E. E. Reynolds, Boy Scouts, 1944
What of the future? It is rash to take up the role of prophet, but a few possibilities are worth considering.
As long as there is need for the type of training Scouting gives, it will have its part to play provided the State does not usurp all the fields of service at present open to voluntary effort. Scouting would be killed the day it became a State-controlled Movement or one to which boys were compelled to belong. It is difficult to exaggerate the moral value of the fact that a Boy Scout of his own free will makes a solemn promise before his fellows that he will do his best to do his duty to God and the King, and to obey the Scout Law. He undertakes freely to make a real effort to live up to a clearly defined standard. This is important in a world where standards have been so widely held up to scorn.
In addition to the boys, there are the adults (some 40,000 of them in 1938 with a similar number in the Guide Movement), who gladly give up their leisure time to the Movement. It will be a sad day-should it ever come-when such a field for community service is closed to the volunteer in favour of paid full-time leaders. Some exclaim that this is not possible, but there have been hints here and there that some would like to see all this volunteer youth work tidied up and "co-ordinated" into a well-planned scheme. The loss to National character would be considerable, for this kind of voluntary social service by men and women of all types has its roots deep down in the community life.
Left to itself, the Boy Scout Movement can play a useful part in the Service of Youth. It does not depend on State support and it has always refused to accept any public grants which might hamper its free development; so far there has been no clash in this matter, but the steady encroachment of State control in many fields calls for constant watchfulness.
The Movement is well aware of its own weaknesses. The decentralisation of control, and the large measure of freedom allowed the Scoutmaster has disadvantages. It has meant, for instance, that some Troops are poor in quality, though even there it may be that the personal influence of the Scoutmaster more than compensates for technical deficiencies.
In one direction plans are now being carefully laid to strengthen a weak section in the chain of training. Special care is needed with the boys of the 15-18 age group. In the past too many have slipped away on going to work and have lost the steadying influence of Scouting at the period when it was most needed. Time alone can show whether the proposed scheme for the Senior Scouts will succeed.
Scouting should become a stronger and stronger bond between the countries and peoples of the British Empire. The tie has always been a close one, but the distance of the greater part of the Empire from Great
Britain has meant far too few personal contacts except at the great Jamborees.
The presence of so many former Scouts on service in this country during the war has already done much to draw all together in a more firmly knit brotherhood. Advances in means of transport after the war may be expected to facilitate an even closer union such as we all look for.
Scouting has proved particularly successful in some of the less advanced countries of the Empire, where the people have taken to it with considerable gusto. Here too, then, is an important function which may be expected to develop further.
Finally, there are the possibilities in the field of good relations between all countries. As the largest Youth Movement in the World, the Boy Scouts feel a special responsibility in this matter, though they realise that their efforts are but one small tributary to what must become a vast river of goodwill if universal brotherhood is to be a reality.
The International Bureau, to which recognised national Associations are affiliated, organises a Conference every two years at which matter's of common interest can be discussed, and this body may well play a more and more important part in developing the Movement. There will be much to be done after the war to help reconstruct those Scout Associations which the Nazis have suppressed; efforts to restart Scouting in Italy and to develop it in such countries as Greece and Jugoslavia will call for much hard work and goodwill. It is a curious fact that it has never been possible to get a genuine Scout Movement founded in Germany. Perhaps that too may come some day! The Pioneers of the U.S.S.R. are a direct development out of the pre-revolution Russian Boy Scouts; the main difference is that a Pioneer is not taught the meaning of "Duty to God."
The Movement is obviously not going to lack opportunities for extended service at home, overseas, and abroad If it is to meet these calls upon it, there will be an ever growing need for adults to come forward to help. There is a great variety of work open to laymen quite apart from the job of training the boys. Instructors, badge examiners, chairmen, treasurers and secretaries-to mention but a few-are all wanted wherever Scouts are found.
The greatest need of all is for young men who will train the boys. Here is a world of service for those who have a vision of the future happiness of their fellow citizens. The boys are there in their hundreds of thousands, waiting for men to come forward with Scouting for Boys in their hands and the enthusiasm to put it into practice.