School children are being encouraged to become arms dealers and sell weapons in a Dragons’ Den-style lesson that’s been branded “immoral” and condemned for glamourising war.
The lesson is aimed at 14 to 16 year olds in S2 to S4 and themed around World War One (WW1), with children asked to choose a weapon to sell and pitch it to the Dragons.
But critics have branded the lesson “outrageous” and the Scottish Greens have written to the Scottish Government asking that all schools in Scotland are advised that the lesson should no longer be taught.
The teaching package can be downloaded from Tes, an educational website, and was condemned by – among other critics – a teacher in South Lanarkshire who said it was “outrageous”.
Children are told: “It is your job to present a well-researched, well explained pitch of your weapon to the Dragons. Each Dragon can pick only two weapons to arm their military with. Make sure your argument is good enough to secure at least one order.”
“What problem does your weapon solve? Where are you up to with prototyping or testing? Who is your target market? Why would they want to buy your weapon? What advantages would it give an army?”
The lesson is available to schools across the UK and at time of writing had been downloaded 7,669 times.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said it was “totally inappropriate” for schools to be encouraging the role of arms dealers, adding: “particularly when there is no reference to the devastating consequences that these weapons can have”.
CAAT continued: “Millions of people lost their lives in WW1, their deaths should not be painted over or ignored as part of a lesson that glamourises the weapons and the mindset that killed them. All councils, particularly South Lanarkshire, need to work with their schools to ensure this distasteful and irresponsible lesson is not part of their curriculum.”
Ross Greer MSP, education spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, said that he had written to both Education Scotland and the education secretary to ask that guidance is issued to all schools that “this is not an appropriate resource for teaching children about the horrors of war”.
He said it was “absolutely outrageous” that children across the country are being “presented with the horrors and mass slaughter not just as a game but as if it’s good business”.
Greer added: “This was one of the most horrific conflicts in all of human history and its worst aspects are being normalised in our schools. There was nothing remotely normal about the chemical weapons used by all sides, which burned, blinded and suffocated tens of thousands of conscripted young soldiers, or the machine guns which slaughtered many, many more as they were forced into suicidal charges towards enemy trenches.
“Asking children for a sales pitch and ‘battle plan’ on how they’d use such weapons is appalling.”
This was one of the most horrific conflicts in all of human history and its worst aspects are being normalised in our schools. Ross Greer, Scottish Greens
A teacher in South Lanarkshire who asked for anonymity, argued that war is very serious, and the weapons that students are being asked to sell are deadly. “WW1 was one of the bloodiest chapters in our history, it should not be taught in such a frivolous, insensitive and inappropriate manner,” he said.
“Asking students to glamourise and promote the use of weapons in this way is contrary to the objectives of Curriculum for Excellence. At best it is amoral, and many would say immoral.”
However, Tony McDaid, Executive Director of Education Resources at South Lanarkshire Council, said the educational resource “appears to be popular with teachers and pupils” and that he didn’t think that any “fair-minded person would regard it as somehow glorifying weaponry or arms dealing”.
McDaid continued: “While some of our individual schools may have chosen to use it, this should be seen in the wider context of the range of activities that our children and young people have been involved in to commemorate the First World War centenary. Central to this is a clear understanding of the tragic human cost of war.
“This includes visiting battlefield sites in France and Belgium, engaging with members of local communities to help understand the impact of war, analysing and reflecting on the causes of the war, and schools playing a central role in Armistice Day events.”
Millions of people lost their lives in WW1, their deaths should not be painted over or ignored as part of a lesson that glamourises the weapons and the mindset that killed them. Campaign Against Arms Trade
Tes said it had not received any complaints about the lesson. A spokesperson for the organisation said that Tes hosts a huge library full of classroom resources written and uploaded by teachers, which currently contains over 1.7 million documents that have been downloaded over a billion times.
Tes added: “Tes supports teaching professionals by giving them the freedom to find and use those resources that best meet their needs and are judged by them to be appropriate.”
“We have designed tools for members of the community to report problems. Our take-down policy is clearly published on every page of our website and we respond swiftly to complaints by the community. In this instance, we note that the resource shared has been positively reviewed by the author’s fellow professionals without any complaint registered.”
The Scottish Government said that it “neither endorsed nor supported” the lesson adding that it is the responsibility of teachers to decide what to teach, in line with the Curriculum for Excellence.
“This government is ensuring that thousands of children across Scotland learn about the impact WWI had on their communities and the wider world, by making teaching resources available on the Education Scotland website, organising education events, and providing £100,000 funding to allow schools to visit WW1 battlefields, through Historic Environment Scotland,” a spokesperson added.
A version of this story was published in the Sunday Herald on 21 May 2017.