School and Fascism


The rise of fascism led to the suspension of political parties, associations of the opposition, media outlets and of all forms of democratic participation in the public life. In a totalitarian system like the fascist one, propaganda, the control over information and the consensus of the masses became crucial elements to the development of the regime’s ideology. So, creating a new school meant educating, and not only teaching, the Italian youth to understand Fascism. In this sense, the school reform devised by Giovanni Gentile in 1923, had the aim of creating a new ruling class that should morally and culturally come up to national traditions and to the role claimed in Europe, including in the school curriculum also physical education, military training, and the taking part in the regime’s events and meetings. School was transformed to become a crucial element to the indoctrination and the political socialization of the society as a whole. This was made possible thanks to the setting up of organizations such as the Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) or the Giovani Universitari Fascisti (GUF), institutions complementary to school education, which had to be joined mandatorily and whose main goal was that of training future soldiers, men ready to “believe, obey and fight ” and of “forming the consciousness and mindset of those that will be the fascists of tomorrow.” The paramilitary education made up a significant part of the fascist pedagogy. Uniforms, marching, drill, discipline, were the tools used to train the new Italians. The youth had to align with the image of a dynamic society that reached out for grandiose goals, but at the same time they were requested to fit into a rigid, centralized and hierarchical system. At the top of the hierarchy, the “Duce” was pinpointed as the sublime example of the “new Italian”. This led to a downright personality cult. Moreover, the ONB ran vocational training courses, post-school education for adults, classes in childcare and housekeeping for women, it offered assistance for health and sanitation, as well as social services and insurance to its members. There was also an alternative to the Balilla: the ‘marinaretti’, an institution preparing the youth the same way, but for a career in the navy; this institution could be accessed after having obtained the authorization from the Legion one belonged to. All the members of the ONB had a uniform made up of a black shirt, a light blue neckerchief, grey-green trousers, a black band and a hat called fez. Moreover, during military drill the boys were equipped with a musket (in a toy version for the Figli della Lupa, as the younger Balillas were called).



La vita dei bambini durante il ventennio fascista

Giulia Antonelli, Michele Bigatton, Francesco Dario, Agnese Lorenzon, Ambra Makuc, Simone Pecoraro, Andrea Raccovelli, La vita dei bambini durante il ventennio fascista, (I.S.I.T. N. Pacassi di Gorizia) Treno della Memoria 2009

De Felice R., Mussolini il duce. Gli anni del consenso, Einaudi, Torino, 1974.

Vito Perrini, La Costruzione Identitaria, tesi di laurea, Siena, anno accademico 2004-2005