Education & Fascism

John Dewey wrote in Experience & Education, “The question I would raise concerns why we prefer democratic and humane arrangements to those, which are autocratic and harsh… Can we find any reason that does not ultimately come down to the belief that democratic social arrangements promote a better quality of human experience, one which is more widely accessible and enjoyed, than do non-democratic and anti-democratic forms of social life?”

Let’s just say it. Our government becomes less democratic every year. As a result, our country is currently run by Fascists.

Perhaps the most critical question facing the field of education today is how to use education to resist fascism. While the field of music education is making important attempts at reforming students’ experiences to be more relevant, anti-racist, and inclusive, it has so far largely ignored the rise of fascism. This must end. Music educators often view themselves as separate from the rest of the school, the rest of the education system, or the rest of society. This too must end. Arts education that serves its own interests over the needs of the communities it serves is illegitimate. Art for art’s sake is a privileged perspective. What higher calling is there for art than standing up to power?

My school experience was faith-centered. That is, we were expected to just believe what we were told, rather than to question or theorize. School experiences that encourage students to trust authority blindly promote authoritarianism. School experiences that encourage students to engage with the world critically prepare them to become the informed citizenry that is necessary for sustaining a democracy besieged by the corrosive power of capital.

What forces shape the lives of the people in my community, for better and worse? How can I get students to engage with their lived experiences critically so that they come to see and understand those forces? What can we do together to support positive forces and resist negative ones?

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