Scouting - More Than a Century of Community Engagement

(Note: In some nations, including the United States, there has been a breach of sacred trust, but overall, but scouting has done a great deal of good in a great many places. We’ll focus there, and acknowledge that past problems are being addressed.)

The Scout movement provides a good example of local communities doing the right things to nurture their young people. Kids learn through a combination of work, community service, exploration, adventure and play. Boy Scouts learn about “character, integrity, selflessness and self-reliance” in a model society that encourages collaboration (between kids, parents and sponsoring organizations—all local). Mostly, kids learn from one another by working together on projects—many requiring time outdoors, some involving adventure. The sense of community is reinforced through the primal practice of stories told around the campfire, songs, mottos, a special handshake and salute, an oath and laws committed to memory in precise language.

“[In 2017, U.S. Boy] Scouts earned more than 1.8 million merit badges,” each one requiring involvement of peer and adult leaders (the ultimate textbook example of gamification). In The Philippines, badges required for rank advancement through First Class Scout include Citizenship in the Home, Safety, Citizenship in the Community, First Aid, Filipino Heritage, and either Ecology or Tree Farming. Individual and local Filipino interests are pursued through elective badges: Archery, Hiking, Dramatics, Photography, and dozens more including Rabbit Raising, Seamanship, and Coconut Growing. In the U.S., 55,494 young men earned their Eagle badges, a major achievement celebrated by the community and carried on their lifetime resumes; in 2019, new rules will allow girls to become Eagle Scouts, too. In addition, 1.3 million boys (6-10) begin their journey as Cub Scouts. Worldwide, there are 1.8 million Girl Scouts (and Girl Guides, as they are known outside the U.S. and several other countries).

More than 30 million scouts live in the Asia-Pacific region. There are scouts and scout troops in Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Fiji, Indonesia, and two dozen other Asian and Pacific nations. Indonesia’s Gerakan Pamuka is the world’s largest national scouting organization; more 15 million boys and girls belong. Scouting is popular throughout the world—with over 40 million members (boys and girls), but most scouts live in or near Asia. Down from a high of more than 4 million, there are now fewer than a million scouts in the U.S.,

This is a bigger story than we can cover in a single blog article. The history and global trends are impressive, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Scouts are not the only community service organizations for kids—there are many religious organizations, and civic organizations, too (the Key Club operates thousands of clubs in about 40 countries). There’s Little League and many community sports programs, church programs, and many other ways for adults to teach and guide kids in their communities.

Kids’ interactions with fellow students, teachers, organized sports programs, school plays, school clubs, and special activities including field trips and service projects, the significance of community in 21st century childhood and adolescence are leading factors in growth and development. Many believe 21st century life is closely aligned with technology and media, but community engagement is more powerful and longer-lasting.


Copyright © 2020 by Howard Blumenthal. All Rights Reserved.