In Defense of Scouting

I am, somewhat accidentally, a fairly involved Scout Parent. I wasn’t in Scouts as a youth, and in fact I was kind of against the Boy Scouts. Now I have assorted hats, patches, and uniforms, which at some point means I have to stop claiming it was an accident and start owning it.

Perhaps that day will be today.

I wanted to write a long piece on the recent decision by the national organization of Boy Scouts of America which… well I’ll just quote CNN:

“On Monday July 27 the national executive board ratified a resolution removing the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees,” Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said in a video statement on Monday.”

(By the way that Robert Gates is the same Robert Gates who led the quiet repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in the military).

If you are a non-Scouter, you need to understand that this is an organization that still believes that rubbing two sticks together is a perfectly acceptable way to start a fire. Given adult leaders are selected by the chartering organization (think franchises) and some of those organizations are churches, the individual unit may still choose to appoint people that more closely align with their religious values… but still, in terms of “coming to grips with reality” this is right up there with the Pope stating that we should probably accept the earth is more than 6000 years old.

I never understood why issues of sexual orientation were important in an organization that is FOR CHILDREN, but then I also believe in lighter fluid.


* * *

Growing up I always thought the Scouts in my school were kind of dorky. I mean there was the whole uniform thing, and it wasn’t either A) black or B) flannel, so middle school me didn’t want to risk sliding any lower on the social pecking order. If I had realized then just how far down the ladder I really was, I might have given it a go because competing with the Paramecium for title of “lowest organism” just doesn’t have the sizzle you think it does.

As I got older, started a family, and generally got on with it I only noticed the Scouts when they were being sued for something incredibly stupid, embarrassing, or otherwise icky.  Aside from the “tut-tut” whenever I read a headline here or there, I didn’t really give it much thought at all.

Then one day, Mr. Hannibal Smith was just started first grade and Mrs. Nostrikethat informed me that We Would Be Attending a Scouting Picnic.

Darling, love of my life, I don’t really want to do this. I don’t have time. I don’t even particularly like the Scouts. They’re discriminatory. I’m just not that into it.”

“I’ve talk to the other moms in his grade and all of their kids are doing it. Besides the uniforms are cute.”

“I don’t wanna sell cookies.”

“There’s free hamburgers.”

“Okay, we’ll go… but I’m not joining anything. They’re going to have to find some other idiot to lead this disaster waiting to happen.”

Approximately 2 hours later, I was collecting email addresses of the other parents as a bunch of guys in tan shirts were congratulating me on my decision to be a den leader.


* * *

Just for context, I live in one of the most liberal towns in a solidly liberal state. I self-identify as a beret-wearing, quinoa-snorting, espresso-drinking leftie (we all have our faults, I suppose).

People who are overly dogmatic tend to give me the heebee jeebies.

Yet, as a direct consequence of my involvement in scouting I have many good and dear friends (you know who you are) who–although I find myself at times diametrically opposed politically or socially– I can still find a way to hang out with while we brag about our boys a little and complain about how much it sucks to sleep on the ground when you’re old.

I wish more people had this opportunity because I think we are all a lot more alike than we are different, and that’s comforting to me. I forget sometimes that in the “Like and Share” reality we live in today, we also live in little reinforced echo chambers, surrounded only by those who agree with us, and it’s hard for me to get out of that comfort zone and find people who are different.

There’s no echo by the camp fire.

* * *

The Scouts don’t really need me to defend them.

They will plod along for another hundred years, occasionally lurching forward another decade or two, but mostly just doing what they do best, which is create a space for boys to be boys without a watch to time them or a whistle to stop them. Scouting is low tech and will always be that way, and for once I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

If you have a boy, particularly in grades 1 through 5, go to and find a Cub Scout Pack near you. Find out what it’s all about. Don’t be afraid to be the idiot running the training into the wreck. Unless, of course, you object to your sons aspiring to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

Or just pull up a chair by the fire, we’ll make room.

Did I show you this camping cot I just bought? Beats sleeping on the ground, that’s for sure!

Just don’t “Like and Share” if you agree.

This post is dedicated to my many friends in my local Pack and Troop who welcomed me in, taught me which end of the tent stake goes in the ground, and didn’t laugh too much when I got the urge to “improve” things. Thanks for making me feel like I’m part of the community. I hope we have many more campfires in our future.

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