Aware and Awake

Are you a cabbage or a king?

I’m not sure how politically correct it is to say this now but that was the question being asked of children in the 1960s.

I recently discovered a copy of The Guide Handbook from 1968 and it asks,

Are you a ‘King’ with your mind under control, trained, alert, and ready to come to your aid at any time? Can you think for yourself, make up your mind, show you are a person, alive and aware? Or are you a cabbage, static and dull, and without a thought of your own?

The Guide Handbook may or may not be a snapshot of what life was like for some children but the expectations placed on them were impressive. Children were encouraged to stretch themselves, have a go and do things that I doubt many adults could do.

Take a look at the following ‘useful things to know and do’ – some are almost unbelievable in today’s climate so perhaps we need reminding what ambition there is here to try anything!

Are you prepared to have a go?

  • Mend a puncture
  • Clean a fish
  • Put a clean nappy on a baby
  • Sharpen a knife
  • Milk a cow
  • Bake bread
  • Identify musrooms
  • Throw a rope up to a high window
  • Replace a bicycle chain
  • Pluck a chicken
  • Row a boat
  • Light an outdoor fire without paper
  • Open a jammed tin
  • Put on a car handbrake
  • Catch a pony
  • Catch a fish
  • Beat out a grass fire
  • Make a paper cup
  • Re-wire a plug

One or two will have raised an eyebrow I’m sure. In a risk-averse culture with panic buttons everywhere and children wrapped in cotton-wool, what realistically do we expect of children now?

The Guide Handbook was written with optimism and purpose to enjoy life. It says,

With your brain ticking you realise how interesting and thought-provoking the world is. Seize every chance to puzzle out problems, seek out answers, and to question what you hear and read. Try not to miss a chance of finding out something new, and linking it on to what you already know.

Children were encouraged to do things and told if they failed, to think why then plan, to practise and try again.

The spirit of the times has changed and healthy and safety has gone too far but its interesting how we are constantly asking children to be resilient yet provide so few opportunities for them to display their 7 Cs.

A skilful solider, Robert Baden-Powell, is the man we have to thank for creating the Scouts and Guides.

The guiding and scouting movement has spread all round the world and it is a rich resource to feed children’s education and for encouraging everyday adventure.

The Scouts (for both boys and girls) and Girl Guiding have an enormous amount of expertise and knowledge to share with schools – if only they could work more closely together and make scouting and guiding an integral part of school life rather than as something extra-curricular done outside of school.

The projects and activities that are contained within the Scouts and Girl Guiding are things we can definitely do in school and yes, they can combine the latest technology too! For example,


A new research study has revealed that Scouting develops strong community engagement in young people, fostering a culture of curiosity and acceptance and compared to their non-Scouting counterparts, Scouts are:

  • 17% more likely to demonstrate leadership skills
  • 11% more likely to be better problem solvers
  • 19% more likely to show emotional intelligence
  • 17% more likely to be able to work well in teams

The report also found

  • Scouts are one-third more likely to help out in their local area, feel greater responsibility to their local community and volunteer to help others
  • Scouts are 18% more likely to be curious about the world around them and 12% more likely to accept diversity in other people’s backgrounds and beliefs
  • Scouts are 32% more likely to be physically active than young people who don’t take part in Scouting
  • Scouts are also 13% more likely to demonstrate mental resilience

That’s a lot of impact!

Scouting offers ‘life changing adventure, fun and friendship’…precisley what schools do too or rather should as part of a broad, balanced and rounded education.

As Baden-Powell said,

Life without adventure would be deadly dull.

We all need more adventure and schools have a huge part to play in making sure that life is never dull.

Oh, yes, and here’s a few more from the Guide Handbook to remind us how far we have or haven’t come:

  • Run a ‘lost’ child centre or a creche at a local big event
  • Adopt an old aged pensioner and keep her garden tidy
  • Learn the semaphore of Morse Code
  • Cook eggs in six different ways
  • Make good coffee

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