Military-like Discipline in Scouting?

The selection below comes from my book-in-progress, “Scouting Rediscovered”, in which I attempt to explore the numerous lessons I have learned about Scouting, the principles upon which it is built, and the great concepts behind it. Enjoy! And leave any questions or comments in the comment section.

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This difference, or individuality, was also very important to Baden-Powell. As a big supporter of the British military, he incorporated many of its useful aspects into Scouting. However, one aspect of the military that he spoke constantly against in Scouting, is that of military order and rigidity which stifled individuality. Some of the other Scouting organizations of the time followed this military way of discipline. Tents were pitched like barracks and schedules were rigidly predetermined. While he was very fond of discipline, Baden-Powell made it clear that this kind of military discipline had no place in Scouting. Here is a quote that I posted earlier in the book, but which I think would be valuable to bring up again:

“As the camping season is now upon us, I may say that one or two of the camps which I have already seen have been unfortunately on wrong lines, though others were very satisfactory. I strongly advise small camps of about half a dozen Patrols; each Patrol in a separate tent and on separate ground (as suggested in Scouting for Boys), so that the Scouts do not feel themselves to be part of a big herd, but members of independent responsible units.

Large camps prevent scout-work and necessitate military training; and one which I visited the other day, though exceedingly well carried out as a bit of Army organization, appealed to me very little, because not only was it entirely on military lines, but the Patrols — the essence of our system — were broken up to fit the members into the tents. Patrols should be kept intact under all circumstances. ”1

Previously, I emphasized the importance of keeping the Patrols intact, but now I’d like to point out the emphasis in this quote on individuality and reducing herd mentality. You could, perhaps, trace this thinking back to the Renaissance and Enlightenment authors such as John Locke who wrote on individuality and humanism. Whatever its philosophical roots might be, however, Baden-Powell emphasized this individualism because he saw the negative aspects of herd mentality, and strongly believed that it stifled individual character.

1The Scouter Magazine (June 1910) – Baden-Powell

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