What is authentic Scouting? 52 Scout leaders from 16 countries in the European Scout Region replied to a survey about the retention of young people in Scouting conducted by the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) during the World Scout Jamboree in Sweden.
Their responses indicate that Scouting everywhere shares common challenges. Here’s some key thoughts offered in answer to one survey question that I think are particularly important;
In your personal opinion, why do you think that some young people leave Scouting?
- Not “cool” enough in their early teens.
- Leaders do not get the changes between age divisions they cling to traditions and behavior and miss age-appropriate changes.
- If there is no real challenge it gets boring.
- Too much theory and aimless instruction.
- We are trying to become more modernized. Scouts comes to us to live the magic of a tale under a starlit sky midsummer in the forest, not to be between four walls learning things.
- The rules needed by the organization are killing the spirit that keeps the movement alive. There was a time kids were hearing about Scouting, started their own activities and looked for adults to help them on the way. When the organization prepares the activities Scouts are only participants who pay their fee and expect something in return. This is very different from where we started.
- Its not sociably accepted and they believe they have grown out of scouting
- Pressure to achieve at school leads parents to believe that Scouting is less important than school work – which at one level it is, but a good Scout program provides a balance to school life which can be very beneficial, Scouting is not getting that message over very well.
- Outdated, traditional, insular attitudes from leaders.
- Lack of involvement and responsibility in program planning. No adventure.
- Do not like the Uniform.
A common thread in the respondents answers is that organizational concerns; procedures, policies, specifications, programs, and attitudes can overwhelm the spirit of Scouting. Young people join Scouting for the spirit of adventure, find that that spirit is not so strong as they hoped, and leave. That’s the heart of the retention problem.
In August 1936, Baden-Powell wrote,
I fear there is the danger that a kind of synthetic Scouting may creep into our training in place of the natural article described in ‘Scouting for Boys’ …
By “synthetic Scouting” I mean the Scout system obscured by over-clothing the natural form with rules and instructive literature, tending to make what originally was, and should be, an open-air game into a science for the Scouter and a school curriculum for the boy.
With these thoughts in mind I invite you to answer these questions:
What is authentic Scouting?
What can you do to offer an authentic Scouting experience to your Scouts?
What, in your opinion, are we doing that obscures authentic Scouting?