School and education: fundamental pre-requisites for a mature, active and "non-other-directed" citizenship

I gladly share it also with the SGI Community, as well as with all interested Persons

Research paths since 1995 #CitaregliAutori

As always…there are no “reading times”

There can be no digital citizenship (or inclusion) without guaranteeing the pre-requisites and conditions of citizenship, without (at least trying to) guarantee the equality of the starting conditions, the absence of which also makes all talk of meritocracy pure rhetoric.


The objective of this contribution is not so much to underline the close, very close correlation - in my opinion, it is even a causal link - existing between education and quality education (a complex concept that must be dissolved) and there quality of citizenship and of democracy itself; as much as to highlight the strategic role of school and education (1) in the education, preparation and training of citizens, not only aware of their rights, but participating in the common good (civility); (2) in the construction of a full, mature citizenship, based on relationships that are as symmetrical as possible between the State and citizens; (3) in the definition and realization of social, political, economic and cultural conditions – the complex “variables” of our discourse – which in fact enable citizens to exercise their rights and which are pre-existing fundamental (pre)requisites to the issues, equally important, regarding digital citizenship. In extremely simple terms: there can/can be no "digital citizenship" if, first, the minimum conditions of "citizenship" are not guaranteed, which evidently precede, in substance, the others and which represent the most essential of guarantees. At the same time – I reaffirm it forcefully – there cannot/cannot be “true” innovation (social and cultural) without guaranteeing the conditions of an inclusion that cannot be exclusive (the couple inclusiveness vs. exclusivity is back). The school has always played a role of vital importance for democratic regimes and Piero Calamandrei himself, in a historic speech of 1950 (which I remember very often), does not hesitate to even speak of it in terms of "constitutional body": «As you know (all of you will have read our Constitution), in the second part of the Constitution, the one entitled "the organization of the State", those organs are described through which the will of the people is expressed. Those organs through which politics is transformed into law, the vital and healthy struggles of politics are transformed into laws. Now, when it occurs to you to ask yourself what are the constitutional bodies, the answer will come naturally to all of you: they are the Chambers, the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, the President of the Republic, the Judiciary: but it will not occur to you to consider among these organs also the school, which instead is a vital organ of democracy as we conceive it. If a comparison were to be made between the constitutional organism and the human organism, it should be said that the school corresponds to those organs which in the human organism have the function of creating blood [...]. There school, the central organ of democracy, because it serves to solve what we believe is the central problem of democracy: the formation of the ruling class. The formation of the ruling class, not only in the sense of the political class, that is, of that class that sits in Parliament and discusses and speaks (and perhaps shouts) which is at the top of the more properly political bodies, but also the ruling class in the cultural and technical sense : those who are in charge of workshops and companies, who teach, who write, artists, professionals, poets. This is the problem of democracy, the creation of this class, which must not be a hereditary, closed caste, an oligarchy, a church, a clergy, an order. No. In our thought of democracy, the ruling class must be open and always renewed by the upward flow of the best elements of all classes, of all categories». Words so clear and significant that they do not require further comments even with respect to their extraordinary timeliness. Having recognized and accepted (?) the strategic importance of school and education, we must nevertheless ask ourselves a question: can we even only speak of "digital citizens" if we do not first educate/train People to be, in the first place, "citizens"? And the school - I repeat - is really strategic, more than other formal and informal institutions. Certainly, in this delicate phase of change (paradigm shift, sharing economy, knowledge society, etc.), the school assumes a further, as well as delicate, role of accompaniment, mediation, preparation and support for the changes brought about by the digital revolution . This aspect, moreover, cannot be underestimated at all and also brings to the fore the "old", but still topical, question of the training of trainers (on questions and critical issues related to the PNSD and the Law of 13 July 2015, n. 107, reference to an interesting contribution by Giuseppe Corsaro "Digital school plan: treatment actions for digiphobia”)

The importance of socially and culturally "building" the person and the citizen

There social and cultural construction from the Person, before, and of citizen, then, are complex processes that must (should) be activated/triggered/accompanied from the first years of life and that should not be postponed over time: these are fundamental pre-requisites and, at the same time, functional to the attempt to reconstitute /strengthen an extremely weakened social fabric, effectively creating the – we could say – “empirical” conditions to counteract the absence of civic spirit and that ethical void of meaning which, beyond the media representations and related emotional flare-ups, seems to spread more and more, not only among the new generations. The "germs" of the well-known "cultural question" which constitute the real obstacles to the affirmation of true innovation (social and cultural) and more open and inclusive social systems. Questions and problems that have profound implications even in the very conception/planning/definition of any model or practice of citizenship and participation.

As you will have understood, I consider these questions strategic to say the least but, at the same time, I believe it is of fundamental importance to frame them in a more complex and general discourse of rethinking what I have defined as the "new social contract" (2003), not to talk about the very concept of citizenship; a rethinking/reformulation which must lead, in turn, to an operational translation functional to the definition, planning and implementation of educational proposals and strategies. Because this is the crucial level of cultural change that is capable, in the long run, of triggering and accompanying the economic, political, social. And, as I always say, there is no room for improvisation and/or shortcuts: the strategic level is the one concerning educational processes (school, above all else, and other socialization agencies). Why, the question is cultural and concerns, in the first place, education, also in the freedom that entails responsibility! And, in addition to the social, relational, ethical dimension, our young people - from the very first years of school - have an ever greater need to know, live, practice and apply “logic” (in college it's really hard to edit one mindset already structured; eg teach to logically develop/verify arguments); they desperately need (excuse the repetition) of a "method" with which to think, reason, synthesize, give systematicity to the many (too much?) information received (philosophy); of a training in complexity and critical thinking, which precisely trains and educates - almost "trains" - to identify the connections between phenomena and processes, between knowledge and lived lifewhich makes it possible, for example, to critically evaluate the historical-social origins of cultural norms and models, to reflect and distinguish what is "nature" from what is "culture" and the result of convention (a dichotomy that should be overcome once for all!); to recognize diversity and pluralism as fundamental "values" and not as "dangers".

As also written in the past, to achieve such complex objectives, they are needed long-term policies and a grand re-launch of humanistic studies and humanistic training, at all levels (school, university, research, etc.), perhaps trying to overcome once and for all – even if far from simple – what I have called the “false dichotomies” (theory vs. research/practice; scientific training vs. humanities education; knowledge vs. skills; hard skills vs. soft skills); the rest would come almost as a consequence.

Humanities education teaches a think for yourself but, above all, it teaches to think with that of OTHERS, with that of those who have different cultural models. From this point of view, even the acquisition and possession of the so-called technical and digital skills (absolutely important, let's make it clear) would have even more significant repercussions on "well-formed heads", critically trained and curious about the complexity that surrounds them. We urgently need a "new humanism” which puts the Person, his formation and his relationship with the OTHER, at the centre (I also refer to other posts, as well as published essays). At stake are the identity and the subjectivity and, in this perspective, we cannot fail to note the absence of theoretical-interpretative and, more generally, cultural models suitable for the change taking place, as well as the substantial inadequacy of school and university educational-training pathways. By now everyone seems to agree (better late than never!) in exalting the value of critical thinking and an education/training in complexity but, for the moment, the impression is that these are successful formulas and slogans, keywords that cannot be adopted. The problem is that the corresponding actions/strategies are missing, which can only be long-term, also because Politics has always thought of the "short term" and pursues other logics.

Educating in complexity to face the dilemmas of the hyper-complex society

The urgency of an education/training in complexity and critical thinking (logic) is not only a strategic and decisive element for the complex process of construction, social and cultural, of the Person and of the citizen; but it also plays a fundamentally important role in consideration of how rapidly the local and global reference context is changing. Indeed, the evolutionary process of social ecosystems (1996) is progressing towards a redefinition of relational spaces and asymmetries, which brings with it the need for a "new social contract" (2003). Consequentially, a reformulation of thought and knowledge becomes even more urgent (in an open and multidisciplinary key) which must subsequently take the form of educational proposals and strategies functional to the social construction of change. A change which, let us remember, if imposed exclusively from above is (and will always be) an exclusive change, for a few and of a short period. It is necessary to definitively become aware that this is the true strategic "factor" of change and innovation processes: the cultural "factor", a complex variable capable, in the long run, of triggering and accompanying economic, political, social. And, as I always say, there is no room for improvisation… communication campaigns are not enough (necessary, yes), the continuous and incessant use of event marketing, more or less viral campaigns and/or hashtags more or less guessed: the strategic level is the one concerning the educational processes in which the school, above all else, and the other socialization agencies are protagonists (should be).; it is the crucial level where it is possible to build, in addition to "well-formed heads" (critical thinking, systemic thinking, education to complexity), the culture of legality, prevention, responsibility, respect, non-discrimination and determine the conditions socio-cultural for a reduction of the hegemony of individualistic and selfish values, which have significantly contributed to the weakening of the social bond and of the Community, as well as making the so-called "cultural question" "the" question and not one of the questions. But what do we mean when we say that "the question is cultural”? A question that closely concerns thehypersocial complexity and constitutes in fact a indicator (complex) valuable not to be underestimated in the analysis of social systems and theirs resilience to change.

One thing is certain: we are facing one social complexity which escapes traditional control and surveillance devices and which would require, as I have argued several times in the past, a reformulation of thinking and a redefinition of knowledge which should contribute precisely to reducing this complexity, defining, at least, conditions of predictability of behaviors inside and outside organizations and systems: in this sense, Edgar Morin speaks of "reform of thought": «The reform of thought would require a reform of education (primary, secondary, university), which in turn would require a reform of thought. Of course, the democratization of the right to think would require a paradigmatic revolution that would allow a complex thought to reorganize knowledge and connect knowledge today confined to disciplines. […] Thought reform is a key anthropological and historical problem. This implies a mental revolution even more important than the Copernican revolution. Never in the history of humanity have the responsibilities of thought been so enormous. The heart of the tragedy is also in the thought».

The subject, on the other hand, is extremely delicate and difficult to resolve due to the many implications. Certainly we can start from an assumption: as mentioned, there is a close correlation between school/education and a citizenship really active and participatory (we have often talked about it-> as a possibility of one less asymmetric relationship), even more so in social systems, such as ours, characterized by scarce (if not non-existent) vertical social mobility and from one (im)moral familism widespread they still make this strongly corporative society and resilient to (true and profound) change and social innovation. Not by chance, for many years, I have been talking about hegemony of a social model – and cultural – feudal but above all ofasymmetric society (for clarity, I specify that these are concepts and operational definitions proposed by me #CitaregliAutori). In advanced societies (not only), schools, education and training have always represented the only possibility of social redemption and improvement of one's starting social condition; even more could/should be in a rigidly structured society. In short, they are the only ones “social elevators”, by now (unfortunately) almost completely blocked and which, consequently, have no longer performed this vital function of theirs: the crisis of the welfare systems completes an extremely problematic picture which, in making precariousness an existential condition, has led to a weakening of the mechanisms of solidarity, also calling into question the right of people (citizens) to know.


Ethics and morals are not imposed: because it is important to educate and train citizens

In short, in other words, we are thinking not only about the conditions that can make complex processes such as those concerning inclusion and citizenship effective, but also about the opportunity and the need to work, within a systemic perspective and network, on the definition and construction of a “culture of citizenship and inclusion”. The same growth of the country (but of any nation-state), which is a crucial issue that cannot be explained and managed by resorting only to the economistic paradigm (globalization has amply demonstrated this), would derive enormous advantages from it. Our country is marked by a "cultural question" which - I repeat - goes beyond the legal, regulatory and deontological-professional framework and which calls into question the freedom and, with it, the responsibility (relational concepts) of the actors social, individual and collective: civic spirit, citizenship education, a shared ethics and a strong cultural and identity model are fundamental "devices" for the very survival of social and organizational systems. Also, and above all, why ETHICS and MORAL ARE NOT IMPOSED. These are processes that - as mentioned - involve multiple variables and require profiles and skills built in the field. Moreover, these issues do not only concern the issues of inclusion and citizenship: for example, I still think that even "real" prevention is done, built at school and policies are needed (long term). In this line of discourse, I propose some considerations to underline the absolute relevance of the issues concerning education and instruction. For the sake of clarity, I will proceed by points.

  1. Ours is a country with a complex and articulated regulatory and legislative framework: there are many laws (perhaps too many), professional codes, deontological charters, guidelines, systems of formal rules, systems of value and knowledge orientation. Yet these "tools" continue to prove to be a necessary but not sufficient condition precisely because there is a dimension, crucial and founding at the same time, which is that of responsibility: a concept that must absolutely be redefined in a relational key (Dominici, 1998 and following); a dimension that escapes any type of "cage" and/or control system/device, because it pertains to the freedom of People (another discourse to be explored, linked to the theme of emancipation in modernity: the concept of "generative freedom”). And from this point of view, how can one disagree with the definition of “society of individuals”: a society (WE) in which many individuals (exactly) they feel they don't have to answer to any of their acts, much less to a "community" whose ties have been greatly weakened (and, not surprisingly, there are those who speak of end of the social bond). A few years ago, I titled one of my books "The society of irresponsibility” just to connote this critical condition, only partially connected to the economic crisis (or economic indicators): the "cultural question" highlights, once again, not only the crisis of educational institutions, but also the weakness of the old apparatuses and the old logics of control and repression which have never solved the underlying problems; which are always "short-term" strategies (emergency culture vs. prevention culture, at all levels and in all sectors of practice). A country which, bordering on the paradox, is culturally founded on the "principle of irresponsibility" (Dominici 2003 and 2009), as well as on a widespread inconsistency of behavior (I always remember the formula ETHICS vs LABEL); a widespread irresponsibility in all sectors, including those of communication and information, vital to say the least for the quality of democracy itself; a widespread irresponsibility, the true figure of the "cultural question", which legitimizes those who circumvent the laws, rules and even shared social norms (culture of cunning); a widespread irresponsibility that finds its own ecosystem ideal in a historical context and in a cultural climate that always exalt those who prefer thespecial interest to the general one and to the "common good". Think, in this sense, also of the metastasis of corruption which, as the chronicle of recent decades has highlighted, involves not only the so-called. "caste", but broad sectors of civil society that probably continue to believe despite everything that they can have advantages from "caste" itself; an irresponsibility that is also articulated in ethically incorrect behavior and not even attentive to the precautionary principle.
  2. Therefore, a widespread irresponsibility that makes the violation of laws and norms socially acceptable and that also has its roots in a certain "cunning culture" that is sometimes unknowingly elaborated and spread precisely in the places assigned to socialization and education of the person. It thus happens that the solution to the problems, in some ways inevitable (but, evidently, it is not the only way forward), is always the same: the continuous recourse to ever more rigid and stringent laws and regulations: let's be clear, it is many cases of necessary, even fundamental conditions but, as amply demonstrated by the social, political and economic history of not only this country, these are not sufficient conditions/factors. We have to deal with one inherently problematic and complex "nature" of social systems, no longer attributable only to the (significant) categories of risk, uncertainty, vulnerability, liquidity, etc. Add to this that, almost paradoxically, never before has there been discussion (and is still discussing) of ethics and responsibility in all fields of social action (from politics to culture, from information to scientific and technological innovation, etc.). One could simplify this paradox with the "formula": triumph of etiquette over ethics. Country of paradoxes and contradictions (not only on a cultural level): on the one hand, for every "new" problem, new laws, new codes of ethics, new prescriptions, new prohibitions are immediately invoked; on the other, culturally, we consider those same laws, norms, "rules" as an obstacle to our self-affirmation and to our social success/prestige. On the other hand, what often seems to be missing is precisely the consistency of behaviors which, communicatively speaking, would be (is!) much more effective than words and principles explained through more or less politically correct language. It appears evident that we are dealing with a real one "educational emergency" - even if I don't like this word which well represents that culture, still dominant, which knows how to deal with any problem only with exceptional and occasional measures (from safety at work, from health to violence, from forms of discrimination to bullying, from corruption to illegality) – linked to a multiplicity of factors and variables, which have determined a profound transformation of socialization processes and a crisis of the traditional agencies/institutions responsible for the internalisation of values and the formation of personalities/identities (recognition-respect-altruism-civic sense-lived and not suffered/other-directed citizenship).I am referring, in this sense, to the concept of “educational polycentrism” and to the diversification of the range of educational and training offers. This country will not be able to restart without seriously addressing these issues. We are discussing, in other words, the "citizens of tomorrow" who seriously run the risk of continuing to grow and socialize in a culture of cunning, illegality and/or amoral familism (apparently?) dominant: and all this within that famous "feudal" social and cultural model we have spoken of, which has always left little room for vertical social mobility.
  3. The "cultural question", referred to several times here, is linked, as mentioned, also, and above all, to a problem of interruption/crisis of communication between generations (a concept that should be dissolved and developed). However, in this perspective of analysis, we cannot but record how the media (old and new, not to mention social networks) - with the famous "peer group" - Yes communication and knowledge space are literally devoured (?) managed, in the past, by traditional educational and training institutions and agencies.
  4. I can't help but be radical about the social actors and the professional figures involved in the educational and training process, even considering that schools and universities have been heavily penalized by cuts and counter-reforms (excess reformism). There are jobs/professions that should also be done/chosen, and above all, because one feels one vocation and not just for a form of social prestige and/or because they allow perhaps to exercise forms of micropower on others. To take care of of a person (complex concept), teaching, training, sharing and elaborating does not only mean transmitting and/or imparting notions: children, students and, more generally, young people - how to say - are waiting for you at the gate, they observe "how you behave". In short, it is the “facts” that count, not the “words”. "Your" (our) credibility and authority is based on behaviors and their consistency with what we say (a problem that also concerns politics). If you ask for fairness, you must give it first, if you demand respect and a sense of responsibility, you must first of all be respectful of the Other and responsible, etc., even if the relationship is asymmetric because of role and hierarchy. And you can't fake it, not in the long run. This is why certain "roles" and certain "activities" require, in my opinion, awareness, participation, passion, even empathy (in addition to preparation!). It is necessary to "get involved" by focusing on the (effective) inclusion of the OTHER.

Therefore, it is essential to start from education And instructionbut basing them on one redefinition of the "quality" of the relationship between the actors of the training and communication ecosystem – in respect of each other's roles (parent, teacher, lecturer, etc.) – as well as, evidently, on the preparation and on skills. And, in the long run, to do this we need “well made heads” (Montaigne), and not of "full heads", who know organize knowledge inside the new cognitive ecosystem (2005), otherwise it will not be a question of "true" innovation, that is, social and cultural innovation. And, as I wrote a few years ago, it will be there "society of ignorance" And of incompetence (not only digital…): a society built on paradox and, at a cultural level, on a failed and misleading distinction between freedom and equality.

In this sense, we will pay for the substantial inadequacy of our educational-training paths for a long time to come, still designed and built on the short-sighted, as well as disastrous, separation between the "two cultures", the scientific and the humanistic oneboth at the school and university level. On a practical and operational level, I cannot fail to recall the urgency of long-term policies able to trigger and support cultural change and, also in this case, the strategic centrality of school, education and university is beyond question! From this point of view, as regards what I have defined as the "interconnected society", the horizontality and democratic nature of procedures and systems cannot be guaranteed by technology in and of itself, since what makes the difference they are/will always be the human factor and the quality of social relationships and bonds of interdependence, inside and outside social systems; inside and outside complex organizations.


In addressing these questions, care must be taken not to fall into the temptation of simple solutions, deterministic explanations and easy reductionisms. We urgently need explanations and analyzes based on data and research, but we also desperately need a critical theoretical approach to complexity, which puts us in a position to get out of the quicksand of the monocausal determinism but also, on a less demanding level, of a uncritical newness in a way that has led us to convince ourselves, in recent years, that everything was fantastic only because it was "new".

I emphatically reiterate it once again: school and college, education, education and training (continued) they must (should) be placed, concretely (!), at the center of every planning and innovative process (systemic vision); and, in addressing the challenges of citizenship and a “inclusive innovation”, which are the challenges of (hyper)complexity but also of responsibility, it is necessary to be aware «… not only in words and in public discourse – that the future (as we always repeat, the “true” innovation, the social and cultural one) and of who will be able to recompose the fracture between the human and the technological, who will be able to redefine and rethink the complex relationship between natural And artificial; of those who will know how to conjugate (not separate) knowledge And skills; of those who will know how to combine, more, merge the two cultures (humanities and science) both in terms of education and training, and in the definition of professional profiles and skills». In this sense, the urgency is felt to overcome those which, in unsuspecting times, I have defined the «false dichotomies»: theory vs. research/practice; science education vs. humanities training; knowledge vs. skills; hard skills vs. soft skills (precisely in this perspective see, in particular, "European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning – EQF” e Dublin Descriptors, important but little-known references, even in the academic field). Paying attention, also with reference to the issues concerning the school and the university, to the continuous temptations of the short ways, of the simple solutions, from the roads travelled and, for this reason, reassuring that they often hide only economic and power interests, ideological visions made clearly visible, as well as acceptable and shareable, through an incessant activity of promotion and event marketing. This is the definition I've always used: “To innovate means to destabilize”. But it is necessary, first of all, to critically educate and train people to think for themselves (to ask themselves and ask questions, not just being satisfied with the usual answers/solutions) and to see "objects" as "systems"” (and not vice versa)** (cf. also For an inclusive innovation). #Citate the Authors


NB On the state of education in the world and in Italy cf. also the OECD report titled Education at a Glance:


NB Share and reuse the published contents as well but, kindly, always cite the Authors and Sources even when using conceptual categories and related operational definitions. We share knowledge and information, but we try to interrupt the non-virtuous and incorrect "copy and paste" circuit, fed by those who only know how to "use" the work of others. Quotations are made, firstly, for correctness and, secondly, because our work (our intellectual production) is always the result of the work of many "people" who, like US, study and do research, also helping us to be creative and original, directing our working hypotheses.

I always say: the value of sharing overcomes the bitterness of the many improprieties received in recent years. In the contributions that I propose there are the concepts, the studies, the research topics that I have been conducting for twenty years: the value of sharing also becomes a risk, but one must be consistent with the values one believes in. Enjoy the reading!


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