Scouting in 1938




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Scouting in 1938

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By Gilcraft

My intention is not to give you a survey of Scouting, but just to let fall one or two thoughts on the subject. I do not want to confine what I have to say to Scouting in the Troop, but to range a wider field so as to include the component parts of the Scout Group.

First of all, the aim of the whole of Scouting is "to develop good citizenship among boys by forming their character." For this purpose I would define the Good Citizen as a man who understands and performs his Duty to God; his Duty to other people (both individually and collectively); and his Duty to Himself.* This definition asks for active purpose, not just mere passive interest. We, as leaders of Scouting, have, therefore, to translate our aim in terms of activity. It is precisely the same when we come to consider the word character. Character is an activity, not a state; it is how a man acts, not just how he has been taught to act. I would suggest, when we think about our job in Scouting and are making our plans for the future, that we apply these two definitions to all our ideas.

How would this work out in the Pack?

With these objects in view we would not over-stress the "happy family spirit of the Pack," but subordinate it to, and use it to strengthen, the purpose of our Cubbing. We would not seek to wrap our Cubs up in cotton wool; an astringent has frequently a much more curative and lasting effect. Children "dislike weakness in those in authority over them, as the feeling of being unable to rely upon adults only deepens their own sense of insecurity. It is like crossing a turbulent stream by a bridge which one hoped was strong and strong but which proves to be rickety and dangerous." "The question of authority influences the child to an extent not realized by most people. His capacity to make satisfactory adjustments to the three essentials of life, to society, to work, to love, depend entirely on the foundations of character formation laid in infancy and onwards" (by R. A. Howden). However all this is perhaps too deep a thought for the majority of us to pursue, but it should be considered in connection with Scouting as applied to the Pack.

There is a real need to make a more conscientious and determined effort to use the system of Cub Tests and Badges in order to achieve our objects. First things should come first and more emphasis and direct teaching is still required in regard to the Promise and, to a lesser degree, the Law. Every effort must be made to strengthen the feeling of Reverence and to use all the material available in Cubbing in a purposive endeavor to develop the boy's body, mind and spirit. It is true that the time we have is short, but if we start to think how short it is we have already made it shorter!

All Scouters of the Pack must remember that Cubbing is an anteroom to Scouting. We have all of us memories of ante-rooms at the Dentist's and so on. Do not let us make the Scout anteroom like these. There should be an atmosphere of cheerfulness and content. The information supplied should be up to date. Six months' old copies of Punch, for instance, are apt to make the expectations rather grim and stale. We should give our Cubs some idea of what to expect next door, in the Troop Room. But let us make sure that we give them the correct kind of picture. Some of you will remember why one boy did not leave the ante-room by the right door. "The real reason I never became a Scout is an incident which I witnessed as a Cub, when I was about nine.

* See also Chapter XIV - II.

The Cubs used to make a practice of looking into the larger room used by the Scouts, if Akela was not watching. Once, when I was doing this, I saw a Scout being caned, and I had the impression that this was part of the Tenderfoot Badge." (Need I say that this was a game, not an execution?) Naturally he did not want to visit the dentist's chair; nor do we like to wait too long in the dentist's ante-room. Our courage oozes, we begin to get nervous, we don't really need his treatment after all, the tooth has stopped aching. We need not copy the particular illustration too closely, but it does require an act of courage on the part of some Cubs to step up from the Pack to the Troop. They are a bit nervous about it. To delay the step has been frequently fatal. We, rather than they, have to judge the time when the step is to be taken, and we should not delay them in the ante-room beyond their time.

The importance of the Pack to Scouting is that it should make the right impression on the small boy's mind. Impressions at this age are lasting and create effects of which the owner may or may not be conscious but which do influence his thoughts and actions in certain circumstances.

Finally, so far as the Pack is concerned, every Akela must realize that the immediate aim of Cubbing is to prepare a boy to become a good Scout and govern his or her plans and actions accordingly. I realize that there are practical difficulties, but we must not allow ourselves to be governed by them. If we are on a journey and find the path blocked by a large boulder, we do not immediately turn round and return home, we set out to see whether there is not another way round it.

At the International Conference in Holland in 1937 Tage Carstensen, the International Commissioner for Denmark, read a paper on "Is Scouting Up To Date?" He asked, "What was it that in the first years attracted youth, not only in England, but everywhere in the world?" and answered his own question with "I believe that first of all it was the primitive, free and unbound life in nature - the backwoodsman's, the pioneer's, the Red Indian's thrilling and romantic life. We, who as boys began Scouting, had only a translation of Baden-Powell's book as a basis. Grown-up leaders were rare, in any case they had no more knowledge of Scouting than we boys. We went head foremost into the adventure and we made many blunders-but we had a marvelous time, gained memories which we will always keep, and we gathered a lot of practical experience. Youth wants - and so it has been from the earliest days of this world - to get its own experience. This may be a dangerous thing when you are grown up, generally it is more practical to build upon the experiences of former generations. But in Scouting it is possible to a great extent, and without considerable risk, to allow the boys themselves to go ahead on their own. The good Scouter keeps himself in the background, and even if - owing to his superior knowledge - he can see that his boys are doing wrong, he will not interfere, until danger is near or other people's interests are going to be injured. This principle is the leading one in the patrol system. The experienced Scouter will often find that a lot of work is done slowly and not always too well, when each Patrol of the Troop is doing it separately, and it will often be a temptation for him to organize the work, generally through centralization. In almost every case this is wrong."

Primarily the Patrol system makes Scouting. Scouts must learn to go through difficulties with a smile. The various factors with which we have to contend can all be met by strengthening the demands we ourselves make on our Scouts instead of slackening them, I can hear some of you whistle, but experience has shown - and we cannot discount experience altogether - that this does not frighten off boys but attracts them. One of the demands it is necessary for us to strengthen is that which asks a Good Turn of every Scout. That demand has been weakened to the detriment of Scouting.

I would deny most emphatically that Scouting is not up to date. Many people have tried, and are still trying, to put new ideas into it. This has been quite frequently done by those who want to use Scouts for some particular fad or idea which they wish to propagate. The majority of our modern problems, changes, and so on, are grown-up people's problems, and boys should not be saddled with them. Again, we hear a great deal about the mechanical age, but I don't believe that all boys are interested in mechanics We have all played with mechanical toys in our time, we may even have made them - I have myself memories of marble machines, model railways and so on. We would not, however, have allowed them to interfere with or govern our scouting, or whatever outdoor activities we indulged in, nor should we to-day seek to exchange the backwoods for the factory.

Many attempts have been made to modernize Scouting in this kind of way and those attempts which I have seen or heard of have all failed. Denmark went through the same kind of phase until they made a determined attack to use all the very old methods, the most primitive form of Scouting. The response in numbers and in practice has been more than encouraging. The way to success for Scouting in the Troop is through the Scout Promise and Law, woodcraft, more primitive camping and open air activities, and not through luxury, too much organization, and so on. In this, perhaps, we have been given a still stronger lead by Norway with its emphasis on the Patrol system and Patrol meetings.

The four main ways in which Scouting is applied to the Troop are: 

bulleti. Suggestion to the Individual, 
bullet ii. Patrol Effort, 
bullet iii. Games, and 
bullet iv. Yarns.

Suggestion to the Individual means putting into practice the Chief's statement that "the boy's ideas are studied, and he is encouraged to educate himself instead of being instructed." It is necessary to suggest ideas to him, and to give him opportunities of trying things out for himself so as to discover what is his line of activity. Badges are of real value here as a source of suggestion for what to do and as an incentive to reach a standard of achievement.

Patrol effort is the Scout method, but there is frequently a danger of overdoing the competitive aspect of it. Its greatest value lies in team training and in the pooling of experience and combination of activity so that even a Tenderfoot unconsciously picks up knowledge and feels that he is progressing and that it is all very much worth while. In addition to Patrol Meetings and normal Troop activities, it is a good idea to set a few S.T.A.s for odd times, for instance, a Patrol Log Book for a given period. There is no need for the competitive element to enter into any of these activities. It should be a sufficient incentive for each Patrol to complete its task to its own satisfaction.

Games are apt to be overdone. Sometimes it is a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. Some Scoutmasters would seem to imagine that whenever the Troop meets it is necessary to string a series of games together in order to build up their Scouting. This is a wrong angle of vision. Games are useful to illustrate or practice some particular Scout activity, or to stimulate mental or physical development, but the whole of the Scout program should be enjoyable and so a game. As Professor L. P. Jacks has put it, "the highest kind of work and the highest kind of play are indistinguishable one from another. They are two names for the same thing."

Scouting for Boys is built up of a series of yarns as quickening interest and appealing to the imagination. The history of Scouting shows that the appeal was sufficiently strong to start literally thousands of boys off Scouting on their own. Yarns can be used to add romance to an ordinary job. For instance, a tracking story from life or out of the newspaper will produce the right kind of atmosphere for a tracking practice. Yarns can be used as a basis for some stunt or activity, as, for example, to clothe the instructions for a wide game or a practice journey. In this way we get yarns used as the basis of actual scout training. The S.M. tells a yarn of a true or imaginary journey, each Patrol or each Scout making a sketch map as the yarn is being told.

Space only allows mention of these four main ways in which Scouting can be applied to the Troop, but it is important to keep in mind the fact that Scouting can be put over in many ways, and that these should be used in as great variety as possible. We have to avoid two main dangers. The one is overdoing one particular method and neglecting others with the inevitable result that the Scouts get bored and stale, small blame to them. To retain their interest we Scouters have to remain fresh and receptive to change ourselves. The other danger is the tendency to make Scouting too much of a serious business. The Chief is always warning us of that. If Scouting lacks fun it will lack life. There are times for flinging all methods to the winds and setting in just to have a jolly good time!

Although enthusiasm may at times outrun discretion, that is much better than tying enthusiasm down on some 'safety first' principle. Scouting in the Troop should enable a boy to act in any emergency which confronts him, and he cannot possibly do that if he has been cribbed, cabined and confined in his Scout training.

Now, what about the Rover Scout and Crew?

During the last few years the trend in Rovering has undoubtedly been in the direction of utilizing Scout activities, on an advanced plane, in order both to continue the training and retain the interest of fellows of that age. The successful Rover Crew is the one that works hard at its Scouting and at its Service. To my mind these are again two names for the same thing.

To go back to the definition of the Good Citizen. A Rover Scout's duty to God demands a patient search after truth, and, when found, the vigorous carrying of it out in his everyday life. It is not a matter of Sundays only. The Promise and Law help him very considerably, but they are not sufficient in themselves. He is old enough now to demonstrate his character by his actions and by what he is. A Rover's duty to other people necessitates his having an intelligent, instructed interest in all subjects that concern the community, especially the community in his immediate neighborhood. The Crew and District help him out by providing him with the means of acquiring this knowledge, but when acquired he is expected to do something about it. A Rover's duty to himself affects his other duties.

He cannot render service before he has trained himself for the purpose. He has his soul, mind and body to look after. He, and no one else, is responsible for that.

From time to time we see small changes of detail or some amplification in our Cub, Scout and Rover Tests, badges and expectations. Change for the sake of change is not progress, but a fuller knowledge can often determine the need for a small adjustment or a fresh emphasis. It is the `whys and wherefores' that matter. When we propose or discuss changes of any details let us always consider them from the point of view and purpose of Scouting - character training and from the standpoint of Scouting's principles and methods. We want Scouts to pit themselves against difficulties and to win through: we want them to be balanced in body and mind: we want them to be ready to act when the occasion demands it: we want them to quit themselves like men and be strong.

All this necessitates a lead from us who are Scouters. To expect discipline we must first discipline ourselves: to secure hard work we must work hard ourselves: to train others to act we must ourselves be prepared to act. If Scouting is to continue to-day and to continue to help boys and men and women, we must all be Scouts prepared to follow the lead our Chief has given us.

More Gilcraft Gleanings






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Game with a Purpose ] Spirit Scavenger Hunt ] Scout Law History ] Learning Scout Law ] Woodcraft Laws ] B-P Law & Promise ] B-P Scout Motto ] B-P Salute Sign Badge ] Timberwolf Promise & Law ] Otter Promise & Law ] Traditional Variations ] The Order of Nature ] Boy Pioneers Constitution ] Scoutmaster's Benediction ] BSA as Religious Org ] Good Deeds ] What is a Boy Scout? ] A Scout is Reverent: ] When Others Say "God" ] On Patriotism ] Flag History & Care ] Value of Little Customs ] B-P & Nature Knowledge ] Religion of Backwoods ] Baden-Powell on Religion ] B-P Fundamental Ethics ] Letters to a PL ] Pantheism ] Evidences of Christianity ] Within My Power ] Has God in Him ] Matthew 19:13,14 ] Matthew 25:3146 ] Kingdom God Within You ] B-P Badge + Sign ] BSA Congressional Charter ] [ Scouting in 1938 ]

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.