Defence

Military schools? No thank you, Minister

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The Tories want to go to war.

Well, they don’t want to go to war as far as any of us know, though you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. After all, our stunningly incompetent Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, the one who declared that Russia should ‘go away, and it should shut up,’ has instructed MP Robert Goodwill to investigate whether Britain should introduce Armed Forces schools.

Mr Goodwill justifies this by saying that the ‘values and disciplines’ of the British military will improve the ‘life chances, confidence and self-discipline’ of children up and down the country. Of course, this wouldn’t be the type of thing for your privileged middle-class kids with rich mummies and daddies. Oh no. The esteemed MP is particularly interested in setting up these schools in ‘deprived areas’ in order to improve the ‘whole school with the ethos and discipline of cadets.’

Now, let’s be clear here. It’s true that in the absence of organised religion, which is stated as a fact with no opinion attached, young people are floundering. When you consider, in no particular order, the recession, austerity, and a system that I hesitate to call educational, it’s no surprise that this is the case. It needs to be made clear to young people who are coming to an age of maturity that hard work, determination, and self-discipline can get you a long way.

But (and it’s a big but) that applies to all young people today. So, one wonders, why on earth isn’t the inquiry looking into introducing this new school structure in all areas? Why does Mr Goodwill not want children from all walks of life to have this opportunity? Why only deprived areas? The answer is simple.

It’s an open secret that the working class, and especially white working-class boys, are dramatically underachieving in education. Many causes for this have been identified, and it’s more than likely that the real reason is an amalgamation of all of these, but that’s not what’s important here.

What is important, however, is that a considerable portion of students have only a small chance of going to university and, with few jobs not requiring some form of degree, alongside apprenticeships being increasingly more expensive, few options are left open. Imagine, therefore, how great it would be for these young boys and girls to be educated for years in a system that promotes entering the military. It’s a good pay, provides good opportunities, and a regular soldier doesn’t need any qualifications in order to the enter the army. How perfect would that be?

Now, I want to take this opportunity to express the greatest of respects for our servicemen and women who put themselves in danger so that we can sleep safely in our beds at night. Their courage and their strength should be saluted, and I do not hesitate in paying tribute to them. I take no issue with the fact that some people do indeed enter the army. In fact, I admire them for possessing certain character traits that I simply do not have. What I do take issue with is that this policy, if implemented, would deliberately target poor children, effectively grooming them to fight, and die, in war.

What we’re looking at here is the same old story of preparing the poor to fight the wars of the rich. We saw it in the First World War, we saw it in the Second World War, and we’re on the cusp of seeing it again. All of this, of course, without a tweet of protest from the so-called party of the working class: Labour.

It’s quite clear to see that this is the brainchild of a man with no military experience, no ministerial experience, and such naked ambition that it’s embarrassing. Pressure needs to be put on the government to abandon this scheme before it’s fully born, and launch a much fuller inquiry into what can be done to improve attainment in deprived areas.

There is, of course, one problem with this plan of action. With Labour enthralled in an anti-Semitism scandal that threatens to engulf it, and the Liberal ‘Democrats’ too concerned about Brexit to notice anything else happening in the country, there’s not a single party to stand up for the working class.

Little changes, really. 

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