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Recycled Scouters, Or...

I Don't Want to Be a Dinosaur

by Lynn Johnson - The Leader - Feature - March 1996

"Prolonged exposure to solely administrative roles can be dangerous to your usefulness."
When we're appointed to an administrative role in Scouting, the membership card should carry the above warning.

Why (please tell me) do we pay lip service by saying the youth and section leaders are the all-important base to the Movement, then funnnel those we consider the best trained and most effective into jobs where they make no meaningful contact with either? As a matter of policy we sometimes discourage them from doing section work even as a side hobby.

Of course I can recite the reasons for this reality. We put them in these jobs to influence a greater number of people for good. We try to keep them in one position to increase efficiency and prevent burnout.

Hey, that's perfectly good thinking, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, once in administration, training or committees, these talented people tend to stay there, doing a series of rather similar tasks (or even the same one) over and over. Their job titles often carry prestige. The volunteers form little groups of like-minded friends. New Scouters look at them in awe, wanting to progress to their stage.

Future Shock Today

Meanwhile, children and their lifestyles and education are changing. The charming innocents I led in 1965 were a lot different from the youth I deal with today. Cubs I work with now worry about AIDS, drugs, sexual molestation, war, cancer, child abuse and divorce. Some are struggling to adjust to our language and culture. Many do not have an extended family. Others have what might be called the over-extended family: complicated multiple re-marriages, visiting rights, and important adults hostile to each other. Attitudes, songs and jokes we once took for granted may now be seen as racist, sexist or quaint. Even hero-worship is fraught with problems today as the media reveal ugly details of the private lives of prominent men and women.

The public education system now has borrowed many of Scouting's most prominent and ground-breaking features. These include,

Scouting has changed and continues to evolve to meet this challenge, but it is a tremendously complex and ceaselessly restless situation. In the almost four years I've been absent from direct contact with the Beaver program, I've lost touch with many things. Before making decisions affecting that section now, I would want to talk with current leaders and with youth.

Recharge Through Renewal

Perhaps we should arrange and encourage set periods for necessary renewal of Scouting leaders. Many of our jobs have specific lengths of service. Why couldn't a retiring district commissioner spend the next year as an Akela before taking his skills to some committee? Why can't a committee member become a Troop Service Scouter, visiting a number of Troops and Troop Scouters? After three years of adult wrangling, it might be soul-refreshing to get back to the real reason the Movement exists -- to build up youth. Or alternatively, perhaps it would be beneficial for all Scouting administrators to spend an hour a month with a youth section as part of their job description.

Why not celebrate a change of role by re-taking a training course? I took my Pack Woodbadge Part 2 course in 1965 and again in 1971. In this short period, there were massive changes in content and philosophy. I gained enormously from both. The Part 2's we run now are very different again.

Let's enhance and update our Scouting experience by returning to the grassroots. Let's put the FUN back into our Scouting lives by returning to the children. Let's allow them to teach us how to play again!

-- Lynn Johnson was the Deputy Regional Commissioner, Greater Toronto Region, Ontario.

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