Seminar Video: Children as Architects of their own Education – An insight into Danilo Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics

We hosted this event 12-12.45pm GMT Monday 8th March 2021 (free, online).

The talk examines the application of Danilo Dolci’s Ecological Maieutics in Children’s Education, focusing on Dolci’s practice between 1975 – the year when his Mirto Experimental Educational Centre opened, and 1997. Notwithstanding all the administrative and financial problems it faced, the Mirto Centre, for children from four to fourteen years of age, became a beacon for progressive education in Italy. The Centre came into being in response to the dire situation of the Italian educational system of the day. According to Dolci, schools suffocated children, repressing all creativity, and he objected that they were not healthy environments but places of coercion and authoritarian rule. One severe drawback that schools had, according to Dolci, was their inability to pose “maieutic” questions, a failure to strengthen the natural questioning instinct, from the earliest infancy, in the widest range of contexts. Dolci’s vision for school is of a healthy environment where children can grow and learn, ultimately becoming the architects of their own lives and futures, making the children themselves responsible for their own education. Dolci’s method was drawn from a number of sources and in that sense was not wholly new but we can regard the clarity and persistence with which the method was applied as innovative in and of itself. It was highly effective in harmoniously combining theories from different educators, notably Maria Montessori and Aldo Capitini in Italy, and Rudolf Steiner and Paulo Freire internationally. This educational approach was intended to be constantly discussed and improved, not only by educators themselves but by the children, the educators and the parents together, focusing on creating a relationship between the experience of the Centre itself and other experiences from the childrens’ own world.

An image of Danilo Dolci – used with the kind permission of Sereno Dolci

Bio: Dr Abele Longo is MA Translation Programme Leader at Middlesex University, London. His main research interests encompass perspectives ranging from ecocriticism to environmental education. His publications include: Danilo Dolci – Environmental Education and Empowerment (Springer 2020); ‘Roma, viandanza dell’esilio. Rafael Alberti tradotto da Vittorio Bodini’ in N. di Nunzio and F. Ragni (Eds.) (2014) “Già troppe volte esuli” Letteratura di frontiera e di esilio, Morlacchi Editore, Perugia; ‘The Cinema of Ciprì and Maresco: Kynicism as a Form of Resistance’, in W. Hope (Ed.) (2010) Italian Film Directors in the New Millennium, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge; ‘Subtitling the Italian South’, in J. Díaz-Cintas (Ed.) (2009), New Trends in Audiovisual Translation, Multilingual Matters, Bristol; ‘Palermo in the Films of Ciprì and Maresco’, in R. Lumley and J. Foot (Eds.) (2004) Italian Cityscapes, Culture and Urban Change in Contemporary Italy, Exeter University Press, Exeter.