Peace Matters Index

militarising education

ONLINE contents

selection from paper publiation

- what we forget
- militarising education
- arms for peace
- war without end


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The government wants more military Cadet Forces established in schools to teach youngsters disciplin and to shoot.
Meanwhile it also wants to cut gun crime.

Writing recently in the Guardian Francis Gilbert, a teacher, argued against Michael Gove's plans to smooth the path of ex soldiers becoming teachers. Troops to Teachers is a program imported from the United States in name, if not wholly in practice. Gilbert cited his experience with an ex-soldier teacher at his school who struggles to cope with the demands of teaching in a mixed comprehensive. He explained ‘We had to train them up to be prepared to die at our command. You simply couldn't allow them to think for themselves.’ Clearly, Gilbert pointed out, this is not an experience that equips a teacher to manage a class of unruly pupils. An unfortunate situation but not a serious argument against ex military becoming teachers; not everyone is suited to teaching. Should pacifists have any objections?

We have drawn attention to the creeping militarisation of British society in previous issues of PeaceMatters over the years. This is a trend that has accelerated during the course of Labour's time in government (Kier Hardy founder of the labour party and vocal opponent of war or George Lansbury PPU member and leader of the Labour party are no doubt spinning in their graves) Blair's wars have brought the armed forces out of the shadows and their failure which few are willing to acknowledge requires justification. Politicians and the military alike have to appease their constituency and keep up morale and some measure of public quiescence if not support. Politicians insist that the wars they embarked on were necessary and just and for good measure extravagantly praise the military with Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day and such like wheezes to show how much they care for our heroic warriors. The military meanwhile, more often through proxy voices, blame the MoD or the treasury for not giving them the right kind of boots, helicopters, armoured cars, etc, etc, to do the job. Both need pubic support and stage man- aged arrival and transport of flag draped coffins of men who have 'done an exemplary job in the best army in the world' ticks many of the public’s boxes and makes it feel good about itself for 'caring'.

Helping ex military into teach- ing has a long history and comes from two directions. One is help ex-soldiers who might otherwise find it difficult to find work, the other is more ideological. But there may also be a cunning plan? The government is none too keen on teachers and is making big cuts in the armed forces so we may be witnessing an unfortunate example of 'joined up government'. Ex-military as part of Troops to Teachers are now able to apply for £9,000 bursaries to retrain as teachers and some £1.5 million will be awarded to SkillForce, an old Labour Party plan to employ ex military (whose major selling point is said to be their skill at instilling discipline) to teach unruly pupils. According to the most recent OFSTED report pupils’ behaviour was good or outstanding in 86% of schools and over 90% of schools previously judged to be inadequate showed improvement when next inspected so this may not yet be the time to bring in the army.

Barking Sergeant Major types have no place in schools we were told in a recent BBC Panorama program about the ex-military invasion of British schools; a teenager explained: 'They just use their eyes and you’re really scared.' The military approach was portrayed as wholly good without supporting evidence except from its supporters.

In Michel Gove's favourite sentence, his plan for getting ex military into schools gives a 'Huge opportunity for people who served their country in uni- form to serve their country in our schools'. Neil Mackintosh assistant head of Lordswood school, featured in the program and where 1 in 12 teachers are ex military agrees; he likes to hire teachers with a military back- ground because “they’re more resilient. They don’t get down- hearted after a bad day, they’re less likely to take days off sick.” He was a former infantry captain. No one actually said that students undergoing teacher training should be sent to Afghanistan for some proper training though one is left wondering why not. Militarism is a cast of mind that accepts war as a beneficial activity and so while we should have no principled objection to ex military becoming teachers, nor should we assume that their view of war is uniform. Plenty of teachers, after all have sup- ported Britain's recent wars. However what we should object to and object strenuously is the fiction that the particularity of the military experience is of any value beyond the narrow con- fines of their world. There is no reason to believe that military personnel by virtue of the fact that they were in the military, will make better teachers than anyone else. Furthermore it is unfair to give ex-military preferential treatment above other groups by providing them fund- ing and less stringent entry requirements for teacher training and it denigrates teachers by suggesting that they need to call in the military who have been found seriously wanting in their area of 'expertise' to solve the discipline problem in our schools. Why not bursaries for single parents, call centre operatives or cooks to teachers?

The sight of classrooms full of kids in uniform must gladden Michael Gove's heart. He wants to see more after-school uniform parades to instil the 'spirit of service' in the next generation.

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