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.
A boy does not really get the value of the Scout training until he is a First Class Scout. The Second-class is only a step to that standing. But it is a lamentable fact that a good many are content to remain as Second-class Scouts once they have gained a few badges of proficiency. It is for that reason, mainly, that the All Round Cords are now obtainable only by First-class Scouts. This move has been welcomed by Scoutmasters as giving an incentive to the lads to keep progressing in their training.
Of course, the main objection to it is that it necessitates the boys learning to swim, and facilities for this do not exist in all centres. It has, therefore, been suggested in one or two cases that this rule should be relaxed. I am afraid that I have been very “sticky” about it, and although I generally make things as elastic as possible, I may have appeared unnaturally obstinate in this one particular; but I had reasons, and experience has now shown that those reasons were right.
When a boy has become a First-class Scout — but not before then — he has got a grounding in the qualities, mental, moral, and physical, that go to make a good useful man. And I look on swimming as a very important step, combining as it does attributes of all three of those classes? mentally it gives the boy a new sense of self-confidence and pluck; morally, it gives him the power of helping others in distress and puts a responsibility upon him of actually risking his life at any moment for others; and physically, it is a grand exercise for developing wind and limb.
Every man ought to be able to swim; and in Norway and Sweden, the home of practical education, every boy and girl is taught swimming at school.
The fact that swimming has got to be learnt by the Boy Scout before he can gain his firstclass badge has had the effect of putting the character of the lads in very many cases to a hard and strengthening test.
At first they complained that there was no place near where they could learn to swim. But when they found this was not accepted as an excuse, they set to work to make places or to get to where such places existed. I have heard of boys riding five miles on their bicycles day after day to swimming-baths; streams in many country places have been dammed up, and bathing-places made by the Scouts; the summer Camp has been established at some seaside or river-side spot for the special purpose of getting everyone trained in swimming. It can be done if everybody sets his mind to it. If the boys are put to extra trouble in bringing it about, so much the better for their character training. In any case, I look upon swimming as an essential qualification for First-class Scout, and for every man. Also, I don’t consider a boy is a real Scout till he has passed his first-class tests.