Youth give voice to military recruitment concerns

This week sees the launch of a new short film made by young people questioning the promotion of military activities in their schools.

The film, “Engage: the military and young people” is set to launched on Thursday 26/06/2014 with the first showing taking place at Friends House in London. Commissioned by campaigning organisation ForcesWatch and made by young people from youth charity Headliners, the film shows that many young people are critical of the way the military is promoted in schools and gives voice to young people considering issues around the military’s youth engagement activities including the cadets. Young people featured in the film include air cadets and members of the Woodcraft Folk. The film was part-financed through crowd funding and was backed my organisations and individuals, including Quakers.

Last week the Department of Education announced that it is committing £1 million (with match funding) to support the expansion of the Combined Cadet Force (CCF) in state schools. The funds are in addition to over £10 million committed to establishing 100 new CCF units by 2015 and almost £5 million allocated to military activities for ‘disengaged pupils’.

ForcesWatch, who commissioned Engage: the military and young people, are concerned that the expansion of cadet units, and other military-led activities, in schools serves as a soft recruitment tool and training programme for the armed forces and question whether the promotion of military activities within education is appropriate. However, the Ministry of Defence and Cadet Forces Associations deny there is a recruitment link despite other official sources which suggest a strong recruitment purpose.

Emma Sangster from ForcesWatch, said, “A great deal of money is being spent promoting the military in schools when other education and youth resources are being cut. This film suggests that many young people are critical of military activities in their schools and the motivations behind it. It also shows that, while participation in cadet activities may benefit some young people, it also makes them more likely to be recruited into the armed forces. As the cadets are clearly a recruitment tool, we do not believe that they should be promoted in schools.”

Last weekend peace campaigners in Wrexham held a “peace presence” alongside the town’s armed forces day, which was promoted by the local council and featured opportunities for children and young people to pose with weapons and try on military clothing and armour. The event was set to include jugglers and circus workshops as well as a fly past and a parade through the town.

The ForcesWatch event at Friends House will include speakers from Headliners and the Woodcraft Folk, and ex-soldier and founder of Veterans for Peace UK, Ben Griffin.

Meanwhile, War Resisters’ International is also running a crowd funding campaign in an effort to raise £1,000 to finish work on their Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns.

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