Militarisation of Society

ForcesWatch / Quakers in Britain press release

The Government's material for schools about the armed forces has been criticised today by the human rights group ForcesWatch (1) and Quakers in Britain (2).

In a written report and a graphic animation, the organisations explain why the British Armed Forces Learning Resource (published in September 2014 by the Prime Minister's Office (3) (4)) is a poor quality educational resource, and expose the resource as a politically-driven attempt to promote recruitment into the armed forces and “military values” in schools.

Why Militarism now?  And why target Schools?

(Alan Penn)

(References: Select each coloured number to connect to the footnotes; then select > at the end of the note to return to the text.)


‘The new tide of militarisation’ which Quaker Peace and Social Witness produced in March 2014 was a timely document drawing attention to the ever-present appearance of the military in British society. If militarisation is ‘the process by which a society organises itself for military conflict and violence’ 1, militarism is the ideology underpinning it. Never entirely absent, from time to time it re-emerges into prominence with increased vigour and purpose. Why should that be the case now? And why target schools?

                  What do we understand by the term militarism? Carl Mirra writes: ‘While debate over militaristic attitudes can be traced back to ancient times, the term militarism first appeared in the Memoires, 1771-1815 of Madame de Chasteney in the early 1800s, according to the scholar Werner Conze. In 1869, ‘militarism’ appeared in a French encyclopedia.’ 2  He adds that militarism is not a precise term as it has both ideological and cultural components. The philosopher Herbert Spencer suggested in 1886 that militarism was ‘a military type of society in which the process of regimentation, although most prominent in the army, affected the whole of society.’ 3 A.J. Marder, The Anatomy of British Sea Power, 1880-1905: ‘Militarism – a conspicuous element in pre-1914 thought, more responsible for the outbreak of a major war than “incidents” and assassinations, telegrams and ultimata. It provided the culture that could legitimise action when a spark was kindled by some “incident” or stance which appeared threatening to a nation’s esteem or its ambitions.’ 4 And that was what happened in 1914.

                  In the period discussed by Marder, militarism penetrated the nation’s elementary schools. Following the education act of 1870 existing church schools were supplemented by Board schools catering for the many children for whom schooling was a novel experience. For a time the curriculum was confined to the three R’s to which was soon added drill,  and needlework for girls. Drill provided a respite from the rigours of the three R’s, but space restrictions in town schools meant that all too often it took place within the classroom with children standing in the rows between rows of desks. Lacking space outside, some inner-city schools utilised a flat roof for drilling children. The most common form of drill was of a military character, often taken by army drill sergeants whose evening duties with militia or volunteers left them reasonably free during the day. The London School Board schools acted as a model for others to follow. In 1871 an article in The School Board Chronicle stated, ‘We have little doubt that our School Boards will establish drill in every school under their control, partly because such a form of discipline tends to habits of order, regularity, steadiness, system and method; partly because it tends to strengthen the constitution and to invigorate the health; and partly because it tends to foster a patriotic and military taste among the masses of the people.’ 5 The London School Board introduced annual drill reviews with thousands of boys performing complicated manoeuvres under command in the presence of the general public and sometimes royalty. At the 1880 Drill Competition: ‘The boys marched past in open column, then counter-marched, and returned in quarter-column. Then they marched past again in double quick time, and deployed to the left in fours, then advanced in line, and were inspected in separate companies by Colonel Battersby, of Chelsea College.’ 6 Those watching the spectacle might have found the terminology confusing, but the military nature of the procedure was inescapable.                                                 

                  Some schools obtained carbines from Woolwich which had been rendered inoperable but which were suitable for drill purposes. And there were schools which provided ‘rabbit’ guns which were fired at targets. Girls were also initiated into military drill and even infant scholars were marched, bearing dummy guns, by young female pupil teachers. An article in The Nineteenth Century and After deplored the drills commonly practised in infant schools. Harassed teachers trying to cope with classes of sixty tired ‘babies’ adopted some form of drill which took the following form: ‘Fold arms –Sit up – Eyes on ceiling (all heads are raised) –Eyes on floor (all heads are bent) – Eyes to the right –Eyes to the left – Eyes on blackboard – Eyes on me (all the sixty baby heads are wagged in unison).’ As the writer claimed, ‘the discipline is military rather than maternal’. 7

                  There were some school boards which favoured ‘ordinary’ drill which had no military flavour, a view which was supported by Mr Butler-Johnstone, MP, in a debate on physical education in 1875 when he distinguished between drill and physical education, the latter being ‘the inculcation of some sound, though elementary principles of hygiene, combined with the practice of simple, though scientifically devised, exercises founded on sound physiological and anatomical principles’ 8  Eventually the Board of Education responded to pressure from the supporters of ordinary or Swedish exercises, from the Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress and pacifists. In the Board’s annual report for 1913-1914 it stated: ‘Physical exercises and, where possible, organised games and swimming, provided all that was necessary or desirable.’ 9

                  From 1896 Empire Day, founded by the twelfth Earl of Meath, was celebrated, with school logbooks recording special lessons reflecting the ‘empire on which the sun never set’ and children marching and singing patriotic songs. Meath also founded the Lads Drill Association in 1897, and the Duty and Discipline Movement in 1908. He did, however, also support his wife’s many charities, and set up the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association.             

                  After the Great War of 1914-1918 Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster, a German academic, published Mein Kampf gegen das militaristische und nationalische Deutschland [My struggle against the militaristic and nationalist Germany], Stuttgart, 1920. He observed, ‘Discipline of the military kind prevents the development of the finer spiritual qualities, of conscience, and of the power of autonomy’, and said that young people should be trained in a way of life calculated to promote peace. Following death threats from the right wing and the murders of two other antimilitarists, he fled to Switzerland and then sought refuge in the United States.

                  In 1930 John Langdon-Davies wrote: ‘In parliament, to which belongs the ultimate authority over education, there has been a significant movement in favour of a definite military training as part of the curriculum… From a purely medical point of view such training has been definitely proved deleterious, from a psychological point of view it has been proved even more deleterious, and therefore from a national standpoint it is noxious.’  He added: ‘We must guard against militarism in education because it aims not at the child’s good but at the State’s good – and that in a very short-sighted way – and because it atrophies individuality by every means in its power.’ 10

                  After World War Two, Richard Vinen’s National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963 11 reminds us that: ‘National service was a catch-all for men born between 1927 and 1939 whose childhoods had already been overcast by economic depression, wartime bombing and evacuation.’ He claims that the scheme ‘provided a cut-price way for Britain to maintain its illusory great power status’. It also dragooned over two million young men into military service when they might otherwise have been involved in rebuilding a country devastated by five years of war. Nearly 20,000 national servicemen died between 1948 and 1960 in Malaya, Cyprus, Kenya and Korea.

                  In our own times the issue reappeared.  In 1997 the Conservative government introduced a plan for cadet units to be set up in state schools and particularly in inner-city areas.  Opponents of the scheme expressed dismay that children under the age of 18 would be receiving training in firearms. Michael Portillo, then Defence Minister, dismissed those fears with the answer that in such units: ‘You learn guns are dangerous, you learn responsible use of guns and the harm they can do,’ from which he weakly argued that boys would be tempted away from the use of guns. 12   Many critics saw Portillo’s scheme as one aimed at instilling order and discipline at a time when crime and unsocial behaviour by teenagers were at an unacceptable level.  In a companion article Mark Steel wrote that:  ’Over the last 20 years the map showing  recruitment into the Army  fits almost exactly over the map showing areas of high unemployment.’  He suggested that it would also coincide with the map of cadet centres promised by the Minister of Defence.

                  The Labour government’s response to the report of the inquiry into the National Recognition of our Armed Forces, October 2008, 13  raised a number of issues. It encouraged military personnel to wear uniforms in public, a more systematic approach to homecoming parades, support for a British Armed Forces and Veterans Day on a Saturday in late June, an increase in Combined Cadet Forces in comprehensive schools, and scope in the national curriculum for pupils to learn about the role of the armed forces.

                  On 11 January 2012 ResPublica, a British independent public policy think-tank (founded 2009), published a report, ‘Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcome’ 14 That day in Prime Minister’s Questions, Julian Brazier, Conservative member for Canterbury, drew attention to it. Cameron expressed his interest and support; ‘We should empower our cadet forces to expand and perhaps go into parts of the country where they have not always been present. We should promote and support the link between cadet forces and schools.’ 15  The report urged the P.M. to recognise and harness ‘the unique technical and vocational expertise existing in the armed forces and to use them to create a new generation of schools run by the military that will address poor discipline and educational failure in Britain’s most deprived neighbourhoods.’

                  The Labour Party Policy review, 10 July 2012, accepted the ResPublica recommendations. Stephen Twigg, Shadow Education Secretary, and Jim Murphy, Shadow Defence Secretary, announced that Labour would launch ‘Service Schools’, most of which would take the form of military academies. These specialist schools would employ ex-Forces as qualified teachers, have veteran mentors, and offer on-site cadet force and extended provision of adventurous outdoor training. The Anti Academies Alliance has been formed to oppose this scheme; the TUC, NASUWT, NUT, ATL and other unions are affiliated to it.

                  On 7 December 2012 education secretary Michael Gove issued a press release, ‘Improving education for pupils outside mainstream school’.  He claimed: ‘Every child can benefit from the values of a military ethos. Self- discipline and team work are at the heart of what makes our armed forces the best in the world – and are exactly what all young people need to succeed.’

                  Self-discipline has been encouraged in our schools since the end of the Payment by Results system in 1890 after 27 years of a practice loathed by teachers, and the introduction of advice in the Handbook of Suggestions to Teachers rather than direction in 1905. And the teaching of ordinary drill rather than military drill, together with the introduction of games at the end of the nineteenth century helped develop team work.  Army drill instructors were replaced by qualified teachers of physical training. A payment of results system in child care was recently ditched and its use in the Health Service is being seriously questioned.  Do we really want to go back to the practices abandoned over a century ago? 

Michael Gove also announced:

  • Awards of  £1.9M had been made to four schools: Commando Joe’s in Cheshire; Challenger Troop in Tunbridge Wells, Kent; SkillForce in Newcastle; and Knowsley Skills Academy in Prescot, Lancs. ‘These schools were already helping pupils from some of the UK’s most deprived areas.’  The KSA press release of 15 November 2013 claims that ‘many of the aspects of Military Ethos that we so value in our armed services, such as self-discipline, confidence, leadership, citizenship  and team work can and do help our young people take charge of their lives and build brighter futures for themselves, their communities and the country’.  These are not new qualities, but they have been submerged by mounting pressures on the curriculum and on teachers. The question is whether we think these qualities need a military context.
  • School-based cadets were to be expanded to create about 100 more units by 2015.
  • A "Troops to Teaching" (TtT) programme which is a scheme to fast-track ex-military personnel into teaching. The Government anticipated that 1,000 could qualify by 2015, but the first intake of 41 had no graduate applicants and the second intake in September 2014 only 61 applicants. If the teaching profession is to remain a graduate profession then that would seem to exclude those who join the army straight from school. Charlotte Chadderton claims: ‘This initiative both stems from, and contributes to, a stem of social privilege and oppression in education. Despite appearing to be aimed at all young people, the planned TtT initiative is actually aimed at poor and racially subordinated youth… More sinister, I argue that TtT is part of the militarisation of education.’ 16  
  • Exploring how academies and free schools can use their freedom to foster a military ethos and raise standards.  This ‘freedom’ is freedom from the intermediate layer of local authorities, which have always provided local oversight of education.  That power has now been transferred to the minister.

And the then defence secretary, Philip Hammond, explained, ‘The cadet expansion programme will help schools grow cadet numbers to ensure that as many young people as possible can benefit from military themed activities.’ That aim has been criticised by those within the profession who disagree that schools need military rigour.  Writing in The Guardian 17 recently, Giles Fraser refers to ‘the Trojan horse of militarisation of our schools’.  In 1910 John Langdon-Davies had written: ‘The main attack is coming through the educational system.  We have seen the various ways in which militarism is to be installed into the younger generation: the climax of these schemes is to be compulsory cadet training.’ 18 A century separates his observations and current practices but there appears to be little difference between them.

What lies behind this surge of interest to militarise our state education?

                  David Gee has prepared a report: ‘Informed choice? Armed forces recruitment in the UK’, with research and publication funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in November 2007.  He concluded: ‘To meet the ”trained requirement” of personnel, over £2billion is invested each year to meet the 20,000 new recruits to replace those who leave. ‘The armed forces draw non-officer recruits mainly from among young people with low educational attainment and living in poor communities.’ 

            It is interesting to note that in 1910, Labour MP John Burns (the first working-man cabinet minister – at the Board of Trade) claimed in a House of Commons debate that poverty was the best recruiting sergeant – it gets 95% and patriotism gets 5%.

                  Gee continues: ‘The primary target group for armed forces marketing are children and adolescents. This involves school visits, literature and internet resources, and local cadet forces.  For every two 16-22 year olds joining the army, one is leaving.’ 19 The recruitment policy accepts that there is poverty within the target groups but proposes no remedy for tackling root causes. All these schemes to introduce the military into schools replace the professionally trained teacher, versed in child developmental psychology and techniques of learning, with a military man trained for war. The military ethos replaces the educative ethos.  Is this what we want for our children?

This is not a phenomenon affecting only the UK

Marek Thee, of the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, ‘Militarism and Militarization in Contemporary International Relations’, defines the problem: ‘Ours is a sick society. One symptom of the sickness is the spread of militarism and militarization around the globe.’ 20

                  In America – we find an identical situation to ours – indeed the UK appears to have closely followed the US in this as in much else. Lynn Davies, ‘Education against Extremism’, (2008) writes: ‘The US led war on terror has been preoccupied with military solutions, and there has been neglect of the importance of civil society. In 2002 the US spent more in “defence” than the next 18 biggest spenders combined – 42% of global spending. The UK spends more than France and makes more out of arms sales than it gives in development aid – often to the countries it sells arms to.’

                  A Coalition against Militarism in our Schools (CAMS) was formed in 2004 to challenge increased militarism in America’s public (i.e. state) schools. Its mission is to ‘inform and educate the public, especially students, parents and school personnel about the growing militarisation of our schools, and to create and present positive nonviolent alternatives which promote the value of human life, justice and equity for all persons’. Laura Finley, University of Northern Colorado, in ‘Militarism goes to School’  considers the hidden and covert curricula in American schools and  claims that militarism is fostered by presenting an unbalanced, even false picture of war; by exaggerating the heroism, nobility and glamour associated with war. She writes: ‘The influx of military personnel into schools, where they teach military programs using military methods and curricula, is perhaps the clearest example of militarism in education.’ 21

According to Linda Rocawich, Education Infiltration (1994) one response to America’s so-called failing schools, as well as to our ‘out-of-control’ youth violence, is to call in the military… These courses are taught by military retirees and use military provided materials. 22

Thomas R. McDaniel, Demilitarising Public Education: School reform in the era of George Bush reminds us that:  ‘President Eisenhower, in his farewell speech, warned of the growing military-industrial complex. Today he might warn us of the expanding military-educational complex – which is not a ‘conspiracy’, but rather a way of thinking about education that has become unhealthily military in nature.’ 23

                  War Resisters’ International is countering the militarisation of youth through a programme launched in Darmstadt, Germany in June 2012. Its findings are recorded in Sowing Seeds: the Militarisation of Youth and how to counter it’. In it Kelly Dougherty’s article ‘The Role of military veterans and current service members’ gives an American perspective subsequent to her eight years in the US military. ‘As GIs are the work force that make war and military occupation possible and, as such, have a critical role to play as leaders in the struggle to end war and militarism.’  She instances the role of Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans against the War (2004), the Civilian Soldier Alliance, Military Families speak out, etc., and the impact on young people of those with military experience, outside the patriotic, black and white lens of the military establishment. WRI has co-operated with the American Friends Service Committee to create counter recruitment videos and literature.  The AFSC also co-founded the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth. There is a veterans’ organisation here in the U.K. called Veterans for Peace, founded in 2012. Still in its infancy, the British organisation has a few members at present able to visit schools to give ‘an insight into military life and the true nature of warfare’.

                  An article Resisting the militarisation of education’  in Germany, suggests that schools can be demilitarised through the provision of anti-militarist and peace education resources, greater curricular emphasis on critical thinking, the creation of democratic decision-making councils with students, parents, teachers, etc. Parents and students should be better informed about children’s rights not to attend activities run by or associated with the military, and alternative activities provided. (Are our children’s rights similarly safeguarded?)

Cecil Arndt, an activist working in Germany, reminds us that: ‘Militarism, in whatever form it takes, must be understood as always being directed at young people. The common theme is the normalising of war and the military.’ 

Lastly in Sowing Seeds, Ralf Willinger, co-ordinator of the German Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, writes in ‘Child Rights: Using International Law and the UN’: “The civil peace movement can make use of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the UN Human Rights Council to draw public attention to violations and to put pressure on the oppressors responsible.”  Article 3 in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – UNICEF, New York, 1989, states: ‘The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all actions concerning children.’

                   In 2005 a UNICEF Report stated that: ‘30% of children in UK and USA live in poverty described as an environment that is damaging to their mental, physical, emotional and spiritual development.’  The Young Foundation, 2010 is active in ‘harnessing the power of social innovation to tackle the root causes of inequality’. It claims:  ‘The gap between rich and poor is as significant as poverty itself.  Life expectancy correlates exactly with levels of inequality, and children born into low-status, low-income, and high levels of stress, start life smaller and significantly more prone to psychological problems and illness. In many categories of health related behaviour, young people in England (not necessarily in the UK as a whole) and the USA were shown to be amongst the least happy in the Western world.’ 24

These are the issues most in need of being addressed and we don’t need the military to get involved.

                  Peter Mortimore, Education under siege: Why there is a better alternative, [The English education system] ‘produces lots of young people good at passing tests’, but depresses rather than stimulates intellectual curiosity. It is also failing to produce happy and well-adjusted young people. He quotes retired professor of education Michael Bassey: ‘Over the last quarter of the century, education has been pushed and pulled, twisted and turned in the maelstrom of party politics. It must now be recognised that this has not worked: politics has polluted the schools and is failing our children.’ 25  Since 1975 there have been sixteen Secretaries of State for Education, and under them over fifty Ministerial appointments with various responsibilities, giving little continuity to an essential public service.              

                  The most recent ‘flavour of the month’ appears to be the teaching of British values. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday on 15 June 2014 to mark the 799th anniversary of Magna Carta and to promote British values. He insisted that ‘teachers should actively promote British values’. 26 A consultation on promoting British values followed on 23 June: ‘Schools will be expected to focus on and be able to show how their work with pupils is effective in embedding British values. Actively promoting means challenging pupils, staff or parents expressing opinions contrary to fundamental British values.’ The House of Commons debated the issue on 25 June in Westminster Hall, in the course of which Keith Vaz (Leicester East, Labour) pointed out that the ethnic minority population in Leicester was over 50% and that British values meant something different there compared with other locations. He said that we should take these differences on board before we can define what British values are. John Denham suggested that people in England may put English values first, and queried what residents in other parts of Britain thought on British values. He claimed that: ‘The nation building I want must recognise that we all have multiple identities – faith-based, nation-based, ethnicity-based, and locality-based, and should not assume a single homogeneous whole.’ It was important ‘not just in teaching national values, but of involving young people in debating, exploring and shaping them’. 27 That was followed the next day in the House of Lords when a short debate on ‘Education: British values’ was held. Lord Taverne, (Liberal Democrat) said that he was “deeply sceptical about teaching British values… The invocation of national values is part of our current obsession with national identity. This is a very illusive concept.’ He quoted Daniel Defoe: “Thus from a mixture of all kinds began that heterogeneous thing, an Englishman… A true-born Englishman’s a contradiction in speech, an irony, in fact a fiction.” Taverne concluded: ‘A nation at ease with itself does not have to search for an identity or assert it. Let us teach “civilised values” instead.’ 28

                  Jasper Trautsch in his The Invention of the West writes: ‘Histories of “Western Civilization” tend to be based on the assumption that the cultural space of “the West” is defined by democracy, individualism, and liberalism. Consequently they trace the development and gradual expansion of “western” freedoms from the birth of democracy in ancient Greece… Such analyses typically ignore contradictory developments such as imperialism, colonial exploitation, totalitarianism, and genocide (which could just as well be defined as “western”) or downplay them as an “aberration” from the true ”end” of the West’s history.’ 29  Clearly much more thought and discussion need to be given to the wisdom of teaching British values before it is launched into our schools.

                  Another aspect is highlighted by ‘Video Games and the Militarisation of Society: Towards a Theoretical And conceptual Framework ‘, by John Martino.  Some writers have described this as the Media-entertainment-Industrial complex.  Martino writes: ‘Military themed video and computer games serve a particular ideological and cultural function within Western societies. The growing reliance on remote, or ‘drone’ technologies to engage in intelligence gathering, target acquisition and combat has become a distinguishing feature of the current era. So too is the image of a civilian operator controlling a remote drone from a trailer in the American south-west as if he or she were playing a computer game whilst the drone under their control is engaged in the deadly business of modern warfare. We are witnessing a blurring between the boundaries of war, entertainment and the ideology of “Empire” – as an outcome of a powerful political process we can refer to as the “militarisation of society.30

                  Significant for young people is the question of the minimum age of recruitment into the armed forces. The UN General Assembly in New York adopted two optional additions to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, New York, 2000. One protocol required governments to increase the minimum age for recruitment into the armed forces from 15 years and to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in armed conflict. The UK responded by saying that: ‘The UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland will take all feasible measures to ensure that members of its armed forces who have not attained the age of 18 years do not take a direct part in hostilities’, but did not exclude the possibility of them being involved if their ship or unit became engaged in some action and it was not practicable to withdraw the young person. This is clearly inadequate protection and is open to being challenged; particularly if action is taken without UN sanction. Forces Watch has provided a useful briefing, ‘The recruitment of under- 18s into the UK armed forces’, and makes recommendations.

                  David Gee, Holding Faith: creating Peace, writes: ‘Effective recruitment advertising glamorises the armed forces and obscures the horrors and terrors of war; a more honest approach would not attract enough recruits. Recruitment depends also on a pool of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as relatively few well-off youngsters enlist.’ 31  Owen Everett, in  Militarisation in everyday life: A growing concern for Quakers in Britain, observes that at a meeting at Friends House: ‘A strong point that came across from QPSW, Northern Friends Peace Board, and a couple of area meetings, was that the normalisation of the military and military approaches leads to military violence being seen as a commonsensical response to conflict.’ 32  The Movement for the Abolition of War, founded in 2001 following the Hague Appeal for Peace in 1999, works closely with the International Peace Bureau in Geneva. MAW aims to:

  • Spread the belief that abolishing war is both desirable and possible.
  • Raise awareness to the alternative to war for resolving national and international disputes.
  • Develop materials and strategies to educate us all, from school children to those in government.

‘World beyond War’ estimates that war and other violence cost the world $9.46 trillion in 2012. ‘War has a huge financial cost, the vast majority of which is in funds spent on the preparation for war- or what’s thought of ordinary, non-war military spending. Very roughly the world spends $2 trillion every year on militarism, of which the US spends about half.’                 

                  Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, said recently, ‘Since the 17th century, Quakers in Britain have felt called to live “in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars”, and are alarmed at the increasing role of the military in our schools.  War represents our failure to resolve our differences by peaceful and amicable means; any ethos which supports it has no place in our society.’ And Diana Francis in Rethinking War and Peace: claims: ‘I want [those who argue for military intervention] to recognise that the very situations that seem to cry out for military intervention arise because of militarism, past and present, and the wider system of domination of which it is a part, whether it is carried out by states or tribes or guerrilla fighters or secessionists.’ 33

                  Bertrand Russell, in Principles of Social Reconstruction, commented: ‘Education as a political weapon could not exist if we respected the rights of children, we should educate them so as to give them the knowledge and the mental habits required for forming independent opinion; but education as a political institution endeavours to form habits and to circumscribe knowledge in such a way as to make one set of opinions inevitable .34      

                  Writing of the war of 1914-1918, Margaret MacMillan’s final comment is pertinent today: ‘If we want to point a finger from the twenty-first century we can accuse those who took Europe into war of two things. First, a failure of imagination in not seeing how destructive such a conflict would be and second, their lack of courage to stand up to those who said there was no choice left but to go to war. There are always choices.’ 35

                  We must also be prepared to listen to, and encourage, those in the armed forces who have come to question the use of military action and nuclear armament in recent years. Members of the armed forces can also be employed in many different ways; many have served in challenging situations such as peace-keeping and peace-building.  The late Brigadier General Michael Harbottle was Chief of Staff in the U.N. Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, 1966-1968; from 1974-1979 he was a Visiting Senior Lecturer of Peace Studies at Bradford University; and General Secretary of the World Disarmament Campaign, 1980-1982. He helped to set up Generals (Retired) for Peace and Disarmament in 1981, and was Co-ordinator for the Worldwide Consultative Association of Retired Generals and Admirals from 1991; in 1998 he was posthumously awarded the Gandhi Foundation International Peace Award. He wrote: ‘If there is to be peace, it will not evolve from a mere absence of war. Peace comes only when the structures of peaceful co-existence are in place; where there is peace of mind that enables people to live peaceably with their neighbours – communally, nationally, and internationally – free of tension, fear, and the sense of being constantly under threat. When these criteria do not exist, there will always be potential for unrest and violence.’ While accepting that the primary role of the military is in defence of national security, he claimed that ‘there are equally appropriate roles – peacekeeping/peacebuilding, disaster relief, and environmental security.’ 36

                  Commander Robert Green, R.N., retired, was one of the first ex-R.N. Commanders with nuclear weapon experience to come out against them. His final appointment was Staff Officer (Intelligence) to the C. Fleet during the Falkland War.  He was active in setting up the International Court of Justice judgment in 1996 which warned that the threat or use of nuclear weapons would be illegal. He now lives in New Zealand and with his wife co-directs the New Zealand Disarmament and Security Centre. He is the author of Security without Nuclear Deterrence, 2010. These contributions to worldwide peace are to be applauded and we can perhaps hope that the ‘equally appropriate roles’ indicated by Harbottle will be featured ever more prominently in the British armed forces in the future.

                  I recall a modern folksong, ‘When will they ever learn’, and George Bernard Shaw once wrote: ‘What do we learn from history?  We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.’  Militarism and the militarisation of our youth are riding a new wave and we must learn how to relegate them once more to history, as our forebears did in the early twentieth century.  To allow John Langdon-Davies the last word: ‘The war to end war must be waged by the schoolmaster [and schoolmistress] far more than by the soldiers.’ 37


1   Oxford Encyclopaedic English Dictionary, 1991.  >

2   Carl Mirra, ‘Countering Militarism through Peace Education’, Encyclopaedia of Peace Education, 2008.  >

3   Herbert Spencer, Facts and Comments, 1902.  >

4   A.J. Marder, The Anatomy of British Sea Power: a history of British Naval Policy in the pre-dreadnought era, 1880-1905, New York, 1940.  >

5   School Board Chronicle, 29 July, 1871, p.350.  >

6   Alan Penn, Targeting Schools: Drill, Militarism and Imperialism, Woburn Press, 1999. P.58.  >

7   ibid, p. 125.  >

8   ibid, pp. 28-29.  >

9   Ibid, p. 156.  >

10   John Langdon-Davies, Militarism in Education: a contribution to educational reconstruction, 1930.  >

11   Richard Vinen, National Service: Conscription in Britain, 1945-1963, Allen Lane, 2014.  >

12   The Guardian, 24 January, 1997, p. 4.  >

13   ‘Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces’, Report to the Prime Minister by Quentin Davies, MP, Bill Clark, Ministry of Defence, and Air Commodore Martin Sharp, RAF, May 2008. It was an inquiry into the armed forces by the armed forces, not an independent inquiry.  >

14   ResPublica, Military Academies: Tackling disadvantage, improving ethos and changing outcome’, Phillip Blond and Dr Patricia Kaszynska, 10 January 2012.  >

15   Hansard, 11 January, 2012, col. 179.  >

16   Charlotte Chadderton, The militarisation of English schools: Troops to Teaching and the implications for Initial Teacher education and race equality, Taylor and Francis, 2013.  >

17   The Guardian, 27 June, 2014.  >

18   John Langdon-Davies, ibid, p. 139.  >

19   David Gee, Informed choice?: Armed forces recruitment practice in the United Kingdom.  An independent report, research and publication funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, January 2008.  >

20   Marek Thee, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Militarism and Militarization in Contemporary International Relations, Bulletin of Peace Proposals, vol. 8, no. 4, 1997, p.296.  >

21   Laura Finley, University of North Colorado, ‘Militarism goes to School, Essays in Education, 4, 2003.  >

22   Linda Rocawich, Education infiltration: the Pentagon targets High Schools, 1994, p.12. html.  >

23   Thomas R. McDaniel, ‘Demilitarising Public Education: School Reform in the era of George Bush’, Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 71, no. 1, September 1989, pp. 15-18.  >

24   The Young Foundation reports, ‘What do people and places need from the Big Society?’ and ‘The State of Happiness: can public policy shape people’s wellbeing and resilience?’, both 2010.  >

25   Peter Mortimore, Education under siege: Why there is a better alternative, Policy Press, 2013; 119, 209.  >

26   David Cameron, article in The Mail on Sunday, 15 June, 2014.  >

27   House of Commons Debate in Westminster Hall, 25 June 2014. Hansard, 25 June 2014, cols 96WH-100WH.  >

28   House of Lords, Short debate, ‘Education: British values’, Hansard, 26 June 2014, col. 1405.  >

29   Jasper M. Trautsch, The Invention of the West, p. 89.  pdf.  >

30   John Martino, Video Games and the Militarisation of Society: Towards a Theoretical and Conceptual Framework, Peter Lang, New York, 2012.  >

31   David Gee, Holding Faith: Creating Peace, Quaker Books, 2011, p.43.  >

32   Owen Everett, ‘Militarisation in everyday life: A growing concern for Quakers in Britain’, an information sharing and networking event, journal letter August 2013.  >

33   Diana Francis, Rethinking War and Peace, Pluto Press, 2004.  >

34   Bertrand Russell, Principles of Social Reconstruction, Allen & Unwin, 1916, p.114.  >

35   Margaret MacMillan, The War that ended Peace, Profile Books, 2014, p. 605.  >

36   Brigadier General Michael Harbottle, ‘A New Military’, Yes Magazine, 30 August 1998.  >

37   John Langdon-Davies, ibid. p. 18. >