AVERY large part of the young people in Britain are in the armed forces. They are discouraged from writing to the newspapers or speech-making. They cannot vote in by-elections. They cannot take part in organized political work, except to stand as candidates for election. They are cut off from ordinary contacts and ordinary responsibilities by a life of strong discipline, much hard and usually unfamiliar work, interspersed with periods of very great boredom. The regular surveys of public opinion -- official and private -- are concentrated on the civilians. All these factors would make it difficult to be definite about youthful British opinion in the forces -- which is the majority of youthful British opinion -- were it not for certain changes in army education introduced in this war, changes which are designed to encourage free discussion and the formation of opinion among the soldiers.
The establishment of the Army Bureau of Current Affairs, known everywhere as ABCA, was a revolutionary step in army education. During work hours -- not, therefore, as an extra activity -- the soldiers are brought together in groups of 30 to 40 to discuss current problems under the chairmanship of a platoon commander, officer or N.C.O. In the two years of its existence, ABCA has managed to establish two facts of procedure -- that the group leader guides but does not instruct, and that the men are perfectly free to discuss anything they wish in the course of the meeting. The bulletins, notes, wall-maps and literature supplied by ABCA are all intended to assist, not supplant, discussion and the formation of independent opinion.
The experience of ABCA makes it possible to speak with some certainty of young opinion in the army. Unfortunately the experiment has not so far been extended to the R.A.F., although the ground staffs badly need a similar discipline. Nor has it reached the Navy. Here, the chief guide to opinion is the un-coördinated experience of various Service lecturers. This
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