Education and War
Designing educational system means setting up the future of a society. Although schools are not the only factor in the development of every person’s ideas and set of values, it is maybe the most important one. We tend to consider what we’ve learned at school to be true and scientifically proven. We dismiss or at least doubt any information that is not in accordance with the truth we remember reading clearly a long time ago in our school book and repeated by the teacher over and over again. Since educational policy in the world is mostly in the hands of the state and political structures, it is being used to promote their specific goals. Every political system uses schools and education of new generations to secure its long-lasting future. In the school system, the basic ideology of the society is almost never questioned. It is rarely a subject of school debates even if specific education system tends to promote students critical thinking about all other topics. It is common to use public schools to indoctrinate young generations with something a society considers to be its basic values, despite the obvious fact that these values are in reality subject to changes. The position of education is particularly delicate in the societies affected by military conflicts. As editors of Education and War point out, “no aspect of education is untouched by war; school structures, curriculum, pedagogy, access, outcomes, and personal and emotional ties to schools and colleagues are reconsidered in the wake of violence and political upheaval”. Most modern wars have had deep impact on schools and curriculums. In many cases education was the first victim of an aggressive political regime and became an important instrument for the preparation of war. Some situations indicate that war for schools continues even after the weapons are put down.
It is impossible to thoroughly elaborate such a complex problem in just a few pages so I will try to make an introduction using three different examples.
Case 1: Education in Nazi Germany
Education played a very important part in Nazi Germany in trying to cultivate loyal followers for Hitler and the Nazis. The German Minister of Education Bernhard Rust said “The whole purpose of education is to create Nazis.” Nazis wanted to control young people and sure their support for the future. To do this the Nazis changed the school curriculum to contain what they saw as the main needs, military skills for boys and domestic skills for the girls. The Hitler Youth had been created for post-school activities and schools were to play a critical part in developing a loyal following for Hitler - indoctrination and the use of propaganda were to be a common practice in Nazi schools and the education system. All teachers had to be approved by local Nazi officials. Any teacher considered disloyal was fired. Many attended classes during school holidays in which the Nazi curriculum was spelled out and 97% of all teachers joined the Nazi Teachers' Association. All teachers had to be careful about what they said as children were encouraged to inform the authorities if a teacher said something that did not fit in with the Nazi's curriculum for schools. Subjects underwent a major change in schools. History was based on the glory of Germany - a nationalistic approach was compulsory. The German defeat in 1918 was explained as the work of Jewish and Marxist spies who had weakened the system from within. Biology became a study of the different races to 'prove' that the Nazi belief in racial superiority was a sound belief. "Racial Instruction" started as the age of 6. The problems of inter-racial marriage were taught with an explanation that such marriages could only lead to a decline in racial purity. Geography taught pupils about the land taken away from Germany in 1919 and the need for Germany to have living space (“lebensraum”). Military topics were added to Science curriculum, for...
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