The Labour Party is reported to be planning to set up a military school in every region of England under Labour – to `raise aspirations` in poor areas. In July this year, Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg advocated armed forces and service charities helping to run so-called “service schools”, with a “distinct service ethos” and some teachers with a forces background.
In Wales a call has been made for an end to military recruitment in Welsh schools. The Friend records that MPs, peace activists, Unitarians, Quakers and other faith groups launched this campaign in Cardiff’s secular civic Temple of Peace and Health, built with materials from various countries to emphasise its international outreach.
They believe that military visits to schools glorify war and misrepresent the reality of the armed forces and see that, in a time of high unemployment, these forces are deliberately targeting schools in poorer areas.
Leanne Wood, the new leader of Plaid Cymru, Cymdeithas y Cymod – the Welsh wing of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and CND Cymru have backed the campaign.
The powers of the Welsh Assembly over education and other sectors have been increased following a recent extension of devolution. Rhodri Glyn Thomas, a Plaid Cymru member of the Welsh Assembly, said last week that many European countries do not allow the armed forces to visit schools. He added: ‘Far from being an extreme or outlandish position, the prohibition of MoD recruitment in schools would simply bring Wales up to speed with prevailing international standards’.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) maintains that their school visits do not recruit young people directly, but rather provide information about possible careers in the forces. They emphasise that they visit schools only when invited to do so by the headteacher.
Campaign organiser Sara Hawys Roberts pointed out that the UK is the only country in Europe that recruits sixteen-year-olds into the armed forces. Quaker Peace & Social Witness has called for the minimum age of recruitment to be raised to eighteen.
She told the Friend that a visit from the armed forces could not be equated with any other careers presentation:‘There are bigger consequences than a bank coming into a school, or McDonald’s coming into a school’.
That is a restrained understatement; a more definite stance is taken in a Hitchens blog:
There is no justification for war.
Wars simply cost too much.
They will hurt everybody for generations.
Sources:wwwthefriend.org/ www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18770387 The Hitchens link leads only to the blog, not the precise post.