Emma Sangster, from Forces Watch, on how the British military interacts with young people.
The Militarisation in Everyday Life in the UK conference was held in London in October 2013 and was organised by ForcesWatch. It brought together academics, writers, activists and campaigners who are researching, writing, campaigning on, or just concerned about the implications of the militarisation of everyday life in the UK.
Emma Sangster: Young people and the British military
Published by ForcesWatch and Child Soldiers International, August 2013
The risk of fatality in Afghanistan for recruits who enlisted into the British Army aged 16 and completed training has been twice as high as it has for those enlisting at 18 or above.
The increased risk reflects the disproportionately high number of 16 year olds who join front-line Infantry roles. This is the result of recruitment policies which drive young people with limited academic qualifications into the Army’s most dangerous roles. Those who enlist at 16 are effectively barred from entering many of the less risky support or technical roles due to lack of qualifications. Another probable contributing factor is the longer average career length of 16 year old recruits who successfully complete training, leading to more tours of duty in Afghanistan when compared with adult recruits.
Rachel Taylor from Child Soldiers International talks to the host of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi, about military recruitment age in the UK -- it's the lowest age in the Europe and the MoD doesn't want to change that. First aired 11.11.13
Child Soldiers International on the kids being trained to kill
Many areas of society in the UK have seen a growing involvement and/or visibility of the military and military approaches in recent years - from schools, to local communities, to ‘militainment’ (military-themed films, TV programmes, video games etc). This process of privileging and prioritising the military is often referred to as ‘militarisation’; Cynthia Enloe, one of the foremost thinkers on the subject, states that “To become militarised is to adopt militaristic values and priorities as one's own, to see military solutions as particularly effective, to see the world as a dangerous place best approached with militaristic attitudes.”
The minimum recruitment age for the British armed forces – 16 years – is one of the lowest in the world. The Ministry of Defence has traditionally justified recruiting from this age group by asserting that 16 years reflects the minimum statutory school leaving age.
However, as a result of successive governments’ policies to increase upper secondary education participation rates, over recent decades the number of young people leaving education and entering employment before the age of 18 has decreased significantly. Today, only a very small percentage of young people leave education at 16 (six per cent in 2009/2010). Apart from the Ministry of Defence, the only other institution which seeks to attract and retain this age group is the education system itself. It is with schools and colleges, not other employers, that the Ministry of Defence directly competes to recruit young people.
The incursion of the military into the British education system will mean that alternatives to war and peaceful ways of resolving conflict will be more difficult for young people to explore. In the long term we will all pay a heavy price, says Emma Sangster.
The UK government is on a drive to integrate 'military ethos and skills' into the structure of education, echoing developments in the US and founded on an ideology that says that everything military is good.
An independent report, published in 2007, highlighting the risks posed to young people through joining the military, how young people from disadvantaged communities are targeted, how information available to potential recruits is often misleading and how the terms of service are complicated, confusing and severely restricting. The research found that a large proportion join for negative reasons, including the lack of civilian career options.
Through articles, images, survey data and interviews, Sowing Seeds: The Militarisation of Youth and How to Counter It documents the seeds of war that are planted in the minds of young people in many different countries. However, it also explores the seeds of resistance to this militarisation that are being sown resiliently and creatively by numerous people. READ MORE