, it is all too easy to glimpse the cage being set up.

Another possible "hot" area is that of children's psychophysical health. The context is traced by the apparently incomprehensible tendency to lower the age to access examinations and health treatments mainly concerning the sexual sphere and, together, to release them from the consent of the parents with the effect of handing the minors to institutional support figures unrelated to the family. In the catalog of one or both of these cases we find HIV tests today, chemotherapy to stop the development of sexually "confused" twelve-year-olds , abortion and lately also transplants . In recent years , the increase in diagnoses of specific learning disorders (DSA) and the risk of inflicting unjustified stigma on thousands of children by pathologizing passenger delays or simple character traits have been reported . A bill from the past government proposed lowering the age of the first diagnosis to the last year of kindergarten, while it seems that the OECD PISA tests and the INVALSI tests are secretly also arriving in kindergartens: «a device of civilization », Writes Rossella Latempa on Roars ,« which uses the hypocritical rhetoric of preventing discomforts, the well-being of children, early aid and timely interventions to monitor and monitor the development profile of the "in vitro child". Ready to report and correct any discrepancy or slowdown, any surplus or oddity ». Also in this case, with compulsory kindergarten and the contextual obligation to introduce similar procedures (with the aforementioned bill, economic sanctions for defaulting teachers would be required), no parent could subtract their children from unwanted and early interference.

The aforementioned issue of compulsory pediatric vaccinations would also take on another dimension. Today children not in compliance with the vaccination calendar are denied the right to attend kindergarten, but how could they be denied a duty? It is logical to foresee that the medical act – extensible at will and by whim of " independent " government consultants, beyond any democratic controlwould pass from obligatory to compulsory . And that in cases of extreme renitence the wet dream of many would come true, to snatch minors from families because they are guilty of "educational inadequacy" and scholastic escape. Many innocent children would come out disturbed and traumatized for life, it is true. But they should no longer fear chickenpox.


The hypotheses developed so far exceed the letter and certainly also the intentions of the Treellle notebook. But compulsory kindergarten is a container, not a content . It is a device that cannot be abstracted from the historical context nor therefore from the temptation to subject the most receptive and malleable citizens, those in a discriminating age for the subsequent formation of the personality and beliefs, to ideological and sanitary experiments whose indigestibility to a a large section of the population is already inherent in the otherwise unexplained fact of wanting to make them mandatory. Or even in the weakness of the motives administered to the public, all the more unpleasant because they bring together the noble instances of rights, social justice and the well-being of children without a logical necessity.

It would be easy to review the despotic regimes that turned their attention to early childhood to root consensus and train devoted subjects. In today's context, despotism is the drive to make everything mandatory for everyone, while the underlying desire to create "new men" by cultivating them in special social laboratories that interrupt the intergenerational transmission of values ​​and ideas proposes an idea of ​​revolution more than millenary. In the Platonic Republic , Socrates explained that taking children away from families as long as they are "still immune from parental customs" is "the quickest and easiest way to establish" the government of the wise (Book VII). In the following two thousand and four hundred years, many other self-styled scholars have tried the same shortcut as the self-proclaimed scholars of all time, to de-authorize the masses with agile leap, to overcome the old by kidnapping young people and to re-found a society they say better by sowing havoc in the existing one. Without ever collecting anything, if not the pieces of those who have not been able to stop them.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Il Pedante at the URL on Tue, 03 Mar 2020 08:18:31 PST.