When I first read Robert Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys, I was struck with the romance of the idea. Throughout the book there were stories of men and the adventures they had and the things they accomplished. Baden-Powell referred to all of these men—including King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table—as “Scouts.” The idea, as I understand it, was that he intended the youth in the Scouting program to look up to these examples of manhood and worthy character and want to become like them. The Scouting program with all its methods (uniform, advancement, patrols, etc.) was a tool developed to tap into a boy’s imagination and help him become a man. Romance is built into the very core of the Scouting program.
I also recently read the 1st edition of the Handbook for Boys, the American version of the Scouting manual. What struck me most was the difference in tone between this book and Scouting for Boys. Gone were the stories of Knights and adventurers. The romance wasn’t there. It made me wonder why anyone would want to be a Boy Scout. It got better with later editions of the Handbook, but lately it seems to have gotten worse.
We've taken away the iconic images. Look at your Boy Scout Handbook. Most of the pictures are photographs, and you'd be hard pressed to find one with boys in a uniform. When they do have a uniform, they never have a neckerchief, let alone a hiking staff. Compare that to Scouting for Boys. Baden-Powell's illustrations were about the ideal Boy Scout. Same with older versions of the Handbook for Boys. Sure, it might be unrealistic in today's world, but that's not the point. They presented to the mind of the reader the romantic idea of what it means to be a Boy Scout.
I think our modern version of Scouting, particularly in the LDS church, is often missing the romance. Most LDS troops, being small, simply don't have functioning patrols. We usually don’t use a boy’s imagination to help him learn. We don’t often play games to teach skills. We often focus too much on badges and ranks and forget to play the game. And we almost never hold up men in front of boys and paint them as heroes. We don’t give them the desire to become. But we can. We have great heroes we can point to. I'll show you a few in the next post. Let’s re-capture that romantic ideal of a Boy Scout.
In the Venturing program we have even more challenges. What is the romantic ideal behind Venturing? I don't think one has been established, at least nation-wide. Venturing doesn't use the classic Boy Scout organization of a Troop made of Patrols. There is no built-in romance. Each crew can choose a specialty and, I suppose that specialty can provide it's own romantic ideal. I've started to wonder what that could be for an LDS crew focused on religious life and missionary preparation. And I've got an idea, but I'm not quite sure how to use it. When I figure it out, I'll be sure to let you know.