Sunday, June 14, 2009

Needful things

So I was flicking through all the hundreds of photos from our big camp, Cubjam, that we were on in May and I was struck by one in particular. It was a photo of a group of my kids at sunset in a field called The Quick. This field is essentially a steep hill that looks out Westwards over North London. The photo is lovely although I wont be posting it, I don't put piccies featuring any of my little ones in public forums, you'll have to make do with this photo that I googled. Also though it put me in mind of why in some ways scouting is probably becoming even more relevant to young people than ever before, and here's why.

Gilwell Park itself turns 90 years old this year, when it was established all those years ago things were very different. The view in that photo would have been very different back then. I don't know if the Lee Valley reservoirs had been built then but even if they were the rest of the view would have been rural Essex. Lets be honest, life for your average kid in 1919 could be pretty ropey, no welfare state, most out at work by the time they were 14, life expectancy much lower etc etc but a much lower proportion of kids lived in cities and the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, even in its gentler state as you would experience it in the home counties was there in a much bigger way than it is now.

That view from The Quick is now urban and industrial and reflects the fact that kids are increasingly living in an urban environment and are increasingly wrapped in cotton wool with little or no opportunity to make their own mistakes and learn for themselves. I read reports (admittedly in the Mail, so to be taken with a pinch of salt) about young adults heading to uni who are having to be taught how to cook pasta and change a duvet. Are we honestly in a world where kids are so molley coddled that this is what it has come to? It seems that we have.

And so it is places like Gilwell, and organisations like the scouts and the many other youth organisations that promote kids ability to learn through adventure etc and to develop self confidence and independence that are becoming increasingly relevant. It takes kids away from parents and modern conveniences and gives them a chance to stand on their own two feet. And more and more those kids are appreciating it.

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