[Note, these thoughts are mine and don’t necessarily represent the views of any Scouting organization directly, just my interpretation. It is important that all Scouts contemplate the importance of inclusivity and diversity themselves and make up their own minds about this issue. If you think your views might inspire others, you might want to share as I have. If you’d rather express your views privately to your Rover Scout Leader, you are most welcome to do that. I hope my comments are helpful as just one person’s perspective who’s had a bit of experience along the Way.]
Good day, fellow Brother & Sister Rovers! I'm writing here to publicly express my views about inclusivity and Scouting. As many of you know, traditional Scouting was founded originally in 1970 in England as a reaction to Scouting becoming less like the vision of its founder, Robert Baden-Powell. B-P envisioned Scouting to be "cheerful service in the open air" and worked hard to promote international understanding and Brotherhood/Sisterhood, himself traveling often to develop Scouting in less developed nations and promoting many World Jamborees. By the 1960s, over 20 years after his death, Scouting had changed, with many countries like the US shifting their focus inwards away from other nations (not hosting a World Jambo from 1967 to 2019!) and with the program becoming more indoor-oriented in many ways around corporate leadership models, with Scouts becoming a far less vital force in their communities than years past. By the time traditional Scouting made its way to the US in the early 2000s, it was fueled by the struggle BSA and GSA were having with inclusivity, barring members of other genders, non-mainstream sexual preferences, and non-mainstream religious views. It seemed like these organizations were moving at a snail's pace to keep up with changes in the world. Fortunately, traditional Scouting helped lead the way, modeling inclusivity from its origins here.
I personally am proud to be a part of Scouting organizations--such as the Rovering 4 Life Association, the International Scout Fellowship, and the World Federation of Independent Scouts--that aim towards minimizing bias and prejudice of any kind and teaches Scouts how to think more openly and naturally (as they would if they were not brainwashed) about those who are different than they are (which is everyone, really). Truly, we are all different. I like to say there are as many religions or spiritualities as there are people in the world. No one face is alike. There are many, many shades of skin tone, all of them a version of brown...ditto with hair color. Each gender is beautiful and powerful in its own right and brings gifts and strengths that the “other” gender needs to recognize and admire with gratitude, rather than either trying to control the other or make the other more like them. And then there are those who are “in-between,” who have a balance of male and female energy, or who feel more masculine but have a woman’s body or the reverse. There is so much wondrous variety in our world...and it is BY DESIGN. Look around. There are 1000s of species you don’t even realize exist...in the depths of the ocean...in the depths of rain forests. So many options, so many varieties...and all serve to move our world forward in its glorious evolution.
Why do so many hate what they don’t understand? What is different from themselves (again, which is everything else that is not them, ultimately)? Fear and ignorance come from a lack of understanding, a lack of experience, a lack of empathy, a lack of positive role models, a lack of love and support while growing up. These are also spread by the small minority holding power over the majority, as a way to throw them off the scent of how their happiness and prosperity are being swindled by those who would help them “see” that their enemies are those who are different, rather than those who would lie, control, harm and exploit. Look around you...look into the eyes of the Brothers and Sisters of this world, all here on the same journey to find meaning, peace, love, and happiness...just like US. When we hurt someone else...we hurt ourselves. Karma is real. There are no freebies. We earn and reap what we sow, period. When 1 person or people is exploited at the expense of another, the human race suffers...the world suffers.
We absolutely need to change direction as a species, before our world is destroyed. There is literally no more time for us to hate others, to refuse to work together, to refuse to care how our actions effect others in this world...other humans, other animals, other plants, other ecosystems...in short, our planet. We need to work together and embrace each other and our differences, to improve and truly save this world from destruction...destruction from global warming, from pollution, from war and genocide, from destruction of our primal ecosystems, from depletion of the nutritional value of our soil...from ignorance, exploitation, and abuse.
How, you might ask? Well, I can only use myself as an example. I have dedicated myself to serving others during my career working for the government, for the schools, for counseling agencies, and now as a counselor and coach in private practice. In my practice, I am open to others of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religions or spiritualities, genders, sexual orientation, etc. I have chosen to attend and graduate from a Historically Black College & University (HBCU). I have chosen to marry a woman from another country, far away from my own, a different religion, and a different culture. I have chosen to work for a small company, owned by a lesbian female couple, who promoted diversity in the workplace and served people with severe mental and physical disabilities, going out into their homes and communities, often in severely impoverished neighborhoods, where it was not pleasant or safe to work. I have chosen to become an Interfaith Spiritual Minister, promoting and supporting all religions and spiritualities in my counseling and coaching work. I have chosen to disassociate myself from both major political parties, recognizing that both are corrupt at their cores and only promote candidates who have sold their souls for money and power. I only vote for candidates I believe are good people as well as politicians, and I only send money directly to them, not to parties. I support Progressive candidates who respect all life, prioritize green, sustainable energy, commit to doing our best to slow down climate change and clean up our Earth, preserve our natural parks, forest, and natural resources, and reduce pollution, wars, and genocide of humans and animals globally. I decided 34 years ago to become a vegetarian, to reduce endless suffering and violence in the world, and to promote sustainability and reduce pollution and global destruction, and have for the past decade been mostly vegan. I compost, recycle, and try to eat simple food, mostly plants, grown from the earth around me. I plan in the future to become a smart farmer, growing much of my own food. I also plan to transition to renewable energy (solar and wind), catch and filter my own water, and continue to reduce my footprint as much as possible...and to teach others to do the same. You can do all of this yourself...or do it in another way that is just as meaningful and helpful to others and the world.
Back to inclusivity. Loving ourselves well means loving the world well, means loving all of its inhabitants well also. Remember a wise person once said, “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself,” or more wisely in other cultures, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourself.” Or in yet another, “We are all one. There is no other.” Simply put, BE A GOOD PERSON. Lead with love, forgiveness, openness, and a sense of curiosity, holding a space for everyone around you that is different...for that includes every single thing.
So, how does this tie into Scouting? Well, again, historically, diversity and World Brotherhood & Sisterhood were centrally important to Scouting’s founder, B-P. He imagined Scouting as a kind of protection against world war, and was devastated by the two World Wars he experienced, after Scouting had been created, and pondered often how Scouting had “failed” to prevent these wars. Myself, I see the reason. Scouting has too often been used as a tool by the government to promote the military, to create young soldiers for its ranks, in the case of the US and its western allies, to basically invade and exploit other poorer, weaker countries. This is deeply shameful. The USA has been at war for 227 of its 243 years as a nation. Fighting for democracy and freedom? NO! Fighting for hegemony, power, wealth, and control. Study history well, and you will find a different story than the one told in school textbooks, for another wise person said, “History is written by the victors,” to justify themselves in their slaughter and theft. Scouting must NEVER be a tool to promote militarism and war! This starts at home, with each and every Scouting group, with each and every leader and his/her modeling and teaching. This starts with US.
My mission in Scouting is, like B-P, to promote World Brotherhood & Sisterhood, with the ultimate goal being world peace and the preservation of the planet. Inclusivity is absolutely central to that goal, because it assumes that everyone has the right to be who they are, without prejudice and discrimination. And prejudice and discrimination are the major tools used to justify war and genocide, as well as corruption of the world’s ecosystems. And it all starts with teaching youth in Scouting and modeling this for them as Rovers, for youth are much more open to inclusivity and usually do it on their own until they are discouraged by adults. Let’s open our hearts and minds together to the critical importance of inclusivity, of diversity, of world peace and preservation of our planet, of a true Brotherhood & Sisterhood of Service in the Open Air! Let’s make Scouting a vital and central organization and experience to make this happen, together, ALL. Shall we?
Chief Rover Scout, Ken Pataky
Of all of the principles of the Scout Law, I’ve struggled the most with traditional point #7, A Scout is Obedient. As an educated American who values my integrity above almost all else, living my whole life in a country founded on democracy and liberty, where being independent is a primary virtue, I am not one to take orders well that contradict my conscience. Personally, I believe our country has become ill and decrepit, primarily because too many people have been obedient...to corrupt government leaders, school teachers and administrators at all levels, corporate employers, the military, the police, banks, the wealthy, and the corporately owned media. We are taught to be obedient as children and adolescents and as adults, and for some it never wears off. Over time, many lose their natural will for autonomy, their energy, their initiative, and their health, and become fearful complacent followers. They literally unlearn or never learn how to think for themselves and develop the discipline to act on their own conscience and do what is right and good for themselves and the world. They are then at risk of becoming controlled by the powerful minority to serve the will of the minority, and worse, to commit harm against the majority, their Brothers and Sisters.
To be clear, I am not advocating anarchy. Many rules exist for good reason, such as safety, respecting the rights and property of others, and keeping basic order in society. However, many rules are out of date and worse, were instituted for the control of the many by the few. Again, conscience, be it well developed, should be a guide. And obedience in the realm of adults is different than in the realm of children, though I believe that children should be respected as the future adults that they are and taught to make decisions for themselves based upon their conscience.
And what about the role of Scouting in all of this? As published by Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, in his 1908 UK landmark book, “Scouting for Boys,” he expounds on this precept further:
“A SCOUT OBEYS ORDERS of his patrol-leader, or scout master without question. Even if he gets an order he does not like, he must do as soldiers and sailors do, he must carry it out all the same because it is his duty; and after he has done it he can come and state any reasons against it: but he must carry out the order at once. That is discipline.”
Later, in the pamphlet, “The Scout Law and Promise Interpreted for Rovers,” which was incorporated into the booklet, The Presentation of a Rover Scout,” Baden-Powell had this to say about Obedience:
“As a Rover Scout you discipline yourself and put yourself readily and willingly at the service of constituted authority for the main good. The best disciplined community is the happiest community, but the discipline must come from within, and not merely be imposed from without. Hence the greater value of the example you give to others in this direction.”
The traditional Boy Scouts of America version reads thus:
“OBEDIENT. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.”
This tenet has remained has fixed in the Scout Law of the BSA or Boy Scouts of America, since the original version in 1910, though it has ironically disappeared from the current UK Scout’s Association version (it is still part of the WOSM or World Organization of the Scout Movement’s recommended version, based on Baden-Powell’s 1911 revision of 10 points of the Law). Interestingly, the modern UK version adds the following language as its 7th point:
“You may not always agree with other people, but you should always be willing to listen to what they have to say, and you should respect their views and opinions even when they do not match your own point of view.”
As I consider this Law of Scouting more deeply, I explore the following questions:
First, it’s fairly clear that as a British military officer, B-P’s intent initially was to prepare young working class boys to become obedient men, fit for military service, to glorify and sustain the British Empire throughout the world at the turn of the 20th century. He perceived a weakening in British society and as part of a cultural shift “back to nature,” he proposed a program that would excite boys to join and at the same time, capture their energy under the flag of obedience...to their leaders...who would later become their military officers. But there is also evidence that as he witnessed so many former Boy Scouts slaughtered and maimed in Britain and all over Europe as a result of World War I, that his perspective on this goal of Scouting shifted. B-P came to see Scouting as a beacon of hope to bring world peace, and focused in the later decades of his life on imputing Scouting with a drive to come together internationally to promote world peace. He promoted World Jamborees, the establishment of a permanent World Jamboree in Kandersteg, Switzerland, and traveled often to many countries to promote Scouting there. When he spoke at so many of these gatherings, he constantly lectured the crowds about the importance of a “worldwide Brotherhood of Scouting for the establishment of world peace.”
To shore up my theory that B-P considered Scouting to be a World Peace Movement, he stated in the pamphlet, “The Scout Law and Promise Interpreted for Rovers,” which was incorporated into the booklet, The Presentation of a Rover Scout,” concerning Friendliness to All:
“As a Rover Scout, you recognize other fellows as being, with yourself, sons of the same Father, and you disregard whatever may be their difference of opinion, or caste, creed, or country. You suppress your prejudices and find out their good points; any fool can criticise their bad ones. If you exercise this love for people of other countries you help to bring about international peace and good will, that is God's Kingdom on earth. ‘All the world's a Brotherhood.’”
I do find it both interesting and compelling that the expounded BSA interpretation of this tenet contains the American value not to put blind trust in leaders and to question what they say and measure it against one’s conscience, a principle that I’ve applied to my life since my youth. However, the BSA Scout Law does not go far enough. It continues to order obedience in all cases but only weakly recommends that Scouts continue to follow unjust laws while working to try to change them in an orderly way. I believe the modern UK Scouts Association version has it best, ordering only that Scouts respect others with whom they disagree and removing direct obedience from the Law completely. I believe this is the healthiest way to understand obedience, especially as one evolves from childhood to adulthood and no longer must obey authority no matter whether one agrees with what is ordered or not. In fact, I argue that to obey an order that is directly against one’s conscience--even in the case of a military order--is an affront to what is good, just, and natural and should never be done. Too much harm has resulted from this kind of thinking...includes the murdering of millions in wars and genocide and the destruction of our planet. There is nothing worth the corruption of one’s integrity and honor, the mark of traditional Knights upon whose example B-P built the concept of Scouting. For though Knights were in point of fact often contracted by rulers and authorities to do their bidding, they also had a code of honor that forbid them to harm others that didn’t deserve it or to otherwise cross their own consciences.
Admirably, Baden-Powell did allow the insertion of the words in the Oath/Promise “To render service to my country” in lieu of “To do my duty to God and to the Queen/King/my country” as what he called the Outlander’s Promise, respecting those who did not want to swear an Oath to God or to a Sovereign or Nation. This allowance and flexibility reflects my point that absolute obedience to authority figures is a reasonably questionable and arguably morally objectionable practice, potentially threatening autonomy, inclusiveness, and other important points of the Law and Promise (Courteousness, Kindness, Friendliness, Helpfulness at all times).
I am saddened that Scouting, at least in the BSA (USA), has continued to be a training ground for future soldiers and that the leadership of BSA in particular continues to vie for the military’s support of its programs. Other Scouting organizations in other countries--especially independent traditional associations such as under WFIS--have moved away from this practice and focus more on developing character, inclusiveness, cooperation, social skills, confidence, camaraderie and world Siblinghood, world peace, and a love and commitment to stewardship of the outdoors...principles that I believe represent the core value of Scouting to the world. It’s clear to me that’s what Baden-Powell wanted, especially as he and the Scouting Movement matured, and definitely after World War I. It’s also clear he didn’t support blind or unquestioning obedience, especially with Rovers.
My favorite Scout Promise is the current version by Scouts Australia, which does away with obedience (and other objectionable language) altogether, and is in my view most inclusive:
On my honour, I promise To do my best, To be true to my spiritual beliefs, To contribute to my community and our world, To help other people, And to live by the Scout Law.
And their Scout Law thankfully disposes of obedience and is quite inclusive as well:
Be friendly Care for others and the environment
Do What is Right
Be trustworthy, honest and fair Use resources wisely
Believe in Myself
Learn from my experiences Face challenges with courage
Another excellent Scout Law is the current UK Scouts Association version (long form, short form omits non-bold text):
A Scout is to be trusted:
Always keep your promises; if you agree to do something, then make sure that you do it.
A Scout is loyal: As a Scout, you are dedicated to Scouting, your family, friends and your work.
A Scout is friendly and considerate: As a Scout you must always think about how what you do may affect others (including people that you do not know). This includes things such as not making noise which could upset your neighbours and always disposing of your litter carefully.
A Scout belongs to the world-wide family of Scouts: The Scout movement is like a large family, and as such you will find that you can share in Scout activities throughout the world.
A Scout has courage in all difficulties: When things get tough you will do your best to overcome any difficulties.
A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property: Plan what you are going to do and when. For example, when you get home from school, plan your evening, do your home-work first! Always look after the items you own and the things you use, and everyone else’s for that matter. When you are at school, look after the books and equipment you are given to use.
A Scout has self-respect and respect for others: Look after yourself, don’t rely on someone else to tell you when to do things. For example, your parents will not always be with you to tell you to get washed in the morning, or dress smartly. You may not always agree with other people, but you should always be willing to listen to what they have to say, and you should respect their views and opinions even when they do not match your own point of view.
Chief Rover Scout, Ken Pataky
Living one's life by a Code of Honor & Service gives meaning, structure, and purpose...as well as discipline, to guide us Rovers through this world and all of its challenges. In olden days, the Knights had a set of rules which remind us of the Scout Law. They considered their honor to be their most sacred possession, and would try never to do anything dishonorable. In fact, some would rather die than act dishonorably. Particularly interesting to Baden-Powell were those Knight-Errants such as Sir Lancelot and also the Ronin of Japan, who would would roam the countryside, searching for chivalrous and worthy causes, “damsels in distress,” people who couldn’t defend themselves such as the old, sick, or weak, etc., in order to dedicate themselves to protecting and defending them.
These were their rules:
Chivalry requires that Rovers should be trained to perform the most laborious and humble offices with cheerfulness and grace; and to do good unto others.
Baden-Powell had this to say about Chivalry, from Rovering to Success:
“The knights of old were bound by their oath to be chivalrous, that is to be protective and helpful to women and children.
This means on the part of the man a deep respect and tender sympathy for them, coupled with a manly strength of mind and strength of body with which to stand up for them against scandal, cruelty or ridicule, and even, on occasion, to help them against their own failings.
A man without chivalry is no man. A man who has this chivalry and respect for women could never lower himself to behave like a beast, nor would he allow a woman to ruin herself with him by losing her own self-respect and the respect of others. It is up to him to give the lead and that a right one; and not to be led astray.
Chivalry, like other points of character, must be developed by thought and practice, but when gained it puts a man on a new footing and a higher one with himself and with the world.
For this he must use his self-control to switch off all that is impure from his mind and ensure that his own ideas are clean and honourable, that his sense of duty is so high that ridicule and chaff will mean nothing to him.”
He had this to say about Samurai:
“Samurai are a fifteen-hundred-year-old brotherhood of Knights in Japan, much on the lines of our own mediaeval knights. Their guiding ideal is Bushido, which encourages among its members--
Poverty in place of wealth, Humility in place of ostentation, Reserve in place of advertisement, Self-sacrifice in place of selfishness.”
And finally, back to Rovering to Success, a formal Commission from the Founder for Rovers:
“With this opening up of a new and human side to your character you can, if you will, make your hiking into the wandering of a knight-errant, by being a doer of good turns to all and sundry as you go along.”
Chief Rover Scout, Ken Pataky
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