Scouting with the Handbook

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“Do you have your handbook?” How many times at meetings have you asked this question?

As a passionate scouter, I enjoy the opportunity to interact with the scouts. As I sit to reflect about how to improve my skills, I often wonder if my passion is getting in the way of truly allowing the boys to play the game of scouting.

The story of the spread of scouting in the early 1900’s keeps coming to mind. There were two parts to the process: boys naturally grouping together in patrols to camp and play the game of scouting versus the adults trying to promote its spread for their own purposes. Each has furthered scouting.

Yet we see time and time again, adult promotion and activity does not always spark the boy’s imagination. Many troops struggle from adult ideas on how to improve the game of scouting, but the boys might feel the effort is not fun at all.

As a boy, I remember reading the Greenbar Bill Hillcourt authored handbook cover to cover. He inspired a passion in me for the game. As an adult, I see many boys carry the handbook into meetings, the paper perfectly smooth and almost untouched. In other books I see paper clips and dog eared pages and broken bindings. Care to guess which book belongs to the passionate scout? The First Class scout who volunteers to leave his friends’ patrol to serve as the new scouts’ patrol leader at their request? 

1977 edition

Should I be asking the boys to teach themselves more of their skills by helping them find the right chapter in the handbook then walking away? Would that allow them to build the same passion I had for Greenbar Bill’s writings?

Scouting is not school. With so many merit badge classes at camp, we often get sidetracked from making scouting an experience and opportunity for counseled self-teaching. Instead we turn into a classroom in the woods. If the boys read and try, rather than sit and listen yet again, how have we made their life better?

Let’s set some personal goals for camp this summer. Second only to “I don’t know, have you asked your patrol leader?” the second most common question in camp should be “What does your handbook say about it?”

Let’s see if we can create some more dog ears in those handbooks this summer.

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