2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Scouting for Chinese Boys: Civic Training and Social Consciousness in Nanjing Decade Boy Scout Handbooks

Robert Culp

Department of History, Bard College

This essay explores the Chinese Nationalist Party's approach to citizenship and civic training during the Nanjing decade (1927-1937) through close analysis of Chinese Boy Scout training handbooks. It demonstrates that the Nationalist Party ambitiously sought to transform the most basic thought and practice of Chinese youths through comprehensive training intended to produce a new generation of citizens committed to serving the nation and party. Throughout this period, Boy Scout citizenship training combined moral cultivation, political indoctrination, and military drill with lessons in etiquette, hygiene, and practical skills. However, this essay also argues that these multiple dimensions of civic training were fraught with fundamental internal tensions. For one, scouts were taught forms of etiquette characteristic of urban elite society while also learning to be more like the "common people" through lessons in cooking, cleaning, and washing. In addition, handbooks presented contradictory visions of a modern social order: in some lessons they portrayed society as the product of the autonomous actions of its members, who were differentiated by their distinctive contributions; at other points they characterized society as a homogeneous mass organized into ordered ranks by the directing authority of the Nationalist Party. Both sets of contradictions eroded the coherence of Boy Scout civic training and thereby posed threats to Nationalist Party efforts to legitimize its rule and produce a new citizenry for China.



Keywords: nationalism, citizenship, civic training, youth training, civilizing, Boy Scouts, social service, military drill, Chinese Nationalist Party