In Praise of Scouting

Frankly, I don’t know where so many scout leaders went wrong in order to lead the organization into disrepute. Will the organization survive? I hope to. In spite of the problems–which are attrocious–the BSA has, over time, done a lot of good. Not just wilderness skills, but a code of life based based on service, a moral life, and skills that have been applicable in multiple environments and situations.

Our family was heavily involved from cub scouts to explorer scouts. My two brothers and I were eagle scouts as well as God and Country recipients. One was a member of the Order of the Arrow. My father as a pack leader and later an explorer post leader and my mother was a den mother. They were also involved at the council level.

Our Tallahassee, Florida troop 101 was sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church. Then later, after I grew up, they dropped their sponsorhip and when I wrote to ask, nobody seemed to know why. What a shame.

Fellowship and working together toward common goals were always part of the mix. I feel we’ve lost the spirit of that has young people grow up glued to their cell phones rather than something that matters.

It’s not so much that you need to know how to survive in the wilderness, to tie a dozen knots, to make camp furniture out of scrub okay, practice first aid, and learn whet the world offers and what it will ask of you as you become and adult after applying yourself to the BSA ranks and merit badges. Will I ever need to know how to tie a timber hitch or a bowline? Perhaps not,  but knowing how (should the need arise) is a large part of being self sufficient. 

We knew how to identify what we found in the woods, whether it had beneficial uses or was harmful, and how to stand on our own two feet should danger arise. Sometimes I wonder if today’s youth are learning to survive or just to get by on a wing and a prayer.

Will Scouting itself survive? If so, I think it will have to change in a lot of ways, and I’m not just talking about all the injury suits brought by boys and their families against warped Scout masters. Yes, that must be part of it. But there’s more, I think, and a great part of that is learning to take responsibility for what you do and learning how to step in and lead others out of danger who, unlike Scouts, do not follow the “Be Prepared” motto.

The skills that have grown out of Scouting have been a life long part of growing up to be the kind of person you are glad to have become. We need more of this.


Fate’s Arrows is available on Kindle and Nook, in paperback and hard cover, and an audiobook edition. 


4 thoughts on “In Praise of Scouting

  1. I can’t say enough good stuff about scouting either.
    Both our boys are Eagle Scouts and Order of the Arrow.
    They owe many fond memories and leadership skills to the Boy Scouts.

    However, overnight camping trips leave to boys wide open for abuse, if their leader or another parent is so inclined, Fortunately, that never happened in Troop 107 and (I’m guessing here) 99% of the other BSA troops in the country.

    It’s that 1% that is so heartbreaking.

    1. If overnight camping trips are discontinued, the organization is finished; those are such a big part of it. Congrats to your boys working their way through the program. That 1% is all it took to just about ruin everything.

  2. We love Scouting. My son Tom just attained his Eagle rank; his BOR was right before his 15th birthday in March. He now is hoping to continue in Troop leadership through age 18, and then become a Scouter thereafter.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but we have found that so much of one’s enjoyment of Scouts depends on a) the troop and b) what you want to make of it, and this in turn determines where it takes you. In our own experience, Tom and I got into backpacking a couple of years ago, so I signed up to be a Backpacking Merit Badge Counselor and we re-introduced his Troop to the pursuit. The current generation had never been, but they are a well-run, boy-led troop with just the right amount of adult support, and they were very receptive. Leading the trip in turn gave Tom confidence as a leader within his new Troop (we had just switched, right before COVID), and from there he went on to be a great SPL. It seems as if the success just builds on itself, provided you have the right boy-led, adult-mentored environment. Previously, we had been members of another troop before that was chaotic, and had no accountability. What a huge difference.

    Tom also pursued his religious emblems through our Lutheran church, and is talking about getting the 50-miler and several other awards. It’s truly what we’ve made of it, but there again he’s had a great troop for the last year and a half.

    Unfortunately, as you noted, Scouting has been dealt a few blows recently, and in today’s world seems to be shrinking in popularity. That said, perhaps the upside is that we’ll be left with the Troops and Scouts who are really hard-core committed to the principles of Scouting. I’m heading for Wood Badge training this fall, hoping to help our Troop and Council continue to thrive in my own small way.

    Thank you for the post!

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