Bringing the school back to its vocation of emancipation and inclusion is possible, with patient and intelligent work.

By Michele Vezzoli

The school is not a wall, but an organism that – together with others – can always be revitalized, and brought back to its vocation of emancipation and inclusion. Of course, to promote change we must equip ourselves with patience and foresight; without forgetting a good level of tactical ability…

On Saturday, January 27, the second Italian Policy Lab was held in Milan, at the Civic Polo Scolastico Manzoni, which welcomed a group of teachers, heads of schools, educators,  journalists.


Offer policy makers lines of inquiry to systematically disseminate an educational approach to conflict in schools.

It is the result 4 pursued by the Erasmus+ project “Arguing at school”: in Italy, Croatia, Malta and Romania the partners of the Consortium will facilitate Policy Labs, meetings aimed at involving policy makers, with the aim of listening, to descend to the level of the concrete field of action, and to realize micro-experiments.


First of all, patience.

The vital world of the Italian school remains shaken by involutive dynamics: it is not sheltered from the fragmentation of the sense of community that affects our society and from competitive individualism.

The image of the school reality that emerged in the meeting can be frustrating, and demotivating.

The tiny observatory of our Policy Lab started from there, from the demotivation: during ’23 10,000 professors have given up their position. Malaise is widespread and touches on several aspects: the predominant organizational culture in the school seems to be top-down, authoritarian, hierarchical, purely administrative and with weak educational leadership in intermediate roles (fruit of reforms not always well thought out, or well succeeded). At work, school workers suffer from increasing levels of anxiety, conflicts that are not managed in an evolutionary way and, upstream, a substantial lack of attention to the relationship. Teachers and managers lack the continuity needed to get out of small cabotage, operational management of the existing.

The result of all this?

The sense of democratic participation in school life, which has positively characterized other cultural seasons in Italy, is fading.

The attractiveness of the school and the “impossible” job of educator is strong reduced, giving rise to dynamics of escape.


But only an inter-subjective reading of the reality of the school can allow to acquire that healthy awareness that change the school is not impossibile: we don’t have to change everything, we don’t have to remove all the cracks of the system, we can fill the cracks with gold – like the practice of Kintsugi, a restoration technique conceived at the end of 1400 by Japanese potters.

Turning the crack in a possibility is hard work, but right where you are willing to work there are things of value: what lasts is worth; and what is worth lasts.


Questions hard to do, but liberating from limited visions.

In fact, how can we conceive of disseminating the school of evolutionary experiences of conflict management, if too many operators fail to know the evolutionary age? How can we promote educational management of the conflict between children, if the organizational culture of the adults living in the school inhibits the conflict?


Yet, our small observatory found some small solutions, maybe only suggestions, more than incontrovertible recipes.

Action is getting out of solitude. Promoting change in an individual way is unprofitable: the first task is to look for travel companions, and to find affinities, inside and outside your school.

We learn to “exploit” external contributions: there are many independent educational agencies, which base their work on serious analyses, which can help school operators to make micro-experiments on conflict, to culturally break the ground, waiting to lay seeds that can take root and bear fruit, when the season comes.

You cannot educate children and young people to experience conflict in an evolutionary way if the adults who live in the school are unable to do so. Sensitizing and training adults is necessarily the first step.

First comes the experience, and then the method. You have to live small experiences of change and then graft on more structured paths.

But the change of people takes time, and that of groups and organizations much more. We do not live on sporadic flames of enthusiasm, but on articulated projects, which must be thought for time, implemented and evaluated on average time horizons. NO to improvisation, YES to the policy of short steps (but looking far).

The dissemination of systematic practices of education to the conflict is concretely made of many meetings and several passages with multiple decision makers. Each of these is a time when it will be possible to accumulate pieces of motivating energy. To do so, however, we must be clear, concise and convincing. It is necessary to present to the decision maker data and successful experiences, precisely calibrated on the the listener. In the society of the show, in which the threshold of attention is minimal, and in a bureaucratic organization standardized to the administrative culture, to start the change our argomentation must be attractive – in other words: intelligent.

Finally, we must be tactical: that is, intercept networks of purpose and objectives that are already present in the school, and place themselves within these frameworks-curriculum-initiatives near to the theme to promote the evolutionary culture of conflict. The privileged issues? Initiatives against bullying, the enhancement of interculture, the national health plan, civic education.


Something small and sustainable has been identified, calibrated on the territorial contexts of the participants in the Policy Lab.

From publishing an article that links the theme of conflict to that of health, to participating in a round table already scheduled on the theme of rules and constitution; from the subministration of a questionnaire to children and adults, to engage with teachers who have participated in the past in training moments on the theme; from involving already existing purpose networks (“Scuole che costruiscono”, “Scuole che promuovono salute”) to participate in regional calls for the opening of psycho-pedagogical offices in the school, but…


The feeling of not being alone.
The declaration of will to continue taking care of our school.
The need to equip ourselves, in the analysis, in the diagnosis and in the modalities of intervention.
Some good leads of investigation.
A few small actions that can be experienced with reasonable effort (and many others that will require consistency, confidence, and a lot of effort).

It may not be enough, but it seems like a good base from which to start.