Recently David Cameron announced that the Government would provide a £5 million budget to the education system to give all secondary school children a chance to visit Flanders and experience the history of the World War One. He also announced a £50 million commemoration that would ‘transform’ the imperial war museum and create ‘an enduring legacy for generations to come’. There is of course nothing specifically alarming about this, it’s incredibly hard to argue against a commemoration for an event that cost so many lives and shaped the history of our country.
However am I alone in thinking that this money could be better used for a better purpose than looking into our past? Cameron states, quite rightly, that the bravery of the soldiers should not be forgotten, but could it be ensured that they are not simply by having the history of WW1 on the school syllabus? The funding is there to support school children on trips, but all I remember from our secondary school trips was running around bars delighted that the drinking age was suddenly 2 years younger. What is more important in schools is a focus on both the past and on the present, while we agonise over low attendance at the polls, we forget how little children are taught about how the voting system works. In the under 16 compulsory syllabus there is little to teach children about political systems, and the very rights that were fought for in the First and Second World Wars.
As for the practicality of this policy, the £5 million would only fund two school children and one teacher per school to visit Flanders, which Cameron simply ‘hopes’ will benefit the other students who do not get to go. This system almost seems egalitarian in its nature; it can easily separate students into those who are ‘good’ and therefore rewarded, and those who are ‘bad’ and therefore punished. I believe that this kind of teaching system is not productive in helping those children who struggle in an academic environment, and only serves to highlight those who are ‘the bad seeds’. The £50 million being spent on the commemoration seems even more spectacular, when the recent cut marches remind us what services are being dashed to the side. I am fully behind funding education, and commemorating sacrifice, but not at the cost of our present public services. While Cameron may be riding on the post Olympic nationalism high – it seems he has forgotten to come back down to the reality of our ever increasing unemployment and loss of our national services, where I am sure £55 million would be greatly appreciated. A better way to commemorate the legacy of those who fought in the First World War would be to support the rights, the services and the society that makes usBritain.