Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Some things never change

In yesterday's post I talked about girls in scouting. I thought I'd follow that up with some thoughts about why scouting has not just stayed popular but is increasing in popularity year after year. And we're not the only ones. The Guides, Cadet Forces and various others are all still consistently popular. I thought about this because to read or listen to some of the mass media such organisations are an irrelevant anachronism that ceased to be relevant long ago. Yet no matter what those people say the kids keep on coming, and they are staying as well.

So what is it about these organisations that keeps them coming? Well the scouts have obviously done themselves a favour with recent changes. The introduction of the Explorer Scout section, the changes in the uniform and the introduction of professional PR staff at HQ has certainly helped, all those things have helped shake off some the geekier side of the image, but that can't be the full story. There must be something more fundamental than that.

And I think it's quite simple, kids love it! They like being outdoors and having an adventure. For different age ranges that will mean different things. For a 7 year old beaver it will mean being away from home for the first time. For a 9 year old cub it might mean abseiling for the first time, for 12 year old scout white water canoing, a 16 year old explorer may be in the middle of Africa building a new school. Yet for all of them it means getting out doors, meeting new people, doing new things, pushing themselves and achieving something.

You can give kids all the play stations and x boxes that you want, you can give them face book and Bebo and satellite tv, but none of them provide that adventure that kids love. On top of that none of them provide that same team spirit that something like scouting gives, that same sense of pulling together, of looking out for your mates and knowing that they will look out for you. And I don't think it's any surprise that those kids not into scouting or cadets etc tend to be in sports teams or bands or something else that is about pushing yourself with a group of friends alongside you.

So the nay sayers can sneer all they want, some on the left will wring their hands, some on the right will claim that kids just haven't got it anymore but the fact is that kids want and adventure and they want a sense of belonging. These things don't change because they are basic human instincts. Long may it continue.

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