3.25.2008

uk teachers kick military propaganda out of schools

A reader sent me this encouraging story from BBC News:
Teachers [in England and Wales] have voted to oppose military recruitment activities in schools if they employ "misleading propaganda".

Young people must be given a true picture of Army life, not a "marketised version", the National Union of Teachers conference heard.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) denies actively recruiting in schools but says it does visit to raise awareness when invited in by head teachers.

Some teachers complain the Army uses sophisticated methods of recruitment.

Paul McGarr, a teacher from east London, said only when recruiting materials gave a true picture of war would he welcome them into his school.

These would have to say: "Join the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other people's countries," Mr McGarr said.

"Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries.

"Join the Army and we will send you probably poorly equipped into situations where people will try to shoot or kill you because you are occupying other people's countries.

"Join the Army, and if you survive and come home, possibly injured or mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated."

Delegate from Lambeth, south London, Chris Kelly, said he was offered free teaching materials, which he only later discovered were from the MoD.

In the UK, the Ministry of Defence recruits surreptitiously. In the US, it's much more blatant.

Military recruitment on college campuses is a condition of receiving federal funds. The notoriously misnamed "No Child Left Behind Act" requires high schools to turn over students' private information to military recruiters. Families can opt-out, but do they even know the data collection is taking place?

And, as my war-resister friends always point out, you don't find military recruiters in high-income high schools. No one with a promising future needs the US military.

Groups like Leave My Child Alone, the Coalition Against Militarism in Schools and the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors are trying to stem the tide.

Here is an excellent interview from "Democracy Now!" with John Cervantes, an organizer from Veterans for Peace who focuses on military recruitment in schools, and here is a recruitment-in-schools FAQ from the ACLU.

Canadian schools also see military recruitment, and Canadians are organizing against it.

The teachers' movement in the UK (through their union, of course) is an important development. There may be some similar teachers' movements on a local level in the US, but I haven't found any.

From everything I hear, American teachers can barely teach any more. All they can do is spoon-feed test-prep, as NCLB locks everyone into a ridiculous test-for-funds cycle. American schools are so pathetically underfunded, and American teachers so horribly overworked and underpaid, that if anyone had time for activism - especially activism that might jeopardize funds - it would be heroic indeed.

Thank you to Jessica for inspiring this post (and for reading this blog).

11 comments:

Amy said...

Military recruitment on campus is an issue that angers me greatly. Years ago our faculty adopted a resolution that no employer could recruit at the law school unless they signed our anti-discrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as well as race, religion, gender, etc. The military recruiters could not sign and thus were banned from recruiting at the law school. Then Congress passed the Solomon Amendment (named for a Congressman from NYS, not the wise king) which provided that any school that did not provide recruiting facilities to the military would lose federal funding. Like most law schools, our school voted to suspend our policy (over my protest and negative vote). There have been numerous challenges to the Solomon Amendment, and we continue to fight the battle. But for now, we still have to provide access to military recruiters. We then organize ways to educate our students about the military's discriminatory policies and about the faculty's opposition to those policies.

Amy said...

Also, your description of what is happening in American public schools is depressingly accurate. Many creative teachers have left the public school systems because they refuse to "teach to the tests." It is just so sad to see how our whole society is more and more geared towards performance on standardized testing.

Even in our upper middle class suburban town, we lose teachers because of the testing requirements as well as the underfunding of programs and the low salaries.

L-girl said...

Thanks for this Amy, and thanks for fighting the good fight at your law school.

Ryan said...

There were "Fight...With the Canadian Armed Forces" leaflets at the University of Calgary, last time I checked.

The best/most ironic part, however, was that they were in a pocket just above the urinals for men to grab while they pee.

You can't take the PISS out of the Army!

Looks who's PISSING all of our money away on the war on terror!

Let's not PISS off the Bush administration and give into their militaristic demands!

Harper's arms race is nothing but a PISSING contest!

Etc.

L-girl said...

Heh, beautiful.

I don't like military recruiting anywhere, but at least in Canada it seems much more honest - at least based on what several Canadians who have served have told me, versus what I know from US war resisters.

impudent strumpet said...

We had them on campus too (I was in uni 1999-2003), but I just ignored them because they're irrelevant so I don't know anything about their methodology. To be honest, it doesn't bother me to have them at universities and colleges - the students are all adults with basic critical thinking skills and internet access. I'm not sure what I think about high schools and elementary schools though. I already got the pro-military message at home (and ruled it out at an early age on the basis that it would probably involve sleeping in a tent at some point) so I don't know how I would have taken it if it were introduced at school.

The weird thing was something in their keyword-scanning bot really liked the resume I had up on Workopolis, so I kept getting these recruitment emails. I couldn't quite figure out a way to tweak my resume to suggest that I'm a wimpy high-maintenance pacifist.

L-girl said...

To be honest, it doesn't bother me to have them at universities and colleges - the students are all adults with basic critical thinking skills and internet access. I'm not sure what I think about high schools and elementary schools though.

Yeah, it's very different in the US.

The military discriminates against gays and lesbians, and many universities have a non-discrimnation policy (as Amy mentioned), so military recruitment violates that. But now the unis and colleges have no choice, if they are to receive federal funds.

And in US high schools, well, that is just plain criminal (or ought to be). Only when you look at the meagre options available to most US students from low-income backgrounds - and factor in no health insurance and no money for education - and what being in the US military means - can you appreciate it. For this, as with so many other points, I (yet again) recommend The Deserter's Tale, by Joshua Key and Lawrence Hill.

deang said...

An example of how insidious high school military recruiters are in the US:

A coworker is a first-generation American originally from Tamaulipas, Mexico. She doesn't make much money at her job but managed to put her son through Texas high school.

He graduated last year, didn't know what he wanted to do, and his mother began receiving calls at home from military recruiters. The high school was required to provide students' home numbers to the military. The boy's mother refused to talk to them, but the boy himself was finally reached by them personally and, after a few sessions with recruiters, was convinced to join, which he initially did without telling his mother. When she found out, she was strongly opposed but he wouldn't listen.

He's now been in Iraq almost a year, with his mother at her wit's end of worry the entire time. She says he's become much more aggressive, coarse, and mean as a person because of the military socialization, and she's somewhat afraid of him. He says he wants to stay in for another year and then use his fighting and shooting skills to become a cop in the US.

His mother is distraught at the change for the worse in his personality and worries all the time, not just about him but also about the people he may have harmed in Iraq and whom he may harm if he becomes a cop. It's a distressing situation, and she's furious at the military recruiters that got to him.

I tried to talk to her about military families' anti-recruitment campaigns, but she's too nervous because she's a first generation American from Mexico and is cowed by the current tide of racism here.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Dean.

That recruitment story is exactly what I heard from two of our resisters in Canada who are from Texas.

One had no interest in the military, but after working at Wal-Mart for 3 years - then being fired when she reached their $9/hr pay ceiling - she finally gave in.

How sad for your coworker. Awful. Many Latinos are prominent in the war resister community, through Military Families Speak Out, IVAW, and other groups. I hope she finds her voice. She might find it very therapeutic and empowering.

impudent strumpet said...

What's really surreal about that if you sort of tilt your head and look at it from a certain angle is that they persisted even after being blocked by his mother. Like it's not strange given what we know about military recruiters, but it would be completely bizarre in any other profession.

You need someone to do a difficult, dangerous, and important job, but you're having trouble getting to the candidate because his mommy won't let him. There is no other field in the world where the prospective employer wouldn't rule out the candidate. Even teenage fast food jobs. Even newspaper delivery when kids still delivered newspapers.

L-girl said...

but it would be completely bizarre in any other profession

Excellent.

I guess when all you are is cannon fodder, these things don't matter.

Should we now call that IED fodder?