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.

–Malcolm

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