Figli del Fascismo: Militarization of Children’s Education in Fascist Italy

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Figli del Fascismo: Militarization of Children’s Education in Fascist Italy

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    Figli del Fascismo: Militarization of Children’s Education in Fascist Italy   by Yasdanee Valdes 4 December 2011   Valdes ii LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Figure 1: ONMI Mother and Child Home, Fiume …………………………………page 8  Figure 2: Boys eating in a Mother and Child Home ………………………………..page 9 Figure 3: Young females engaging in ONMI's physical education exercises ………page 9 Figure 4: Young men engaging in ONMI's physical education program ………….page 10  Figure 5: Woman shown sewing a garment ………………………………………..page 14  Figure 6: Woman providing apples to two girls ……………………………………page 15  Figure 7: Boy giving salute ………………………………………………………...page 18   Figure 8: Balilla saluting…………………………………………………………...page 19   Figure 9: Balilla with raised flags………………………………………………….page 21   Figure 10: Boy in Balilla uniform………………………………………………….page 22 Figure 11: Balilla boy in textbook…………………………………………………page 23  Figure 12: Italian children in uniform painting map of Ethiopia …………………..page 25  Figure 13: Italian children chasing and booting out Ethiopian children ……….......page 26     Valdes 1 INTRODUCTION The sign of Fascist Italy. The rods gathered and close together specify harmony, unity, love. The ax signifies courage, strength. Under this sign, disciplined and in agreement, Italians work for the greatness of the Fatherland  . 1  In all societies through the history of time, education has played a fundamental role in the creation of a civil society, it is the central media in which to promote and infuse the ideology of the state. Childhood education in particular, is where the ideological seed is first planted, a seed that with the proper nourishment will grow in the minds of the youth to create in them representatives that will carry with them the ideological tools necessary to navigate state to its future prosperity. Without the proper indoctrination of the youth the state, and its ideology, will soon cease to exist. The belief that the future lies with the youth is at the very core of fascist ideology. The following research paper will focus on childhood education in fascist Italy during the period of the rise of Mussolini’s fascist state in the 1920s, throug h the fall of the fascist government in the mid-1940s. The aim of this research is to investigate the recurring militarized elements found within children’s educational material, images, and literature. The research will also attempt to illustrate the gender relationship found in the 1  Clementina Bagagli,  Letture: Classe Prima  (Roma: Scuole Italiane All' Estero, 1933), 88. Illustrated by Angelo Della Torre, Wolfsonian Accession Number XC1993.291.   Valdes 2 fascist education and how the absence of female children from the overwhelming military atmosphere of the educational material illustrates the domestic role women played in the fascist state. By analyzing these two elements the study will attempt to illustrate that Mussolini and the  Partito Nazionale Fascista  used the youth education system to  promote the state’s fascist ideology, in particular the domestic roles that women and men should play within society. The study will also attempt to illustrate that although women’s role in society was limited to that of mothers and nurturers, they still played a crucial role in the state’s ideology and within society. The study will primarily consist of a detail analysis of images found wi thin educational materials, children’s literature, and fascist propaganda geared towards children and women. Italian fascist ideology focused on embedding myths consisting of traditional and revolutionary themes, of nationalist and Fascist rhetoric. 2  Images became an important media for the state to promote their ideology and the themes that construct it, especially when it came to the youth as many of the children were just beginning to learn how to read and write. The study will also look at educational textbooks from grades one through four and children’s literature, all of which were in Italian and were translated into English by this paper’s author for the  purpose of this study. Italian fascism is byproduct of the political crises of the 1890s. Italian fascists  praised the purifying effects of war and dynamism and condemned pacifism and neutrality; Fascists, just like Futurists, believed that the future of Italy laid with the young and strong. Fascism , according to Tracy H. Koon, consisted on “action -related set of ideas that were used to elicit a certain response from the masses, to pull certain emotional 2  Tracy H. Koon,  Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist  Italy, 1922-1943  (Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 1985), 12.   Valdes 3 and intellectual strings.” 3  Fascism embedded a political myth that invoked revolutionary sentiments that led followers to see themselves as an army fighting for their image of what they believed to be the future. Italian Fascism took its form under its charismatic leader Benito Mussolini, who founded the  Partito Nazionale Fascista  (National Fascist Party, PNF) on 9 November 1921. 4  Prior to the founding of the Fascist party, Mussolini was member of the Italian Socialist Party, but he soon began to notice the powerful effects that nationalism and revolutionary syndicalism had on mobilizing society during the Italian-Turkish War of 1911-1912. 5  With the outbreak of the First World War in the summer of 1914, the Italian Socialist Party split up due to internal turmoil concerning Italy’s entrance into the war. The Socialist party took an official stance against the war on the grounds of internationalism, but Mussolini and other revolutionary syndicalists, supported intervention against the Central Powers on that grounds that their reactionary governments needed to be defeated in order to insure the success of the Socialist movement. The deserted members of the Socialist Party on 1 October 1914 in Milan formed the  F  asci d’Azione Rivoluzionaria (Fascists of Revolutionary Action). 6  From its creation Mussolini had nothing to do with the formulation of the new party’s  programs. 3  Tracy H. Koon,  Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist  Italy, 1922-1943  (Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 1985), 3-4. 4  Borden W. Painter,  Mussolini's Rome  (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 1. 5  Tracy H. Koon, Believe, Obey, Fight: Political Socialization of Youth in Fascist Italy, 1922-1943 (Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 1985), 6. 6  Zeev Sternhell, Mario Sznajder, and Maia Asheri, The Birth of Fascist  Ideology:from Cultural Rebellion to Political Revolution  [Naissance de l'I deologie Fasciste], trans. David Maisel (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 205.
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