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Military Education and DNA control

7 April 2008

Jon Bright (London, OK): The Telegraph reports today that 5,000 children are being added to the UK's DNA database a month, around 25% of the total number of new additions. A Home Office spokesman explained that, as under 18s made up roughly 25% of arrests, it was unsurprising they made up 25% of new additions.

Which, the Telegraph also reports, connects to another story - the rise in "youth crime" since Labour came to power. Up two thirds in the country overall, the rise seems mainly caused by huge hikes in rural crime. The paper's leader isn't surprised:

Nobody disputes that social disintegration leads to juvenile crime, and just look at what has been happening in the countryside in the past 11 years. Village schools and cottage hospitals are threatened in the name of centralisation, post offices out of penny-pinching, rural industries out of spite; small shops are driven out of business by hypermarkets, quiet local pubs by over-regulation and excessive taxes on alcohol; towns and villages become dormitories, and their historic identities disappear.

Take away all the centres of a rural community, render it impotent in the face of persecution by a metropolitan elite, and its young can grow up as disaffected and desperate as those on any sink estate.

They go on to laud Brown's apparent decision to increase cadet forces in state schools, which the Guardian reports today are to be floated in Quentin Davies' forthcoming report on the gap between the army and civilian life. The report is, apparently, to stress the training of skills such as "shooting and physical fitness."

Ministers seem to be most enthused about the potential of the army to bring discipline, respect, and perhaps even some sense of social cohesion and national pride to recalcitrant youngsters, but equally as important from the point of view of the army will be the increased recruiting opportunities. Last month it was reported that "record numbers" of new army recruits are dropping out of basic training before completing - a "growing casualty rate" in Iraq and Afghanistan and "low pay" were, understandably, identified as two factors putting people off. The story of what these thousands go on to do remains untold.

Of course, the army is already involved in our education system. A couple of weeks ago there was some small outcry over lesson plans drawn up by the MoD for students presenting a rather rose tinted version of the run up to the Iraq war (the Indie quotes: "Iraq was invaded early 2003 by a United States coalition. Twenty-nine other countries, including the UK, also provided troops... Iraq had not abandoned its nuclear and chemical weapons development program"). MoD teaching materials are drawn up by Defence Dynamics, a free online resource for teachers, which, together with Camouflage (an army website for 13 - 17 year olds), forms part of the £2bn or so a year spent recruiting and training new soldiers - a recruiting process which targets the nation's [sic] youth.

All part, perhaps, of the vocationalisation of the education system. We already have the McA-Level - why not the MoDA-Level too? Joining the army is an obvious career path for many of this country's NEETs. And it's the same instinct that calls for education to be more applicable, more immediately useful, more relevant to those that aren't getting jobs, that calls for the shutting of village post offices, schools, cottage shops and industries. These things aren't efficient, aren't of value any more.

So what is valuable now instead? As Anthony discusses below in his debate with Iain Dale on Thatcher's generation and violence, John Hutton has an idea:

rather than questioning whether high salaries are morally justified, we should celebrate the fact that people can be enormously successful in this country

Anthony also produces a graph from the British Medical Journal which seems to show a certain link between income inequality and the index of child wellbeing. What's the relation? Could it be this culture of rapid and runaway wealth, beloved of Thatcher and continued and celebrated by Blair (remember the £4 billion worth of guests at Blair's table in 1998?) is a culture that struggles to replace a previously felt "cohesion" found, for example, in local, rural services, discarded as inefficient? To quote Anthony:

The model of market oriented, individualist, high-inequality government increases the amount of mindless violence on our streets.

We are living with Thatcher's generation. The New Labour generation, those whose time is just coming or still to come, are going to grow up trained in shooting, physical fitness and burger bar management in a country struggling with its own identity, engaged in a war whose rationale and cause is constantly under revision, a country which is meanwhile purposefully and efficiently destroying local centres of community life. No-one can expect them to be less violent than their predecessors. And military education and DNA control (perhaps preemptive) will be the two pronged strategy for controlling this arriving generation of mindlessly violent youth: those who do not end up in the army seem bound to end up on the database.

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