The banality of evil. Classrooms and courtyards converted into barracks; parades, choirs and bands of students and soldiers; training, coexistence, history, foreign languages and gymnastics classes with generals and admirals; guided tours of bases, radar installations and military airports; study activities on fighter-bombers, tanks, submarines and war frigates; alternating schoolwork in the armed forces or in companies producing weapons of mass destruction. Not a day goes by without Italian educational institutions at all levels experimenting with militarism and militarization, with the silent consent of most teachers, parents and students. However, beyond the Alps, tens of thousands of professors, educators and teachers work and struggle to affirm the principle-obligation that education is aimed at defending peace against all wars, at the full development of the human personality, at strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
“The training of recruits and soldiers means educating them to kill. The clear and unequivocal opinion of the German trade union organisation GEW – Gewerkschaft, Erziehung und Wissenschaft (Union, Education and Science), made up of more than 280,000 members from the fields of education, research, social work and care. GEW, a member of the German Trade Union Confederation, has been campaigning for some time against “the tendency of schools to become increasingly contaminated by the armed forces”.
On the eve of the Hessentag (the famous annual party in Karbach from 25 May to 3 June, with the participation of the entire Hessen region), the powerful trade union organisation sent an open letter to the German Education Minister, stigmatising the intention of some schools to take groups of students to the “vocational training” stand that the German Federal Army is organising at the Kermesse-Festival. “The GEW believes that the Federal Army is not an employer like everyone else,” the letter says.
“We denounce the false rhetoric that transforms military operations into peace missions, with alleged humanitarian, not warlike, objectives. Those who entrust their training to the army can, in fact, at any time and against their will, be sent on these missions, in which there are serious risks. The perspective is to live in a Risiko (in Italy, strategy board game), where you get hurt and hurt, or you kill yourself.
The GEW – Gewerkschaft, Erziehung und Wissenschaft (Union, Education and Science) expressed the fear that young students in Hesse would be adversely affected by the “self-interested advertising and military counselling campaign” and invited managers and teachers to “consider the responsibility of hosting students of both sexes” and therefore to “cancel planned visits to the armed forces’ stand”.
They seem to be light years away from what is happening in Italy, where “orientation” to military career is already a completely “institutionalised” activity, with real “training and educational activities” carried out not only in barracks and war facilities, but, above all, increasingly within school complexes.
Two years ago, the school workers’ union in Germany campaigned against the reality show “The Recruits” (Le Recrute), about the daily lives of eight young German soldiers assigned to the UN mission in Mali. The reality show, an extraordinary success with more than 45 million visits to social networks, as admitted by the German armed forces themselves, had young people and students as its priority target. “The Recruits is a real action film, whose aesthetics are clearly oriented towards making the image of war positive,” said Ilka Hoffmann, director of GEW. “Not everything is positive as it is represented in the reality show. People may die during this mission in Mali, or return home traumatized. The German armed forces cannot want people to enter it for a mere sense of adventure.
The GEW union, together with Terres des Hommes and other German non-governmental organisations, also campaigned against the armed forces'”awareness” activities in German schools, targeting students aged 16 and 17. “These are real recruitment activities that violate the International Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted in New York on 20 November 1989,” the initiative’s promoters explained.
The Convention, ratified by the Italian Parliament on 27 May 1991, Art. 38, para. 3, expressly provides that “States Parties shall refrain from enlisting any person who has not attained the age of 15 years into their armed forces; when recruiting persons over 15 years of age but under 18 years of age, they shall endeavour to enlist the oldest persons first”.
Translated from Spanish by Pressenza London