The Essence of Scouting?

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ayates
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The Essence of Scouting?

Post by ayates » Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:00 pm

From John Kennaugh uk.rec.scouting

This article has been prompted by a number of things. The IT badge. An argument between Ewan and Karl, and a report in the 'Independent' from which I quote:

Mr Twine says. "There also seems to be a greater desire among the Scouts themselves to get on with activities, rather than spending time collecting wood, building up and starting a fire, when they could just turn a tap on a propane cylinder."

The Scout Association has moved away from BP's legacy for what it believes are good reasons, however I would like to look at what BP's version of Scouting was and why it worked.

As a species we evolved and for most of history lived in small groups. There was no social gulf between adults and children as there is today. No separate culture. Children helped out as soon as they were able. They were included in adult social gatherings. They learned the skills of the tribe and gained status and respect as useful members of the tribe as they honed their skills. Scouting is based on that same model of a community and at its best adults and children play the game of Scouting together based on mutual respect.

The skills BP instinctively identified as Scouting skills were based on the skills of our ancestors, making camp, putting up a shelter, cooking over a fire, exploring our surroundings without getting lost, learning about the natural world and how to use what it provides, constructing things with pieces of tree and rope, tracking, and finally gathering socially around a fire. Things which are part of our natural heritage which our brief period being 'civilised' has not had time to erase and which, without our knowing it we miss. Old fashioned pursuits? Yes about 4 million years 'old fashioned'. Touching the spirits of our ancestors perhaps. Being part of a more natural social group than our modern complex society. Indulging in the natural play patterns of the man cub.

Rubbish you might say. I don't think so. Why do perfectly sane people abandon a modern fully equipped kitchen and light a BBQ at the bottom of their gardens? It is not a logical thing to do but it is a natural thing to do.

Scouting skills represented a different and separate set of skills/values to those of everyday life. When I was at school my playground status was rock bottom. The pecking order in the playground depended on how good you were at football (soccer in North America) (among other things some less savoury). Scouting had an entirely different set of values. The skills required to be a good Scout required practice and dedication rather than natural aptitude. In the BP scheme a 'Scouting skill' was a special skill you needed, and frequently used, when Scouting, when doing Scouting activities. You took pride in that skill, you tried to hone that skill and your status as a Scout depended on it. A badge showed what skills you had mastered and could, when asked, reproduce, and teach others.

As far as I am concerned the traditional Scouting skills are underrated and devalued by those who never mastered them and can't be bothered to try. I personally have always found them exceedingly useful. We have had a bumper crop of beans this year and my square lashings are holding up very well although at one point the whole thing was getting top heavy due to a bumper crop so despite the cross bracing I had to add some guy lines. I had to fetch a motorbike from Bodmin on a trailer and there was nothing but my roping skills between me an a very expensive disaster. I had a pleasant week camping in a wood. I could get a kettle of water boiling quicker starting from scratch and lighting a fire than using the gas cooker I took. If I only wanted enough water for one cup of coffee the cooker won but then there was no fire to sit by while I drank it.

By importing into Scouting every aspect of modern life the values inside Scouting are identical to those outside of Scouting. It ceases therefore to be a natural alternative to the artificiality of everyday life and it ceases to be somewhere YP who don't fit in can take refuge and be equal to the rest. Some of the best Scouts I have known have, in one sense or another, been misfits outside of Scouting. It was Scouting which gave them self respect. Now there is very little which can be identified as a 'Scouting skill' and those few which remain are being sidelined. If fires are out there is no point in using axes and saws. Scouting is 'keeping up with the times'.

Why cook on a fire when all you need is to turn a tap on a propane cylinder? Why stop at fires? Why use tents? If camp sites had decently equipped chalets or bunk houses your Scout troop wouldn't need to cart its own equipment around the countryside. It wouldn't actually need it in the first place, think of the time that would save. Arrive, dump your personal kit in the bunk house and you are instantly ready for the first activity of the day. What shall we say - building a raft perhaps - maybe not that requires skill and effort. Modern young people need something more instant than that besides there are grants available if you take the trouble to apply for them. Who wants to muck about with rafts? Why not get some decent modern canoes for example. If we are going to keep young people interested we need to be as well equipped and meet the same standards as professional activity providers don't we? OTOH why bother. Why not leave it to the professional activity providers, they get paid for it? Why should we do it for nothing there seems to be plenty of money about and grants for those who can't afford it?

I thought the reason we do it for nothing is because we are not simply unpaid activity providers, we are something different - Scouts.

Scouting is belonging, it is a community where young and old share a common purpose.

Scouting is a code of honour.

Scouting is about self reliance and helping others.

Scouting is about learning to think ahead and work as a team.

Scouting is about being trusted to act responsibly and to take responsibility for oneself and others.

Scouting is about learning skills which help you play the game of Scouting, and earn you the respect of other Scouts.

Scouting is about passing your skills on to the next generation and taking pride in using them well and reaching the highest standard you can.

Scout activities are different to those activity providers provide in that they are, or should be, aimed at building up and encouraging the above. Building a raft scores highly. It involves team work and planning. It requires skill and leadership. It allows older Scouts to demonstrate their skills and help the younger ones who are not as good. Cooking on a fire scores quite highly. There is a lot of skill involved and teamwork. It can result in considerable pride and satisfaction when done right. Abseiling scores zero but I wouldn't mind betting that it is one of the 'activities' Derek Twine has in mind that Scouts these days 'want to get on with'. The adventure in Scouting is not in being dangled from a rope over a cliff nor being taken to some spectacular mountain top with expert guides. The true adventure is finding oneself in the middle of open moorland with no adult to help and having to rely on ones own skills. Being trusted to take responsibility. Unfortunately the population as a whole, and a lot of adults in Scouting believe that trusting young people is being irresponsible. I agree with the DC who says "Train them! Trust them ...and keep taking the pills". Trusting young people is scary but it is (or was) what we do in Scouting.

You sit around your damn computers if you like. I prefer sitting on a log, in a wood, by a fire, watching the sun go down and trying to tune in to what nature is up to around me. I have spent too much of my life sitting in front of a computer already and YP are condemned to spend much more of their lives so doing than I have. As for the idea of a computer base at camp :o( Me? I have never even liked taking tables and chairs. Scouting is going the way it is going. I wish it success but it is not my type of Scouting any more. I suspect that in 20 years time some bright spark will come up with this terrific new idea. "Let's junk all this high tech stuff, build a shelter in the woods and cook on a real fire".

For the record a wood fire is more environmentally friendly that a propane cooker.

Sam Wallis
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:04 pm

We try to make scouting about everything, how to be a good citizen. Thats diluting, and not good. think about cooking. if you cook a lot you probably have dozens of herbs and spices in your drawer. do you use all of them every time? no, more isnt always beter. we should chose a focus, say the outdoors, and persue that with total comitment.
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Angus Bickerton
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Angus Bickerton » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:05 am

I'd like to meet John, and shake both his right and his left hand.
Angus Bickerton
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firedog_53
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by firedog_53 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:23 pm

Good article! Well written and has some great points, some good points and some that I totally agree with! Some are over simplifications and could be taken the wrong way by many.

-I love so many of the old skills! I prefer a tarp over a nylon tent.. I use a fire (if I can do so safely and legally) before a gas stove (in the right setting/locale). I use a compas and map, not a GPS (though I know how to use both!). My packs are canvas not nylon, I snowshoe not ski, I canoe not kayak, I think bikes belong on roads not trails, ... blah, blah, blah..
-What I see youth (and today's adults as well!) wanting is being able to "shortcut to the top"! Look at the ski hills, its easier and faster to learn how to board, so forget skiing. ITs easier for newcomers to learn to paddle a yak than to learn how to paddle a canoe. Light a fire when I can light a stove (or even use the "igniter" built into it!) not likely! Go camping and not have flush toilets or showers?
-How far do you want to go back in skill sets? I for one, have no intention of giving up toilet paper!
-Leaping off a cliff may seem "too easy" but it is truly a great way to get new people to learn the importance of tieing a good knot! We have used that skill to encourage youth to learn knots. Building a raft sounds like fun, but do we use logs and twine or 2x4's and nails and blue barrels? Both offer great team building opportunities so which one do we use? Our Area use to make its own canoes, now we buy them, which is better or safer or more efficient?
-Our program started in age before many of us had indoor plumbing, or electiric stoves, or even central heating.. times have changed. Outdoor education still works, our programs still work. I know of many adults who are afraid to use IT products and am sure others do as well. Why shouldn't we admit they exist? Why not encourage youth to get involved with them?
-I have to think that failing to stay in touch with today just means we be forgotten tomorrow.
FD

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Rick Gruchy » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:42 pm

Nice article. Thanks for posting.

Rick

Sam Wallis
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:50 pm

FD, while I dont want to give up TP, I do know what to do if I need to do something in the bush and forgot it. thats the skill set. we use a compass for orientering, but do point out the moss on the north side of the tree, its not as good, but its simpler.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:54 pm

do our kids know what to do if caught in the bush with no TP? thats the goal there. same with the compass, if the gps breaks what do we do (I dont have a handheld GPS and we dont use them with cubs)

am I the only one who thinks a kayak is way harder to use than a canoe? I got good with a canoe at sumer camp as a kid, try as I might I never could get a yak in a straight line. getting out and swimming often seemed an easier choice.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

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Jody
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Jody » Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:17 pm

Sam: You crack me up....getting a yak to go in a straight line is not that hard:

Image
B. Jody Lotzkar
Founder
1st Mountaineer Scouts, West Vancouver, B.C.

Email.......... scouterjody [at] gmail [dot] com
Facebook..... http://www.facebook.com/MountaineerScouts
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MCAMP........ http://www.MountaineeringCamp.com

Oh, and if anyone asks: Yes....this IS supposed to scare your mother!

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Mon Sep 10, 2012 1:34 pm

Ha. sorry for the sort of double post, I actualy thought both failed.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

firedog_53
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by firedog_53 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:51 am

As I said previously.. its a good article and I believe in much of what he says.

However, I sense the article stems from a new or change to a badge. Particularly a badge that deals with a modern topic. That seems to have stirred up the bees nest. Isn't the purpose of our badge system to encourage the youth to find a topic and learn about it, something that he may be good at, something that may help in in his future life? I think the reason we do this is to set the youth on that personal journey of discovery, to learn on his own and to educate himself.

Our badge system, the way I understand it, was to offer core subjects, using small group settings and preferably in the outdoors to develop, lets call it "character". The other part was to offer ideas for him or her to explore on their own.

So, get rid of camping, campfires and all those "old favourites"? Never, but we still need to embrace the changes of a new world. That is something I thought we encourage, taught, preached in all our training sessions. Perhaps, just maybe we really do need to look at what is, was taught in our WB sessions and make sure we are still all on the same page.

just my two cents,
FD

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:32 am

I think that WB is now "suposed to be" standardized, but historicaly I dont think it was, and I dont think we are on the same page, or in the same book.

I think that we suffer when we try to be all things to all people. if we chose a focus, say the outdoors, and forget about teaching computers, the computer kids will leave scouting. but if we do a beter job with the kids that like the outdoors, and they become our spokespeople in the youth comunity then we have an opportunity for growth

Those of us who remember McDonalds selling pizza think on that. they have a successful core business, they went out of it, and it hurt. the new move to make them into a coffee shop is probably not going to help them either.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

firedog_53
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by firedog_53 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:03 pm

Sam,
I think you missed my point...

we aren not just about "the outdoors", we are outdoor educators, we use the outdoors to create an effective learning environment. The skills we teach and use allow the youth to safely play in the outdoors, they allow the youth to learn team building, leadership and other character skills. Its not just "how to camp".. that is something many of our members seem to forget.

We don't teach "computers", we offer a way to encourage youth to learn about computers. God, I have just recently figured out the old joke "to turn off a computer, hit start"! I do know how to support a youth who wants to learn about computers (or medicine or geography or science or ...) and we have "badges" to encourage them to do so on their own.

Not saying forget how much fun hiking is, or how great it is to see a young person from the city learn about canoeing or to find out for themselves that sleeping in the outdoors in freezing weather is actually possible.

take care,
FD

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:11 pm

I agree we dont just teach them how to camp. but I do think that we suffer from the idea of being all things to all people.
to me, we gain if we offer a stronger core program, even if that means telling someone, your interest isnt something that we know how to help with.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

ayates
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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by ayates » Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:16 pm

I actually thought mission of Scouting was:
Aids to Scoutmastership wrote:The aim of the Scout training is to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in Character and Health; to replace Self with
Service, to make the lads individually efficient, orally and physically, with the object of using that efficiency for service for their fellow-men.
Use of the outdoors is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. For example, this is why having patrol plan their menu, purchase the food, and cook their meals is so important; it's not the cooking skills that are key, its the leadership and teamwork opportunities.


Allan.

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by norma » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:07 pm

firedog_53 wrote: I have just recently figured out the old joke "to turn off a computer, hit start"!
Unless you used a Mac ... then to eject a disk you "throw it in the trash"
Had lots of people freak out on me that they didn't want to 'delete' the disk they wanted to remove it from the computer lol

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by norma » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:13 pm

I think Scouting works so well using the outdoors as its classroom because it is an equalizer.

It doesn't matter if you are good or bad in school, you can learn much more easily by actually doing things in the end. And it gives the basics of living (food, water, shelter) and focus on that rather than the fluff.

But the fluff is important too at some point. Which is why there are other badges for other activities for those that are not the best at hauling logs and such.

It is a matter of giving a good foundation, which can not always be given these days with all the distractions of life.
By going back to nature you are removing the distractions so that you can focus on the foundation in order that when the distractions return you are able to handle yourself with your self confidence in your leadership, citizenship and personal development that has occurred in the outdoors.

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Sam Wallis » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:42 pm

and we sing and do skits at campfire because your all equal there, someone who studied piano for years doesnt have an advantage.

mind you, I am as guilty as anyone of these things.
found my list for winter camp 2011
Laptopx2
projector
stereo
speakers
back up computer speakers
Ipod
pyrotechnics and fuses

guess that wasnt an outdoor oriented camp (although it was fun, and we did go ourdoors). covered a lot of the Tawney star with that.
Truth is a perception, and a individual perception is their truth

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Re: The Essence of Scouting?

Post by Jody » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:46 pm

I actually thought mission of Scouting was:
Aids to Scoutmastership wrote:
The aim of the Scout training is to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in Character and Health; to replace Self with
Service
, to make the lads individually efficient, orally and physically, with the object of using that efficiency for service for their fellow-men.
Use of the outdoors is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. For example, this is why having patrol plan their menu, purchase the food, and cook their meals is so important; it's not the cooking skills that are key, its the leadership and teamwork opportunities.
It's nice to know that someone understands....someone still remembers...
B. Jody Lotzkar
Founder
1st Mountaineer Scouts, West Vancouver, B.C.

Email.......... scouterjody [at] gmail [dot] com
Facebook..... http://www.facebook.com/MountaineerScouts
Instagram... http://www.instagram.com/1stMountaineers
Web............ http://www.MountaineerScouts.com
MCAMP........ http://www.MountaineeringCamp.com

Oh, and if anyone asks: Yes....this IS supposed to scare your mother!

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