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    Campaigner on Arms Companies Promoting in UK Schools: 'It’s Not About Education'

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    New research has revealed that arms companies are spending millions of pounds each year promoting their brands in British schools. In return for promotion, firms sponsored school events, fund competitions and provide teaching materials. Sputnik spoke to Andrew Smith, Media Coordinator for the Campaign Against Arms Trade on Arms, about this story.

    Sputnik: Firstly, could you describe some of the methods in which arms companies are promoting their brands to children in Britain?

    Andrew: Arms companies are targeting children in a number of different ways… BAE Systems for example is designing lesson plans and sending ‘brand ambassadors’ which they call ‘STEM ambassadors’ around schools to promote BAE systems. Raytheon for example is organizing competitions for school children to design drones. Thales has designed missile simulators which are aimed at school students and children as well. Arms companies are using a lot of very different methods to try and promote themselves as much as possible and they are doing this under the guise that they care for education; it’s not about education, it’s about pushing their brand. It’s about normalizing the terrible things they do. I don’t believe when BAE systems is promoting itself to school children it’s also telling them about the devastating impacts which BAE fighter jets are having in Yemen right now.

    Sputnik: Spokespeople from some of these companies, like BAE and Raytheon, state that their materials are designed to excite youngsters by the possibilities of the STEM; whilst critics have labelled these methods as an attempt to normalize weapons manufacturing and, by extension, war. If this is true, is this something parents and more widely the general public should be worried about? What’s at risk here?

    Andrew: There’s always a risk when big corporations and big business gets into the classroom. There’s always a risk when big businesses are putting their own self-promotion and their materials in front of children. What BAE is doing is particular odious, but what BAE and other companies who are doing this, are companies that have profited from arming and supporting human rights abusing regimes all around the world. They have armed dictatorships. They have fuelled war and profited from war. These are not legitimate companies; they are operating out of their own self-interest.

    Sputnik: What actions do you want to see from the government in order to stop this controversial promotion and alleged normalization of weapons manufacturing?

    Andrew: I believe a lot of parents will be concerned, but it’s not just parents. We all have a stake in society and we certainly don’t want to see arms companies normalized in classrooms across the country. In terms of what should be done about it, it’s something that schools should be looking at and something that government. There’s a big question here about what kind of education system we have and how business engages with it. We want to see arms companies kicked out of the classroom and we believe the vast majority of this country does too.

    The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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