100 years of the Individual

>>  Sunday, September 17, 2017

Guiding in my County is now 100 years old . We are progressive, relevant, exciting and bigger than ever and as successful now as we were at the beginning.

And yet despite being so relevant to the girls of today, I am sure if we stepped back in time our original sister Guides would still recognise who we are.

They would see our drive to make a difference to the world, our desire to achieve, to learn and above all to have fun. lots of it.  Even if we have a phone in our pocket ready to catch a moment for instagram rather than a sandwich wrapped in brown paper!

Beyond the exterior of fun, challenges and change, there is something right at our heart the means we are still adding a life long value to every girl and women that experiences guiding at some point in her life.

I've always struggled to explain why I know Guiding is 'downtime', a time without the pressures of school, exams or gradings and yet still challenges and develops them.  But I've found the best explanation I've ever heard.  It goes right back to the original foundations of Scouting, the organisation that was our Guiding  impetus

In "27 Years with Baden-Powell" by EK Wade says Baden-Powell described it as 'The Essence of the Individual'.
I'm going to prĂ©cis her quote slightly (indicated by *), as it was said in a different time when some words had a different  context to how we would read them today:

"....there is only one standard by which a boy is judged as qualified for a badge, and that is the amount of effort he puts into his work. This gives direct encouragement to the less academically able* - the boy who has seen* successive failures. If he is a trier* his examiner can award him the badge and this generally inspires the boy to go on trying till he wins further badges and becomes* capable."

He fought tooth and nail, against schemes for the standardisation of badges to the level of school examination or competitive tests. Scouting was a GAME.

"The great object and value of the badge system is that, if properly used, it will draw out the best in each boy* and give him his chance to excel* and so get him to have a try. It is the essence of the individual as opposed to mass training."

So whilst I have played a little with the wording,  what BP was saying is as relevant today as it was back then. Children are constantly aware of their grade, their standing on the rung.  "She gets better grades them me, he plays football better than me."  There are no grades in Guiding.  Yes, the best runners might get round the circle fastest but the girl in the wheel chair still managed to hear those keys being moved whilst blindfolded.  There are rarely 'overall winners' in anything we do. Sometimes perhaps a group may score the most points on a pack holiday.  Maybe a team will win in a game of ladders, but the teams are drawn so randomly that everyone will win or lose at some point and it is not dwelt on.

Guides do work in groups, large and small but the essence is in the individual.  The focus is on helping her to achieve everything she is capable of for herself and achievement at every level is celebrated.

In our Brownies every girl gets a go at 'responsibility'.  Not just sixers and seconders but also through the buddy system.  It's easy to be a buddy, just showing a new starter where a coat hangs or where to stand but the buddy herself gets badge, is recognised and, for those few weeks, is an important part of helping another girl develop.  It's a great way for everyone, no matter how timid or insecure, to achieve a level of responsibility.  Badges are sometimes passed on mass, the term's plan structured so if they turn up and participate fully they will get that badge regardless of the 'quality' of the craft item that went home or the poster made.

Of course some girls just love to work for extra badges alone. There is constant opportunity for achievement.  But it is not under pressure.

The shy first night Rainbow walks into a room where love and laugh is the normal culture. Trying is met with as much approval as succeeding by all.
There is constant opportunity to throw off insecurity and self doubt.

A Ranger may organise a unit meeting night of games or quizes or she might complete her entire Queen's Guide award.  Both are valued as equals within the unit.

And this is how the Guide of 100 years ago would greet the Guide of today: with an equal hand, an equal smile, a respect for the different skills we all possess and a longing to just get out there and have a great time doing fun stuff.

I can't imagine why anyone would not want their child to experience what Guiding has to offer, and how lucky are we that the opportunity to develop and grow doesn't stop at 18.  As an Adult the opportunities are much greater.

(Originally written for the centenary blog)


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