Age of Awareness
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Age of Awareness

Attacking Teachers and Banning Books is the Point — Part I: The Fascist Playbook

Three-part Series Summary:

  1. The current far-right attacks on school boards, schools, teachers, and curricula is not surprising. All fascist movements have attacked their teachers, schools, and curricula.
  2. Although the current far-right attacks on school boards, schools, teachers, and curricula has reached a more extreme stage, this is not new. Fiscal conservatives and the religious right have been ramping up their attacks on educators for several decades. The goal has been both to privatize our schools so that corporations can profit and to re-segregate our schools.
  3. The current attacks on our school boards, schools, teachers, and curricula are following the fascist playbook. They are now making a full attempt to attack and take over our school system. This effort might be one prong of a full 2024 coup attempt.

All Fascist governments attack and attempt to control their schools and teachers.

Russia’s Joseph Stalin infamously stated, “Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” His reign in the Soviet Union was accompanied by “revising” the books available in schools and libraries by altering photographs to edit out historical figures who no longer aligned with the interests of Stalin and his allies, and by ripping out whole chapters of books, if not by removing them outright (a practice which Trump and the Republican National Committee are already emulating). When anyone who spoke up against the regime during the “Reign of Terror” in the 1930’s was shipped to a gulag to perform hard labor, and when the regime started targeting artists and intellectuals, citizens even self-censored, ripping pages or inking out any material in their own books that they thought would be offensive. In a twist of rhetoric eerily similar to the current “schools are failing and teachers aren’t doing their jobs” rhetoric that has dominated U.S. media since the 1980’s, teachers were derided for “shirking their responsibility for pupils’ lack of achievement.” The Stalinist government used teachers’ “failures” as a justification to purge teachers and “reform” the educational system. Schools fell under state control, where curriculum was tightly controlled and teachers were certified based on their loyalty to the communist party and their personal histories.

Like many fascist regimes, the Stalinists in Russia knew that they couldn’t control the people until they controlled the schools.

At around the same time, Musselini’s fascist government in Italy was following Stalin’s playbook by creating a centralized, state-controlled school system that tightly supervised teachers. All schools taught a state-mandated, propagandistic curriculum that espoused nationalistic and militaristic values.

During the 1960’s “Cultural Revolution,China’s Maoists targeted teachers as “capitalist intellectuals.” They removed them from their teaching positions and installed partisan insiders in their place who would be compliant in teaching Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and other Communist Party propaganda. Not content with that, they got students in the Red Guard to attack their own teachers. The Chinese Communist Party forced teachers to wear placards stating they were traitors to the state and marched them through the streets so angry mobs could scream at them and throw rotten food at them. Many teachers were even sent to re-education camps or to work on farms or do other hard labor.

In 1970’s Cambodia, under the dictator Pol Pot, “The educated were systematically eliminated; students, teachers, doctors and even those who simply wore spectacles were targeted and murdered.” They destroyed 90% of their public schools.

More recently, more than 125,000 teachers who opposed this year’s coup in Myanmar have been suspended, as well as 19,500 university faculty and staff. The coup left the school system in shambles as frightened parents kept their children at home rather than subject them to indoctrination. The military junta may be using the chaos within schools as yet another strategy of achieving social control.

Man standing with his arms folded at Nazi rally where everyone else is saluting
Source: imigur.com, Kaczynski, Andrew. (2012). “The German Guy Who Refused To Give a Nazi Salute Was a Badass. Buzzfeed.

Perhaps most infamously, Hitler’s Nazi Party in Germany “reformed” their school system in their own image. They “introduced new textbooks which were often racist” in their inclusion of eugenics, and that were filled with nationalistic and militaristic propaganda. Within three months after Hitler became Chancellor, the Nazis purged their schools of all Jewish teachers and of any teachers with “undesirable” beliefs. Membership in the Nazi Party became compulsary for teachers, and all teachers were required to attend a one-month Nazi training course. Soon, they began limiting access for Jewish and other “undesirable” students, first by humiliating them at school, then with a quota, and then by banning them outright.

Does any of this sound familiar?

If it doesn’t, it should.

If it doesn’t yet, it’s starting to look like it will soon.

Silencing teachers, silencing the educated, controlling the curriculum, and controlling schools are are key components of the fascist playbook.

Link to Part II — A Brief History of Fiscal and Religious Conservatives’ Attacks on Public Education

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Writing on the Wall

Writing on the Wall

Suzie Null is a former middle and high school teacher and current professor of Teacher Education. Follow her on Twitter at WritingontheWall @NullSet16

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