Is all Pedagogy Military Pedagogy?

… all pedagogy is military pedagogy to the extent knowledge and education are used as weapons.

The scene in the film ‘A Few Good Men’ gives a great insight into the culture of ‘toughness’ within military academy. Nicholson – “You cant handle the truth” – makes the case for a particular form of enculturation to develop the militarist individual. A very effective case!

We can imagine that there is a particular physical regime that is put in place within Military Education to create tough bodies fit for combat. We can also imagine that the development of the knowledge set – such as the military language – is undertaken in a didactic fashion. The classroom where the military version of didactic teaching happens can be imagined to comprise uniformed students sitting straight and at attention while the instructor barks out facts, instructions and a lot of terminology. Its possible learning rules, the right way, and strategy, adversarial combat, constitute the two main aspects of military content. I imagine there is a lot of other content such as understanding a variety of contexts, such as what to do when encountering a fallen fellow soldier or capturing an enemy combatant. In this instance its possible the pedagogical format is that of problem presentation and followed by a discussion of the ‘right thing to do’.

Re Didactic method: (Source –

The didactic approach to learning was practiced often throughout early human history. Passing down knowledge from father to son required the son to listen and practice the skills demonstrated by the father. Early education consisted of much rote recall of facts and absorption of knowledge.

The word Briefing denotes a very particular practice of informing with full facts – to enable the listener to act in the appropriate fashion. Here is an example of a great description of how to do this briefing effectively. Conduct a Military Briefing in Prezi.

The online etymology dictionary of the word briefing cites the popularization of this word to WW II.

briefing (n.) “fact or situation of giving preliminary instructions,” 1910 (but popularized by World War II pre-flight conferences), verbal noun from brief (v.).

Briefing today is used much more widely to describe an activity of informing someone about a task to be undertaken. The Brief (originally a letter from the Pope) is the written form of this coded instruction.

In Design Practice the brief refers to the instruction about how to undertake a project. The brief usually contains the content, subject matter or topic, and the method, how it is expected to be done. As expected there are short briefs and very detailed ones.

The Brief is one instance of how contemporary design education practice shares similarities to Military Pedagogy.  On another front design education vests authority exclusively in the teacher, just like military academies do with military personnel who have seen combat or have been honoured. This existence of the singular authority figure in the classroom who is the final arbiter of ‘the right way’ is unique in pedagogy culture. The university academic within a history or physics course does not have anywhere near this level of authority – and serves to provide students access to the texts, theories and knowledge produced by other people, who represent knowledge authority. The teacher-student relationship is also one of undertaking a process of enculturation: the teacher leads the student to become designer-like in values, language and dress.

Enculturation from Wikipedia:

Enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture or society where the individual lives. The individual can become an accepted member and fulfill the needed functions and roles of the group. Most importantly the individual knows and establishes a context of boundaries and accepted behavior that dictates what is acceptable and not acceptable within the framework of that society. It teaches the individual their role within society as well as what is accepted behavior within that society and lifestyle.

SUMMARY: Up to this point I list three terms within Design/ Military pedagogy – Briefing, Exclusive Authority and Enculturation.

Military Pedagogy has emerged as a distinct form of educational research. The texts I have been looking at show three forms of narrative:

  1. Emerging practices within educational teach and L&T in Military Pedagogy.
  2. The Militarisation of educational practice within Industrialised societies.
  3. The personality and temperament of the ‘teacher’ within Military Pedagogy.

The text below is from a book looking at the impact of the ‘military’ on enculturation within society globally. Of particular interest is this line where the soldier and student (of design) “each learns a code encapsulated by an almost automatic acceptance of the rules of a particular language, of a symbolic universe as received—as a given”.

Q: What new forms of development of the design mind can design adopt from the Military Academy?

(Source –

To educate is to enculturate—there is no other way to do it.  Education does not shape or socialize the human so much as form the human outright. Education is a zero sum game; it is formative of the human exposed to it, a primary source of the mind, not an influence upon an a priori  conceptual structure and functional process. Thinking is a learned activity, and it is learned along with the structures (conceptual architecture) that encapsulate and vitiate it.  Humans are born with brains; but in contemporary industrialized societies it is education in its fecund multiplicity that allows humans to make their minds in specific ways, to create “difference” for example, to objectify and thereby name human surrounds and attempt to control them. Education doesn’t “win hearts and minds.” Education makes them.

This perspective conveys the full strategic power of education—and affirms its placement by the former Russian president on the same plane as culture, economics and politics. While these four spheres usually are conceptualized as discrete elements of social power and development, at the same time they are coconstitutive in the social production of contemporary “reality.” This social production of reality, whether by starvation or TV shows, is the realist policy goal of disparate nation states and some non-statist organizations as well. This is not to suggest that all forms of education are morally, technically, or ethically equal, that critical pedagogy for example is equivalent to warfare training, though critical pedagogy ideally, and military pedagogy ideally, are directed toward the production of an “ideal type.”4  At minimum, the soldier in training, like a student enlightened by exposure to critical pedagogy, is “empowered” in as much as each learns a code encapsulated by an almost automatic acceptance of the rules of a particular language, of a symbolic universe as received—as a given. The student and soldier are similarly empowered in that each is provided with specific conceptual technologies and affect, skills and rules for their construction of reality—or, at the least, access to “reality” even if the one pedagogy is based in supposed reflectivity while the other isn’t.

From Military Pedagogies And why they matter Tone Kvernbekk, Harold Simpson and Michael A. Peters (Eds.)

By Soumitri Varadarajan

Soumitri lives in Melbourne, Australia - #probonodesign #codesign #sustainability #patientexperience #quantifiedself #mdg

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