Re: "Eve" and young men...
Gerry Donaldson (GDONALDSON@CBE.AB.CA)
Sun, 4 Apr 1993 00:23:00 -0700
I have just joined this list and find myself amazed at the
discussion about why "older" boys (15-18) drop out of
Scouting. I became the Adviser to a Venturer Scout Company
two and one-half years ago. There were seven boys who wanted
to start a Company. They were all fifteen years old. They
are now all 17 years old and all fully active. We have met
virtually every week since then excepting for holidays. I
shall be quite sad to see their departure next fall as they
trail off to different universities.
I'm not sure why some young men leave. I'm not certain as to
why our Company stayed together, but I thought that I would
share some observations. Perhaps you will notice something
different that our Company takes for granted.
First, they are not "boys". They are young men. They and not
I run the Company. I have a veto power over anything they do
if I don't like it. I have never used that veto power. I
have never had to. Their decisions have usually been wise,
and when they were not wise they were necessary experiences to
gain the wisdom.
Each and every decision in our Company requires 100% consensus
at a meeting. A quorum of 5 of the seven members is required
for a legal meeting. Some decisions require hours of
discussion, but most are made within minutes.
We meet every Wednesday for a "supper meeting". A different
Venturer is responsible for supper for the entire Company.
They take turns. If they forget, they must buy pizza for the
We don't worry about badges and "programme" in a formal sense.
As it happens, everyone very much enjoys camping, hiking,
skiing, canoeing, sailing, and a plethora of sports. Each has
reinforced the other in treating school very seriously. All
are the very best of friends. The Company has adopted a small
boy in a third world country. All care very much about others
both within the Company and those they meet at school, work
and in their homes. Most of the time their is laughter. All
are confident in their personae and the best of company. All
are focused, this year in particular. Life is important to
them. They want to do meaningful things. They will.
It has always been understood that young ladies were not
welcomed in the Company. These young men date and interact
with female peers in virtually every other area of their
lives. I wonder how many of you have forgotten the pressure
of sexual attraction during adolescence. Ann Landers is right
when she talks of one set of hormones calling to another.
Young men need a sanctuary where they need not play the
"role", where they can speak candidly with others of their own
sex about the problems that, yes, are "unique" to young men.
Their conversation is serious and respectful. It does not
match the sexist locker room image touted by feminists.
We have been to camps where "co-ed" Companies join in. All is
fun around the camp, but it is not the same. Young ladies
(and young men) do not just want to talk until three in the
morning. The young ladies that we have seen in Scouting
somehow do not appreciate an all out sprint in the countryside
at midnight. And somehow, all understand that there will be
no skinny dipping at a coed camp. We have also noted that
some coed Companies have developed the habit of bringing
ghetto blasters into the wilderness for their evening
entertainment. Sounds more like a "boys and girls club",
It was determined from the beginning that our Company would be
a "term" Company, that others would not be admitted after it
was formed. All the members have continued to make new
acquaintances outside the Company, but the stability of tried
and true relationships have remained a haven of peace in the
turbulence of adolescence.
I am always amazed when I hear of troops and companies
attempting to mix ages. I sometimes wonder how long it has
been since the Scouters (adults) were that age. Very seldom
do boys three years apart ... say 14 and 17 ... have much
truly in common. Typically (and there are exceptions to be
sure, but that is what they are ... exceptions) the older boy
is MUCH stronger, MUCH more experienced with the opposite sex,
and feels MUCH greater pressure to perform! These two age
cohorts are virtually from different generations. One is a
man and the other ... well, wanting to be a man.
These young men need something stable in their lives.
Relationships with the opposite sex are seldom stable during
these years. Playing the role of "big brother" brings
pressure. Religious elders have their own agenda for youth.
Where are these young men to find peace of mind, free from
pressures and stable relationships?
And what of religion? In my Company each of every young man
is very "spiritual", but some care less about the formal rites
of institutionalized religion. One can well understand the
desire of some religions to piggy back the success of
Scouting, for traditional religions have generally failed
miserably to satisfy the spiritual needs of youth. Young
people watch and worry about the plight of the world. Many
see the trappings of formal religion as part of the problem,
not part of the solution, but that's another issue. To be
blunt, it is my belief that it is formalized that often drives
many young men from the movement. In Calgary I have too often
watched young men putting in their time in Scouting in order
to satisfy their religious commitment to a particular sect.
When that "duty" is satisfied, Scouting is over! They leave
in droves ... but then I would argue that THEY (the young men
who fulfilled religious duties through participation in
Scouting) were never actually a part of Scouting tradition. A
young man should CHOOSE Scouting.
Baden Powell knew well the power of "gangs". These
"groupings" are as cross cultural as any phenomena we know.
The troop and company have can satisfy the young man's urge to
interact with others of his own age and sex.
The point, as I see it, is this. The secret to the success of
Scouting is not camping and badges and formal programmes and
certainly not the performance of religious duties. The key is
recognizing that Scouting, when it works for young men, is
doing things together at a crucial time of their life with
others experiencing the same pressures and aspirations. It is
really a mental health sanctuary. This need can be satisfied
by "street" gangs or "supper" gangs. Scouting has as a code
that essentially requires that we do our best and express our
love of our fellow human beings with deeds and not platitudes.
I began this thinking that I would be nonjudgemental, but I
obviously changed my mind. Scouting as a movement is growing
and will continue to grow so long as people such as those on
this list continue to genuinely care more about their charges
and less about being "politically correct". I do not regard
it as sexist to acknowledge that young men need the company of
young men away from young ladies. I do not regard it as
elitist to suggest that adolescents need the company of other
adolescents at the same stage of development. I do not regard
it as sacrilegious to protest the usurpation of the Scouting
programme by some religious sects because Scouting succeeds
where dogmatism fails.
Where Scouting fails the adolescent male of 15-18 years of
age, I suggest that it is because somebody forgot whose needs
it is that the movement addresses. These young men are not
icons fabricated by political pundits. They are the
embodiment of culture shaping biochemistry. Culture can
shape, but it cannot ignore that which it shapes.
Yours in Scouting,
Gerry Donaldson, Advisor
228th Venturer Scout Company
Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City