Thursday, November 20, 2008

Masters of war invade the classroom

While everyone’s attention yesterday was on the Industrial Commission where the Australian Education Union and the SA government were at loggerheads over a planned 24 hour strike, State Premier Mike Rann was at Aberfoyle Park High School launching a “partnership” between the school and US arms giant Raytheon.
(Nuclear "bunker busters" used by Israelis against Palestinian freedom fighters are made by Raytheon.)

Rann is 100% behind the militarization of the state’s economy, meaning, inevitably, its integration into the US military and industrial complex. The government actively promotes SA as the “Defence state” and pursues the strategic goal of “growing Defence presence in SA”.

Google Raytheon and you get the normal corporate presentations which should be looked at to get some feel for the scope and nature of its operations. It is the fifth-largest defence contractor in the world, and the fourth largest in the US. It is a manufacturer of the million dollar Patriot missiles (right) and the so-called “bunker buster” bombs currently in use in the Middle East and Afghanistan. It also produces radars, satellite sensors and military communications equipment.

Wikipedia has a useful entry which records, among other things, a Raytheon employee’s attempt to censor the site, together with various legal malpractices for which it has been convicted.

The Corpwatch website has useful critical information, but one of the most interesting and inspiring stories relating to Raytheon concerns the unanimous jury verdict acquitting the Raytheon 9 who, in August 2006, trashed the Belfast office of Raytheon at the time of the war in Lebanon. They mounted a legal defence based around the argument that they were decommissioning the company to prevent it committing war crimes during the war.

Raytheon is establishing a growing presence in Australia. Last year it entered into a $1 million partnership with Questacon, Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre. This was described at the time as the company’s “largest community initiative undertaken by Raytheon outside the United States.” The partnership allows Raytheon employees to act as “guides” in a travelling exhibition organised by Questacon aimed at inspiring young Australians to choose a career in science and maths.
(A couple of old war criminal buddies, Ratheon boss, left, and then PM Howard in June 2007)

Raytheon underwrites similar “educational initiatives” in the US aimed at entrapping aspiring scientists and mathematicians in the manufacture of advanced weapons systems for the US war machine.

Most recently in Adelaide Raytheon announced that it had signed an agreement to lease a new facility in the commercial precinct of Techport Australia that will become the Raytheon Australia South Australian Engineering Centre. In SA Raytheon acts, amongst other things, as mission systems integrator for the Hobart Class Air Warfare Destroyer program.

The company did suffer a setback last year in the Northern Territory when Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald rejected an application from the company for an exemption designed to allow it to exclude from employment people whose race or nationality were deemed to be a security threat to the US military. In an unusual move, Fitzgerald published the reasons for his rejection, depsite the company having withdrawn its application. It makes interesting reading (here).

An unusual secrecy descended over Aberfoyle Park High School in the days leading up to the launch of the Raytheon deal.

According to teachers who spoke to local organisation Progressive Educators, they had no knowledge that the deal was in the offing until Wednesday afternoon when they were told that there would be the launch of a commercial partnership and a few heavies around the school the next day.

On Thursday, the science area was apparently cordoned off (the school recently erected a 2 metre high spike-topped perimeter fence that makes it look more like Stalag 13 than a pace of public education). Later that morning, in front of a select group, the state Premier revealed the school-Raytheon partnership which will provide $150,000 per year for three years to provide laptops to the school’s “gifted” students program. In return, Raytheon engineers and scientists will have access to the “gifted” students and “mentor” them in the direction of possible future employment with the company.
(One wonders if the company will be so honest as to warn any students whose race or nationality will make them unacceptable to Raytheon as future employees, not to bother with the "mentoring"!)

Only at the end of the day were the staff informed, by a circular from the principal, about the deal.

This sets an amazingly ugly precedent for the incorporation of South Australian public education into the needs of the corporate world. (A local primary school was recently told that a local land developer had been placed on the panel to select its next principal. The education union protested and prevented this from happening).

No consultation with staff or students. One presumes, but not with any great confidence, that the school’s governing council, which has parent representation, was consulted, but that would have been as far as any consultation with parents went.

No discussion of the ethics or morality of engaging teenage students with the recruiting agents of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of weapons of death.

The whole process is contemptuous of democratic and peaceful values.

And the fact that Rann, who has been unable to find the time to deal with the year-long dispute between his government and education workers, can prioritise his time to include blessing such a profane event speaks volumes of his supposedly social-democratic government’s real values.

1 comment:

Ian Curr said...

Thanks for the recent comment you posted on Workers BushTelegraph about Raytheon. WBT carries a number of articles about this arms dealer encouraged by Australian governments & defence forces to do their trade here in Oz. [See]

Your article on Olympic Dam Uranium Mine was informative, especially about the dust storms.

Hopefully the world commodity price for Uranium will drop & discourage the open cut project at Olympic Dam.

Some more comment on Rayhteon can be found at