What are the “alternatives” for a youth movement whose program is based on Lord Baden-Powell’s program?
That was the question many Catholics and other traditional Christians were asking themselves in May of last year (2013). However, some of the suggested “alternatives” were only alternatives in the broadest possible sense, akin to joining 4-H in lieu of playing organized football. My guess is that in their haste to pry people away from what they believed to be a corrupt organization, well-meaning commentators latched onto just about any Catholic or Christian youth organization and presented it as an alternative.
That some, maybe even all, of these organizations have merit is not subject for debate. The real question is whether one of these organizations is an adequate “substitute” (I mean no opprobrium here; no one likes to be a substitute, much less a merely “adequate” one!) for one that uses B-P’s educational method. I submit that it is not, unless the organization in question also uses B-P’s concepts and ideals. Lord Baden-Powell’s method has been explicitly approved by every Pope (with the exception of our current Pope, who as far as I know has not spoken publicly on the matter) since Pius XI. And before B-P published his book Scouting for Boys, he solicited the advice of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Francis Bourne of Westminster as well as the Benedictines of Downside Abbey.
Here are some things to look for in an organization to know that its program is based on that of Baden-Powell. Not every organization will have all of these features but if it uses B-P’s method then it should have most of them (and a few of them, in my opinion, are non-negotiable — such as wearing a uniform):
- Serves youth from the age of reason (about 7) through adolescence.
- Separate programs for young children (about ages 7-11) and older children (ages 12-17).
- Older children, at least, separated by gender.
- Rovering program for young adults (18-24+).
- Wears a uniform.
- Awards badges for achievement.
- Older children grouped into “patrols” or “squadrons” of 6-9 children.
- Patrols made up of children of diverse ages, rather than all of the same approximate age.
- Religious element.
- Instills a spirit of service in its members.
Of course, this list is just scratching the surface — there are many other features that might be listed as well. However, I do think this list will help families make an informed decision.