Monday, April 15, 2013

Is Scouting Still Relevant?

It's been awhile since I posted an entry.  I hope more will be on the way soon.
Recently, I had an experience at work where someone found out for the first time that I was involved as an adult leader in our local Cub Scout program. 
The person was shocked and said, “Is scouting even relevant?  All I hear on the news is that scouting discriminates.”

For my answer, I could have quoted national scouting enrollment numbers, the amount of community service done by scouts across the country, discussed political and religious opinions, etc., but I really didn’t think that answered the question. 
Sadly, the number of scouts has decreased over time, even though there are still millions of scouts in this country.  In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the issues being discussed nationally about allowing gays and lesbians to participate in scouting.  Those are issues for the political groups within and outside of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) national office to debate and argue.  Scouting is not done by bureaucrats.  I have yet to see one on any campout or scouting activity for my group.  Scouting is done by parents at the local level.  If BSA changed its stance tonight on having openly gay/lesbian leaders or gay young men as scouts, do I think it will spur a massive movement of scouting enrollment?  No.  Some will openly proclaim they are gay scouts or leaders, maybe a few new members will join, some will even leave, but you will not see a massive change in the total number of scouts in this country.  I don’t believe these items answer the question of “relevancy” for scouting.  They are political topics that tend to dominate the news rather than stressing all of the wonderful things that scouts everywhere are doing as part of their scouting programs. 

In reality, there are too many distractions and other activities that pull away a young man’s time and interest away from scouting.  There are year round sports programs/sports camps, video games, and as a society, we are much “busier” than ever before.   Despite all of these things, I think the biggest issue is that there are too many children who do not have active parents in their lives.  I’ve seen more young men leave scouting because they didn’t have a parent who would bring them to meetings, take them camping, or support them in completing activities for their rank advancement.  Scouting is a family activity, and its success completely depends on active parents who are willing to spend time with their child and place them in programs that help them develop into good young men.  Scouting instills character development, citizenship training, personal fitness and more, but it all starts with parental involvement. 
Well back to the original question, and my answer.

“Is scouting even relevant? ”
 A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.  These are timeless values that will never lose their relevance.  These were the values that were taught to me as a young man and the values I live by as an adult.  The bureaucrats and politicians in BSA will argue and make changes to scouting policies over time.  Whatever they do or don’t do will never change those timeless values that form the backbone of Boy Scouts.  These things need to be stressed and taught to young men everywhere.   Too many non-scouting programs and activities focus on competition rather than character development and citizenship.  The biggest issue isn’t the relevance of scouting, it’s the priority of scouting.  We need more parents to be involved with their children and help put programs like this as a higher priority in their child’s life.

I understand that not every person is going to agree with my thoughts on this issue.  The good news is that we live in a free nation where we can respectfully have differences in opinion.   Some out there feel that scouting is no longer relevant , and that BSA is an organization that is stuck in a time that has passed.  I’m one that recognizes that there are national issues and local issues with scouting.  This occurs with virtually every national organization or business chain.  We shouldn’t confuse the two.  Scouting is driven at the local level.  It is the parents and volunteers of these programs that are making a difference in helping young men develop into good citizens.   Each week, I get to see how scouting impacts our community locally.  We have raised thousands of pounds of food for the homeless, picked up trash in the parks and highways, visited nursing homes, and sorted clothes at the local care center.  I simply can’t believe that raising young men to be this type of citizen is a bad thing or something that is no longer relevant to society.   The world needs more scouts in their communities.   The world needs more young men who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the father of scouting, was quoted as saying, “When a boy finds someone who takes an interest in him, he responds and follows.”  Parents need to take that interest, and when they do, we see the question of relevance go away as scouting again becomes a priority in a boy’s life.


1 comment:

  1. Great post, Jody! As a scout parent, I believe that scouting is more relevant and needed than ever! Too many of our youth are not receiving the leadership, mentoring, and moral and ethical training and support from strong Christian role models that is so critical to developing good men and women and responsible, informed citizens to sustain our society.