The democratic era ended in 1922-25 with the rise of Mussolini and his fascists. Mussolini was appointd premier in 1922 and he estblished a dictatorship in 1925. Italy was the first Fascist government in Europe. The Fascists were overthrown in 1943, but the NAZIs occupied much of Italy and established a Fascist state in northern Italy under Mussolini as a puppet figurhead. The Fascists seized control of Italian education. Children wee subject to Fascist propaganda in every phse of their studies. Unlike Germany, however, the Fascist did not manage to completely control the country's education system. Children were exposed to Fascist symbols and taught to venerate Mussolini. The Church continued to be involved in the state schools and to operate many Catholic schools. We have no information about the academic effectiveness of Italian education at this time. Many reports suggest that in Germany the NAZIs significantly weakened the education system by replacing qualified educators with reliable party hacks. We are not sure to what extent this occurred in Italy. Another aspect of Italian education that we are not sure about. The propaganda aimed at the children was deigned to create a martial spirit to motivate Italian soldiers to create a new Italian empire. We know that NAZI education was very effective in preparing German boys for World War II. Italian education wouldseem to have been decidely unsuccessful. Of all the major combatant countries, Itlian soldiers seem to have been the least prepared to fight.
Major reforms of Italian education occurred in 1923 and were referred to as the Riforma Gentile. I'm not precisely sure what Gentile refers to as a description of reform. This occurred at about the same time that Mussolini and his Fascists seized power in Italy. I'm not yet sure, however, about the nature of these reforms and the influence of the Fascists.
Italian Fascism was unique among the radical forces produced by the early 20th century. It developing out of economic problems which followed Italy's costly involvement in World War I. Strangely it had no clear predecessor in the 19th century. The Italain Fascist movement emerged in 1919, catapulting its leader, the journalist Benito Mussolini, into the premiership 3 years later in 1922 and then to the creation of a new political dictatorship beginning in 1925.
We believe that the Italian Fascists exercised control over all schools in Italy, although they did not close down Catholic and private schools. We have, however, little information at this time on Fascist school policies. The Fascists were very critical of earlier educational systems. The Fascists prescribed both content and general methods of teaching, as part of Mussolini's pedagogical "reforms." This pedagogical "charter" drawn up by Mussolini's minister of education, Giuseppe Bottai, is a radical reforming document that proposes to substitute for the existing bourgeois system one more responsive to the needs of students not heading for the university. The system would include nursery schools, trade and artisan schools, special training for girls, and the introduction of practical crafts, among other considerations. [Giuseppe Bottai. La Carta della Scuola. Milan: A. Mondadori, 1939.] In 1943 Bottai broke with Mussolini and, under the name of André Bataille, ended the war fighting the Germans as a corporal in the French Foreign Legion.
Intrestingly e note Fascist educational authorities riting about neded reforms, years after the Fascists seized power. The note in Germany, the NAZIs immediately seized control of the education system turning it into a NAZI education system. targeted the schools and within a few years the teaching profession was transformed into some of the most ardent NAZI supporters followin a new NAZI curriculum. In Italy we find educational authrities still discussing Fascist reforms in the late 1930s. Fascist authorities were very critical of the Italian school system that they inherited. Fascist eductors suggested changes in both content and teaching methods which were implemented as part of Mussolini's pedagogical reforms. [Padellaro] Minister of Education Giuseppe Bottai
drew up a pedagogical "charter". It was a radical reform aimed at turning what he called the existing "bourgeois system" into one bettr suited to meeting the neds of larger number of students. Bottai saw Italy's educational system as too academically oriented, geared primarily for university bound tudents. Bottai wanted nursery schools, trade and artisan schools, special training for girls, and the introduction of crafts. [Botai] Bottai like many Italians rejected Mussolini in 1943. He changed his name to André Bataille and fought the Germans as a corporal in the French Foreign Legion.
The Fascists introduced a new course into the Italian school curriculum--Coltura Fascista. This translates as Fascist Culture, but it essentialy meant Fascist ideology. This course was mandatory for all schools, both public and private. We are not sure to what extent it was taught to primary-level children. We do note textbooks for older children. There does not seem to be a separate text book for each grade, but there were general texts and some more specific texts. An Italian reader tells us the most important text was Elementi di Coltura Fascista. The caption read, "Per ogni ordine di Scuole e di organizzazioni," which means, "For each order of schools and organizations". The author was Giuseppe Pochettino. WE do not yet know anything about him. This apparently was for all level schools, but we are unsure how asingle text can be used for such a wide age range. There were other more specific texts like a book by Sammartano for intermediate schools (6th-8th grades).
Mussolini Fascists upon seizing control of Italy immediately focused on education. This is the nature of totalitarian society. The Fascists required that Fascist Culture be taught in the schools. Unlike a democratic society, the Fascist ideology was taught as the proper way of ordering society. Alternative visions of government and social organization were excluded. The idea of freedom, including both democratic elections and capitalism were vilified. What the Fascists did was not to change the basic structure of Italian education, but rather introduce Fascist ideology into the curriculum. This was the same approach the NAZIs in Germany pursued. Administrators and teachers unwilling to cooperate were fired. As best we can tell, these efforts were less draconian than in NAZI Germany, but here our information is still limited. Political reliability became a major factor in new hires. Other factors may well have been more important. Some private schools were closed. The Fascists in Italy seem less successful in its program of indocrination than the German NAZIs. Although the Fascists were in power nearly twice as long as the NAZIs, they do not seem to have generated the same level of support as the NAZIs. To what extent the school system was responsible for this we do not know.
Scholooks illustrate the degree to which the Fascist Party attempted to use the schools to instill their ideology among young people. Italian children worked from notebooks. There were notebooks for different subjects. The notebooks, no matter what the subject, the notebooks included colored Fascist illustrations and quotations from Mussolini on the front and back. The 3rd-grade textbook with sections on religion, history, geography, and arithmetic has a morning prayer that the children would recite. This would never have been done in NAZI classrooms. The authors were a "monsignore" and "reverendo"--showing the vontinud influence of te Church in Italian scchools even under the Fascists. The book highlights Italian military victories and Fascist ideology. Almost every page has a photograph or illustration that seems to have Fascist ideological content. [Zammarchi and Angelini] Reading and literature were of course an easy place to insert Fascist prpaganda. One anthology of readings for the 5th grade, for example, includes stories, nearly all of which glorifies the
Fascist regime and its programs. [P.N.F.]
We note that some Itlaian school children kept assignment books. All the children in the Veneto kept these books. I do not know about the ret of Italy. At the front is a large full-page photograph of Mussolini and there are numerous quotations from his frequent speeches. Also included are important events from Fascist history, including the March on Rome and the Concordat between Church and State. Next are lists of books to be used, the daily class schedule, times for teacher consultations, and other information. Finally the actual "diario" begins. There is a space for each day and each subject. The student was to write assignments and other notes in these spaces. Each page is headed by a suitable Mussolini quotation. This diary not only offers a day-to-day description of the detailed activities of students, but also the method of presenting Fascist doctrine to them. [Diario della Scuola Fascista. Treviso: Longo & Zoppelli, 1939-1940.]
Children's report cards or pagella from the province of Ferrara is richly adorned with Fascist symbolism. An anthology of readings for the fifth grade. It is interesting to note that nearly every story glorifies the Fascist regime and its activities. [P.N.F. Gioventù Italiana del Littorio. Il Libro della Quinta Classe. Letture. Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1939.]
The official journal of the University of Bari was begun in 1934. The university itself was named after Mussolini, Università degli Studi "Benito Mussolini.".
The Government printed a variety of large posters for posting in schools, including classrooms. These posters touched on a rnge of Fascist issues. One was Italian colnialism and right to claim the Mediterrean as "mare nostraum" (our sea). One stresed the achievements of Italian colonialism and had a map which showed North Africa from Egypt to Tunisia as Italian territory. (Egypt at time was British and Tunisia French. It was just this area that was to be a major battlefield of World War II with hubdreds of thousands of Italiansldiers being killed , wounded, or taken oriosionor.) Interestingly, there were illustrations at the bottom of the poster advertised various creams, cleansers, and waxes intended for household use. The companies involved apparently paid for the posters.
A standard textbook for the subjects of religion, history, geography, and arithmetic opens with the morning prayer to be repeated by all students -- not surprisingly, since the authors use the titles "monsignore" and "reverendo." Italian war victories and Fascist doctrine figure prominently in the text, and nearly every page includes a propaganda photograph or illustration. The book offers insight into the extent to which the regime permeated educational institutions. [3rd grade text book: Angelo Zammarchi and Cesare Angelini. Il Libro della III Elementare. Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1939.]
We have little iformation on Italian school clothing at thi time. We belive that schildren commonly wore smocks to school. As many classes are dressed identically, it appears to have been a requirement enforced by the school. We do not kbnow if there were any national regulation. The Italian school children, probably in th 1930s are participating in some kind of patriotic tribute. The girls wear their school smocks (figure 1). The boy at the front wear a fancy outfit hile the boys in the back wear their Balilla uniforms. Boys also commonly wore smocks, but here for one reason are not wearing them. Presumably a more military look was deemed appropriate for this ceremony.
We have no information about the academic effectiveness of Italian education at this time. Many reports suggest that in Germany the NAZIs significantly weakened the education system by replacing qualified educators with reliable party hacks. We are not sure to what extent this occurred in Italy.
Another aspect of Italian education that we are not sure about. The propaganda aimed at the children was deigned to create a martial spirit to motivate Italian soldiers to create a new Italian empire. We know that NAZI education was very effective in preparing German boys for World War II. Italian education wouldseem to have been decidely unsuccessful. Of all the major combatant countries, Itlian soldiers seem to have been the least prepared to fight.
I am not sure at this time how school and Fascist youth group activities were coordination. We believe that there was considerble coordination here, rather like that of the Young Pioneers, but we have little infoirmation at this time.
Bottai, Giuseppe. La Carta della Scuola (Milan: A. Mondadori, 1939).
Diario della Scuola Fascista (Treviso: Longo & Zoppelli, 1939-1940).
Fry Collection. "Italian Life Under Fascism: Selections from the Fry Collection" Exhibition in the Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison, July through September 1998.
P.N.F. Gioventù Italiana del Littorio. Il Libro della Quinta Classe (Letture. Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1939).
Padellaro. N. Scuola Fascista (Rome: Libreria del Littorio, n.d. but ca. 1930).
Zammarchi, Angelo and Cesare Angelini. Il Libro della III Elementare (Rome: La Libreria dello Stato, 1939.
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