The skills Baden Powell (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 (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. 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 young people 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.
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 a 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. 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.
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.
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”.