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.
Yes, Scouting is a game. But sometimes I wonder whether, with all our pamphlets, rules, disquisitions in the Scouter, conferences, and training classes for Commissioners and other Scouters, etc., we may not appear to be making of it too serious a game. It is true that these things are all necessary and helpful to men for getting the hang of the thing, and for securing results. But they are apt to grow into big proportions (like one’s own children or one’s own mannerisms) without our noticing it, when all the time it is very patent to those who come suddenly upon it from outside.
Thus this phalanx of instructional aids appears terribly formidable to many a Scouter, while to outsiders having a look before they leap into our vortex it must in many cases be directly deterring. When you come to look on it as something formidable, then you miss the whole spirit and the whole joy of it; your boys catch the depression from you, and Scouting, having lost its spirit, is no longer a game for them.
It becomes like the game of polo which was suggested to me by a General under whom I served. A melancholy occasion had arisen when the Troops in the garrison were ordered to go into mourning. This happened on the very day that an important polo match was to be played. So I was sent as a deputation to the General to ask whether the match would have to be cancelled. The General, with a twinkle in his eye, replied: “I think if you played very slowly and used a black ball it might meet the occasion.”
Scouting, as I have said above, is not a science to be solemnly studied, nor is it a collection of doctrines and texts. Nor again is it a military code for drilling discipline into boys and repressing their individuality and initiative. No — it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.
Many young men are put off Scoutmastering by the fear that they have got to be Admirable Crichtons and capable of teaching their boys all the details for the different Badge tests; whereas their job is to enthuse the boys and to get experts to teach them. The collection of rules is merely to give guiding lines to help them in a difficulty; the training courses are merely to show them the more readily the best ways of applying our methods and of gaining results.
So may I urge upon Scouters that the more important quest for 1931 is to ginger up the joyous spirit of Scouting through camping and hiking, not as an occasional treat in intervals of parlour or parade Scouting, but as the habitual form of training for their boys — and incidentally for themselves.
January, 1931 – B-P’s Outlook