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:-
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 realise 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.
Success in training the boy largely depends upon the Scoutmaster's own personal example. It is easy to become the hero as well as the elder brother of the boy. We are apt, as we grow up, to forget what a store of hero worship is in the boy.
The Scoutmaster who is a hero to his boys holds a powerful lever to their development, but at the same time brings a great responsibility on himself. They are quick enough to see the smallest characteristic about him, whether it be a virtue or a vice. His mannerisms become theirs, the amount of courtesy he shows, his irritations, his sunny happiness, or his impatient glower, his willing self-discipline or his occasional moral lapses-all are not only noticed, but adopted by his followers.
Therefore, to get them to carry out the Scout Law and all that underlies it, the Scoutmaster himself should scrupulously carry out its professions in every detail of his life. With scarcely a word of instruction his boys will follow him.
The Scoutmaster's job is like golf, or scything, or fly-fishing. If you "press" you don't get there, at least not with anything like the extent you do by a light-hearted effortless swing. But you have got to swing. It's no use standing still. It is one thing or the other, either progress or relax. Let us progress-and with a smile on.
Let the Scoutmaster remember that in addition to his duty to his boys he has a duty also to the Movement as a whole. Our aim in making boys into good citizens is partly for the benefit of the country, that it may have a virile trusty race of citizens whose amity and sense of "playing the game" will keep it united internally and at peace with its neighbours abroad.
Charged with the duty of teaching self-abnegation and discipline by their own practice of it, Scoutmasters must necessarily be above petty personal feeling, and must be large-minded enough to subject their own personal views to the higher policy of the whole. Theirs is to teach their boys to "play the game," each in his place like bricks in a wall, by doing the same themselves. Each has his allotted sphere of work, and the better he devotes himself to that, the better his Scouts will respond to his training. Then it is only by looking to the higher aims of the Movement, or to the effects of measures ten years hence that one can see details of to-day in their proper proportion.
Where a man cannot conscientiously take the line required, his one manly course is to put it straight to his Commissioner or to Headquarters, and if we cannot meet his views, then to leave the work. He goes into it in the first place with his eyes open, and it is scarcely fair if afterwards, because he finds the details do not suit him, he complains that it is the fault of the Executive.
Fortunately, in our Movement, by decentralisation and giving a free hand to the local authorities, we avoid much of the red tape which has been the cause of irritation and complaint in so many other organisations.
We are also fortunate in having a body of Scoutmasters who are large-minded in their outlook and in their loyalty to the Movement as a whole.
A man dared to tell me once that he was the happiest man in the world! I had to tell him of one who was still happier myself.
You need not suppose that either of us in attaining this happiness had never had difficulties to contend with. Just the opposite.
It is the satisfaction of having successfully faced difficulties and borne pin-pricks that gives completeness to the pleasure of having overcome them.
Don't expect your life to be a bed of roses; there would be no fun in it if it were.
So, in dealing with the Scouts, you are bound to meet with disappointments and setbacks. Be patient: more people ruin their work or careers through want of patience than do so through drink or other vices. You will have to bear patiently with irritating criticisms and red tape bonds to some extent but your reward will come.
The satisfaction which comes of having tried to do one's duty at the cost of self-denial, and of having developed characters in the boys which will give them a different status for life, brings such a reward as cannot well be set down in writing. The fact of having worked to prevent the recurrence of those evils which, if allowed to run on, would soon be rotting our youth, gives a man the solid comfort that he has done something, at any rate, for his country, however humble may be his position.
This is the spirit with which Scoutmasters and Commissioners, Committeemen, instructors, organisers and secretaries-the word "Scouter" describes them all-work in the Boy Scout Movement.
The credit for the Organisation and the spread of the Scout Movement is due to this army of voluntary workers. Here we have remarkable if silent evidence of the fine patriotic spirit that lies beneath the surface of most nations. These men give up their time and energies, and in many cases their money as well, to the work of organising the training of boys, without any idea of reward or praise for what they are doing, They do it for the love of their country and their kind.