Hongkong Daily Press.
Hongkong Friday, February 5th, 1915.
THE PRINCIPLES OF SCOUTING FOR BOYS.
A reception for parents of boys has been organized at which it is proposed to give them an idea of the principles behind the scouting movement. It is not uncommon to hear grown-up people remark that scouting is a very nice amusement for the boys, or a fine form of exercise, keeping them in the fresh air and out of mischief at the same time. Such opinions induce parents to enroll their boys and are steps in the right direction, but they are very small steps and hardly ever reach the threshold of all that is opened up to the scout behind the door of this great movement.
Self-restraint, endurance, valour, good-fellowship, loyalty, self-respect, and respect and tolerance for each other, and for all other classes, whether high or low. These are a few of the principles which should be instilled into the boys by the scout-master. Therefore, it will be seen that the position and duties of a scout-master are no sinecure.
It seems a difficult matter to make the average parent realise that his or her child could possibly need any outside influence, to instill aspirations and ideals which most of us imagine we carry out in our daily and domestic existence. But each year as a child grows older he is thrown more upon his own resources and is less able to live entirely in the parent's shining light. The children are sent to school and then to play, and many parents do not know what is happening to them in the daylight hours and, when night comes and weary little feet turn homewards, there is often not time to listen to the prattle, telling of the day's doings.
Self-educated nurses or amahs with no education at all watch the leisured hours of the children, and the sensitive nature absorbs thoughts and principles and gossip which will have to be either totally destroyed or will go forth to lay the foundations of useless ill-balanced natures.
All modern thought and modern education tend to increase the self-reliance of the child and his independence. The modern parent and the modern teacher recognize that they must create the right atmosphere for the juvenile mind to develope in. Such an atmosphere is not created by issuing orders and drilling a class or an individual child into an automaton, carefully concealing all his own instincts of right and wrong. Rather, it is self-created by a group of young children acting upon each other by the discipline of their joint thoughts and actions. The decent thought and the decent action make friends and influence, while the mean thought and mean action isolate the perpetrator.
Keep a child shut up in the glass case of the home, with every want attended to by servants, and keep him away from every bad-mannered or rough child, and you will know no more of the nature and inner self of your child than you would of a lion cub placed in a cage at birth, nor will your child be prepared to face the struggles and buffets of existence any more than the lion cub would know how to face the dangers of the jungle if it escaped. Further, your child will learn to hate the chains of mistaken love which have cramped his youth and robbed him of self-reliance, and this places him far behind his compeers in the race for life.
What has all this to do with scouting? A great deal, I think. It is the same principle, that of disciplined self-reliance, carried on when the boy leaves his nursery and enters his preparatory school.
In England the question does not need airing in the newspapers; the parent who sends his boy to school finds organized play and organized drill, and a day mapped out for both work and play in community. But here in the outskirts of the Empire we find quite a number of little boys whose ages range from five years to ten, who, living on mountain peaks, have no big open spaces for play. Thus, when their short hours of work are over they are turned loose on the roads, or, if they have nurses, go for sedate walks. Under the circumstances in this climate it is almost impossible to organize football, cricket or hockey for the little fellows. Though these are only games, yet, if properly played under trained supervision, they teach more of fair-play, pluck and general self-control in one afternoon than all the preaching of parents and teachers can do in a month of afternoons. Any one watching the boys on the Peak at play and seeing their roughness and rudeness to each other and to their amahs or coolies, must realise that their behaviour is very different from that of boys of the same class in England.
They lack self-restraint, chivalry and fair dealing. So every parent on the Peak should welcome this Boy Scout movement, because it aspires to bring these little fellows together, to fill their spare time with thoughts of usefulness to others, by discipline administered in such a way that the scout learns to realise that blustering and bullying and rough horse-play are not signs of bravery and manliness, and that if he wishes to honour his uniform he must be courteous, kind and thoughtful. The influence and thought absorbed during the hours given up to scouting must inevitably react upon his whole existence and show itself in his behaviour at home as well as in his life with other boys.