Fascism used different tools and media to educate Italians to be good Fascists, and to present the myth of the “new man”. This myth had a number of different nuances during the twenty years of the regime. The strong educational aim of Fascism pervaded the entire life of Italians and assigned great importance to the education of children and young people. Schools were therefore given a significant role in this process, which grew in intensity during the thirties, with the Empire and the conquest of Ethiopia. School textbooks, with their images, are relevant sources for examining this process. Thanks to the extensive work in revising school textbooks undertaken by the Commission, which had been established by the minister Giovanni Gentile in 1923 and was chaired by Giuseppe Lombardo Radice, only the best books, which included the notion of progressive education and a modern idea of the child, could be published. The search for “the Fascist book” then began, but it was only in 1930 that the State Fascist textbooks replaced by law the previous ones. Nonetheless, an examination of the text and images of various State textbooks reveals a complex mix of traditional educational messages, centred around the Catholic faith, patriotic values and il Duce’s exaltation. It has been noted that the “new man” was initially an anti-liberal and subsequently a “mass-man” [uomo-massa], with no individual identity. Examination of the State textbooks, however, also reveals messages, which were sometimes contradictory (Christian peace and Fascist war, for example). The importance of the family, constantly underlined, undermined the “mass-man” messages. Traditional rural values coexisted with the spirit of modernization. This article shows how some Fascist educational messages were coherent with traditional ones, and were therefore probably more easily accepted, whereas others were typically Fascist; and how the image of the new child changed.
- Fascist educational models
- Italian Fascism
- progressive education
- school textbooks
- the Fascist “new man”/”new child”