Quakers object to millions in funding for developing military ethos in classrooms

News Release 10 December 2014

Quakers object to millions in funding for developing military ethos in classrooms

Quakers in Britain have responded to the Department for Education announcement of £4.8 million “Character Innovation Fund” for schools by sending an Open Letter to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan.

An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Department for Education

Dear Nicky Morgan

Quakers in Britain were dismayed to learn this week that almost all of the recently announced £5 million “Character Innovation Fund” for schools has been allocated to providers of a “Military Ethos” such as Challenger Troop and Commando Joe’s.

Quakers believe that a military ethos is not what young people need.  While it claims to engender altruism, aspiration and teamwork, these are not the exclusive preserve of the military.  A military culture is one of blind obedience, not the critical thinking learners need, and is founded on the normalisation of violence.

Quakers have worked for peace for over 350 years.  Therefore we understand that helping young people facing life difficulties is undoubtedly crucial for healthy communities.  There are many successful programmes in which young people develop character outside a military ethos.  Innovative organisations such as Leap Confronting Conflict and Peacemakers effectively support young people to develop essential life skills and resolve conflict without violence.

Why therefore have you increased funding primarily for providers of a military ethos?  The evidence is at best ambiguous; troubled by “methodological issues”, your department’s own report does not show a military-ethos is more effective than any other alternative provision.  The exemplary Outwood Academy, which you cite in your press release of 8 December 2014 offers only one “military ethos” session among over 100 enrichment activities including the Green Power Challenge, Philosophy and Ethics and Rollicking Reads.  Will these activities receive additional funding and be eligible for the new “Character Awards”?

Quakers have carefully observed the context in which this fund has been announced.  We are aware the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were unpopular and the armed forces are struggling to reach recruitment targets. We are called therefore to question the agenda behind this initiative and to ask about its real purpose.

Quakers believe that this allocation of funding represents ongoing militarisation of education.  It is our view that militarism has no place in the classroom.

signed Paul Parker Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain

You can access the news release in full here.

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