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.
At the age of fourteen out boys finish their schooling in three R’s, and are then supposed to be sufficiently grounded educationally to specialize for a particular line in life and, after making their choices, to take up the required form of training in the continuation or the technical school.
But how many of them do this? Less than half.
The remainder take up some occupation that gives them immediate pay, without regards to what it is going to hive them later on.
This is not economizing out country’s future man-power or mind-power, nor does it help the boys’ personal prospects and happiness later on in life. If we are going to win the war after the war we have got to put into practice the strictest economy in the prevention of human waste.
Through the Scout Movement we can do a powerful good in this direction. As matters stand, we lead a boy on in progressive stages from his early years, and through Proficiency Badges we encourage him to try his hand at various hobbies till he eventually finds one beyond others at which he proves him good.
The suggestion now is that he should be further given ambition to develop this particular gift on to a higher standard so that it may help him directly in his career.
This encouragement might be given through badges of a higher grade than the existing ones, such, for instance, as he could work for through a continuation school, or in technical classes, or by corresponding instruction.
This higher grade of badge, however, would not of itself be a sufficient incentive to some boys to stay on without other more personal inducements, and therefore it is possible that a distinctive form that of Scout uniform would also be desirable, differing from that of the younger boy and placing the senior boy on a distinct footing of his own.
Retaining the Scout shirt, he might war a smart cap in lieu of the hat, and knee breeches where he preferred them to shorts.
The Senior Scouts in a Troop, that is those of, say, sixteen who hold a First-class Badge, could form a special Patrol, and would be given supervisory duties as Assistants to the Scoutmaster in his work in cases where thy cannot continue as Patrol Leaders.
Such Senior Patrol would form a standing team for public services, such as fire-brigade duties, work as special constables, accident first-aiders, emergency signallers, coast-watcher, etc., according to their locality.
I have grouped under headings are these: Commercial, Naval, Intellectual, Manufacturing, Agricultural, Military, Trade, and Pioneering, each having at least six alternative subjects for study. The practice of these would tend to make the boys efficient and fit for careers, while expanding their minds and tastes in the human direction as well. They would thus still be retained in their Troops without throwing any extra work on the Scoutmaster or requiring new organisation.
Whether they had the name or not they would be veritable “Cadets,” Cadets of citizenship, of commerce and industry, but as such far more valuable to the nation for the war that is coming than merely military cadets.