Challenging media bias on militarisation
"I feel strongly that the culture of militarism in schools ought to be avoided."
Clare Scott, Lucy Pollard, Sarah Sheard and Ann James heard what they felt was a one-sided piece on the Today Programme about the introduction of cadets in state schools. Independently of each other, they contacted the BBC to question the uncritical depiction of militarism and found themselves on the radio too.
Listen to the interview on BBC Radio 4's Feedback programme from March 2016.
Sarah Sheard of Wooldale Meeting in West Yorkshire writes:
“I was moved to take action about the government initiative to spend £50 million on introducing cadet forces in our state schools. As a mother of three children I consciously made the effort to avoid any toy/games which involved guns or war games.
“The idea of promoting military activities in schools and further normalising war and the arms industry seduces young minds into thinking war is an acceptable part of our culture.
“I wrote to the Radio 4 programme 'Feedback' objecting to the Radio 4 'Today' programmes unbalanced reporting of cadet forces being introduced into schools.
Lucy of Woodbridge Meeting in Suffolk writes:
“I took action because I feel very strongly that militarising schoolchildren is wrong. The immediate trigger was a suggestion in the Quaker Life Network newsletter.
“I think the plan to increase cadet forces in schools is misleading on two fronts: it portrays the army as a benign force rather than a killing machine, and it suggests that skills such as cooperation and leadership can best (or only) be learnt in a military context. I emailed Feedback and got a phone call asking me to record my email."
Ann James of Warwick Meeting writes:
“To be honest I didn't even think about Quakers when I responded to the Today programme by email – I was just so shocked that such an uncritical piece was aired, as though it's perfectly normal to bring the army into schools.
“When the BBC's Feedback programme emailed me asking to speak to me, I thought they would interview me, so I did some more research on the Quaker website.
There I found an even more horrifying picture: that the Ministry of Defence has spent £45 million on working with the Department of Education – with no public discussion! I've told lots of people about this.
“Also I found out about British Armed Forces 2014, a brochure sent free to schools as a 'learning resource'.
My pacifism and my Quakerism have been linked since I first came to Quakerism: they are both rooted in the belief that every individual is valuable and we all share the same humanity.- Lucy Pollard, Woodbridge Meeting
Lucy: “My pacifism and my Quakerism have been linked since I first came to Quakerism: they are both rooted in the belief that every individual is valuable and we all share the same humanity."
Sarah: “Pacifism is the cornerstone of Quaker belief and a 'spiritual ideal' representing the higher part of our nature."
Ann: “I was ready to talk to the BBC's Feedback programme about all my concerns, and the fact that the UK is the only country in Europe to recruit child soldiers, but when they rang they only wanted me to read out my email!
“The BBC ducked the issue- everyone who heard it told me this- by saying the piece was only about junior journalism, not the content."
Lucy: “It was fine, but I was frustrated that they cut me off after my first sentence! When I heard what I said, I felt I could have expressed myself better.
“There was one wonderful ray of hope at the end of the item about cadet forces: the boy who was acting as reporter said that he had always wanted to join the army, but that after this experience he wanted to be a journalist. It lifted the heart."
Sarah: “It created a debate and discussion point with my three (young adult) children who are all opposed to military cadets being introduced into state schools, where children will be wearing military uniforms and marching with rifles.
“I feel strongly that the culture of militarism in schools ought to be avoided and I'm prepared to take action on this issue as it is a core belief on why I decided to be a Quaker."