How is the one essential feature of Scouting explained? We are all familiar with this quote form the founder of Scouting;
The Patrol System is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organizations, and where the System is properly applied, it is absolutely bound to bring success. It cannot help itself!
B.P. knew, early on, that this one essential feature was so singular, so unusual, that it was in danger of being lost in the tumult of good intentions. In all his writings he continually corrected Scouters who strayed from the one essential feature. He insisted, over and over again, that the patrol system was the axis on which the entire movement turned.
He knew that without it the Scout oath and law become little more than inspirational statements instead of living concepts, that the system of advancement becomes a list of requirements rather than the natural outcome of a Scout’s activities.
It’s not surprising, then, to look around and see that many of us have lost our hold on the one essential feature of Scouting – it’s all too easy to do. The science of management, the alchemy of marketing, the lure of entertaining programs and other trappings of the adult world have obscured (if not crushed) this elegantly simple yet incredibly complex, unique and fragile idea.
In the thousands of pages of training materials, policy manuals, program ideas, merit badge worksheets, and other ephemera mentions the patrol now and again, but it is a minor feature in a landscape of distractions.
Let’s separate the concepts from the jargon, exchange the familiar terms that have lost their meaning through repetition and misapplication for a simpler explanations to describe the patrol system –
In Scouting every large group is subdivided into smaller self-governing groups. To realize the potential of the small group concept it must be thoroughly embraced and unfailingly put into practice. Applying it partially only gets partial results.
Goals of the small group;
- Every member has individual responsibility for the good of the group and the group has collective responsibility for the good of the individual.
- Responsibilities are shared among all of the members of the group, each has some responsible role in the affairs of the group.
- The dynamics of personal responsibility, respect for authority, and group responsibility form the ideals of active citizenship.
- Members develop self-control, mutual respect, team spirit and character as they learn to cooperate.
How the groups are formed;
- The members themselves choose smaller groups based on a combination of existing friendships, interests and age.
- Experience shows that the optimal number for a small group is no more than eight or less than five but this should not be an absolute rule.
- The groups may exist for a long period of time or be fairly fluid, so long as they achieve the goals above.
How the groups relate to the larger group;
- Each small group elects a leader to represent them to a central council of group leaders who determine what activities will be pursued.
- The small group is free to hold elections of their leaders at any time and set whatever qualifications they consider important.
- All members elect a leader of the small group council who appoints other members to supporting roles for the larger group.
- A large group divided into small groups develops a spirit of friendly competition that tends to raise the efforts of individual members, the small groups, and the larger group as a whole.
The role of adult advisors in a youth organization;
- To mentor and train group leaders to execute the goals of the small group concept.
- Provide administrative support that youth members cannot perform themselves.
- To maintain the focus of the organization without imposing their personal goals or using their position coercively.
- To maintain a safe and accepting atmosphere by assuring that applicable policies and rules are observed.
- To provide an example of patient, considerate and compassionate adulthood.
- To provide resources of knowledge, experience and skill when called upon.
- To resolve conflicts or difficulties when asked or when they are beyond the scope of the youth leader’s capabilities.
What would happen if we stopped doing everything else and focused all our efforts on the one essential feature of Scouting?