Hongkong Daily Press.
Hongkong, Monday, October 31st, 1927.
THE SCOUT MOVEMENT.
[TO THE EDITOR OF "THE HONG KONG DAILY PRESS."]
SIR,- The announcement contained in the Government Gazette to the effect that the Hong Kong Branch of the Boy Scout Association intends to apply to the Legislative Council for a Bill to further and protect the activities of the Scout Movement in Hong Kong is, indeed, welcome news, and one can but hope that this move will do something towards promoting something more than very casual interest taken by the great majority of the local European community in this great Movement.
It is sometimes urged by critics of the Boy Scout Movement that an organisation with a General at its head could not fail to be a military organisation, however, well disguised, Sir Robert Baden Powell's reply is that there is no reason why an old circus horse, after he has finished his career in the ring, should not end his life in pulling a baker's cart or some other equally useful civil occupation. Since Sir Robert's retirement from the army every talent that he possesses, every inspiration of that wonderful intellect, all his time and hobbies and much of his small income have been devoted to the service of the Movement of which he is the center.
That the Boy Scout Movement is a great organisation few, I think, will attempt to deny. Its real claim for recognition by every responsible man and woman of whatsoever nationality or creed, however, is seldom realised. At the present time I believe the membership is just over 3,000,000 boys with troops all over the world. In many countries we find responsible public men and women devoting their spare time to the Movement, training the boys to think in terms of citizenship, service, brotherhood and peace, instead of in terms of suspicion, avarice and war. These public spirited men and women are building up an army of upright and noble citizens and future generations will have cause to thank them.
The brotherhood is a big one, extending, as it does, to every corner of the civilised world. No one can question the wisdom of Governments that view the boys' efforts with sympathy, or of kings who allow their sons to wear the leveling uniform of the scouts. It is certainly satisfactory to find princes, potentates, prelates and professional men taking an interest in the organisation.
To many, perhaps to most, before the Great War, Scouting may have appeared something like playing at soldiers, whereas there was nothing military in the organisation from top to bottom. Such elementary drill as the boys practiced was merely similar in character and purpose to that which children were taught at school to enable them to move in numbers when necessary without confusion or delay, and the idea of compulsory discipline - without which even the German Army itself would have been a helpless mob - was so foreign as to be almost antagonistic to the first principles of Scouting.
In none of the ten laws which held 200,000 Scouts together at the outbreak of the War as an active association in full working order was there a single "must" or "shall." Indeed, even to call them "laws" was almost a misuse of the word, for each was a mere statement of what a Scout is or what he does with no mention of anything of what a Scout was obliged to do. Law 3 - "A Scout's duty is to be useful and to help others," comes nearer than any other to an ordinance; but Law 8 - "A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties" is the sheet anchor of the Movement.
Looking down the long list - I believe there are a hundred or more - of the badges which Boy Scouts are encouraged to win, one is struck by the complete absence of any test which seems even indirectly military. Although that of a "handy man" might be suspected of a naval meaning, its tests of proficiency include such things as white washing a ceiling, repairing gas mantles, hanging pictures, putting up blinds, etc. One might wonder what all these things had to do with Scouting, but the most superficial investigation of the Movement shows that the title of Scouts was little more than one layer of the super coating on the wholesome pill of moral training, others being the picturesque uniform, the numerous badges and the self government.- Yours, etc.,
Hong Kong, October 29th, 1927.