Another piece of "silly season" news (see previous post) which has occupied the media over the holiday period is that the British Army has decided to drop the use of the recruiting slogan "Be the Best" because Market research shows it to be " dated, elitist and non-inclusive."
Apparently this piece of market research cost around £500 000.
I cannot see why the slogan should be regarded as either elitist or non-inclusive. It is after all an aspiration rather than a claim that the army only "takes the best." Surely, whatever our funciton, we should all be urged to at least try to "be the best" rather than be content with mediocrity.
It is true, however that the phrase is dated, though in my view none the worse for that.
In my younger days I was a Boy Scout and then a Scout Leader. There was, and, I'm happy to discover still is, a Scout Hymn,the first verse of which reads:
Now as I start upon my chosen way,The hymn (which, incidentally doesn't mention any deity or any particular religion, as Scouting is an international movement regardless of "country, class or creed," as we used to put it) and the music to sing it to, was written by Ralph Reader, who also wrote "Ging Gang Goo!" and choreographed the British Legion's annual Festival of Remembrance in the Albert hall for many years.
In all I do, my thoughts, my work, my play,
Grant as I promise, Courage new for me
To be the best, the best that I can be.
There are various versions of it on You-tube: my favourite is this, I suspect from the Philippines.
The hmm is sexist, in that it contains the wish to to "earn a place among my fellow men "but that doesn't seem to worry several girls (some of them wearing head-scarves) who contribute to this version. In fairness to Reader, Scouting was for boys only in his day.
Getting back to the Army, I think the Army Education system for young people does a magnificent job. The Army Foundation College based in Harrogate takes in many dysfunctional young people (as well as many normally functioning ones from conventional backgrounds) who have often been brought up in care and failed to flourish in the ordinary school system, and enables them to become competent in academic as well as military skills. Whether it is right that they should take recruits as young as 16 is another matter, but they certainly do an effective job in encouraging their charges to "be the best." Hats off to them.
Unfortunately the Army is not so good at looking after its personnel once their service is finished. A disproportionate number become rough sleepers, end up in prison, or have problems with their mental health. They too deserve "the best" or at least something better than at present.