Criticism for Gove's plans to promote militarism in schools

By staff writers
14 Dec 2012

The UK Education Secretary's announcement of a £2 million programme to place former service personnel in British schools has been roundly criticised by faith and civic groups and individuals.

Michael Gove declared: “Every child can benefit from a military ethos. Self-discipline and teamwork are at the heart of what makes our armed forces the best in the world - and are exactly what all young people need to succeed. ”

Author Margaret Drabble, Quakers, restorative justice workers and peace groups are among those who have expressed "grave concern" about the development.

Quakers in the Ipswich and Diss Area Meeting say: "We are a religious body which has held a Testimony to Peace for three and a half centuries and whose Declaration to Charles II in 1660 contained these words: 'the spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons'."

"We are concerned to know what provision may be made for the consciences of parents who do not wish their children to attend a school where this ethos is prized.

"We are also troubled by a moral view which seems unable to separate the virtues of courage, comradeship, self-discipline and teamwork from the training of young people for war. We would like children to learn that war is both an ineffective and a brutal way of attempting to resolve conflict," they say.

Military service and tuition for young people has been backed by the wealthy right-wing ResPublica thinktank, galvanised by former academic theologian and Conservative ideologist Phillip Blond. It is also supported by the shadow education secretary, Labour's Stephen Twigg.

Others strongly disagree with this approach. Writing to the Guardian newspaper, Anne Currie from Darlington writes: "Restorative justice and reconciliation represent a more organic form of discipline than that proposed by Mr Gove. The techniques are easily taught, and are practised, up here in the north, in a primary school at Barton in County Durham, on a daily basis."

"As a Catholic, I find [Mr Gove's views] reprehensible," declared Martin Cawte, a former educator, social worker and diocesan secretary for the Anglican Diocese of Southwark.

"At the heart of this project is the need to raise recruits for a 50% rise in the UK's reserve forces to 36,000 by 2020, rather than promoting positive 'core values' in young people," notes Dr Ian Davies from Ross-shire, Scotland.

"Attempts to militarise education and other aspects of public life are a disturbing trend," says Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, which works with the historic peace churches and supports peacemaking initiatives and research.

"The skills and aptitudes young people need most in a changing, diverse and conflictual world are those that foster cooperation, creative nonviolence, conflict transformation, restorative justice, peacemaking, and a sense of moral community that eschews rather than glorifies violence.

"The £2 million the government is planning to spend on this initiative could instead be directed fruitfully to involving in education and school learning the numerous NGOs working in these fields." says Ekklesia.

[Ekk/3]

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