Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : NPR

Interesting approach.

One of the best initiatives of the Institute for Canadian Citizenship gives every new Canadian a one-year pass that provides free access to over 1,000 cultural and historical sites.:

Few things inspire more loathing in the hearts of high school students than the words “extra homework.” But as Florence Mattei hands out a pamphlet to her homeroom class at the Southlands School in Rome, she tells them they may want to give this assignment a chance.

“Who would like to read what it’s about?” she asks the room full of 18-year-olds.

A senior named Alessio translates from Italian into English: “For the people born in 1998 there is a 500-euro bonus that you can spend on cultural things, such as going to the cinema, visiting museums and this kind of stuff.”

He stares at the page in disbelief. But it’s true. Starting this month, Italy is offering its 18-year-old residents the equivalent of $563 to spend on culture, from concert tickets, books and museum admission to other qualifying events.

To get the money, they need to register online and download an app.

“Do we want to try?” says the teacher. “Yeah? So get your phone.”

Youth unemployment in Italy is nearly 40 percent in a country that’s been struggling economically for years. So the free cash is a welcome surprise for teens like Daniele Montagna, who knows where he is going to spend his first.

“On the concert of JB — Justin Bieber!” he rejoices.

And he can. The program doesn’t distinguish between pop culture and highbrow culture.

The Italian government is hoping the program will educate kids born in Italy as well as integrate a growing population of foreign residents, dissuading alienated youths from following radical Islam.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi first announced the so-called Culture Bonus last November after the Paris massacre, when Islamist terrorists killed 130 people inside a theater and outside on the streets.

“They destroy statues, we protect them,” he said in a speech at the time. “They burn books, we’re the country of libraries; they envision terror, we respond with culture.”

But some question whether exposing young Muslims to, say, Lady Gaga will really endear them to Western culture.

“There is a chance that Lady Gaga is exactly what’s going to make somebody angry,” says Barak Mendelsohn, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and an expert in combating extremism. “That doesn’t mean that they buy into your values. We’ve seen radicals trying to take advantage of the welfare state, funding themselves while building bombs.”

He points to the Paris attackers. French authorities estimate they collected more than 50,000 euros in unemployment benefits — even while at least one of them had a job.

“They don’t have any ideological obstacle in taking money from Western countries,” Mendelsohn adds.

Source: Italy’s ‘Cultural Allowance’ For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism : Parallels : NPR

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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