Scouting for Change   Leave a comment

Last week (14th – 20th May) saw the return of the infamous Scout’s volunteering week, albeit in a revamped form. “Scout Community Week” is the new name for the original “bob-a-job week” which came to an end about 20 years ago. So why the name change? Well apparently it was time for a bit of re-branding in the Scouting community.

Scouts doing their bit

The previous idea of Scouts going house to house doing “odd jobs” for individuals has been tweaked so the Scouts are now being encouraged to do projects which will benefit whole communities. It’s volunteering on a larger scale, but the Scouts are working together in groups to get more done and they will be able to see the effect their hard work has on their local area. It also shows people unconnected to the Scouts that the movement is teaching children to selflessly give their time to help the communities they live in. Speaking prior to the start of the week, Chief Scout Bear Grylls seemed excited by the impact he believes it will have on the UK as a whole: “Working together we’re going to make a huge difference to communities up and down the country.”

They seem to have taken on board the Coalition Government’s “Big Society” idea, and why not? It fits very well with the Scouting ideals of helping others: Bear Grylls has been promoting the volunteering week by emphasising, “Volunteering is at the very heart of Scouting.” It is also of added benefit to the original concept of “bob-a-job” as this way it doesn’t run the risk of either letting the children pester their neighbours or leaving them vulnerable to any dangerous adults out there – something that some of their parents I expect would have been overly worried about otherwise.

However, perhaps this re-branding of the Scouting movement needs to be expanded to cover its membership, not just its projects. The National Secular Society has recently helped to highlight this need. The Society wrote an open letter to Bear Grylls which stated that the Scouting Association’s outdated Christian stance, including an induction which includes promising to “do my duty to God”, needs to be changed as it has been preventing atheist children from joining.

It’s interesting to note that the Scouts have already become more accepting of children from other, non-Christian, religious backgrounds. This can be noted from the increasing number of children from Muslim families joining the movement. However the National Secular Society now wants to see that welcoming nature extended to children from atheist families by allowing them to omit the “duty to God” line found in the Scout promise.

However, one concern I have is that it is the parents who are speaking out – not the children. Aren’t children too young to be making the decision to believe (or not) in a God anyway? Trying to make them ‘pick a side’ is a bad idea as it implies they are old enough to make this type of decision, but most of them won’t be in a position to at that age.

Chief Scout Bear Grylls is proud of his Scouts

Perhaps the best way to resolve the situation is to remove the line “duty to God” for everyone, even if they are from religious families. Parents may be pushing their beliefs on their child anyway (even unintentionally), plus the omission for all will help to avoid creating a divisive atmosphere from the outset as all the children will be taking the same promise when they join the movement.

Bear Grylls has previously stated: “Scouting has something to offer everyone, no matter your religion, ethnicity or belief, and I’m so proud that we offer an environment for people of all backgrounds to come together and enjoy themselves.” Now if this is truly something he, and the rest of the Scouting Association, believes in, all that needs to be done is to get that tiny mention of ‘God’ removed so that it becomes a truly inclusive movement.

It’s strange to think how one word, or one phrase, can make such a difference to how something is viewed, but it does…


Posted 22/05/2012 by thinkmindy in belief, conscience, culture, identity

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