French Boy Scouting: Social Class

Figure 1.--Scouting in France as in other contries was a middl-class movemnent. Here we see French Scouts probably around 1930 who look to preparing to go be on an excursion. As in the rest of Europe only realtively well-to-do families had cars. Notice the priests working with the boys. The boys are in front of a chateau or some facility the Church owned. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the grop..

Scouting was a voluntary movement, in sharp contrast to he totalitrian movements like the Hitler Youth, Bailla, and Pioneer movement. And because there were costs associted with Scouting that had to be born by the family, it tended from the beginning to be a middle-class movement. Iy is not that working-class boys were not interested, but they either had to work or could not afford the uniforms. Thus there was reltively little class mixing. This was the case in the United States, but even more so in Europe with stronger class lines and lower working class incomes before World War II. The Cathlic Church was another factor. The Church played a very important role in French Scouting and sponsored separate Catholic assoiations. And the Middle-class was the bed rock of French Catholocism. The French working-class was heavily imfluenced by Communsts and Socialists which rejected religion. That is not to say that there were not Catholics among the working-class, but it was much more divided than the middle-class. And the French adults involved with Scouting were mostly middle-class, including the priests and other Church staff. One author is critical of French Scouting, charging that it was training an eliete, ignoring the working class, and inculcating elitest, conservtive values at an early age. He complains that the idea was to direct the normal emotional, aggressive, and religious energies by taking control of their imagination. The means were games and outdoor activities that appealed to the boys. He further charges that they ignored the working class and through an elitist training program instilled an unhealty religious, patriotic, and militaristic ethic. [Laneyrie] Scouting is not without faulkts, but this sounds to us like a typical left-wing criticism of any institution representing staunch social values amd a solid moral code. Ironically this is precisely what the Communist Pioneer movement was doing in Communist countries. While the Communist criticizedthe middle clas, it was middle class values they promoted for young [eople


Laneyrie, Philippe. "Quarante Ans de Scoutisme Catholique en Region Stephanoise (1925-1965): Modalites D'implantation et Role Social," ("40 years of Catholic scouting in the Saint-Etienne area, 1925-65: patterns of implantation and social role") Cahiers d'Histoire Vol. 34, No. 2 (1989), pp.: 135-159. The article sounds to us like a lot of left-wing pysco babble, but he does discuss the middle-class and Catholic foundation of Scouting in France. Leftist academics like Laneyrie do not like the Catholic Church teaching its values, but have no problem with the Communist party teaching essentially the same values.


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Created: 3:47 AM 7/11/2014
Last updated: 3:47 AM 7/11/2014