The Daily Telegraph's "Why the military must invade our schools" is either an attempt at a bad pun to grab the reader's attention (like the title of this blog post) or one of the most chilling sentiments expressed by an elected education spokesperson.
The headline was no doubt dreamt up by a sub-editor rather than by the article's authors, but "invade" is typical of the tabloid-style headlines and chauvinistic language that inevitably seem to accompany any association between the military and education and that fail to recognise the contribution that people from a wide variety of backgrounds not just the military bring to education.
Is Mr Twigg trying to outmanoeuvre Mr Gove in the military stakes, following his announcement on school cadets?
As we have asked before:
- Would more cadet forces improve discipline, especially if they were voluntary rather than compulsory?
- Do schools that have cadet forces have fewer discipline problems?
- Is there too much focus on the military?
Yes, "veterans and reservists can be great role models. The values of responsibility, comradeship, hard work and a respect for public service are embodied in our Armed Forces" but not exclusively. These values are also embodied in teachers, doctors, nurses . They also have a "Service ethos" that "emphasises the importance of character formation and high ethical standards, as well as the development of crucial skills such as team-working".
We need to ensure that we find the right balance of "high levels of respect for authority" respect for others certainly, but surely our future citizens need to have a degree of polite scepticism when it comes to our political and media leaders rather than unquestioning obedience.
While military service has much to offer many young people, and offers much to this country, it is not the only form of service to the nation. What about alternative programmes that could teach young people about team work, dedication and service, such as conservation?
There is no doubt that military personnel demonstrate enormous courage, service, dedication and professionalism, but we must not forget that while we do need more good teachers and support staff from a variety of backgrounds, whether that is military or elsewhere, schools are not the army and children are individuals, not uniform and uniformed troops.
Politicians should encourage people to enter the teaching profession from a wide variety of backgrounds including the services as long as they understand that education and schools are not the military.
In complete contrast to the cadet force approach:
"Babies are set to be brought into primary schools in Cardiff to help improve pupils' empathy levels and help reduce any bullying and aggression. The scheme, pioneered in Canada, encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner after observing a parent and baby in the classroom. Reports suggest children who have taken part are more likely to help others, share, and accept peers as they are."
Yes, we should be "proud of the work our Armed Forces do in keeping us safe at home and abroad" but are they "central to our national character, just as they are to our national security"?
If they are, perhaps this militarism takes its lead from royalty. Why do all of the monarch's offspring have to follow a military career? Perhaps, some of them should have been encouraged to try careers in teaching, childcare, conservation, the environment, agriculture, medicine, architecture
Before the newspapers and those who write on them are carried away with enthusiasm for military intervention in the classroom, they should remember that in 2010 The Daily Telegraph also reported that 2,500 ex-servicemen were in prison did they have "responsibility, comradeship, hard work" and "respect for authority and others, and high levels of self-esteem" instilled in them by their time in the armed services? Did the military system support them when they needed help or turn its back on them?
"These plans would also provide new career opportunities and skills for those leaving the Forces at a time when many are entering a strained jobs market" but there are already many experienced trained teachers and teaching assistants out there who have been made redundant as a result of funding cuts and newly qualified teachers who struggle to find their first post.
Why single out education? What about other public services? Why not military hospitals (already wear uniforms) or military trains (so they run on time) or military libraries ("QUIET NO TALKING!"), military refuse collection (the various bins returned in neat rows rather than scattered across the pavement)
Or, if schools are to be encouraged to have cadet forces, why not encourage other 'forces' or groups that would also foster teamwork and career skills and experience business clubs, engineering projects, conservation volunteers, first aid/medical volunteers, cookery clubs, debating societies ?
Do let us know your views