I was privileged over the weekend to be invited to attend the national conference for Scouts Canada, held in Ottawa. One of the speakers was Canadian artist Robert Bateman. He spoke eloquently on ecology, the need to get young people outside in nature, and his various projects including three schools across the country. Given his audience, he boldly pointed out that the “game of Scouting” so readily associated with Robert Baden-Powell, was actually a refining of a previous idea by Ernest Thompson Seton.
Seton was born a Geordie (well not technically – he was from South Shields in County Durham) and moved with his parents to Canada in 1866 where he became fascinated by First Nations (“indians” as they were known back then). He met BP in 1906, only a year before the latter launched what became the worldwide movement of Scouts. Seton himself went on to found the Boy Scouts of America. One of Seton’s more famous books “Two Little Savages” covers much of the same ground, in a similar way to BPs own later work in “Scouting for Boys“. Well worth a read, and a treasured present, I’m sure, for anyone interested in Scouting and its ideals.
Bateman began by confessing that the best part of being awarded no less than 12 honorary degrees was “being able to watch all the co-ed students file past”. I immediately warmed to him, and was not disappointed as the feisty 82 year old mentioned he was born on the same day as Queen Victoria… just not the same year (and a day after me I might add!)
He spoke of being a high school teacher in the 50’s and the day after Presley was first broadcast (from the waist up) being amazed at the still-swooning teenage girls he was faced with in class. He claims he earnestly told them that within a few years “nobody will have heard of Elvis Presley“. He then humbly confessed that he still regularly tests the theory, and that recently, 57 years later, grade 3/4 students still know who Elvis Presley is. “I’m still waiting” he chuckled.
It was a joy to hear, in this day and age, someone who encouraged children to go out, have adventures in the woods and live life. Statistics show, he claimed, that children today access one screen or another for 7 hours a day. EVERY day. By contrast, they spend only 30 minutes a week “in the outdoors”. Our youth are more and more disconnected from reality and instead are maxed out on explosions and over stimulation via video games and action movies. The danger here, as with any drug, is that you need to up the dose to get any future “hit”.
He quoted a friend of his – an elder from the Cowichan nation – who said “We often worry about the world we are leaving for our children. I think we need to worry more about the children we are leaving for our world!”