Young Canadian Quakers on war & recruitment
The first working group I attended was dealing with the issue of militarism within our education. It can be seen taking shape through the laws in place and the cultural norms that pervade our society. In a lot of countries there is a big drive for the military to have a presence in our schools. This is where children spend the majority of their waking lives and where they form their opinions of the world. We discussed Germany’s situation as the example of military infiltrating our schools in which the Bundeswehr (German federal armed forces) has been increasing their presence in providing information and weapons exhibitions for school children. They also provide military personnel to instruct on political education. In some cases, teachers are strongly advised to use state prepared curriculum instead of preparing their own; this is attractive as it means less work for the teacher, but also increases the approval of state sanctioned violence.
A lot of this meeting was spent on bouncing ideas off each other to make peace/non-violence an appealing proposition. So we started with the question; how do we make the peace movement exciting or sexy/ how do we sell peace? Do we want to sell peace? To us, it looks like these are questions the military is also concerned with: but for war. Military can be seen as a business where as in a peace movement there is no profit to be made. . . just lives to be saved. And this is the issue that needs to be addressed and brought to light in schools; who benefits from war? I tried to push this question to the group, but it was generally agreed that political question of this nature would never find a place in the education system as teachers would not touch them and the state would probably shut them down.
So instead of pointing at the root cause, our tactics turned to creating an unwelcoming environment. Some suggested requesting veterans to speak on the horrors of war; this would have to be in conjunction with other tactics as this still provides the military with the authoritative voice, which can be silencing for others. The reclamation of humanitarian terminology that has been co-opted by military’s (eg. ‘fighting for peace’). One member of the group said a well received campaign was when a student brought the message of anti-militarism to her peers; so engaging youth to become active participants in peace. The most important aspect of this work within the school is on discipline procedures. Teachers need to start using these moments as educational opportunities in peaceful conflict resolution instead of just banishment or humiliation. It is about creating a space where peace can be a lived experience.