The Hongkong Telegraph.
Tuesday, June 9, 1914.
THE BOY SCOUTS.
We published the other day an article on the Cadet Company of our Volunteer Corps. We were glad to see these lads at their first public appearance on the King's Birthday Parade. They marched past splendidly - a bright, clean-looking set of boys - and we hope that those parents who saw them and who have boys of their own were as favourably impressed as we were and will bring along recruits. We hope also that those in authority will lose no time in carrying out the suggestions made in our article to give this valuable company a proper chance of development.
The Cadet Company is part of the Hongkong Volunteer Corps and belongs to the Military Forces of the Crown. As such, only boys of British parentage are eligible for its ranks and by its terms of organization it can accept only those British boys between the ages of ten and eighteen. A very small proportion of the boys in the Colony fall within this category. For the remainder it is essential, if Hongkong is not to fall completely behind other portions of the Empire in its duty to Youth, that the Boy Scouts should be encouraged and placed on a proper footing, The idea appears to exist in certain quarters that the Boy Scouts movement can only be organized at the expense of the Cadet Company. If this were so, nothing further could be said. The training in civic duties of boys receiving their education in Hongkong, many of whom are destined to careers outside our Empire, could not for a moment be allowed to stand in the way of the essential development of the King's Forces. But we are convinced that the idea is false. Every British boy of ten, whose parents will allow him, would prefer to be a soldier in the Cadet Corps rather than a simple Scout. If he has been previously trained as a Scout, he will make all the better material from a Cadet. There is, there must be, nothing military in the training of the Boy Scout. The aim of instructors is not to make him a soldier, but to make him a decent citizen.
This fallacy of the Scout being a soldier is at the root of another objection to the movement in this Colony. It is imagined that the Scout has, like a soldier, to take an oath of allegiance to the King. It is suggested as farcical that Scoutmasters should make Portuguese, Filipinos, Chinese, and children of other nationalities receiving their education here, take a solemn oath of allegiance to His Majesty King George V. So it would be. The Boy Scout, however, is not called on to take an oath of allegiance. He promises on his honour, first, to do his duty to God and the King; second, to help other people at all times; and third, to obey the Scout Law. That is all he has to promise. No one will deny that children receiving the benefits of the education offered in a British Colony owe a "duty" to King George. No one familiar with the movement will deny that "Scouting" is the best way to make them realize that duty.
Nor is it incongruous that these Scouts should salute the British flag on the authorized occasions. If it is proper - as it undoubtedly is - for British residents in Berlin to take off their hats to the Colours of German Regiments, it cannot be out of place for boys to salute the flag under the shelter of which they are receiving their early training. We complained only the other day about the laxity of the Chinese in the matter of doing honour to the Union Jack on the King's Birthday. The way to teach them their duties in this respect is certainly not by wet-blanketing the Boy Scouts.
It is not perhaps fully realized that the Scout training has exceptional advantages for the boys we are considering. They have not been brought up naturally to those ball games and exercises which develop the physique of British boys and keep them out of mischief during their hours of recreation. These boys have taken to scouting, which makes indeed an irresistible appeal to all boys. This healthy open-air occupation is therefore in their case a double boon.
Other European nations have adopted General Baden Powell's great idea. We venture to prophesy that if they incorporate the Scout movement with their schools and Universities in the Orient whilst we neglect it; then the products of their schools and Universities will excel those of ours in value as citizens. We would ask those who are discouraging the Boy Scouts to take counsel straitly with themselves. For our part, we are convinced that by thwarting this high ideal of chivalry they are doing an incalculable injury to the Empire.
The Scout movement has come to stay and must be regarded as by no means the least valuable part of the education Great Britain has to offer. The earliest Scouts - and they were but few in those days - are only now reaching manhood and we must wait a few years longer before the full effect of the movement can be gauged. No one familiar with it can have the least doubt that its results will be surprising and wholly for good. The Empire will be leavened for the first time in its history by thousands of young men who have been trained during their most impressionable years to be good citizens. Are we to deny this training to British Boys in Hongkong because in a childish spirit we do not wish to train a few good citizens to spread the seed among our neighbours? Heaven knows they may need them even more than we do.