The Bundeswehr (German Federal Armed Forces) and Schools: Driving back influence - Political education is the task of teachers

Resolution of the GEW National Executive dated 5/6 March 2010

In recent years the Bundeswehr- Armed Forces have been striving for more influence in schools. There have been many incidents where exhibitions of weapons and information events took place in schoolyards and gyms.

Cooperation agreements with State governments (f.i. in North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate …) support the Bundeswehr's aggressive engagement. Although the agreements underline that they are not allowed to promote jobs within the Bundeswehr. They are, however, granted far-reaching opportunities in the field of political education/teaching of politics as well as in professional and vocational education and training of teachers and student teachers. State governments agree to publish learning opportunities offered by the Bundeswehr in their official journals and on their online platforms.

These increased activities are happening at a time when overseas assignments of the Bundeswehr in the context of NATO and UN mandates are constitutionally controversial, increasingly politically questionable and rejected by the majority of the population. At the same time the Bundeswehr has difficulties in finding new recruits and young people start to trust in the Bundeswehr as an employer during the current economic crisis.

The GEW’s Position:

The GEW strongly opposes the increasing influence of the Bundeswehr on the contents of teaching and teacher training and education, as set out in the cooperation agreements between State ministries of education and the Bundeswehr.

Political education - also in matters of security policy - is currently taught by 'Officers for Young People'- trained military personnel whose sole purpose is to 'educate' school age children ostensibly about political issues. The GEW assert that this is and should be the job of pedagogical professionals. The GEW calls on all State governments to cancel the corresponding chapters of the cooperation agreements.

The GEW affirms the Joint Declaration of the President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the States in the Federal Republic of Germany and the presidents of the Teachers’ and Education Unions “The tasks of teachers today - Experts for learning” (Berlin 2000).
It states: “The future tasks of education and training will be particularly characterised by (…) safeguarding peace and non-violence.”

The GEW considers militarism and authoritarian structures a problem within society.

The GEW emphasises: Teachers decide confidently whether they want to call in an external expert or not, because “teachers are experts for learning, their core task is the targeted planning, organization and reflexion of teaching and learning processes, shaped according to scientific knowledge as well as their individual assessment and systemic evaluation.” (Joint Declaration …). They teach their pupils democratic behaviour, the ability to take criticism, non-violence and tolerance and involve them in all important decisions about the contents and methods of learning.

The GEW recommends inviting the Bundeswehr’s Officers for young people only if the necessary political balance can be guaranteed. The differing policies of peace, the controversies about the constitutional role of the Bundeswehr (from national defence towards an intervention army), the possibility of an alternative service as well as different concepts of an international policy of peace have to be presented in an equal manner.

Peace organisations and peace initiatives are to be granted the same opportunities to explain their concepts as the Bundeswehr. The GEW assumes that state governments who made cooperation agreements with the Bundeswehr, will conclude appropriate cooperation agreements with peace organisations and peace initiatives.

The GEW considers excursions to information events of the Bundeswehr to be an unsuitable medium for political education and the “keeping of peace and non-violence”. Exhibitions of weapons and similar events of the Bundeswehr have no place in school premises - not at weekends nor as extra curricular activities. No educator and no pupil may be forced to participate in and implement an event with members of the Bundeswehr.

The GEW rejects promotion events of the Bundeswehr in schools and other educational institutions and condemns them. The GEW calls for action against the Bundeswehr’s promotion attempts. Schools are no places for recruiting professional soldiers. It must be strictly assured that the Bundeswehr will not recruit young people for military service, neither openly nor covertly. If this should be the case the administration of schools has to be informed and get involved and complaints must be lodged with the Bundeswehr.

Young persons who would like to have their professional future or their education with the Bundeswehr, need comprehensive information on what they will be involved in (f.i. obligation for a 12 months’ overseas appointment and severe financial sanctions in case of a withdrawal before the expiration of the contract). Reports about traumatized returnees from Afghanistan and about those, who got killed during a mission of war in Afghanistan must also be included in such information. It is the school’s task to give interested pupils advice as to where they can get comprehensive information.