NGO challenges military influence in British schools

By staff writers
July 13, 2011

A British NGO is launching a new campaign focused on military influence within the UK’s schools and colleges.

Forces Watch, which works on ethical issues around the armed forces, is launching the campaign, entitled Military Out of Schools with events in London, Coventry and Edinburgh.

The events include talks by prominent US Quaker activist Oskar Castro, who has worked on similar issues in the US.

Castro is joined by ex-SAS soldier Ben Griffin, who left the armed forces in 2005.

Other speakers include David Gee, author of Informed Choice: Armed forces recruitment practice in the UK and members of School Students Against the War.

After an event in Coventry yesterday (12 July), there will be events in London today (13 July) and in Edinburgh tomorrow (14 July).

The meetings are looking at initiatives to tackle military involvement in public education in the US and what can be learned for challenging the presence of the armed forces in UK schools and colleges.

“The UK armed forces visit thousands of schools each year,” explained Emma Sangster, co-ordinator of Forces Watch, “They offer school presentation teams, youth teams, ‘careers advisors’ and lesson plans”.

She pointed out that the government is suggesting the expansion of cadet forces within state schools. She added, “While there are claims that school involvement is not about recruiting young people, the Ministry of Defence has itself stated that visits to educational establishments are a ‘powerful tool for facilitating recruitment”.

Oskar Castro was previously Co-ordinator of the Youth and Militarism Programme run by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). The project seeks to reduce the influence of the military in schools, to provide young people with alternatives to military service and to empower them to become peacemakers within their communities.

He has also worked on issues of race and education.

“We want to raise the level of debate and question whether the armed forces should be given access to children within education,” said Sangster, “There are parents, teachers and children who are not happy with it and the influence it gives to militaristic approaches.”

She added, “We will be exploring how military activities in schools and colleges can be challenged and how a more balanced view of what life in the armed forces involves can be given to young people.”


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