Religion, education and extremism: From totalitarian democracy to liberal autocracy
In the twentieth century, key theorists of education have continued the process of marginalizing the contribution of the sacred to the civil, evident since the Enlightenment, and specifically Christianity’s contribution to Western education. In the early twentieth century, this is nowhere better illustrated than by Dewey’s immensely influential Democracy and Education. Published in 1916 – just over a hundred years after the American and French Revolutions, but a mere twelve months before the 1917 Russian Revolution, within a decade of Mein Kampf – it was a time when across Europe, militarily robust and expansionist states provided strong national identities for their citizens. And here, religion, in the public sphere at least, was increasingly becoming seen as largely irrelevant to these nation-states and their education systems. The early part of the twentieth century also witnessed – nowhere better exemplified than in 1917 and 1933 – the rise of autocratic and totalitarian movements, which provided a direct challenge to the presumptions of democracy. Dewey’s great work was thus published at the beginning of a century that would present massive challenges to democracy, and presents many other challenges for education to this day.