So I’m sitting here in a kind of dozy half panic waiting for it to be time to go to my first OSCE. I can’t decide what to take with me. Stethoscope, obviously. Pin for testing visual fields? There’s theoretically no ophtho on this one and you can do it just as well with a finger, so probably not. It’d just be something to lose somewhere. Torch? Probably a good idea. There’s lots of things you can do with a pen torch. Tourniquet? No. I’d never be without one on the wards (particularly since I have a good one) but I won’t need it for this.
It feels jarringly unfamiliar. I will dress the same as I normally do for ward time, except no necklace in case my stethoscope gets caught in it (this happened when I was practicing last night. Total facepalm) and I will behave in the same way, except instead of a series of interesting people I have a series of tests and examiners.
Anyway, I’m not going to talk about that cause I’m scared. I’m going to talk about Guides instead.
I’ve been a Girl Guide since I was five. I was a Rainbow, a Brownie, a Guide, a Young Leader, I did DofE with Guides, I did some International Guiding, I’ve been a Unit Helper for ages and I’m currently doing my Adult Leadership Qualification. By this point, Guiding is almost written into my genes. (Almost literally – my grandmother was in the Trefoil Guild until she was 75.) I like Guides, I think it’s a fundamentally good thing for girls to have a space of their own where they are encouraged to do everything. I think boys, particularly teenage boys, can sometimes be a bit overpowering and take the lead in things, and it’s good for girls of that age to learn that they can do stuff too, that there are ways of building self esteem that don’t relate to boys, I think it teaches practical skills and people skills and helps you relate to other girls. I don’t believe in single sex schooling, but for a couple of hours a week, I think it’s a good thing. I learned a lot from guiding, I gained a lot, and I want to be a part of it, I want to make it possible for other girls.
The problem I currently have is with the promise. I have taken a variation on the promise five times. In the fullest form it goes as follows:
I promise that I will do my best to love my God, to serve the Queen and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide law, and to be of service in the community.
Guess which bit of that I have a problem with?
I don’t like promising to love a god I don’t believe in. I really really don’t believe. Not even a bit. The promise is worded to deliberately include any and all interpretations of god, whether that be a religious interpretation (God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha, whatever) or a spiritual interpretation of a ‘higher power’. I don’t believe in any of those things, in anything that could be called a god, and certainly not in anything I could profess to love. There is no way around this. If I won’t promise to love my god, I can’t take the promise, and incidentally if I do take it and I become a Leader I am obliged to teach the kids about loving a god I don’t believe exists.
If I had not wanted to take the promise for this reason I could still have been a Rainbow, a Brownie, a Guide, a Unit Helper, a Young Leader, whatever. What I can’t be is an Adult Leader. To be a Leader you have to take the promise.
I am deeply uncomfortable about taking it and lying every single time, but if I want to be an Adult Leader I have no choice, and I do want to. So I said the words and I hate that I did, and I wish there was a choice.
Girl Guiding is actively excluding atheists and I don’t like it. There’s no reason and no sense to it and it needs to change. In Canada it already has changed, their promise is now: “I Promise to do my best, To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada, I will take action for a better world And respect the Guiding Law”. That may have gone a little far – the ideas of service and helping others are important ones, I think. But it’s an interesting step and I think we need to look at something similar here, to open Guiding to those of us who don’t believe.