Latest from our Education Worker, Karen Robinson
The other morning at the entrance to Great Portland St Underground Station on my way to work there were three men in military uniform lined up trying to engage the public in conversation. I don’t know whether they were trying to raise money or raise awareness of the military. They asked me if I had a moment and I smiled and simply said I was a pacifist and kept going. We then wished each other a good day. I wondered if I should have tried to say more … there I was going to spend the day campaigning against militarism.
It reminded me of the film we saw at our AGM recently; ‘War School’.
In the film we saw military men in uniform showing children at community fairs how to shoot guns at a target.
‘It starts with a 7-year-old boy watching an air show … it fires their imagination’. - Participant's comment
‘We’re sleepwalking into a militarised society …. is that really the direction we want to head in?’ Said one teacher, reflecting on military visits to schools
One ex-soldier looking back on his experience said:
‘You’re taken out of education … you can never get that time back’.
We learned that certain Councils in Scotland have decided not to allow the military into their schools.
The report of the inquiry into ‘National Recognition of our Armed Forces’ was mentioned in the film. The inquiry was set up in 2007. Its terms of reference were to, ‘Identify ways of encouraging greater understanding and appreciation of the Armed Forces by the British Public.’ The report was published in 2008. The then government (under Gordon Brown) was seeking to influence society to support the military. I had not heard of the report and looked it up.
The following sections caught my eye:
We believe that gaining some understanding of the Armed Forces, as part of education on our national institutions, should be an essential element of the Citizenship Agenda and civic education in schools. We would urge those responsible for the National Curriculum to consider specifying a module on the subject.
‘Return to School’ Programme
There is never, in education or in any other branch of human affairs, any substitute for personal contact and dialogue. We recommend that as a general rule serving sailors, soldiers, and airmen, at the convenience of their units, should be allowed a day on duty and a travel warrant, to revisit their old school for the purpose of meeting with teachers and current pupils.
Civic Education in Secondary Schools
We believe that even more than this needs to be done on the educational front. We believe that every secondary school should be circularised by the senior military chain of command with the offer of an hour or so’s presentation in any one year by an officer or Senior Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) (Regular or Reserve) on the latter’s professional life and experiences. This offer would be irrespective of any visits made under Recommendation 29 above, and should be entirely unrelated to the Armed Forces’ recruitment effort or structures. Our conversations with local units have confirmed our belief that the manpower cost of this could be borne without excessive difficulty if spread across units and Services, given plausible rates of take-up by schools.
At the AGM it was pointed out that in addition to our taxes funding killing directly, they are spent on preparation for war, and they are spent on what was seen as propaganda promoting the military.
In the government’s response to the Inquiry, people’s willingness to pay for the military through their taxes was mentioned directly:
The Inquiry concluded that while the Armed Forces enjoy immense respect and gratitude on the part of the nation, the foundation on which that support is based has eroded over recent years and is likely to continue to do so unless countervailing measures are taken. It also pointed out that increased separation of the Armed Forces from civilian life carries risks for both parties: the material and moral support of society is indispensable to the motivation and morale of the Armed Forces, and public understanding of the military determines the climate within which the Forces can recruit and train, and the willingness of the tax payer to finance them adequately.
The Report recommended a number of measures to counter this trend of increased separation between society and the military.
It did so by addressing the issues of visibility, contact, understanding and support. It sought to propose measures that would involve minimum diversion of scarce Defence resources.
It seems quite likely that the three military men I saw in uniform at the entrance to the underground station the other morning were in some way linked to that initiative started ten years ago to improve visibility of the armed forces.