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"The hand that rocks the cradle needs to rock the boat."
Here in Reggio Emilia it is the first of a six-day discussion and reflection of the members of the Reggio Children International Network, with the officers and pedagogues of the city's early childhood services.
Karen Callaghan of the Reggio Network in Canada, suddenly recalled this motto of the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, as we discussed the mood of the representatives.
As it turned out, the phrase was very apt for us, as we began to set to. We are all committed to constructing a strong education, which listens to the children - and we are passionate about informing the international community, politicians, parents, educators, all. It is a pedagogy of hope, as Claudia Giudici, President of Reggio Children reminded us, with this phrase of Paolo Freire's.
Nando Rinaldi, the new president of the Institute of Schools and Preschools of Reggio, said thoughtfully and determinedly, "'knowledge' grows - it is not static or academic, it needs to be lived, it depends on all our participation."
Stubborn and Resolute
Loris Malaguzzi was stubborn and resolute in his vision, Claudia said -a typical person of Reggio Emilia. And in this room of 33 representatives, from 22 countries, there was much of this, We are ready not only to rock the 'boat', but to figure out how to build new ones.
Today many parents in the UK, particularly in England, are standing up in support of 'the joy of learning for learning' and against the persistent drive to turn schools into places of test-driven instruction. This is a genuine grassroots expression, which has created a groundswell where decades and decades of other informed voices have hit brick walls. Well done, and may it shift sands in the political foundations.
No, children do not need testing "in order to ensure that they learn", as some politicians these past few days have repeated. Dear politicians, that is a miserable mindset which damages children – yes high quality education is vital, but some of you are getting in the way. 'This is not ok anymore' to equate 'testing' with high quality. Stop investing in the grindstone; invest in your children, or if you don't have children yourselves, at least have the decency to listen to those who have and - listen to children. It is not hard, and We will All benefit.
Invest in an education which listens to children – you will get your economic value, don't worry about that. But more importantly, you will be investing in decency and humanity.
Today is a good day to share something of the delights and deep learning which it is possible for us to offer to children in our schools today. Here is a celebratory snapshot of children – and their teachers - learning in intensity and joy in some of our recent projects:
After an'amazing' week in Reggio Emilia, the 41 UK participants, amongst the 400 strong international group from 41 countries are taking last-minute time to pack and buy presents for their families, returning with determination, often overwhelming thoughts , questions and also commitments of all kinds.
We have just closed the week, viewing the strong, observant and delicate collection of work from the children of the city of Reggio. They had prepared it as, not only a gift to the city but also a message to the planet:
"Planetary Messages are children's thoughts, questions, dialogues on the world, on the planet."
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