The Woman-Power Debate, March 1941

In learning about the workforce requirements of total war, specifically the debate in the House of Commons about conscripting women to work on the land and in munitions factories in March 1941 Britain during World War Two, I saw a quote which gave me pause.

Agnes Hardie MP was arguing that “it has been a tradition for generations that war is a man’s job and women have the bearing and raising of children and should be exempt from war“.  I bet that comes up a lot in the gender studies modules of Peace Studies degrees.  (Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 376 (1941–1942), Parliamentary Debates November 12–December 19, 1941, Debate on Maximum National Effort 2/12 (1941), col. 1,079.)

While one side argued in the Woman-Power Debate that female war work was heroic and liberating, this was countered with concerns that increasing state management of women’s lives threatened to undermine both family life and femininity.  Agnes Hardie argued that mothers were “doing a far more important job for the future generations…than filling shells with which to kill some other mother’s son” (Hansard, vol. 370 (March–April 1941), Woman-Power Debate, cols 351–3).

As King Baudouin I of Belgium said: “It takes 20 years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only 20 seconds of war to destroy him”.

Note for later: I wonder if the Bill to conscript women permitted the the right to conscientious objection, like the Miltary Service Act 1916 did for men?  I think it may have been the National Service (Armed Forces) Act 1939, but there’s also “In December 1941 Parliament passed a second National Service Act. It widened the scope of conscription still further by making all unmarried women and all childless widows between the ages of 20 and 30 liable to call-up.”  If so, I think it permitted them the right to object to military service, but does that include filling shells?  They did, however, get the choice whether to work in factories or on the land.

This is the sort of work I want: peace informatics

There is a group on LinkedIn called Peace Informatics describing itself:

This group brings together researchers, practitioners and other professionals who want to explore how Big Data can be applied in the field of peace and security. The group’s moderators provide regular updates with cutting edge information about related developments and aim to exchange views among network members about lessons learned, latest insights and potential collaboration.

Peace Informatics is initiated and run by the Peace Informatics Lab at Leiden University (Campus The Hague). The Peace Informatics Lab consists of a number of interconnected projects that explore new ways of Big Data methodologies in the field of peace & security.

I’m not convinced about the hype around ‘big data’ (my views come from decades of experience working with large databases, data analysis and business analysis rather than marketing bumf), but I am impressed with what I have seen of Leiden University, having done some of their MOOC courses.

But this could be a field where my IT experience would be very useful.  Now, how to get my foot in the door…?

First Level 3 module chosen

After my experience this past academic year, there is no way I am doing more than 60 credits at once at Level 3, that is, full-time study while working.  The year saved is not worth the stress, the loss of value-for-money from skipping material, the lost opportunity from not having time to read around the subject nor the impact on the grade.  And at Open University Level 3, it’s all about the grade since that is most of the final grade weighting.

I was going to do A333 Key questions in philosophy but my experience of A222 Exploring philosophy has put me off.  It was not what I thought it would be.

I had also planned to do DD301 Crime and justice as it includes ‘trans-national policing, international criminal courts and universal human rights‘ but those are only a minor part of the syllabus.  Also, it is intended for those going into ‘crime prevention and conflict resolution‘ (amongst other things) and my desired career is in conflict prevention.  Similar, but not the same thing.  I’ll need to have another think.

I downloaded the list of all the 107 Level 3 modules available to me and went through each module in turn, deciding afresh if I wanted or needed to do it.  A day’s work turned that into a shortlist of 12.

So many things to consider:

  • When does the module first run?  (DD317 Advanced Social Psychology should have started this October but will be October 2017 and DD311 Crime, harm and the state in October 2019 which is one year too late for me to do it.)
  • When does the module cease to be available?
  • 30 credits or 60 credits?
  • Does it have an exam?
  • Is there team work?  (No thank you.  I’ve carried others before, and discovered you don’t get any thanks for doing so.  A shame, as that has put me off S382 Astrophysics which I really fancied.)
  • Will it help my career?
  • I only have 120 credits left (or 150 if I’m devious and willing to add another year by doing 30, then 60 then 60).
  • Which 60 credits I want locked into the 300 credits that make up the open (non-honours) component.  (What a weird rule.)
  • Whether I want a name degree (that was a realistic option until A222 put me off philosophy).
  • Will I enjoy it?  (I can’t excel at something I do not enjoy.)
  • Ought I to do it for my career?  (Peace Studies.)
  • Will I learn something useful?

I really fancy S350 Evaluating contemporary science as it would be interesting, challenging and probably very useful to me.  One is expected to research, produce and present a scientific paper as practice for being a real scientist!  I could do something on sensor reliability in unmanned ground vehicles (or autonomous fighting machines, multi-function utility vehicle, warbots, kill-bots, autonomous drones, call ’em what you will) or the environmental impact of war in an oil-producing region.

But, it is 30 credits and I have talked myself out of the other 30 credit modules.  I’ll re-consider it this time next year.

I think I have settled on which one to do next, A327 Europe 1914-1989: war, peace, modernity, mostly because it will look relevant on a Master’s Degree application and because it ought to be relatively easy for me.  I’ve been informally studying war and how & why it happens for decades, so those parts ought not to be too alien.  However, although the title sounds relevant, I’m not terribly interested in war in history as a subject of study because that has changed nothing.  My interest is evidence-based peace process research.  But, I shall use it as a corridor of doorways to other paths to study.

Risk: what will be new to me is that it is a history module and I’ve never done one of those.  I wonder what new skills and methods I will need for that.

I’ve bought and downloaded the A327 exam paper for 2015 and it asks for “Write a commentary on the following primary source extract…” but I do not know what a ‘commentary’ looks like.  It also says “Answer the following thematic question” but what is a thematic question and what is special about how one answers one?

I have asked those queries on the Arts & Humanities forum and I hope somebody understands.  I should probably ask it on the Open Degree forum – the polymathic folk there might understand my concern better.

Meanwhile I can do advance reading by getting the set book and by going through the OpenLearn material that has been produced based on this very module.

Searching for peace sector jobs

It can be difficult finding jobs in any sector, but searching for those relating to peace has extra problems.  For example:

  • Just what is the sector called?
  • What qualifications can one search for?
  • What licensing requirements can one search for?

A search for ‘peace’ on the UK government’s job web site Universal Jobmatch highlights these problems for those wanting paid work working for peace:

  • Agencies who include ‘peace of mind’ as boilerplate text in every advert such as:
    • Our aim is to ensure that people have a job that is satisfying and rewarding, which in turn gives clients an enhanced service, as well as total peace of mind” (for a Healthcare Assistant role);
    • Our 20 year “Total Peace of Mind”guaranteeprovides a unique offering and we have RECC membership, MCS accreditation and a financefacility” (for a solar panels sales role for a company that cannot find the keyboard’s space bar);
  • Arbitrary use of ‘peace’:
    • Northampton is a thriving, colourful and developing town that offers affordable housing and is situated in Northamptonshire, and offers the restful peace of the countryside” although how a city of ¼ million people counts as ‘countryside’ I don’t know and there hasn’t been any affordable housing in Britain for over 30 years;
    • Youll be at peace developing cross-browser AJAX web applications” for a ‘C / ASP .Net Software Developer’ meaning the candidate will be told to do stuff they are not qualified to do but won’t complain;
  • Using ‘peace’ to mean the opposite of peace:
    • Ministry of Defence, Unit Photographer.  Provide photographic images to support, enhance, train and protect the unit’s reputation during times of conflict and peace” (note I had to correct the grammar in that advert);
    • WTF is a ‘Protection Insurance Adviser‘?  Isn’t that what the Mafia use to run their protection rackets?  “As a Protection Adviser you will be on hand [fist?] to recommend the very best suite of protection insurance products to our clients to give them peace of mind“;
    • For the peace of mind of our customers and our colleagues, we will carry out screening checks as part of our recruitment process” when they really mean their own security;
  • ‘peace’ in the recruitment agency’s name, such as Peace Recruitment who work “within the construction, property and engineering sectors” — so why are they called Peace Recruitment? (they currently need bricklayers in Edinburgh, BTW);
  • employers with ‘peace’ in the name such as GreenPeace who are recruiting door-to-door fund-raisers (“FULL INSPIRING TRAINING GIVEN“, poor sods) and chuggers which, in my book, is about as peaceful as a smack in the mouth;
  • companies oddly using WW2 to define their age:
    • a bus company: “through wartime and peace, we have improved the day-to-day lives of generations of people” !;
  • roles requiring a Moslem and so tangentially refer to ‘peace’, such as:
    • Imam.  Provide Islamic guidance according to Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)“.
  • roles with a peaceful environment, which are a nice distraction to read about, such as:
    • Greenkeeper.  For those seeking peace and quiet, the site also offers solitude and privacy” – lovely;
  • recruiters such as Leah Peace who have ‘peace’ in their given name, with which I cannot get upset;
  • jobs where the word ‘peace’ does not appear anywhere, which are just a mystery.

But most of them are sales jobs selling insurance as ‘peace of mind’, meaning ringing people up and frightening them until they give you money.  How is that promoting peace in society?

It seems the people who want to be associated with the word ‘peace’ in their advertising do so because they are so far detached from the concept.

Of the 584 jobs returned today, two are actually related to peace: a lecturer and a research analyst.

From the above analysis one can assume that if you want to work in the peace sector, the odds are over 200:1 against success when searching for ‘peace’.  So a bit like real life, then.