The Memory of an Ideal School: The Work of Don Lorenzo Milani as Represented by Cinema and Television (1963-2012)

Paolo Alfieri, Carlotta Frigerio

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Don Lorenzo Milani (Florence, 1923-1967) was one of the most famous educators and priests in Italy after the Second World. He created innovative schooling experiences for the lower classes. Both evening school of San Donato in Calenzano (1947) and full-time school of Barbiana (1954) devoted attention to pupil’s social and cultural background and they were inspired by an informal approach of teaching, centered on conversations, newspapers reading, conferences and film discussion group. Don Milani`s method was based on the conviction that the improvement of language competences was the main vehicle to promote education, evangelization and young people’s emancipation. One of the most important sources about his belief is Lettera ad una professoressa (1967), a pamphlet against social inequalities in the institution school system of the period, written by Don Milani together with his pupils. A lot of historical and pedagogical studies have analyzed Don Milani’s complex biography and his commitment to education. His life and his work have also been examined by some films – the latest is Don Milani. Il priore di Barbiana, by Andrea e Antonio Fazzi for the Italian State TV RAI (1997) – and documentaries that RAI broadcasted from the Sixties to the Nineties. This paper aims to observe how Don Milani’s school has been depicted by these media productions. In particular, its purpose is to detect: which aspects have been underlined in the different historical contexts; which methodological elements have been highlighted; how his approach to education has been considered as a specimen. DonMilani’s school was unique and absolutely far from Italians’ educational experiences, but his proposal has fed their collective memory with an ideal concept of learning. The films and documentaries about his personality have offered a model the spectators could compare, in a positive or a negative way, with their real school past.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteSchool Memories. New Trends in the History of Education
EditorC. Yanes-Cabrera, J. Meda, A. Viñao
Numero di pagine12
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2017


  • Don Lorenzo Milani
  • Immaterial Historical-School Heritage
  • School Memories


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