Hired Killers

I don’t often comment on the trivia that wafts by in the media and especially on Twitter but this story I thought was especially interesting, not because of the faux outrage, the professional armed forces hero worshippers and permanently offended, but because it speaks loudly about the disconnect between the Armed forces and the rest of the UK’s population.

The story starts with a tweet, as they often do

https://twitter.com/KemptownBen/status/482911491562020864

Cue the outrage bus

https://twitter.com/thenikonbloke/status/483849998287654912

https://twitter.com/richardson_jw/status/483773435014045696

He has since apologised for the offence, as they often do.

Putting aside the one idiots sentiment, its likely intent and the sheer bell whiffery of it for one moment.

Are we becoming far to sensitive about the armed forces?

They serve their country but they are professionals, paid by the state for their services. i.e. hired

And they kill the Queen’s enemies, for that is their job, i.e. killers.

Killing the enemies of the state in the paid service of that state is not murdering them for pay. Some may well be mechanics or cooks or drivers but they are soldiers first, tradesmen second.

So, they are not hired murderers and they are not mercenaries, both those having entirely a different meaning.

I am not even going to go down the tired old cliché ridden route of talking about sleeping in beds and rough men on walls etc. but we ask soldiers to do things we don’t want to and we should be damned grateful that they do. This does not mean that any insult should be seen as a ‘national disgrace’ or that they are not without their faults either.

Whilst the original tweet was made by someone who is clearly a bit of an idiot and we can dance around the semantics all day long, the point is this.

Soldiers may well do other things like rescue kittens from trees, march up and down the Mall and fill sandbags but the visceral reality of armed conflict cannot be massaged away by a collective public avoidance of what the state asks young men and women to do.

It is their job.

Being squeemish about the words and hiding behind our outrage at a tweet won’t change that.

I think we owe it to them to have a bit of honesty and perspective.

58 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Saša
Saša
July 1, 2014 8:39 am

I would disagree. Only small percentage of soldiers have actually killed anybody, and killing is not their main job. If you think about soldiers as hired killers, then they are really inefficient at it.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 1, 2014 10:29 am

I was talking to someone who went to Brighton for a day out. The car park charged £3 for 20 mins. He won’t be going back. The Greens have killed Brighton.

Paleo
Paleo
July 1, 2014 10:48 am

To be honest I find the razzamatazz surrounding “Armed Forces Day” to be somewhat embarrassing; it’s not a British thing. It doesn’t help when the incessant radio ads have a knuckle dragging announcer pandering to stereotypes.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 10:55 am

TBH I don’t care if someone from the Green party holds this view, it’s pretty much what I expect from someone in that party. Although it’s pretty obvious he thinks that he is somehow not a vassal of the state (the same state that entered the wars that he is probably against) as a councillor and the armed forces are, but that’s his opinion.

It annoys me more when the labour middle class use the same language, yet they voted back into power the very same government that went to war, and feel that if they say they were against the wars they are somehow guilt free.

However there is a sense of entitlement growing in the armed forces due to all the media hype and help for heroes etc, and this really needs to stop.

x
x
July 1, 2014 11:14 am

Queen’s grandson and kids from council estates go to war; Euan Blair goes to Washington.

Challenger
Challenger
July 1, 2014 12:12 pm

I come from Brighton and the Greens have a long and growing list of things they have made a complete hash out of over the last four years (although local voters only have themselves to blame).

Hopefully this time next year they’ll be history!

monkey
monkey
July 1, 2014 12:37 pm

To have a thought briefly cross ones mind is one thing , to the verbalize it quite another but then type it out and post it shows conviction of that original thought as being an everyday part of this individuals thought processes. Some people are quite horrified by the concept of people applying violence on the basis of being ‘told’ to do it as part of their occupation. Most people can conceive of performing a violent, if not lethal act, in defence of a loved one for instance Ben Duncan in protection of his son he mentions in his post. That question was standard for conscientious objectors who refused active postings ‘what if a German….’ , but in Councillor Duncan’s case I think he has just labelled all members of the armed forces as violent thugs as part of his everyday beliefs, perhaps a visit to Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham would alter his view point.

TAS
TAS
July 1, 2014 1:27 pm

DavidNiven, what growing sense of entitlement? Entitlement to what? Are you referring to the Armed Forces Covenant? Personally the only thing I’d like to be entitled to is to not have my pension slashed and terms of service hacked without right of reply – unlike the greedy bastards driving trains and fire engines, we don’t get to strike.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 1:48 pm

Tas, home to duty pay? internet in fobs? 10am start monday morning? if you want to strike don’t join, I’m sure you jpined the armed forces for a trade and the thought of doing an interesting job. ref pensions etc I would’nt shout too loud because once Afghan is over and people start realising how little the armed forces work when not on ops all the allowances will be questioned.

Topman
Topman
July 1, 2014 2:03 pm

‘how little the armed forces work when not on ops.’

Speak for yourself!

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 2:20 pm

Sports afternoon? 1 hour for lunch? Naafi breaks? No one can claim its a hard slog everyday

Topman
Topman
July 1, 2014 2:24 pm

Can I join this force you speak of? Sports afternoons etc, sure you aren’t thinking of years ago or something? Of course I can’t speak of everywhere, but I don’t recognise that.

Hohum
Hohum
July 1, 2014 2:43 pm

Its Brighton, a terrifying insight into Britain’s future. Enough said. If you want a vision of the future, imagine Brighton.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 1, 2014 2:55 pm

@DN

” I would’nt shout too loud because once Afghan is over and people start realising how little the armed forces work when not on ops all the allowances will be questioned.”

Think perhaps you may be confusing armed forces wit something else beginning with A. Want to ask TAS what his deployment profile has looked like over the last 4 years?

jim
jim
July 1, 2014 3:12 pm

I suspect that the comments about the Army sitting about when not on Ops were written by people who’s last involvement in the Military was pre-9/11. The Army of the 21st century has been a damn sight busier than you’d expect.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 3:39 pm

@Jim

My last tour was Herrick 17, yours? Do you honestly think that on a daily basis you work harder than your civilian contemporary? Are the Infantry on the ranges or doing live fire attacks on Sennybridge on a daily basis? Are the aircraft movers (whatever the Navy calls them) working to the same tempo on a 7 day basis as their contemporary in Manchester or Heathrow?

Like I said ‘when not on ops’

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 1, 2014 4:00 pm

@DN

Shocking lack of knowledge of other services deployment patterns and profile, not to mention working routines.

topman
topman
July 1, 2014 4:10 pm

re work patterns vs civvies. i would say yes we do work harder than the civvies in, my role at the moment, identical jobs. fair play DN if you’ve a cushy post at the moment. dont assume its like that everywhere.

El Sid
El Sid
July 1, 2014 4:14 pm

Are we becoming far to sensitive about the armed forces?

I think a lot of it is just the social media thing. There’s always been people who have thought along these lines (there certainly were back in my student days, just imagine how the women of Greenham Common would have talked about those taking the Queen’s shilling) – the difference is that Twitter etc allows such thoughts to be a)recorded and b) brought to the attention of those who hold different views.

they kill the Queen’s enemies, for that is their job, i.e. killers….So, they are not hired murderers

I do have a problem with the terminology, as it’s not intended literally. There’s a section of society that use that kind of phrase to imply “hired murderers”, with the phrase “Blair’s illegal war” in close proximity. There’s an underlying implication that the military should be judged by civilian standards, which is a slippery slope.

I know what @Paleo means but I’m not too bothered by AFD, I see it as just a modern equivalent of a Spithead Review now that the RN can’t be bothered :-) :-) to potter up and down the Solent once in a while. Given that MoD is one of the biggest consumers of people’s taxes, it’s not unreasonable for them to do the occasional meet and greet with the people who pay their wages. It’s the Millies that make me cringe a bit though…

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 4:15 pm

@APATS

Do we work harder than our civilian contemporary? Do you work harder and are under more pressure than a site manager on a large construction project? Does any one in the armed forces work longer shifts than is allowed by law on a daily basis? Do we get more holiday a year than our civilian counterparts?

‘Shocking lack of knowledge of other services deployment patterns and profile’

Don’t care, if you don’t like it you know where the door is. No one is forcing us to either join or stay. There are a few things wrong with the armed forces but pay and conditions are not one of them.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 4:17 pm

Ok Topman, what’s so hard about our jobs in the military?

x
x
July 1, 2014 4:26 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FnO3igOkOk

Demi Moore in Service Dress Whites….oh gosh………

topman
topman
July 1, 2014 4:46 pm

im not sure there would be much point in typing it all out. honestly if you’ve got a cushy number then fair play, all i’ll say is dont assume because its easy for you its the same for everyone else.

Phil
July 1, 2014 4:50 pm

@APATS

Come on, even some regulars know they’re often getting a good ride. In Colchester some blokes have to live off camp as the PFI didn’t provide enough bed spaces – they got an allowance for it. Not to pay their rent, the Army paid it, but as a “sorry you have to live 2 miles away” payment. But hey ho the flip side is my civvy job doesn’t involve that many advances to contact and work can’t dick me to work weekends (well not casually anyway).

As for armed forces worship – yes we’ve gone way too far into the Yank zone in the “outrage” sense. Not every “veteran” is a hero – some of us are miserable bastards and some of them haven’t heard a shot fired in anger their whole careers but are treated like they’ve just popped back from Iwo Jima for a breather.

The bigger picture is probably good though – forces being recognised, helps recruitment and engages organisations and people who wouldn’t ever bother normally. We just shouldn’t be scared to say that some vets and serving members are massive tits and that sometimes, they have it cushty.

Observer
Observer
July 1, 2014 5:04 pm

DN, if on ops, random threats of death and dismemberment. If not on ops, well, some jobs are similar to that of a shipping firm.

I’d recommend to just leave the topic be. Some parts of the army is literally a 9-5 zzz fest, some parts you sweat bullets. Not all soldiers are equal.

The scorn poured on others isn’t justifiable though. IMO, looking down on others has caused more problems than direct mutual antagonism and if he’s earning an honest wage, even as a garbage collector or a street sweeper, you have no cause to look down on anyone.

:) If you want to up the ante on the guy, just call him a “hired clown” or “hired incompetent”.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 5:08 pm

Topman,

Fair one, you don’t need to anyway. I’ll just say that we are getting an entitlement culture purely because of the media and politicians we are starting to believe our own press. Redundancies are nothing new have been a regular occurrence since the end of GW1 and no one gave a toss, over stretch amongst certain trades have been around for the same amount of time. Are we working harder than pre 9/11? not really the armed forces have been busy for decades from the no fly zones to ops in Balkans.

And I don’t assume that everyone is on a cushy lob, but we do need to stop the ‘woh is me meme’, once Afghan is done and nothing else kicks off it’s going to get boring to the civvie’s pretty quick.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 5:32 pm

Observer,

‘I’d recommend to just leave the topic be. Some parts of the army is literally a 9-5 zzz fest, some parts you sweat bullets. Not all soldiers are equal.’

Wind your neck in crow bag, I’ve got boot laces that have done more soldiering than you. If there’s one topic that has absolutely nothing to do with you it’s this one.

Observer
Observer
July 1, 2014 5:47 pm

DN, if you want to pursue a divisive topic to self destruction, then by all means be my guest, but frankly, this is one topic which you can never win, no matter how much “soldiering” you have done. If you don’t believe me, try changing top or Phil’s minds.

On a more ironic note, is this part of the “entitlement” mindset you were complaining about?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 6:02 pm

Observer,

This topic has nothing to do with you, you have no idea what tempo past/present or even the public perception the UK armed forces have been under for the past twenty years.

And I’m sure Phil is big enough to let me know his opinion without you championing him.

Observer
Observer
July 1, 2014 6:15 pm

*shrug*

I may not be familiar with UK public perception, but I know no-win arguments when I see one.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 1, 2014 6:44 pm

*shrug*

And I know a condescending tw*t when I read one.

Observer
Observer
July 1, 2014 6:58 pm

If there was any condescension, it only existed in your imagination and insecurity.

What I was trying to do is to stop an argument that will go round in circles, which unfortunately you are too dense to see. If you want to continue, I’ll just leave you to your own devices. Have fun.

Ted
Ted
July 1, 2014 8:35 pm

Rarely do you see an actual member of the armed forces comment on these things. nuff said.

And its Twitter!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 1, 2014 10:55 pm

@ted :)

@DNDo we work harder than our civilian contemporary? Do you work harder and are under more pressure than a site manager on a large construction project? Does any one in the armed forces work longer shifts than is allowed by law on a daily basis? Do we get more holiday a year than our civilian counterparts?”

Yes and yes and yes again. 9 days of the ship in an 8 month deployment working 16 plus hour days? Home for 3 weeks before being shifted to cover a gap and away again. Not even at war, 7 month at sea deployment home for shore time and then shore based op tours.

You do not have a clue do you?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 2, 2014 6:50 am

@Ted

‘Rarely do you see an actual member of the armed forces comment on these things’

Maybe we should start? There’s only so long we can milk the past decade. Before Iraq how many civilians new what the pay and conditions for the armed forces were? and of them who did know, how many gave a toss? Bosnia was in the news nearly every night along with Ireland and then Kosovo, what has made the general public suddenly start to care? and how long will it last? what is going to happen to the members of the armed forces who know no difference than the current climate? Are they going to become disillusioned and leave?

@APATS
‘Does any one in the armed forces work longer shifts than is allowed by law on a daily basis?’
You answered Yes, are you sure that is the correct answer?

‘working 16 plus hour days?’
Sorry my mistake, I forgot that as it’s the Navy you are repelling boarders and fighting fires on a daily basis. Or like in real life most of those days are just mundane run of the mill and nothing happens.

‘Home for 3 weeks before being shifted to cover a gap and away again. Not even at war, 7 month at sea deployment home for shore time’

Your doing nothing I wasn’t doing before 9/11 due to overstretch, if the navy have not got enough blokes who’s problem is that? and who needs to sort it?

Back again to civilian comparison, are the fitters on a RN vessel working harder (as in actual physical work) on a daily basis than a fitter on an a container ship? Do the Navy ships break down more often? or are they just doing preventative maintenance most of the time like their civilian counterparts?

So will I be right if I put you in the group that thinks that every day of your life is the hardest day’s work you’ve ever done? That is the victim/entitlement culture that has been developing since the invasion of Iraq in all the services. Days were just as long in NI and Bosnia as they are in Afghan. Some specific trades in the RAF and Army have been running at the tempo that everyone else has been running in the last decade, since the 90’s.

‘Woh is me’ why should I expect anything different from someone with politician in their name.

N.B.
‘shore based op tours.’
Did you volunteer for any of them?

topman
topman
July 2, 2014 7:09 am

@dn if we assume what we do is broadly unchamged since the 90s, do you think the pay and allowences was right then or now? re the entitlement culture, i wonder how much of that is an increase in the visibilty of peoples opinions online? or do you think that solely from day to day attitudes you see?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 2, 2014 7:37 am

@topman

The pay and conditions are about right now. They were pretty cr*p when I think back to the mid 90’s, no separation allowance if you were single, signing on for either a 3,6 or 9 year stint and having to but yourself out if you wanted to leave before then etc, it’s definitely catching up with civvi street in those respects, but the negative is there is no job for life any more so I think in the future people will join the forces knowing that.

Don’t get me wrong the pay and conditions have improved drastically and rightly so, but lets be a bit careful about what we grumble about.

re the entitlement culture

It’s coming from all angles I think, and it’s mainly due to the unpopular wars of the last decade. We have had elected wars where the armed forces were seen to be poorly equipped and not prepared for what was asked of them. The media itself along with the growth in social media has helped to fuel it, which in turn filters into the mind set of the armed forces personnel. If the news and politicians are telling you are being treated unfairly, which then drives the man in the street to support you more because
A. They did not believe in the war
B They also believe you have been treated unfairly

you will start to believe it yourself.

I have definitely seen an overall change in attitudes.

Topman
Topman
July 2, 2014 8:00 am

@DN
‘I have definitely seen an overall change in attitudes’ Do you think that is necessarily a bad thing, after all without the media/online/politicans/change in expectations etc I don’t think we would have had the move in allowences and pay that we have had?
And you do say that change (pay and allowences) was the right thing. I do think we need to not ask for the moon on a stick, although I don’t thing we are there now.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 2, 2014 8:32 am

@Topman

No I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all, the last two operations have put the armed forces in the spotlight in a good way. My concern is how do we keep making advances in our pay and conditions without the victim card to play, how we do we build on the good will and keep proving to the public we are a relevant public service still. The ops bonus is going all ready, do the general public know this after the announcement of giving it was trumpeted in the media? and how many just assumed that we got tax free wages anyway when on ops?

I just think the entitlement/victim card is going to lead to nothing but disappointment in the future, and how do we prepare (mentally) for/or stave off the inevitable chipping away that will come.

topman
topman
July 2, 2014 9:05 am

@dn i think making things simple and affordable are the key and i know thats in hand now with NEM. this will mean we’ll have something reasonable with pay and allowences even when we haven’t large media coverage to help. although i don’t think that always helps, after all we’ve seen pensions and allowences chipped away even with broad media and public support.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 2, 2014 9:43 am

@topman

With the NEM, I hope they concentrate a lot on education and training. I think if we go back to the National service era where it was constantly expressed that you will learn a trade in the armed forces, this will help us to keep relevant within the public eye. I can only talk from my corps perspective but some of the qualifications we give to our tradesman are no longer relevant for use in civvi street. As an example we give our plumbers City & Guilds, but the civilian sector value NVQ’s more as an NVQ shows you took the apprenticeship route to your qualification. So I would like to see a review of our qualifications and where possible run them alongside the civilian ones.

Hopefully joe public will see this as an added value to society from the armed forces. A bit ‘bolshie’ I know, but maybe this is the right time to demand a federation like the police (public mood being what it is). Nothing like a union but with representatives that could keep things like qualifications and standards of living etc, in mind with the top brass and politicians.

Chris
Chris
July 2, 2014 9:44 am

DN – I mentioned somewhere a couple of days ago that I’d met a few of the Mission Motorsport guys at Goodwood. This is a charitable association to give those with injuries and work related health problems a kickstart; either to rebuild strength to resume their military post or to move them on into jobs in civvie street. Some of the people being helped had been dealt pretty nasty cards and had a very different life ahead of them. the mindset wasn’t “oh woe is me I am a poor victim give me lots of sympathy” though, rather more “I’ve got some new challenges to overcome; what’s done is done and wishing it hadn’t happened won’t help; what’s the best I can do starting from here”. These are people with an incredibly positive outlook, and if I were in a position to offer jobs I’d want people like that on board.

Why is this relevant here? Because there is a suggestion above that the public support for the military and sympathy for the injured and sadness for those lost might erode the basic positivity & resilience of the forces personnel. I hope that never happens; it is the resilience under extreme pressure that makes the British armed forces. If they fall into a victim culture their ability to crack on through tough times would evaporate – there is something vaguely defeatist about the victim mentality, and that doesn’t fit well with the military.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 2, 2014 10:06 am

Chris
‘the mindset wasn’t “oh woe is me I am a poor victim give me lots of sympathy” though, rather more “I’ve got some new challenges to overcome; what’s done is done and wishing it hadn’t happened won’t help; what’s the best I can do starting from here”.’

That’s not what I’m trying to convey, the blokes will always crack on. It’s the public perception and our entitlement to allowances etc, that I’m trying to explain.

I need someone who’s a bit more wordy than me (where’s Phil when you need him?). I’m not questioning compensation or any thing like that, I’m asking what our plan is once public opinion has been milked dry and we need to argue for and justify our wages, when the pictures of blokes/lasses doing London marathons with one leg have dried up?

And what will happen to those members who have done tours and feel as if they are owed something (rightly or wrongly) start to feel that public support ebb away?

Midlander
Midlander
July 2, 2014 2:30 pm

Its an interesting thread, there does appear to be a gap, but Im not so sure its between society and the armed forces per se, more between society and external realities of foreign policy in the real world.

There is a common view in society That doesnt expect anyone or anything can intefere with their jobs, their mortgage, the energy they use or the budget spent by the government and there is some idea that the Brighton view of the world is protected by an invisible forcefield and is the perpetual status quo.

The gap with reality is that the west is in decline, europe is fragmented and broke, the US is fiscally unsustainable, china is the largest economy and Russia does what it does . All these external factors are shaping jobs, mortgages, energy of everyday life whilst our ability and inclination to shape and influence appears lessening all the time whilst other players with very different values become more confident snd assertive.

Attitudes towards to armed forces are perhaps a symptom rather than the cause.
Are we are just retiring to passive complacency as a society? Feels a but like it.
Tell me im wrong, please……

Chris
Chris
July 2, 2014 3:17 pm

Personally I think its a question of investment in its widest sense – UK (and most of the west) has been riding its post colonial post expeditionary wave for 60 or more years now. When times were tough there wasn’t the resource to engage with the greater world as once we all did; when times were good politicians thought there was more value in buying votes than with sustaining world ranking. So we have one of the most generous benefits systems, and a very high standard of Revenue-funded healthcare, and high quality Revenue-funded education and a large number of Revenue subsidised universities and so on. But since (probably) the end of the 1920s our national earnings have waned; the Empire dissolved, the Commonwealth trade all but evaporated, our export base weakened, our hunger for imports ever stronger. As a nation we spend more than we earn even when trying to be good; when politicians like the ex-PM (the Man with the Brown Stuff) initiate wild uncontrolled spending to make people think the nation’s really doing well when in reality its a mix of the Family Silver and big loans not earned wealth that paid for it, then our situation gets much worse.

As a nation we could have invoked a more strict National Health regime for UK citizens that for example dealt only with sickness & injury and aligned it to a pay-if-you-want-it system for the less urgent health matters; we could have invoked a social security safety-net for UK citizens that caught people falling into homelessness or starvation but did not provide funds to support holidays, TV purchase or the latest must-have trainers for the kids. We could have continued the one-time high standard entry criteria for Universities and configured courses that had vocational value instead of providing enough Sociology and Media Studies courses for every school-leaver to take one. We didn’t. Had we done so, and focused investment on trade and exports and, funnily enough, a sound and substantial military, perhaps the run-down-period wouldn’t have kicked in. Why a strong military? Because around the world one of the soft measures of a nation’s standing is how visible and credible its military appears. Strong military implies a national will to protect the nation from harm; an indication that the People believe the Nation worth protecting. The only reason UK treads water with the other western nations is that each is also reducing military capability. This fact won’t be overlooked by the non-western power-hungry groups in the world at large.

But its really difficult to sort out from where we are now…

monkey
monkey
July 2, 2014 3:25 pm


Well said.

Phil
July 2, 2014 5:16 pm

We could have continued the one-time high standard entry criteria for Universities and configured courses that had vocational value instead of providing enough Sociology and Media Studies courses for every school-leaver to take one.

This sort of Daily Mail bollocks pisses me off. Guess what, there are loads of vocational courses out there. Literally more than you can shake a stick at – some are done in conjunction with other courses to top them up to various levels of qualifications – there is a myriad of combinations. Go and look at the prospectus for your nearest FE college, post 92 University and Red Brick University and you’ll find a spectrum of courses and a lot of ones combining vocational with academic study. The FE and HE sectors are far more diversified and fossilised opinions like yours are a decade or so out of date.

There’s a market for Media Studies. And there’s a market for sociology. And quite why people think it’s a bad idea to learn about society and the media (you know that thing that pervades everything we do and influences power and politics and thus our lives) I do not know.

Organisational studies owe a lot to sociology, the latest fangled management science owes a lot to sociology (as much as it tries to airbrush it out) the world is a safer place for sociological studies.

Loads of people used to do apprenticeships or work low skilled jobs. Now those jobs and those real apprenticeships are gone. So people have to educate themselves further. Cut student numbers and you just make the country dumber and less able to do the jobs that are out there now; and nevermind the fact that a lot of vocational study and work is done via Universities these days.

This soft hat, Andy bastard Cap, harder in my day working man shite boils my piss. Clearly.

Chris
Chris
July 2, 2014 6:53 pm

Phil – you are entitled to that opinion. Me – I don’t read the Mail so have no idea if its the sort of view they print. But I did go to Uni and while we were doing our normal hours of lectures labs & tutorials, much the same hours per week to senior school, the sociologists had their one or two lectures a week and a couple of essays. Would you like to guess which group complained very loudly at the unacceptable workload they had to suffer? (Give you a clue; Sociolo…..) Apparently the hour of lectures each week interrupted their important task of sending the Student Union bank account contents to the Contras in Nicaragua, demonstrating against any form of authority and creating their political manifesto. It seems the modern equivalent I-don’t-know-what-I-need-it-for-but-I-want-to-go-to-Uni course is Media Studies. Like sociology, as you point out, there is value in learning all about society and what influence the media has on it. How many media studies graduates does a country need to operate efficiently?

Apprenticeships – these have always been an excellent way to educate. Its more than sad that companies no longer put the effort in to apprenticeships; every job advert I see lists all the attributes necessary for the job as ‘must have’ skills – every employer expects to hire fully trained personnel but none expects to provide training. My last company one year proudly announced that the average employee training for the year was three hours, and that included two hours of mandated ethics training. For every person that got a three day training course 24 people had no work related training at all.

But that’s by the by. The point I was trying to make was that there have been choices made on where money is spent, and the provision of vast numbers of Uni places (maybe four times more than 30 years back) was one of the choices. It may have been better for the future prosperity of the state if the money had been spent on other things. But probably not so popular.

Phil
July 2, 2014 7:11 pm

How many media studies graduates does a country need to operate efficiently?

Who is anyone else to tell someone what course they should or shouldn’t study? If there was no demand there’d be no programmes. I’d bet a months wages there’s no Universities running courses with nobody on them. Most funding for HE nowadays comes from research and tuition fees (don’t believe, me you can look it up on HEFCE and HEFCW websites) which the individual has to stump up for. There’s plenty of evidence to show that students have become more discerning and demanding in their choices as a result. So again, if there was no demand there’d be no programme.

We don’t live in a centralised state, we don’t have a 5 year plan to produce this many mechanics and this many journalists.

Your views are very out of date. Even ten years ago when I graduated a HUGE amount has changed.

Its more than sad that companies no longer put the effort in to apprenticeships

Companies don’t do half the things they used to but it doesn’t stop them moaning that your average 21 year old graduate doesn’t emerge from University a little Einstein or having the mind of a QC.

and the provision of vast numbers of Uni places (maybe four times more than 30 years back) was one of the choices

You sound like Scrooge bemoaning the massive expansion of school places in 1870 or something.

Times have changed. People need to train and learn longer to compete and to do well at a lot of jobs. There’s a huge variety of jobs and now there’s a huge variety of training options for them and for people. You can mix and match, top up, sandwich, pick and mix or whatever. You can do an NVQ in plumbing and top it up to a diploma in something related and maybe one day turn that into a degree.

A qualification at the end of the day requires you to apply yourself at a subject for large number of hours, some guided, some directed and some on your own and demonstrate you’ve learned something. That usually improves people and the things they apply themselves to afterwards.

Ed Zeppelin
Ed Zeppelin
July 2, 2014 8:36 pm

Bizarrely I was having this very conversation with another recently retired Captain in the pub 5 minutes ago, and I am with DavidNiven 100%. During my time in the Army I worked some horrific hours. I remember one exercise where I got 7 hours sleep in 8 days! Similarly, on Ops I felt that I was seriously underpaid. However, for 99% of the time, including Pre Deployment Training, BATUS etc, most people in the Army are adequately or over paid, and some people are robbing a living, and the expenses culture is as rife as it is in Parliament. An average day for all but a few (Adjt, Ops Offr, RSM, SSM/CSMs, Coy/Sqn 2ics and Tp/Plt Sgts) at Regimental duty, so for about 300 people, involves busily doing the square root of bugger all! Admittedly once competent officers start thrashing themselves at Army HQ or MOD Main building, it looks pretty heinous, but most of that is self imposed arse kissing.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2014 8:42 pm

@Thread – “how many Media Studies Graduates do you need” – depends on how many coffee shops you need to staff, obviously… :-)

More seriously, the range of options is essential provided only that the quality is good…and there is a clear understanding as to what is academic in the sense of of preparing students (in time) to advance overall human knowledge…and what is vocational/technical in the sense of preparing students for a particular kind of work…good courses will have aspects of both, although the balance will vary greatly and the line is not a hard and fast one (the first Members of the Royal Society designed and often made their own instruments).

Of much more concern to me is how well-informed some students are about routes, options and quality – especially those from families who didn’t previously go on to higher or further education – and one thing we emphasise in the School where I am a Governor is trying to give the youngsters (from a tough council estate) a good understanding as to how the system works, where to go to do what, what you might expect to get out of it and so on.

Not worried about Media Studies provided that people doing it understand that Paxman read English at Saint Catharines College, Cambridge…so if they fancy his job they should consider other options…and the system needs to advise them about what they are, what they demand, and how to pursue them.

Anybody out there who actually cares about this stuff in a serious way might do worse than becoming an active School Governor, in as challenging a school as possible…

GNB

Phil
July 2, 2014 8:48 pm

Of much more concern to me is how well-informed some students are about routes, options and quality

Couldn’t agree more. I wasn’t well informed about my options (1st of family to go to Uni) and the school in hindsight just wanted as many students as possible to go to Uni. A third of my year group dropped out within a year and I changed institutions for my second and third year. If I could do it again I’d have worked for a bit first (probably the Army for 4x years). Nowadays I have a friend who is studying an OU law degree, I studied distance learning part time and I know other’s who have dipped their toe into a certificate and ended up doing PhDs.

A good variety of quality choices can only do good. Everyone is different and we get as a country a lot of value out of people learning more and the more ways there are for people to engage with learning the better. I never could have taken a year off to do an MSc for example. I had to work. And luckily there was a programme for me. And the programme had an intriguing mix of academically minded people, people with a vocational background (A-Levels at best but plenty of experience) and mixed people like myself who weren’t strangers to HE and knew the ropes, but weren’t the type to indulge in esoteric and abstract academic thought – we wanted to apply what we learned to work.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
July 2, 2014 9:37 pm

GNB,

It’s odd how these Army University things come and go over decades.

I managed to get an Army Scholarship aged 15 which basically paid my school fees for 3 years to A levels, and only required me to attend RCB. At the same time, the Army launched an officer recruitment campaign which basically said “don’t bother with 3 years of Underwater Basket Weaving at University, join us on a 3 year short service Commission, you’ll be a better man at the end of it”. So i did.

Fast forward 7 years, i had no degree, I was MC (Failed) twice, and had to make my mind up. Regular Commission or leave. I stayed in with various blandishments.

Another 4 years, I was up for my first shot at Staff College Selection. But the buggers by then had changed the rules. Having a first degree was by then seen as normal, not having a degree seen as weird. It was 30% of the points.

It took a lot of fast talk by me, lunching various Colonels, and a bit of Deus Ex Machina by Old Man RT who knew well the Military Secretary to get me selected for the then Joint Services Staff Course.

I have very little trust in the Army to select people for training on any objective basis.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2014 10:08 pm

– Glad we agree – seem to be falling out with people all over the show recently! :-( I should add that the advice on becoming a School Governor definitely applies to you…the kind of experience you had is invaluable…especially in a tough school, where the teaching staff expect to be the best qualified people in the room, and badly need to be effectively challenged by the Governors if they are to deliver best outcomes for children and communities…just up your street I’d say. :-)

@RT – Not just the Army, and my experience is that the more elaborate the process adopted to make “objective” decisions about human beings, the more likelihood there is that when people check grids and scores at the end they realise that they are on the point of giving a vital opportunity to a raving lunatic…my key skill on interview and selection panels has always been to delicately subvert the process to ensure that sound judgement and common sense prevail, but it can be bloody hard especially if somebody from HR is sitting in :-( I’m pleased to report that they always hated me :-)

GNB

Kent
Kent
July 3, 2014 12:19 pm

Well, it’s why they paid us the pittance we received…

You might want to crank up the volume.
http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dirty+deeds+done+dirt+cheap&FORM=HDRSC3#view=detail&mid=449A2364C1BFD0853F2D449A2364C1BFD0853F2D