Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why Scouting?

I encourage you to remove the parent supplement from your son’s handbook and read it. I also encourage you to read the first fifty pages of your son’s handbook. The single biggest element to a Scout’s success is the support they get from their parents.

I am an Eagle Scout. Most people think that the Scouts are about camping, but what they really do is teach problem solving, self-reliance, leadership and vocations. When they were founded, they were seen as a progressive organization, and they have been on the forefront of many issues. Not many people realize this, but the Scouts were founded to help inner-city youth get out to the wilderness in what we now call “outdoor education.” They’ve been doing it for more than 100 years. 

The BSA has had a number of problems throughout the years. Most of them are self-inflicted. I don’t agree with the BSA stance on not allowing “avowed” homosexuals to participate in the program; I do however agree that private organizations should have the right to set membership criteria. Very few people at the local level agree with the national policy. 

The BSA is like McDonald’s in that it franchises the program to whoever wants to use it (i.e. Elks, Rotary, PTAs, churches, etc.). It’s the Mormon and Roman Catholic churches that are driving the anti-gay policy (as a practicing Catholic it drives me nuts). To understand the problem, you have to understand the finances. The national office of the BSA gets all its money from the membership fees, $15 per year per kid. I think the current membership is 6 million youth. 40% of that is LDS or Catholic. That’s a $36M hit each year if those two organizations left the program. The BSA is has seen a 15% decline in membership I the last decade, but that’s less than the hit it would have taken if they had gone the other way.

As a kid whose dad died when he was nine, the BSA gave me opportunities I may have otherwise missed. I have been a volunteer now for more than twenty years. I have worked with more than 500 kids directly and probably another 1000 indirectly. Our current troop is ninety-two years old, and the pack is seventy-two. Our chartering organization recently issued a letter criticizing the national policy:

Most people who disagree with that national office do so by leaving. So the second thing I will recommend is that you sign-up as a Member of Committee. Send a letter to the national leaders telling them that you disagree with the policy.

The bulk of the problems with the child abuse occurred more than 20 years ago. The policies since then have become a national model. That doesn’t mean that problems don’t occur, but hopefully many more are prevented and those that do are treated much more quickly. The fact that the BSA kept such meticulous records is because they were trying to deal with those issues in a society that wasn’t dealing with it much better.

To quote Will Rogers, “The only problem with Boy Scouts is, there aren't enough of them.” The Scouts have a great program, and great volunteers at every level, trying to help kids. Support your son (and your daughter too if she is a Girl Scout). Get involved, even if it’s only giving moral support. Your son will one day thank you.


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