I read an article this morning about the Woodcraft Folk taking young people aged 11 / 13 (depending where you read) to the demonstrations about the proposed rises in university tuition fees. The article I read was in the Daily Telegraph (but I can’t find it online – p16 of the paper though!) or a much shortened version in the Evening Standard.
Now it’s all well and good to protest against things that you disagree with, but I don’t think that taking young people who are that young to protests which have a very high chance of violence breaking out is very clever. Having taken groups of Scouts to London in the past, I know it’s hard enough keeping everyone together normally, let alone in a protest where things could go wrong at any moment.
The Woodcraft Folk are, to quote from their website –
A movement for children and young people, open to everyone from birth to adult. We offer a place where children will grow in confidence, learn about the world and start to understand how to value our planet and each other.
Sounds good. But there are a couple of issues I have with them.
First of all, it might be worth while mentioning that I may be a little biased against them, based on the one time I met some Woodcraft Folk. I was on summer camp as a Scout and we had gone somewhere for the day (no idea where) and we came across these scouty type people who obviously weren’t Scouts. We said hello to one of their leaders and asked who they were. The leader replied along the lines of ‘ Woodcraft Folk, don’t you know your Scouting history?’ and stomped off! So, being the mature Scouts we were, we immediately renamed them the ‘Flower Fairies’ and proceeded to take the mickey out of them (out of their hearing of course!).
So please feel free to carry on reading and let me tell you about my reservations about this organisation, but please take a look at their website, have a read and make your own mind up!
They started in the 1920’s and to quote them –
Just after the First World War one of the leading figures in the Scouting movement broke away from what he considered to be its militaristic approach…
Now I find this a bit odd as in 1917, in the middle of the Great War, Baden-Powell was horrified at the thought of all the men who had been Scouts being slaughtered on the battlefields (this was no longer the type of war he himself fought, but a highly mechanised one) and he wrote –
The roots of Scouting have grown among young people of all civilised countries and are developing more each day. It might be thought that if in years to come, a considerable proportion of the future citizens of each nation forms part of this brotherhood, they will be joined by a bond of personal friendship and mutual understanding such as has never existed before, which will help to find a solution to terrible international conflicts.
So Scouting itself was becoming an organisation dedicated to peace and friendship amongst countries. Indeed in 1937, the World Conference resolved –
The Conference resolves that the International Committee be requested to do all that it can to ensure that Scouting and Rovering in all countries, while fostering true patriotism, are genuinely kept within the limits of international cooperation and friendship, irrespective of creed and race, as has always been outlined by the Chief Scout (Baden-Powell). Thus, any steps to the militarization of Scouting or the introduction of political aims, which might cause misunderstanding and thus handicap our work for peace and good will among nations and individuals should be entirely avoided in our programmes.
So the Scouts were hardly militaristic even then. The Woodland Folk seem to have a huge chip on their shoulders about the Scouts and similar organisations. The leader who spoke to me and my fellow Scouts is a case in point, but so are the Oxford Woodcraft Folk.
On their webpage it asks –
DO YOU LIKE……
Camping, making stuff, building rafts, archery, abseiling, singing, high ropes, rock climbing, making brilliant friends, putting on shows, helping others, doing lots of really cool stuff?
Sounds good to me! But then asks –
ARE YOU TURNED OFF BY……
Marching, saluting flags, uniforms, bossy adults?
Marching – Scouts are not known for square bashing, that’s the Cadets. We do a bit very occasionally, on Remembrance Day (and badly!), for example, but that’s it.
Saluting Flags – OK guilty as charged. But there is nothing wrong in showing respect to the symbol of your country and what it stands for.
Uniforms – Guilty again. But what is that young girl on your webpage wearing? Oh, it’s your uniform!
Bossy Adults – Erm I’m lost here. It doesn’t matter what organisation you belong to, some leaders / adults are going to be bossy, shouty, annoying, kind, helpful or inspirational.
The other thing is that I’m not too sure about their politics. I’ve said before that Scouting should be apolitical (here and here), but should engage our young people to take an interest in the issues that affect them and should converse with all political parties.
But isn’t that what the Woodcraft Folk are doing by attending these protests? Well no. They are taking a particular side and not engaging all parts of the political spectrum. In fact a lot of the protests just annoy many people and reduce the sympathy for the students and potential students!
Yes, talk to the politicians (of all parties) and get the young people to raise their concerns, but don’t take them to demonstrations where it is possible they could get hurt. Indeed there is a report in the Telegraph of a 15 year old girl being ‘beaten up by the police’ & ‘.. they broke her foot..’. Now that’s not good and deserves some further investigation, but can you imagine if I’d taken a Scout and that had happened?? Not worth thinking about.
So there you go. As far as the Woodcraft Folk are concerned, for me, the outdoorsy stuff is brilliant, they need to get rid of the chip on their collective shoulder about Scouting and engage in politics but stop being Political.
Please, though, make your own mind up!