Education in Fascist Italy

Benito Mussolini, who controlled Fascist Italy during World War II, implemented an educational system that shared many features with education in Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, and the Ottoman Empire.

Mussolini, however, had to deal with a population that was staunchly Catholic. The Catholic Church was a palpable, independent political influence in Italy. Mussolini despised the Catholic Church, but he was reluctant to risk an open struggle with the institution.

Mussolini's solution was to declare Catholicism the official state religion of Italy. He formulated civil laws and educational policies which were ostensibly designed to compel citizen conformity with Catholic precepts. As a gesture to Adolph Hitler, Mussolini simultaneously targeted Italian Jews with discriminatory laws and policies.

Italy's education system evoked the militaristic terminology and trappings of the old Roman Empire. Schools taught children to be creatures of the state. Carefully-designed, state-sponsored, quasi-military youth organizations were established. Boys were to be soldiers, and girls were to raise soldiers.

Mussolini built himself up as a cult figure. He justified his power by depicting himself as a great leader and defender of social morality. He imposed a standardized curriculum designed to inculcate his propaganda. "The Government," he declared, "demands that the school be inspired by the ideals of demands that the school at all levels and in all its instruction train Italian youth to understand fascism, to ennoble itself through fascism, and to live in the historic climate created by the Fascist revolution."

In the end, Mussolini's educational system wreaked the same havoc caused by all forms of totalitarian inculcation. Mussolini's compulsory education brought calamity upon Italy instead of improved moral or economic conditions.

See also Education in National Socialist Germany.

Sources: Memory and Reconciliation: The Church and the Faults of the Past, Life in Mussolini's Italy, Mussolini and the Roman Catholic Church, Women and Youth Under Mussolini.

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