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.
CONCENTRATION in education can only be obtained when the work to be done is suited to the tastes and abilities of the learner.
The natural instinct of the infant is to develop itself by exercise which we call “Play.” It has an inherent desire to accomplish; the young child wants to do things and to overcome difficulties to its own satisfaction.
Dr. Montessori has proved that by encouraging a child in its natural desires, instead of instructing it in what you think it ought to do, you can educate it on a much more solid and far-reaching basis. It is only tradition and custom that ordain that education should be a labour, and that as such it is good training for the child in discipline and application. One of the original objects of Scouting for Boys was to break through this tradition and to show that, by giving attractive pursuits to the young, one could lead them to develop for themselves the essentials of character, health, and handiness.
It is maintained by many interested in education that concentration on the part of the child is most essential to its successful education, but is most difficult to obtain in school. I don’t know what happens in school, but I know that it is most easy to get concentration outside the school if you only give a child its own task to do in its own way.
The thing is to study the child and see what interests it. Look at a youngster making sand castles on the beach, how he will go at it hour after hour until he overcomes his difficulties and builds up his castle to his satisfaction. He concentrates the whole of his thought and the whole of his physical energy upon it. If you adapt such whole-hearted keenness to educational ends, there is no difficulty about obtaining the concentration desired.
This is exactly what happens in the Scout Movement — on a step higher than the castles in the sand — but the success in results is entirely the outcome of study of the child, and of utilising his bent — whatever it may be — for his own development.
Does the school teacher get his certificate for knowledge of the child or for knowledge of the three R’s?
The main step to success is to develop, not to repress, the child’s character, and at the same time, above all, not to nurse him.
He wants to be doing things, therefore encourage him to do them in the right direction, and let him do them in his own way. Let him make his mistakes; it is by these that he learns experience.
Education must be positive, not negative — active, not passive. For example, the Scout Law in each of its details says: “A Scout does” — his, that, or the other.
Authorities have come along to improve the Scout Law, and not recognising the active side of it, have changed it to the reverse — a series of “Don’ts.” “Don’t,” of course, is the distinguishing feature and motto of the old-fashioned system of repression, and is a red rag to a boy. It is a challenge to him to do wrong.
Sought knowledge lasts, unsought does not.
Every boy is different in ability, temperament, and mind, and yet we try to teach them all in a heap the same things. One will come out top of his class because a subject happens to suit him, but he does not at the top in life.
We have been criticized in the Scout Movement for offering such a large number of badges for proficiency in different lines. The object of this was, not that each by should try to win all these badges, but to try to meet the enormous variety of characters among boys, and to give each one his chance by selecting his own subject. We so not perpetuate the school custom, thereby abilities may be equally good but unfortunately not in one of the subjects which come into the school curriculum.
The aim of the Proficiency Badge is to encourage self-education on the part of the boy in a subject which interests him.