Translated by Alanna Quintyne

In this article, I am going to talk about Alberto Manzi, more commonly known as Maestro Manzi. He was an Italian teacher who had the merit to teach millions of Italians the Italian language through his popular TV show “Non è mai troppo tardi”, translated as “It’s never too late!”
If you want to know more about this man, who can be considered the one that laid the groundwork for distance learning, keep reading!

Non è mai troppo tardi

Non è mai troppo tardi is a widely used, almost overused, saying in the Italian language. But unfortunately, it is not always used practically in daily life. People often talk about it, but in the end out of fear, out of laziness they do nothing to change their situation, and everything remains the same.

But what would happen if we actually put this motto into practice? If we turned it into reality? Maybe we would be able to achieve the small and big goals we set for ourselves, maybe we would be able to change our lives for the better and feel more satisfied.

This is what happened to a great many Italians in the postwar period who, iron-willed, from night to night, gathered around the TV in the homes of the more affluent, to watch a TV program called “Non è mai troppo tardi”, hosted by elementary school teacher Alberto Manzi.

But let us take a step back and focus on this man, the one who can be considered the first remote tutor, if not in history, certainly in Italy.

Maestro Manzi

Maestro Manzi enjoyed considerable success by gracefully entering the homes of Italians, taking them by the hand and accompanying them on a path of growth and learning. Every evening before dinner his program was aired, consisting of real distance learning lessons, during which he explained the rudiments of the Italian language and mathematics: in short, as we Italians say, he would teach how to read, write, and do arithmetic.

Credits photo: www.raiscuola.rai.it

 

 To attract the attention of his students, including elderly men and women and tired people returning from work, he resorted to methods that were not very canonical but proved successful. He used white sheets of paper on which he sketched stylized drawings with charcoal, which were essential to make people easily associate image, sound, and the graphic sign of letters. It was a really simple and intuitive method that led to tremendous results: in fact, more than 1.5 million people took the elementary school leaving certificate over the course of a few years.

 

If you see videos of Maestro Manzi, you will have the impression that you are dealing with a friendly character, easygoing of course, but also tame; but behind this docile façade was a determined man, aware of his choices, if not downright revolutionary.

In fact, think of the fact that he was suspended from teaching and even stripped of his pay because, following the introduction of evaluation forms he refused to fill them out asserting:

“I cannot brand a child with a judgment, because the child changes, they are on the move; if next year one reads the judgment I gave this year, we have branded them for the next few years.”

The following year, too, he was pressured to write his evaluations, but he increasingly stubbornly opted for the single judgment.

To all students, he wrote:

“Do what you can, and what you can’t, don’t do”.

Conclusion

Maestro Manzi along with Rai had the merit of having contributed to the spread of Italian in Italy.

In a poor country destroyed by the war, in which dialect was widespread and illiteracy rampant, this man managed to tiptoe into the homes of Italians and day after day he managed to win the trust of his audience and made them love him just like one of the family.

How about you? Do you know someone who has made such an impact in your country? Someone you have to thank for helping to spread culture even to the lowest strata of society?

ila firma

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Listen to this episode in Italian! You can find the script here! :)