I would like to hear your thoughts regarding association with adults as a Scouting method, and how Baden Powell’s own statements are applied in the context of the Patrol method.
I think some leaders have a hard time striking the right balance, because the adults are not supposed to be affecting what Scouts are doing at meetings or on campouts. I know we train and mentor leaders, and conduct Scoutmaster conferences; is there other aspects of association that we are missing?
As I was studying this I found these Baden Powell quotes:
“The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself”
“Scoutmasters need to enter into boys’ ambitions”
“Boys can see adventure in a dirty old duck puddle, and if the Scoutmaster is a boys’ man he can see it, too”
“When a boy finds someone who takes an interest in him, he responds and follows.”
“Success in training the boy depends largely on the Scoutmaster’s own personal example.”
“There is no teaching to compare with example.”
“The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother.”
“To get a hold on boys you must be their friend”
I am trying to figure out exactly what he is trying to say – can you help?
Scoutmaster, Troop 158 Shrewsbury, MA
Let’s begin by looking at the most common ways our Scouts associate with adults in and out of Scouting;
The child-parent relationship is not voluntary. Parents hold absolute responsibility for, and authority over their children within the bounds of the law. This is a permanent relationship. (Please accept that I am over-simplifying this relationship for the purposes of this discussion.)
Family ( aunts, uncles, grandparents)
Family relationships are not voluntary. A Scout’s family members other than their parents have varying degrees of influence in their lives.
The teacher student relationship isn’t voluntary either. Teachers are responsible for maintaining order and for disseminating information to their students. Teachers are also answerable to producing a set standard of performance in their students.
The coach-player relationship is largely voluntary. Coaches are focused on optimizing team performance more than individual performance. There’s a team record of wins and losses at the end of the season. I include non-athletic directors, instructors, etc in this category.
These are mostly voluntary relationships based on on the particular religious traditions of a Scout’s family. The clergy is typically entrusted with the spiritual development of the children in their care.
Friendships are mutually voluntary. It bears mentioning that peer friendships are usually the highest priority relationship in the teen years. Our Scouts will re-order their other relationships to maintain these connections.
Within each of these relationships a parent, teacher or coach may also become a friend, counsellor, or mentor to a young person, but each has a principal role in that forms the basis of the relationship. Each relationship has it’s own level of importance, value, and closeness. We hope that parents, teachers, and coaches also provide a positive example of adulthood to the youngsters in their care.
Given all this how do we define the association between Scouts and Scouters? Are Scouters teachers, coaches, parents, family, clergy, or friends? I believe that they are, at one time or another, all of the above.
When we begin our work as volunteer Scouters we attempt to understand Scouting by applying what we know to what we don’t (just as Baden-Powell did in the quotes you found). Is Scouting like a an athletic game? In some ways, yes. Are Scouters like teachers? In some ways, yes. But we’d be wrong to carry those associations too far because Scouters aren’t teachers and Scouting is not an athletic game.
Scouting may be similar to a lot of things but it is not exactly like any other activity. The association between Scouters and Scouts may bear some resemblance to other associations between youth and adults, but it is not exactly like any of them, it is unique.
Scouters apply their understanding of the motivations, interests and concerns of their Scouts to providing them with opportunities achieve the aim of Scouting. Baden-Powell expresses this as ‘ entering into boys’ ambitions‘ and notes that ‘if the Scoutmaster is a boys’ man he can see it, (their motivation and interest) too‘.
BP also explains that Scouts are led by example;‘The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself’. We aren’t teaching from a platform, we are camping and hiking with our Scouts, we are guiding them figuratively and literally. We don’t just preach the Scout oath and law, we live those principles act even when it’s difficult.
He talks about friendship; ‘ The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother.’ We care, we nurture, cajole, exhort, and inspire. We measure challenge against ability, we give our Scouts a measure of challenge that extends their reach but remains in within their grasp.
How does this play out practically?
I can’t give you a list of practical applications for the method of association, all I can do is explain what it means. The role of A Scouter in a Scouts life shares some similarities with those of a parent, family member, teacher, coach, friend, clergyman, and, counsellor but is not exactly like any of them. Once you begin to understand this the practical application is clear.