Monday, April 27, 2009

Moving with the times

It's a good day to be a scout. The latest census by the UK scout association shows numbers up across the board and, for the first time, new members are roughly equal in terms of boys and girls. Media coverage has been limited. Last year it was a slow news day when the figures were released and we got wall to wall attention, this time round they are competing with swine flue. Such is life. But you can hardly complain at 7 years of growth now can you?

In what media coverage there has been though it is interesting to look at the commentators, the largest number of which can be found in response to this article in the Scotsman.

I have to be honestly surprised not so much at those who are surprised that scouts now accept girls but at the proportion who seem actively opposed to it. Many seem to think that the scouts should stay all male.

These people are wrong, completely wrong. And here's why.

The scouts are a "movement". It's an important distinction from other forms of organisation and to understand why you need to look at the history of things. Baden Powel organised the first scout camp in 1907 and subsequently published Scouting for Boys. He never intended to form the scouts from that, he intended the book to be used by the Boys Brigade! What happened was that boys started reading the book and wandering around catching rabbits and camping farmers fields. They upset enough adults that eventually those adults took charge of them and formed organised scout troops to keep them under control.

The kids, in effect, founded the scouts en mass. Hence it is a movement because the kids did it for themselves.

Given that history it is only right that the scouts move with times and provide what the kids want and need. Times have changed. Women are, in theory at least, equal in society in a way they were not in 1907 (in practice an awful lot of men need a good kicking to realise that). Men and women have platonic relationships in a way that in 1907 they didn't. And scouting simply has to reflect that.

Times have changed, the scouts have changed, and so much the better.

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