"Scouting is a Game with a Purpose"

Thoughts on bringing the values of Scouting through to youth

By a Quiet Campfire

It is getting late. You are sitting by the fire. The Scouts are in their tents asleep. At least you think they are. After all, it’s your first night out. Just one more cup of coffee and you’ll call it a night. You stare into the fading embers — memories drifting back to your own days as a Scout.

You look up, and sitting on the log on the other side of the fire is an elderly man. He looks familiar. It takes you a minute to realize who it is. He is dressed in an old fashioned, though somewhat elegant Scout uniform. Shorts, knee-socks, short-sleeved shirt (A really old style shirt. They haven’t worn them for years). He is wearing a Wood Badge neckerchief, woggle and beads. His face shows years of experience, but somehow is young. It is his eyes. They are bright blue and sparkle like a youngsters. They almost twinkle.

He looks over at you and smiles. And then, it slowly dawns on you. As improbable as it might seem, the man facing you across the fire is B-P —The "Founder"— The Chief Scout of the World.

"You know," he says as he leans forward to stirs the embers with a blackthorn cane, "I have often wondered if Scouting would keep up with the youth of the world, long after I was gone, and with all the changes that progress would bring. So many things have changed since the early days, then a second world war, and the pace of technology. Life seems so much more complicated today. And yet the problems you have today are so much like the ones I saw when I returned from my years in South Africa."

His accent was what we would describe as "very British." His manner was relaxed and friendly as he continued. "As I toured the country, England that is, back in the days before the "First War," I saw the problems of a lack of direction for our youth. I saw crime and poverty, declining standards of morality, and an educational system that did not seem to be able to keep up with the needs of our society or civilization. This was of great concern to me and to many others.

"You probably know how Scouting began — about Brownsea Island, and Scouting for Boys. I told the story in my Lessons from the Varsity of Life, written back in 1933. I wrote first about my retirement from the Army:

"It was a big wrench to take this last step out of the Service that I had loved so well, though at the same time I did not mind taking my foot out of the ladder (of promotion), for I had no wish to do any further climbing on it…."

"It was no small consolation to receive from the Secretary of State for War the letter which he sent me, expressing his kindly regret in losing me from the Army, in which he added: "… But I feel that the organisation of your Boy Scouts has so important a bearing on the future that probably the greatest service you can render to the country is to devote yourself to it."

"And so ended my Life Number One."

"As I wrote in Lessons … about the beginnings of my Life Number Two, I described some simple rules for developing the framework of Scouting:"

"The Framework.
"To build a scheme, whether for a speech, a book, or a movement, you have:
1. To set up its AIM clearly before you.
2. In a movement for boys the next essential is to make it attractive for them.
3. Then to devise a definite code for their guidance.
4. Then to form a suitable organization under competent leaders."

"Our aim was to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in CHARACTER and HEALTH. One had to think out the main weak points in our national character and make some effort to eradicate thes by substituting equivalent virtues, where the ordinary school curriculum was not in a position to supply them. Outdoor activities, handicrafts, and service to others therefore came to the forefront."

"That aim of character and health were expanded by the founders of Scouting in America to Character, Citizenship and Fitness. And more than 80 years later these aims remain the same.

"I have always been fond of saying that "Scouting is a game with a purpose." Even today, we can still say, Scouting is about three things: It’s about fun. It’s about values, and it’s about learning. Fun is the game, learning is the process, and values are the purpose."

"The challenge is much the same today — and still the Scoutmaster is the key. I described the Scoutmaster’s role many years ago in my little book Aids to Scoutmastership:"

The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother….

He has simply to be a boy-man, that is:
(1) He must have the boy spirit in him: and must be able to place himself in the right plane with his boys as a first step.
(2) He must realise the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
(3) He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
(4) He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results.

As he speaks, the embers of the fire are burning low. For a moment you stare into their glow and think about what he has said. It seems that even with the passage of years, the goals of Scouting are much the same. You look up from the fire and he is gone. It is quiet, the boys are all asleep. The stars twinkle as you head for your tent thinking all the while of your visitor … or was he just something you imagined as you watched the fire.

Please Note: The quotations in black letters are from Baden-Powell’s Lessons from the Varsity of Life, 1933, and his Aids to Scoutmastership, 1920. All other B-P quotations are the product of the author’s imagination. The material in these pages is the original work of the author. Some portions appear in program and training literature of the Boy Scouts of America.

Ethics in Action

In 1983, the Viking Council in Minneapolis, Minnesota began work on an initiative that would come to be known as Ethics in Action. Working with the Center for Youth Development and Research at the University of Minnesota, new program materials were developed for Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting and Exploring.

The approach is experiential, using the same educational methods B-P used as he developed the Scouting program. "Learning by doing" remains at the heart of Scouting, though its roots are documented in ancient times:

"Anything that we have to learn to do we learn by the actual doing of it: people become builders by building, and instrumentalists by playing instruments. Similarly we become just by performing just acts, temperate by performing temperate ones, brave by performing brave ones …. So it is a matter of no little importance what sort of habits we form from the earliest age — it make a vast difference, or rather all the difference in the world."

–Aristotle, Nichomachaen Ethics.

An HTML version of The DELTA Handbook provides the background of the original Ethics-in-Action program as developed in Minnesota. It covers theory as well as practical information and activities. A variety of initiative games and Scoutcraft skill contests are also included. This little red book was the working handbook for the development and testing of the Boy Scouting elements of Ethics in Action. Steve Tobin’s "The NetWoods Virtual Campsite" provides a downloadable version of the DELTA Handbook. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the reflection process and other activities that help bring the values of Scouting through for youth.

Most of the elements of the original Ethics in Action program are now part of Scouting. These pages explore the background and the resources available to leaders in Scouting to help them bring the values of Scouting through to youth. The content has been adapted from the DELTA Handbook, supporting materials developed for Ethics in Action, and original materials developed by the author. Some of these appear, in one form or another, in the training literature of the BSA.

Scouting is a Game with a Purpose: Links

  By a Quiet Campfire
  What are Values?
  Bringing Scouting’s Values through to Youth
  Problem Solving
  Why You Should Read Chapter 10
of the Scoutmaster Handbook
  Some Thoughts on Reflection
Under development
  Community Service: An Extra Dimension
Under development

Return to the Pine Tree Web Home Page: A Collection of the Authors Links

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Please write to:
Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1996
Last Modified: 1:118 PM 11-24-96