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.
OUR attitude in the Boy Scout Movement is that we do not wish to be in conflict with any political, educational, religious, or other body, but we are very glad to have their advice or suggestions.
Our aim is to be at peace with all and to do our best in our own particular line. Probably the majority of us are in sympathy with the Socialist ideal, though we may not see with the same eye the practicability of its details or its methods.
We, in the Scouts, desire not so much to cure present social evils as to prevent their recurrence in the rising generation; to try to lessen the great waste of human life now going on in our city slums where so many thousands of our fellow humans are living an existence of misery through being “unemployable”; this is not always from their own fault, but simply because they have never been given a chance.
Our main effort is to attract the boys and to beckon them on to the right road for success in life; we endeavour to equip them — especially the poorest — with “character” and with craftsmanship so that each one of them may at least get a fair start. If after this he fails it is then his fault and not, as at present, the fault of us who are in a position to give a helping hand to our less fortunate brothers.
The fact is, that justice and fair play do not always form part of our school curriculum. If our lads were trained as a regular habit to see the other fellow’s point of view before passing their own judgment on a dispute, what a difference it would at once make in their manliness of character!
Such lads would not be carried away, as is at present too commonly the case, by the first orator who catches their ear on any subject, but they would also go and hear what the other side has to say about it, and would then think out the question and make up their own minds as men for themselves.
And so it is in almost every problem of life; individual power of judgment is essential, whether in choice of politics, religion, profession, or sport — and half our failures and three quarters of our only partial successes among our sons is due to the want of it.
We want our men to be men, not sheep. And, in the greater proposition of International Peace, it seems to me that before you can abolish armaments, before you can make treaty promises, before you build palaces for peace delegates to sit in, the first step of all is to train the rising generations — in every nation — to be guided in all things by an absolute sense of justice. When men have it as an instinct in their conduct of all affairs of life to look at the question impartially from both sides before becoming partisans of one, then, if a crisis arises between two nations, they will naturally be more ready to recognise the justice of the case and to adopt a peaceful solution, which is impossible so long as their minds are accustomed to run to war as the only resource.
In the Scout Movement we have it in our power to do a very great thing in introducing a practical training in justice and “fair play,” both through games and competitions in the field, and through arbitrations, courts of honour, trials, and debates in the clubroom.
From B.P.’s Outlook