The Scouting practices tend in a practical way to educate the boy out of the groove of selfishness. Once he becomes charitable, he is well on the way to overcome or eradicate the danger of this habit.
The promise that a Scout makes on joining has as its first point “To do my duty to God.” Note that it does not say “To be loyal to God,” since this would merely be a state of mind, but to do something, which is the positive, active attitude.
The main method in the Scout Movement is to give some form of positive training rather than merely to condemn negative precepts, since the boy is always ready to do rather than to digest. Therefore, we put into his activities the practice of Good Turns in his daily life as a foundation of future goodwill and helpfulnes to others. The religious basis underlying this is common to all denominations and we therefore interfere with the form of none.
Scouting is the brotherhood: a scheme which in practice disregards differences of class, creed, country and color, though the undefinable spirit that pervades it is the spirit of God’s gentleman.1
The boy can then realize better that part of his “Duty to God” is to take care of and develop as a sacred trust those talents with which God has equipped him for his passage through this life; the body with its health and strength and reproductive powers to be used in God’s service; the mind with its wonderful reasoning, memory and appreciation, which place him about the animal world; and the soul, that bit of God which was within him, namely, Love, which can be developed and made stronger by continual expression and practice. Thus we teach him that to do his duty to God, means not merely to lean on His kindness, but to do His will by practicing love towards one’s neighbor.
The minor Good Turns which are part of the Scout’s faith, are in themselves the first step. Nature study and making friends with animals increase the kindly feeling within him and overcome the trait of cruelty which is said to be inherent in every boy (although, personally, I am not sure that it is so general as is supposed). From the minor Good Turns he goes on to learn first aid and help to the injured, and in the natural sequence of learning how to save a life in the case of accidents, he develops a sense of duty to others and the readiness to sacrifice himself in danger. This again leads up to the idea of sacrifice for others, for his home and for his country, thereby leading to patriotism and loyalty of a higher type then that merely ecstatic flag waving.
In the promise I purposely put the “Duty to God” as a concrete form of active work that a boy can understand.
An attitude of mind like “loving God “is not comprehensible to the average small boy, whereas he can understand that doing his Good Turn is a form of service to God.2
1 Aids to Scoutmastership, World Brotherhood Edition, 1944, p. 90
2 From a letter to Mr. Power, undated but in the 1920s
Author: Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell | Chief Scout of the World and founder of the Scouting Movement. This blog post was taken from his writings and can be found in Playing the Game—a Baden-Powell Compendium, pp 345–46