SCOUTING IS A GAME for boys, under the leadership of boys, in which elder brothers can give their younger brothers healthy environment and encourage them to healthy activities such as will help them to develop CITIZENSHIP.
Its strongest appeal is through Nature Study and Woodcraft. It deals with the individual, not with the Company. It raises intellectual as well as purely physical or purely moral qualities.
At first it used to aim for these ends-now by experience we know that, where properly handled, it gains them.
Perhaps the best exponent of the aim and methods of Scouting has been Dean James E. Russell, of Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. He writes thus: "The program of the Boy Scouts is the man's job cut down to boy's size. It appeals to the boy not merely because he is a boy, but because he is a man in the making ... The Scouting program does not ask of the boy anything that the man does not do; but step by step it takes him from the place where he is until he reaches the place where he would be ...
"It is not the curriculum of Scouting that is the most striking feature, but it is the method. As a systematic scheme of leading boys to do the right thing and to inculcate right habits it is almost ideal. In the doing, two things stand out-the one is that habits are fixed; the other is that it affords an opportunity for initiative, self-control, self-reliance, and self-direction.
"In the development of initiative Scouting depends not merely on its program of work for the boy, but in a marvelous way it also utilises its machinery of administration. In the administrative scheme a splendid opportunity is given to break away from any incrusting method. It comes about in the Patrol and in the Troop. It teaches the boys to work together in teams. It secures co-operative effort for a common end; that is a democratic thing in and of itself . . .
"By encouraging your Scouts in a healthy, cheery, and not in a sanctimonious looking-for-a-reward spirit to do Good Turns as a first step and to do service for the community as a development, you can do more for them even than by encouraging their proficiency or their discipline or their knowledge, because you are teaching them not how to get a living so much as how to live."
To an outsider Scouting must at first sight appear to be a very complex matter, and many a man is probably put off from becoming a Scoutmaster because of the enormous number and variety of things that he thinks he would have to know in order to teach his boys. But it need not be so, if the man will only realise the following points:-
THE AIM OF SCOUTING
The aim of the Scout training is to improve the standard of our future citizenhood, especially in Character and Health; to replace Self with Service, to make the lads individually efficient, orally and physically, with the object of using that efficiency for service for their fellow-men.
Citizenship has been defined briefly as "active loyalty to the community." In a free country it is easy, and not unusual, to consider oneself a good citizen by being a law-abiding man, doing your work and expressing your choice in politics, sports, or activities, "leaving it to George" to worry about the nation's welfare. This is passive citizenship. But passive citizenship is not enough to uphold in the world the virtues of freedom, justice, and honour. Only active citizenship will do.
To accomplish the aim of training for active citizenship, we take up the following four branches which are essential in building up good citizens, and we inculcate them from within instead of from without:
The details of these four branches are shown on page 17 and described in Part II of this book.
By the term "Scouting" is meant the work and attributes of back-woodsmen, explorers, hunters, seamen, airmen, pioneers and frontiersmen.
In giving the elements of these to boys we supply a system of games and practices which meets their desires and instincts, -and is at the same time educative.
From the boys' point of view Scouting puts them into fraternity-gangs which is their natural Organisation, whether for games, mischief, or loafing; it gives them a smart dress and equipment; it appeals to their imagination and romance; and it engages them in an active, open-air life.
From the parents' point of view it gives physical health and development; it teaches energy, resourcefulness, and handicrafts; it puts into the lad discipline, pluck, chivalry, and patriotism; in a word, it develops "character," which is more essential than anything else to a lad for making his way in life.
The Scout training attracts boys of all classes, high and low, rich and poor, and even catches the physically defective, deaf mutes, and blind. It inspires the desire to learn. The principle on which Scouting works is that the boy's ideas are studied, and he is encouraged to educate himself instead of being instructed.
It gives a good start in technical training through badges for proficiency in various kinds of hobbies and handicrafts, in addition to the actual Scouts' Badges of First and Second Class, testifying to their capabilities in swimming, pioneering, cooking, woodsmanship, and other points of manliness and handiness. The object of offering so many as we do at an elementary standard is to draw out the boys of every type to try their hand at various kinds of work, and the watchful Scoutmaster can very quickly recognise the particular bent of each boy and encourage it accordingly. And that is the best road towards expanding his individual character and starting a boy on a successful career.
Moreover, we encourage personal responsibility in the boy for his own physical development and health: and we trust in his honour and expect him to do a Good Turn to someone every day.
Where the Scoutmaster is himself a bit of a boy, and can see it all from the boy's point of view, he can, if he is imaginative, invent new activities, with frequent variations, to meet the boys' thirst for novelty. Note theatres. If they find that a play does not appeal to the public, they don't go on hammering away with it in the hope that it will in the end do so-, they take it off and put on some new attraction.
Boys can see adventure in a dirty old duck-puddle, and if the Scoutmaster is a boy-man he can see it too. It does not require great expense or apparatus to devise new ideas; the boys themselves can often help with suggestions.
A further way of discovering activities that will appeal to the boys is for the Scoutmaster to save his brains by using his ears.
When in war-time a soldier-scout is out at night and wants to gain information of the enemy's moves, he does so to a large extent by listening. Similarly, when a Scoutmaster is in the dark as to what is the inclination or the character of his boys, he can, to a great extent, get it by listening.
In listening, he will gain a close insight into the character of each boy and a realisation of the way in which he can best be interested.
So, too, in the Patrol Leaders' Council debates and camp fire talks; if you make listening and observation your particular occupation, you will gain much more information from your boys than you can put into them by your own talk.
Also, when visiting the parents, don't go with the idea of impressing on them the value of Scouting so much as to glean from them what are their ideas of training their boys and what they expect of Scouting or where they find it deficient.
Generally speaking, when short of ideas don't impose on your Scouts' activities which you think they ought to like; but find out from them by listening or by questioning which activities appeal most to them, and then see how far you can get these going that is, if they are likely to be beneficial to the boys.
Where a Troop resounds with jolly laughter, and enjoys success in competitions, and the fresh excitements of new adventures, there won't be any loss of members through boredom.
The underlying feature is the spirit of the Movement, and the key that unlocks this spirit is the romance of Woodcraft and Nature Lore.
Where is there a boy, or for the matter of that a grown-up man, even in these materialistic times to whom the call of the wild and the open road does not appeal?
Maybe it is a primitive instinct-anyway it is there. With that key a great door may be unlocked, if it is only to admit fresh air and sunshine into lives that were otherwise grey.
But generally it can do more than this.
The heroes of the wild, the frontiersmen and explorers, the rovers of the sea, the airmen of the clouds are Pied Pipers to the boys.
Where they lead the boys will follow, and these will dance to their tune when it sings the song of manliness and pluck, of adventure and high endeavour, of efficiency and skill, of cheerful sacrifice of self for others.
There's meat in this for the boy; there's soul in it.
Watch that lad going down the street, his eyes are looking far out. Is his vision across the prairie or over the grey-backed seas? At any rate, it isn't here. Don't I know it!
Have you never seen the buffaloes roaming in Kensington Gardens? And can't you see the smoke from the Sioux Lodges under the shadow of the Albert Memorial? I have seen them there these many years.
Through Scouting the boy has now the chance to deck himself in a frontier kit as one of the great Brotherhood of Backwoodsmen. He can track and follow signs, he can signal, he can light his fire and build his shack and cook his grub. He can turn his hand to many things in pioneer- and camp-craft.
His unit is the natural gang of the boy, led by its own boy leader.
He may be one of a herd, but he has his own entity. He gets to know the joy of life through the out-of-doors.
Then there is a spiritual side.
Through sips of nature lore imbibed in woodland hikes the puny soul grows up and looks around. The outdoors is par excellence the school for observation and for realising the wonders of a wondrous universe.
It opens to the mind appreciation of the beautiful that lies before it day by day. It reveals to the city youngster that the stars are there beyond the city chimney-pots, and the sunset clouds are gleaming in their glory far above the roof of the "cinema" theatre.
The study of nature brings into a harmonious whole the question of the infinite, the historic, and the microscopic as part of the Great Creator's work. And in these, sex and reproduction play an honoured part.
Scoutcraft is a means through which the veriest hooligan can be brought to higher thought and to the elements of faith in God; and, coupled with the Scout's obligation to do a Good Turn every day, it gives the base of Duty to God and to Neighbour on which the parent or pastor can build with greater ease the form of belief that is desired.
"You can dress a lad as Cowboy, as a Tommy or a Jack,
You can drill him till he looks as smart as paint,
But it does not always follow when you come to scratch his back
That he's really either hero or a saint."
It is the spirit within, not the veneer without that does it.
And the spirit is there in every boy when you get him, only it has to be discovered and brought to light.
The Scout Promise (or Oath) to carry out, on his honour, as far as in him lies, and the Scout Law is our binding disciplinary force, and with ninety-nine out of a hundred it pays. The boy is not governed by DON'T, but is led on by DO. The Scout Law is devised as a guide to his actions rather than as repressive of his faults. It merely states what is good form and expected of a Scout.
The Patrol System is the one essential feature in which Scout training differs from that of all other organisations, and where the System is properly applied, it is absolutely bound to bring success. It cannot help itself!
The formation of the boys into Patrols of from six to eight and training them as separate units each under its own responsible leader is the key to a good Troop.
The Patrol is the unit of Scouting always, whether for work or for play, for discipline or for duty.
An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on to the individual. This is immediately gained in appointing a Patrol Leader to responsible command of his Patrol. It is up to him to take hold of and to develop the qualities of each boy in his Patrol. It sounds a big order, but in practice it works.
Then, through emulation and competition between Patrols, you produce a Patrol spirit which is eminently satisfactory, since it raises the tone among the boys and develops a higher standard of efficiency all round. Each boy in the Patrol realises that he is in himself a responsible unit and that the honour of his group depends in some degree on his own ability in playing the game.
*The term "Court of Honor," in the Boy Scouts of America, denotes the function at which a Scout is awarded Merit Badges or Badges of Rank
The Patrol Leaders' Council and Court of Honour is an important part of the Patrol System. It is a standing committee which, under the guidance of the Scoutmaster, settles the affairs of the Troop, both administrative and disciplinary. It develops in its members self-respect, ideals of freedom coupled with a sense of responsibility and respect for authority, while it gives practice in procedure such as is invaluable to the boys individually and collectively as future citizens.
The Patrol Leaders' Council takes charge of routine matters and the management of such affairs as Troop entertainments, sports, etc. In this Council it is often found convenient to admit the Seconds (Assistant Patrol Leaders) also as members, and, while getting their help, this incidentally gives them experience and practice in committee procedure. The Court of Honour, on the other hand, is composed solely of Patrol Leaders. The Court of Honour, as its name implies, has a rather exceptional mission, such as dealing with cases of discipline and questions of awards.
Values of the Patrol System
It is important that the Scoutmaster recognise the extraordinary value which he can get out of the Patrol System. It is the best guarantee for permanent vitality and success for the Troop. It takes a great deal of minor routine work off the shoulders of the Scoutmaster.
But first and foremost: The Patrol is the character school for the individual. To the Patrol Leader it gives practise in Responsibility and in the qualities of Leadership. To the Scouts it gives subordination of self to the interests of the whole, the elements of self-denial and self-control involved in the team spirit of cooperation and good comradeship.
But to get first-class results from this system you have to give the boy leaders real free-handed responsibility-if you only give partial responsibility you will only get partial results. The main object is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy, since this is the very best of all means for developing character.
The Scoutmaster who hopes for success must not only study what is written about the Patrol System and its methods, but must put into practice the suggestions he reads. It is the doing of things that is so important, and only by constant trial can experience be gained by his Patrol Leaders and Scouts. The more he gives them to do, the more will they respond, the more strength and character will they achieve.
THE SCOUT UNIFORM
I have often said, "I don't care a fig whether a Scout wears a uniform or not so long as his heart is in his work and he carries out the Scout Law." But the fact is that there is hardly a Scout who does not wear uniform if he can afford to buy it.
The spirit prompts him to it.
The same rule applies naturally to those who carry on the Scout Movement-the Scoutmasters and Commissioners; there is no obligation -on them to wear uniform if they don't like it. At the same time, they have in their positions to think of others rather than of themselves.
Personally, I put on uniform, even if I have only a Patrol to inspect, because I am certain that it raises the moral tone of the boys. It heightens their estimation of their uniform when they see it is not beneath a grown man to wear it; it heightens their estimation of themselves when they find themselves taken seriously by men who also count it of importance to be in the same brotherhood with them.
Smartness in uniform and correctness in detail may seem a small matter, but has, its value in the development of self-respect, and means an immense deal to the reputation of the Movement among outsiders who judge by what they see.
It is largely a matter of example. Show me a slackly-dressed Troop and I can "Sherlock" a slackly-dressed Scoutmaster. Think of it, when you are fitting on your uniform or putting that final saucy cock to your hat.
You are the model to your boys and your smartness will reflect itself in them.
THE SCOUTMASTER'S SHARE
The principles of Scouting are all in the right direction. The success in their application depends on the Scoutmaster and how he applies them. My present object is to endeavour to help the Scoutmaster in this particular: First, by showing the object of the Scout training; secondly, by suggesting methods by which it may be carried out.
Many a Scoutmaster would probably desire I should give him all particulars in detail. But this would in reality be an impossibility, because what suits one particular Troop or one kind of boy, in one kind of place, will not suit another within a mile of it, much less those scattered over the world and existing under totally different conditions. Yet one can give a certain amount of general suggestion, and Scoutmasters in applying this can judge for themselves far best which details are most likely to bring about success in their own particular Troops.
But before going into details, once more let me repeat: Do not be appalled by any imaginary magnitude of the task. It will disappear when once you see the aim. You have then only to keep that always before you and adapt the details to suit the end.
As in Peveril of the Peak: "It matters not much whether we actually achieve our highest ideals so be it that they are high."
Occasionally, difficulties may loom up so as almost to blot out the radiant possibilities. But it is comforting to remember that they are generally out of their proper proportion and subside as you approach them. Take comfort from the old negro's rhyme:
"You look 'way down 'long de
(Saturday Morning Post)