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.
As nearly every man will now have political voting power, one of the aims of education should be to prepare the young citizen for his responsibilities in this line.
This is a matter, however, that cannot be taught by class instruction in “civics.” Then how are you to do it in the school training? Well, that question has proved a puzzler; it is therefore discreetly left alone by education with the pious hope that the teachings of history will incline the boys’ minds in the right direction.
A fat lot of — — . Well, to my mind, something much more practical is needed in view of the unprecedented political evolution that is going on. Formerly the young man took up the same line of politics as his father had done before him — just as he did in the question of religion — not from his own convictions, but from tradition.
Nowadays, with the rapid social developments and changes, what his father thought is out of date and behind the times for the modern young patriot.
We in the Scout Movement are non-political as far as party politics go, and I hope it will not be thought that in speaking thus I am advocating any particular party ideas, for I have no such thing in my mind. As a matter of fact I am so little impressed by any of the present political factions in Parliament that I have so far never exercised my own voting power for any one or other of them.
A writer recently stated how he was once authorised to invite me to stand for Parliament, and though I declined he does not know to this day what party I favour.
Nor do I.
So I have no party intentions in my remarks, nor should any Scout officer have it in his mind when preparing his lads for their political responsibilities.
It is statesmanship rather than party politics for which we want to prepare them. We, in the Scout Movement, are credited with supplying for the boy, who has not had the same chance as one brought up in a public school, an equivalent character training, especially in the directions of responsibility and discipline.
The practice of responsible authority and obedience to it among the boys is carried out in the Scout Movement through the Patrol system. But it is on lines rather more in accordance with the spirit of the age than the prefect system of the public school.
We have to realise there are two forms of discipline: one is the expression of loyalty through action, the other submission to orders through fear of punishment.
In the prefect system authority is deputed by the masters to the head boys. It is merely the delegation of autocratic rule and, while it puts the junior boy in his place (not a bad thing at times), it is in no sense democratic. It does not give the boy freedom of action, except at the risk of punishment if he takes the line that does not please his superior. Whereas in the patrol system, where properly carried out, the Leader is responsible for the success of his Patrol, whether in its games or in its efficiency, and the Scouts are impelled to carry out the Leader’s instructions through their desire for their Patrol to excel. It is the expression of their keenness and esprit de corpsby doing. In other words it is “playing the game.”
The Leader realises on his part that to gain success he has to foster this spirit by tact and discrimination and by appealing to the human side.
In the Court of Honour (again if properly run) the voice of the boys is heard, and the rules are made for their own guidance by the boys themselves.
Similarly in the Patrol Leaders’ Conference (again where properly managed) the ideals and aims of the Movement are considered and the steps to them discussed among the boys themselves, so that they become possessed of a wider and less selfish outlook in realising the “cons” as well as the “pros” of the question which previously may have had but one side to them.
Thus the Patrol becomes a practical school of self-government.
It is a commonly quoted saying that “Only those can lead who have first learned to obey.” Yes, but like many truisms it has its limits. I prefer also as a leader the man who has learned to lead. There used to be no greater bully in the army than the N.C.O., who had learned hard discipline himself as a private and was then promoted and given a sufficiently free hand in dealing out discipline in his turn. Nowadays he learns that consideration for his men and regard to the higher aims rather than his own individual importance give the right impulse that brings success.
So, too, I suspect that in many shops and factories the workers would work more happily and more effectively under a foreman who has tact and human sympathy and who looks beyond the bench to the results of the work, than under one whose promotion merely as a skilled hand has given him a swollen head.
Give me a foreman who has learned his job as a Patrol Leader.
These are thoughts that may well be kept in mind when our worker is at work on his
Troop bench, in order that he may so fashion his Court of Honour and direct the aims of his Patrol Leaders that the Troop may form a school for training leaders among the next generation of citizens.