What is Scouting?

Most people have an image of Scouting that was made popular by Norman Rockwell. It is an image of boys marching off to camp wearing shorts and broad-brimmed hats, ready to do their Good Turn for the day. People closer to Scouting, such as parents of Scouts, would identify Scouting by its visible manifestations: badges and a uniform, a Promise and Law, weekly meetings, and camps, all mostly for fun. These, however, are not the goals, but rather the tools of an educational movement, a movement dedicated to realising world peace and a healthy environment by building ``character'' in young people, as its founder put it.

Scouting was founded on August 1, 1907 at a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on the south coast of England. Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (usually referred to affectionately as ``BP'') lead the experimental camp to test some ideas for educating young people. BP was 50 at the time. He was a British war hero, having served mostly in India and Africa, who had won fame for his ingenious defence of the town of Mafeking in South Africa during the Boer War. During the siege of Mafeking, there was a severe shortage of soldiers. BP recruited boys in their teen years to serve as messengers and first-aiders, freeing soldiers for the defence of the town. Each boy wore a rolled triangular neckerchief as identification. The rolled necker, which can be used as an arm sling or bandage, is now a universal part of Scout uniforms.

There is controversy surrounding who contributed what to the founding of Scouting. This is beyond the scope of this paper. The official version is that BP was inspired by the performance of the boys of Mafeking when given adult-like responsibilities. He felt that an education in woodcraft skills would lead to the development of ``happy, healthy, useful citizens'' (BP 1954[1922]:218). To test his ideas, he ran the Brownsea Island camp for four ``patrols'' of five boys each. After the conclusion of the camp, BP set to work writing a book, drawing on his experiences at the camp and as an army scout. Scouting for Boys: A Handbook for Instruction in Good Citizenship Through Woodcraft was published the following year as a serial. Largely due to BP's fame, Scout patrols quickly sprang up all over England. In 1912, King George V granted a royal charter incorporating The Boy Scouts Association throughout the British Commonwealth. BP went on to become a baronet, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Gilwell Park was the site of the first Woodbadge training course for Scouters and remains a major training centre).

Scouting quickly became a social movement united by a belief in the value of Scout education. Adults in every culture worked independently to bring Scouting to their countries, adapting BP's ideas to the local culture and translating Scouting for Boys into many languages. Young people around the world embraced BP's invitation to adventure. Now, there are only six countries in the world that are without Scouting.

Shortly after the founding of Scouting, Scouting social movement organisations (SMOs) were established. BP supported this, but also warned in his last message to Scouters, ``Don't let it became a salaried organisation: keep it a voluntary movement of patriotic service'' (BP 1941). Scouting has consistently identified itself as a movement, rather than an organisation, though it certainly has many salaried members.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) reports a membership of over 28 million members in 216 countries and territories. About half a billion people have been Scouts since Scouting was founded (WOSM 1999). In addition to members of the WOSM, there are many so-called independent Scout associations some of which are members of other international organisations such as the World Federation of Independent Scouts (WFIS), which has member associations in 24 countries, and the Federation of Scouts of Europe (FSE), which has member associations in 14 European countries plus Canada. Scout association politics are beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that, as in most social movements, the dominant SMO, in this case the WOSM and its national member associations, claims sole legitimacy to represent the movement, while the smaller associations claim to be legitimate as well. Conflicts between these SMOs, often over the trademark of the word ``Scout'', sometimes overshadow the goal that they were both purportedly established to achieve (e.g. Pettifer 1999).

Scouting is a system of education. According to BP, ``[t]he aim of Scout training is to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in Character and Health; to replace Self with Service, to make the lads individually efficient, morally and physically, with the object of using that efficiency for service for their fellow-men'' (BP 1945:16; emphasis in original).

BP wrote voluminously on the purpose, principles, and method of Scouting. At various conferences and in various publications, the WOSM has tried to discern from BP's writings the essential characteristics of Scouting. In 1977 in Montreal, the WOSM agreed on a statement of Scouting's purpose, principles, and method (WOSM 1992). This was further distilled into a Mission Statement at the 1999 World Scout Conference in South Africa. ``The mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society'' (WOSM 2000:2). ``The development ideals pursued in Scouting is that of a happy, well-balanced person who is both autonomous and supportive--autonomous in the sense of being resourceful, being able to make decisions, and to assert oneself as a unique and responsible person; and supportive, i.e. being capable of sharing, genuinely caring about others, doing something for them, promoting a cause'' (WOSM 1996:13).

Scouters are guided by Scouting's Principles, a set of ethical ideals. Scouting's principles represent the ethical values of the movement. They describe what the ideal Scout should be. The most familiar formulation of Scouting's principles is in the Promise and Law (``DYB'' or ``Do Your Best'', the Wolf Cub Motto, is probably the best known of these). The principles themselves recognise the three dimensions that make up every person: the spiritual (that which lies beyond the material world, whether expressed in terms of God or not), the social (helping others and living as part of society), and the personal (taking responsibility for one's own development). Scouting seeks to teach young people to strive towards these principles, to the best of their ability. To do this, Scouting uses a set of tools known as the Scout Method.

The Scout Method has seven elements or tools which are used together to achieve Scouting's purpose. The seven elements of the Scout Method are: Law & Promise (commitment to a set of values), Learning by Doing (new experiences first hand), Team System (small groups of people working together with peer leadership), Symbolic Framework (themes to make the program appealing, such as the Jungle theme for Wolf Cubs), Nature (programs operating in the outdoors), Personal Progression (badges that mark one's learning), and Adult Support (developing with the guidance of adults). When used together, these elements contribute to the total development of a person in accordance with Scouting's principles (WOSM 1998:3).

So much for theory. How does Scouting look in action? Scouts Canada has five program sections: Beavers (ages 5-7), Wolf Cubs (ages 6-10), Scouts (ages 11-14), Venturers (ages 14-17), and Rovers (ages 18-26) (Scouts Canada 2000a:27). All sections are formally open to boys and girls, though in practice, female members are extremely rare (the all-female Girl Guides of Canada is a separate organisation). This paper focuses on the Scout section. A typical Scout troop has a troop meeting once a week during the school year. Meetings are filled with games, teamwork, skills, and preparation for outdoor activities. Scouts attend camps, both as a troop and with other troops where they hike, practice campcraft, and enjoy nature.

Programs are run by volunteer Scouters who are formally supported by volunteer Service Scouters. There are many levels of formal organisation. Scout groups, which usually include more than one section, are sponsored by religious organisations (52%), service clubs (25%), community organisations (18%), and government agencies, usually parent-teacher associations or fire departments (5%) (Scouts Canada, Ontario Council 2000:7). Supporting Scout groups is the district council. About a dozen districts form a regional council. Ontario has ten such regions. Each province has a council and there is a national Board of Governors.

Liam Morland