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The aims of the partnership are to offer schools links with employees and local trainers; to train teachers and link British Aerospace with a network of schools.

The marketing of militarism seems to be on the increase. In February the Ministry of Defence launched its first venture into the commercial market under the ‘Army be Best’ logo, offering fashion items to young people including wristwatches, walking boots and stationery. At the same time the Territorial Army introduced a massive £3 million campaign to try to entice young people to join them. And now that the education system is part of the ‘marketplace’, it too is up for grabs. In 1998 the Government launched its ‘fundamental challenge to the education status quo’–Education Action Zones with the aim that one child in every 50 will be taught in an area where EAZ’s have been established. This means that schools can now come under the direct influence of companies such as MacDonalds, British American Tobacco, Tate and Lyle and British Aerospace, all of which offer partnerships to schools.

In 1996 a teacher who applied for a teaching job in Lancashire was surprised to discover that the school was in a financial partnership with British Aerospace. He wrote to the then Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Shepherd, to ask if there was any control or guidance about relationships between schools and private companies or to the charitable giving to schools by companies. There wasn’t. Schools decide for themselves whether a partnership would serve the interest of staff and pupils. Some months later a mother in Liverpool discovered that the school her child was attending had accepted computers from BAe who were also running after-school activities in technology; other schools in the area were also accepting BAe funding and practical support. In both cases school authorities were unconcerned. However there is considerable local public unease at the way BAe was beginning to get a hold on schools and at the lack of a forum for those trying to ask questions about the ethics of such a relationship. Local pressures such as the under-funding of schools; a strong BAe presence in an area; employment of parents in BAe, are all strong factors which protect the BAe partnership.

Kingston upon Hull is one local authority that has entered a partnership with British Aerospace in relation to the Design and Technology Curriculum. This is the only such partnership of its kind.

The aims of the partnership are to offer schools links with employees and local trainers; to train teachers and link BAe with a network of schools. The local adviser for design and technology, who has worked at developing the partnership, has stressed the importance of bringing the world of industry into the classroom. At a meeting of heads and governors, he said that this link with BAe would bring expertise into the classroom which would otherwise not be delivered. In one of their promotional leaflets BAe talk of help they give to students at Stockport School saying: ‘Schoolchildren have a lot on their minds, not least impending exams, decisions about further education and choice of careers. A help in all these areas is being provided by British Aerospace Avro which encourages pupils to spend half a day a week throughout the school year at the companies site. The indoctrination they receive is entirely technological. They are introduced to the latest techniques and try their hands at using them…they work on real projects, making real things and if they are good enough they are eventually offered a job’.

At one meeting of parents, teachers, governors and others about the partnership it was suggested that as the third largest ‘defence contractor’ in the world BAe may be trying to make itself more ‘respectable’ by going into such partnerships.

human rights?
What sort of impact might a partnership with BAe have on the life of a school. How would the school and teachers approach the teaching of human rights and human development in view of the well documented destabilising effects of arms sales/purchases and square that with the school’s funding from such a trade? The discussion which followed was emotional and at times heated. Some raised questions about the nature of BAe’s arms sales – surely they were for self-defence. Others were concerned about the implications for the local industry at Brough – if criticisms about BAe’s work were accepted what would that say to the local workforce? A few were deeply concerned about the message that the partnership would give to their children and wanted nothing to do with it. The questions and dialogue were important in trying to open-up the implications of the partnership on the life of the community in Hull and on the global community which is also touched by BAe.

What sort of training is being offered by the company? Is the emphasis on training for employment or training to develop skills that might be applied in a number of areas of life? Does the training seek to influence the content of the curriculum e.g. through the programmes and materials used by the company; through the projects or placements offered by the company?

In what way might the company seek to influence the culture of the school e.g. does it place the role of the individual/success of the individual above that of the common good. Does the company encourage co-operative or competitive approaches to work? Does the company seek to use the school in its own public relations work? Does it seek to promote and advertise its goods within the school? In the light of such questions, does the work of the company help or hinder a school’s moral and social teaching and with the school’s own Mission Statement?

sewn up
At a more recent meeting in Hull similar points were raised but people were also frustrated and angry. Most felt that it was a fait accompli – with little public consultation the partnership has been decided upon. Individual schools may reject the partnership and suffer the consequences of lack of resources and training for the design and technology curriculum, but the Local Education Authority has sewn up the deal. Vulnerable schools under the eyes of the inspectors, are those most likely to be in need of resources and will be put in an invidious situation. Parents and teachers who have deeply held beliefs that the arms trade is morally wrong will have to make difficult decisions on how to withdraw their co-operation with the partnership.

Much good also came from the meeting. A sense that there is a substantial group of people who, now that they are more fully aware of the implications of the partnership, will do all they can to make the Local Education Authority more accountable for what it is doing in the future. It is likely that the partnership will be reviewed and evaluated. Now is the time to prepare for this. Different questions and measures of ‘success’ can be prepared and offered to the LEA in time for the review. Church schools should be in a particularly strong position to challenge the ethics of the partnership. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough (which includes Hull) has already produced an excellent set of guidelines relating to questions of ethical investment and the arms trade. Similar guidelines could be offered to schools. Local people, who have expertise in the field of design and technology could be contacted with a view to inviting them to offer this expertise with schools that say no to the partnership – as a way of helping them reach their standards without the help of BAe. If schools do enter the partnership, much can still be done to help pupils raise critical questions about the arms trade; human rights and poverty issues. Pupils could even be encouraged to draw up their own guidelines on what sort of ‘partnership’ they feel is appropriate for them as global citizens.

More than ever, parents, teachers and concerned citizens must be as ‘wise as serpents and gentle as doves’ in monitoring what is happening in schools. The more we share our experiences of these efforts the more confident and better informed we become in acting for change.

Pat Gaffney
First published in Peace Matters

shop till you drop

The Army is cashing in on the recent fashion for combat outfits and military winter gear. This spring it launches a new range of branded clothes, accessories and leisure wear, as well as mountain bikes, watches and stationery. The Head of Recruiting is targeting the teenagers and young adults the Army needs: 'After a long period when we have been forced by terrorism to withdraw from society, we want to make ourselves part of society again.' Says the MoD: 'If we can use younger techniques to help us in our recruitment, then that's what we'll do. It's part of the Army's efforts not just to be the best but to be seen to be the best.' In this case, the best what, exactly?

Meanwhile Curry's advertise 'Star Wars: Rogue Squadron' and 'Apache Havoc' ('the ultimate 3-D flying experience delivers head-to-head chopper warfighters') - at half price.

And the Comestoga Co., Inc., of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, invites you to buy a 'mammoth carbide cannon' which 'shoots with terrific BANG! Have a bang-up time at special events. Uses powdered carbide ammo. Hundreds of shots for few cents. Machined brass mechanism for easy loading and firing. Authentic turn-of-century design. Handsome decor when not in use. Made in USA to last for ever.

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