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The "Science" of Boy-Leadership

Leadership Development did not emerge as a distinct "Method" of Scouting in the BSA until 1972, when the Sixth Edition of the Scoutmaster's Handbook was published.  During the 1970s the emphasis was taken away from the importance of traditional Scouting skills.   The term "campfire," for instance,  did  not even appear in the index of the 8th Edition of the Scout Handbook

The BSA's modernization and new "urban emphasis" was consistent with similar trends in Scouting all over the world starting in the 1960s.  This subsequently inspired a counter-trend "back to basics" movement called "Traditional Scouting," starting with the UK's "Baden-Powell Scouts Association" in 1970.

The following passage conveys the modernist sentiment neatly: 

In general, Patrol Leader training should concentrate on leadership skills rather than on Scoutcraft Skills.   The Patrol will not rise and fall on the Patrol Leader's ability to cook, follow a map, or do first aid, but it very definitely depends on his leadership skill (Scoutmaster's Handbook [1972], page 155).

Leadership had emerged as a separate set of cognitive skills that could be learned indoors rather than as a natural consequence of using the Patrol Method in the outdoors, where William "Green Bar Bill" Hillcourt said all Scouting belongs:

Ideally, no Troop should have a single indoor meeting—all its activities should be in the outdoors!  Ideally, we say—for Scouting is a Movement of the out-of-doors, teaching boys citizenship through woodcraft.   Boys join Scouting to have fun under the open sky, not to be cooped up in a Troop room (Troop Meetings).
Before the invention of Boy Scout "Leadership Skills," the purpose of BSA Patrol Leader Training was to teach a Patrol Leader to take his Patrol on treks. That was accomplished not by teaching "Leadership Skills" but by forming the Green Bar Patrol with the SM as Patrol Leader, the SPL as APL, and the Patrol Leaders as Patrol members. To learn by doing:
A setting like this is practically a duplication of the conditions these boys have in their own Patrols. the result is that the boys can put the training you give them to immediate use in running their weekly Patrol meetings, taking their Patrols on hikes, and doing Patrol camping [Scoutmaster Handbook, 4th edition, capitalization in the original].

Note that the goal of Patrol Leader Training above is very specific: unsupervised Patrol Meetings, Patrol Hikes and Patrol Camping:

Patrols are ready to go hiking and camping on their own just as soon the the Patrol Leader has been trained and the Scouts have learned to take care of themselves, have learned to respect growing crops and live trees, to avoid unnecessary danger, and in all ways conduct themselves as Scouts. Until they arrive at this point, a responsible Troop leader should accompany the Patrol.  Or a Patrol dad may go along to provide the maturity of judgment the Patrol Leader may lack.  
It should be your goal to get your Patrol Leaders qualified for hike and camp leadership at an early stage. (Scoutmaster Handbook, 4th edition, page 118).

It was in the 1970s that the BSA "modernized" away from traditional Hillcourt-style Scouting into a business and "scientific" methodology:

As a patrol or troop leader you're going to learn what [Leadership Skills] are in a more SCIENTIFIC manner (emphasis added).

This was a significant change for the BSA.  The "Methods of Scouting" were rewritten to accommodate this stunning 180 degree turn in direction.  Previously the first (and presumably most important) Method had been "The Scout Way: 1. A Game, NOT a Science (emphasis in the original)."

The new scheme also dropped The Uniform as a Method for a while and was called "The Seven Methods of Scouting."

Whatever your position on this trend, we can all agree that a Scout will not see a need for learning leadership skills until he has had some success (however small)  in leading a group.  Scouting in a Patrol still best provides every boy an opportunity to experience leadership.  

Hundreds of ideas for creating these opportunities can be found elsewhere on The Inquiry Net, where we offer you traditional Scouting activities of special interest to Scouts.  As a boy's skill in even one of these subjects increases he will gain the confidence to undertake his first experience at leading a group in some short-term activity related to his new interest. 

 DVDs for JLT weekends!

See Also:

JLT Skits: Skits That Can be Used in JLT Junior Leader Training.

Patrol Method: Junior Leader Training materials that use the Patrol Method rather than a managerial model for Patrol Leader Training.  

Adult Association: Leadership Skills for Adults, and an in-depth study of the Aims and Methods of Scouting.

Outdoor Method: This is the largest area in The Inquiry Net.  It includes hundreds of traditional skills of interest to boys, intended to build confidence in specific areas of expertise, including games, stunts (skits), camping and Indian Lore.  A Scout can then lead a group in a subject with which he has some experience.






Additional Information:

Sitting Indoors with Character ] Teamwork in Scouting ] Nine Leadership Skills ] Gilcraft on Leadership ] Training of Scouters ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.