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B-P's Blog

There has been a lot written about Scouting. Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the worldwide Scouting movement, wrote many books and articles directed to Scouters.

From time to time we will publish a selection of articles or from B.P.'s writings in the hope that you’ll draw inspiration and understanding from these timeless ideas.

B-P’s Blog appears on Scoutmastercg.com.


Top 10 Reasons to Send Your Kid To Scout Camp

I love Scout Camp. I’ve been a “camp guy” for the better part of 30 years, in just about every capacity. I’ve been a camper. A Scout leader. A scout camp commissioner, an administrator, instructor, inspector, and a lifeguard… and it’s been an absolute blast. But probably the best thing about going to camp is watching people grow over time. You get to watch the shy 8-year-old Cub Scout develop into the 18-year-old staffer who has no qualms about leading a song and making a fool of himself for the delight of 300 people. Here are my top 10 reasons you should send your kid to Scout Camp this summer.

Read the Top 10 Reasons to send your kid to Scout Camp by Mike Cooney.

Mike Cooney spent ten years as an executive with the Boy Scouts of America, serving first in northern Maine at the Katahdin Area Council, and later with the Connecticut Rivers Council. In those capacities, he recruited thousands of new youth into the program. He has raised millions of dollars and set multiple fundraising records. He’s most proud of assisting thousands of volunteers in providing a great program for kids. With the help of some great volunteers, he worked to found a new Cub Scout day camp in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine.

Admin: This article originally appeared on Mike Cooney Creative and was featured on the World Scout Association website.

10. So they’ll be homesick and get over it.

At some point in our lives, we all experience homesickness. Kids who go to camp tend to experience it earlier, and tend to have it happen around supportive people that they know. They also tend to do so much closer to home.

The alternative for a lot of kids is being homesick when the get to college. My first year at Scout Camp, at June Norcross Webster Scout Reservation in Ashford, Conn. I got extremely homesick on Tuesday. There were definitely more tears than I’d care to admit. But my leaders convinced me to stick it out. They distracted me.

By Friday, I didn’t want to go home, because I was having so much fun. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen this exact same process at other camps.

9. They’ll Gain Confidence

Going to camp can be a daunting thing for kids. They’ll get nervous, and build it up to be a big thing in their heads. They’ll convince themselves that they’re going to die in their tents because the Daddy Long Legs spider is going to eat them. You laugh, I’ve had this conversation. They’ll tell themselves they can’t pass their swimming test.

And you know what, an adult Scouter or older scout they trust will tell them that they can. And they will.

This confidence won’t evaporate once they come home from camp – but they’ll have these little victories to look back on when they go back to school. They’ll have it with them for the rest of their lives.

8. It’s Gets Them Moving

Summer camps tend to be big, and you have to do a lot of walking. This is more of a feature than a bug. Walking the trails at camp gives kids some time to think. They might also get to go swimming, rock climbing, canoeing, running, or play sports.

All of which are healthier for them than simulating any of those activities on a PlayStation.

7. They’ll Try New Things

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Where else but camp would you get to try cardboard boat races? Photo by woodleywonderworks 

Camp is the Super Bowl of Scouting. It’s where the kids get to do all the things that they thought they were going to do when they signed up.

Maybe it’ll be archery, canoeing or basketry. But they’ll be exposed to all sorts of things that they’d likely never experience at home or in school. They could go rock climbing. They’ll sing songs, and may even wind up doing a skit in front of hundreds of people.

6. Gain Self-Reliance

As it turns out, the best way to learn how to do things for yourself is… to do things for yourself. They’ll have to take care of their own stuff. Mom won’t be there to clean their room for them.

They’ll learn that staying up until midnight talking to your friends is fun on Sunday night, but that you’ll pay for it on Monday morning. They’ll also have the experience of truly managing their own money for the first time. When they get to camp with a certain amount of money, they’ll have to figure out how to spend it best over the course of a week.

And this rolls into the next point, scout camp is a…

5. It’s A Safe Place to Fail

Accidents happen at camp.  They might not complete a merit badge. A towel could go missing. They might get a blister. They might spend all of their money on candy on the first day, and have nothing left for the rest of the week – and they won’t actually starve.

In life, things go wrong.

And you’ll still be okay. There will be people there to help and to support you.

You’ll learn that the little setbacks in life aren’t the end of the world.

4. They Learn Skills

They’ll learn to look out for others. Delegating important tasks to others is a difficult concept for adults. But it’s vital to accomplishing any big, worthwhile goal. This is a skill that the Scouts will learn at camp. They’ll learn how to manage others – how to take a list of things to do and to match them up with the right people for the job.

But they’ll learn any number of things – from construction skills to life-saving, to basketry, to canoeing, or archery. Above all, for many of them, it will be the first time they’ll actually get to pick what they want to learn about. They’ll actually set their own schedules. They may be exposed to a hobby or career they’ll enjoy for the rest of their lives

3. Scout Camp Is the Friendliest Place on Earth

Sorry Disney, but Scout camp is the friendliest place you can send your kid this summer. Everybody tends to be in a great mood. The kids are doing what they’ve been looking forward to all year long. The staff has the best job of their lives. And the volunteers are on vacation. It’s the perfect storm for a good time. Sure, it may rain sometimes, but still, a bad day at camp is better than a good day at the office, or school, or pretty much anywhere.

 2. See the World Differently

In my time at camp, I’ve gotten to meet people from all over the world. From every continent. It’s one thing to read about people from the other side of the planet in a book or see them on television, but you get a different perspective when you actually get to spend time with them as friends.

But they’ll also get to see their own area in a different way. When there are no walls, you tend to be open to new ideas. You can sit quietly, and listen to the birds, the trees, and the wind… and you have some time to think. Time to figure things out.

 1. Make Friends That Last a Lifetime

They’ll run into people from all over, and learn to find similarities. They’ll find themselves singing songs, doing skits, and telling jokes with people they might not otherwise ever come into contact with. When you camp with people, you find out your similarities and differences in a hurry. Camp is one of the great places to have the shared experiences that build strong friendships.

And oh yeah, camp is fun.


Happifying

AT the risk of being a bore I would like to point out once again a direction in which we want to progress. Provided we don’t aim too high or go too fast or too damn seriously, there is one job which we CAN do through our boys.

It is the great little service of happifying. This old English word is one to carry in our minds in training our boys — more especially at this Christianising season of the year. If a boy only makes himself wear a cheery countenance in, the street it is something. (Don’t forget he gains it from the example of his Scoutmaster.) It happifies or brightens up numbers of his passers by, among the depressing hundreds of glum faces that they otherwise meet. The glum or the bright is equally infectious. To get the boy to do this as a step to greater happifying services is a thing worth trying for. The desire to happify once instilled into the character of the boy is going to make all the difference in his relations with his fellow-men, and in his attitude to the community in after-life. It will make him the “happy, helpful citizen” whom we need, and this, after all, is the real aim of our endeavor in Scouting.

B-P’s Outlook January, 1929.


Scouting is not an Organization

It is a movement, because it moves forward. As soon as it stops moving, it becomes an Organisation, and is no longer Scouting.

– Baden-Powell

Organizations serve the Scouting movement, but they are not Scouting itself.

There’s a tense relationship between the creative, visionary force behind great ideas like Scouting and the formal organizational framework that facilitates their application.

Movements have an emotional heart. Movements require leaders energized by an idea, a vision. Movements are very hard to stop and are more likely to bring change to the world.

A movement survives events that kill an organization. A movement can skip a generation or two, break into autonomous groups, morph, split and then reunite.

Our first loyalty is the movement not the organizations that contain it. Organizations are vulnerable to error and weakness, they have a lifespan; they are not eternal. Organizations need to be challenged, it’s the only way they can remain faithful to their underlying philosophy.

During the occupation of Poland in WWII the Polish Scouting Organization was outlawed. The Poles didn’t miss a beat. They carried the Scouting movement into the ghettos, the concentration camps, and finally into the diaspora of Poles all over the world. Polish Scouting stayed alive through six decades of Nazi and communist governments.

When Poland was freed from communism the Scouting movement grew into several competing organizations all vying for official recognition; but the movement had survived.

When we keep ourselves centered on Scouting, when we remain faithful to the movement, the troubles and trials of the organization are less unsettling.

If Scouting is valuable it will remain so – there’s really no way to kill it. The organizations formed around it may come and go but the movement at it’s heart will remain strong.

No organization cares about you. Organizations aren’t capable of this …
People, on the other hand, are perfectly capable of caring. It’s part of being a human. It’s only when organizational demands and regulations get in the way that the caring fades.

– Seth Godin

Organizational demands and regulations are rarely flexible enough to answer individual needs without losing organizational identity or purpose.

Most of the tensions and conflicts in any organization spring from bringing the program to the individual; in our case a Scout.

Scouters individualize Scouting by delivering the promises of Scouting to individual Scouts; that is the process of caring.

If organizational demands and regulations become our focus the caring fades.

We cannot comprehend the vision of Scouting by knowing the policies; it is quite the other way around. We first have to catch the vision for the policies to make sense.

All too often our training focuses on adherence to policy and misses the vast, inspiring vision that they frame.

We need organization, we need definition, we need guidance – but they are dead without the vision and inspiration of a movement.


One Minute Scout Leader

Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s bestselling book The One Minute Manager concentrates on brief, focused management through goal setting, encouragement and correction. One minute methods work well for Scout Leaders: (adapted from an essay by Winston R. Davis, author of Men of Schiff)

There was a bright young man looking for a really good Scout Leader.

He wanted to work for one.  He wanted to become one.

He found some who said: “I keep my Scouts in line! If you let up on them, they just get in trouble. We make ’em shape up!” Their troops were usually impressive:  good uniforming, behavior and skills. But the Scouts in their troops didn’t seem to be having much fun.  The only ones having a good time were just like their Scout Leaders. They said: “We know how to make these kids behave. We don’t let ’em get away with a thing!”

There were others he found who  were easygoing and likable, friendly and quiet.  Many said,  “Oh, life is too short to hassle these kids. I let them pretty much decide what they want to do. That’s the patrol method. They know what they need.” The Scouts in their Troops didn’t appear doing anything that was in their Scout books.  Hardly any complete uniforms. Lots of goofing around and having a great time. Troop activities were noisy and looked like fun, but not everybody could participate. Younger Scouts seemed confused and unable to get any help.

The young man wasn’t happy with what he had seen.

He knew a good Scout Leader would run his troop so that the girls and boys would have a good time and learn some things. There wouldn’t be a lot of time wasted on noisy confusion. They could get right down to the business of doing exciting and interesting things. Scouts would earn a lot of badges, win a lot of contests and have fun doing it.

He began hearing wonderful things about a Scout Leader who lived not far from him; he found the One-Minute Scout Leader.

The OMSL believes that boys who feel good about themselves do good things.  He knows that “Goals begin behavior; consequences maintain behavior.”  For that reason, he uses one-minute goal setting, one minute praising and one minute reprimands.

Scout-age girls and boys thrive on the one minute concept: they are not fond of too much abstract thinking, lengthy goal making or evaluation.

They know when they mess up, and expect to be corrected, but they can do without a lecture. They like goals that are succinct, understandable, reachable and measurable. If they don’t buy into the goals, they won’t be too excited about making them happen.

Naturally there will be mistakes. The one minute reprimand is only given for a significant mistake. It  is short, unemotional, specific. It emphasizes that the leader realizes the girl or boy is a good person capable of better things. The behavior is criticized, not the Scout.

The OMSL actively looks for opportunities to make one minute praisings. As with the reprimand, a girl or boy is told specifically what it was that he did to earn the praise, and how really good that makes the OMSL feel. Both praising and reprimanding are “up close and personal,” looking the Scout directly in the eye.

The young man attends one of the OMSL’s Troop meetings. He finds lots of girls and boys in Scout uniform engaged in some fun pre-opening activities. There are adults around, but they don’t seem to be involved in the action.

A sharp-looking thirteen year old introduces herself as Ronda, the Senior Patrol Leader. “So, you’ve met the Old Man,” she says.

“Yeah, the One-Minute Scoutmaster.  That’s a lotta bunk, isn’t it?”

“No way,” Ronda replies.  “Everybody thinks that at first, though!”

“Well,” responds the young man, “I guess you guys will have to prove it. What happens when the adults take charge of the meeting?”

“They don’t, the patrol leaders and I, along with some of the others run the meeting. Except in emergencies the adults never step in unless we ask or for one-minute praisings. He’ll have a time at the end of the meeting to leave us with a final thought. It’s . . . ”

“Don’t tell me it’s a One-Minute Scout Leader’s Minute!”

“You got it!  He never takes more than about ninety seconds to speak his piece.  He says if you can’t say it in two or three minutes, you haven’t thought enough about what you want to say,”  was the girl’s reply.

“Yeah, but he must have a lot to say to the boy leaders after the meeting, right?” the young man suggested.

“Not really,” Ronda said.  “There is a Patrol Leader’s Council meeting after every meeting. A short one. But we do almost all the talking. We review the meeting, note any foul-ups and check plans for the next meeting or activity. The Old Man only talks if he needs to give a One-Minute praising.”

“Aha!” said the young man.  “Or, no doubt, a One-Minute reprimand?”

“Those happen only in private.  He never reprimands us in front of each other because it makes you feel humiliated and resentful. The only reason for the reprimand is to get us to behave differently in the future.  He only criticizes the thing we did and not us and, since the reprimand ends with a praising . . . ”

“Just a minute.  He reprimands and praises you?  How does that work?”

The young man saw he still had a long way to go. “After he finishes telling you exactly what you did wrong, and how it makes him feel, and giving you a moment to feel how it feels, he tells you what a great person you are and how much he likes you, and you know it’s over.” Ronda’s admiration for the man showed in her face. “I only wish we could get the Old Man to teach all our teachers to do the same thing. A lot of them use what he calls the ‘gunny sack’ approach. They save up a lot of frustration–and boy do they get a lot of frustration–until they have enough to fill a sack! Then they just dump it all over everybody. The guilty and the innocent get punished or yelled at all together.

The young man was still puzzled. “Okay, let’s go back a minute. If you all do everything without the SL’s guidance, how do you know what to do at meetings and activities?”

“I thought you’d want to know that.” Ronda grinned. “It’s really simple. We know because we all sit down together and plan everything. We mostly come up with the program plan, but he provides the materials and some suggestions. But everybody has to agree on what we’re going to do, and everything we agree to gets written down. Everybody keeps a copy so that there’s no doubt later of who agreed to do what.

It takes a lot of work for us, but we get to do what we want to do, not what a bunch of adults think we should.”

“But you don’t get to do just anything do you?”

“Definitely not! Whatever we do  we have to convince the Old Man that it could be done without compromising health and safety standards, is consistent with the goals we have set and  that it was what everyone in the troop wanted and not just us.”

Ronda looked thoughtful. “I don’t think there’s any idea we couldn’t at least talk about. And when the talking was over, we would know whether it was a good idea and exactly why it was or wasn’t.”

These methods will go a long way towards maintaining a dynamic, happy Troop.


Scouting Spirit

A Scout officer came to me the other day with a scheme for organising the Movement on a better footing than heretofore. It involved a certain amount of expense in offices, whole-time secretaries, etc. But there was a plan to meet this with an adequate contribution of funds from Local Associations.

An integral part of the idea was the formation of a fully representative committee by general election to manage the whole organisation; the advantage was that it could eliminate the present sporadic and uneven arrangement of Local Associations running their shows on different lines of their own. In this more centralised and ordered system a far more accurate record could be kept of the development, a more regular standard of efficiency among the Troops could be set up, and a better general supervision maintained.

He was going on to describe further advantages of the scheme when I felt bound to save him the trouble, and I burst in on him with the remark, “My dear chap! But you have not got the hang of Scouting. For one thing the Movement extends considerably beyond the United Kingdom. Your elected committee would have to represent all parts of the Empire. How could election supply the expert heads required for the different departments at Headquarters? Local Associations would enjoy subscribing funds to run the office — I don’t think. These are some of the minor material objections. But there is another and far greater consideration that upsets the whole caboodle. WE ARE A MOVEMENT, NOT AN ORGANISATION.

We work through “love and legislation.” That is where we differ from so many other systems; it may be wrong of us, but that is our way, and, in spite of it, we have somehow managed to do something in the twelve years of our existence.

I have just got back from a pretty big tour of Scouting in other parts of the world, and what I have seen there only confirms me in the conviction that in working through love for the boy, loyalty to the Movement, and comradeship one with another — that is, through the SPIRIT OF SCOUTING — we are on the right line.

It is true that many have not — like my friend — as yet got the hang of that spirit, but, on the other hand, many have, and many more are getting it. The spread of the officers’ training (eighteen authorised camps in the United Kingdom this summer) is helping its development very materially. Our form of administration is one that has its foundations on a very high principle.

A Scout officer (he’s dead now, so I can say it quite openly) once asked me for a tangible reward for the work which, as he put it, he had done for me in his capacity as a Scout official.

I had to explain to him a point which he confessed had never struck him before, and that was that he was working for the boy and not for me.

The suggestion of Scouting has merely been given for the use of those who have the interest of their country and of their kind at heart. The men who have taken it up are not a force of masters and servants, officers and soldiers, but are a team of patriots bound by a common ideal as a Brotherhood, and that ideal is the betterment of the boy.

July, 1921


Scouting is a Game, not a Science

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Yes, Scouting is a game. But sometimes I wonder whether, with all our pamphlets, rules, disquisitions in the Scouter, conferences, and training classes for Commissioners and other Scouters, etc., we may not appear to be making of it too serious a game. It is true that these things are all necessary and helpful to men for getting the hang of the thing, and for securing results. But they are apt to grow into big proportions (like one’s own children or one’s own mannerisms) without our noticing it, when all the time it is very patent to those who come suddenly upon it from outside.

Thus this phalanx of instructional aids appears terribly formidable to many a Scouter, while to outsiders having a look before they leap into our vortex it must in many cases be directly deterring. When you come to look on it as something formidable, then you miss the whole spirit and the whole joy of it; your boys catch the depression from you, and Scouting, having lost its spirit, is no longer a game for them.

It becomes like the game of polo which was suggested to me by a General under whom I served. A melancholy occasion had arisen when the Troops in the garrison were ordered to go into mourning. This happened on the very day that an important polo match was to be played. So I was sent as a deputation to the General to ask whether the match would have to be cancelled. The General, with a twinkle in his eye, replied: “I think if you played very slowly and used a black ball it might meet the occasion.”

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Scouting, as I have said above, is not a science to be solemnly studied, nor is it a collection of doctrines and texts. Nor again is it a military code for drilling discipline into boys and repressing their individuality and initiative. No — it is a jolly game in the out of doors, where boy-men and boys can go adventuring together as older and younger brother, picking up health and happiness, handicraft and helpfulness.

Many young men are put off Scoutmastering by the fear that they have got to be Admirable Crichtons and capable of teaching their boys all the details for the different Badge tests; whereas their job is to enthuse the boys and to get experts to teach them. The collection of rules is merely to give guiding lines to help them in a difficulty; the training courses are merely to show them the more readily the best ways of applying our methods and of gaining results.

So may I urge upon Scouters that the more important quest for 1931 is to ginger up the joyous spirit of Scouting through camping and hiking, not as an occasional treat in intervals of parlour or parade Scouting, but as the habitual form of training for their boys — and incidentally for themselves.


What is Scouting?

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What is Scouting?

NOT one in a hundred of our own people knows this.

Scouting is not a thing that can be taught by wording it in public speeches, nor by defining it in print. Its Successful application depends entirely on the grasp of the Scout spirit by both trainer and trainee. What this spirit is can only be understood by outsiders when they see it ruling, as it already does to a vast extent, the thoughts and the actions of each member of our brotherhood.

Thus every Scoutmaster and every Commissioner will be an apostle to them, not merely through what he says but through what he imparts by impression and through what he does himself in his own personality.

For this he must, as a first point, be imbued with a real understanding knowledge of the Scout ideals, the methods we use to gain them, and the reasons that underlie them.

Among them he realises, for instance:

That the need is urgent of a great social rise out of the present slough of squalor; That the State education system has its limitations for developing the character, the health, the technical skill, and the communal Christianity that are necessary;

That Scouting can help by attracting the boy or girl, or by helping him or her to acquire these qualities;

That this cannot be done by the imposition of artificial instruction from without but by the encouragement of the natural impulses from within;

That this is imparted by personal leadership and example on the part of the Scoutmaster himself, and not by his mere instruction;

That the intelligent application of Nature lore and woodcraft largely supplies the means and the incentive, while the Promise and the Scout Law give the direction;

That the growth of the Movement both at home and in every civilised foreign country is phenomenal, not merely for its numbers but because it is entirely natural from within and has not been artificially forced from without;

That it is brotherhood — scheme which, in practice, disregards differences of class, creed, country and colour, through the undefinable spirit that pervades it — the spirit of God’s gentleman.

Now these, you will say, are things that you know already, and don’t need to be told. Yes, that is so. But what I want is that you should pass them on to those who don’t know them.

From B.P.’s Outlook – July 1920


B.P.’S Blog -In Camp

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I WRITE my notes this month from camp. I hope that many a Scoutmaster will have been able, like me, to take his holiday this year in camp. If he has enjoyed it half as much as I am enjoying mine, he will have done well.

I am certain that a week or two of such life is the best rest-cure and the best tonic for both mind and body that exists for a man, whether he be boy or old ‘un. And for both it is a great educator.  By camp I mean a woodland camp, not the military camp for barracking a large number at one time under canvas. That is no more like the kind of camp I advocate than a cockchafer is like a goose.

A Boy Scouts’ camp should be the woodland kind of camp, if it is going to be any real good as an educator. Many, nay most, military camps are liable to do more harm than good to boys, unless exceptionally well-managed and closely supervised.  Whereas a woodsman’s camp, if properly carried out, gives the lads occupation and individual resourcefulness all the time.

A large camp has of necessity to be carried on with a considerable amount of routine discipline. Parades have to be held to give the boys instruction and occupation, fatigue parties, tent inspections, roll-calls, bathing parades, and so on. Were it not for the fresh, open-air life this kind of camp might almost as well be carried on in town barracks; it teaches the boys nothing of individuality, resourcefulness, responsibility, nature lore, and many little (though really great) bits of character education for which the woodsman’s camp is the best, if not the only, school.

But such a camp can only be carried out with a small number of boys; from thirty to forty being the full number with which it is possible. And then only if the Patrol system is really and entirely made use of.

Of course, it is easy for one to write from an ideal camp of the kind and imagine that everybody has the same advantages, but I don’t altogether mean to do that. I know the difficulties that one has to contend with as a Scoutmaster in England, but I want to put the ideal before those who have not perhaps thought out the question very carefully, and who, by custom or example, are inclined to take the military form of camp as being the usual and right one for boys.  The ideal can then be followed as nearly as local circumstances will allow.

Here I am camped by a rushing river between forest-clad hills.   It is close on ten in the morning. I turned out at five, and yet those five hours have been full of work for me, albeit it was no more than little camp jobs.

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The fire had to be lit, coffee and scones to be made. Then followed boiling and sandscrubbing the cooking utensils; collecting of firewood for the day (both kindling and emberforming wood); a new crossbar and pot-hooks had to be cut and trimmed; a pair of tongs for the fire, and a besom for cleaning the camp ground had to be cut and made. Bedding had to be aired and stowed; moccasins to be greased; the camp ground swept up and rubbish burned; the trout had to be gutted and washed. Finally, I had a shave and a bathe; and here I am ready for the day’s work whatever it may be.  But this took five hours to do.

My comrade went in yesterday to the nearest hamlet, and will be back to-day with our letters and supplies. He will find me away fishing or sketching, and gathering berries for our “sweet” of stewed fruit at dinner; but he will find the camp swept and garnished, fire laid ready to be lit, cooking pots, cups, and plates all ready and clean for his use, and food handy. We may probably “up-stick” and travel on later in the day, and see some more of the beauties of the land, as we “hump our packs” to the next nice-looking site for camp. Then comes all the business of pitching camp, getting water and firewood, cooking food, and making oneself comfortable. All a succession of very little jobs, but which in their sum are important. They all give enjoyment and satisfaction to the older man, while to the boy they bring delight, experience, resourcefulness, self-reliance, thought for others, and that excellent discipline of camp-tradition and of being expected to do the right thing for himself. They have no time for idleness, and give no room for a shirker. But that is a very different thing from the streets of canvas town where the supplies are sent in by a contractor and cooked and served by paid servants, the boys in a herd, merely doing what they are ordered to do.

September, 1911.

From B.P.’s Outlook


B.P.’s Blog – The Scouting Game

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In making our young citizens, therefore, it is essential to try to get into them the habit of cheery co-operation, of forgetting their personal wishes and feelings in bringing about the good of the whole business in which they are engaged — whether it be work or play. One can teach the boy that it is exactly as in football. You must play in your place and play the game; don’t try to be referee when you are playing half-back; don’t stop playing because you have had enough of the game, but shove along, cheerily and hopefully, with an eye on the goal in order that your side may win, even though you may yourself get a kick on the shins or a muddy fall in helping it.

But the best form of instruction of all for a Scoutmaster to give is by the force of example. It is essential if he is going to succeed in putting the right character into his boys that he should himself practise what he preaches. Boys are imitative, and what the Scoutmaster gives off, that they pick up and reflect. Instructions, and especially orders, are apt to have different and even opposite effects with boys — order a boy not to smoke and he is at once tempted to try it as an adventure; but give him the example, show him that any fool can smoke but a wise Scout doesn’t, and it is another matter.

Therefore, it is of first importance that every Scout-master, with this great responsibility on his shoulders, should examine himself very closely, suppress any of the minor faults which he may — in fact, is bound to — possess, and train himself to practise what he preaches, so as to give the right example to his lads for the shaping of their lives, characters, and careers. It is laid down in our handbook that a Scoutmaster should go through a period of three months’ probation before getting finally appointed.

The object of this is to enable him to find out whether Scouting really suits him after all, whether he is capable of treading down little personal worries and pinpricks, can endure the many preliminary difficulties and disappointments, can fit himself into the place assigned to him, and loyally carry out instructions, though they may not be exactly what he would like; whether he can, in a word, play in his place and play the game for the good of the whole. If he can do this he will be doing the most valuable work that a man can do, viz. teach his younger brothers the great virtues of endurance and discipline, pluck and unselfishness. If, on the other hand, he cannot, his only honourable course is to resign in preference to the unmanly one — typical, by the way, of men who fail in whatever line of life — of whining about his so-called rights, complaining of his bad luck.

July, 1910.

From B.P.’s Outlook


B-P’s Blog – The Scoutmaster

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The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother.

As a preliminary word of comfort to intending Scout masters, I should like to contradict the usual misconception that, to be a successful Scoutmaster, a man must be an Admirable Crichton — a know-all. Not a bit of it.

He has simply to be a boy-man, that is:–

  1. He must have the boy spirit in him; and must be able to place himself on a right plane with his boys as a first step.
  2. He must realize the needs, outlooks and desires of the different ages of boy life.
  3. He must deal with the individual boy rather than with the mass.
  4. He then needs to promote a corporate spirit among his individuals to gain the best results.With regard to the first point, the Scoutmaster has to be neither schoolmaster nor commanding officer, nor pastor, nor instructor. All that is needed is the capacity to enjoy the out-of-doors, to enter into the boys’ ambitions, and to find other men who will give them instruction in the desired directions, whether it be signalling or drawing, nature study or pioneering.

He has got to put himself on the level of the older brother, that is, to see things from the boy’s point of view, and to lead and guide and give enthusiasm in the right direction. Like the true older brother he has to realize the traditions of the family and see that they are preserved, even if considerable firmness is required. That is all. The Movement is a jolly fraternity, all the jollier because in the game of Scouting you are doing a big thing for others, you are combating the breeding of selfishness.

Regarding the second point, the various handbooks cover the successive phases of adolescent life.

Thirdly, the business of the Scoutmaster — and a very interesting one it is — is to draw out each boy and find out what is in him, and then to catch hold of the good and develop it to the exclusion of the bad. There is five per cent of good even in the worst character. The sport is to find it, and then to develop it on to an 80 or 90 per cent basis. This is education instead of instruction of the young mind.

Fourth. In the Scout training the Patrol or gang system gives the corporate expression of the individual training, which brings into practice all that the boy has been taught.

The Patrol System has also a great character-training value if it is used aright. It leads each boy to see that he has some individual responsibility for the good of his Patrol. It leads each Patrol to see that it has definite responsibility for the good of the Troop. Through it the Scoutmaster is able to pass on not only his instruction but his ideas as to the moral outlook of his Scouts. Through it the Scouts themselves gradually learn that they have considerable say in what their Troop does. It is the Patrol System that makes the Troop, and all Scouting for that matter, a real co-operative effort.

From Aids to Scoutmastership published in 1920



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