Goodbye to Luigi Berlinguer, the “father” of educational equality

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His name will forever be linked to law 62/2000 known as the law on educational equality. Luigi Berlinguer died at the age of 91 after a long illness in Siena. It was the Minister of Public Education who had the courage to give a legislative response to an issue, such as that of educational equality, which had remained without interventions for decades.

It was precisely with that law of 23 years ago that a single national school system was established with schools managed by the State and schools by local authorities or private social entities, but all belonging to the same system. A turning point that saw Luigi Berlinguer, a man of the left, but also passionate about school and a leading exponent of the Italian academic world, aware that the time was ripe for this law.

A belief that has become increasingly intense over time, so much so that it has become one of the most authoritative voices of freedom of choice in the educational field, considering it a constitutionally sanctioned element.

Almost a real “conversion” for this man of school and university, which he combined with political passion from a young age. He was born in Sassari on 25 July 1932. Brother of Sergio (who was general secretary of the Quirinale during the Cossiga presidency), he was also cousin of Enrico, the national secretary of the Italian Communist Party (from 1971 to 1984). Having graduated in Law in 1955, he alternated between political militancy (he was first a councilor and then mayor of the municipality of Sennori) and an academic one. In 1972 he became dean of the Faculty of Law, but the following year he was called by the same faculty but from the University of Siena.

In the political field his attention will always go towards the problems of education, school and university. In the Sienese academic world he held the position of rector of the university from 1985 to 1993, when the then Prime Minister Carlo Azeglio Ciampi called him as minister of the University and scientific research in his technical government. A short stay (from 29 April to 4 May 1993) due to issues related to the lack of authorization to proceed against the then secretary of the PSI Bettino Craxi, which led to the resignation of the ministers of the PDS area.

He will return to the government (to remain there for four years) as Minister of Public Education with the interim role for the University in the Prodi government and then in the D’Alema government. It is precisely in this four-year period that the reform of educational equality takes shape.

Several times a member of parliament and senator, after a period in the Superior Council of the Judiciary (2000-2006) he also landed in the European Parliament (from 2009 to 2014).

Having retired from active politics and academic activity, he has never stopped dealing with issues related to education. In recent years he fought for greater importance to be given to musical education. And until the end he never stopped defending the law on educational equality. “With law 62/2000 I fully implemented the constitutional provisions” he loved to respond to those who asked him if he regretted that choice.

The condolences for his passing are unanimous. The first to act as spokesperson was the current Minister of Education and Merit Giuseppe Valditara. “He was a minister passionate about school, always open to dialogue, he left an important trace” he wrote in a tweet offering condolences to the family.

“He had a genuine passion for public schools – underlines former prime minister Romano Prodi -, a commitment conducted with intelligence and rigor. He was a convinced pro-European and dedicated his life to politics. I was linked to him by feelings of true friendship, a strong bond, which was combined with profound respect.”

Pain also expressed by the Democratic Party which had one of its founders in Luigi Berlinguer. “He leaves us a passionate and committed personality but above all Luigi Berlinguer leaves us the legacy of having at heart, and defending, the priceless heritage of our political culture” declared the national secretary of the Democratic Party Elly Schlein.

The funeral chapel will be set up in the Aula Magna of the University of Siena, which he led for nine years.

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