Legal education: talking about the Mafia at middle school


Institutional Communication Service

7 February 2023

Explaining organised crime and the mafia phenomenon to middle school students is the aim of the "Educazione alla legalità" pilot project promoted by USI's Ticino Observatory on Organised Crime (O-Tico).

Annamaria Astrologo and Francesco Lepori, respectively, the academic head and the operational head of the Ticino Observatory on Organised Crime, gave a lecture at the Caslano Middle School on 24 January, which some 80 students attended to reflect on the meaning of the Mafia and the constitutional values that organised crime undermines.


How did the students react?

"It was a very surprising educational experience," Annamaria Astrologo tells us. "I encountered very attentive and motivated students. It was not a simple frontal lesson, but I constantly interacted with the students: from my perspective, this exchange was also enriching.
I believe that the students understood very quickly that the mafia mentality - characterised by the exercise of violence and/or prevarication - is unfortunately widespread in every environment: at work, among friends, and at school. So each of them, by understanding the deep meaning of the concept of 'mafia mentality', can try in their small way to change things and break, for example, the wall of silence (omertà) built around specific episodes of violence and oppression."


What struck them most?

"The students were interested in technical issues: thanks to our vast database, we reconstructed some of the most important cases of organised crime that have affected Ticino. Nevertheless, the students engaged in broader reflections. Starting from Giovanni Falcone's quote, 'You can very well have a mafia mentality without being a criminal', there was an exchange in which the boys explained what it can mean in their reality to have a mob mentality and what repercussions this can have in their world.
I found it very brave of them to question themselves and to drop the big issues (my lecture was entitled 'What do we mean by the term 'mafia'? How to fight it?") into their own experience. Adults have a lot to learn in this regard."


Why is it important to talk about the Mafia at school?

"Teaching the culture of legality is fundamental as early as middle school. However, teenagers are still very young, and certain topics (such as organised crime) must be brought up very carefully because the content must be acquired with awareness but without creating anxiety in the students. On the other hand, today's children will be tomorrow's entrepreneurs, politicians and traders, and they must be made aware of these issues and grow up looking at the world through the right lens. In this sense, the Ticino Observatory on Organised Crime plays an important role because it is the concrete expression of that link between law and society in which the Law Institute (IDUSI) firmly believes and constitutes one of the missions of our University."


This event was the second stage of the 'educazione alla legalità' pilot project, following the lecture given in mid-December 2022 by Federica De Rossa, Former Director of the Law Institute and since Jan. 1 Federal Judge, who explained to the students the values of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of the rule of law.

This initiative is part of the thread the school is addressing this year on legal education, which will end with a project week on the subject.