Archive for January, 2015

Why does the UK military have a ‘youth engagement’ policy and why is the UK government promoting ‘military ethos’ within education?

What is the impact of military activities taking place in schools?

Alan Penn in “Quaker Voices” wrote:

‘The new tide of militarisation’ which Quaker Peace and Social Witness produced in March 2014 was a timely document drawing attention to the ever-present appearance of the military in British society.
If militarisation is ‘the process by which a society organises itself for military conflict and violence’, militarism is ‘the ideology underpinning it’.
Never entirely absent, from time to time it re-emerges into prominence with increased vigour and purpose.

Why now, and why should schools be particularly targeted?

From 1870, when school boards were set up to supplement existing church schools, drill was soon added to the teaching of the three R’s. Drill, often of a military nature, provided a respite from the confinement of benches, although some drill took place in aisles between rows of desks when no space was available outdoors. Army drill sergeants were often used to teach boys, though military drill was also taught to infants and to girls. Some boys actually used ‘rabbit’ guns to shoot at targets on ranges.

An article in ‘The School Board Chronicle’ in 1871 stated:

“We have little doubt that our School Boards will establish drill in every school under their control, partly because such a form of discipline tends to habits of order, regularity, steadiness, system and method; partly because it tends to strengthen the constitution and to invogorate the health; and partly because it tends to foster a patriotic and military taste among the mases of the people.”

Some schools preferred ‘ordinary’ drill which had no military flavour. Eventually in its annual report of 1913-14, the Board of Education responded to pressure from non-militants and reported:

“Physical exercises and, where possible, organised games and swimming, provided all that was necessary or desirable.”

Militarism surfaced again in 1930 when [the writer and journalist] John Langdon-Davies commented with disapproval:

“In parliament, to which belongs the ultimate authority over education, there has been a significant movement in favour of a definite military training as part of the curriculum.”

He added:

“We must guard against militarism in education because it aims not at the child’s good but at the state’s good – and that in a very short-sighted way – and because it atrophies individuality by every means in its power.”

The same criticism can be levied against Our governments today…

There is a rally organised in Cardiff Feb 12th against military presence in schools in Wales. I hope to attend.

Quakers Voice publication page 18 is the above Alan Penn article, then on  page 24  there are links to two short films questioning militarism in schools during WW1 and Today.

Quaker Voices Militarism Jan ’15

Short film:

http://www.forceswatch.net/young-people-military 

Background information and discussion points

The armed forces have a growing involvement in secondary schools, colleges and even primary schools. While the Army, Navy and RAF have long run activities in schools as part of the Ministry of Defence’s Youth Engagement programme, the Department for Education have recently begun to promote a ‘military ethos’ within education.

The UK armed forces make 11,000 visits to schools and colleges annually. Far more state schools are visited than private, and in some areas almost every school is visited, often numerous times each year.

Military visits to schools include:

  • careers related activities (careers events, presentations etc)
  • curriculum related military-focused materials
  • student development of the students (team building, leadingship, interview techniques etc)
  • physical activity
  • interviews for Insight courses (pre-recruitment courses at armed forces bases)
  • sessions with staff
  • visits to bases and military museums
  • work experience.

The MoD state that they do not recruit in schools, specifying that, “no pupil or student is ever ‘signed-up’ or otherwise makes a commitment to become a recruit into the Armed Forces during the course of any school visit”.

However, it is clear from their own policies that long-term recruitment is one of the main outcomes of such visits, along with creating ‘positive awareness’ about the armed forces.

  • The Department for Education’s Military Ethos in Schools programme includes:
    •    Troops To Teachers
    •    ‘alternative provision with a military ethos’ for students at risk of failing
    •    the expansion of the Combined Cadet Force in state schools
    •    the development of military-sponsored free schools and academies

The film argues that cadets are not encouraged to look at the negative realities of life in the armed forces: their military training is detached from the human impacts of war, as seen in the enjoyment one cadet takes from rifle training, and the excitement of another about having met members of the armed forces “doing great things” like “going on tour”. The latter says that the armed forces “are just like us: any job has its bad aspects”.

Some of the risks and downsides of joining the armed forces, are from mental health conditions to the much higher risk of being killed if you join the Army at 16.

Another film is “Watford’s Quiet Heroes”

 

This   symposium considers Critchley’s philosophy of an ethics of commitment in the context of contemporary art as a radical way to think the infinite demands of the present.

“Keynote address: Professor Simon Critchley: The Infinite Demand of Art: No Amount of Effort Will Save You From Oblivion” 1hr 55m

transcript  Keynote speech Critchley Infinite Demands of art (includes pdf)

Critchley has a growing interest in collaborative practices especially in the areas relating to Contemporary Art and politics.

Critchley collaboration with French artist Phillipe Parreno Google images of Critchley and Parreno

 the boy from Mars: Phillipe Parreno

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Social Biologist E.O Wilson claims “Science, Not Philosophy, Will Explain the Meaning of Existence”.

BIG THINK: E.O. Wilson: Science, Not Philosophy, Will Explain the Meaning of Existence

I studied microelectronics, art history, person-centred counselling and now philosophy and tonight I’ve attended a seminar on “Evolution of Humans and Robotics (Views on the Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines)”.
I also take an interest in the essence of our universe and try to understand physics. If I think about the mystery of the Schroedinger wave function living in Hilbert space, and about what modern philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, Daniel C. Dennett have to say, then it’s surprising that Wilson, a biologist, takes such a position towards philosophy. Why do that?
It doesn’t save him from criticism because he starts his viewpoint “he is going to deal with the meaning of meaning in order to get philosophers off this back”?
Wilson should study modern philosophy more closely, before proclaiming “philosophy is dead”.
We need all thinking power we can accumulate to get us out of the mess we are living in.
philosophy as a discipline is giving me the freedom to explore relationships between and contributions from a diverse range of fields, hugely diverse in fact.
It’s made me appreciate the depth and wealth abundance of knowledge that is out there, most of which I’ll never fully grasp, and some of the difficulties humanity has to overcome to integrate and appreciate knowledge fully.

 

Transcript

E.O. Wilson: In my book I deal right away with the meaning of meaning because I knew I would be attacked like a disturbed nest of hornets by philosophers if I did not. And of course meaning has a number of meanings, but generally speaking after you’ve gone past the basic religious definition of meaning, which is of course: “The divine creator is responsible for the design and nature of humanity and what else do you want to know?” After you get past that particular response then the subject moves to meaning as history, that is essentially: What are we and why? Where do we come from?” And this is part of meaning too: “Where are we most likely to be headed?” And I like to suggest that in order to answer those questions we cannot do it with religion because every religion has, or every religious faith, rather, has a different creation story, a story of how the universe and the Earth and people came into being. And every faith has its own special accounts of supernatural events, and they differ one from the other. And they are in competition.

And in any case they cannot be boiled down to any kind of a coherent explanation because religious faith is very much a product of human culture. And we can’t really figure out just what we are or what our meaning is by introspection. I’m reminded of the statement that Darwin made in one of his notebooks, which was that the mind, consciousness, cannot be taken by direct assault. We cannot imagine what we are inside by thinking about it alone. And it hadn’t been really dented very well by philosophy. I like to say that most of philosophy, which is a declining and highly endangered academic species, incidentally, consists of failed models of how the brain works. So students going into philosophy have to learn what Descartes thought and then after a long while why that’s wrong and what Schopenhauer might have thought and what Kant might of thought or did think. But they cannot go on from that position and historical examination of the nature of humanity to what it really is and how we might define it. So by default the explanation of meaning, of humanity, falls to science and we are making progress, if I might speak for science.

And it’s from five disciplines, and I’ll take just a moment to tell you what they are and it will make sense as to why, not all of science is whole by any means, which is developing exponentially in the creation of knowledge faster and faster, but from a particular set of the disciplines within science, and I’m going to name them. As I approach that I’ll say you cannot get the answer from astrophysicists. There are astrophysicists glad to try to explain to you rhetorically in some way or other what the meaning of humanity is and what their studies of astrophysics tells us about the significance of humanity. Forget it. They can’t possibly tell you, nor just astronomers, nor just chemists, nor just my own colleagues, molecular biologists. They’re too far removed from the subject to make any sensible thing about the meaning of human existence.

Well, what are the disciplines? And if you look at these disciplines as I’ve done, and I’ve actually worked as a researcher in a couple, you have to know what the contributions are of evolutionary biology. That is biology seen in a historical context going all the way back millions of years to the origin of the human species. And then another one, another science of course is paleontology, which segues as we come closer to modern humanity and the invention of agriculture and the birth of the Neolithic period turns into archaeology. So archaeology and paleontology, which are on a different time scale, is the other discipline, a second discipline. And a third, of course, and everybody would know about this now because it’s progressing so rapidly in so many ways is brain science. And then coming out of brain science or running parallel to it and trading with it and depending upon it and driving from it we turn now to a more technology subject, and that is artificial intelligence. And with artificial intelligence is the fifth, robotics.

Robotics is so important, as Hollywood has now glommed onto, knowing a good story when they see one, robotics includes, of course, the notion of studying the mind in perfecting artificial intelligence, and more than that; creating what the artificial intelligence and robotics people call whole brain emulation. That is using robots as avatars and creating robots that are by design an imitation of what we know about the brain more and more like humans. All those five disciplines together making bridges here and there are beginning to tell us what the meaning of humanity is. It’s the product of a grand epic. And it’s the full story of humanity. And we’re just beginning to draw it in clarity. And let me just add to that why leaving out history of the whole human species, genetic as well as cultural, you have no chance whatsoever in defining the meaning of human existence because history, that goes back essentially to the origin of literacy, history makes no sense without prehistory. That is to say the biological evolution that’s led up to the human condition at the beginning of history. And prehistory in turn, is a study of our ancestors going right back into the animal kingdom, makes no sense without biology. So we have to have a constant building of concatenation of ideas and information discipline to discipline across scales of the totality of the human population and scales of time going back actually millions of years to our early pre-human ancestors and then forward it to the era of cultural evolution. And then we will have the story of humanity. And then we will not ask in a quizzical manner, “What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of human existence?” We will have our answers.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

 

The seminar tonight “Evolution of Humans and Robotics (Views on the Co-Evolution of Humans and Machines)” covered the current and historical designs in animal motion robotics, AD/DA digital encoding, the emergence of the NooSphere (biosphere, cryosphere… and so on)  which literally means, “mind-sphere”. We briefly covered covered the book “The Singularity is Near – 2045A.D (When Humans Transcend Biology)” by Ray Kurzweil, super-evolution machines, “Super-Intelligence (Paths, Dangers & Strategies)” by Nick Bostrom and looked at the Four scenarios for the future of Human and Machine-kind.

1. Terminator; 2. The Pripyat; 3. The Amped; 4. The “Teddy”.

  1. Terminator; e.g. drone wars, DAARPA, S.H.A.F.T humanoid
  2. The Pripyat; e.g. a massive incident occurs where urban areas (such as Chernobyl) are cleared of humanity and the eco-system regains a foothold, encroaches and takes-over eroding human civilisation. e.g. WALL-E, neo-Luddite, Life in the Woods” – Waldon.
  3. The Amped; Daniel H. Wilson, enhanced humanity, technological enhancement and augmentation, medical improvements of current human model e.g. deep brain stimulation of Parkinson’s patients, amputee prosthetics, BIONIC Olympics, exoskeletons.
  4. The “Teddy”; Kubrik’s AI (Artificial Intelligence), assisting robots, SIRI Apple App, films such as; Robot & Frank, Her, ex_MACHINA…

Nano-technology/nano-robotics (I mentioned “black cloud” a Michael Crichton book)

Ray Kurzweil – immortality via robotic/technological enhancement.

Algorithmic Regulation:
Server farms run by massive corporations; ownership of data; GCHQ; Evgeny Morozov ~ “To Save Everything Click Here”; Android Apps make all your personal data available to a corporation, all IP taken by corporations and State.

The devices may have operations we have no control over.

 

The Black Box “Today we need to understand to process of tech’ evaluation given that we are experiencing the deep opacity of contemporary techniques” – Bernard Stiegler

Paul spoke about his artist interventions such as Wreck-shops ~ up cycling old tech to make art; Eppur – Si – Muove (And Still It Moves) dynamic autonomy.

 

 

 

On the 27th January 1915, one hundred years ago, over 10,000 workers, led by the Red Clydeside, went on strike in protest of the sub standard working conditions and pay that the munitions workers had to suffer.

This prompted parliament to pass the Munitions Act of 1915 which made it illegal for anyone to leave their job if they were working in aid of the war effort.

The protestors raised the red flag – Y Faner Goch! First used to represent the socialist and communist movement in Merthyr Tydfil (during the Merthyr Rising) June 1st 1831.

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a year earlier the abusive treatment of workers started the fall of British rule in Ireland and around that time the Treorchy miners were assaulted by the military on orders from Churchill at  Westminster.

 

 

I attended a march with my youngest son earlier this evening.

National News media webpage WALES Online contains latest newspaper edition of the story and further photo gallery of our UNITED VALLEYS ACTION GROUP opencast protest.

Around 60 protesters headed to Caerphilly County Borough Council’s headquarters in a bid to stop plans for an open cast coal mine. A mocked-up court trial was held by protectors who are demanding action to stop the death of the valleys.

United Valleys Action Group Nant Llesg Protectors turned out for the mock ‘trial’ at Caerphilly County Borough Council’s Ty Penallta headquarters aiming to stop the plan which would destroy the historic moorland, the CADW listed Dowlais free drainage system, remove Rhas Las pond an important arctic avian migration route and remove the top of mountain in the Rhymney Valley close to the village of Fochriw.

Miller Argent says their project, would see six to nine million tonnes of coal mined over a period of 17 years, and would bring several jobs to the area. However, campaigners have stated that a Net loss of jobs, predominantly those of women employed in nearby factories that would never be recovered.

Neighbouring cosmetics firm Richards & Appleby, which employs 140 local people, has said it would have to move its manufacturing department if the opencast goes ahead because of the pollution.

The plans have been met with strong opposition , and 5,793 objection letters were presented to the council in October by locals who are concerned about the environmental impact the mine would have, as well as the amount of coal dust and pollution it would create.

The campaigners gathered around the council headquarters at Penallta House, in Ystrad Mynach. The protest featured caricatures of a judge and barristers and vicar, with the Grim Reaper attending a coffin and a noose.

Member of the community John Hughes, who lives 600 metres from the proposed site, was one of those taking part in the procession.

He said: “The plans would see the company digging a hole hundreds of metres deep which would lead to so much dust, noise and pollution.

“The council is always urging us to be green and talking about the benefits that this has, but this opencast would have the opposite affect on us all.”

Fochriw resident Eddy Blanche has decided to run as an Independent Parliamentary candidate, and made an impassioned speech

Eddy Blanche delivers his first political speech 
as an Independent Parliamentary candidate for Rhymney 
and Merthyr Tydfil. Well Done Ed', a very honest, 
heartfelt speech.

Ecologist Jim Davies has studied the impact the opencast plans would have on local wildlife.

He said: “This mine would see the end of Rhas Las Pond, which is actually a key site for birds migrating from the Arctic down to Africa.”

“We feel that you can’t mess with this delicately balanced environment as it harms the whole ecosystem and we shouldn’t risk that.”

Caerphilly County Borough Council’s decision on the application is imminent, but no official date has been set for a vote as yet.


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Lobbying and Direct Action Resources.

 

Companies Involved

Political Parties

Government

Local Government Planning Commitees

Current Planning Applications

Local Press

National Press

Digital Press

A really well written piece, very quotable.