MILITARISM IN SCHOOLS

From The Tribunal January 24th 1918

This is a further update in a series of extracts from the No Conscription Fellowship’s journal, published in the UK between March 1916 and November 1918
For other extracts go to: http://nfpb.org.uk/tribunal

Sir. – There is a certain type of mind which regards the militarist as a ferocious, swashbuckling sort of fellow who wants to make everyone miserable and to be all the time on top himself. Now, although that kind of person is easily produced by militarism, he is by no means its chief danger. In general, he becomes so unpopular both with his superiors and with his inferiors that his position is difficult to maintain unless he curbs his ferocity.

The danger of militarism is not that it produces characters which are peculiar either for good or for evil, but that it definitely aims at producing uniform characters which have no peculiarity at all. Your true militarist aims at an ordered, graded society wherein each individual has his place in which it is his duty to remain.

Peculiarity in religion, dress, diet, political opinions or anything is equally detestable in his eyes. If his system obtains, a people becomes uniform and therefore servile and dead.

During the war militarist institutions have been imposed on the people of this country. It has been a difficult thing to do notwithstanding the fact that the great majority accepted the impositions as they came along. In the administration of the Munitions Acts, the Defence of the Realm Acts and the Military Service Acts and particularly of the Orders in Council. Under the two last, the militarist authorities have been continually brought into conflict with men and occasionally with women who have grown up free from the uniformity and servility essential for the easy working of such a system. It is naturally now dawning on the minds of those who desire such uniformity and servility in the people that the process must begin earlier. In the child individuality is still latent and there is the opportunity for militarism. Thus the experience of the last three years has caused the militarists to turn their attention to education. It does not in the least matter that the object lessons of Germany with its utilisation of the schools and universities for the purpose of militarism is before our eyes.

It does not matter the children of this generation will need all the resources, initiative and enterprise they can develop if they are to solve the problems of a world drained of its strength by war. The militarist means to mould the human material while it is plastic, and his hand is stretching out to grasp it.

Compulsory Cadet Corps, lessons from militarist pamphlet, dismissal of teachers whose views are in any way peculiar, registration, docketting, drilling, putting mind and body into uniform – that is what he is planning, especially for the children of the “lower orders.” The children of “the classes” may have some individuality if they like. Few enough of them will want to change their social order very materially. But the rank and file must be regimented. Therefore, say the militarists, let us talk everywhere of patriotism, let us get the hygenists to declare that the childrens’ bodies, the schoolmasters their minds, and the parsons their souls, need drill and more drill: and let us therefore delude Labour into handing over the coming generation to us. Is Labour, I wonder, willing that the bright promise of childhood should be so blighted?
Yours Etc, R.N.Langdon-Davies (Secretary, National Council for Civil Liberties.)

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