On the British Proposal of bringing the Armed Services into the School-system

In their article of 9 July in The Telegraph, the British shadow ministers for education and defence put forward the idea that the military (especially its veterans and reservists) ought to have a stronger role in the British education system.

While this may seem a rather radical idea, it does make some degree of sense. As the shadow ministers (equivalent to the critics in Canadian legislatures) point out, reservists already use civilian skills to do good in military contexts; surely ‘the reverse should also be true’. The armed services are built on the ‘values of responsibility, comradeship, hard work and a respect for public service’, ideals which are essential in helping children to become active citizens in our modern age. Other virtues of the armed services that make them well-suited to being involved in education, but which are not mentioned in the article, are their discipline, their respect for tradition, their custom of rewarding excellence and achievement, and, of course, their strong emphasis on physical fitness.

Whatever one’s thoughts on having soldiers teaching and interacting with children, the principle behind the idea is sound. As has been said on this blog and elsewhere, the time has come to search for creative ways to teach our children. Perhaps the military ideals of discipline and loyalty toward one’s peers and one’s superiors (e.g. the teachers) are just what some schools need to help to serve their students better. As with any model, however, it will not be appropriate for every school.

I myself was at first rather alarmed by the idea of having soldiers in schools, but as I’ve thought things through, the idea has grown on me; though, of course, I would not tolerate the presence of any firearms, or even the wearing of battledress. I do think, however, that, in underprivileged communities (which were particularly on the shadow ministers’ mind when they conceived the plan), the presence of authority in a nurturing role, rather than a law-enforcing one, coupled with the promise, almost unique to the military, of promotion through the ranks for those who work hard, could be precisely what’s needed to help students to rise to their full potential.

The shadow ministers’ suggestion, while creative, is controversial: one particularly impassioned  user on The Telegraph’s website went so far as to say that it was a ‘fascist [and] authoritarian’ proposal. What are your thoughts on this? Is it a troubling recommendation that would militarise our schools and society? Or is it a worthwhile, innovative idea that could help to improve education? Have your say in the comments section below!


On the British Proposal of bringing the Armed Services into the School-system — 6 Comments

  1. Dear AfrikanCanadian,
    I found your article and point of view very interesting and, very insightful. I have to agree with your opinion, but I would like to add to your statements. I do think that merely observing the soldiers modelling good behaviour, will provide opportunity for our children to learn. However, it is my opinion that not all people (not only in the military, but in any profession) have the natural ability to work and teach children efficiently. Therefore I would like to see that there is a structured screening process involved to select soldiers for this service.

    • You make a good point: one would have to ensure that those people most able to teach are the ones teaching. I must add, though, that I have had a few teachers over the course of my schooling who would not have received their licence if professional teachers were ‘screened’ in the same way! :0)

  2. I agree; both with the sentiments contained in this posting, as well as Hettie’s suggestion regarding a screening process for any professional that will take on a teaching role. I firmly believe in community partnerships in the education of our children, even more so when masters in their field are utilised in this role. P.S. I don’t have a problem with battle dress as long as it is placed in context and clarified ahead of time.

  3. I have enjoyed following the posts. Time to open the schools beyond the “normal hours” and bring in some “inter – generational” (Sir Ken Robinson) learning into the “building”. Learning doesn’t stop at 3:10 pm. Minds work at all hours, in peaks and troughs. You need a break, take it, and come back to join the “session” later on, with perhaps new people adding to the dimension. Even a retired soldier could pop in on the way home from the British Legion! Keep your schools open till 11pm, with shifts. We have the early birds and the night owls!

    • I very much like this idea of making the school be a flexible community within the larger community: it would help to break this horrid habit students have of thinking of school (and scholastic knowledge) as being separate from the real world (and real knowledge). Indeed, that is my biggest frustration with my fellowlearners here at university: they do not realise that what they are learning is not only valuable, but also useful in life; rather, they simply look to the professor to give them titbits to memorise for the exam. That is not learning: that is a waste of time and brainpower (and of tuition, if you ask me).

      PS. For the record, I quite like the idea of learning in shifts, since I am an early-bird myself, and most productive between 06h00 and 09h00. :0)