- Scouting - your partner and assistant in upbringing of the child.
What do you know about us?
I guess that you think of scouts as of nice guys in hats with wide flaps and with bright signs on their battle-gray shirts. And you are always likely to say “boy-scouts” (though in Russian Union of Scouts there are both boys and girls - “girl-scouts”). At the same time you might remember words from childhood - “bourgeois child, son of kulak”. Communist writers Rybakov, Belyaev, Gaidar and other writers “for children” formed in the minds of their readers an image of the scouts who beaten pioneers to blood, gathered arms for the White Army etc.
Many parents ask about slogans they know from their childhood: “Be prepared!”. After October revolution in 1917 new authorities formed urgently a new pioneer organization on the basis of the suppressed scout movement using all signs of scouts. New pioneer movement (the name was given by a former scoutmaster who became a Bolshevik) have taken a lot from scouts: from slogan and rules (though based on the communist ideology), to shorts and staves.
If you look at the pre-war and after war “Book of Pioneers Leaders”, “Pioneer’s companion» etc. you can see even non retouched illustrations from scout books of 1910-s.
How all that happened? Why Scouting has attracted tens of millions followers all over the world? Why more and more boys and girls in Russia would like to become scouts despite hard times? In this article we will try to answer all these questions.
At the earliest days of Scouting, in 1908 English General Robert Baden-Powell, whom scouts call simply BP, wrote a wonderful book “Scouting for Boys”. That was the beginning of the scout movement, which currently has 50 million of followers all over the world. There is some irony in the fact, that BP did not even think about offering his system of training to girls and young women. But when all young people and children who were interested in Scouting met together in 1909 in Crystal Palace, a huge London football-stadium, Sir Robert was amazed - big groups of girls in hats with wide flaps and with patrol flags could be easily seen among 11 000 of “new-born” - scouts.
With translation of “Scouting for boys” Scouting itself spread all over the world: a big serious play for grown-ups and children during all their lives - game for whole life.
The date of birth of the Russian Scouting is on April 30, 1909, when Captain Oleg Pantukhoff formed a first scout patrol in Tsarskoe Selo (residence of Tsar) and named it “Beaver”. Together with other young and enlightened people of that time he was under the impression of the book “Junyj Razvedchik” -“Young scout”, a Russian version of the famous book “Scouting for boys” by BP, translated and published by the Nikolas II Romanof command in 1908 by the Typography in Academy of Chief HQ of the Army.
Conservative Russian society did not pay much interest to the new movement and for years scouts were something like beautiful foreign toy in their shorts and hats with wide flaps.
Step-by-step voluntary scout movement attracted people as a club and united people from the middle class and higher society - some members of the Tsar’ Family following the example of other European Royal families, became patrons of the Russian scouts. “Russian Scout”, a new sponsorial society, provided Russian scouts with the equipment and uniform needed. The famous patrons such as publishers Berezovskiy, Shelaputin and Sytin provided scouts and people interested in Scouting with popular and special literature needed, by reasonable price.
1916 was a year of the explosion of the scout movement in Russia.
According to some data, at the end of the year, scout work already existed in more than 143 towns of the Russian Empire with total headcount of 50 000 scouts and girl-scouts. Tens of eminent journalists, lawyers, entrepreneurs and young officers became scout leaders. During their meetings they always emphasized not political, but civil character of the movement. They required that scouts were free from gymnasiums and colleges administration, though the latest could provide them with room for training.
Thereby Scouting was separated from the school, but used a spontaneously appeared in some organizations “an iron law of the wintertime”, when a scout who received a bad mark in school could not attend scout training until he or she improves the situation.
More details of the Russian scout history - see History
As the result of the difficult development of the Russian Scouting in the exile, movement abroad was separated into several formations each of which pretended (some of them still are pretending) to be exclusive, though some of them for a long time had been working under reactive emigrant parties leadership, which is impermissible for Scouting.
What Scouting IS and NOT:
Scouting ends when the influence of politics and adherence to the ideals of the specific political movement or party become crucial for scout leaders.
Scouting as a movement is free of politics as it is, propaganda of political ideas among scouts is strictly forbidden. As a citizen, scout leader can be a member of any non-extremist political party, but as a scout leader he or she should forget of all his political opinions when wearing his scout uniform. Perhaps this is too idealistic, but scout movement is mostly based on trust and honesty. When you broke it - you stop being a scout.
One more difference between scout and many other youth movements and concepts is in clear and well developed system of age approach, when each age level has its own programs, tests and training. When becoming a grown-up young people pass the same stages as a manhood in the past, that is why all scout programs are based on the following principle - from simple to complicated, from primitive to delicate. Redyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book” known in Russia as “Mowgli” has been taken as a basis for the work of the young scouts’ pack. Akela, a grown-up leader of the pack teach his younger brothers how to live in the forest, games, simple skills that later will transform into a serious thing and will be developed all the time.
To become a scout a child needs to learn all tests according to his age group and lower age groups. To accomplish them a newcomer has 3-5 months, all this time they can wear uniform but without signs and lily (in the Russian Union of Scouts newcomers wear orange ties). A child will be a newcomer, or in the words of scouts - “coddle”. But at the day of the newcomer last test, he or she will receive lily and badges accordingly.
This day a patrol accept formally a scout into its members, this day he or she says sacred words of Promise:
“To my honor I promise to do my duty service to God and Motherland, to help people and to follow the rules of scouts”.
Children and grown ups get in scouts an opportunity to prepare themselves to , life in society, learn how to behave in extreme circumstances, they get a participation in the world movement - brotherhood of scouts, non-formal communication with representatives of different social groups in Russia and abroad, adventurous expeditions and travelling to exotic countries to see local scouts (the cost of such travelling is much lower than via travel agencies) and finally they can do what they want to do and what can be found in the amazing world of SCOUTING.
Junior scouts- the best kids in the World
It seems that already now you can make your own judgement on Scouting. I would like to continue with the story about junior scouts - our favorite Beavers, Wolf-cubs and Bunny-cubs.
“Wolf-cubs”, a traditional name for this age group was invented by BP. In 1916 Sir Robert wrote a wonderful book, a manual “The wolf cub’s handbook”. It’s story line is a game with life and characters of the famous Rudyard Kipling’s “Jungle Book”.
Sometimes traditional name “wolf-cubs” (for boys and girls) and “bunnu-cubs” for girls is changed to “penguins”, “leopards” etc. (do not mix with “beavers” - the junior group of scouts from 5 to 7 years).
Training with junior scouts is usually done in a carpeted room or children sit on tourist mats. The program of classes with wolves and bunnies includes more learning games and is more funny, informal and “less disciplined” than classes with scouts.
Due to the young age wolf-cubs has a very warm relationships with Akela, leader of the pack. Scout name of the leader (any respectable scout leader has its own scout name) can be different, but for wolf-cubs he or she will always remain Akela - an elder friend and advisor.
You can not be too strict to wolf-cubs as to scouts; they are not scouts yet. Even when they give the Promise of the wolf-cub, the child is still wishing to become a real scout.
It is not desired that you take wolf-cubs into the camp without qualification of Akela and good equipment, but if so you should take additional instructors and/or parents in order to provide full security and effectiveness of wolf-cubs in the camp. It is optimal when junior scouts live in base camps or training centers with buildings or warm tents.
It is very important from the very beginning of the scout life to cultivate in wolf-cubs the feeling of the camp as a holiday, brotherhood of scouts of different ages, unification in organization - that is why junior scouts can wear almost the same badges as scouts and leaders.
Pay attention to the special skills which scouts are trained - so called system of “specialties”. For junior scouts specialties are divided into the following parts:
Each scout must earned as minimum three proficiency: ATHLET, SWIMMER, NATURE HIKER.
After accomplishing each complex of testes (there are 45 of them for cub-scouts, and more than 80 for the scouts). Each scout receives a special patch according to his specialization or sews an emblem on the left sleeve. As the time goes by, it becomes a necessity for the kid to receive a new patch, we call it “patch hunt”. You can only appreciate such interest, because behind this there are weeks and months of kid’s self-development work!
The uniform of younger scouts is light-blue, newcomers have orange ties, cubs that already made a Promise, wear ties of their pack. There could be different names of packs, since kid’s fantasy knows no limits: “Double knot”, “Green Feather”, “Eagles” - all the names serve to enhancement of romantic Scouting attitude and appear as a key-theme of long-lasting game.
As an example, here’s a plan of 1-hour class with younger scouts:
…Usually, by this time the parents start to peep in the door reminding that the time of class has come to an end 20 minutes ago. As a homework, younger scouts prepare themselves for accomplishing the “proficiency test ”, or make Scout pieces of art - tie knots (a real Scout seldom ties a knot, but fixes it with a special holder, and he usually has many of them), or repair the equipment and uniform, or learns new songs.
Agreement between parents and Scouting
The parents must of course understand, that the Scout organization can successfully work only with full family support and only as a next step of in-family education. We can not, and we do not wan, to replace family and school for the kids, but the parents must understand, that Scouting is a voluntary activity, and there’s absolutely unacceptable to order something to Scout leaders, as if they were governors or paid baby-sitters.
One of your first steps towards scouting and supporting your kids’ interest could be the written permission to your kid to join the Scout organization. In this way you give:
All Scout activities, connected with certain difficulties and risks (trips, trainings, rallies, trials), are run only by qualified instructors, which is documentary proven. Besides that, all the instructors bear an additional responsibility in their Promise. But life is life and the optimum protection mean for a kid is an insurance policy. Insurance is OBLIGATORY for foreign trips and extreme trainings (survival, mountain camps, Etc.) and is desirable during regular trips and camps.
The instructors often do not have the academic pedagogic education, but accomplished a range of special trainings and courses. Moreover, you have to understand that only enthusiasts can work and play with “alien” kids in there spare tine (absolutely for free). It could be quite easily explained: Scouting is a big club - where there’s no real difference in age. So we are really happy if someone of the parents is willing to be come a scout leader or join the organization.
But what to do, if you don’t have a Scout troop near you, where you can address you kid? That’s the right time to use your authority… an gather first boy- or girl-scout patrol among or kids’ friends, send us a letter or fax, get first instructions for the work. Life is life, and who knows, may happen, it is just what you were missing.
Some more arguments for Scouting
There are several more things you need to know letting your kid to become a Scout:
Certainly, more often it’s not 5-star hotels, but it’s the rule of the club, and there’s no other way of learning the other country, than talking to it’s people, living in a guest-families and camps.
All mentioned above should not be should not be crucial for you. If your kid won’t be a good Scout, you can always choose a travel agency…
I would also like to warn you against “consumer” attitude to the leaders and Scouting in general. The learning skills of Scouting can only add to school and family education, but would hardly replace it.
Theoretically, every kid or adult could become a scout, but in practice - not really. About 60% of people leave their troops within one year period, even with best scoutmasters. That is way kids are often given trial period of almost a year, before they will be ready to call themselves Scouts.
Bad discipline, absence on trainings and meetings - is an indirect parents’ fault, which often leads to the kid being removed from the scout life.
In case that there’s some kind of agreement between you and the scout leader, it should not be only the scout leader’s obligation, and you can not demand from him something that you can not change yourself.
If parents do not show any understanding or support to scouting work, it often negatively affects the relations between them and scout leaders and make it hard for the kid to stay in a patrol.
We warn our instructors to enroll kids with deviant psychics and extra-motorics. In certain conditions such kid would put his as well as others’ lives under hazard.
Please help the instructor in his job!
Aware of imitation!
A real scoutmaster must smiling as Clint Eastwood (it’s joke).
As one of the safety measures, we require all our instructors to show on the first request full set of formal papers, demonstrating, that the person belongs to officially registered scout organization.
For instance, all Russian Union of Scouts instructors, working with children, must have:
All documents must have an official seal of the organization and signature of a senior leader, confirming their authenticity. Our instructor will meet your request with understanding, and the charlatans will have to draw back.
One of our major concerns - training and search of instructors, who will be able in their free time to work with kids free of charge and get additional knowledge and skills on special training courses. (By the way, in RUS there are almost a hundred instructors and non of them receives a salary).
Ideally, each instructor working with children (since there are other instructors, responsible for trainings, camps, equipment, etc.) must have his own parental experience. And it could be a good reason for many mothers and fathers to join the scout movement - to become an instructor, and help his own kids, himself and the whole movement - to make his life better, more complicated and yet more interesting.