He achieved international success with his book-manifesto The utility of the useless (Cliff), in which he denounced the damage that current utilitarianism causes in schools, universities, research: what does not provide immediate benefit is cut… and that can lead society to ignorance and the loss of memory and identity. And, following the same line, he has then forcefully claimed the importance of the classics for life, from the essays from Montaigne to The little Prince, The Buddenbrooks either Hadrian’s Memoirs. And his battle for the soul of letters, and especially of humans, has just been rewarded. The Italian professor and philosopher Nuccio Ordine (Diamante, 1958) has obtained the Princess of Asturias Award for Communication and Humanities 2023, succeeding the Polish Adam Michnik. The jury, chaired by Víctor García de la Concha, underlined “his defense of the humanities and his commitment to education and values rooted in the most universal European thought”.
Ordine was born in a small Calabrian town without a bookstore and says that he learned to read thanks to television, the comics that his grandfather sold in a kiosk and a good teacher. “I always really liked a phrase that I read when I was young in the novel Hadrian’s Memoirs by Marguerite Yourcenar. Adriano says: ‘My first homeland was books’. My homeland is books, my house is the house where I have my books (more than 30,000), in Rende, in Calabria, ten minutes from the university where I teach. School was very important to me, which is why I have been fighting for years to defend education from today’s mercantilist drift,” Ordine explained in an interview with The vanguard.
And he recalled that “the fundamental value is to make students understand that you do not study to earn money or for a degree, but to be better. For me, reading has always been a way of traveling with our thoughts. By reading we can live more lives. It is a wonderful experience. For example, when I visited Cartagena de Indias for the first time, in Colombia, I knew about the sweets portal because I had read Love in the time of cholera“.
“Education has to form heretics, the root of the word ‘heresy’ is ‘choose'”
The classics, Ordine reasons, “teach us the art of living and resisting the dictatorship of utilitarianism and profit”, but, he regrets, they no longer occupy a place of honor in the formation of the average European citizen. “After the madness of the Bologna Plan, which has introduced obscene terms such as credits, the university and the school are killing the classics. Students no longer read them. The publishers publish manuals and literary histories but the collections of classics close ”, he denounces. And he believes that education has to “form heretics.”
“The healthiest part of the country today are the young, but we corrupt them by making them believe that they study for trade or money. When you make them understand that university is an opportunity to understand the world and be better, they are much more interested. A world with ideals, not reduced to numbers. The school must educate to be heretical: the root of heresy is to choose, and when you choose, you are free. It should not build children who repeat what society mandates, but be a form of resistance against barbaric forms such as the fact that only money counts for the dignity of man. if you read War and peace of Tolstoy, the wilhelm meister of Goethe, the Odyssey From Homer, the strong message is that your life can have meaning only if you do things for others. Einstein said: ‘Only a life lived by others is worth living’.
“They say that the school must program the courses based on the market. But what the market asks for today, in a year is no longer valid”
Faced with the digitization of education, Ordine defends that “good schools are made by good teachers. Albert Camus, upon receiving the Nobel Prize, remembered two people: his mother and a teacher. The school should change the life of a student.” And he assures that an education oriented only to the market is doomed to failure. “Now they say that the school must program the courses based on the demands of the market. But what the market asks for today, in a year is no longer worth it. How to reconcile the fast market and the teaching that requires slow? To train people it is 25 years to go. What trades will there be then? As Einstein also said, we must create curious young people, with a very broad-based culture that allows them to adapt to mutations. Current early specialization kills curiosity. And without it there is no creativity. And without it there is no science or technology”.
“Now in the world championships in Philosophy the first classified are Koreans, because that country today invests a lot in the humanities. They understand that creativity is stimulated by imagination, fantasy. If we have gone to the Moon, it is because Ariosto and others imagined horses with wings that took you there ”, he assures.
The jury of the Princess of Asturias for Communication and Humanities, chaired by Víctor García de la Concha and with Alberto Anaut as secretary, has been integrated in this edition by Luis María Anson, Rosa María Calaf, Irene Cano, Gabriela Cañas, Adela Cortina, Miguel Falomir, Gloria Fernández-Lomana, Taciana Fisac, Alma Guillermoprieto, Catalina Luca de Tena, Enrique Pascual, Carme Riera, Elena Sánchez and Diana Sorensen.