Who was Lord Baden-Powell?

True story: A senior cub-scout leader points to a portrait very similar to the one shown here, and asks the nine-year-old boys if they know who it is.

“Is it Adolf Hitler?” asks one of them.

The other scout leaders look at their shoes in embarrassment, but know they will have a good chortle(1) over this later.



Note: Privately, the SameSky Languages teachers have views on issues such as this, but for the purposes of this blog, it is our intention not to promote one side of the argument, but to stimulate debate among our students.



The story in the opening paragraph relates a child's innocent mistake, but it reflects the levels of discomfort that can be caused in adults as the debate now rages: should historical monuments be judged in the light of modern standards?

Baden-Powell, or to give him his full name and title, Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, was a highly decorated(2) English army officer, who in 1907 founded the Boy Scout movement. Clearly a visionary hero in the eyes of many, we are now being reminded of the aspects of his life that are considered "less worthy of commemoration". This was a phrase used by the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council as they debated whether to remove the statue of Robert Baden-Powell. This would be done on the advice of the police, because there are fears that it is now on a target list for attack.


This comes in the wake of(3) the anti-racism protests that were sparked by the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, USA. Rather than merely being angry, protesters have decided to take tangible steps and vent their sense of injustice by targeting historical figures who fall foul of today’s standards of diversity and inclusion, to put it mildly.

So why is the founder of such a positive, wholesome movement as the Scouts considered fair game(4)?


Predictably, emotions run high on both sides of the debate. Typically, those on the political right oppose the removal of the statue, while those on the left believe it should be taken down.


Baden-Powell, who died in 1941, has been targeted for criticism by campaigners who accuse him of racism, homophobia(5) and support for Adolf Hitler.

Corrie Drew, a former Labour parliamentary candidate from the Bournemouth area said: "We can commemorate the positive work without commemorating the man."

She added, in an interview with BBC Breakfast: "A quick look into his history shows that he was very open about his views against homosexuality and that he was a very open supporter of Hitler and of fascism and quite a strong, outspoken racist."


However, there are two sides to the story: an online petition(6), set up to "defend Poole's Lord Baden-Powell statue”, received more than 3,500 signatures in the first 24 hours. Tobias Ellwood, Tory MP for Bournemouth East, said: "Few historical figures(7) comply with 21st century values. Simply expunging(8) past connections from sight won't correct wrongs or help us better learn from our past."

· What do you think?

· Do you believe that the existe