IN STEM EDUCATION
HARMFUL INFLUENCE IN STEM EDUCATION
Companies that make lethal armaments and profit from war are interfering in STEM education programs across Australia.
Companies – including companies that are involved with weapons of mass destruction – seek to influence primary, secondary, and tertiary students to have a positive attitude towards the arms industry.
This influence is incompatible with progress towards peace and disarmament.
By changing states’ and territories’ education department policies, we can prevent children from being exposed to the harmful weapons industry.
With our partners, we’ve already been successful: Queensland, NSW, and Victoria have changed their policies to recognise that companies that make weapons are not appropriate partners for schools.
Passing resolutions in our union branches, changing our schools’ internal policies on partnerships and duty of care, asking STEM programs to drop harmful sponsors, and sharing information about the issue are steps along the way to changing department policy. In 2023, branch, state and federal education unions have taken a stance, adopting resolutions rejecting militarised education programs.
Weapons companies are interfering in STEM education programs.
Students are being influenced to have a positive view of the arms industry.
Exposing young people to the arms industry is a breach of policy in some states and territories.
The influence of weapons companies prevents progress towards peace and disarmament.
WHICH WEAPONS COMPANIES SEEK TO INFLUENCE YOUNG PEOPLE?
Some of the world’s biggest weapons companies seek to influence students to have a positive view of their industry.
Some of these companies are associated with corruption, crimes of war and human rights breaches.
WHICH STEM PROGRAMS ARE AFFECTED?
Some of Australia’s best and most popular STEM programs are associated with some of the world’s biggest weapons companies.
STEM programs sponsored by weapons companies expose children to weapons brands in a highly positive context.
Advertising and recruitment for STEM programs may feature weapons company logos; participants may receive certificates or trophies branded by weapons companies. Company logos may feature in event and exhibition spaces, or on collateral like program materials or staff or volunteer uniforms.
In some programs, weapons company employees participate as coaches or mentors for students. Young people may be photographed with weapons company logos, or with company representatives.
Students, schools and families are likely not properly informed of the companies’ core business, or the humanitarian impacts of their products.
Is your favourite STEM program on the list? Ask them to drop their harmful sponsor!
- ASC Robot Rumble
- Creativity in Research Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST)
- Code Quest
- Concept 2 Creation
- Cyber Taipan
- Engineering Is Elementary
- First Lego League
- First Robotics Competition
- Lockheed Martin Australia (LMA) Engineers in the Classroom
- ME Program
- National Engineering and Science Challenge
- National Youth Science Forum
- Port Adelaide Football Club Power Of STEM Program
- Port Adelaide Football Club Community Youth Program
- Raytheon Australia Playford International College STEM Academy Scholarship
- Regional Development Australia (RDA)/Hunter ME Program
- Science Alive
- Science Assist
- Space Camp
- STEM Camp
- STEM Day Out
- Thales And Tech Schools Design Competition
- The Ultimate STEM Event 2022
- YMCA Space Squad
- Young Space Explorers
This list of STEM programs with one or more weapons industry sponsors or partners was compiled in 2022 and is not exhaustive.
Commercial arrangements frequently change. We recommend checking with program organisers for updated partner information.
INFLUENCE, HARM & THE GLOBAL TRADE IN ARMS
ARMS TRADE & HARM
There is a direct link between human suffering and the development and trade of arms.
- Civilians account for the majority of deaths and injuries from the use of weapons. When explosive weapons – such as the laser-guided MK 82 bomb made by Lockheed Martin – are used in populated areas, up to 90% of those killed and injured are civilians.
- The international trade in arms affects a wide range of human rights protected under international agreements and customary international law.
- There is a significant opportunity cost to society of over-investment in weapons and the weapons industry. Big budgets and taxpayer subsidies for the development, manufacture, and export of weapons diverts public money from the public good, and creates harm.
Weapons companies seek to build positive brand recognition amongst students in order to attract the ‘best and brightest’ young people to the weapons industry.
- Shaping the science, technology, engineering and mathematics eco-system; promoting defence careers, and creating links between children and the weapons industry are explicit strategies to socialise children to accept the the proliferation of weapons.
- Weapons companies dilute or obscure their core business, and highlight non-lethal aspects like robotics, coding, and aerospace.
BRANDS & CHILDREN
Children are susceptible to influence from advertising.
- Schools have a duty of care to protect children from exposure to advertising from harmful industries. Some states and territories already recognise that companies that make armaments are not appropriate partners for schools.
- Positive experiences with a brand – like a STEM workshop – are an important part of creating brand association.
- Children can have a strong positive association with a brand, without knowing what the brand really stands for.
The Medical Association for Prevention of War has produced a comprehensive report on the issue. Click to download.