ForcesWatch comment



Michael Gove is again talking about extending the cadet forces within schools (see article), this time with the support from the Schools Commissioner (and a senior advisor to the Education Secretary), in comments about broadening the curriculum within state schools (see article).

Before being elected, the conservatives ‘pledged’ to involve armed forces personnel more in schools to serve as role models for young people (see article).

In 2011, the Education Secretary announced that expanding cadet forces would instil a ‘spirit of service’ in young people (see article)– a turn of phrase that in itself suggests ‘the military spirit’ and the associated values that go along with it.

Why is the military considered uniquely able to develop a ‘spirit of service’ or promote a disciplined approach? Why does the Schools Commissioner regard Cadet forces amongst a small handful of activities that are seen as broadening the curriculum and offering more opportunity with state schools? Who is being served by children in schools doing drill in the school playground or taking part in adventure activities? There would seem to be many other opportunities available for young people to experience a more direct connection with the concept of ‘service’, through developing extra-curricular activities that engage with the wider community or through activities that reply on team work and shared responsibility. If, however, it is actually service to the country that is being promoted, encouraging the widespread development of cadet forces feels more about serving the needs of the military and state than those of children. Educational establishments are not the place for this.



The intervention of Prince William and Downing Street to compel FIFA to allow the England team to wear poppies during a match rather belies the royal statement that the poppy has 'no political' connotations. In fact, wearing the red poppy has never been free of political values, not least because it reinforces the view that war is acceptable, however regrettable. Currently, its ubiquity in the run up to Remembrance Day feels less and less about genuine reflection on the suffering of individuals caught up in war, and increasingly about showing support for the military as a whole, and its actions. 

Celebrities, companies and the media are all playing their part in creating a culture where not wearing the poppy in the public eye is seen as unpatriotic. The FIFA row was even the first item on Children's BBC Newsround with school children drafted in to show their indignation.

As the 'lest we forget' message, which should be core to the act of remembrance, is overshadowed by a celebrity-led and unquestionning reverance, the opportunities for these young people to develop the critical awareness they need to understand the reality of armed conflict will diminish.