What Scouting is Not

What Scouting is Not

Experience in different fields shows that there are certain shoals to be avoided in launching Scouting, lest it get stranded in commercialism or diverted into dead-end channels that never lead to the open sea.  Here, then, are some of the things that Scouting is not:

It is not a charity organization for people in society to run for the benefit of the poor children.

It is not a school having a definite curriculum and standards of examination.

It is not a brigade of officers and privates for drilling manliness into boys and girls.

It is not a messenger agency for the convenience of the public.

It is not a show where surface results are gained through payment in merit badges, medals, etc.

These all come from without, whereas the Scout training all comes from within.


What Scouting Is

It is a game in which elder brothers (or sisters) can give their younger brothers healthy environment and encourage them to healthy activities such as will help them to develop CITIZENSHIP.

Its strongest appeal is through Nature Study and Woodcraft.  It deals with the individual, not with the Company.  It raises intellectual as well as purely physical or purely moral qualities.

Happy citizenship developed through the impulse from within rather than through impression from without, individual efficiency encouraged and then harnessed for the good of the community – that is our scheme.  At first Scouting used to hope for these ends – now by experience we know that, where properly handled, it gains them.


Baden-Powell wrote about what Scouting is and isn’t in the 1920 American Edition of Aids to Scoutmastership.  Interesting that from the beginning he tells us that Scouting is a game that is to be played by the boys.  In which older boys create an encouraging environment based on the Outdoors and in which they are encouraged to develop good citizenship skills.

How often do we find ourselves, as adults, trying to create a program that institutes all of what he said Scouting is not?  How many boys are sent to be Scouts by parents or other for reformation or enrichment?  How many adults get upset because of the lack of progress on Merit Badges or rank?  How many Scoutmasters are encouraged to run the troop as a Drill Sergeant?  How many have used Scouting to forward their agenda for a particular political stance? How many patches are given to increase participation?

The genius of Baden-Powell is that the essentials of his movement have remained the same, even though society has moved on.  Boys should and will join Scouting because it is fun.  There isn’t any other reason.  Boys that aren’t having fun either won’t join or will want to quit, no matter what benefit the program might offer.

Boys having fun will work hard to follow the program because it will challenge them and make them better, stronger citizens, neighbors, and friends.  Older boys that are having fun in the program, that have reaped the benefits of the program, will naturally want to lead and teach younger boys about Scouting.

Baden-Powell isn’t saying that Scouting is a vacation of idleness and laziness.  He doesn’t imply that a Scout’s campout is a colony of Never Never Land in which the adult is excluded or where responsibilities are unheard of.  To the contrary, he maintains that Scouting is a game with a purpose.  Adults help setup the game, initially teach the rules but for the most part they stay out of the game.  A wise adult will confine himself to the role of a coach, working with the team captains on strategy and offering encouragement, extending wisdom and setting challenges.  But if the purposes aren’t achieved naturally by the play of the boys or if an adult must be the referee, judge or facilitator of their play, you may be dressing up like scouts, might be camping and fishing and having fun with your friends but you are playing the wrong game.


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