Sunday, October 14

Schools In Italy: Showing your team colors

One way to tell whether or not the school has started and teachers or buses are not on strike (a regular feature of scholastic endeavors pretty much anywhere on earth - we'll just call it a lesson in Civics and community organizing whereby kids learn that going on strike means a day off to play on playstations, xboxes and wii -- not unlike a day *on* in Parliament) ... is that in many countries, kids put school uniforms on the outside which seems to make for better learning the 3Rs inside.  In the UK, you can tell the sharply dressed private school kids (which I believe they once called public...) by these uniforms, which shake the bone marrow of most Americans.  These bear symbols and swords and all kinds of markings to show from what class they come, and I don't mean their grade level.  Waltzing down the street in ripped jeans and t-shirts of course, it's understood are the 99%.

Blue for boys...A centuries-old business
Pink for Girls...(photo from Guarducci-Trento)
In Italy, it's less about community - team spirit - and boldly showing your heraldic symbols -- a practice that went out sometime during the Bonfire of the Vanities - I can imagine, but about leveling the playing field.  Tots gather up their pink or blue smocks (affectionately called, grembuili - aprons) and toss them on over their trousers, t-shirts and torn jeans.  Of course, they don't offer families huge smocks to toss over their automobiles, either -- as the ones with SUVs, Mercedes, nudge out the tiny FIATs for space in front of the school; a bigger indicator of status than the ripped jeans and underwear showing out from under them.  This practice tends to carry on thru elementary school, and...weirdly ends right at the age when tweens start removing all their clothes to show off butt cracks & belly buttons and other parts of the anatomy which you, as an adult, really shouldn't be looking at at 7:30am.  Some days I feel like throwing them a smock, pink or blue, take your pick.
I discovered that some schools stick to the uniforms of some sort, but they've now been mercifully updated to include sweat pants and hoodies, and other street smart paraphernalia -- just don't let on to your kids that you think it's smart - they'll be abandoning it for golfer's pants and pink&green whale belts before the term is up.
But I found out during my recent foray into Florence that the International School there had their very own supplier of school kids garments.  Owned by the family of an alumna (or two), the families were told to purchase their particular brand there; a helpful hint to families who lined right up.  I thought it a nice touch to support the Made in Italy brand and the local factories.  Until, that is, I discovered that the cost per student ran over $65 for a pair of sweatpants and over $500 for the entire kit and kaboodle.  Thinking that it was right up there with their American counterparts who are equally pressured into buying the $35 school sweatshirts -- I was reminded, however that those are optional.  And anyone who knew a punk rocker (back in my day) or an emo kid today, could certainly opt out.  As for the families who were surprised by sticker shock, I did not inquire just how many pairs of Nike's, Adidas or Vans their kids also had.
Nonetheless, it serves as a nice lesson to all those foreign kids -- straight from the Medici playbook on patronage and currying favor, and how that, too, is part of the fabric on which our society is made.

for a terrific blog spearheading the Italian schools (in Italian), and in particular, the psychological reasoning behind the smocks...go visit:
A scuole di bugie (!)  

No comments: