Happy birthday to the Boy Scouts of America, who will be celebrating their 100th anniversary in February. Deeply rooted in a Norman Rockwell version of the United States, the BSA has simultaneously enhanced millions of youngsters’ lives and managed to piss a few people off along the way.
You might recall the Supreme Court ruling in 2000 which said the BSA has the right to exclude gays from its ranks. Personally I think the Scouts are making the wrong decision on this one, but it is a private organization after all. However foolish it may seem, they have the right to do as they see fit within legal reason. The courts seem to agree.
The BSA has also stuck by its decision to retain the pledge of duty to God in the Scout Oath, much to the chagrin of atheist groups. While no single religion is openly preached at Scouting functions, faith certainly plays an important role in the Scouting experience.
Perhaps this model of exclusion is the reason why the BSA has experienced a sharp decline in membership over the years. The BSA must get with the times if they hope to remain relevant and survive.
I was a Scout once upon a time, and I have to admit Scouting was sometimes strange. Initiation processes consisted of lengthy Native American rituals, most of which I’m certain no Native American would even vaguely recognize. The scoutmasters would don elaborate Native American garb — intricate headdresses, moccasins, even tomahawks — and dance around a huge bonfire while inducting privileged Scouts into some sort of secrete society. Half the time I had no idea what was going on, and would often daydream about flirting with the cute girl who worked in the mess hall.
Sure, I grew weary of camp chow and long, boring ceremonies. I never quite comprehended why we sang silly songs before each meal, or why we recited so many oaths over and over again. Being a Boy Scout was too much work sometimes.
But the whole Scouting experience was really cool for a growing boy. For starters, it got me out of the house. We learned to tie knots, shoot bow and arrows, row boats, and camp in freezing conditions (earning your Polar Bear Merit Badge really isn’t worth the effort). We made an emergency river rescue once, and then slept in those crappy Boy Scout tents in the pouring rain the same weekend. We roasted marshmallows and told ghost stories, and engaged in some serious tomfoolery when the scoutmasters weren’t around.
Scouting builds memories and forges lasting friendships. In fact, I met a few of my best buds in Scouts. Even more important is that Scouting teaches a boy a few things about leadership, interest in the community, and service above self.
I never became an Eagle Scout. Not even close, to be honest. As is the case with most teenagers, I was too “cool” for the Scouts. I lost interest in the weekly meetings and attending the same ol’ camps year after year. Apparently the BSA has a strategic plan to remedy this situation, vowing “to be seen by youth as cool.”
In the event that I ever have male kids, I would place them in Scouts. All the adult nonsense aside, Scouting is just good, clean fun for rowdy boys. And it’s cheaper than paying for a sitter.
Filed Under: News