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.
The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother.
As a preliminary word of comfort to intending Scout masters, I should like to contradict the usual misconception that, to be a successful Scoutmaster, a man must be an Admirable Crichton — a know-all. Not a bit of it.
He has simply to be a boy-man, that is:–
- He must have the boy spirit in him; and must be able to place himself on a right plane with his boys as a first step.
- He must realize the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
- He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
- He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results.With regard to the first point, the Scoutmaster has to be neither schoolmaster nor commanding officer, nor pastor, nor instructor. All that is needed is the capacity to enjoy the out-of-doors, to enter into the boys’ ambitions, and to find other men who will give them instruction in the desired directions, whether it be signalling or drawing, nature study or pioneering.
He has got to put himself on the level of the older brother, that is, to see things from the boy’s point of view, and to lead and guide and give enthusiasm in the right direction. Like the true older brother he has to realize the traditions of the family and see that they are preserved, even if considerable firmness is required. That is all. The Movement is a jolly fraternity, all the jollier because in the game of Scouting you are doing a big thing for others, you are combating the breeding of selfishness.
Regarding the second point, the various handbooks cover the successive phases of adolescent life.
Thirdly, the business of the Scoutmaster — and a very interesting one it is — is to draw out each boy and find out what is in him, and then to catch hold of the good and develop it to the exclusion of the bad. There is five per cent of good even in the worst character. The sport is to find it, and then to develop it on to an 80 or 90 per cent basis. This is education instead of instruction of the young mind.
Fourth. In the Scout training the Patrol or gang system gives the corporate expression of the individual training, which brings into practice all that the boy has been taught.
The Patrol System has also a great character-training value if it is used aright. It leads each boy to see that he has some individual responsibility for the good of his Patrol. It leads each Patrol to see that it has definite responsibility for the good of the Troop. Through it the Scoutmaster is able to pass on not only his instruction but his ideas as to the moral outlook of his Scouts. Through it the Scouts themselves gradually learn that they have considerable say in what their Troop does. It is the Patrol System that makes the Troop, and all Scouting for that matter, a real co-operative effort.