Social life

School Between Two Worlds

Governments in all the countries receiving large numbers of immigrants implemented a variety of policies to favour their integration. Men who emigrated alone thought only of earning money to support the family they had left behind and to speed up their return home. They therefore shunned any contact with the host country’s language and customs, even those related to leisure. Those who emigrated with their family integrated more quickly. Female influence also extended to unmarried male relatives and acquaintances, who in some cases lived with the family as boarders.

The most effective factor favouring integration was school (from school courses regularly attended by children to general language and culture courses for adults). Charities also played an important role in helping immigrants familiarize with the local way of life.

The Italian authorities in turn realised the importance of keeping the old and new generations of emigrants close to their native country. Crispi, in 1889, was the first to pass systematic legislation on Italian schools abroad, but the funds allocated were not enough to increase the number of schools significantly in the countries which attracted most immigrants.

The year 1889 was also important for the birth of the Dante Alighieri Society, which played a major role in the spread of Italian language and culture abroad. The weak points of the education system were the opposition between denominational and non-denominational schools, even after the 1929 agreement between the Italian Government and the Vatican, and the chronic lack of adequate funding.