The long view of organization
Much important work has been written and conferences held on the importance of organization as a creative process and not simply as the application or support of efficiency. So I will limit myself to just some personal reflections that purposely avoid complete or deeper discussion of the topic. What I am interested in doing, however, is making some mention of the effects that organization criteria framed by Malaguzzi had on people like myself who were working and continue to work in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia. In a discussion of ‘managerial illusion’, Pier Luigi Celli (1997) writes of how production strategies and programmes in the business world remain distant from real social problems, thus encouraging hyper-simplification of conceptual tools so that these are now no longer capable of interpreting new complexities – making managerial competency poor in the very conflicts which are now critically important. I believe the same reasoning could be applied to schools. Unless the Italian national school system begins to address important issues of teacher training, including attitudes and competencies in communication and the relations that teachers ought to have, and the different social and cultural realities children and their families are part of, if it does not reflect on today’s culture, or invest culturally and financially but continues to be governed by purely financial concerns, then the educational system will be incapable of anticipating and governing change in society and carrying out its important task. What business calls ‘human resources’, in the context of schools are children and teachers – the future of humanity. They have rhythms and times for accumulating knowledge, relations, values, problems and change which make our schools irrelevant and distant from children and their families, having chosen to transmit a static culture, unchanged over time, with too many certainties, few doubts and very little research behind it. Instead, the organization and management of public schooling needs cultural, anthropological, ethical and aesthetic choices, guided by philosophy and long-sighted vision. It needs to draw on the strength and awareness that come from the layering and enrichment acquired through real experience, experience that has itself been the product of experiment and research containing
reflection, discussion and interpretation of contemporary life in the light of trans-disciplinary thinking. It appears to me that the many proposals formulated for schools by different parties following each other into government in Italy have not so far been capable of this approach – or of real change. I believe Malaguzzi took a long view of organization and this has given Reggio schools a very solid organizational base and great resilience. They have a capacity for self-nourishment in theoretical and practical areas that has constituted a wall of defence for resisting and for maintaining high levels of quality even in very difficult times. Perhaps I should mention that owing to personal character and family ‘culture’, I do not very willingly accept rules I do not agree with. This said, I must immediately add that in thirty years of work I never felt this way, for I felt I was working with rules that I clearly perceived to be the ethics of a working group and which supported a large community; I never felt these rules, sometimes stated and sometimes left unsaid, to be a rigid, bureaucratic mesh. Everything was always seeking to maintain a balance between the rights and responsibilities of three components and protagonists in schools – children, staff and families – with a particular concern for children’s rights considering, as Malaguzzi used to say, ‘they have no unions to defend them’.