TV series and films made in the USA have always accustomed us to seeing the United States as a dream country, a land where anything can happen and where all wishes can come true. One has been served up ever since we were children “narrative” about the American school bordering on the idyllic: excellent facilities, days dedicated to sport, few theoretical lessons in favor of a more “practical” approach to life. Self Italy continues to be a global excellence regarding the knowledge acquired during high school, in the USA the smaller topics are balanced by a school program that aims to teach the new generations how to face the most basic issues of their lives. Home economics, debate, creative writing are just a few examples of disciplines that are not treated in any way in Italy. The gap becomes more and more wide when the modalities are analysed in which the different lessons are followed.
In fact, in many cases, except for compulsory subjects, students are free to choose which courses to follow (in this respect it can be compared to the model of some Italian university faculties) and, at each time change, they have to change classrooms. The relationship with the teachers is certainly much more relaxed and less “frontal” than in Italian habits. The absence of checks, in addition to the periodic tests, favors a more collaborative relationship between the two parties and leads professors to help students more through tutoring projects or workshops. In short, for an Italian to attend an American school it could be a culture shock quite strong because of the different approach one has, not only towards the school as an institution and towards teaching, but towards school life. For several years the story of Italian students who have faced has become trendy on Tik Tok the exchange student experience in the USA during their high school career. If many talk about it only to “reveal the background”, others try to give advice to all those who had to undertake a school year in such a different reality.
Among them is Valentina Serri, Emilian content creator (on TikTok: @vale_s1810) who, at the age of 16, had this kind of experience in Houston, Texas. Now she, now a graduate in languages, tells and advises the kids through Tik Tok how to deal with the news of a country culturally almost totally different from Italy. “Do the school year in the United States it has become a kind of fashion especially through social media (…) One thing I tell all those who ask me for advice when they have to leave is that it’s not an experience for everyone” He tells us. According to her, in fact, the cultural gap is so wide as to cause acclimatization problems especially for people who are not particularly accustomed to change. «There are real culture shocks and sometimes they even lead you to totally reevaluate the set of values you grew up with from an early age» says Valentina.
“The biggest difference in the school system is that the students have to change classes and not the teachers as happens in Italy» he explains. The impossibility of forming a “group” due to the constant changes of course certainly does not favor the possibility of forging bonds. «Guys tend to know each other little and therefore relationships always seem to be very superficial». However, this seems to be replaced by a greater closeness between teachers and students due to the lack of questions but, above all, to the fact that teachers have the task of supporting, helping and guiding young people in choosing their future. A system which in Italy seems to have the same principles but which translates into a ongoing rivalry between teachers and students which also leads to a lowering of the general efficiency of the class.
“One of the greatest pros of American schooling is that kids are always taught to express your opinion (…) In Italy there is a tendency to homologate young people and not to let them exercise critical thinking in class by only learning data by heart» reveals Valentina. «As against there is the fact that their model I think is not academically complete. It promotes a sort of ignorance of anything that isn’t America and goes beyond national borders. The ideal would be to take the good from both sides». At the basis of the American school there has always been a totally different approach to sport compared to the Italian one. The standard two-hour lesson in Italy is in no way comparable to the way it is on the other side of the ocean they put sports at the center of their high school lives. “In the United States every subject has a practical aspect and sport is the quintessential example of the virtuous model of the school,” she says. “The downside is the competition exaggerated that they instill in children from an early age, a little fruit of the capitalist ideology of work hard and you will get anywhere (…) It would be possible to bring it to Italy but adapting it to our culture».
USA vs Italy, school systems compared: two incompatible realities?