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 calmness and the cheerfulness of trained Scouts when doing their work has often been commented upon. It is what results from giving them aims and ambitions which they can carry out for themselves, and from which they gain personal satisfaction. The secret of the Montessori system is that the teacher merely organises the work, suggests the ambition, and the child has full liberty in accomplishing the object aimed for. Freedom without organised aim would be chaos. It is for this reason, without doubt, that Scouting has been defined as the continuation of the Montessori system with boys.
The Scoutmaster initiates the ambition in the boy, leaving him free to gain his objective in his own way — he does not instruct, he leads the boy on to learn for himself.
Thus it is that as he successfully accomplishes one step after another the boy develops the calmness of confidence and self-reliance, and the cheerfulness of freedom and triumph.
Calmness and cheerfulness are much needed in our citizens of to-day.
They may be called the two most important qualities. They are taught very largely by example, and cannot, therefore, be inculcated by a man who is himself fussy or selfish, or even argumentative. I remember well a French soldier being executed when I was in Algeria — the charge against him seemed a small one for such a punishment, but the President of the Court Martial, in justifying it said, “In any case he was a very argumentative fellow,” and that seemed reason enough.
Of course, no selfish man can ever recognise his own vice. Let us assume, therefore, that every single one of us without exception possesses selfishness in a greater or less degree, and let us each from this moment forward try to reduce that degree. We shall feel the kick of it at times when we want to assert ourselves as of old, on certain points in which we know ourselves to be right and everybody else wrong. Well, now, we have to hold our tongues and to accept the judgment of others, smilingly and willingly. Life is too short for arguing. We shall soon find it goes all the more smoothly and comfortably for our “offering the other cheek.” This comfort is only part of the reward that comes to us, for if we are Scoutmasters we very soon find that our example is taken up by the boys, and whatever self-discipline and unselfishness we exhibit is very soon adopted by them, to the improved running of the machinery in all its wheels. Petty squabbles, loss of temper, selfishness, all disappear by force of example when they are not indulged in by superiors, and a zealous playing of the game for the whole and increased efficiency rapidly ensue.