Fascist law used against teacher in crucifix row

An Italian teacher has been disciplined under fascist-era rules for removing a crucifix from the wall of his classroom in a move denounced on Monday as "stupefying" by campaigners for secular education.

Fascist law used against teacher in crucifix row
An order dating from Benito Mussolini's reign requiring the presence of crucifixes in schools has never been revoked. Crucifix photo: Shutterstock

Davide Zotti, a philosophy teacher in a state school in Trieste, said he had taken down the crucifix to protest the "homophobic statements" of the Catholic Church.

"I exercised by right and my duty to defend the secular nature of the state I work for," he wrote on his Facebook page.

School management saw his action otherwise, ordering the reinstatement of the crucifix and giving Zotti an official warning about his conduct.

Catholicism has not been Italy's state religion since 1984 but an order dating from Benito Mussolini's reign requiring the presence of crucifixes in schools has never been revoked.

"It is stupefying that, in 2014, a state school cannot find a better way of imposing the crucifix than resorting to a fascist rule," Italy's Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) said in a statement on the case.

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Italian schoolkids make friends easily but suffer high anxiety

Italy's schoolchildren get top marks for socializing but suffer from high levels of anxiety, according to an OECD survey investigating student wellbeing in the developed world.

Italian schoolkids make friends easily but suffer high anxiety
File photo: Pexels

The most recent Pisa education rankings, released by the OECD on Wednesday, looked at issues such as students' wellbeing, their sense of belonging, and anxiety levels.

And the results suggest the Italian school system is one of the world's most stressful.

More than half of Italian pupils said they felt nervous when studying, compared to an OECD average of 37 percent. A vast majority (77 percent) felt nervous when unable to complete a task, compared to an average of 62 percent.

And 70 percent felt anxious about tests, even when they had prepared – a figure which was just 56 percent on average across all the countries included – while 86 percent worried about getting poor grades. 

“Schoolwork-related anxiety is one of the main predictors of low life satisfaction among students, and, in Italy, anxiety is more frequent in schools where students study more than 50 hours a week,” noted the study authors.

In fact, Italians spend significantly more time studying than their peers in other countries.

More than one in five dedicated over 60 hours per week (in and out of school) to their schoolwork, compared to just 13 percent on average across OECD countries.

READ ALSO: 'Bring your own loo roll', broke Italian school tells kids

But it wasn't all bad news for students' wellbeing.

The vast majority of Italian youngsters said they made friends easily at school: 83 percent compared to an average of 78 percent.

Italians were less likely than other nationalities to describe themselves as lonely, an outsider, or awkward at school – despite the fact that they were less likely than average to feel liked by other students. Across all countries surveyed, 82 percent of students agreed with the statement 'Other students seem to like me', but this figure was five percentage points lower in Italy.

All in all, Italians were slightly less satisfied with their lives than the average, with 65 percent describing themselves as such, compared to an OECD average of 71 percent.

Boys were slightly more likely to be satisfied than girls, and boys also reported lower levels of school-related anxiety.

The study also quizzed students on their use of free time, and Italians came out as one of the most tech-obsessed nationalities. Almost one in four schoolchildren admitted to using the Internet for over six hours per day outside school.

These students fitted into the category of 'extreme Internet users' and, in common with other countries, in Italy they were more likely to skip or be late to school, receive lower grades, and less likely to complete university.

READ ALSO: Italian children study more than their peers but do worse at school

Italians study more than their peers but do worse at school: OECD