Introduction to the International ADi Seminar “In search of lost meaning”

Mimma Siniscalco, president of ADi

A few words to introduce these two days.

To speak of ‘lost meaning’ and school is almost an oxymoron, because few realities make as much profound and intrinsic sense as school.

And yet, in this time, the school – which share the travails of society – is traversed by doubts, uncertainties, unease, fatigue, sometimes dysfunctions, and thus experience moments of disorientation and loss of meaning.

When faced with a crisis, what happens? An instinctive reaction, we have said it many times, is to look ‘backwards’. Hence the nostalgia to which the title of our seminar alludes. Nostalgia for a past considered better… nostalgia for a school that no longer exists, linked to a world that no longer exists.

But today someone says that there is also another form of nostalgia. It is the nostalgia mentioned by Barbara Cassin, of the Académie Française, philologist and philosopher, author of a book on nostalgia, which has also been translated into Italian[1]. Barbara Cassin says that today we are nostalgic for a past in which we believed in the future, that is, we are nostalgic for a past time in which we were convinced that the future would be better than the present, and the formula in which she condenses this thought is ‘Hier, c’etait mieux demain’, that is, ‘Yesterday, tomorrow was better’. It is a nostalgia for the optimism of yesterday.

So, to overcome this tendency, this temptation of nostalgia, and to look forward, we need to reknit the threads of hope, in the definition given by Vaclav Havel, who said that hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but it is the certainty that something has meaning regardless of how it will turn out.

Precisely in order to do this, to cultivate this kind of hope, over these days we want to reflect together on the meaning of school and we will do so from the perspective of teachers, students and knowledge. We will do this through our speakers and also in the moments of exchange between us.

Now, speaking of exchange, it would be nice if we could start with a tout of the table, so that each of us can say what is the meaning of our work in the school and for the school, what motivates us. Unfortunately, we cannot do this, but I propose that we take a moment to think about what motivates me in my work in the school or for the school. What is the deep motivation I have? And then I propose that you turn to your neighbour, and in turn each share in 30 seconds the answer to this question.


So we began this reflection on the meaning of the school system by starting with a fundamental component of that system, which is each one of us.

I now introduce the coordinator of the first session, Giulia Guglielmini. She is the President of the Fondazione per la Scuola, she has taught in primary schools, professional institutes, and universities, she has dealt with learning problems, teaching methodologies, and assessment, and she has been working with highly complex schools for many years.

Before I give Giulia the floor, however, I will tell you one more thing. In these days, a person wrote to me, a person who knows the Italian school deeply. He wrote me: ‘I will be there with interest and curiosity’. It seemed to me a beautiful description of the attitude I wish us all these days.

Good listening, interested and curious!


[1] Barbara Cassin, La nostalgia. Quando dunque si è a casa? Ulisse, Enea, Arendt, Bergamo, Moretti&Vitali, 2015.


The video is in Italian language but you can enable subtitles as indicated below (red underline):

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