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.”
“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.
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”