Let’s show what a classical lyceum is really like

by Salvatore Messina

“So, you are telling me you attend a classical lyceum? What a fool you are!” How often does a student of a classical lyceum find him or herself in a similar situation? According to one student, the answer is “almost every day”. The aim of “Classical Lyceums’ National Night” is precisely to prevent classical lyceums and their students from being regarded as foolish, by displaying, in seminars prepared by students themselves, the modernity of themes and topics studied at school. Classical education has lost lots of students to professional institutes in these past years, due to both the difficulty in finding a job and the ever-decreasing will to study. The classical lyceum has become regarded as a “dusty school” whose pupils study subjects that are useless in everyday life, but this event wants to prove that theory wrong.

407 classical lyceums all over Italy, almost 80% of the total amount, subscribed to its 4th edition (in its debut they were only 150), which took place on 12th January 2018, from 6 p.m. to midnight; “Liceo Classico Diodato Borrelli” in Santa Severina was one of them.

The event got started at 5 p.m. with a heartfelt letter, read by a fifth-year student, addressed to the classical lyceum and to the teaching staff about how classical and modern authors’ vicissitudes actually provide students with the means to deal with difficulties in the outside world. This was the thread that wove itself throughout the soiree with seminars showing the influence of philosophers that the age of Enlightenment, Homer and the Odyssey, Goya and his paintings, ancient Rome and its emperors, Manzoni and I Promessi Sposi had on us.

However, the classical lyceum is not only about humanities. “Classical Lyceums’ National Night” also aims to point out the new nature of classical education, which now wants to equate humanities to sciences. Thus, seminars on “information in the digital era”, “fragrances and perfumes in the ancient world” and physics lab experiments were presented, along with the launch of a calendar produced by students from the “Turistic Institute” and the display of the school’s new virtual science classroom. Furthermore, after a dinner break at 8.30 p.m., the show went on until midnight with musical exhibitions of the students and with the award ceremony for the winners of the contest “The School that writes”, addressed to middle school students to encourage them to produce creative writings.

Hence, “Classical Lyceums National Night” wishes to redeem classic lyceums from the image of an “outdated school” and “acknowledge the knowledge they provide” as a universal model of behaviour.

“Sapere aude”, Horace would say, and “sapere aude” is what a classical lyceum wishes to its students.

“Have the courage to be a knowledgeable person”.

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