A report issued yesterday outlining proposals to establish in Manchester an army-run ‘free school’, has given yet another sinister twist to the campaign by Tory education secretary, Michael Gove, to smash up the state education system and demonise both pupils and the teaching profession.
The report was co-authored by a serving army captain – and would-be headmaster, Affan Burki – along with Tom Burkard, a member of the right-wing ‘think tank’, the Centre for Policy Studies.
It also enjoys the enthusiastic support of Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff.
According to Burkard, the school, named the Phoenix Free School, would be staffed entirely by untrained – in the educational sense – military personnel and would emphasise ‘martial values’.
Unlike the small number of other ‘free schools’ created by the Tory-led coalition, this is clearly not intended for the children of upper-middle class parents.
This group has seen their wealth eroded by the economic collapse to the extent that they are finding it hard to make up the school fees demanded by the public and private school system.
To overcome this financial problem, Gove has rushed through these ‘free schools’, which exist through diverting vast amounts of money from the state educational system and yet are entirely ‘free’ to pick and choose pupils , determine the salary levels of teaching staff and design their own educational curriculum where anyone can be a teacher.
Now the military are getting in on the act, where some soldier, or soldiers, fresh from brutalising Iraqis or Libyans, can intimidate and bully working class youth, attempting to instil in them the ‘martial values’ so prized by the army, as a preliminary to them signing up for military service.
The only values demanded by the military will be unthinking obedience to authority, coupled with a regime of brutalisation designed to turn out men and women who will do the bidding of the ruling class, however distasteful that is.
The targets for the Phoenix school, destined to be the first of a whole string, are working class youth described by Gove, in a speech given on the same day, as comprising a ‘vicious, lawless, immoral minority’ and an ‘educational under-class’.
This is the generation of young people that shocked the ruling class when they rose up recently and demonstrated that they would not sit back and passively accept a life of poverty and oppression as the price for keeping the banks in profit and a bankrupt capitalist system from collapsing.
The recipe for these youth, as far as the ruling class is concerned, is to force them into military schools where they can be transformed into the foot soldiers and cannon fodder for capitalism, to be used as a counter-revolutionary force against their own class and communities in the service of the bankers.
The military have long seen the universities as fertile recruiting ground for an officer class – they are now trying to create their own schools to get the cannon fodder for counter-revolution.
The fact that it has emerged at this point in the crisis shows the desperation of the ruling class to marshal the forces to take on and defeat a working class, and especially the youth, who are being forced down the road of revolution by the crisis of capitalism.
The way to put an end to these plans by Gove and the army chiefs is to bring down the government and replace it with a workers government that can offer a future for youth, that does not include being brutalised by a decayed and bankrupt capitalist system.
To prepare the ground for this, workers and youth must join the Young Socialists lobby of the TUC on Monday 12 September to demand jobs at trade union rates of pay and free university education for all youth, and a general strike to bring down the coalition.