Schools and Universities' mottos are funny things. What is a motto? Does it really matter?

According to Wikipedia:

A motto (derived from the Latin muttum, 'mutter', by way of Italian motto, 'word', 'sentence') is the general motivation or intention of an individual, family, social group or organization. Mottos are usually found predominantly in written form (unlike slogans, which may also be expressed orally), and may stem from long traditions of social foundations, or from significant events, such as a civil war or a revolution.

I have always been fascinated by mottos, they tell the story of a place, they summarise the fabric of it, its aim. I invite my students to create the motto of our courses at the beginning of our journeys together - the motto tells about our intentions and aspirations. We also revisit them at the end of the modules/courses. Have we lived up to them? Or we created something even better?

Behind a motto there can be a whole story to tell, a full pedagogy, the biggest dream, the greatest intention. Below my two favourite mottos to date, and behind each of them there are profound ideas which talk about care and love in education.

I Care – Motto of the School of Barbiana (Tuscany, Italy) where Fr. Lorenzo Milani taught from 1954 to 1967.

The main inspiration for my (Elena's) approach to teaching is the pedagogic work of an Italian pedagogue, Fr. Lorenzo Milani, who promoted social and political change through a pedagogy of care. You can read all about him and his revolutionary work in the linked articles. His work has changed the Italian education system and it has revolutionised the classroom and the country.

On a wall of our school is written in big letters "I care'" It is the untranslatable motto of the best young Americans. "I care, this matters to my heart". It is the exact opposite of the (Italian) fascist motto "Me ne frego – I do not f**ing care". Fr Lorenzo Milani

In keeping with the ‘I Care’ motto, the class did not proceed to the next stage in the learning process until each and every pupil mastered the last one.

Rather than fail pupils, the school gave priority to the child who fell backward: However, whoever lacked the basics, who was slow or unmotivated, felt that he was the favourite one. He was welcomed just as you’d welcome the first in class. It seemed as if the school existed solely for him. Until he understood, the others did not move ahead. (Borg, Cardona, and Caruana 2009, 36).

Can we create places like this for our students and ourselves?

In all things, love - Motto of the primary school of my children, St Mary's Primary School, Harborne, Birmingham.

I tell you a story. My children primary school motto is:

Yes, I went out an took a picture for you. It comes from the Latin 'In omnibus, caritas' (St Augustine). This words contain in a nutshell the essential message of how we are to love one another in all things.

What has love got to do with the motto of a school? Initially, I was quite struck that there was nothing about learning, becoming good people, better citizens, etc. But then I thought that was probably the only thing that could help my sons to do all the things above (learning, becoming good people, better citizens, etc.). Back to Barbiana's 'I care' and the pedagogy of care and compassion that underpins it.

What is the role of care and love in the context of education, both at school and University? Why matters having them in a motto?

What would the motto of your school or University be? Forget the imposed mottos!
Does your institution have a motto? How would you change it? Post your motto here on Padlet, the motto for our own #dplchange school and University.

Readings embedded in the text above:

1) Peter Mayo (2015) Italian signposts for a sociologically and critically engaged pedagogy. Don Lorenzo Milani (1923–1967) and the schools of San Donato and Barbiana revisited, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36:6, 853-870, DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2013.848781.

2) Almudena A. Navas Saurin (2015) Promoting Social and Political Change Through Pedagogy: Lorenzo Milani and the Barbiana School (Italy 1954–1967). In Pedagogies and Curriculums to (Re)imagine Public Education pp 113-126.

3) Borg, C., M. Cardona, and S. Caruana (2009). Letter to a Teacher. Lorenzo Milani’s Contribution to Critical Citizenship. Malta: Agenda.

4) Robin Pendoley, The Essential Role of Love in Learning and Teaching. In The age of Awareness

Further reading (post DPL):

1) Peter Mayo, Critical Approaches to Education in the Work of Lorenzo Milani and Paulo Freire, Article in Studies in Philosophy and Education 26(6):525-544 · January 2007.

2) John P. Miller, Love and Compassion: Exploring Their Role in Education. University of Toronto Press (20 Feb. 2018)

~ Read next post in Day 2: Being Human ~

Day 2: Being human (Begin here)

Posted by Naomi de la Tour

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