The Boy Scout Movement
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Apr 1926, p. 169-178
Pickford, Sir Alfred, Speaker
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Item Type
What the Boy Scout Movement is, and what it is not. An anecdote with regard to the uniform the speaker is wearing. Some facts and figures with regard to the history and development of the Boy Scout movement. The unique code of the Scout Law; the lack of negatives. Characteristics of a Scout. Using a boy's natural tendency. The Scoutmaster. The goal of the promotion of good citizenship, and the prevention of bad citizenship. The four aspects of good citizenship and how they are encouraged in the Scout Movement: character, handicrafts and hobbies, physical fitness, service for other people. What other people say about the movement. What the movement is not. Response to criticism. The Scout Movement non military, but not anti-military; non-sectarian, but not anti-religious; non-political, non-racial, and non-class, with a discussion of each point. The development of the Scout Movement and how it should proceed. What the Movement needs in terms of leaders and finances. The investment in Scouting. The Scout Migration Department and its activities. Increasing the numbers that come to Canada.
Date of Original
22 Apr 1926
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THE BOY SCOUT MOVEMENT AN ADDRESS BY SIR ALFRED PICKFORD, KT., OF CALCUTTA. Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, Thursday, April 22, 1926.

SIR ALFRED PICKFORD was introduced by the PRESIDENT, and spoke as follows:

Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of this club, I esteem it a very great honor to be given an opportunity of addressing you today on the subject of the Boy Scout Movement, more especially as I think the Boy Scout Movement undoubtedly has a large contribution to make to the object which this club has in view, the knitting together of the different parts of the Empire into one united whole. And in order that the Boy Scout Movement, both in the Empire and in the world at large may come to full fruition, it is very necessary that we should take advantage of any and every opportunity of explaining the foundation and structure, the aims and methods, of the Movement to those who, while sympathetic, may not be provided with the arguments there are in favor of supporting it. We do find, in point of fact, that a pretty large number of people who are in favor of the movement, do not know, beyond their general impression, why the movement gets their support. Therefore with your permission I will, as briefly as I can and I am afraid merely as a business statement, for I have no gift of oratory-say just what the movement is, and, almost more important, what the movement is not. You may suppose that it takes a certain amount of courage for a man of my unusual proportions to put on these short trousers and travel the world, more especially when this uniform is topped up with a monocle. I have been telling a story in connection with that which I expect is new here. In Australia there was a civic reception, and a man said that he had been describing the visit of the Commissioner to his two boys, aged four and six, and he got on all right till he got to the monocle, and then the younger boy said, "Yes, Dad, but what is a monocle?" He said, " It is a bit of glass that some funny people wear in one eye." He replied, " I see, Dad, I suppose he is weak on that side of his head. " Then these short trousers are a bit of a difficulty sometimes. A certain paper in one of the Dominions said that they objected to something I had said in one of my speeches, and they ended up with a pitying note, "Probably all this stuff comes from Sir Alfred thinking in short pants. " Well, that really brings one to the point that there are two ways of looking at it. You may argue, gentlemen, that if a monstrosity like myself goes about in clothes of this description, you are not going to have anything to do with so maniacal a movement as that. On the other hand, you may take the view, and it is the view to which I am going to endeavor if I can to persuade you, that if a monstrosity like this is prepared to put on these clothes, and listen to the things that the little boys at the corner say about him, then there is something in the movement to induce him to do it.

Just two or three facts and figures, very briefly. The movement is only eighteen years old, including five years of war. Nevertheless it has been taken up all over the Empire and in every foreign country except one, namely Russia. That means that it exists in 49 countries, counting the British Empire as only one. That result has been achieved without any propaganda of any sort, simply from the intrinsic merits of the movement. There are some two million scouts throughout the world, and of those about 450,000 to 480,000 are within the British Empire, and in the overseas parts of the Empire, outside the Home Country, the increase 'in the last three years in the number of scouts has averaged something over twenty per cent, and the increase in efficiency has been very much greater than figures can at all suggest. The movement has only one foundation, a high ethical code, comprised in a Scout Promise and a Scout Law, applicable equally to a lengthened out thing like myself or a fat fellow or a thin fellow or a short fellow or a boy. The adult and the boy both must promise on their entry into this movement, and I am sure this will be in sympathy with your sentiment, promise on their honor to do their best to do their duty to God and the King, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law. The Scout Law is a brilliant example of how that genius Sir Robert Baden Powell knew his boy. He knew that if you told him not to do a thing, whatever it may be, wrenching off door knockers, or throwing stones through the windows, that that is probably the first time the boy ever wanted to do those things. So the Scout Law is unique among the codes of the world, in that there are no "Don'ts" in it. There is not a single negative. The Law merely says what a Boy Scout is, and if he is not on his honor doing his best to be those things, he is a Boy Scout only in name. The Law runs as follows-you will notice the simplicity of the language, applicable to all ages-A Scout's honor is to be trusted; a Scout is loyal-not merely to the King, country, parents, employers, teachers, but to those under him. A Scout's duty is to be useful and help other people at all times. A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other scout, no matter to what social class the other may belong. That law alone we regard as most valuable. We have a feeling that if it had been the rule of conduct between nation and nation and between individual and individual in 1914, the war would never have occurred. A scout is courteous; he is a friend of animals; he obeys orders, he smiles and whistles under all difficulties. It used to read "circumstances" at one time, but a scout was found whistling in church and trying to justify it on the basis of the Scout Law. A Scout is thrifty, and a Scout is clean in thought, word and deed. I am sure, gentlemen, you will agree that that is a mighty high code of conduct, and its only value in our eyes is contained in the answer to the question as to whether in the main these two million scouts do on their honor do their best to act up to the principles embodied in it. Well, we can only answer that those of us that are intimately acquainted with the movement are continuously and continuingly amazed at the wonderful way these knights of the bare knees do play the game by their promise. And the reason is to be found in the method adopted, the broad method being to adapt the work or the play we regard them interchangeably-to adapt the whole business of scouting to the needs, the desires and instincts of the boy, instead of trying to impose on him, often with a stick, something which we men perhaps think may be good for him. The net result is that we get from these youngsters discipline from within instead of authority imposed from without. Now it is got in this way. We use the boy's natural tendency to gather together in gangs, whether for play or for mischief, and therefore the unit of the movement is a patrol, a little gang of six to eight boys under one of themselves as leader. And on that leader is put the responsibility for the conduct and the training of the boys in his patrol. The Scoutmaster is not a commanding officer or a school teacher; he is the leader, the brother, to stand by, assist, advise, organize, but not to interfere too much with the prerogatives of the Patrol Leader. It is in effect a movement for boys, largely run by boys. The goal is, as I am sure you will have gathered, the promotion of good citizenship, and also, as a corollary, the prevention of bad citizenship. And I think you will find there is no aspect of good citizenship that does not fall under one or other of these four heads: first, character; second, handicrafts and hobbies; third, physical fitness; and last, for which all the other three are needed, service for other people. Character is got by trusting the boy, briefly by pushing responsibility on him. Handicrafts and hobbies are given him because he is an active animal, he wants to do things, make things; and therefore he has a choice of between sixty and seventy different subjects from which he can select one or two as his hobbies, making him useful to himself, to other people, and generally using up his time in a way that is legitimate and to him very pleasant. Thirdly, physical fitness, is got mainly from games, and in addition to a large section, special scout games and practices which have this in common that the play is for the side and not for the individual. Lastly, service for other people, which we get by demanding of every boy scout that he shall do at least one good turn to somebody every day. That means that there are at least two million good turns being added to the sum total of human happiness every day as the result of the Boy Scout Movement. But that is far from being the most valuable part of it. The really valuable part of that requirement is that it develops an attitude of looking perpetually for opportunities of doing good turns to other people. And now the general public, very often without in the least knowing why, if they want a job both willingly and efficiently done, turn instinctively to the Boy Scout to do it. Of course the Scouts do sometimes misunderstand things. There is an old story of a Boy Scout falling asleep and his conscience suddenly told him he had not done his good turn for the day, and he was so worried about it he got up and fed his brother's pet white mice to the cat. I am afraid that act did not get the appreciation he expected for it.

That, very sketchily, is what the Movement is, but I think it is relevant to quote what other people say about us, and far better to quote what other people say than what we say. We are regarded, partly by reason of the clothes we wear, as mad, and therefore perhaps our views may be astray. As a matter of fact our only form of madness is that we are mad keen to get this movement increased and going even stronger than it is. Sir Michael Sadlier, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, and now at Oxford-I am sure you must know him -is not a man who talks lightly, and he committed himself to the statement at a conference we had in London the other day, that this is the greatest educational contribution of the century. Another educationist called it a revolution in educational method. Another said that it was the finest system of education ever devised. If any one of those statements is every partially true, then surely the movement is deserving of both attention and study.

Now, third, as to what the movement is not. We get all sorts of accusations chucked at us. You would be amused at the Chief Scout's letter book, the downright abusive letters accusing him of leading all kinds of movements. As a result of that, in all our speeches, we assert, and we defy anybody to prove the contrary, that this movement is non military, but certainly not antimilitary; that it is non-sectarian, but the farthest thing removed from being irreligious or non-religious; that it is non-political, non-racial, and non-class. Now on this question of the military side of it, we are always being told we are a military movement. One paper said we were instilling the subtle poison of militarism into the minds of the youth. Another said we were a camouflaged military system for the bolstering up of the capitalistic system. Another said this is a military movement; how is it our boys are led through the streets by officers in clanking military regalia? I asked what clanked? Was it the shirt or the shorts? I did not get an answer. Of course if it is militaristic to teach the boys of the Empire that if the Empire or any part of it, is wantonly attacked that they are to be in the forefront of the fight, then we plead guilty. We teach our boys that, and we propose to continue to teach them that. Our War record was a high one. From Great Britain alone 100,000 were known to have gone to the War, of whom 10,000 did not come back. And the honor record was a high one, including thirteen Victoria Crosses. And generally, the testimony of the soldiers at the front was that the scout training had been mighty useful to the fellows who came out as drafts to their regiments. But surely that does not mean that we are a military movement. It is undoubted that scouting makes better soldiers, better sailors; it makes better carpenters, also better clergymen, better teachers. It might though I have heard doubts expressed-it might even make better politicians. But the reasons that make scouts better soldiers and sailors are the broad reasons that a sense of duty, intelligence, powers of observation, patriotism, and so on are qualities that improve the boy whatever his calling in life is going to be. So far, however, from being a military movement, we claim that if we can get the general public on our side more than they are even now, we shall be a considerable factor in assisting to create an atmosphere where stupid, destructive, horrible wars could not take place.

Then the movement is non-sectarian. The chief policy of the Association was arrived at in consultation with the heads of all the churches, and it is, in effect, that every boy is expected to belong to some denomination, that no Scoutmaster may interfere with the boy's religion, but that every Scoutmaster is under the definite obligation to encourage each boy to attend the observances of his own particular religion. Surely a sane, sensible, broad policy, that gives religion a very definite place within the movement.

Then it is non-political, it is non-racial, we have 56,000 Indian scouts. We had between five and six thousand scouts gathered at Copenhagen, in 1924, including a large number of ex-enemy scouts, incidentally two hundred German scouts, who, because they were camped alphabetically were between France and Great Britain. You would have thought that might have been an ill-tasting sandwich; but there was no trouble of any sort or description, and in fact the three German scout officers came over to our training school to be trained in the real aims and methods of the movement.

Then it is non-class. If ever you meet a scout who is a snob, that meanest kind of individual, I think you may take it that he is a scout in nothing but name or uniform.

Now that is what the movement is and what it is not. The question is, ought the development to be left largely to the unaided efforts of the self-sacrificing men and women who take on the job of Scoutmaster and Cubmaster? I am not now talking of Commissioners like Mr. Calhoun and myself; we are merely long people who swank around and; make long speeches. But the Scoutmaster and Cubmaster, in direct touch with the boy, who have all the work and the anxiety and the discouragement ,for there is a lot of discouragement in it all the time, and why? Certainly not because they are running a hobby of their own, certainly not for their self-satisfaction, though they do get fun and satisfaction out of it; but because they are the agents of the community in doing this vital and important work for the rising generation. Especially are they using up their spare time; we do not get the slacker, we only get the busy man; they are using up their spare time and energy and brains to assist the school teacher, the minister of religion, the parent, and the state, in the task of building up splendid men for the day that is to come. Therefore one does appeal for three kinds of assistance. In Ontario certainly the amount of support that the Scout Movement gets, seems to me to be beyond the ordinary, and very splendid that is; it says a great deal for those who are controlling the movement in this great nation. But we do want, nevertheless, more and more support to make this movement available to larger and larger numbers of boys. You can understand from what I have said that this is a system of individual training; therefore we cannot increase numbers by increasing the numbers in the troop. We want three things. We want sympathy, a knowledge of our aims and methods. We want leaders, young-hearted; not necessarily young. We have a nice young fellow of 92 running a troop extraordinarily well in Scotland. We want young-hearted men to take up this splendid job, and there is no doubt there is a great deal of satisfaction in it. Thirdly-I make no apology for this because I am half Scotch-we do want a certain amount of money, really an extraordinarily small amount of money is needed, considering the results to be obtained. The trouble we have in that matter is that we make no appeal to pity. A red-cheeked youngster, sturdy of limb, with a grin broader than his face, is not an object of pity, and the public is apt to forget that were it not for this and similar efforts, he might be an object of pity. However that may be, there is no doubt that the Boy Scout Movement is a preventive movement, and relieves pressure on hospitals by promoting physical fitness, on charitable institutions by promoting self-reliance, on juvenile jails and reformatories and all such institutions on which millions and millions of dollars have been spent. I speak as a business man; the dividend that is got on an investment in the Boy Scout Movement is one that we often wish we could use in the balance sheets of the companies we control.

I want to say one word more on a kindred but slightly different subject, but one that must be of interest too, I am sure, to the, members of this Club. We have at Imperial headquarters in London a Scout Migration Department, that is to say, a department for assisting youngsters and young men-we get young men especially -who have had scout training to come out to the Dominions; fellows who feel that they are not getting too good a deal in the Old Country by reason of after-war conditions. We are a little troubled, and that is one of the objects of my visit, we are a little troubled that the number of men with scout training-who are adaptable beyond the ordinary-the number that come to Canada is small as compared with the numbers going elsewhere. We think there must be a reason for that. As a concrete point, we are disturbed at the recent assisted passage scheme, which is made applicable only to youngsters up to the age of seventeen. We do not feel in large numbers of course, and therefore we cannot speak with very great influence, but Canada will miss a certain amount of first-class stuff of the age of eighteen and onwards that we have available. That it is good stuff is I think sufficiently instanced by this that this little department which has existed for two years and a half, has been of assistance to six hundred who have gone from our shores, and we have not a single instance recorded of failure. Of course they have not made good yet, but what I mean is that they have not written home to say that they were deceived or that they are unhappy in their new surroundings; on the contrary we have files of enthusiastic letters about the splendid conditions in the country of their adoption. If any of you can support this matter in any way we shall be extremely glad. Of course the nomination system would be the best, but if anybody does want a fellow for any position-we concentrate on those who are needed for the land-but if anyone does want a thoroughly reliable chap who will not be looking at the clock all the time, I think we can probably help to get him.

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I thank you very much for listening to me at, I am afraid, undue length, but one does like to put this story across if one can. I feel perfectly certain that with the objects this great club has in view, a movement like the Boy Scouts, that tends to knit together not only far-distant foreign countries, but every part of the Empire-for there is not a part of the Empire over which the scout flag does not fly-I feel sure that from the members of this club such a movement must inevitably command and secure a great deal of support.

The PRESIDENT tendered to the speaker the thanks of the Club.

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The Boy Scout Movement

What the Boy Scout Movement is, and what it is not. An anecdote with regard to the uniform the speaker is wearing. Some facts and figures with regard to the history and development of the Boy Scout movement. The unique code of the Scout Law; the lack of negatives. Characteristics of a Scout. Using a boy's natural tendency. The Scoutmaster. The goal of the promotion of good citizenship, and the prevention of bad citizenship. The four aspects of good citizenship and how they are encouraged in the Scout Movement: character, handicrafts and hobbies, physical fitness, service for other people. What other people say about the movement. What the movement is not. Response to criticism. The Scout Movement non military, but not anti-military; non-sectarian, but not anti-religious; non-political, non-racial, and non-class, with a discussion of each point. The development of the Scout Movement and how it should proceed. What the Movement needs in terms of leaders and finances. The investment in Scouting. The Scout Migration Department and its activities. Increasing the numbers that come to Canada.