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.