The Patrol System & Instant Kids

I wouldn’t say I’m an experienced scouter, even though I have been a leader now for just around 10 years, there are leaders out there with 6 plus times as much experience as me and they have through working with kids, adjusted to the changes they’ve seen in society and the way youth behave and change that they have worked with.

Me I read a lot, not just one or two books.. probably too many and recently I’ve been studying the Patrol Method and endeavoring to pass on what I have learned to the Pathfinders I am working with.

What I’ve found is that young people have a very poor expectation of their own ability or potential and in more cases than I would like, this is often  reflected in the parents aspirations of their kids. They tend to,  if challenged,  place that challenge if given the opportunity into  the “too hard basket” and that’s not because they have been brought up poorly by their parents, it’s just part of the society and environment they live in.

Let’s have a look at the normal stimuli and influences  a young boy or girl is exposed to currently:-

  • Phones and Tablets… games are instantaneous, no time loading, if a game takes more than a few seconds to load the cry can be heard from the hunched over mass of hoodies and legs sitting on the corner of the sofa ”why is this taking so long???” The fact is, they are looking for instant gratification, that little fix of adrenaline and endorphin’s they get when they play games.20161122_201718
  • Negotiation and communications normally are via email and text and are instant, trying to get young kids to actually write notes for the following weeks meeting, often results in very good/bad sketches of mickey mouse, rather than anything related to what they should be writing.
  • Emails sent between Pathfinders and leaders all have to go through parents or a proxy for safeguarding reasons, this can result in information never even reaching the Pathfinder/scout in question because parents don’t often pass it on, even if it is marked quite clearly for the youth member in question.
  • Most houses, now, don’t have a land line and parents use their mobiles for this purpose, this results in everyone having to  phone one of the parents to speak to a youth member, that’s fine, if the parents actually have the patience to pass that call on.. which often they can’t be bothered to  or are simply too busy to do.
  • Entertainment, apart from the gaming platforms, like PS4, X_boxes, phones and tablets comes in the forms films, you tube bloggers  or shows which are now streamed into homes, so you don’t even have to get up, open a box and put the disk in the player?
  • You Tube can take you around the world and looking up a solution on Google, has become the norm rather then the exception for even scout challenges.

We live in a very “Instant world”, where solutions can be found in seconds rather than after days or weeks of research, communication are often texts or emails and arrive in your inbox a few moments after they are sent, your children can experience adventure from the comfort of their own settee for nothing.. so what would you send your children to Pathfinders for?

This is where the Patrol System struggles, or more precisely modern kids struggle with it and that’s because it takes certain skill sets to work. These I believe are not currently being naturally learned or developed by children at same age, if at all and this I believe is why we lose so many youth at the transition between sections. They simply don’t know how to cope, with what is now in reality a significant change in our and their own expectations of themselves.

So what’s missing:-

  • The Ability to Plan, Negotiate and Communicate.
      • Years ago if you wanted to meet a friend  after school you would do a few things and more importantly you would need to plan these in order to make that happen.
        • Negotiate with your friend face to face where and when you wanted to meet and agree on a location and time.
        • Make sure you allowed enough time for you to a discuss this with your parents and for them to call your friends parents to  confirm details.
        • You knew this could only happen when your friends parents returned from work, but you had already allowed for this when you spoke to your friend initially.
        • You would have chosen a location that you knew both parents would be happy with you either riding to on your bike, walking or that was on they way somewhere.. that you knew your parents would be going to.
        • Note remembering here, cars were a luxury item and most families had one and dad drove…
        • As part of the negotiations between each other and your parents you would have agreed a time to return home and that’s was a final time and you stuck to it otherwise you were pretty sure you wouldn’t be allowed out again.

    All of the above took  planning and communication, there were no mobile phones so you had to make sure you thought about your whole day and if you wanted to make a change you had to “speak” to both parents, not text them to get their agreement, that often meant riding too and from each others house, with no guarantee of hearing the answer you wanted… so you had to have a plan B.

    • In this example, very simple that it is, it shows a set of skills we had  learned as a very early age, now children are entering Pathfinders and Scouts and we are having to often teach them these, before you can look at the Patrol System or as an integral part of it. Things we take for granted as leaders are things that these kids have never experienced so they just don’t know how.
  • Understanding  The Need to Practice and Prepare properly.
    • Because of the instant world these kids live in they think that everything can be prepared for in a few minutes, that if they don’t know how to do something, 5 mins infront of you tube will make them the dogs???  when they aren’t watching one of their favorite bloggers… if they can fit that in.
      i.e. Watching someone do a somersault on you tube will not mean that you can do it, that person will have practiced for weeks, months or years to get to that stage.
    • The same can be said for any knot or lashing, you can learn it from a book, video etc, but you still need to physically tie that knot with your hands and that takes repetition and practice.
    • So  for a young person preparing for the next weeks program, that date seems like years away, they forget, get distracted and the first time there is a little spark in their head that they should have done something ready for tonight’s meeting is when their mum or dad shouts out, “have you got your uniform ready for Pathfinders tonight?” Well if they can find their uniform… all of it, they then realize what they should have done and by then, well we know the story … its often too late.
    • It’s easier and less hassle to watch someone on You Tube than it is to arrange for their Patrol to come over and learn together? Arranging this,  that takes communications and planning… well we aren’t very good at that, especially if it requires negotiation that with parents and when do they ask? Generally on the same night, because they think they can text message the rest of the patrol in a few mins. The trouble is.. because the rest of the patrol didn’t speak to their parents because they were waiting to hear from their PL, most of the patrol has already arranged to do something else and the result? … Well hello my little you tube buddy.
    • Parents are always just a text, messenger or face time away, anytime any place, this means their is always too much opportunity for kids to fall back on their parents generally, not necessarily at Pathfinders.  Rather than make decisions and more importantly base that decision on the consequences of them themselves.  Kids are now more reliant on parents to make those choices for them and parents love doing this as well. “I know what’s best for my son/daughter” they probably do, but that’s not helping them develop or learn a very important skill.

So we can show that some kids, not all, are simply not as well prepared for the world as children were of the same age, even just 30 years ago and this is where we need to make a change in how we teach the Patrol System with out altering it.

The Patrol system relies primarily on the Pathfinders/scouts preparing ,planning and executing activities and camps together and by the PL’s teaching them basic skills, but this often fails, or perhaps should I say fails to meet the expectations of the leaders. This just may be  because we (leaders) haven’t given the kids all the tools they need to actually complete the job.

We tend to concentrate on scouting skill’s, pioneering, camping etc etc… but  to do any of these we need to teach them the basic skills of planning, communication, negotiation and Preparation. In most old books and even modern ones, these skills are not addressed, because it is assumed kids have them.. but I think now they simply don’t  or don’t acquire them to a later age, would perhaps be more accurate.

If we can teach these effectively, then the Patrol System really runs itself and this is where I will be concentrating on in the next few months. Just another tool for the Pathfinders to use, but perhaps the one that’s missing from most Pathfinders/Scouts tool box.



2 Comments on “The Patrol System & Instant Kids

  1. Now that is a very interesting analysis. I have never seen the patrol system, and the general failure to implement these days, analysed in such a fashion. This bears some further thought…


    • Yes, I think we tend to look at scouting or the program rather then look at the root cause which is really technology, from the 70′ s when we saw a huge drop of in scouts due to TV’s becoming cheap enough to go into every home, cheap entertainment for kids, I’ve paid for it you sit infront of it and it brought adventure to the front room, the new revolution has brought it literally into your hand, you don’t even have to walk to the lounge to watch your favorite you tube channel or blog. We are in danger of creating millions of hunchbacked senior citizens in the future, who have very little if any social skills, social media is creating the death of social and family life or altering it significantly and the skills needed to negotiate it.


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