Politieke pedagogiek | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 41, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1567-7109
  • E-ISSN: 2468-1652



The traditional movement toward educational reform at the beginning of the last century emphasized the individual child and his or her experiential world. The current paper addresses the question why reform schools such as Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf schools could easily be incorporated in the National-Socialist political movement in the thirties of the last century. After the Second World War the crucial issue for pedagogues and educators was how children could be guided to become less susceptible to the ideological temptations of Nazism and of totalitarianism in general. The initiators of the Frankfurter Schule (Horkheimer, Adorno) focussed on psychoanalytic determinants of vulnerability for this totalitarian seduction and introduced the concept of ‘the authoritarian personality’.

Instead of psychoanalysis we use here Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s theory and research on moral development to address this same question of susceptibility to anti-democratic racist, sexist, militarist and nationalist movements, following pathfinding work of the second generation Frankfurters Habermas and Lempert. Social-psychological experiments and cultural anthropological studies are consulted to examine what role social-cultural context plays. In most social settings people can be easily nudged into conformism and thus triggered into uncritical acceptance of authoritarian leadership. Individuals with some resilience against such pressures might be characterised with a high level of moral reasoning. Some studies linking moral argumentation to political orientation suggest ways in which a ‘political pedagogy’ might contribute to harnessing such findings for anti-fascist educational applications.


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