Military schools… the myths…

Today’s announcement that Labour supports bringing in state-funded military schools has provoked quite a lot of reaction – not least from me. I don’t like the idea, amongst other things because it seems to me to perpetuate three particularly damaging myths:

1) That ‘discipline’, ‘leadership’ and ‘aspiration’ are not really possible in ‘conventional’ comprehensive schools.

2) That ‘military-style’ discipline really works, particularly for disadvantaged kids.

3) That it’s possible to find a ‘quick fix’ to educational problems.

All three are attractive – particularly to the average Daily Mail reader – but all three are neither true nor helpful. The first denies the excellence of a lot of fine comprehensive schools, and panders to the false image of the state of current education put about largely by the media. It also suggests that there’s only one kind of comprehensive school – the ‘loose’, ‘indisciplined’ kind. In reality, every school is different, and you don’t need to impose new ‘types’ of school to get pluralism.

The second myth lies behind the regular suggestion that we should bring back National Service, the short-lived ‘short sharp shock’ youth prisons and so forth. It misses the key point: military discipline works well for some, terribly for others. Which kids would end up at military schools? The ones who would thrive? It doesn’t seem likely – if the children themselves has the choice, perhaps, but if their parents want them ‘shocked’ the consequences could be disastrous.

The third myth is the worst of all – if only life was so simple. It’s this myth that leads to the regular and deeply damaging political tinkering with our educational system. What’s needed isn’t another ‘great idea’ or new initiative, it’s proper support and decent investment in our schools. It’s fostering an atmosphere where teachers are valued and good and able students are encouraged to become the teachers of the future.

That means standing back. Stopping interfering. Supporting, not undermining schools. And, for goodness’ sake, no new types of schools… least of all the military schools!

6 thoughts on “Military schools… the myths…

  1. You forgot the ‘bring back the birch’ brigade😉

    As an ex army type myself, I have to agree that a stint in the armed forces can be good for you, in the short term. However it should not be something that is imposed on individuals against their will, and it is certainly not the only way to instil character and self discipline, nor would it be I believe the best course to take for a good accademic education. Besides on issues such as national service, why would the armed forces want their ranks clogged up with people who might not want to be there in the first place? Service should be a choice, not a means of ensuring a good supply of moving targets for the government to ship out in the battle to give Tony Blair and the likes somewhere to exploit in the future. Daily Mail readers may also jump,on issues such as this, but it is easy to do so when it is not them as individuals who would be undergoing such a ‘scheme’.

    This Labour idea is almost as bad as Gove wanting to replace GCSE’s with a retrogressive step back to O levels, which if truth be told merely diminishes the achievements of those who have gained GCSE’s by highlighting them as students of worthless qualifications.

    This whole thing will come to nothing anyway. Miliband is little more than a windbag that seizes on any opportunity to grab headlines. In fact he is the most vacuous party leader I have seen in a long time, totally bereft of ideas, and wholly unconvincing in delivery. I thought Cameron was little more than a PR front, but captain soundbytes Miliband and his mob are something to behold.

    • Thanks – I’d forgotten about bringing back the birch, but it does fit exactly!

      I know there are many people who can and do benefit from military discipline, but, as you say, it should be a voluntary thing… and I agree, the whole thing will almost certainly come to nothing, which is probably the intention anyway. Grab a few headlines in the Mail, and quietly forget about it…

  2. I’m informed by people who did it that the prime motivation during National Service was simply to get through it and then get on with your life. Compulsion rarely works and ‘respect’ should be earned rather than imposed.

    This policy is just about the calibre of educational thought I’d expect from Twigg, who really should be sacked. Gove is busy privatising state education and Twigg has done absolutely nothing to oppose it.

    • There are similar stories from people who I know who’ve done national service in other countries… When you’re forced into something it’s very different from doing something by choice.

      It’s a terrible policy, and I do wonder about the wisdom from a PR perspective too, though I suspect that was the main motivation!

  3. Finally Walt Disney on the curriculum ,Quick March”up two three four ,up two three four”” STOP!” “about turn” must be one of Osbourne’s troops

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