Quakers go to war over ‘bellicose’ school pack that promotes ‘pro-military values’


The Independent

The Government has been accused of helping indoctrinate children with pro-military values through a new schools pack aimed at promoting the armed forces.

The 58-page British Armed Forces Learning Resource –which was published by David Cameron’s office – is a “poor quality learning resource” that appears to have been drawn up with to boost military recruitment, according to a report by the Quakers and human rights group ForcesWatch.

By promoting the pack, the Department for Education is failing in its legal duty under the 1996 Education Act to safeguard schools from politicisation, the authors of the report claim.

They are particularly critical of some of the rhetoric used to describe the armed forces in the pack. For instance, the resource quotes Defence Secretary Michael Fallon as saying: “The military ethos is a golden thread that can be an example of what is best about or nation and helps it improve everything it touches.”

There is also a foreword from Mr Cameron himself, who is quoted as saying: “Around the world, the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Marines stand for freedom, fairness, tolerance and responsibility… There is not a single person in this country who is not a direct beneficiary of their sacrifices and bravery.”

He adds:  “I hope this will be the beginning of your interest in Britain’s armed services.”

Don Rowe, former director of curriculum resources at the Citizenship Foundation, who contributed to the report, said of the learning pack: “Culturally, this is the kind of resource one gets in countries with less-than-democratic structures where civic education is used by governments to manipulate citizens into an uncritical attitude towards the state.

“In the UK we used to have a system of education which was ‘at one stage remove’ from the government and one of the reasons for this was precisely to prevent the possibility of authoritarianism through control of education.”

The pack, which was first published in September 2014, is framed as an English, history and citizenship resources for children between the ages of five and 16. But the authors of the report say it makes a one-sided case for the existence of the armed forces and the arms industry and provides no room for debate on alternatives to armed conflict.

They also allege it presents a sanitised view of war and glorifies “military values”.

The report says of the pack: “No teachers were involved in its production.

“Its content is politically driven, seeking to generate public acceptance of government policy and the use of military intervention and it presents personal and political opinions as fact.”

The authors conclude that the pack “should not be used in schools as a learning resource or should only be used in conjunction with alternative materials and it should not be promoted as a learning resource by third parties.” A DfE spokesman said: “Resources are regularly produced for teachers to help them come up with lesson plans. It is then for teachers to decide what is best for their pupils.”

See more: military in schools/colleges, recruitment, ForcesWatch, Quakers, education