Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 05 Jun 2008

School cadet corps -- good or bad? As a woolly liberal do I cheer when my boys want to join?

Hillary's Advice

Iím not going to be much help here, as Iím right there with your ambivalence.

Like you Iím a woolly liberal, not that comfortable with seeing young teens marching and saluting. I even wonder if they can understand what they are doing. But as a one-time enthusiastic Girl Guide I also know the delights of dressing up, belonging to a group, and acquiring new, if not very useful, skills like being able to whittle a stick and tie a reef knot.

Also, to be honest, the older I get, the more I come round towards the Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells view that discipline, order and self-restraint are pretty central to life, both for individuals and for society at large -- and the more I worry that we arenít doing enough to encourage young people to set aside their rampant self-interest and be part of the greater good.

Even so, unlike the Tories Ė and some Labour politicians -- I donít think that cadet forces and boot camps are satisfactory answers to the problems of ill-disciplined youff. Both seem to me like the usual kind of off-the-peg solutions that politicians love to proffer for problems that are actually deeply entrenched and highly complex.

Probably like you, Iíd be a whole lot happier seeing your boys opting for the Scouts, or the Woodcraft Folk, or a school charity or drama project, than heading for the military. But itís their lives, and if the Cadet Corps is what they want to sign up for, then Iím sure theyíll get lots out of it.