This essay has been made as assignment in English 2010. A so called "portfolio".
Rarely I have hated something more. I write code, software, not darn essays.

June 16, 2004

What is Education

ďChildren have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselvesĒ ~~ Abbe Dimnet

I was born in Italy, where I spent the first 40 years of my life, then I moved to Utah where I am attending some college. So it is unavoidable that I do some comparisons between the two worlds: different society structure, different habits, works, religions, folkways, and education methods.

The Italian education is organized in 4-5 levels, depending on where you want to arrive: the elementary school; the junior-high, the high school; then there is the university, after which eventually there are the specialization schools for Master or Doctorate.

One, not very important difference, is the length: the elementary school is 5 years and goes since 6 to 10. Statistics say that about a 15 % of the students leave after the 5th elementary. The junior-high is in 3 years: since 11 to 13. These two schools are mandatory, but there was a project of law to extend another 2 years, to 15 years of age. In my personal experience, what I found weird is that in junior-high it is mandatory to study Latin. I had no big troubles, but itís a dead language, for what is useful? I think it should be a studentís choice.

Statistics say that another about 25 % of the students at this point leave the school. The high school may be in 4 or 5 years, and goes since 14 to 17-18. Depending on which kind of graduate college address you want to take later, there are several types of high-schools: with a scientific address, in which the stress is put on Math and Trig; with a classical address in which is teached Greek; then there are the industrial address and a bunch of technical addresses: like IT, electronics, electric, fine arts, carpentry, and so on, still dentistry.

After the high-school another 40% will leave the school. So only about 20% of the Italians have college education.

Then you are ready, or supposed to be, for the university. Here there is the so called short degree, corresponding to the American AS, thatís 2 or 3 years long, depending on the address. After which you can take another 2-3 years for the BS. On the other side there is the normal degree, like Electronic Engineering thatís in 4 years, or Medical School thatís in 5 years, in which you get directly the BS.

Letís talk now on some key differences between the Italian and the American methods.

What in my humble opinion is the main difference is the teaching method: while in Italy you have not so many assignments, or none at all, here in Utah I found myself challenged with loads of work: home assignments, class discussion, quizzes, tests, heavy finals. I like more the American way: itís true that there is more pressure on the student, but itís fruitful, there is a reward, more knowledge comes acquired.

I donít know now but at least 20 years ago, another difference was the semesterí length: the fall semester begins on the end of September, early October and last until May, after which you can give the final, but if you are not ready, you can give the final on any date you choose, still after 6-12 months; and if you donít pass, you can try 3 times, after that you have to retake the class. Then some universities offer summer classes, but not every one.

Another big difference with the US system is that generally talking, taxes are very low, like $450 or less per year, and there is no tuition, being the universities based on state funds.

This is a similarity: after the university if you have time and money, there are schools for Doctorate or Masters.

Just for a matter of country pride, itís amazing to remember that Italy holds the University of Bologna, the oldest in Europe, since 13th century, older than Cambridge or Oxford.

What worked? What didnít?

In my case I sincerely hated - over the Latin - the Philosophy, the Italian and the English classes: a bunch of reading and writing. I am not really a guy of words, I am more in the numbers lines. Gimme some equations, or some computer or programming problems, and you make me a happy person. Over the fact, that with the words is easy to contradict someone, while in scientific fields one has to prove the facts.

Another thing that I disliked was that in some classes there was a lack of care both about teaching and about studentsí progress. I mean in Italy teachers are paid by the state, so some of them just do the minimal effort to keep on the class.

Another thing I noticed that in Italy in many classes there is not a periodical check on the homework. And I remember itís easier to cheat. So due to all these matters, I think the teaching system in U.S.A. is more profitable. I gained more tolerance too. But that was the Italian school in the beginning of the 70ís. Today many things have changed: we have distance learning, internet teaching, new ways to learn.

So for what is worth to go to school? By example to improve education, or to learn better skills in the working field one did choose. Letís say that someone becomes vice-president of a company, if in her resume she had a business school, isnít it a lot better? And isnít one of the purpose of the school to make better persons? And education is useful to fight unemployment.

And there is another big motivation. Letís read a testimony found on internet: ďIím attending Stockton for a few reasons but Iím ultimately going to college for my future. I want to be successful and rich so I can have all the good things in life. I figure since my rock star career went south, Iíll have to hit the books. Iím here at Stockton to attain a degree in business and learn the things I need to become a strong businessman. I enjoy business and want to continue with it for my career. Iíd love to be the CEO of some huge corporation some day. I also want the full college experience partying, girls, partying... College gives me something to keep me going. Without it I feel like my job at the car wash is taking me nowhere. I want to be able to have a family without financial stress and worriesĒ.

Maybe the problem is on another side. While the nation wastes thousands of millions of US $ in useless rumors of wars, in what appears nothing more than an electoral campaign, couldnít such rivers of money used to pay education to who canít afford it? Or to build schools in rural places, or to pay teachers? By example I personally found that tuition for international students is at least scandalous.

So is education worth to have? Absolutely yes, but ...
"Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon ~~ Alexander Pope

So I think itís better that in school, every school, over the manifest teaching, the truth be practiced, so that it come taught, hiddenly or not.

What I mean for truth is to say how the things really are. Like in History by example, where is said that first Crusade went to Israel to free Jerusalem from the Muslims. But what is not said is that the so called Crusaders, as soon as they entered Jerusalem, they murdered with no distinction Muslims, Jews and Christians. So it came out like a legend about the Crusaders, the commonly taught History paints them like patriots or something, while the truth is they were murderers, robbers and homosexuals. Indeed when they came back, king Philippe of France sued them for homosexuality, and seized their goods. This is what I mean to teach the truth. And if the clever reader sees some comparisons with the modern times, she or he is not so far from the truth.

"Educate the heart -- educate the heart. Let us have good men " ~~ Hiram Powers


Vincenzo Maggio