03 kwietnia 2013

Scouting, what it is and what it is not

Here we are in the Federation of European Scouting, so we will talk here about what we are doing. In other federations they can do those things in different manner. That’s their right. So, this is not a polemic directed to outside, but a reflexion for insiders with encouragement to discover and put into practice this blessed method, spirit and style of Scouts of Europe. This is my first text in English, as I saw a lot of people from the States reading my blog. From Chris I now that it’s not only Gienek who understands Polish.

How I conceive scouting, in particular catholic scouting, I owe to Maurice Ollier from France. He is one of the first French Scouts of Europe, since sth like 1958 or even earlier. He founded Carrick, scout shop, he used to be Federal Commissioner from 1986 to 89. He was a personal teacher of new born Polish FSE association in the beginning of 90-s. I spent a lot of time with him, especially in his lovely Burgundian house at Nuit-St-Georges, not far from Dijon, France. He is our French and federal historian and archivist. He knows virtually everything about FSE. Essentially what Maurice says about scouting is all from Baden-Powell and Sevin.

Scouting is a game

I suppose that you read Aides for Scoutmastership by Baden-Powell. If not, here is the text: http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/a2sm.pdf. Scouting is all about  game, which is a natural thing for boys and girls at the age of 8 to 18. Of course, the proper moment of scout life is between 12 and 17 when you are adolescent and when you establish a kind of your own “gang” – a patrol, without adults, with one of you, 15-16-year-old let’s say, as the chief. When it works that is marvelous. You have your destiny in your own hands. It’s not like at school where there is always a teacher to supervise you or during some after-school activity like riding horse for example, when you are always  with a coach. No coaching, no teaching, just a group of friends and adventure. Of course you promise to obey Scout Law, so this adventure is not to smoke or drink or do the bad things. “A scout’s honor is to be trusted”. If you do bad things you show that you cannot be trusted. The game is over. But you simply do not need to do bad things with your friends, because there are so many good adventures to make life exciting that bad things are simply boring. In this sense scouting is a big SPACE OF LIBERTY for young people.

Five goals during each activity

When thinking about a scout activity we shall have in mind that we try to have always elements corresponding to 5 goals. We do not only play, but also pray, not only sing but also serve, not only cook, but also climb a hill, not only laugh but also serve each other. Look at the requirements for the second and the first class. There are always things concerning each of the 5 goals: health, manual ability, character, service, God. When you only pray, it won’t be scouting but a parish group of prayer. If you only play in the forest it won’t be scouting but young marines preparing for Afghanistan. If you only cook it won’t be scouting but gourmandize club. If you only sing it won’t be scouting but a choir. So during each activity, let’s try to do all the elements. Even during pilgrimage, do it in scout manner: cook at the fire, have a fire of expression (theater with actors and songs), take photos, etc. give each boy and girl a responsibility for the smallest aspect of your event. Your pilgrimage must be a scout pilgrimage not any pilgrimage. And so each activity.

Chiefs are 20-year-olds  

Sometimes 30-, 40-, 50-year-olds  and more who are commissioners or chiefs of groups think that they are the big chiefs in scouting. It’s a mistake. Of course there must be commissioners – normally adults 30 years old and more, but the unique, true chiefs are chiefs of units, normally young adults at the age of 18 to 26, more or less. Why is that so? Because either you have them or you won’t have young boys and girls of 12 to 17. Simple. Then, scouting offers to young adults 18 to 26 years old a unique mean of formation, hardly findable in other places, that is responsibility as a chief of an enterprise of 20-30 young boys or girls. Maybe in the States there is more culture of entrepreneurship, hence more normal to be CEO at the age of 20 and even less. Perhaps. Nevertheless, scouting has something unique for them – to be chief, not only as a mean of formation to leadership, but also a mean to acquire experience in the field of education of youngsters. This will be full of value at the moment of having one’s own family and children. This is a general indication to the hierarchy of the movement to count on the young adults of 18-26. To let them decide about the big questions of the movement during national assembly and in everyday life of upper level of hierarchy. I will talk later about hierarchy, which must be really at the service of chiefs of units and not create too much burdens for them.

Scouting not to be treated instrumentally

We create an authentic Space of Liberty in scouting, where decisions are taken mostly by Council of Patrol and by Council of Troop or Company. These decisions are taken according to the Scout Law and to what your fundamental texts and your Commissioners indicate you. All these must respect the internal dynamic of the scout method which must serve the joyful game of young people encouraging them to take responsibility. When you try to treat scouting as an instrument for something else, be it very good, you begin to destroy this internal dynamic. I understand that sometimes it is not easy to apply. Let me give some examples. When the parish priest think that scouts are to serve the Holy Mass, the risk is that probably they will not have too much time to live the scout live in the forest. When there is an adult, group chief or commissioner who thinks that scouts must promote environmental causes, the result will be the same. Or when politicians try to use scout structures for electoral aims. Or a Church institution as a mean to get vocations for it. When you insist on the instrumental value of scouting for sth else, a good cause, you will underestimate the value of Space of Liberty of patrol to freely determine their own activities and goals, of course within the boundaries set by the Scout Law. What then? Scouting is not designed to promote good things? Of course it is, but in its own manner, according to its internal dynamic. Not for something from outside pushing it in some external direction. We trust that the internal dynamic of scouting will produce much more interesting results coming from within. There will be vocations for the Church and for political life, for whatever you want, but that shall be generated indirectly as sth spontaneous, in full freedom, coming from boys and girls themselves.