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Teachers condemn MoD recruitment drives||
By Alexandra Frean, Education Editor
The Sunday Times
March 26, 2008
Children should be given a truthful account of the brutality of war, not a
“marketised fiction”, teachers said yesterday, as they voted to oppose military
recruitment campaigns in schools based on government “propaganda”.
Members of the National Union of Teachers accused the Ministry of Defence of
focusing on vulnerable teenagers from deprived backgrounds through “misleading”
information that glamorised war.
The MoD replied that it was invited into 1,000 schools a year, and that this
was to raise awareness of the role of the Armed Forces, not to recruit.
Delegates at the NUT annual conference were told that material about the
military distributed in schools did not always allow informed choices. They
called for peace campaigners or those who had experienced the horror of war to
be invited into schools alongside military representatives.
Paul McGarr, a delegate from East London, said that the union did not want to
undermine servicemen and women but that the Forces were turning to schools to
fill a recruitment shortage.
Mr McGarr said: “Let’s just try and imagine what recruitment material would
have to say were it not to be misleading. We would have material saying, ‘Join
the Army and we will send you to carry out the imperialist occupation of other
people’s countries. Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and
possibly torture fellow human beings.
“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 come home, possibly injured or
mentally damaged, you and your family will be shabbily treated.”
David Clinch, a teacher from Devon who joined the Royal Navy in 1967 on
leaving school, where he had been a cadet, said that military cadet forces
should be barred from schools because they were used for recruitment.
Martin Reed, of the NUT executive, said that teachers were by law required to
treat political issues in a balanced way and to avoid partisan views. “It should
be absolutely clear that the reality of war is demonstrated, not the marketised
fiction of war,” he said.
Steve Sinnott, the union’s general secretary, has already written to Ed
Balls, the Schools Secretary, to complain about a lesson plan produced for the
MoD by an organisation called Kids Connections that, Mr Sinnott said, focused on
“the ongoing occupation of Iraq by British Armed Forces”. A worksheet emphasised
the Forces’ reconstruction work but, Mr Sinnott alleged, did not mention
This year a Joseph Rowntree Trust report suggested that the Army was seeking
to attract recruits by glamorising warfare and underplaying the risks involved
in a military career.
Yesterday delegates at the union’s conference in Manchester voted in favour
of a motion opposing military recruitment activities “based upon misleading
propaganda”. The motion defended the rights of teachers “not to take part in
activities promoting military recruitment, or which they feel present a partisan
view of war and life in the military”. It said that young people should be able
to “hear a speaker promoting alternative points of view” and to have “education
for peace embedded in the curriculum along with education about the military”.
Mr Sinnott said he would convene a meeting of all parties involved, with a
view to drawing up a protocol on recruitment. “I see nothing wrong in explaining
to youngsters what life is like in the military, but you have to tell them the
whole truth,” he said.
A spokesman for the MoD said that its recruitment practices avoided
glamorising war and propaganda, adding that the Armed Forces did not recruit in
schools and did not seek to attract youngsters aged under 16.
The Defence Dynamics initiative was not a recruitment activity, he said. The
school material criticised by the NUT was part of a proposed English course on
creative writing that included two articles, one positive about the Iraq
conflict and the other critical.
“A career in the Armed Forces is not something to be ashamed of and we are
proud to raise awareness of the tremendous work that our Service personnel do,”