Democracy Through Fascism?

I was listening to a discussion on NPR the other day (the name of the show escapes me) about the paradox of teaching democratic ideals in authoritarian organizations. I began to wonder about schools.

As an administrator, we are taught to bring the stakeholders together at all opportunities, to include the labor (teachers) in the direction of the schoolhouse, and to encourage teacher-leadership. But we are failing if we condone fascist practices in the classroom.

Almost every district’s mission statement makes mention of preparing students as citizens in a democracy (or at least they should). But isn’t that vision blurred when we see and experience fascist classrooms? How many teachers utilize democratic ideals in their classroom practices? Seems to me that the allegiance to a ruler is sacrosanct as is total and complete obedience to the rules. Those are some of the basic principles of fascism. What many students (beginning in the earliest grades) experience is not democracy. Why then are we surprised at the lack of student self-direction, student interest in active politics and socially responsible school programs?

Am I alone in my perception? Is it possible to model democracy through fascist techniques? Do students (even the youngest and most impressionable) deserve better or different? If so, how? If had thought about this when I was in the classroom, I would have been different. I would have thought about my pedagogy more, I would have thought about my words and my expectations more. I would have been more democratic.

Author: Michael Parent, Ed.D

Father, husband, school administrator in NJ. "Education cures poverty".

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