Thursday, February 12, 2009

Don't Mock the Scouts

Wouldn't it be great if everyone lived the Scout Law? But too many people mock scouts and scouters because they don't understand it. Some good points in this article below by David Bly:

Boy Scout movement is nothing to sneer at
David Bly, Editor, Desert Valley Times

There’s a tendency among certain smug and thoughtless people to sneer at the Boy Scouts movement, to make fun of its old-fashioned ideals and straight-laced goals.

“He’s such a Boy Scout,” someone will say disparagingly of a person whose conduct exceeds normal expectations.

Jokes are made about such Scouting stereotypes as helping little old ladies across the street and doing a good turn every day.

It’s typical behavior for people of weak character and low standards to belittle those who aim at something higher —it’s far easier to pull someone down than it is to pull yourself up.

That doesn’t meaning the Scouting movement or Scouting organizations are infallible or beyond criticism, but on the whole, the world would be much better off if more kids followed scouting ideals.

When have we needed the
ideals of Scouting more than now, in this age of entitlement, self-gratification, greed, apathy and low standards?

When Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts movements in the early 1900s, it was his aim “is to develop among boys a power of sympathizing with others, and a spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism.”

Baden-Powell envisioned a standard of exemplary conduct that included respect for all, without regard to class distinction.

“Everything on two legs that calls itself a boy has God in him,” he wrote, “although he may — through the artificial environment of modern civilization — be the most errant little thief, liar, and filth-monger unhung. Our job is to give him a chance.”

He was a little ahead of his time. The Fourth Scout Law was a powerful challenge to the racism and British snobbery of the time: “A Scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout, no matter to what country, class or creed, the other may belong.”

That such a clear standard of equality and tolerance has sometimes been followed imperfectly does not negate the ideal.

And we need it now more than ever. It won’t solve every problem in the world — and it should not be forced to jump onto every crusade for social change — but how much better off we would be if more of our youth were involved in Scouting.

It’s been half a century since I was a Boy Scout, and I wasn’t a particularly successful Scout (I don’t think I even finished all the First Class requirements), but much of what I learned is still with me.

When I leave for work, I check to see my fingernails are clean, that I’m carrying a clean handkerchief, and that my hair (what is left of it) is combed, the very things we were checked for when we stood at attention in the horseshow for inspection.

We learned the ideals of being honest and truthful, kind and considerate, respectful of people and the environment. We were taught the values of service and loyalty.

If anyone wants to sneer at those ideals, it says more of the sneer than it does the ideals.

“A Scout is clean in thought, word and deed” is something we followed with varying degrees of success, but we knew it to be a worthy ideal.

To me, the main focus of Scouting was camping and hiking, of learning outdoor skills.

Danged if I can even remember what a sheepshank or sheet bend look like, but I still know how to tie a bowline, a square knot, a clove hitch and a half-hitch — because they have been useful to me over the years.

When I’m hiking, I still remember to look frequently where I’ve been so I’ll recognize the way back. The landscape can look quite different when you’re going the other direction.

We learned the directions of the compass, and how to determine them by the position of the sun and stars. I can still do that
. . . most of the time.

There has even been an occasion or two when I was mildly lost, and remembered the general rule that following the downward slope usually leads to a stream, and taking a downstream direction will eventually lead to a road or town. I’ve never had to test that one on a grand scale, but I’d love the opportunity.

I learned how to build a fire and cook on it, and learned something of living off the land. My love for the outdoors was magnified by my experience in Scouts.

Statistics can be manipulated to prove almost any point but, while numbers vary, studies have shown a powerful correlation between involvement in scouting and success in life. Youths involved in Scouting have a much lower rate of juvenile delinquency.

It doesn’t take a social scientist with a truckload of doctorates to determine that being honest, clean, considerate, self-reliant and kind makes a better person, one who has confidence in his or her abilities, one who has learned that doing the right thing is always the right choice.

I’ve had a few tangles with the officialdom of Scouting — like any large organization, it has its empire-builders, power-mongers and bureaucratic tangles, but those are weaknesses of human nature, not flaws in the ideals.

February is National Scouting Month, and I’ve already had a couple of pleasant encounters with Scouts. I witnessed some of the crazy fun of the Pinewood Derby, and I spent an hour working with a group of Scouts on their Communications merit badge. It’s good to see Scouting at work.

From time to time, we receive announcements of those who achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, and outlines of the service projects they performed. I know those are youths who, because of Scouting, will stand above the crowd throughout their lives.

We can’t all be Eagle Scouts, but we can all use Scouting ideals in our lives.

Give it a try: Be kind, be clean, be honest, be self-reliant, do good deeds daily. You’ll be the better for it.

1 comment:

Albert A Rasch said...

Well said and written. I am glad to have bumped into your blog. there is much here to reread and remember!

Albert A Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
Proud Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Southeast Regional OBS Coordinator