Quaker film questions the militarisation of education
Quakers in Britain launch public debate about the militarisation of education by releasing a short film: The Unseen March.
The Unseen March questions the increasing, and largely unseen, militarisation of schools in Britain. In the film, former paratrooper Ben Griffin, school principal Chris Gabbett and activist Mark Thomas speak out about the strategy that has seen the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Education working in close partnership on 'military ethos' projects.
Quakers, who oppose all war, are asking the British government to reconsider its policy to militarise the nation's classrooms.
Military involvement in schools
A military ethos is not a learning ethos- Brian Lightman, Association of Schools and College Leaders
Former Education Secretary Michael Gove stated “every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos", an agenda pursued by his successor Nicky Morgan and allocated to Edward Timpson, Minister for Children and Families. Since 2011, the government has committed £45 million for new programmes with 'a military ethos' and slashed Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), Disabled Students Allowance (DSA) and mental health services for young people.
Military-led activities in national education policy include aggressive plans to spread cadet forces to state schools (550 by 2020); arms companies and the military sponsoring new academies and influencing what they teach; and military personnel being fed into classrooms as speakers, recruiters and teachers. All of this is taking place with virtually no public debate or wider scrutiny.
Normalisation of war
So-called 'military values', such as leadership, discipline and motivation should no doubt play their part in today's schools but not at the expense of listening skills, non-violent resolution of conflict, mediation and respect for difference.- Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Quakers are not
the only ones concerned. The film offers critiques from a range of educators including Brian Lightman of
the Association of School and College Leaders. He says "A military ethos is
not a learning ethos." Education requires the ability to question and evaluate
Each new military ethos programme is presented as in children's best interests: boosting self-discipline; building character; developing 'grit'.
Ben Griffin, founder of Veterans for Peace UK, says that the military is selling this idea of the military ethos as "teamwork, discipline and duty" in order to gain access to schools. He argues that military ethos is actually about instilling obedience without question, developing a gang mentality and removing the innate psychological barrier to killing.
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk of Quakers in Britain says, "So-called 'military values', such as leadership, discipline and motivation should no doubt play their part in today's schools but not at the expense of listening skills, non-violent resolution of conflict, mediation and respect for difference.
War represents our failure to resolve our differences by peaceful and amicable means; any ethos which supports it has no place in our society.- Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
Since the 17th century, Quakers in Britain have felt called to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars', and are alarmed at the increasing role of the military in our schools. War represents our failure to resolve our differences by peaceful and amicable means; any ethos which supports it has no place in our society."
The Unseen March seeks to awaken a national debate highlighting the dangers of an increasing role of the military in education, and the normalisation of war.
Ultimately, militarism in schools leads to two kinds of recruitment: the recruitment of teenagers into the armed forces, and the recruitment of wider society to be war ready.
Quakers are asking parents and pupils, governors and teachers, to question militarisation in education.