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The current Conference time is: 15th Aug 2022, 12:35:15pm CEST

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Parallel sessions - A.7.1 The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures and Policies, Between Myth and Reality
Friday, 04/June/2021:
1:15pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Luana Salvarani
Session Chair: Andrea Giacomantonio
Location: Room 2

Session Panels:
A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality

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Panels: A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality
Keywords: Reggio Emilia Approach, educational methods, global approach


Andrea Pintus

University of Parma, Italy

Reggio Emilia is an Italian city that is internationally known for its municipal system of infant-toddler centers and preschools (Firlik, 1996). The approach that inspires the methods applied in these pre-schools is based on the ideas of Loris Malaguzzi (1993), who was influenced by a series of thinkers, such as John Dewey, Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, and Howard Gardner. Key elements include the image of the child as having potential, curiosity, and competence in constructing their learning; children’s multiple symbolic languages as culturally constructed modes of discourse; long-term project approach to curriculum; the parental involvement as a form of civic engagement. This popularity is witnessed by the proliferation of teachers/educators’ study-tours from all the world - especially from the USA. Several systematic reviews confirm the Reggio Emilia Approach as an increasing topic of interest of international literature in the field of early childhood education (Keskin, 2016). This growth of international exchanges, especially throw the Internet, made the “Reggio Emilia phenomenon” a global product, subject to global sales strategies and market perspective (Grieshaber, Hatch, 2003). Some authors (Johnson, 1999; Wright, 2000) presented “Reggio” as a “buzzword” in the field of early childhood education and argued the Reggio Emilia Approach stands in danger of being absorbed and ‘Disneyfied’ by the USA dominated institutions and knowledge structures who have promoted it. Similarly, others are concerned about the seemingly uncritical transfer of ideas and preferences in their professional practice, embodied in the tendency to superficially replicate Reggio-like environments, without sufficient in-depth attention to critically reflecting on how things might work in different ways within unique and situated expressions of the Reggio-inspired pedagogy (Grieshaber, Hatch, 2003; Johnson, 2000).


Firlik R. (1996), “Can we adapt the philosophies and practices of Reggio Emilia, Italy, for use in American schools?”, in Early Childhood Education Journal, 34, 217–220.

Grieshaber S., Hatch J. (2003), “Pedagogical Documentation as an Effect of Globalization”, in Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 19(1), pp. 89-102.

Keskin B. (2016), “Recent coverage of early childhood education approaches in open access early childhood journals”, in Early Child Development and Care, 186, 11, pp. 722-1736

Malaguzzi, L. (1993), “For an education based on relationships”, in Young Children, 49, pp. 9–12.

Johnson R. (1999), “Colonialism and Cargo Cults in Early Childhood Education: does Reggio Emilia really exist?”, in Contemporray Issues in Earlr Childhood, 1, pp. 61–77.

Wright S. (2000), “Why Reggio Emilia Doesn’t Exist: A Response to Richard Johnson”, in Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 1, 2, pp. 223-226.

ID: 483 / FRI-PRL-A1-A.7.1: 2
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Panels: A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality
Keywords: Malaguzzi, Dewey, Bauhaus, Aesthetic Education, Reggio Emilia Approach


Enrico Barbetti

Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy

The following essay aims to highlight some cultural references that have influenced the Reggio Emilia Approach and its aesthetic education practices. We will examine two of them specifically, which seem to play a substantial role. These are the cardinal principles of the Bauhaus and, above all, the theories of the American pragmatist philosopher John Dewey. A debt that is exposed, in a 1988 interview, by Loris Malaguzzi, the pedagogue and teacher who played the main guiding role in the educational experience of Reggio Emilia kindergartens.

However, considering the complexity of the history of the Reggio schools, an in-depth examination is necessary. We must try to understand if there has been a tout-court application of the theories or, as we suggest, a more critical and analytical integration.

The focus will be on two fundamental issues. The first is the relationship between art and everyday life. The second will be a discussion of the issues surrounding the idea of process and the value it takes on in the different phenomena studied. We will see how these questions, argued differently by Dewey and Bauhaus, will play a role in the schools of Reggio. In particular, in the design of spaces dedicated to education in visual languages - the ateliers - and in activities related to visual communication - documentation and exhibitions.

. Cambi Franco, “John Dewey in Italia. L’operazione de La Nuova Italia Editrice: tra traduzione interpretazione e diffusione”, Espacio Tyempo y Educaciòn, Vol.3, N°2, 2016, 89-99.
. Carolyn Edwards, Gandini Lella, Forman George, a cura di, I cento linguaggi dei bambini, Bergamo, Junior, 2017.
. Catini Enzo, “Se l'atelier è dentro una lunga storia e ad un progetto educativo: intervista a Loris Malaguzzi”, Bambini, dicembre 1988, p.27-31.
. Dewey John, Arte come esperienza, Palermo, Aesthetica, 2012.
. Dewey John, Come Pensiamo, Milano, Raffaello Cortina, 2019.
. Dewey John, Esperienza e educazione, Milano, Raffaello Cortina Editore, 2014. P.80.
. Dreon Roberta, Estetico, Artistico, Umano, in Cometti Jean-Pierre e Matteucci Giovanni, a cura di, Dall'arte all'Esperienza, Milano – Udine, Mimesis.
. Dreon Roberta, Il sentire e la parola, Milano, Mimesis, 2007.
. Gai Lindsay, “Reflections in the Mirror of Reggio Emilia’s Soul: John Dewey’s Foundational Influence on Pedagogy in the Italian Educational Project”, Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 43, N°6, 2015, 447-457.
. Gropius Walter, Per un’architettura totale, Milano, Abscondita, 2007. P.25.
. Horowitz Frederick A., Danilowitz Brenda, Josef Albers: to open eyes: the Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale, Londra, Phaidon, 2006.
. Kaminsky Jack, “Dewey’s Concept of Experience”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol.17, N°3 (Mar, 1957), 316-330.
. Mathur D. C., “A note on the Concept of ‘Consummatory Experience’ in Dewey’s Aesthetics”, The journal of Philosophy, Vol.63, N°9 (Apr. 28, 1966), 225-231.
. Rinaldi Carla, In dialogo con Reggio Emilia, Reggio Emilia, Reggio Children, 2009.
. Siebenbrodt Michael, Bauhaus Weimar, Milano, Electa, 2008.
. Sorzio Paolo, Dewey e l’educazione progressiva, Roma, Carocci, 2009. P.40.

. Vecchi Vea, Giudici Claudia, a cura di, Bambini, Arte, Artisti, Reggio Emilia, Reggio Children srl, 2004.

ID: 489 / FRI-PRL-A1-A.7.1: 3
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Panels: A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality
Keywords: translation and transfer, administrative knowledge, school organization, Prussia, USA


Fanny Isensee1, Daniel Töpper2

1Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany; 2Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany

In most cases, studies focusing on the transatlantic relations between the USA and Prussia concentrate on the early exchange phase, in which travel reports represent one of the key sources. However, the mutual exchanges between these two regions have lasted well into the twentieth century and have significantly shaped the emergence of school administrations. This period not only saw the exchanges of individuals and their reports, but also the circulation of specialized administrative knowledge. This paper focuses on how this knowledge, which was geared towards school organization, was translated and transferred between the two contexts. By firstly discussing research literature on the topic, the paper secondly examines the central documents through close reading. This approach allows for an in-depth analysis of the exchanges and inscribed trajectories.

Kandel and Alexander’s “The Reorganization of Education in Prussia”, a widely received publication that originated in a comparative research group at Teachers College, not only provides an overview of the structure of the Prussian administration system, but the authors also translated specific documents and administrative guidelines to make this bureaucratic system, perceived as an advanced administrative model, available to experts and the public. The majority of the publication’s content is based on works by von Boelitz, a high-ranking administrative official and secretary of science, art, and popular education in Prussia. A comparison of the two texts allows for a close examination of the specific translation choices regarding the selection of material to be translated as well as the concrete wording of the translated text. By tracing the mutual observations and communication, the paper seeks to examine how the two educational administrative systems came into being and how they influenced each other. At the same time, this allows for an analysis of the role that the administrative traditions played in the respective contexts and contrasts a hierarchical top-down structure in Prussia with a bottom-up configuration in the USA.

Starting in the middle of the twentieth century, a reversal of roles between the USA and Germany can be observed, and is e.g. expressed in the transfer of Parson’s thoughts and works on the systems theory. These were taken up by Luhmann, whose theoretical approach has become one of the most influential concepts in sociology and has significantly shaped German educational thinking.

Thus, this paper drafts a first chronology and contextualization of the exchange of administrative knowledge and employs these two moments of transfer and translation to retrace the underlying information-transfer-networks enabling these exchange processes. At the same, it also examines which aspects of administrative knowledge were deemed significant for translation and thus became “transfer-worthy”.


Boelitz, O. (1924). Der Aufbau des preußischen Bildungswesens nach der Staatsumwälzung. Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer.

Boelitz, O. (1925). Der Aufbau des preußischen Bildungswesens nach der Staatsumwälzung. 2. durchgesehene Auflage. Leipzig: Quelle & Meyer.

Kandel, I. L. & Alexander, Th. (1927): The Reorganization of Education in Prussia. Based on Official Documents and Publications. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University.

ID: 594 / FRI-PRL-A1-A.7.1: 4
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Panels: A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality
Keywords: Curricular policy, humanism, competition, Neo-liberalism, Opus Dei


Daniel Boccacci

University of Granada (Spain)

Daniel Boccacci

The congress La Educación Secundaria Obligatoria a debate (Madrid, December 9-11) in 1999 was very important in building proposals and consensus among actors in the Spanish educational world to reform of the national school system. The Partido Popular, promoter of the congress, develop the general reform in 2002 (LOCE). This normative framework rests on the same competitive premises of congress. Important politicians and specialists of the congress ighlighted the need to adapt to the «constant pressure [...] of the North American model». However, the congress is also remembered as a very important meeting point between politics, research and teaches for a curricular definition in favour of «humanidades». Through this proposal, the interventions of the congress express a critique of the strict educational functionalism and praise the updating in a "humanistic" sense of the theory of human capital, promoted by American economists and the OECD in recent years.


Within the theoretical and methodological framework centered on the foucaultian discourse analysis and the conept of the system of reason by T. S. Popkewitz the intervention aims to link the congress speeches of important politicians and education researchers, belonging to Opus Dei, to the general system of ideas of the Roman Prelature, characterized by the original fusion of religious, educational and economic meanings.

Outcomes (expected)

The analysis of the Opus Dei language, which is fundamental in national education starting from the second half of the twentieth century, stands as a proposal for a specific key to the history of the relationship between the USA and Spanish educational policy during the Cold War and in the age of globalization. Within the understanding of the Opus Dei language, the USA-Spain relationship in education is not so much to be read as dominated by the cultural imperialism of the former, the thesis put forward by several historians and sociologists on twentieth-century Spain, and a phenomenon that would corroborated the development capitalist of the Latin country from the late 1950s to today. The analysis, on the other hand, places a critique of the category of "influence", too often generic and univocal of historical-social phenomena. That is, in-depth study gives greater importance to the interaction of social actors and to the possibilities of symbiosis of the US-Spain proposals. At the same time, the analysis intends to enter into the complex relationship between the categories of "culture" and "market" in contemporary discourses, showing how the word "neoliberal" is too often charged with an exclusively "ideological-economic" meaning, neglecting the its "practical-social" strength, which finds its new strength of conviction and action precisely in humanistic meanings, advanced through a religious-existential substratum.


Casanova J., The Modernization of Spain: The Imperialism and Dependency Thesis, Telos, 1982(21), 29-43.

Dardot, P. & Laval, C., (2009). La nouvelle raison du monde. Essais sur la société néolibérale. La Dècouverte.

Gimeno Sacristán, J. (2015). Ensayos sobre el currículum: teoría y práctica. Morata.

Pereyra, M. A. & Barry Franklin, M., eds., (2014). Systems of Reason and the Politics of Schooling. Routledge.

ID: 645 / FRI-PRL-A1-A.7.1: 6
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Panels: A.7. The America Syndrome: The Influence of The United States on European Educational Cultures And Policies, Between Myth And Reality
Keywords: participation, individualism, community, Reggio Emilia Approach, freedom of intelligence


Laura Landi

University of Modena and Reggio Emilia - Reggio Children Foundation, Italy

Malaguzzi often refers to Dewey as one of the “founding fathers”, one of the threads weaving the warp, one of the cornerstones of a much larger building: “i riferimenti maggiori sono stati inizialmente quelli di Rousseau, Locke, Pestalozzi, Froebel, della scuola attiva di Bovet e Ferrière, di Dewey e della scuola di Chicago…” (Malaguzzi in Edwards et al. (eds) 1995, p.62). In defining the value of these connections Malaguzzi explicitly refers to activism, creativity and mediation between individuality and society:

un nucleo duro che discende dalle teorie e dalle esperienze dell’educazione attiva che si storicizza attorno alle figure di un bambino, di un insegnante, di una scuola, di una famiglia, di una comunità, produttori di una cultura e di una società provvide, attive, creative che connettano i valori della dimensione individuale con quella sociale. Ferrière, Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner, Piaget (Malaguzzi in Edwards C. et al. (eds) 1995, p.88)

Central in his vision is the need to connect individual and social dimension, build a culture and society able to embrace both, to work for the common good while respecting individuality. The quest for a “new individualism” is strong in Dewey as well, together with the need for qualified participation. While the questions are mostly similar, this article aims at establishing whether the answers are too and whether a direct link can be traced between these two thinkers.

Dewey lived a long and productive life, he died at 92, and left an incommensurable contribution to pedagogy. His work had a wide audience in post-WW2 Italy and became an essential reference for pedagogists. His philosophy left lasting traces throughout the Reggio Emilia Approach (REA). This article aims at investigating whether Dewey’s vision of democracy and the role of schools in fostering it, inspired Malaguzzi and the schools in Reggio Emilia. Malaguzzi’s idea of democracy is a complex, multidimensional vision, that imbues all his work and writings since the post-war years. Contrary to Dewey, Malaguzzi does not dwell on philosophical argumentation, he often talks about it, but almost never in connection with the official governmental form and never defines it. Our investigation is therefore not easy. It implies deconstructing the concept of democracy to find clues and indicators leading back to Dewey’s vision. We will base our analysis on Dewey’s texts available to Malaguzzi and compare them with his own writings, focusing on two main aspects: participation and the relation between individual and society.

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