Not a specific news item this time but a whole raft of coverage:
This has predictably been better reported better in, ahem, some areas of the press than others. Lurid headlines about Scouts being handed out condoms, and stories suggesting that actual sex education lessons comparable to those taught in schools will be taking place in every Scout Hut up and down the country. Based on this misinformation lots of people cough and splutter without engaging their brains and thinking there may be more to it than a tabloid newspaper story.
What was being announced was a new guidance note giving hints and tips on what to do if a young person approaches a leader with an awkward question. There is no obligation for any leader to give sex ed lessons, indeed the guidance suggests referring the young people to the experts, and the press release echos this. Actual sex education will remain the responsibility of the schools.
In Explorers we think about, discuss and examine all aspects of life. Scouting exists to develop well rounded people, with a sense of judgement and awareness of the world they live in. It is not just an outdoor activities club. The guidance focuses mainly on the moral side of all this, and not the biological side. Avoiding peer pressure and abstinence are key messages in all this, not “here’s a condom- get on with it, if you want”. So the spluttering types who are ranting about how we shouldn’t be encouraging sex don’t realise how close we are to how they would like us to be.
Schools teach sex from a biological and practical basis, and some kids think that there is something missing. Scouting gives young people space to talk about their lives, ask questions openly, and make sense of it all- not just on this issue but on any issue that concerns them. And, while I may not have been the best leader on this topic, I have worked closely with someone who was quietly asked the sort of questions that this guidance helps to answer.
Yes Explorer Units can, if their members ask, arrange trips to health clinics. Scouting has always focused on healthy living as part of the development of its members. But such trips are not compulsory programme items, and it is not the case that all units will run such trips: it will depend on the unit members’ needs if it is appropriate.
If the explorers don’t feel the need to discuss or focus on this topic, they will not be made to. And Explorer Units will not be handing out condoms willy nilly (if you pardon the expression)- that is a definite media distortion.
The bottom line is Scouting has been concerned with developing the moral, physical and spiritual potential of young people since year dot, and this is just part and parcel of that. These issues have never been off limits, we just now have guidance on how to deal with them.
As a coda, I have read how the person who wrote the press release “wants shooting”, because people in the more sensationalist end of the media were bound to take the wrong end of the stick. My point of view is this: The lions share of the blame for people getting hot under the collar after reading a sensationalised story in the tabloid press without the appropriate “pinch of salt” lies fairly and squarely in the minds of the people getting hot under the collar. Cries of “they should have known people would take the wrong end of the stick” unjustly spares due opprobium from the people whose nature it is to take the wrong end of the stick.
On a discussion forum a SL from Redditch (maybe known to some people listed on the right- I don’t know) asked some advice as to whether the thing she wanted to do was OK within the rules. It elicited this response.
This is one of those occaisions when common sense has to prevail over POR.
As far as anyone was aware what was being asked wasn’t actually forbidden by POR. Often in Scouting we blame the rulebook for restricting us, when it is only our lack of understanding that does so. POR is carefully written by people who take time to deliberate over whether a rule is necessary.
Many of us tie ourselves in knots trying to comply with, or enforce rules and regs that no-one has actually written. And we find we can’t move because the strings on the straight-jacket are ever tightening, not noticing that the people who are tightening them are ourselves. Those who don’t know the rules and make up restrictive practices, or better enforce a pointlessly stricter version of the rules because “it’s better to be safe than sorry.” are not making our lives safer, they are reducing our ability to make sensible judgements and therefore making the world more dangerous.
While the mainstream news has largely ignored the Jamboree and Scouting’s centenary, the same hasn’t been true of the various “have your say” pages.
What is apparent is that outside Scouting there are some very scary and misinformed people, both supporting and deriding Scouting. The less scary are the anti-Scouting nutters, banging on as if it’s some militaristic pseudo-fascist, Christian-only club. The scarier group are those who are all for Scouting, because they imagine it’s a Christian only militaristic, pseudo-fascist bastion of old fashioned bigoted values. Any evidence to the contrary has the second group frothing at the mouth about us giving in to “political correctness gone mad”. This sort that believe we shouldn’t allow darkies in with their funny beliefs, and if we did they should be made to eat pork sausages like the rest of them.
Can you tell by the way I summed them up, that I vehemently disagree with both groups? My view on political correctness is that it’s just a new name for being nice to one another, and that fits with Scouting.
Robert Baden-Powell was a maverick during his time in the army. The siege of Mafeking made him a war hero, and when he returned home he found that young people and teachers were copying his techniques from his Scouting manuals. (Indeed it’s been argued that SSAGO has its roots in a Scout club formed at an Ambleside teacher training college during this period). B-P came to realise there could be something in his rather unorthodox army techniques that could offer something to the young men of the time and set about organising an experimental camp. That was 1907.
And that’s where the political correctness begins to creep in. It has long been fashionable to believe that Scouting was a white, middle-class Christian movement. However not only is this not true today, it never was. The boys B-P selected for the experimental camp were deliberately chosen from a multitude of backgrounds. From day one Scouting has sought to be there for young people of all races, religions and backgrounds, it was there at Brownsea, it’s there in Scouting for boys.
B-P declared about Scouting
It is a movement, because it moves forward. As soon as it stops moving, it becomes an Organisation, and is no longer Scouting
Scouting has always been about being a good, respectful citizen of the world. Just has scientific and medical knowledge has increased hugely in the last 100 years, so have ideas of citizenship and respect, and while we should never lower our standards, to stay in a state of ignorance would not be in line with B-Ps vision of being a movement.
While Scouts helped in both world wars, Scouting was never another cadet corps, training young people for war. If B-P was happy with young people dabbling with militarism he would have left them to his army manuals, rather than writing Scouting for boys.
The globalist aspect of Scouting came fairly early too. In B-P’s time the movement had spread across the world, and it was acknowledged even then that the capacity of Scouting to unite young people from the far corners of the globe should be used to increase the understanding of different peoples and cultures, so as to make world peace more achievable.
Yes some aspects of Scouting are of their time too. It did not occur to B-P that girls would be interested, and when they tried to infiltrate a Scout Rally in 1909, someone had to quietly have a word with B-P about what was then acceptable in society to stop him simply letting them in right there and then. But even then he didn’t just shut the girls out, he asked his sister to start another part of the movement for girls.
All of B-P’s ideas of inclusivity make the press coverage of PC creeping in to Scouting more and more galling. Scouting has always been as PC as it gets! If it’s reactionary, backward and un-PC it just isn’t Scouting.
What was Baden Powell’s claim to fame? Clue: he died before the Scouts were founded.
Baden Powell was a clergyman and the father of Robert Baden-Powell, the maverik millitary leader and war hero who started the Scout and Guide movement. Robert Baden-Powell was born Robert Stephenson Smyth Powell, but his mother and his full siblings changed their surname after Baden’s death to honour their dead father.
Incidentally in his youth he was not known as Robert, but as Stephe from his middle name Stephenson.
It’s been sad to see this month that despite being 100 years old, and an event involving 50000, bringing together the youth from almost every country on the planet (pause while you imagine the enormity of that situation) Scouting hasn’t warranted the slightest bit of attention from our media.
Sure BBC Essex and News 24 have been fantastic, the reporter on Look East seemed like he’d paid attention and knew what he was talking about, rather than parrot the dodgy received wisdom that for most counts for knowledge of a cornerstone of our culture.
I mean there are 28,000,000 scouts worldwide, surely that makes our centenary significant?
Today I started off on a footsteps activity at Colchester castle. The Jamboree bussed out two coachloads of Scouts to us and we ran two half day activities. In the morning it was Footsteps, taking them up to the castle museum and letting them explore. I think we could have done with encouraging them to try the interactive part of the exhibits more, as we were out and eating lunch fairly early.
In the afternoon I stayed with my coachload of Americans, Spaniards, Japanese and Devonites, and went on to the Starburst activity. The Japanese troop sanded down one of the park buildings, while the Americans and Spanish set to work with wire brushes on some rusty iron gates. The Brits were handed some gardening tools and set about attacking an overgrown corner of the park with great enthusiasm.
Patrick (aka Granville for those that know him) observed “If ever you need a fence painting, you need to get some Azerbaijani Scouts”. Said scouts had apparently got through their allotted task in the morning with great speed. But today I can’t fault any of the Scouts who all did as they were asked without slacking or complaining.
On return to the site, many of SAGGA were back at Hylands catering for a Starburst reception. I collapsed and fell asleep, being slightly dehydrated, and dozed until half six, nearly missing my dinner, but arriving in time for a large portion.
And now, having showered, it’s time to relax. It’s nice to catch up with friends.
Not a great start. Missed my first train, got confused over connections at Shipley. Meaning my sunrise was at Leeds city station, where the County Commissioner and ACC 2007 were manning a publicity stall. Northern Rail had been kind enough to put up posters all over the station about the event, but failed to say which concourse it was on.
Anyway I caught the number 1 bendy bus, and I caught up with North Leeds’ activities in Far Headingley soon enough which were still happening when I arrived.
It does feels a good day to be in uniform. Lots of people asking questions and even- shock- smiling, when other days I would be scowled at dressed like this and carrying this much luggage.
Currently I’m in Leeds prior to my train to Chelmsford.
So happy birthday to scouting. The world’s most successful peace movement.
Well, I’m home, have changed my clothes, and had not a bath or a shower but both.
It was a great weekend. One of the parents has told me that her daughter did not stop talking about it for absolutely ages. Despite some niggles over politics and organisation it was fantastic being at Bramham park with so many members of my half of the Scout & Guide movement.
One pet peeve was the minority of adults who saw fit to tell people off at the drop of a hat, some having no intermediate stage between saying nothing, and bellowing. Some cubs from I know not where were told off for walking down the edge of a site. The leaders of the unit had crammed their tents down one side of their pitch leaving an area that to everyone else resembled a walkway. So it wasn’t the cubs fault that they treated it as such and yet they got yelled at.
Another leader was seen muttering that others “weren’t talking care of their kids” apparently under the impression that cubs and scouts should be kept virtually on baby reins, even in a safe environment like a county camp. It’s good for Scouts development to give them some freedom, and a bit sad that some can’t appreciate this.
Well sort of. Good news! Ed Milliband has promised nearly £1,500,000 towards the World Jamboree in Chelmsford this year. The jamboree is a meeting of around 40,000 young people from just about every country, culture, race and religion on the planet, and just what the world needs in these times of misunderstandings.
I hope though that the Government does more to recognise the great role the Scout movement has played in the world over the past century, and the tremendous worth of the work of volunteers in this country. There’s a petition over on the number 10 website which says throwing money at us simply isn’t enough we need senior politicians making big statements as to how much Scouting means to the UK and the world.
I may come up with a less psuedy title if I can think of one.
Most of the people or organisations I am involved with are interested in people being nice to each other in some way. The Lib Dems believe in a society where we balance the values of liberty, equality and community, and where no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity.  Which basically boils down to lets all get along and be nice to one another and encourage people to improve and grow. The Scout Association believes in encouraging the physical, spiritual and mental development of young people , and the ways it does this is by encouraging them to help others, be aware of the world around them, and to understand other cultures. This seems to boil down to more or less the same thing.
Sometimes I wonder though, whether I’m reading my own values into the stated values of both organisations and imagining stuff that isn’t there. It is true to say that there are many in both who don’t fully subscribe to the values of the organisations they are members of. Some Lib Dems who are really socialists not liberals, or indeed join the party because it’s nicer than the others. Some Scout Leaders are just in it for the outdoor activities and look down at those who provide a broader programme at the expense of the summer expedition to Mount Everest. In Scouting I will sometimes see leaders with a severe right wing outlook and wonder how they get on with the whole “helping others” ethos behind the movement that takes up most of their free time. And I wonder if my own view of what the association stands for is filtered by my own values.
A notable deviation from the official line of the Scout Association’s message of inclusiveness is that it doesn’t quite stretch to atheists, although it includes just about everyone else. And given this I’m sure that Britain being Britain there are one or two Scout Leaders and Commissioners who are culturally Christian, but are really closet atheists. Indeed there are probably many members of the association who told the right kind of truth in the warrant interview.
Because of my beliefs I often find I’m the one pushing the global and environmental side of the Scout Programme to make sure they are adequately represented. This has been dismissed as “hippy cr*p” by some of the leaders I have worked with. Recently a quick review of the unit programmes locally showed that the programme our unit was running was a lot closer to the values and ideals of Scouting as promoted in the literature and training materials, than the programmes of the ambitious types in the district. And yet these ambitious types, with their unbalanced programmes, were the ones sneering at the quality of ours.
I tend to look on politics as service to community through other channels, and feel that gaining control of any public office is no good if you make no effort to help others through it. It does worry me to see people who lose focus on why they want to win in order to concentrate on winning. It jars with me when more extreme political types have bad things to say about Scouting when fundamentally it is trying to achieve similar ideals through different means. Yes, I can see that it’s fair that some have an image of Scouting as a white middle-class Christian club, even though that is not accurate. The truth is one in three members of the world Scout Movement is Muslim, and the representation in this country fares well when compared to the population as a whole. As a liberal I don’t believe there should be any law against having such prejudices, it’s what you do about them that really matters.
I often question whether I am confusing my sets of values when I hear an argument from a member of the movement beginning “I’m not racist, because…” or speak to Lib Dems who would rather take pictures of piles of litter to shame their opponents, than put on some gloves and clear it up.
It could be that for all the waffle the fundamental values of both organisations are quite generic Good Things that most people would subscribe to, and that many of us see more than is actually there. Both organistaions are in their own way a broad Church in which the members do their best to make the world a better place.
Oh hang it all I’ll just try and do the right thing.
 Preamble to the federal constitution
 Not a direct quote of POR
 The leader who said this is now a born again Christian. That’s probably not relevant.