The World Of Scouting
We’ve all seen a scout at some time in our life. Whether it’s a girl scout selling you delicious cookies or a boy helping the community, you have seen at least one and more than likely one in his or her uniform with its recognizable merit badges seemingly covering every inch. Scouts were and still are a popular group among the youth, and many of our leaders today were once a part of the organization.
What Are the Scouts All About?
Glad you asked. The whole point is to teach children valuable skills, aiding in them in their physical, mental and spiritual development. The uniforms and group work teach unity while the merit badge system promotes individualism and strengthening their own qualities. The organization has been around for about one hundred years. It sounds like they are doing something right. Those who have been part of the Scouts are more likely to make well-judged decisions and develop a sense of independence, which is just what you would want out of a leader.
So How Did This Start?
It all began in the early 1900s with Robert Baden-Powell in England.
He was a lieutenant general in the British army who taught his troops about scouting. He discovered that by teaching his men the skills to survive in the wilderness, the troops were less likely to follow orders blindly and could make decisions more efficiently than troops with no scout training. Because of this and his own joy for scouting, he wrote the book Aids to Scouting.
The little manual was a success. Young boy and even men were highly interested in it. Some instructors had even begun using it for their organizations’ teaching. Powell took the suggestion to create a program like his manual but without the military side of it so it would be more geared towards the youth. He saw that the only organizations to help the boys grow had a heavy military influence, which he felt was an unattractive way to reach the same result his program would have.
So in 1907, Powell and his publisher went on a speaking tour to promote the new book Scouting for Boys.
When the book was published, over twenty-one countries fell in love with scouting and created their own youth programs based off of Powell’s ideas within three years. Scouting spread like a virus across the world. The United States employed the program, calling it the Boy Scouts Association (BSA). Now we have hundreds of countries with their own scouting organizations, all using Powell’s book as a foundation.
Obviously, the girls followed suit with their organization Girl Guides (now known as Girl Scouts), originally headed by Powell’s sister and then his wife. Just like the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides had a hierarchy system. The boys hierarchy started at Cub Scouts, moves to Boy Scouts and finally to Rover Scouts. The girls began with Brownie Scouts and rank up to Girl Scouts and then Ranger Scouts. The terminology did change over time for some countries. In the United States, the highest honor for boys and girls are Eagle Scout and Gold Award respectively.
Where Do Patches Fit Into All of This?
Within the Scouts, patches are known as Merit Badges and they go hand in hand with the organization. They were originally based off of military patches, concerning the rising rank. Scouts can only get badges by completing series of tasks. Each badge requires different tasks to be performed.
America initially created fourteen embroidered merit badges immediately after their program was started, but they turned out to be just for show. It wasn’t until 1911 that fifty-seven official and original badge designs were developed and handed out to the recipients. Now, only eleven of those original badges are still in use: architecture, art, athletics, chemistry, first-aid, lifesaving, music, plumbing, public health and surveying. Of those eleven, only five are available in every generation of scout badges: architecture, art, chemistry, plumbing and public health.
The different badges come and go so quickly. Some are retired or replace while new ones are introduced into the system. For instance, there was once an automobile badge but that was retired when driving became common. A nuclear science badge was added in once science became more advanced. Some badges will even be retired when they become less popular. The most popular ones are generally the ones required to achieve the Eagle Scout rank.
Collecting badges is popular for formers scouts and non-scouts. There are even classification types based on the different designs the patches have been through over all this time, which have been labeled Type A through K. It was in 1986 when badges were classified by number for easier cataloging purposes.
What’s With Badges Today?
Now Scouts have hundreds of badges they can earn. Every year some are retired and introduced, pushing the Scout programs ahead to teach children life lessons and skills.
Scouting is still useful in today’s society, showing the youth how to work together and not lose their sense of individuality. Never stop striving forward.