… the more things remain the same.

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scouterFeeling alone?

Frustrated with your youth leadership? Does it seem as though every effort to get them motivated falls short? Wish for ‘the good old days’ when ‘Scouting really meant something’ and boys were able to think for themselves?

See if you don’t share some of the frustrations expressed by this Scoutmaster:

We are  continually being told that our Scouts want to run things, for themselves.

Is this really so?

Am I the only Scoutmaster that has come out of a patrol leader’s council exhausted and apoplectic?

Give my boys their head in camp and the Seniors will make one mad rush for the nearest girl, while the youngsters will (a) settle down with a comic, (b) moan they have nothing to do, (c) take a bus into the nearest town (even if it is just round the corner) and have an entertaining time wandering round Woolworths.

I am tired of arranging Saturday wide games, outings, etc. – and seeing a quarter of the Troop turn up.

I am sick and tired of arranging training sessions and having one or two boys attend. Of course most of these sessions should not be necessary if the Patrols held Patrol Meetings, but just try to persuade them to do so!

I have several boys who have been with us now for two or three years and have made little progress towards Second Class. Are they disheartened or unhappy? Not on your life; the only time they are unhappy is when I tactfully suggest it is time they had a shot at another test.

I feel it is about time we had a few articles suggesting how we can train our boys to want to think for themselves, and not quite so many slanging the poor Scoutmaster for his bad psychology.

It would interest you to know that I found this in a letter to the editor of  The Scouter magazine published by the UK Scouts in 1956 three years before I was born.

One of the replies to this letter was published in a later issue of The Scouter

Ever since the genus “Boy” was invented it has been characterised by a careless, happy-go-lucky, chuckle-headed approach to all its affairs. “A boy’s will is the wind’s will.” Are we not too apt to expect that, as soon as we put a boy into uniform and call him a Boy Scout, he will automatically become a cross between The Admirable Crichton and Capability Brown?

Here and there, of course, one runs across an infant prodigy who conducts business with the efficiency of a managing director; who prefers signalling to British bulldogs. I know that such exist but, thank Heavens, it has never been my misfortune to have one in my Troop. Personally I have a deep distrust of infant prodigies. The boyhood of most of our greatest men would not bear too close a scrutiny.

We must always remember that Scouting is a long-term policy – not a magic wand. We accept the boy in his “wild” state and, in course of some seven years, try to help him to weather the storms of growing up.

The author has perhaps overlooked the duty of a Scouter to “give guidance.” There is a big difference between “guidance” and undue interference. The basic principle of the Patrol System is “let the boys make their mistakes, – but don’t let them crash.

As in everything else the theory of the Patrol System can be carried to extremes when it becomes absurd. I suppose that most boys, if left entirely to their own devices, would choose to camp in the middle of a fun fair. They don’t  know any better; haven’t got the experience – and we can’t blame them.

My own patrol leader’s council “waffles” abominably. It takes them just one and a half minutes to get off the point. Incidentally so do several adult committees on which I have the misfortune to serve.

I like to listen to the “waffling,, – it is often most instructive. A  point, however, is reached when it appears that we will be late for breakfast – then I “interfere” with a demand for a decision on the matter in hand. I regard that as necessary “guidance.” Much the same applies to implementing of such decisions. Left entirely to themselves things are not liable to happen. In my experience adult Committees are very little better in this respect.

As always may I conclude with a thought as to what B.-P.’s attitude would have been. When a boy couldn’t light a fire “with natural materials” he said, “Don’t be a fool – give him paper.” When boys can’t run a Troop completely on their own “give them guidance.

Well, the more things change the more they remain the same. Scouting is indeed not ‘a magic wand’, but it remains a powerful source for good. Scouts haven’t changed all that much, and neither have Scoutmasters.