During his lifetime Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.
Each Sunday I’ll publish a selection from his writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from his timeless ideas.
Only to-day I heard of a case where a man had been an interested spectator of certain boys at play, and one day they met him on the road and announced that they had made up their minds and were all ready.
“Ready for what?”
“To be Scouts, sir.”
“Very good. And who is going to be your leader?”
“You, sir; we elected you anonymously.”
“But, damn it all– Oh well, I suppose one mustn’t swear if one is going to be a Scoutmaster– well, you see, I’ve got a lot of other things to do– and– oh, all right, I’ll have a try.” (To-day nothing would induce him to give it up.)
There are loads of men who would join us if they only knew how valuable their assistance would be, and how natural and attractive our work is. You might put it somewhat in this way to your fly when you have got him into your parlour, but wording it according to the requirements of the particular case:
“Up till now you have been a busy or an idle man all your life. Any doctor will tell you that to knock off all work suddenly in the one case or to continue to vegetate in the other is the sure and short cut to the grave. I want to suggest to you a remedy. It is to take on a job of work; such a job is not only lying open to you but is eagerly awaiting you. It beats monkey gland in bringing you a renewal of your youth; it lands you into a cheery company of ‘good companions’; and it enables you to do a valuable bit of service for your country and your fellow-men.
“I mean, of course, taking part in the Boy Scout Movement.” Some men appear to imagine that to take on this job means being either a saint or an Admirable Crichton, or both; that you may not smoke or laugh or swear; that you must be either a pacifist, a faddist, a Fascist, or some other ‘ ist ‘; and that in the Movement we are governed by rules and regulations. This is all wrong. All that we want is a human man, who can revive his boyhood in the comradeship of boys, and who can play the game of Scouting with them in its simplest common-sense form, as given in Scouting for Boys.”
Tell your fly that he has only to get into the boy’s skin, and to look at things with the boy’s eyes and use his own common sense and imagination. He will find it a fascinating game, bringing results that are very well worthwhile from the national point of view as well as being satisfying to the soul.
As to common-sense education, I was amused to read an article this week eulogising one of our schools because the boys there are trusted, and work is to some extent regulated from the boy’s point of view. The author seems to regard this as a novel idea. It has, of course, been the basis of our training of Scouts for twenty-five years.
Yesterday I was talking with our village schoolmaster, a true educationist, by the way. He was explaining some of his methods which had rather raised the hair of an old-time school inspector, but which, in principle, are much in accord with our methods in Scout training.
Take one of his cases as an example. A girl was hopeless at arithmetic, so he had a talk with her, and asked her which of the school subjects she liked best. “Oh, cooking.” And which she liked least. “Arithmetic.”
“Well,”– very confidentially– “don’t tell anyone, but it is just the same with me. I don’t like arithmetic, either. And now, talking of cooking, how would it be if instead of the arithmetic lesson today you cooked a tea for two, with some good scones and a cake, and we can have it together. You order the necessary ingredients, but don’t make it too expensive.” This idea she joyfully carried out. The following day he said– “That tea was a huge success. Can you manage to cook another, on a larger scale, say for five, to which we can ask some pals?” It was duly and enthusiastically done.
The result was that in working out her quantities, prices, etc., the girl had all unconsciously had her arithmetic lesson. Interested in her job, and proud of being trusted with the responsibility put upon her, she was not only learning arithmetic but was realising its practical use at the same time.
It is on this same principle that the Scoutmaster, through the medium of Scouting items which interest the boy, inculcates such qualities as he wants. He educates the boy by encouraging his self — expression instead of disciplining him by police methods of repression.