As a member of the NUT, I find myself in the embarrassing position of being completely at odds with one of the Unions conference decisions.
The NUT is calling for an end to schools co-operating with armed forces recruitment centres, because they claim that the MoD are using "sophisticated" methods to lure youngsters, often in deprived areas, into the armed forces.
From what the NUT are saying, they are likening the Armed Forces to some sort of paedophile grooming a child for abuse or like some sort of wacky religious cult luring an impressionable child away from their parents. Anyone though who knows anything about the armed forces knows this is not true.
There are, sadly, some in the NUT, much like those in a whole host of unions, who still live the left wing Utopian dream, of an army of politically motivated socialists with political commissars directing what should happen. And for these Utopian lefties, the British Armed Forces represents a branch of a state they despise, in in being a branch of the state they see it as something to be undermined and attacked. The truth is that this NUT attack is politically motivated and has very little to do with children.
The NUT representative who proposed the motion to the NUT conference said
"They are too young to vote, too young to drink, too young to drive, but they are considered old enough to sign up for years in the armed forces without being fully aware of what they are signing themselves up for in their lives,"
But hang on, aren't these the same children that we as teachers claim to have educated by the age of 16 ? Aren't these the same children who most of us feel should be able to have the vote at 16 ? It strikes me that most teachers expect that at the age of 16 a child should behave like an adult and should be able to go in to the adult world, but some in the NUT feel that they should only be able to enter the adult world so long as they do not join a branch of the state that those radical NUT teachers despise. Hypocrisy ? What do you think ?
The NUT also make the point that the armed forces recruit more heavily in economically deprived areas, seemingly unaware that this has always been the case since the times of the Napoleonic wars, and probably before then too. Outside of commissioned officers, the armed forces has always recruited from people with lower academic grades and from people in lower socio-economic circumstances. The NUT seems to believe this is wrong. I disagree.
The armed forces provides an opportunity for many to get some discipline in their lives, for many it lift them out of poverty, out of crime, indeed, for many it is something of a life saver. A friend of mine left the army about three years ago. He, by his own admission, came from a family where petty crime was the norm. He does not know who his father is, his mum is in and out of prison whilst other members of his family remain very much stuck in a crime filled estate in the North East of England, in his words "stuck in a desperate rut but with no inclination to lift themselves out of it". My friend, upon leaving the armed forces had the chance to join the police, but instead has started his own business very successfully, and is the epitome of everything that the armed forces would be proud of. A man with self control, strong family values and a success. Would he have been these things with having joined the army ? Of course he wouldn't. My friend's own view is that he would be in prison by now if he hadn't joined the army.
The NUT should be worried about education, not what children choose to do with that education. If we are to turn out pupils fit for the adult world then when they leave school we should allow them to make adult choices. Allowing the armed forces in, like any other employer, gives children options.