An ethical community
On more than one occasion I heard Malaguzzi maintain that even the loveliest school is diminished in educational value if it does not hold participation and relations with families as one of the main values in its philosophy and practice. A different way of thinking considers schools to be the only reference point for education and teachers as the specialists. In this way of thinking, families have a role in the affections and children’s upbringing but, because they lack specialist skills, it is cut off from schools. Instead considering schools as important places of learning but not the only ones leads to considering families as bearers of cultural values that enrich the overall culture of school. Reggio pedagogy has always dedicated a great deal of attention to this aspect, just as it has also taken a great deal of care with its relationship to the city. The strong feeling of suitability of the schools for being public and involving families and citizens has been made clear and evident in various actions intended to bring the importance of education to the attention of many people, in the hope of being able to construct effective participation. It is a very ambitious objective, not easy to bring about and it involved (and continues to involve) all the people working in a school. In the process of building real family participation, the role of school workers is extremely important. Children, parents and grandparents are in contact with them on a daily basis, and there are often strong relationships with affective implications. However, this does not mean that communication between teachers and families is simple; and over recent years the relationship has become more difficult. What are the reasons? Perhaps people have become distant from feelings of social participation; perhaps tensions and tiredness exist; perhaps the massive diffusion of very superficial cultural models is responsible; or increasing numbers of families from other, very different cultures; or maybe communication in school is affected by a lack of relational ability. This is not to say that families are absent from meetings, or that management committee meetings are badly attended. However, in order to get to the point of relationships that go beyond a simple educational nature, in order to have real dialogue, we must satisfy a prerequisite: we must be capable of ‘understanding the system of
symbols of the person we are speaking with, their background values, the culture that supports the position they take’. (Galimberti, 2007). Perhaps our expectations are too ambitious for our real context.