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So I quit the Boy Scouts after getting a lecture on the 10 Commandments and saying to myself “I’m the only one here who doesn’t smoke a ton of pot but I’m being chastised for saying ‘god dammit’?” This week marks the Scouts’ 102nd anniversary and Wired reprinted a really interesting article asking whether the Boy Scouts are still relevant. Religious (and potentially discriminatory viewpoints) aside, the values they promote are so backward that I can’t think of an organization more in need of a refresh.

by , posted Feb 10, 10:26 AM

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My seven-year-old recently joined the Boy Scouts. He had been asking for several months if he could join, which is impressive given his attention span sometimes. He’s a good student and tries hard to be a good boy, so how could we keep saying no?

“the values they promote are so backward that I can’t think of an organization more in need of a refresh”

I would have agreed with this last month. Then my son started reading the scout handbook to earn his badges (which are actually belt loops at this stage).

The handbook doesn’t have any answers, only questions. Discuss the importance of keeping a promise with your family, discuss honesty with your family, talk with your family about character.

Yes, he approaches these questions in a way that’s like, “the quicker we get through this page, the sooner I get my badge.” But my wife and I don’t need to approach them that way. We’ve taken our time, and it’s opened the door to some interesting conversations.

In the years of being sure he’s bathed, fed, clothed, and to bed on time, I can tell you that character rarely comes up.

You worry that you’re not doing all you can to make sure your child is a good person. You worry that you’re not sharing as much of yourself as you can, that you’re not decoding the messages bombarding your child on a daily basis.

Scouting keeps that conversation about morality, honesty, and integrity going. Fortunately, there’s nothing in the handbook telling you what any of that means. Even being “morally straight.” When my son asks what being morally straight means, the discussion won’t have anything to do with homosexuality.

Part of the scout pledge is a promise to do his duty to God, and country. He had to ask us what that meant. I’d much rather my son ask me what doing his duty to God means, what being a patriot means, so he learns that we can discuss these things. So we can get comfortable talking about beliefs.

So far? He knows how to cook himself a meal, fire and all (something several people I went to college with couldn’t do). He’s played catch with his mother, a first for them. The den leaders and volunteers go out of their way not to discuss religion or politics. I’m a little scared to get to know the ones wearing the uniform in adult sizes, but they are all unfailingly patient and kind with all of the children.

I don’t think the scouts’ backward national policies will affect my son. If anything, I’m worried scouts will make him a joiner. But with guidance from home, I think scouts will just help him become the best version of himself. Which is all any parent wants.

Aaron Curtis · Feb 14, 07:58 AM · #

I’m with you, Aaron. Both of my cousins are autistic and have other developmental challenges. They have been in the scouts for years. In fact, the oldest just became an eagle scout (a very proud day for our family). Besides teaching them basic survival skills, the boy scouts have also encouraged them to interact with their peers (something that is difficult for people with autism), become contributing members of society, and help those less fortunate. Now, I don’t know much about the backward national policies, but I do see the positive impact scouting has had on my cousins and even their parents. My uncle is even a troop leader and wears the adult sized uniform. He might be a bit Bear Grylls crazy, but he genuinely cares for all the boys and their families.

— Hillary · Mar 15, 11:53 AM · #

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