I love Scouts so much. As a kid I dug it because it gave me adventures that the normal kid didn’t. I learned how to stay the night and cook in the woods, how to shoot a rifle, how to recognize evidence of a bear coming though your camp during the night because he ate the Sloppy Joe mix you left out, and how to not be a pansy about the outdoors. As an adult, I learned how rich of a program it can be through being a scoutmaster for three months.
I researched my kid’s opportunities and read every page of the the leader’s handbook (a daunting task that I think one percent of scoutmasters even try). I bought the most rad of the merit badge manuals, and set up a year plan for them to do the riflery, shotgun, crime prevention, fingerprinting, camping, emergency preparedness, citizenship in the community, personal fitness, archery, and wilderness survival merit badges. I wanted and had the tools for my boys to be young civilian equivalents of Army Rangers—shoot, maybe Green Berets. I started the process to turn these boys into men! Sadly, my tenure was short, so I wasn’t able to see many fruits of my labor, but I saw some. I saw the light in a kid’s eye when he grasps a concept. I saw a group of rowdies pull together and willingly do the community an impromptu service. Scouts has potential to make gods among boys. I effing love it.
One aspect that doesn’t get touted is the moral codes that scouts are bound to live:
Boy Scout Oath or Promise
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
As UsScouts.org puts it, “Note that the Boy Scout Oath has traditionally been considered to have three promises. Those three promises are delineated by the semicolons in the Oath, which divide it into three clauses. The three promises of the Scout Oath are, therefore:
Duty to God and country,
Duty to other people, and
Duty to self”
While a particular religion isn’t mandated, scouting requires a boy (or girl, if a venture scout) be religious. [If you feel that’s descrininatory, remember that the BSA is a club, not a government branch, and can discriminate all they want because it’s your prerogative to join, or even to create an atheist competitor to the BSA. Having said that, I think they did the right thing to change policy from discriminating against gay adult leaders, since the old policy de facto assumed that all homosexuals were child molesters. If the moral code is abided by adult leaders, it shouldn’t be a problem.]
DUTY TO GOD AND COUNTRY: US Scouts breaks it down more: “Your family and religious leaders teach you to know and serve God. By following these teachings, you do your duty to God.
“Men and women of the past worked to make America great, and many gave their lives for their country. By being a good family member and a good citizen, by working for your country’s good and obeying its laws, you do your duty to your country. Obeying the Scout Law means living by its 12 points.” If this kind of philosophy doesn’t blow your mind when you put it in context of someone like a disadvantaged middle-schooler, then try being a substitute teacher. Kids have a rough world to find themselves in.
DUTY TO OTHER PEOPLE: “Many people need help. A cheery smile and a helping hand make life easier for others. By doing a Good Turn daily and helping when you’re needed, you prove yourself a Scout and do your part to make this a better world.
DUTY TO SELF: “Keeping yourself physically strong means taking care of your body. Eat the right foods and build your strength. Staying mentally awake means learn all you can, be curious, and ask questions. Being morally straight means to live your life with honesty, to be clean in your speech and actions, and to be a person of strong character.”
WHAT?! Are you kidding me? A kid that does this? Unstoppable. A nation of kids that do this? Psshh—. Pshhhh—! Shut down the juvie detention centers, we’re good.
Boy Scout Law
A Scout is:
Wow. Am I right? A boy or teen is going to learn how to take care of himself in the woods, community, and be a selfless person? I can’t even. I just can’t.
Boy Scout Motto
Hurrican Sandy? Katrina? Newtown?
Boy Scout Slogan
Do a Good Turn Daily!
For some reason, as a scout this had more of a hold on me than the admonition of the same from a pulpit. Could be because it put the onus on you, sans consequence except your own esteem.
The Outdoor Code
As an American, I will do my best to
- Be clean in my outdoor manners
- Be careful with fire
- Be considerate in the outdoors
- Be conservation minded.
Hippies can’t be mad with the last one. If they donated lobbying money to the BSA instead, government wouldn’t have to force stifling policies. Citizens-once-scouts would just choose better, and teach they’re families likewise. Teaching youth how to enjoy and respect the outdoors would do so much in preventing environmental crimes (and alleviate much of the nation’s depression and obesity issues).
I haven’t even touched on that these kids become talented! The subjects that merit badges cover are many and astounding! And many help boys explore skills they either don’t have access to in resources, or ones they wouldn’t happen upon via their peers.
Now, I must say that my Church heavily sponsors scouting. It’s the core of our male youth program. Hearsay is that the BSA was broke and about to go under until the Latter-day Saint church rescued it with a grip of cash and personnel. Yet, and I can’t say why, but we don’t really do scouts. Not well, at least. This article says how, and that has been the hard part to articulate. I’m really glad Mat Greenfield wrote it, since it was the leaping point I needed to write my own piece on why scouts is so great.
I’ve mentioned the fraternity before here, and I can’t praise it enough. I wish I knew more about Girl Scouts, but sadly my survey is small and incomplete. If you have knowledge on them, please share in the comments. Youth programs are important to raising good adults. If you love your kid, make them a scout!