So you think the school system has problems in America…
By now, everybody knows that I love me some Stefano Benni. Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a piece from Benni’s site in which he skewers Italy’s Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini. (The Italian text is easy to find online, though it no longer appears to be available on http://www.stefanobenni.it.)
Here’s my translation: I just couldn’t resist. Benni’s “Il Mostro Unico” is a quick lesson in the current Italian political and educational situation (sad, sad), even if all the references may not be immediately clear.
THE MONSTER REDUCTION AND SIMPLIFICATION ACT
by Stefano Benni
English translation by ProvenWrite
Dear Hooligan Students:
It’s me, your beloved Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini. After my proposal to give a failing grade in deportment to all those Italian students who protested school conditions and my plan to reduce the number of teachers in the classroom, I have a new idea that will revitalize the Italian school system. Where does education begin? In nursery school, as we all know. And that’s where we need to focus our efforts so that young children will learn to be obedient and respectful of authority. Fairy tales, however, with all that surplus fantasy and reckless waste of characters, alienate students from healthy realism and a proper degree of conformity and fuel the danger of getting off track, not to mention that they lead to debauchery, drugs, and hooliganism.
As a result, by Executive Order, I hereby institute the Monster Reduction and Simplification Act. Henceforth, the reading of fairy tales that contain more than one monster or bad guy, which would represent a clear burden on the taxpayer, is prohibited by law. Most important of all, every children’s story must emphasize the degree to which the remaining monster is a perverse, old-style-Communist-sympathizing hooligan.
The MRSA (Monster Reduction and Simplification Act) prohibits, for example, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, because the Wicked Stepmother and the witch are a costly and pointless duplication of characters that is detrimental to young students’ imaginations, leaving entirely aside the question of the ambiguous living situation in which Snow White and her seven little worker-friends find themselves. One of them, in fact—Grumpy—is obviously a union member who belongs to the Italian General Confederation of Labor.
Little Red Riding Hood is allowed, but we need to make clear that the hunter is associated with the Lega Nord and that the wolf, being of Transylvanian origins, is a Romanian. Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves is out: one thief is enough. Peter Pan is out—there are too many pirates living off the national coffers. Pinocchio is out: Even if the Cat and the Fox were to be combined into a single animal, there would still be the matter of the defamation of the police force and the fact that the Land of Toys is an obvious reference to Mediaset. Tom Thumb is allowed, but he’ll have to start calling himself Big Toe Tom and he’ll need to be at least 5’5” tall to eliminate the obvious dig at our beloved Prime Minister.
Hansel and Gretel are out because we don’t need two monsters, the mother and the witch, plus they all spend too much time talking about economic crises. The Ugly Duckling is out. If someone is ugly, it’s for genetic reasons and he’ll just have to stay that way. Besides, Andersen was gay.
Puss in Boots is likewise out because of the obvious sadomasochistic connotations. Cinderella is out—and I mean really, really out. There are three bad characters and they all look like me—your superficial, ill prepared, and long-winded Minister of Education. Reduced and simplified maybe, but still the only one you’ve got.