Boy Scouts can easily kick Harry Potter’s ass…

…or more accurately, J.K. Rowling’s… 

The top three bestselling books of the 20th century are not that difficult to guess: the Bible, the Koran and Mao’s Little Red Book. Number four is perhaps a surprise. Scouting for Boys was written a century ago by Robert Baden-Powell, now a somewhat unfashionable figure who was once widely regarded as the most famous man in Britain.

(Source: The Observer)

Cover of second part of Scouting for Boys, January 1908

But the truth is different, according to Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and team captain on BBC2’s Have I Got News for You?

In fact, Hislop told The Observer last week, his study of Baden-Powell’s life to mark the centenary of the movement forced him to abandon his ‘snotty’ preconceptions and wonder what he and his teenage children had missed.

In making Ian Hislop’s Scouting for Boys, a documentary to be shown on BBC4 on Monday 14 May at 9pm, the journalist admits his assumptions were turned upside down.

‘In the Seventies and Eighties, Scouting had been deeply unfashionable and uncool and a slightly naff thing to join, and I’d just taken that on board,’ he said. ‘I went back and had a look at it and thought this is the most bizarre book, quite bonkers but also quite brilliant.’

Today there are more than 28 million Scouts in more than 200 countries, including over 40,000 in Ireland. The Scout Association says it helps young people ‘develop into future citizens through adventure, international friendship and opportunities to change the world for good’.

‘Everyone thinks, “Scouts, it’s like the Hitler Youth except in England”,’ Hislop said. ‘I wanted to make a film that said that isn’t true at all.

‘Baden-Powell’s overriding concern is that it should be fun. He thought that’s how you appeal to boys. You make them better citizens by giving them training geared to them. He says don’t lecture them, they’ll fall asleep. Don’t have a slide show with stuff that is boring. Tell them stories. And I found all that very appealing.’

 Ian Hislop’s Scouting For Boys. Monday May 14th, 9pm. BBC4

100 years of Scouting and still prepared … Motto

1908: A Scout is loyal to the King.2007: A Scout is loyal.

Sex1908: Don’t make love to a girl unless you mean to marry her.

2007: When two young people form an emotional attachment, leaders should support their need for privacy together and help them to remember friends, who may feel rejected by the couple.Smoking

1908: A Scout does not smoke.2007: Try to give up.

Masturbation1908: The temptation may arise from… eating rich foods, sleeping on the back in a soft bed with too many blankets on, or from constipation.’

2007: Leaders should ignore it, unless it is causing distress to another child or is becoming public.

(Sources: Scouting for Boys; www.scoutbase.org.uk)

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