Cub Scouts: Wonderful or Whack?

GeekMom

boy-scout-image-31So my kid joined the Cub Scouts. He loves it. His pack is filled with friends from school, and the pack leader, dad to one of the kids, is warm, personable, and willing to play British Bulldog with a gang of screaming ten-year-olds. It’s good.

But, oy vey. The Cub Scouts? Really? What about that whole homophobia and intolerance thing over at Boy Scouts of America (BSA)? I’m just sayin’.

Luckily the local pack subscribes to none of that, and since my son has a scorching good time there with his friends, we acquiesced. My beef is with the national office.

So my son needs to memorize the Boy Scout Law, which is:

“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Let’s call that TLHFCKOCTBCR for short.

This morning we chanted it in the car on the way to school to help him memorize. Boy did it get under my skin, and not just because we repeated it 3,578 times. (First of all, having kids line up and chant qualities in unison baffles me. Is that really how children become TLHFCKOCTBCR? But I digress.) It seems like BSA wants to give the kids some qualities to aspire to, some touchstones that will help them grow into men. (And by “men” they appear to mean people who can do quaint masculine things, like starting a fire and whittling wood. But again I digress.)

TLHFCKOCTBCR got under my skin because of the qualities it lists. “Kind” is good, and I suppose kindness is important to stress to young boys who are going about in quasi-military uniforms chanting things at each other. I can more or less get behind “trustworthy” and “helpful” too.

But the other TLHFCKOCTBCR qualities are whack:

Just Not a Good Idea: Brave

I suppose “brave” could be okay, but among excitable boys it is also very close to something like, “Let’s skateboard off a skyscraper.” I’m out.

Oh, the Irony: Thrifty

Nobody escapes the Boy Scout supply store without an arm-and-leg’s worth of “required” items. Any genuinely thrifty scout would immediately quit to protest the price-gouging.

Get Out of My Personality, Dude: Friendly and Cheerful

These two kill me. What if the kid is introverted? Or serious-minded? I guess we’d have to vote those losers off the island. Also, have we learned nothing about mental health? Nothing makes a depressive kid more depressed than shoveling a steaming pile of “friendly and cheerful” on his head.

The Bronx Cheer Goes to: Loyal, Courteous, Obedient

These qualities scream, “I AGREE TO BE UNDER STRICT SOCIAL CONTROL.” Who the hell wants to be “obedient” as a general principle, without an understanding of who you’re obedient to and why? Nazi Youth were obedient, for pete’s sake. “Loyal” and “courteous” are just different sides of that same coin. It pains me to hear these three coming out of my kid’s mouth, especially for the sake of an organization with more than a few whiffs of pedophilia in its history.

Worst of the Worst: Clean and Reverent

These two are heartbreaking. They were the basis of the Supreme Court case a few years back that allowed the Boy Scouts to openly discriminate. Technically, gay kids can’t be scout leaders because they aren’t “clean,” and nonreligious kids can’t because they aren’t “reverent.” (Again, I stress that our local pack includes a kid with two moms and two dads, as well as my son from our openly atheist family. Nobody gives a rat’s ass, amen.)

So, enough with tearing down TLHFCKOCTBCR. I want to prepare for the day when BSA calls and begs me to rewrite the Boy Scout Law for them. Here’s my official redraft:

“A scout is kind, inquisitive, creative, open-minded, resilient, resourceful, confident, collaborative, globally aware, honest, helpful, and just.”

I guess that would be KICORRCCGHHJ. These are the qualities I think a boy should aspire to as he grows into a man. Or a girl into a woman for that matter. Or a transgendered child into a… oh, you get the point.

Anybody want to offer another draft? Or defend TLHFCKOCTBCR?

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117 thoughts on “Cub Scouts: Wonderful or Whack?

  1. I LOVE your version. My son wanted to be a boyscout because he thought it was going to be all about shooting arrows and camping. He didn’t like the meeting stuff. I didn’t push it. I think we would both enjoy your version of scouts better anyway.

  2. I LOVE your version. My son wanted to be a boyscout because he thought it was going to be all about shooting arrows and camping. He didn’t like the meeting stuff. I didn’t push it. I think we would both enjoy your version of scouts better anyway.

  3. Our son is in cub scouts (his choice) and we’ve had to change packs already (less than a year) to the one at our church. And this because our church’s pack is more open to different ideas and beliefs AND more diverse! (I could vent for hours about our first den) They are what make it what it is on a day to day basis. Additionally, this den is fun! Instead of meetings where they talk (get lectured) about stuff, they actually DO stuff. Now my biggest problem is that my daughter wants to be a Cub Scout (her Girl Scout group just isn’t that much fun 🙁 Luckily she gets to do plenty of stuff with her big brother’s den.
    I will definitely agree that you cannot just choose Cub Scouts, you have to choose the pack/den and the leaders.

  4. Our son is in cub scouts (his choice) and we’ve had to change packs already (less than a year) to the one at our church. And this because our church’s pack is more open to different ideas and beliefs AND more diverse! (I could vent for hours about our first den) They are what make it what it is on a day to day basis. Additionally, this den is fun! Instead of meetings where they talk (get lectured) about stuff, they actually DO stuff. Now my biggest problem is that my daughter wants to be a Cub Scout (her Girl Scout group just isn’t that much fun 🙁 Luckily she gets to do plenty of stuff with her big brother’s den.
    I will definitely agree that you cannot just choose Cub Scouts, you have to choose the pack/den and the leaders.

  5. I earned my Eagle rank in the BSA when I was 16 in 1996. I sound like my dad when I say this, but that was when being an Eagle meant something, not so much anymore.

    The world is moving, and the values are just, if only the BSA leaders adhered to the law as strictly as they should. Their homophobia is not courteous, kind, or reverent. I am living in the UK now, and would like to get involved with the local Scouting efforts. They don’t have the same reservations and are a co-ed group. The wisdom in this is a bit dubious, but hey-ho it’s an education.

  6. I earned my Eagle rank in the BSA when I was 16 in 1996. I sound like my dad when I say this, but that was when being an Eagle meant something, not so much anymore.

    The world is moving, and the values are just, if only the BSA leaders adhered to the law as strictly as they should. Their homophobia is not courteous, kind, or reverent. I am living in the UK now, and would like to get involved with the local Scouting efforts. They don’t have the same reservations and are a co-ed group. The wisdom in this is a bit dubious, but hey-ho it’s an education.

  7. I’m game, I’ll defend it. I’ve never been much of a boy scout fan because of the recognition they received and we girl scouts didn’t get, but I digress.

    The Loyal, courteous and obedient one is what stands out most to me. We’re starting kindergarden here in Japan and those are some of the qualities stressed here. A lot of it is so that kids learn to work as a team, and be part of society. Comparing crime rate, and feeling safe, I’d totally be up for more kids learning that in the US. I can walk around by myself at 1 am anywhere here and feel safe.

    As for bravery, that is where speaking up against crazy pedophiles and bad leaders comes up. It takes bravery to stand up for what you know is right, especially against people in power. That should help the boys figure out that obedience works only to a certain extent. Though, I’m sure a few skateboards off of cliffs would happen too.

    Clean : well I’ve met some smelly boys, including my own two. But, maybe think of it as being true to one’s own set of moral values whatever they may be.

    Thrifty : you totally have me there, seriously, how much to parents need to buy?

    friendly & cheerful: Yes, depression is very serious and should not be ignored or glossed over. For the most part though people can choose to look at certain situations positively or negatively. One is more likely to be happy when they look on the bright side life, and then change the things that they can.

    That all being said, I think you give a great and thoughtful alternative. The problem may be the old meaning of the words. When was the BSL written? It probably needs to be modernized.

    1. First I would have to agree with Richard. I too earned my Eagle in 1996 and it still to this day means a lot to me. My son is in Cub Scouts now and I am trying to uphold the same values and ideals that I learned when I was a boy going through the same program.

      The Scouts originated in the UK and was developed by a military minded man. If you look at the original UK version of the law, written in 1908, it makes sense to include the things that are in there. I won’t copy and paste but will include a couple of links. The first one gives a decent history on the matter. Good History

      The second one is a little easier to read.
      User Friendly

      I would tend to agree with the thrifty comments but in our area there are uniform “closets.” That have used uniforms that scouts have outgrown that can be used for little to no expense. Our pack also has in it’s by laws that no scout will be left out due to monetary constraints. We have fundraisers throughout the year and if the scout puts in an effort most of his activities are paid for.

      Reverent is a hot button issue in our household. Our pack doesn’t dwell on the religious aspect as much as some I’ve seen and this works for us. There are times though at outside events where it can become an issue.

      On the whole I would entertain a revision of the Scout Law. I think that both versions listed above can be boiled down to the same set of core ideals and values.

  8. I’m game, I’ll defend it. I’ve never been much of a boy scout fan because of the recognition they received and we girl scouts didn’t get, but I digress.

    The Loyal, courteous and obedient one is what stands out most to me. We’re starting kindergarden here in Japan and those are some of the qualities stressed here. A lot of it is so that kids learn to work as a team, and be part of society. Comparing crime rate, and feeling safe, I’d totally be up for more kids learning that in the US. I can walk around by myself at 1 am anywhere here and feel safe.

    As for bravery, that is where speaking up against crazy pedophiles and bad leaders comes up. It takes bravery to stand up for what you know is right, especially against people in power. That should help the boys figure out that obedience works only to a certain extent. Though, I’m sure a few skateboards off of cliffs would happen too.

    Clean : well I’ve met some smelly boys, including my own two. But, maybe think of it as being true to one’s own set of moral values whatever they may be.

    Thrifty : you totally have me there, seriously, how much to parents need to buy?

    friendly & cheerful: Yes, depression is very serious and should not be ignored or glossed over. For the most part though people can choose to look at certain situations positively or negatively. One is more likely to be happy when they look on the bright side life, and then change the things that they can.

    That all being said, I think you give a great and thoughtful alternative. The problem may be the old meaning of the words. When was the BSL written? It probably needs to be modernized.

    1. First I would have to agree with Richard. I too earned my Eagle in 1996 and it still to this day means a lot to me. My son is in Cub Scouts now and I am trying to uphold the same values and ideals that I learned when I was a boy going through the same program.

      The Scouts originated in the UK and was developed by a military minded man. If you look at the original UK version of the law, written in 1908, it makes sense to include the things that are in there. I won’t copy and paste but will include a couple of links. The first one gives a decent history on the matter. Good History

      The second one is a little easier to read.
      User Friendly

      I would tend to agree with the thrifty comments but in our area there are uniform “closets.” That have used uniforms that scouts have outgrown that can be used for little to no expense. Our pack also has in it’s by laws that no scout will be left out due to monetary constraints. We have fundraisers throughout the year and if the scout puts in an effort most of his activities are paid for.

      Reverent is a hot button issue in our household. Our pack doesn’t dwell on the religious aspect as much as some I’ve seen and this works for us. There are times though at outside events where it can become an issue.

      On the whole I would entertain a revision of the Scout Law. I think that both versions listed above can be boiled down to the same set of core ideals and values.

  9. My son is currently a First Class scout and has been in Scouting since the first grade. I have also been involved as a leader since that time. I’m glad that you pointed out that your problems are at a national level, but I think you’ve got some preconceived ideas that are clouding things a bit.

    First, if your son is a Cub at any level lower than Webelos, he doesn’t need to learn the Scout Law yet, rather it would be the Law of the Pack and Cub Scout Promise which are much more suited to their age. But, you seem to be taking it’s meaning and application a bit too strictly. We teach our Scouts that every person applies the points of the Law differently. Being cheerful doesn’t mean to change your personality if you’re an introvert, it can mean performing tasks without complaining. But one of the things that I love about scouting is that it introduces boys to things that they may not otherwise experience, and sometimes that means exploring their own personalities to discover how they can better themselves through the application of the Oath and Law.

    Yes, it’s a boys only organization and I personally don’t have a problem with that. In most other countries, scouting is coed, and there’s rumor that it will be happening here soon. I do have reservations about banning homosexuals, and I can tell you that I don’t know of a single time that I’ve ever heard of that even being brought up much less having someone dismissed or turned down because of sexual orientation.

    There’s so few places these days for our youth to learn the values that Scouting offers, it pains me to think that those values would be watered down so that someone is not offended by them.

  10. My son is currently a First Class scout and has been in Scouting since the first grade. I have also been involved as a leader since that time. I’m glad that you pointed out that your problems are at a national level, but I think you’ve got some preconceived ideas that are clouding things a bit.

    First, if your son is a Cub at any level lower than Webelos, he doesn’t need to learn the Scout Law yet, rather it would be the Law of the Pack and Cub Scout Promise which are much more suited to their age. But, you seem to be taking it’s meaning and application a bit too strictly. We teach our Scouts that every person applies the points of the Law differently. Being cheerful doesn’t mean to change your personality if you’re an introvert, it can mean performing tasks without complaining. But one of the things that I love about scouting is that it introduces boys to things that they may not otherwise experience, and sometimes that means exploring their own personalities to discover how they can better themselves through the application of the Oath and Law.

    Yes, it’s a boys only organization and I personally don’t have a problem with that. In most other countries, scouting is coed, and there’s rumor that it will be happening here soon. I do have reservations about banning homosexuals, and I can tell you that I don’t know of a single time that I’ve ever heard of that even being brought up much less having someone dismissed or turned down because of sexual orientation.

    There’s so few places these days for our youth to learn the values that Scouting offers, it pains me to think that those values would be watered down so that someone is not offended by them.

  11. Yeah; I have very fond memories of my time in the BSA, but I also have memories of being denied my Life rank because I wasn’t “morally straight” & being made aware that atheism was unacceptable to the Scouts. That is pretty repugnant, but the bigotry against sexual diversity is way worse. I hold out some hope that there will be a splinter group that will come out of the Scouts some day that isn’t founded on intolerance.

  12. Yeah; I have very fond memories of my time in the BSA, but I also have memories of being denied my Life rank because I wasn’t “morally straight” & being made aware that atheism was unacceptable to the Scouts. That is pretty repugnant, but the bigotry against sexual diversity is way worse. I hold out some hope that there will be a splinter group that will come out of the Scouts some day that isn’t founded on intolerance.

  13. We are an atheist family, too and tho there has been interest in Boy Scouts, the reverent part and the jibber jabber about God on the website is definitely not inclusive, despite their claims to be so. We are hesitant to let my son be exposed to that sort of thing at his age.

    I was a Girl Guide – the British/Canadian women’s version of Scouting – and went from their then first level of Brownies up to Pathfinders (pre-teen/early teen). I learned a lot of interesting skills I wouldn’t otherwise being an urban kid and had a lot of fun. However, the compliant child thing was pretty annoying.

    1. Leanne> the reverent part and the jibber jabber about God on the website is definitely not inclusive, despite their claims to be so.

      If your son has an interest, I’d encourage you to attend a bit and see how much of the jibber jabber filters down to the actual unit. And if it is “lots” try one more unit just to see.

      There is a difference between the way Scouting is marketed to parents (Timeless Values) and the way program is delivered to boys (Outdoor Adventure). YMMV. It’s a bit of a bait and switch, really, but the people who do the marketing (ie, website) think that the Values message is what will motivate parents.

      In your case, they were right! But the motivation was counter-productive.

      Honestly, every unit has to compartmentalize the values message, since no boy in history has ever joined a club in order to get his character improved. If you can stand to recite the Pledge of
      Allegience all the way through, then you will likely not find anything too troubling at a Cub Scout or Boy Scout meeting.

      Also, if your son’s demonstrated interest is really “Outdoor Adventure” then you might want to wait until he is 11 and try a Boy Scout Troop. In general, you’ll find more emphasis on Outdoors there.

  14. We are an atheist family, too and tho there has been interest in Boy Scouts, the reverent part and the jibber jabber about God on the website is definitely not inclusive, despite their claims to be so. We are hesitant to let my son be exposed to that sort of thing at his age.

    I was a Girl Guide – the British/Canadian women’s version of Scouting – and went from their then first level of Brownies up to Pathfinders (pre-teen/early teen). I learned a lot of interesting skills I wouldn’t otherwise being an urban kid and had a lot of fun. However, the compliant child thing was pretty annoying.

    1. Leanne> the reverent part and the jibber jabber about God on the website is definitely not inclusive, despite their claims to be so.

      If your son has an interest, I’d encourage you to attend a bit and see how much of the jibber jabber filters down to the actual unit. And if it is “lots” try one more unit just to see.

      There is a difference between the way Scouting is marketed to parents (Timeless Values) and the way program is delivered to boys (Outdoor Adventure). YMMV. It’s a bit of a bait and switch, really, but the people who do the marketing (ie, website) think that the Values message is what will motivate parents.

      In your case, they were right! But the motivation was counter-productive.

      Honestly, every unit has to compartmentalize the values message, since no boy in history has ever joined a club in order to get his character improved. If you can stand to recite the Pledge of
      Allegience all the way through, then you will likely not find anything too troubling at a Cub Scout or Boy Scout meeting.

      Also, if your son’s demonstrated interest is really “Outdoor Adventure” then you might want to wait until he is 11 and try a Boy Scout Troop. In general, you’ll find more emphasis on Outdoors there.

  15. Please keep courteous in there. You seem to be unaware: cour·te·ous
       /ˈkɜrtiəs/ Show Spelled[kur-tee-uhs] Show IPA
    –adjective
    having or showing good manners; polite.

    I’m sorry, but I’ve met too many children without manners to see courteousness as anything but good. Seriously, just last week I dealt with a child who tried to take several supplies from my craft program and several others who felt no need to say please or thank you while I helped them with their projects (because you know, that’s easier than their reading the instructions)

  16. Please keep courteous in there. You seem to be unaware: cour·te·ous
       /ˈkɜrtiəs/ Show Spelled[kur-tee-uhs] Show IPA
    –adjective
    having or showing good manners; polite.

    I’m sorry, but I’ve met too many children without manners to see courteousness as anything but good. Seriously, just last week I dealt with a child who tried to take several supplies from my craft program and several others who felt no need to say please or thank you while I helped them with their projects (because you know, that’s easier than their reading the instructions)

  17. So basically your argument is that the BSA is homophobic and filled with pedophiles, so the virtues espoused in the Scout Law are false.

    You talk about “strict social control”? The only liberty most people these days care about is the liberty of the groin. The only reverence most people care about is the sacrament of the recycling sort. The only courtesy is ensuring no aggrieved behavior can ever be judged on its merits lest anyone be offended. The only loyalty is to equality of social outcome.

    As for the tolerance of atheists, why would they want to be part of the Cub Scouts anyway? Start your own alternative, seriously, and show reverence to Al Gore or whoever. And I’ve met very few atheists with any courtesy about or tolerance for Christian theology.

    1. ElZarcho, you have aptly described the modern western ethos. It is sad that the most eloquent and outspoken people on the internet are usually the ones defending perversion, godlessness, and moral relativity. I guess the saints are too busy.

  18. So basically your argument is that the BSA is homophobic and filled with pedophiles, so the virtues espoused in the Scout Law are false.

    You talk about “strict social control”? The only liberty most people these days care about is the liberty of the groin. The only reverence most people care about is the sacrament of the recycling sort. The only courtesy is ensuring no aggrieved behavior can ever be judged on its merits lest anyone be offended. The only loyalty is to equality of social outcome.

    As for the tolerance of atheists, why would they want to be part of the Cub Scouts anyway? Start your own alternative, seriously, and show reverence to Al Gore or whoever. And I’ve met very few atheists with any courtesy about or tolerance for Christian theology.

    1. ElZarcho, you have aptly described the modern western ethos. It is sad that the most eloquent and outspoken people on the internet are usually the ones defending perversion, godlessness, and moral relativity. I guess the saints are too busy.

  19. I see where you’re coming from with the “scout laws”. Just like much of any other document created decade (centuries?) ago, it can be slightly outdated. I think the important thing to get out of scouting is a different perspective (than what you might get from the “normal” activities such as sports or music). There are very few who stick it out after it’s no longer “cool” and you have to do more than simply build derby cars and play with friends. I spent 10+ years in scouting and after a long (and quite exhausting at times) journey, I finally finished. One of my proudest moments.

    And as to the issue of BSA and intolerance, I think it’s safe to say that most local scouting/troops (a majority of scouting) don’t fit the mold of the “corporate scouting” view. Meaning, they are VERY tolerant of individuals and being expressive. Even more so, they’re tolerant of being an individual within a larger group (something many fail to learn how to do).

    anyways, nice post and i’d encourage you to get as much out of it as possible. it can be a very positive experience 🙂

  20. I see where you’re coming from with the “scout laws”. Just like much of any other document created decade (centuries?) ago, it can be slightly outdated. I think the important thing to get out of scouting is a different perspective (than what you might get from the “normal” activities such as sports or music). There are very few who stick it out after it’s no longer “cool” and you have to do more than simply build derby cars and play with friends. I spent 10+ years in scouting and after a long (and quite exhausting at times) journey, I finally finished. One of my proudest moments.

    And as to the issue of BSA and intolerance, I think it’s safe to say that most local scouting/troops (a majority of scouting) don’t fit the mold of the “corporate scouting” view. Meaning, they are VERY tolerant of individuals and being expressive. Even more so, they’re tolerant of being an individual within a larger group (something many fail to learn how to do).

    anyways, nice post and i’d encourage you to get as much out of it as possible. it can be a very positive experience 🙂

  21. I’m an Eagle Scout – earned the rank in 1990. I grew up in Scouts and loved it. I was from a very religious family and we lived in a small town. I knew know gay people, although I realize now that one Scout in my troop was obviously gay. i had no problems with the Scout Oath at the time.

    But times change. I grew up, became an atheist, and found that gay people are some of the finest people I’ve ever met. So I do have a very big problem with the oath now. I think it stinks. I don’t feel comfortable with it at all anymore. Also, I have a young son with Down syndrome. I know that scouting will offer him a chance to have great experiences, and I could even see me being his Scout leader, but I’m not sure if the Scouts will accept me. I’m not interested in pretending I believe in God for the Boy Scouts or anyone else. I’m not interested in reciting any oath that forces me to say it. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Scouts could just be a fun and inclusive group, open to all boys equally?

  22. I’m an Eagle Scout – earned the rank in 1990. I grew up in Scouts and loved it. I was from a very religious family and we lived in a small town. I knew know gay people, although I realize now that one Scout in my troop was obviously gay. i had no problems with the Scout Oath at the time.

    But times change. I grew up, became an atheist, and found that gay people are some of the finest people I’ve ever met. So I do have a very big problem with the oath now. I think it stinks. I don’t feel comfortable with it at all anymore. Also, I have a young son with Down syndrome. I know that scouting will offer him a chance to have great experiences, and I could even see me being his Scout leader, but I’m not sure if the Scouts will accept me. I’m not interested in pretending I believe in God for the Boy Scouts or anyone else. I’m not interested in reciting any oath that forces me to say it. It’s a bit of a conundrum for me.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if the Scouts could just be a fun and inclusive group, open to all boys equally?

  23. My son is in Cub Scouts. New this year. I am so impressed with the Pack and the Den and the involved parents. While I can understand some things that people are concerned about, I love the fact that every adult greets every boy by name and shakes his hand.

    Also, I don’t have any problems with my son being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. If only some of politicians, teachers, leaders, parents, etc. would undertake this motto as their own.

  24. My son is in Cub Scouts. New this year. I am so impressed with the Pack and the Den and the involved parents. While I can understand some things that people are concerned about, I love the fact that every adult greets every boy by name and shakes his hand.

    Also, I don’t have any problems with my son being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. If only some of politicians, teachers, leaders, parents, etc. would undertake this motto as their own.

  25. I’m also an atheist, and I completely agree with the idea that the BSA are stuck in the past with regards to diversity and their stance on homosexuality – especially since they are supposed to be founded on Christian values. Those values include showing acceptance and brotherly love, and not passing judgement. I refuse to expect a Chistian organization to break ties with their founding faith, but it would be nice if the governing body didn’t pick and choose which tenets of the faith they would uphold.

    Moving on, I cannot understand your issues with the other values you mentioned. Brave? I hope my boys grow up to be brave – to do the right thing even when they are scared, and stand up for what they believe in. You would have to worry a lot less about “strict social control” if you raised your children to be brave. Along those lines, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to automatically tie in loyalty, obedience, and courtesy with social control. It doesn’t take anything from a person to be nice, and frankly, more parents should put an effort into raising courteous children. I know I do. Obedience is another one – it doesn’t come from a bottle, in handy pill form. It comes from providing structure and parameters while your child learns how to make good decisions and understands the consequences of bad ones. Loyalty – another value that has been tossed aside by our society, unfortunately. Once upon a time, being considered “loyal” wasn’t a bad thing. It’s just become so acceptable to jump ship whenever something doesn’t go our way, whether it’s a job, a relationship, etc.

    I don’t think it’s even necessary to have to defend why being kind and friendly would be important values to instill in a child.

    I can understand your frustration at the politics of the organization, but attacking the individual values, which for the most part are very good, age appropriate values, is kind of, oh, what’s the word I’m looking for…? Whack.

  26. I’m also an atheist, and I completely agree with the idea that the BSA are stuck in the past with regards to diversity and their stance on homosexuality – especially since they are supposed to be founded on Christian values. Those values include showing acceptance and brotherly love, and not passing judgement. I refuse to expect a Chistian organization to break ties with their founding faith, but it would be nice if the governing body didn’t pick and choose which tenets of the faith they would uphold.

    Moving on, I cannot understand your issues with the other values you mentioned. Brave? I hope my boys grow up to be brave – to do the right thing even when they are scared, and stand up for what they believe in. You would have to worry a lot less about “strict social control” if you raised your children to be brave. Along those lines, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to automatically tie in loyalty, obedience, and courtesy with social control. It doesn’t take anything from a person to be nice, and frankly, more parents should put an effort into raising courteous children. I know I do. Obedience is another one – it doesn’t come from a bottle, in handy pill form. It comes from providing structure and parameters while your child learns how to make good decisions and understands the consequences of bad ones. Loyalty – another value that has been tossed aside by our society, unfortunately. Once upon a time, being considered “loyal” wasn’t a bad thing. It’s just become so acceptable to jump ship whenever something doesn’t go our way, whether it’s a job, a relationship, etc.

    I don’t think it’s even necessary to have to defend why being kind and friendly would be important values to instill in a child.

    I can understand your frustration at the politics of the organization, but attacking the individual values, which for the most part are very good, age appropriate values, is kind of, oh, what’s the word I’m looking for…? Whack.

  27. I really feel that the Scouts are good organization that strives to teach kids good, basic life skills and values. Some of comments give the WTF feeling though.

    “Just Not a Good Idea: Brave” – Besides skateboarding off a skyscraper, brave means standing up for ones ideas, even in the face of ridicule, etc. Would you rather they teach cowardice?

    “Oh, the Irony: Thrifty” – Yes, they require uniforms and books and the scouts need to fund the operations. The uniforms can be used for a couple of years if you buy them a little big, oh and they can be had for far less than the Nintendo DS and a game. I believe the lessons learned in scouts far outweigh the video game of the week. We are typically able to put together weekend camps for our scouts for about $15ea, which includes meals. That’s cheaper and money better spent than spending 2 hours watching “Tangled” and chomping buttered popcorn.

    “Get Out of My Personality, Dude: Friendly and Cheerful” – Should we be telling them to be rude and angry? Just because a kid is Introverted or serious-minded, they too can benefit from being friendly to people or trying to be a bit cheerful. Likewise if the kids surrounding them are having fun, they might just have some fun too. Scouting is a social activity, if they don’t like being around others, maybe they can start a club called something like the “Introverted or Serious-minded Club” if it more of their taste. Out in the “real world” there might be a time when they run across friendly or cheerful people, they should probably get used to having to deal with this when they are young.

    “The Bronx Cheer Goes to: Loyal, Courteous, Obedient” – Loyalty is not a bad trait to have. Friends, family members and siblings appreciate it on occasion. I’m sorry that they it pains you to hear you child say the word “Courteous”. I suppose “Self-Serving” would be a good alternative? I don’t know. As far as “Obedient”, don’t you expect your kids to obey what you say, or is that optional for them as well? And as far as the pedophilia thing, there are wacko’s in this world. The scouts do what they can to reduce this sort of thing, but freaks sneak in sometimes. Hopefully the scout will be brave (hmmm, where have we heard that word before?), stand up to the wacko, rather than being “UNDER STRICT SOCIAL CONTROL”, and report the offender.

    The Boy Scout Law is simply saying these are good traits to have, it doesn’t say you are worshiping the organization.

    “Worst of the Worst: Clean and Reverent” – You do know that the Boy Scouts are based on a Christian organization, right? Nobody is forcing you to go. In addition, when prayers are said before meals at camp, nobody is forced in to saying them. Typically this is even preempted by a statement to the effect of “Worship however your faith dictates” so as to not exclude folks of different faiths. This can include Christians, Muslims, or even the “Grand order of the Mighty Oompa-Loompa’s”. Please, pray to the great Willy Wonka, we won’t care. This is part of religious tolerance.

    Speaking of tolerance, the issue of homophobia is always a hot topic. The World English Dictionary defines homophobia as “intense hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality”. The Scouts do not have an intense hatred or fear of homosexuals of homosexuality, however as an organization they don’t agree with it. You can disagree with something without having an intense hatred or fear of it, right?

    Every organization, from small to large, has their own values and culture. The Boy Scouts help teach and reinforce the values I already happen to have, it’s not a re-education program as you seem to allude to. If the organization doesn’t reflect yours, why not start, or find one that does?

    1. Well Said. I am a 50 year veteran of the BSA. It is not just the words of the Law, but the interpretation that is given to the law (as you have done so well). So it can be relevant today although the law was written in 1908.
      Yes, the organization at times seems “religious” because of the belief that everyone needs to believe in a greater power, whatever you may call him/her. Also, most units are sponsored by religious organizations, so if that doesn’t suit you, find one sponsored by a community organization.
      But boys are taught to be tolerant of all beliefs.
      I alsways have trouble with those who find fault with the BSA but want to change it to agree with them. If you want a youth organization for atheists, then start one. Other groups such as the Royal Rangers were begun by someone who disagreed with the BSA.

  28. I really feel that the Scouts are good organization that strives to teach kids good, basic life skills and values. Some of comments give the WTF feeling though.

    “Just Not a Good Idea: Brave” – Besides skateboarding off a skyscraper, brave means standing up for ones ideas, even in the face of ridicule, etc. Would you rather they teach cowardice?

    “Oh, the Irony: Thrifty” – Yes, they require uniforms and books and the scouts need to fund the operations. The uniforms can be used for a couple of years if you buy them a little big, oh and they can be had for far less than the Nintendo DS and a game. I believe the lessons learned in scouts far outweigh the video game of the week. We are typically able to put together weekend camps for our scouts for about $15ea, which includes meals. That’s cheaper and money better spent than spending 2 hours watching “Tangled” and chomping buttered popcorn.

    “Get Out of My Personality, Dude: Friendly and Cheerful” – Should we be telling them to be rude and angry? Just because a kid is Introverted or serious-minded, they too can benefit from being friendly to people or trying to be a bit cheerful. Likewise if the kids surrounding them are having fun, they might just have some fun too. Scouting is a social activity, if they don’t like being around others, maybe they can start a club called something like the “Introverted or Serious-minded Club” if it more of their taste. Out in the “real world” there might be a time when they run across friendly or cheerful people, they should probably get used to having to deal with this when they are young.

    “The Bronx Cheer Goes to: Loyal, Courteous, Obedient” – Loyalty is not a bad trait to have. Friends, family members and siblings appreciate it on occasion. I’m sorry that they it pains you to hear you child say the word “Courteous”. I suppose “Self-Serving” would be a good alternative? I don’t know. As far as “Obedient”, don’t you expect your kids to obey what you say, or is that optional for them as well? And as far as the pedophilia thing, there are wacko’s in this world. The scouts do what they can to reduce this sort of thing, but freaks sneak in sometimes. Hopefully the scout will be brave (hmmm, where have we heard that word before?), stand up to the wacko, rather than being “UNDER STRICT SOCIAL CONTROL”, and report the offender.

    The Boy Scout Law is simply saying these are good traits to have, it doesn’t say you are worshiping the organization.

    “Worst of the Worst: Clean and Reverent” – You do know that the Boy Scouts are based on a Christian organization, right? Nobody is forcing you to go. In addition, when prayers are said before meals at camp, nobody is forced in to saying them. Typically this is even preempted by a statement to the effect of “Worship however your faith dictates” so as to not exclude folks of different faiths. This can include Christians, Muslims, or even the “Grand order of the Mighty Oompa-Loompa’s”. Please, pray to the great Willy Wonka, we won’t care. This is part of religious tolerance.

    Speaking of tolerance, the issue of homophobia is always a hot topic. The World English Dictionary defines homophobia as “intense hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality”. The Scouts do not have an intense hatred or fear of homosexuals of homosexuality, however as an organization they don’t agree with it. You can disagree with something without having an intense hatred or fear of it, right?

    Every organization, from small to large, has their own values and culture. The Boy Scouts help teach and reinforce the values I already happen to have, it’s not a re-education program as you seem to allude to. If the organization doesn’t reflect yours, why not start, or find one that does?

    1. Well Said. I am a 50 year veteran of the BSA. It is not just the words of the Law, but the interpretation that is given to the law (as you have done so well). So it can be relevant today although the law was written in 1908.
      Yes, the organization at times seems “religious” because of the belief that everyone needs to believe in a greater power, whatever you may call him/her. Also, most units are sponsored by religious organizations, so if that doesn’t suit you, find one sponsored by a community organization.
      But boys are taught to be tolerant of all beliefs.
      I alsways have trouble with those who find fault with the BSA but want to change it to agree with them. If you want a youth organization for atheists, then start one. Other groups such as the Royal Rangers were begun by someone who disagreed with the BSA.

  29. It sounds like it is more a problem with the individual packs/troops. I never did make it all the way to Eagle but I did have lots of fun and learned many skills that I would not have learned otherwise. Many of which I still use today. My troop was probably one of the more relaxed and the scout law was something you had to be able to recite, but not taken nearly as seriously as you are taking it. I may concede slightly with ‘brave’, and I do see the irony with ‘thrifty’, but you may also be reading into the rest a bit too deep.

    Being thrifty may be ironic, but it not a bad thing for a young boy to learn. Having a four year old son, I know what it is like to go to the store as soon as he gets a little money only to be disappointed in the selection of $5 toys.

    Friendly and cheerful are not completely about personality. Friendly can be about accepting others and not being mean or a bully. Being a parent I’m sure you are aware how much of a problem bullies can be. I would have to agree with Todd that cheerful could also mean to do your work without complaining. We all had our jobs to do (including cleaning the latrine) and everyone had a more enjoyable time without constant complaining about it.

    Being loyal, courteous and obedient isn’t all about brainwashing your children. They don’t say be loyal to the BSA or loyal to your troop leader, just loyal. We all prefer friends that are loyal. Don’t go behind others backs… goes along with being trustworthy. I would agree with Momo that courteous is good as well. I read it as thinking of others being polite. Hold the door for the older woman behind you, don’t belch at the dinner table… etc. And I have the same argument for obedient that I did with loyal. Obedient to your parents, troop leader, or others isn’t always brainwashing, it is respecting those who have more experience and knowledge. I think Soybeanlover said it best that as with all these items, obedience has it’s limits and it is our job as parents (not the BSA’s job) to educate our children on what is appropriate and that it is OK to speak out about things they are uncomfortable with.

    Lastly, clean and reverent. In my troop, clean had nothing to do with moral purity. It was plain and simple cleanliness. No one was ever even questioned about sexuality or anything like that, but they did make sure there wasn’t dirt under your nails! And reverence isn’t always a religious ideal either. It is about respect… from dictionary.com “Feeling or showing deep and solemn respect.” As with loyal and obedient, it is up to us as parents to teach our children where to place their loyalty, obedience, and reverence.

    In closing… I think we all need to lighten up a little. Don’t read into everything so literally, and remember that the English language can have multiple meanings for one word. The original poster made a very important observation. Their child is having fun. As long as they are doing so in a safe way, what else matters? Remember that everything your child memorizes doesn’t mean they will live by that absolutely. They have to memorize facts about the holocaust for history class but that doesn’t mean they will grow up to be the next Hitler. Lastly, we as parents are ultimately responsible for the morals we instill in our children. Not the babysitter, not teachers, not the BSA. If you don’t like the morals they are learning, then get a new babysitter, school or troop. Or better yet, use it as an opportunity to teach your child about the different views in the world and reinforce what is right.

  30. It sounds like it is more a problem with the individual packs/troops. I never did make it all the way to Eagle but I did have lots of fun and learned many skills that I would not have learned otherwise. Many of which I still use today. My troop was probably one of the more relaxed and the scout law was something you had to be able to recite, but not taken nearly as seriously as you are taking it. I may concede slightly with ‘brave’, and I do see the irony with ‘thrifty’, but you may also be reading into the rest a bit too deep.

    Being thrifty may be ironic, but it not a bad thing for a young boy to learn. Having a four year old son, I know what it is like to go to the store as soon as he gets a little money only to be disappointed in the selection of $5 toys.

    Friendly and cheerful are not completely about personality. Friendly can be about accepting others and not being mean or a bully. Being a parent I’m sure you are aware how much of a problem bullies can be. I would have to agree with Todd that cheerful could also mean to do your work without complaining. We all had our jobs to do (including cleaning the latrine) and everyone had a more enjoyable time without constant complaining about it.

    Being loyal, courteous and obedient isn’t all about brainwashing your children. They don’t say be loyal to the BSA or loyal to your troop leader, just loyal. We all prefer friends that are loyal. Don’t go behind others backs… goes along with being trustworthy. I would agree with Momo that courteous is good as well. I read it as thinking of others being polite. Hold the door for the older woman behind you, don’t belch at the dinner table… etc. And I have the same argument for obedient that I did with loyal. Obedient to your parents, troop leader, or others isn’t always brainwashing, it is respecting those who have more experience and knowledge. I think Soybeanlover said it best that as with all these items, obedience has it’s limits and it is our job as parents (not the BSA’s job) to educate our children on what is appropriate and that it is OK to speak out about things they are uncomfortable with.

    Lastly, clean and reverent. In my troop, clean had nothing to do with moral purity. It was plain and simple cleanliness. No one was ever even questioned about sexuality or anything like that, but they did make sure there wasn’t dirt under your nails! And reverence isn’t always a religious ideal either. It is about respect… from dictionary.com “Feeling or showing deep and solemn respect.” As with loyal and obedient, it is up to us as parents to teach our children where to place their loyalty, obedience, and reverence.

    In closing… I think we all need to lighten up a little. Don’t read into everything so literally, and remember that the English language can have multiple meanings for one word. The original poster made a very important observation. Their child is having fun. As long as they are doing so in a safe way, what else matters? Remember that everything your child memorizes doesn’t mean they will live by that absolutely. They have to memorize facts about the holocaust for history class but that doesn’t mean they will grow up to be the next Hitler. Lastly, we as parents are ultimately responsible for the morals we instill in our children. Not the babysitter, not teachers, not the BSA. If you don’t like the morals they are learning, then get a new babysitter, school or troop. Or better yet, use it as an opportunity to teach your child about the different views in the world and reinforce what is right.

  31. As far as I know, Boy Scouts is a private organization. If they have a set of standards that they believe members should follow, then let them. There are many other groups kids can join and learn about leadership, citizenship, cooperation, hard work, and community service (to name a few). 4-H comes to mind. It would be sad to force a private organization that has a pretty good track record of helping boys grow into fine young men to follow a different set of ideals just because the current ones are politically correct. I guess my point is that, although I don’t disagree with much of what was said here, I also don’t feel I (or any government body) should demand that Scouting be anything other than what it is. It’s not that different from demanding that an atheist teach “intelligent design” in the classroom, in the name of tolerance. If I disagree with the core values of an organization, I have the freedom to go do something else. It’s not my “right” to participate in a private group and it’s not my “right” to force them to change because it makes me uncomfortable. The “tolerance” argument should not be a defense for one side only. It should apply equally across the board.

  32. As far as I know, Boy Scouts is a private organization. If they have a set of standards that they believe members should follow, then let them. There are many other groups kids can join and learn about leadership, citizenship, cooperation, hard work, and community service (to name a few). 4-H comes to mind. It would be sad to force a private organization that has a pretty good track record of helping boys grow into fine young men to follow a different set of ideals just because the current ones are politically correct. I guess my point is that, although I don’t disagree with much of what was said here, I also don’t feel I (or any government body) should demand that Scouting be anything other than what it is. It’s not that different from demanding that an atheist teach “intelligent design” in the classroom, in the name of tolerance. If I disagree with the core values of an organization, I have the freedom to go do something else. It’s not my “right” to participate in a private group and it’s not my “right” to force them to change because it makes me uncomfortable. The “tolerance” argument should not be a defense for one side only. It should apply equally across the board.

  33. Wow, another Internet-targeted, snarktastic “let’s read this list and put the worst possible spin on every item” article.

    Not original. Not even good. Sorry. There’s no serious discussion about the merits of the values listed, just a laundry list of quasi-ironic, hipsterish objections to any kind of attitude that might, viewed edgewise, be qualified as “traditional.”

  34. Wow, another Internet-targeted, snarktastic “let’s read this list and put the worst possible spin on every item” article.

    Not original. Not even good. Sorry. There’s no serious discussion about the merits of the values listed, just a laundry list of quasi-ironic, hipsterish objections to any kind of attitude that might, viewed edgewise, be qualified as “traditional.”

  35. I was bullied more in Cub Scouts than anywhere else in my entire childhood experience – in two different packs in two different states. In both, the bullying had the tacit endorsement of adult leaders. I left after two years, despite the fact that I loved the activities and the discipline of the environment. (I later went to West Point and served as a combat arms officer in the Army.)

    As a mom of three boys (and one girl) today, I would discourage my children from participating in any BSA-affiliated activity because of the institutional homophobia and the inherent hypocrisy Kate described so well in this post. That said, I affirm your decision to allow your son to participate, Kate. I think one of the most valuable lessons you’re teaching him here is how to view all of society’s institution’s with a critical eye. That’s a valuable skill — and a true virtue — for any child to develop.

      1. I’m transsexual, Lance – assigned male at birth and later transitioned to female – so I had lots of “typically male” youth experiences. Cub Scouts was one of the worst.

  36. I was bullied more in Cub Scouts than anywhere else in my entire childhood experience – in two different packs in two different states. In both, the bullying had the tacit endorsement of adult leaders. I left after two years, despite the fact that I loved the activities and the discipline of the environment. (I later went to West Point and served as a combat arms officer in the Army.)

    As a mom of three boys (and one girl) today, I would discourage my children from participating in any BSA-affiliated activity because of the institutional homophobia and the inherent hypocrisy Kate described so well in this post. That said, I affirm your decision to allow your son to participate, Kate. I think one of the most valuable lessons you’re teaching him here is how to view all of society’s institution’s with a critical eye. That’s a valuable skill — and a true virtue — for any child to develop.

      1. I’m transsexual, Lance – assigned male at birth and later transitioned to female – so I had lots of “typically male” youth experiences. Cub Scouts was one of the worst.

  37. I think it’s great that you’re really examining the requirements and rituals in Scouting — after all, without thinking about the things we’re saying, what meaning can these things really have in our lives?

    While you’re evaluating Scouting, though, I’d ask that you do two things.

    First, consider that there’s an explanation for each of the points of the Law that doesn’t, in fact, sound all that crazy. This page has the meaning of the Law as shown in the 1998 printing of the BSA manual (there’s a newer version of the manual now, but I doubt if this part of it has changed substantially):

    http://www.usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bslaw.asp

    Let’s pick up a couple of these and look at them. Brave, as it turns out, doesn’t have anything to do with riding skateboards off skyscrapers. It does, however, describe the sort of behavior that Scouts at an Iowa BSA camp demonstrated when a tornado tore through their camp:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25107608/

    I don’t know about you, but if I were caught in an emergency, I’d be pretty thankful to be surrounded by brave young men who were trained in First Aid and Emergency Preparedness (Eagle-required merit badges).

    How about Friendly? (“He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.”) Since when is that something to take issue with? Listen, I understand introverted. Introverted, though, doesn’t give you license to be mean to people. Maybe it would help to think of “Friendly” as “don’t be mean.”

    Courteous. (“He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.”) The next time you’re out on the road, pause to consider whether that experience could be better with a little more courtesy in the world.

    I guess my point with all of these is that if you’re looking for the worst possible connotation of each of these words, then you can find fault with just about every one of them. If you’re really Doing Your Best (which is, in fact, part of Cub Scouts), then you’re looking for the best in all of the points of the Law, and you’re looking for the best in the people around you.

    The second think I’d like to ask of you is that you remember that although Scouting is an international organization, you’ll find that there’s a lot of local variation and influence, including the influence that you can have on your son and any organization he’s a part of.

    In my experience, kids whose parents are an active part of their boys’ Scouting experience are more involved in Scouts and happier in Scouts. This also helps you stay connected with your son’s progress, surroundings, and experiences, which strengthens your ties to your son.

    It’s really important, when picking a Scouting organization for your son, that you consider at least a couple different Packs or Troops and choose one that’s a good fit for your son. You may see that some Troops pick outings and activities that aren’t really up your son’s alley, but others are more compatible. If religion is a hot button for you, you’ll find that some organizations are a lot more religiously-focused, and some really de-emphasize it. Shop around, because your experience will vary greatly from organization to organization.

    Once you’ve picked an organization, you can do a lot to help it move in a direction you consider positive by getting involved. Sit on the Troop Committee, or maybe sign up to be a merit badge counselor. Incidentally, you’ll immediately learn about the practices in place in the BSA that are intended to deal with the pedophilia incidents you cited. In the case of my son’s Troop, nothing could increase my personal comfort level more than spending time in meetings and campouts and witnessing how seriously his Troop treats safety procedures, including two-deep leadership practices. Knowledge is power, and you’ll have a lot more tangible knowledge if you’re present in your son’s organization.

    How much better could Scouting be if you got involved and made the good parts of it better? I understand that there are parts of Scouting that are arbitrarily exclusionary, and I think Scouting would be a better, more relevant organization if it found a way to deal with those issues. Like any large organization, though, it’s going to take time to make changes, and you’ll have far more influence as a positively-oriented example of the best Scouting has to offer.

    In the mean time, Scouting is doing a lot to help a lot of boys grow into really awesome young men. It’s difficult to appreciate that until you see a clumsy, awkward, introverted kid enter Scouting and grow into a confident, worthy leader, but it’s as clear as day when you attend an Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

    I hope you have a chance to see that growth in your own boys.

    1. What Mr. Lambert said. Good stuff. (Sorry I didn’t call out this fine post — it appeared while I was composing mine, below.)

    2. Very well written! I completely agree with everything Mr. Lambert said. I have seen the same growth with my sons and their friends, and it is a good thing all around.

      I would very much also recommend looking around for a unit that works for your son (and you). Most towns have two or more Packs and at least one Troop, so there is usually a choice.

  38. I think it’s great that you’re really examining the requirements and rituals in Scouting — after all, without thinking about the things we’re saying, what meaning can these things really have in our lives?

    While you’re evaluating Scouting, though, I’d ask that you do two things.

    First, consider that there’s an explanation for each of the points of the Law that doesn’t, in fact, sound all that crazy. This page has the meaning of the Law as shown in the 1998 printing of the BSA manual (there’s a newer version of the manual now, but I doubt if this part of it has changed substantially):

    http://www.usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bslaw.asp

    Let’s pick up a couple of these and look at them. Brave, as it turns out, doesn’t have anything to do with riding skateboards off skyscrapers. It does, however, describe the sort of behavior that Scouts at an Iowa BSA camp demonstrated when a tornado tore through their camp:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25107608/

    I don’t know about you, but if I were caught in an emergency, I’d be pretty thankful to be surrounded by brave young men who were trained in First Aid and Emergency Preparedness (Eagle-required merit badges).

    How about Friendly? (“He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.”) Since when is that something to take issue with? Listen, I understand introverted. Introverted, though, doesn’t give you license to be mean to people. Maybe it would help to think of “Friendly” as “don’t be mean.”

    Courteous. (“He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.”) The next time you’re out on the road, pause to consider whether that experience could be better with a little more courtesy in the world.

    I guess my point with all of these is that if you’re looking for the worst possible connotation of each of these words, then you can find fault with just about every one of them. If you’re really Doing Your Best (which is, in fact, part of Cub Scouts), then you’re looking for the best in all of the points of the Law, and you’re looking for the best in the people around you.

    The second think I’d like to ask of you is that you remember that although Scouting is an international organization, you’ll find that there’s a lot of local variation and influence, including the influence that you can have on your son and any organization he’s a part of.

    In my experience, kids whose parents are an active part of their boys’ Scouting experience are more involved in Scouts and happier in Scouts. This also helps you stay connected with your son’s progress, surroundings, and experiences, which strengthens your ties to your son.

    It’s really important, when picking a Scouting organization for your son, that you consider at least a couple different Packs or Troops and choose one that’s a good fit for your son. You may see that some Troops pick outings and activities that aren’t really up your son’s alley, but others are more compatible. If religion is a hot button for you, you’ll find that some organizations are a lot more religiously-focused, and some really de-emphasize it. Shop around, because your experience will vary greatly from organization to organization.

    Once you’ve picked an organization, you can do a lot to help it move in a direction you consider positive by getting involved. Sit on the Troop Committee, or maybe sign up to be a merit badge counselor. Incidentally, you’ll immediately learn about the practices in place in the BSA that are intended to deal with the pedophilia incidents you cited. In the case of my son’s Troop, nothing could increase my personal comfort level more than spending time in meetings and campouts and witnessing how seriously his Troop treats safety procedures, including two-deep leadership practices. Knowledge is power, and you’ll have a lot more tangible knowledge if you’re present in your son’s organization.

    How much better could Scouting be if you got involved and made the good parts of it better? I understand that there are parts of Scouting that are arbitrarily exclusionary, and I think Scouting would be a better, more relevant organization if it found a way to deal with those issues. Like any large organization, though, it’s going to take time to make changes, and you’ll have far more influence as a positively-oriented example of the best Scouting has to offer.

    In the mean time, Scouting is doing a lot to help a lot of boys grow into really awesome young men. It’s difficult to appreciate that until you see a clumsy, awkward, introverted kid enter Scouting and grow into a confident, worthy leader, but it’s as clear as day when you attend an Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

    I hope you have a chance to see that growth in your own boys.

    1. What Mr. Lambert said. Good stuff. (Sorry I didn’t call out this fine post — it appeared while I was composing mine, below.)

    2. Very well written! I completely agree with everything Mr. Lambert said. I have seen the same growth with my sons and their friends, and it is a good thing all around.

      I would very much also recommend looking around for a unit that works for your son (and you). Most towns have two or more Packs and at least one Troop, so there is usually a choice.

  39. For what it’s worth, Cub Scouts is an international organization and differs country to country.

    My son is a Cub Scout in Canada, where the Cub Law is different. Here, it is simply “The Cub respects the Old Wolf; The Cub respects himself/herself.”

    On the other hand, while cub packs welcome folk of all religions, the Cub Promis is not welcoming for athiests: “I promise to do my best
    To love and serve God, to do my duty to the Queen;
    To keep the law of the Wolf Cub pack,
    And to do a good turn for somebody every day”

  40. For what it’s worth, Cub Scouts is an international organization and differs country to country.

    My son is a Cub Scout in Canada, where the Cub Law is different. Here, it is simply “The Cub respects the Old Wolf; The Cub respects himself/herself.”

    On the other hand, while cub packs welcome folk of all religions, the Cub Promis is not welcoming for athiests: “I promise to do my best
    To love and serve God, to do my duty to the Queen;
    To keep the law of the Wolf Cub pack,
    And to do a good turn for somebody every day”

  41. Kate Miller> since my son has a scorching good time there with his friends, we acquiesced. My beef is with the national office.

    Kate, with a PhD in demography, I fear you may be overthinking the cultural bogeyman that BSA represents in your mind. You “acquiesced” to letting your son get involved with an organization you already have a “beef” with? This does not sound like the “open minded” ethic you wish the organization was promoting – just sayin.

    Thanks to Todd G for providing some context to the discussion. I’ll revisit some of his points, in case it is helpful:

    1) Cub Scouts don’t start learning about the 12 points of the Scout Law until they are almost aged out of the Cub program (Webelos are 4th and 5th graders.) And their handbook, which introduces the Scout Law to them, also provides some exposition on what the points mean.

    http://www.usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bslaw.asp

    For example:
    Trustworthy – A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises…
    Loyal – A Scout is true to his family, friends…
    Helpful – A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers…
    Friendly – A Scout … offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
    Courteous – A Scout … knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
    Kind – A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle…
    Obedient – A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop… (note that family is first!)
    Cheerful – A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way…
    Thrifty – A Scout … protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
    Brave – A Scout … has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
    Clean – A Scout … chooses the company of those who live by high standards. (note standards are individually chosen, not specified)
    Reverent – A Scout … respects the beliefs of others.

    1a) While your revised list is a fine list of personal qualities, it emphasizes uniqueness, and does not really drive home the importance of teamwork and service that are, frankly, the most important aspects of the Scouting program, at least at the Boy Scout level. “Helpful” and “collaborative” don’t really cover the same ground as “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful” (the first three are all about teamwork!)

    While the first 3 points of the Scout Law emphasize teamwork, the first 6 (!) points of your revised law emphasize personal empowerment:
    “inquisitive, creative, open-minded, resilient, resourceful, confident”

    I’ll go further to say that I’m unaware of ANY other youth program that does more to instill personal empowerment than Boy Scouting does. If your son stays with Scouting a few more years and ends up camping with his Boy Scout Patrol, he’ll be making his own goals, planning his pursuits, and working together to achieve them with his peers. He’ll learn the lessons of teamwork and servant leadership. And become profoundly resiliant, resourceful and confident as a result.

    2) There are no membership restrictions for youth in Cub Scouting or in Boy Scouting, other than age and gender. And Venture Crews (sorta kinda like Boy Scout Troops) are co-ed. If you like to do the things that Scouts do, then you are welcomed to join. Period.

    3) Despite the “quasi-military uniforms,” there are VAST differences in Scouting from one unit to another. The program itself is essentially a franchise which charter partners subscribe to. Most units are chartered to various churches, but others are chartered to VFW Posts, or other community organizations including “Friends of Troop xyz” groups whose sole purpose is to charter a unit. And among the many churches who charter units, many are no more involved with the Cub Pack or Troop than they are with the Daycare business that also uses their facilities 5 days/week. The level of religiosity that is delivered is VERY dependent on the charter organization. A great many units steer clear of religious discussion, opting instead for much more general notions of sprituality, connectedness, and appreciation of the natural world. Baden Powell himself said that the “religion of the backwoods” is enough. For others, the Scouting program is an extension of their own youth programs and is more religiously oriented. This is the beauty of the franchise model – you can choose the unit whose leadership and Scouting style suits you best.

    Note that this is the very opposite of rigid National Office programming. Units have individual personalities – different characteristics and emphasis.

    I hope you and your son continue to have fun Scouting. If you are not having fun, then you are not doing it right 🙂

  42. Kate Miller> since my son has a scorching good time there with his friends, we acquiesced. My beef is with the national office.

    Kate, with a PhD in demography, I fear you may be overthinking the cultural bogeyman that BSA represents in your mind. You “acquiesced” to letting your son get involved with an organization you already have a “beef” with? This does not sound like the “open minded” ethic you wish the organization was promoting – just sayin.

    Thanks to Todd G for providing some context to the discussion. I’ll revisit some of his points, in case it is helpful:

    1) Cub Scouts don’t start learning about the 12 points of the Scout Law until they are almost aged out of the Cub program (Webelos are 4th and 5th graders.) And their handbook, which introduces the Scout Law to them, also provides some exposition on what the points mean.

    http://www.usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/bslaw.asp

    For example:
    Trustworthy – A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises…
    Loyal – A Scout is true to his family, friends…
    Helpful – A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers…
    Friendly – A Scout … offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own.
    Courteous – A Scout … knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
    Kind – A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle…
    Obedient – A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop… (note that family is first!)
    Cheerful – A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way…
    Thrifty – A Scout … protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
    Brave – A Scout … has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
    Clean – A Scout … chooses the company of those who live by high standards. (note standards are individually chosen, not specified)
    Reverent – A Scout … respects the beliefs of others.

    1a) While your revised list is a fine list of personal qualities, it emphasizes uniqueness, and does not really drive home the importance of teamwork and service that are, frankly, the most important aspects of the Scouting program, at least at the Boy Scout level. “Helpful” and “collaborative” don’t really cover the same ground as “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful” (the first three are all about teamwork!)

    While the first 3 points of the Scout Law emphasize teamwork, the first 6 (!) points of your revised law emphasize personal empowerment:
    “inquisitive, creative, open-minded, resilient, resourceful, confident”

    I’ll go further to say that I’m unaware of ANY other youth program that does more to instill personal empowerment than Boy Scouting does. If your son stays with Scouting a few more years and ends up camping with his Boy Scout Patrol, he’ll be making his own goals, planning his pursuits, and working together to achieve them with his peers. He’ll learn the lessons of teamwork and servant leadership. And become profoundly resiliant, resourceful and confident as a result.

    2) There are no membership restrictions for youth in Cub Scouting or in Boy Scouting, other than age and gender. And Venture Crews (sorta kinda like Boy Scout Troops) are co-ed. If you like to do the things that Scouts do, then you are welcomed to join. Period.

    3) Despite the “quasi-military uniforms,” there are VAST differences in Scouting from one unit to another. The program itself is essentially a franchise which charter partners subscribe to. Most units are chartered to various churches, but others are chartered to VFW Posts, or other community organizations including “Friends of Troop xyz” groups whose sole purpose is to charter a unit. And among the many churches who charter units, many are no more involved with the Cub Pack or Troop than they are with the Daycare business that also uses their facilities 5 days/week. The level of religiosity that is delivered is VERY dependent on the charter organization. A great many units steer clear of religious discussion, opting instead for much more general notions of sprituality, connectedness, and appreciation of the natural world. Baden Powell himself said that the “religion of the backwoods” is enough. For others, the Scouting program is an extension of their own youth programs and is more religiously oriented. This is the beauty of the franchise model – you can choose the unit whose leadership and Scouting style suits you best.

    Note that this is the very opposite of rigid National Office programming. Units have individual personalities – different characteristics and emphasis.

    I hope you and your son continue to have fun Scouting. If you are not having fun, then you are not doing it right 🙂

  43. I’m an Eagle Scout. And since we seem to be naming dates, I earned my Eagle award in 1991.

    (Actually, I’d argue that I earned it in 1987, but that’s a different story.)

    Anyway …

    You’re more than a little paranoid to see “courteous” as somehow submitting to brainwashing. Loyalty and obedience are virtues, though one does have to learn how to use them correctly. As was noted above, bravery has something to do with that.

    The Scout Law is a 12-point statement, it’s not an entire thesis on human behavior.

    So, while “brave” might sound like “skateboard off a skyscraper,” there is no point that says “stupid.”

    The Scout Handbook does elaborate on all of these points, and discusses such things as how to respond to abuse, even within the troop or pack.

    Again, the Scout Law is a short statement, not a complete legal system.

    I have no particular problem with your revised version, but I don’t object to the current Law, either. As long as what we’re discussing are actual virtues, I’m not too concerned about what they are.

    If, however, you can’t get your politics out of the way of your child’s activities, then that’s pretty much your problem.

    1. Ken, I find your comment below perplexing:

      “If, however, you can’t get your politics out of the way of your child’s activities, then that’s pretty much your problem.”

      Are you suggesting that a parent should set aside his or her values when making decisions about what activities their children undertake? If not, then please help me understand what you mean by “politics” in that statement.

      From my perspective, Kate’s post was about navigating the challenges presented to parents by social institutions for children whose values do not precisely echo their own. That’s not just Kate’s problem; it’s every parent’s problem.

      One way of doing so is to refuse to allow your children to participate, which is the way I indicated in my earlier comment I would respond if one of my sons expressed an interest in Cub Scouts. Kate found another way — using her son’s participation as an opportunity to teach him to think critically about an institution’s values rather than simply buying into them lock, stock and barrel. As I said above, I think that’s a laudable response as well. Would that all children — and all adults! — gave these issues careful and repeated consideration.

      1. ….and I do think it’s important to teach our children to look at the broader picture. Personally, I decided to help them look into the organization in more detail than the “look at us being outdoorsy, we’re so cool!” promotional materials shown to them at school, figure out what the group was about, and let them make up their own minds. Growing up with minority religious views, it’s important for them to consider whether they want to try participating in an organization with policies like these (the BSA is not the only one, as you grow you run into other private but semi-public organizations that act similarly) for the social benefits and see what it’s like or whether they want to make a choice that might be seen as unpopular or have some pressure associated with it in order to stay true to themselves and/or not lie when taking an oath, etc. Sometimes such positions are uncomfortable, but that’s part of life that my kids need to learn about too. They start learning those lessons early, in Kindergarten at the public school if not before. My children’s perspective was that the social benefits were not worth the sacrifices they would have to make and the awkwardness of having to pretend to be someone they’re not.

        If they make the decision to join, I want it to at least be an informed decision so that they *are* doing that critical thinking rather than just falling into something that’s going to pressure them in ways that don’t gel well with our family’s values. Among other things our family values critical thinking, which means that we’re not always going to be accepting promotional materials at face value. We do the same with other groups they’ve joined — poke around the promotional materials and the web site, and then if we like those go to a meeting or two to see what we think before proceeding.

      2. You both have valid points. Bottom line: We as parents all have an obligation to support our children in their growth. We all get to make decisions as to choices in their life, and get to choose how much control to exert over their choices. If your child comes home and says “I want to join organization XYZ”, we get to choose how we handle that. All of our choices are based on our personal experiences and values.

        Allyson, I’m sorry you had such a terrible time as a child in Scouts, that is awful, and I can appreciate how you came to your stance. I wouldn’t expect anyone to like anything associated with experiences like that.

        Allison and others, bottom line: You have to decide if an organization (or, really, any activity) is a good fit for your child. If yes, great, join, have fun! If not, great! ignore it and don’t participate. That doesn’t mean that an organization or activity isn’t a good fit for someone else.

        Disclaimer: I got my Eagle Scout in 1983. I’ve been a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader for at least 8 years.

  44. I’m an Eagle Scout. And since we seem to be naming dates, I earned my Eagle award in 1991.

    (Actually, I’d argue that I earned it in 1987, but that’s a different story.)

    Anyway …

    You’re more than a little paranoid to see “courteous” as somehow submitting to brainwashing. Loyalty and obedience are virtues, though one does have to learn how to use them correctly. As was noted above, bravery has something to do with that.

    The Scout Law is a 12-point statement, it’s not an entire thesis on human behavior.

    So, while “brave” might sound like “skateboard off a skyscraper,” there is no point that says “stupid.”

    The Scout Handbook does elaborate on all of these points, and discusses such things as how to respond to abuse, even within the troop or pack.

    Again, the Scout Law is a short statement, not a complete legal system.

    I have no particular problem with your revised version, but I don’t object to the current Law, either. As long as what we’re discussing are actual virtues, I’m not too concerned about what they are.

    If, however, you can’t get your politics out of the way of your child’s activities, then that’s pretty much your problem.

    1. Ken, I find your comment below perplexing:

      “If, however, you can’t get your politics out of the way of your child’s activities, then that’s pretty much your problem.”

      Are you suggesting that a parent should set aside his or her values when making decisions about what activities their children undertake? If not, then please help me understand what you mean by “politics” in that statement.

      From my perspective, Kate’s post was about navigating the challenges presented to parents by social institutions for children whose values do not precisely echo their own. That’s not just Kate’s problem; it’s every parent’s problem.

      One way of doing so is to refuse to allow your children to participate, which is the way I indicated in my earlier comment I would respond if one of my sons expressed an interest in Cub Scouts. Kate found another way — using her son’s participation as an opportunity to teach him to think critically about an institution’s values rather than simply buying into them lock, stock and barrel. As I said above, I think that’s a laudable response as well. Would that all children — and all adults! — gave these issues careful and repeated consideration.

      1. ….and I do think it’s important to teach our children to look at the broader picture. Personally, I decided to help them look into the organization in more detail than the “look at us being outdoorsy, we’re so cool!” promotional materials shown to them at school, figure out what the group was about, and let them make up their own minds. Growing up with minority religious views, it’s important for them to consider whether they want to try participating in an organization with policies like these (the BSA is not the only one, as you grow you run into other private but semi-public organizations that act similarly) for the social benefits and see what it’s like or whether they want to make a choice that might be seen as unpopular or have some pressure associated with it in order to stay true to themselves and/or not lie when taking an oath, etc. Sometimes such positions are uncomfortable, but that’s part of life that my kids need to learn about too. They start learning those lessons early, in Kindergarten at the public school if not before. My children’s perspective was that the social benefits were not worth the sacrifices they would have to make and the awkwardness of having to pretend to be someone they’re not.

        If they make the decision to join, I want it to at least be an informed decision so that they *are* doing that critical thinking rather than just falling into something that’s going to pressure them in ways that don’t gel well with our family’s values. Among other things our family values critical thinking, which means that we’re not always going to be accepting promotional materials at face value. We do the same with other groups they’ve joined — poke around the promotional materials and the web site, and then if we like those go to a meeting or two to see what we think before proceeding.

      2. You both have valid points. Bottom line: We as parents all have an obligation to support our children in their growth. We all get to make decisions as to choices in their life, and get to choose how much control to exert over their choices. If your child comes home and says “I want to join organization XYZ”, we get to choose how we handle that. All of our choices are based on our personal experiences and values.

        Allyson, I’m sorry you had such a terrible time as a child in Scouts, that is awful, and I can appreciate how you came to your stance. I wouldn’t expect anyone to like anything associated with experiences like that.

        Allison and others, bottom line: You have to decide if an organization (or, really, any activity) is a good fit for your child. If yes, great, join, have fun! If not, great! ignore it and don’t participate. That doesn’t mean that an organization or activity isn’t a good fit for someone else.

        Disclaimer: I got my Eagle Scout in 1983. I’ve been a Cub Scout and Boy Scout leader for at least 8 years.

  45. Pity the fledgling GeekMom bloggers have to go out and have negative attack posts instead of more affirmative positive posts. Why not find and espouse the good and geeky things you have found to work with your kids instead of attacking a group that you have personal problems with?

    As has been stated, BSA is a private organization that has a set of beliefs and practices that they feel provide for a solid program to raise up young men. If you disagree with any or all that they do, find or start another organization that is more in line with your personal worldview and beliefs. Cut down the Scout Law to include as many of the traits that you agree with, and/or add your own. If there are enough people who agree then you will have a great group on your hands.

    Heck, call it a “Geek Group” and plan monthly meetings, MAKE-style activities, your own badges, futuristic uniforms (if you have uniforms at all), play strategy/German-style games, launch rockets, have pinewood derby races “on steroids”, etc.

    It is a shame that you have to attack BSA, religion, people of faith, etc. instead of using your forum for good. If faith-bashing or politics becomes status quo here it’d be a shame with all the potential GeekMom as a concept and a group have to offer.

  46. Pity the fledgling GeekMom bloggers have to go out and have negative attack posts instead of more affirmative positive posts. Why not find and espouse the good and geeky things you have found to work with your kids instead of attacking a group that you have personal problems with?

    As has been stated, BSA is a private organization that has a set of beliefs and practices that they feel provide for a solid program to raise up young men. If you disagree with any or all that they do, find or start another organization that is more in line with your personal worldview and beliefs. Cut down the Scout Law to include as many of the traits that you agree with, and/or add your own. If there are enough people who agree then you will have a great group on your hands.

    Heck, call it a “Geek Group” and plan monthly meetings, MAKE-style activities, your own badges, futuristic uniforms (if you have uniforms at all), play strategy/German-style games, launch rockets, have pinewood derby races “on steroids”, etc.

    It is a shame that you have to attack BSA, religion, people of faith, etc. instead of using your forum for good. If faith-bashing or politics becomes status quo here it’d be a shame with all the potential GeekMom as a concept and a group have to offer.

  47. The attitude you give off isn’t invisible. Your son will know. Your grudging acceptance of his Scouting days won’t be hid from him for long. Your desire to find fault with something he’s excited about will kill the fun for him.

    Before that happens, I suggest you look for a Campfire group. Campfire has a similar program, but they are more open to atheists, homosexuals, and girls in their units.

  48. The attitude you give off isn’t invisible. Your son will know. Your grudging acceptance of his Scouting days won’t be hid from him for long. Your desire to find fault with something he’s excited about will kill the fun for him.

    Before that happens, I suggest you look for a Campfire group. Campfire has a similar program, but they are more open to atheists, homosexuals, and girls in their units.

  49. Well I came on here to reply thinking I’d be the lone defender of scouting in a sea of antagonism. Boy was I wrong.

    First let me say that I’ve grown up to be a very liberal and very politically active individual who strives to follow the values you named in your alternative pledge. I was also an eagle scout and see both the scouting program and the values of the current scout law as a very important and positive influence in my young life.

    To be honest I do think you are interpreting the values of the law in ways that the program does not, and in ways that reinforce your existing biases. Values are rules of thumb, and any when taken to extremes sounds ridiculous.

    Take for example kindness, which you named as one you supported. Should one always be indiscriminately kind?! What if you come home and find an intruder assaulting your family? Should you gentle encourage them to stop and offer them tea?! What a horrible value!! In reality of course, kindness is, in general, an extremely important value. As are loyalty, courteousness, and obedience. Nobody in or out of scouting would argue they should be applied indiscriminately, and in fact I have no doubt that as your son participates more deeply in scouting he will have many discussions with his fellow scouts and leaders about the limitations of each value of the scout law and the ethical grey areas surrounding them. Even getting kids to be thinking about ethics in these complex ways at such a young age is a valuable experience for children.

    As for cleanliness and reverence, your worst are, in my mind, the best. I never understood them to have reference to religion or sexuality, nor did any other scout I knew. In fact I think you are simply misunderstanding the accepted definitions of these words. Reverence is an areligious principle which merely means respect for that which inherently deserves respect. Most often in scouting this was applied to nature. Reverence meant having a sober and respectful attitude towards the beauty of the natural world and an appreciation for the responsibility we have to protect it. Cleanliness similarly also meant keeping the natural world clean. We were often told to leave the natural world better than we found it. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” etc. When it referred to morality it meant simply to work to be free from animosity or hatred towards others. And I was in a christian troop where more religious interpretations of both words would not have seemed out of place.

    And the least important of your criticisms: Thrifty. Obviously a good value. If you are having trouble affording camping gear, I’m sure you can find good used deals either on craigslist, or from the families of older scouts. Obviously do not go to REI if you are trying to save money.

    And there are so many other wonderful values taught throughout the scouting experience, the vast majority of which any liberal should be proud for their children to learn. The two most prominent themes in the program generally are DEFINITELY respect for the environment, and social responsibility. These two ideas permeate every aspect of scouting and become second nature to a long-time scout.

    Anyway, I highly recommend the program and I urge you to reconsider your perception of the organization. I was as disappointed as anyone when the national organization took the stances they did, especially because I felt it was inconsistent with the values the organization espouses generally. But as you pointed out, local troops are free to run things how they wish and most of them will likely teach your child all the values you wish were in the scout law and more.

  50. Well I came on here to reply thinking I’d be the lone defender of scouting in a sea of antagonism. Boy was I wrong.

    First let me say that I’ve grown up to be a very liberal and very politically active individual who strives to follow the values you named in your alternative pledge. I was also an eagle scout and see both the scouting program and the values of the current scout law as a very important and positive influence in my young life.

    To be honest I do think you are interpreting the values of the law in ways that the program does not, and in ways that reinforce your existing biases. Values are rules of thumb, and any when taken to extremes sounds ridiculous.

    Take for example kindness, which you named as one you supported. Should one always be indiscriminately kind?! What if you come home and find an intruder assaulting your family? Should you gentle encourage them to stop and offer them tea?! What a horrible value!! In reality of course, kindness is, in general, an extremely important value. As are loyalty, courteousness, and obedience. Nobody in or out of scouting would argue they should be applied indiscriminately, and in fact I have no doubt that as your son participates more deeply in scouting he will have many discussions with his fellow scouts and leaders about the limitations of each value of the scout law and the ethical grey areas surrounding them. Even getting kids to be thinking about ethics in these complex ways at such a young age is a valuable experience for children.

    As for cleanliness and reverence, your worst are, in my mind, the best. I never understood them to have reference to religion or sexuality, nor did any other scout I knew. In fact I think you are simply misunderstanding the accepted definitions of these words. Reverence is an areligious principle which merely means respect for that which inherently deserves respect. Most often in scouting this was applied to nature. Reverence meant having a sober and respectful attitude towards the beauty of the natural world and an appreciation for the responsibility we have to protect it. Cleanliness similarly also meant keeping the natural world clean. We were often told to leave the natural world better than we found it. “Take only pictures, leave only footprints” etc. When it referred to morality it meant simply to work to be free from animosity or hatred towards others. And I was in a christian troop where more religious interpretations of both words would not have seemed out of place.

    And the least important of your criticisms: Thrifty. Obviously a good value. If you are having trouble affording camping gear, I’m sure you can find good used deals either on craigslist, or from the families of older scouts. Obviously do not go to REI if you are trying to save money.

    And there are so many other wonderful values taught throughout the scouting experience, the vast majority of which any liberal should be proud for their children to learn. The two most prominent themes in the program generally are DEFINITELY respect for the environment, and social responsibility. These two ideas permeate every aspect of scouting and become second nature to a long-time scout.

    Anyway, I highly recommend the program and I urge you to reconsider your perception of the organization. I was as disappointed as anyone when the national organization took the stances they did, especially because I felt it was inconsistent with the values the organization espouses generally. But as you pointed out, local troops are free to run things how they wish and most of them will likely teach your child all the values you wish were in the scout law and more.

  51. Kudos, BTW, on helping your Cub Scout learn the 12 points of the Scout Law. Some kids take years to get them down pat. Cubs almost never remember them for more than a week or so.

    Repitition is probably helping, although if 3,578 times through didn’t get it nailed, you might need another layer of learning 🙂

    I always teach them in groups, to help remember the order:

    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful – these are the characteristics of a good team player. If this is all you ever manage, then you will still be sought after as a team member who can contribute and support the group.

    Friendly, Courteous, Kind – these are the characteristics of a good friend. Someone who cares and watches out for you.

    Obedient, Cheerful – these go together because it is not enough to be obedient, if you mope about it 🙂 (It won’t be clear immediately, but “obeying” the youth leadership in a “cheerful” way is a big part of camping in a Patrol environment.) Also, the words “cheerful service” go together.

    Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent – I’ve not really connected these very well, sorry. Clean and reverent are probably related, if for no other reason than they are last on the boys’ list, too 🙂 But they roll off the tongue nicely, so most boys don’t stumble on these too much.

    Submitted, in case it is helpful.

  52. Kudos, BTW, on helping your Cub Scout learn the 12 points of the Scout Law. Some kids take years to get them down pat. Cubs almost never remember them for more than a week or so.

    Repitition is probably helping, although if 3,578 times through didn’t get it nailed, you might need another layer of learning 🙂

    I always teach them in groups, to help remember the order:

    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful – these are the characteristics of a good team player. If this is all you ever manage, then you will still be sought after as a team member who can contribute and support the group.

    Friendly, Courteous, Kind – these are the characteristics of a good friend. Someone who cares and watches out for you.

    Obedient, Cheerful – these go together because it is not enough to be obedient, if you mope about it 🙂 (It won’t be clear immediately, but “obeying” the youth leadership in a “cheerful” way is a big part of camping in a Patrol environment.) Also, the words “cheerful service” go together.

    Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent – I’ve not really connected these very well, sorry. Clean and reverent are probably related, if for no other reason than they are last on the boys’ list, too 🙂 But they roll off the tongue nicely, so most boys don’t stumble on these too much.

    Submitted, in case it is helpful.

  53. I really can’t add anything to the discussion. I guess I’ll just repeat the points above I found the most useful and ‘true’ to myself and my experience in scouting Webelos to Eagle (91-01).

    FIND A DEN/TROOP THAT YOU LIKE/AGREE WITH – as someone stated above each Troop is its own franchise, sounds like you won’t be joining the mormon troop anytime soon (who are the ones pushing the anti-homosexual agenda in BSA). Even troops based out of churches are not always Jesusey, don’t write them off, it depends on the leadership. Except for doing a color guard ceremoney once a year, the church that sponsored our troop didn’t really interact that much and I know for a fact (best friend’s dad) that our scoutmaster was athiest/agnostic the entire time he was our leader.

    VOLUNTEER – Will give you a 100x better idea of how the scout law is being applied in real life and in this troop in particular vs. what you think it means (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that his cub scout book doesnt fully explain the law like a Webelo or BS book does) It also gives you the chance to ‘influence’ the troop to continue to be broadly open minded regarding religion (e.g. believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is acceptable for reverance).

    I also really don’t like BSA politics at a national level, but it can be worked around if you choose to. Some parents will say “I disagree” make a stand and never let their son look at a boy scout troop again. That’s their choice, but right now I don’t believe there is an organization that comes anywhere close to doing what Boy Scouts does so I will continue to support them.

    1. I don’t have much of a problem with them except for the national level’s interpretation of “clean and reverent.” That alone, the fact that the organization went to the Supreme Court in order to be able to keep kids like mine out, is reason enough for me not to support them.

      FWIW, I wasn’t the one to make that decision. When my boys were of the age where they first started recruiting for Cub Scouts at the school, that stuff was on the BSA web page. I pulled the web page up for the boys, showed them the policy, and they’ve not wanted anything to do with the BSA since. The national level is serious about enforcing this interpretation. Personally, I could be happy with the interpretation “take showers regularly and show respect for the wider world, acknowledging that you’re not the center of the universe.” It’s not that it’s necessarily Jesus-y, it’s that they’ve outright said they don’t want us and that the national policy says we’re officially not able to be moral.

      In the meantime, we’re going to strengthen other groups that actually welcome us.

      1. Allison> the organization went to the Supreme Court in order to be able to keep kids like mine out

        Allison, there is no litmus test for youth membership in BSA, whether Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or Venturing. No religious test. No sexual orientation test. Only age and maybe gender. BSA is not trying to keep your kids out. Your kids are welcome as youth members. You are welcome as parents. Neither of you will be subject to criticism or riducule for your beliefs or non-beliefs or sexual orientation.

        The BSA went to the Supreme Court in order to verify that they are able to specify guidelines for their registered Adult Leaders. (BTW, some additional guidelines for Adult Leaders include agreememt to submit to criminal background checks). Agree or disagree with those guidelines all you like, but the guidelines are in place for Adult Leaders. Not youth. Not parents.

        By all means, object to their policies and stay away if you like. but please don’t mis-represent their policies as hostile to youth. This is simply not true.

        1. Derek, the BSA can and has excluded atheist children, as much as you’d like to think otherwise. While the Supreme Court case applied specifically to scoutmasters, you’re still looking at an organization that says outright in its bylaws “….no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God” If you want me to bring up actual cases I will, but there’s every indication that the folks at national are not going to back down. How is this policy not hostile to atheist kids? How is the official position that gays cannot be moral or clean not hostile to gay kids?

          Why should I enroll my children in a group that tells them they cannot be moral, “best kind of” citizens when there are alternative, groups with as long a pedigree that are quite happy to have them without saying such things?

          1. Allison, I would appreciate reading cases that upheld the exclusion of youth from the program, based on BSA policy. I have not seen one. Please post them if you have them.

            As I indicated above, Charter Partners are able to use their units as an extension of their own youth program if they choose. (Most in fact do not do this.) In particular, Catholic chartered units tend to do a bit more specific exploration of religious concepts as part of their mission, although they tend not to be very aggressively Catholic about it. (Much like Catholic Schools include some specific religious training, even though being Catholic is not a requirement for attendance.) Even more pointedly, the Morman churches use it as their primary youth program, so in these units the Mormon faith is very much up front. It is even possible for a chartering church to require members of its unit to be members of the church! But these requirements, if they exist, come from individual units via their chartering organizations.

            The BSA Youth application asks no questions about religion or sexuality (most BSA youth join as Cub Scouts in 1st or 2nd grade, for heaven’s sake!). The program itself has some subtle (in most units, not-so-subtle in some units) spiritual component, expressed as “reverence” and “duty to God” (as you define it for yourself). The BSA acknowledges and encourages religious study awards from almost any “religion” you can name, from Jewish to Christian to Muslim to Hindu to Buddhist to Wiccan.

            So if your youth are so offended by the mention of God that they can’t handle this component, they might feel officially “excluded.” But in fact they are not excluded. Your youth are free to join a unit and hold their atheist beliefs. They may find that there are some aspects of the program that don’t jive with their atheist positions. But they won’t be ejected by the BSA from their unit for holding those positions.

            Youth are ejected from their units sometimes. This can be done by the unit’s committee, when the youth is unable to be a constructive member, usually due to violent behavior, or maybe criminal behavior. It is conceivable that a youth could be ejected in this manner for trying to be an activist about his beliefs. I’ve not heard of such a case, but maybe this is what you refer to. Again, this would represent a conflict with the unit and its leaders, not with the BSA.

            I don’t want to convince you to support the BSA, whose program components and policies for Adult Leadership you disagree with. But I do want to make it clear that its policies do not exclude youth from the program, nor do they abuse/harrass youth members for their beliefs, whatever they are. Reverence is *defined by BSA* as being respectful of others’ beliefs.

  54. I really can’t add anything to the discussion. I guess I’ll just repeat the points above I found the most useful and ‘true’ to myself and my experience in scouting Webelos to Eagle (91-01).

    FIND A DEN/TROOP THAT YOU LIKE/AGREE WITH – as someone stated above each Troop is its own franchise, sounds like you won’t be joining the mormon troop anytime soon (who are the ones pushing the anti-homosexual agenda in BSA). Even troops based out of churches are not always Jesusey, don’t write them off, it depends on the leadership. Except for doing a color guard ceremoney once a year, the church that sponsored our troop didn’t really interact that much and I know for a fact (best friend’s dad) that our scoutmaster was athiest/agnostic the entire time he was our leader.

    VOLUNTEER – Will give you a 100x better idea of how the scout law is being applied in real life and in this troop in particular vs. what you think it means (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that his cub scout book doesnt fully explain the law like a Webelo or BS book does) It also gives you the chance to ‘influence’ the troop to continue to be broadly open minded regarding religion (e.g. believing in the Flying Spaghetti Monster is acceptable for reverance).

    I also really don’t like BSA politics at a national level, but it can be worked around if you choose to. Some parents will say “I disagree” make a stand and never let their son look at a boy scout troop again. That’s their choice, but right now I don’t believe there is an organization that comes anywhere close to doing what Boy Scouts does so I will continue to support them.

    1. I don’t have much of a problem with them except for the national level’s interpretation of “clean and reverent.” That alone, the fact that the organization went to the Supreme Court in order to be able to keep kids like mine out, is reason enough for me not to support them.

      FWIW, I wasn’t the one to make that decision. When my boys were of the age where they first started recruiting for Cub Scouts at the school, that stuff was on the BSA web page. I pulled the web page up for the boys, showed them the policy, and they’ve not wanted anything to do with the BSA since. The national level is serious about enforcing this interpretation. Personally, I could be happy with the interpretation “take showers regularly and show respect for the wider world, acknowledging that you’re not the center of the universe.” It’s not that it’s necessarily Jesus-y, it’s that they’ve outright said they don’t want us and that the national policy says we’re officially not able to be moral.

      In the meantime, we’re going to strengthen other groups that actually welcome us.

      1. Allison> the organization went to the Supreme Court in order to be able to keep kids like mine out

        Allison, there is no litmus test for youth membership in BSA, whether Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or Venturing. No religious test. No sexual orientation test. Only age and maybe gender. BSA is not trying to keep your kids out. Your kids are welcome as youth members. You are welcome as parents. Neither of you will be subject to criticism or riducule for your beliefs or non-beliefs or sexual orientation.

        The BSA went to the Supreme Court in order to verify that they are able to specify guidelines for their registered Adult Leaders. (BTW, some additional guidelines for Adult Leaders include agreememt to submit to criminal background checks). Agree or disagree with those guidelines all you like, but the guidelines are in place for Adult Leaders. Not youth. Not parents.

        By all means, object to their policies and stay away if you like. but please don’t mis-represent their policies as hostile to youth. This is simply not true.

        1. Derek, the BSA can and has excluded atheist children, as much as you’d like to think otherwise. While the Supreme Court case applied specifically to scoutmasters, you’re still looking at an organization that says outright in its bylaws “….no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing his obligation to God” If you want me to bring up actual cases I will, but there’s every indication that the folks at national are not going to back down. How is this policy not hostile to atheist kids? How is the official position that gays cannot be moral or clean not hostile to gay kids?

          Why should I enroll my children in a group that tells them they cannot be moral, “best kind of” citizens when there are alternative, groups with as long a pedigree that are quite happy to have them without saying such things?

          1. Allison, I would appreciate reading cases that upheld the exclusion of youth from the program, based on BSA policy. I have not seen one. Please post them if you have them.

            As I indicated above, Charter Partners are able to use their units as an extension of their own youth program if they choose. (Most in fact do not do this.) In particular, Catholic chartered units tend to do a bit more specific exploration of religious concepts as part of their mission, although they tend not to be very aggressively Catholic about it. (Much like Catholic Schools include some specific religious training, even though being Catholic is not a requirement for attendance.) Even more pointedly, the Morman churches use it as their primary youth program, so in these units the Mormon faith is very much up front. It is even possible for a chartering church to require members of its unit to be members of the church! But these requirements, if they exist, come from individual units via their chartering organizations.

            The BSA Youth application asks no questions about religion or sexuality (most BSA youth join as Cub Scouts in 1st or 2nd grade, for heaven’s sake!). The program itself has some subtle (in most units, not-so-subtle in some units) spiritual component, expressed as “reverence” and “duty to God” (as you define it for yourself). The BSA acknowledges and encourages religious study awards from almost any “religion” you can name, from Jewish to Christian to Muslim to Hindu to Buddhist to Wiccan.

            So if your youth are so offended by the mention of God that they can’t handle this component, they might feel officially “excluded.” But in fact they are not excluded. Your youth are free to join a unit and hold their atheist beliefs. They may find that there are some aspects of the program that don’t jive with their atheist positions. But they won’t be ejected by the BSA from their unit for holding those positions.

            Youth are ejected from their units sometimes. This can be done by the unit’s committee, when the youth is unable to be a constructive member, usually due to violent behavior, or maybe criminal behavior. It is conceivable that a youth could be ejected in this manner for trying to be an activist about his beliefs. I’ve not heard of such a case, but maybe this is what you refer to. Again, this would represent a conflict with the unit and its leaders, not with the BSA.

            I don’t want to convince you to support the BSA, whose program components and policies for Adult Leadership you disagree with. But I do want to make it clear that its policies do not exclude youth from the program, nor do they abuse/harrass youth members for their beliefs, whatever they are. Reverence is *defined by BSA* as being respectful of others’ beliefs.

  55. Interesting discussion on the Scout Law, but I am curious about one point made in the article:

    “…And by “men” they appear to mean people who can do quaint masculine things, like starting a fire and whittling wood. But again I digress…”

    As a Boy Scout I also learned cooking (and washing dishes), theater, community service, and a host of other things along with the outdoor skills you reference.

    My wife has been a Girl Scout leader for our 4 daughters. One of the things the girls like most is learning to (safely) light a camp fire or use a pocket knife. I guess no-one expects girls to know those things since they are “quaint masculine things”, but kids love being trusted enough to be taught skills like that. They are also learning cooking, community service, and so on.

    Are these skills out-dated? Is the Scout Law and Oath/Promise (both Boy and Girl Scouts) out dated? I don’t think so. They are teaching aids, so go beyond the rote memorization, or the excitement of watching a campfire start, and use it as a framework for growth.

  56. Interesting discussion on the Scout Law, but I am curious about one point made in the article:

    “…And by “men” they appear to mean people who can do quaint masculine things, like starting a fire and whittling wood. But again I digress…”

    As a Boy Scout I also learned cooking (and washing dishes), theater, community service, and a host of other things along with the outdoor skills you reference.

    My wife has been a Girl Scout leader for our 4 daughters. One of the things the girls like most is learning to (safely) light a camp fire or use a pocket knife. I guess no-one expects girls to know those things since they are “quaint masculine things”, but kids love being trusted enough to be taught skills like that. They are also learning cooking, community service, and so on.

    Are these skills out-dated? Is the Scout Law and Oath/Promise (both Boy and Girl Scouts) out dated? I don’t think so. They are teaching aids, so go beyond the rote memorization, or the excitement of watching a campfire start, and use it as a framework for growth.

  57. Derek, check into Randall vs. Orange City Council (the sponsor of the troop) — nine year old twins who decided that they could not swear an oath to God were initially stopped from progressing to bear rank by their den leader, then by trial time the BSA declared the boys could not be members at all. In 1992, the California courts declared that the BSA was a business the Unruh Civil Rights Act and therefore could not discriminate. The boys were allowed to stay in by court order while the BSA appealed the case and eventually won. The boys were able to proceed all the way to Eagle Scout (they had to convene an Eagle Board by state order) before the BSA was successful in expelling them, but it was not for want of trying.

    In Welsh vs. The Boy Scouts of America a six year old (who had been handed a flier by his public school teacher saying that “any child can join”) was turned away from entry to the Tiger Scouts because of the requirement to have an adult partner. His father, an agnostic, wouldn’t sign the “Declaration of Religious Principles” section of the adult application, you know, the part where you’re required to agree that atheists cannot become the best kind of citizens. Later, when Mark Welsh was old enough to apply to become a scout without an adult partner, he was rejected because of his own agnosticism.

    In 2002 Darrell Lambert (admittedly 19 at the time) was expelled from Eagle Scouts because he would not declare allegiance to a Supreme Being.

    These are not the only cases, there are quite a few dealing with children ranging from 6 through 19 years old at all levels of the organization. Moreover, I highly doubt that all the cases where boys were excluded from the organization ended up going to court. It takes a special kind of person to be tenacious enough about this sort of issue to actually sue over it, as there’s the near certainty that the vitriol will continue. Most people in such a situation aren’t willing to subject their kids to that sort of nastiness.

    It’s not just that atheists and agnostics have to hear mention of the word God, it’s that they have to swear an oath to God and that they have to declare that they, themselves, cannot be good citizens. This is a bit problematic. It’s even more problematic when you’re also told that one of the values you’re supposed to uphold is to honesty. Being honest and regularly swearing to do your duty to a being you don’t believe exists are not particularly compatible.

    Again, I’m not saying that the scouts are terrible, just that the organization has made quite clear at the national level that they don’t want atheists, even if they’re kids. There are plenty of groups out there that do good stuff and have a religious requirement — I won’t support them, but I’m going to respect their rules, which means not applying.

    1. Oh, I should also point out that the oath and requirement for adults wishing to volunteer that they sign the declaration of religious principle runs into difficulties with other core values of the scouts for atheists.

      obedience — If I’m going to obey the rules, lying when I recite the oath or sign the declaration and refusing to recite the oath or sign the declaration are both problems.

      bravery — I should have the courage to be open about my lack of belief rather than hiding it.

      respect — It’s not particularly respectful for me to try to be part of a group if I suspect that I don’t satisfy membership requirements.

    2. Thanks, Allison. I’ll look them up.

      At first glance, these examples sound like “man bites dog” examples to me. As I’ve tried to convey, the individual charter partners have lots of lattitude to emphasize (or not) the religious aspects of the program. Also, the unit committee can set more stringent standards, such as requiring church membership (pretty rare, but possible). The BSA will back charter partners and committees who chose to do this, which is how BSA ends up in these suits.

      But the vast, vast, vast majority of Scouting gets along just fine without ever approaching these kinds of dramas.

      1. Oh, I don’t doubt that, Derek. I’m sure there likely is a group that would let my boys in and that if my boys decided to suck it up and swear the oath and pretend at some junctures to be religious, they’d get along fine. That’s what most people do. Again, though, I’m not entirely convinced it’s the right thing to do on either side (you know, the people talking about how their troop is accepting but it starts to get more uncomfortable when you’re doing stuff on a larger scale). If I don’t believe that atheists can’t be the best kind of citizen, for example, I should probably be hesitant to sign that declaration. It’s saying something I find disturbing, and it SHOULD give me pause. As non-believers at this point (maybe not forever, I don’t know — they’re kids), it’s important that my kids think about these things, about what they really do believe or not, and about what they are and are not comfortable doing.

        As I said, others who are denied entry or kicked out probably don’t sue very often. They probably just go away quietly. That’s also the norm.

        I just find it disingenuous for people to pretend the group is friendly to agnostic and atheist boys as a whole when it has these written policies, at the national level regularly and vociferously defends the interpretation that I’m talking about, and goes to court to back it up. The BSA is not a monolithic entity, and I’m aware of that. I’m not saying that you personally are working to exclude atheists from scouting. But I am saying that it does happen, not infrequently, that these kids get excluded, and that it happens at all levels throughout the organization.

        Let me give you an similar situation from my life as an atheist kid with a group that’s not as near and dear to your heart. My grandmother was an extremely active member of he Order of the Eastern Star. They do a lot of good work and her association with them was a wonderful, wonderful thing. She nominated me to become a member and wanted me to fill out the application form so that I could join in the organization that had been so good for her and to her. As the granddaughter of a member, I qualified, the people I knew associated with the group were fantastic, and like them I love to do charitable works and to be active in the community. Overall it would have been a great fit but for one exception — the group is open to people of all faiths, but not to people of no faith. I had to sadly decline because though I share a common cause with them, I would not really be able to participate in many aspects of the group where faith is important. It’s a great, close, group of people, but not everyone qualifies to be a member and that’s okay.

        1. As my last contribution, Allison, I’ll just encourage anyone who has been reading this exchange to focus on the unit itself, since that is where the program is delivered to the youth.

          If you are wondering whether this Scouting thing is something that you might find enjoyable, visit a unit or two, talk to their leaders, and express any concerns you might be feeling. And go from there.

          You will very likely be reassured and welcomed. Units do not expect boys to have well-formed religious ideas, and most are not interested in forming them, other than to see a world-view of some kind develop over time. YMMV, but you won’t know until you check it out.

          Thanks.

  58. Derek, check into Randall vs. Orange City Council (the sponsor of the troop) — nine year old twins who decided that they could not swear an oath to God were initially stopped from progressing to bear rank by their den leader, then by trial time the BSA declared the boys could not be members at all. In 1992, the California courts declared that the BSA was a business the Unruh Civil Rights Act and therefore could not discriminate. The boys were allowed to stay in by court order while the BSA appealed the case and eventually won. The boys were able to proceed all the way to Eagle Scout (they had to convene an Eagle Board by state order) before the BSA was successful in expelling them, but it was not for want of trying.

    In Welsh vs. The Boy Scouts of America a six year old (who had been handed a flier by his public school teacher saying that “any child can join”) was turned away from entry to the Tiger Scouts because of the requirement to have an adult partner. His father, an agnostic, wouldn’t sign the “Declaration of Religious Principles” section of the adult application, you know, the part where you’re required to agree that atheists cannot become the best kind of citizens. Later, when Mark Welsh was old enough to apply to become a scout without an adult partner, he was rejected because of his own agnosticism.

    In 2002 Darrell Lambert (admittedly 19 at the time) was expelled from Eagle Scouts because he would not declare allegiance to a Supreme Being.

    These are not the only cases, there are quite a few dealing with children ranging from 6 through 19 years old at all levels of the organization. Moreover, I highly doubt that all the cases where boys were excluded from the organization ended up going to court. It takes a special kind of person to be tenacious enough about this sort of issue to actually sue over it, as there’s the near certainty that the vitriol will continue. Most people in such a situation aren’t willing to subject their kids to that sort of nastiness.

    It’s not just that atheists and agnostics have to hear mention of the word God, it’s that they have to swear an oath to God and that they have to declare that they, themselves, cannot be good citizens. This is a bit problematic. It’s even more problematic when you’re also told that one of the values you’re supposed to uphold is to honesty. Being honest and regularly swearing to do your duty to a being you don’t believe exists are not particularly compatible.

    Again, I’m not saying that the scouts are terrible, just that the organization has made quite clear at the national level that they don’t want atheists, even if they’re kids. There are plenty of groups out there that do good stuff and have a religious requirement — I won’t support them, but I’m going to respect their rules, which means not applying.

    1. Oh, I should also point out that the oath and requirement for adults wishing to volunteer that they sign the declaration of religious principle runs into difficulties with other core values of the scouts for atheists.

      obedience — If I’m going to obey the rules, lying when I recite the oath or sign the declaration and refusing to recite the oath or sign the declaration are both problems.

      bravery — I should have the courage to be open about my lack of belief rather than hiding it.

      respect — It’s not particularly respectful for me to try to be part of a group if I suspect that I don’t satisfy membership requirements.

    2. Thanks, Allison. I’ll look them up.

      At first glance, these examples sound like “man bites dog” examples to me. As I’ve tried to convey, the individual charter partners have lots of lattitude to emphasize (or not) the religious aspects of the program. Also, the unit committee can set more stringent standards, such as requiring church membership (pretty rare, but possible). The BSA will back charter partners and committees who chose to do this, which is how BSA ends up in these suits.

      But the vast, vast, vast majority of Scouting gets along just fine without ever approaching these kinds of dramas.

      1. Oh, I don’t doubt that, Derek. I’m sure there likely is a group that would let my boys in and that if my boys decided to suck it up and swear the oath and pretend at some junctures to be religious, they’d get along fine. That’s what most people do. Again, though, I’m not entirely convinced it’s the right thing to do on either side (you know, the people talking about how their troop is accepting but it starts to get more uncomfortable when you’re doing stuff on a larger scale). If I don’t believe that atheists can’t be the best kind of citizen, for example, I should probably be hesitant to sign that declaration. It’s saying something I find disturbing, and it SHOULD give me pause. As non-believers at this point (maybe not forever, I don’t know — they’re kids), it’s important that my kids think about these things, about what they really do believe or not, and about what they are and are not comfortable doing.

        As I said, others who are denied entry or kicked out probably don’t sue very often. They probably just go away quietly. That’s also the norm.

        I just find it disingenuous for people to pretend the group is friendly to agnostic and atheist boys as a whole when it has these written policies, at the national level regularly and vociferously defends the interpretation that I’m talking about, and goes to court to back it up. The BSA is not a monolithic entity, and I’m aware of that. I’m not saying that you personally are working to exclude atheists from scouting. But I am saying that it does happen, not infrequently, that these kids get excluded, and that it happens at all levels throughout the organization.

        Let me give you an similar situation from my life as an atheist kid with a group that’s not as near and dear to your heart. My grandmother was an extremely active member of he Order of the Eastern Star. They do a lot of good work and her association with them was a wonderful, wonderful thing. She nominated me to become a member and wanted me to fill out the application form so that I could join in the organization that had been so good for her and to her. As the granddaughter of a member, I qualified, the people I knew associated with the group were fantastic, and like them I love to do charitable works and to be active in the community. Overall it would have been a great fit but for one exception — the group is open to people of all faiths, but not to people of no faith. I had to sadly decline because though I share a common cause with them, I would not really be able to participate in many aspects of the group where faith is important. It’s a great, close, group of people, but not everyone qualifies to be a member and that’s okay.

        1. As my last contribution, Allison, I’ll just encourage anyone who has been reading this exchange to focus on the unit itself, since that is where the program is delivered to the youth.

          If you are wondering whether this Scouting thing is something that you might find enjoyable, visit a unit or two, talk to their leaders, and express any concerns you might be feeling. And go from there.

          You will very likely be reassured and welcomed. Units do not expect boys to have well-formed religious ideas, and most are not interested in forming them, other than to see a world-view of some kind develop over time. YMMV, but you won’t know until you check it out.

          Thanks.

  59. I’m an Eagle Scout as well, since 2001. Allow me to join the chorus supporting the Scout Law as it stands. The BSA is a PRIVATE organization, and as such can set whatever standards it wants for its membership. There’s no law saying it has to be totally inclusive. Yes, its unfortunate when a young boy wants to join Cub Scouts and is refused because his family is agnostic or atheist, but like it or not, religion is a part of the scouting culture. If you’re not religious, don’t join. Religion isn’t just mentioned in the Law, it’s also in the Oath:

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    To help other people at all times
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

    Before all the anti-bigotry folks jump on me, that last line does not refer to straight as a sexual orientation, but more to keeping one’s self on the moral straight-and-narrow. I know there’s a lot of folks at odds with National on the issue of gays in Scouting, and I’m one of them, but as they say, “dem’s da rules”. Many packs and troops will observe an unspoken don’t-ask-don’t-tell type of policy on that issue.

    In the bigger picture, the sum of my experiences as a Boy Scout had the single most profound impact on who I’ve become as an adult than just about anything else I went through growing up. I have a far greater respect for nature and the environment than I would have otherwise. I learned at a young age (14) that I could spend an entire month away from my family and be just fine — a good warm up for moving away to college a few years later. I made many lasting, strong friendships that I have continued to this day. I learned how to create plans for my patrol’s camping experiences, and how to execute those plans successfully.

    I am excited about the day coming when my own son will be able to join his future elementary school’s Cub Pack and I can get back to the Scouting organization. My only prayer is that his experience is as un-tainted by the politicking surrounding the national office as mine was.

  60. I’m an Eagle Scout as well, since 2001. Allow me to join the chorus supporting the Scout Law as it stands. The BSA is a PRIVATE organization, and as such can set whatever standards it wants for its membership. There’s no law saying it has to be totally inclusive. Yes, its unfortunate when a young boy wants to join Cub Scouts and is refused because his family is agnostic or atheist, but like it or not, religion is a part of the scouting culture. If you’re not religious, don’t join. Religion isn’t just mentioned in the Law, it’s also in the Oath:

    On my honor I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country
    To help other people at all times
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

    Before all the anti-bigotry folks jump on me, that last line does not refer to straight as a sexual orientation, but more to keeping one’s self on the moral straight-and-narrow. I know there’s a lot of folks at odds with National on the issue of gays in Scouting, and I’m one of them, but as they say, “dem’s da rules”. Many packs and troops will observe an unspoken don’t-ask-don’t-tell type of policy on that issue.

    In the bigger picture, the sum of my experiences as a Boy Scout had the single most profound impact on who I’ve become as an adult than just about anything else I went through growing up. I have a far greater respect for nature and the environment than I would have otherwise. I learned at a young age (14) that I could spend an entire month away from my family and be just fine — a good warm up for moving away to college a few years later. I made many lasting, strong friendships that I have continued to this day. I learned how to create plans for my patrol’s camping experiences, and how to execute those plans successfully.

    I am excited about the day coming when my own son will be able to join his future elementary school’s Cub Pack and I can get back to the Scouting organization. My only prayer is that his experience is as un-tainted by the politicking surrounding the national office as mine was.

    1. I too was a scout. I had enough merit badges to get my Life scout badge, but not enough time before we moved to a new city. Still, the 12 points of the law, and the oath reverberate in my 48 year old head today. I have never spent a night in jail (although I am a prison guard), I have many close friends that have my back, and I live in a place where classic scouting is still held in high regard (Casper, WY).
      Stay strong and true my friend. Those words are a map to a successful, peaceful life, not only for yourself, but those around you.

  61. I’ve seen references to other youth organizations that don’t suffer from some of the problems the BSA doe. Campfire, Spirit Guides… I can’t seem to find any info on a casual Google search on these. Could we get a follow up article regarding alternatives to Boy Scouts?

    1. I’d like to suggest another alternative to the BSA, which is the (fairly recent) Baden-Powell Service Association (B-PSA) here in the US. I’m currently involved with that organization, have 3 children in my own local group and will be taking over as Commissioner for the organization this month.

      I’m a long time scouter as well, having earned my Eagle back in 1992. I was involved as an assistant camp director for a BSA summer camp, assistant scoutmaster, unit commissioner, and later with my son, Cub Master. Two years into Cub Scouts with my son, I decided that my issues with BSA National’s policies and my continued financial support via dues/activities/events was sending the wrong message to my son. Prior to this, I talked to a few Pack Committee members about adopting our own Pack non-discrimination accord and brought the idea up with our local BSA Council about this idea. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that if our Pack did this, our Charter would be revoked; and further more, that I was not what the BSA was looking for in a leader.

      Long story short, I then found the B-PSA, which is a growing part of a larger international, traditional scouting movement that is open to all regardless of ethnicity, regligion (or lack of), sexual orientation, etc. ; and it’s co-ed. I have 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys, and with this new organization, I can now share scouting with all of them in an environment that is welcoming and supporting a youth organization with policies I can not only agree with; but stand up for.

      I’m more than happy to talk about the organization and we have lots of resources on the web site as well. The link I gave is the upcoming new web site, the old one is located at http://bpscouting.org and will eventually redirect to the new one.

      Feel free to drop me a line or ask any questions if you’re curious.

  62. I’ve seen references to other youth organizations that don’t suffer from some of the problems the BSA doe. Campfire, Spirit Guides… I can’t seem to find any info on a casual Google search on these. Could we get a follow up article regarding alternatives to Boy Scouts?

    1. I’d like to suggest another alternative to the BSA, which is the (fairly recent) Baden-Powell Service Association (B-PSA) here in the US. I’m currently involved with that organization, have 3 children in my own local group and will be taking over as Commissioner for the organization this month.

      I’m a long time scouter as well, having earned my Eagle back in 1992. I was involved as an assistant camp director for a BSA summer camp, assistant scoutmaster, unit commissioner, and later with my son, Cub Master. Two years into Cub Scouts with my son, I decided that my issues with BSA National’s policies and my continued financial support via dues/activities/events was sending the wrong message to my son. Prior to this, I talked to a few Pack Committee members about adopting our own Pack non-discrimination accord and brought the idea up with our local BSA Council about this idea. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that if our Pack did this, our Charter would be revoked; and further more, that I was not what the BSA was looking for in a leader.

      Long story short, I then found the B-PSA, which is a growing part of a larger international, traditional scouting movement that is open to all regardless of ethnicity, regligion (or lack of), sexual orientation, etc. ; and it’s co-ed. I have 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys, and with this new organization, I can now share scouting with all of them in an environment that is welcoming and supporting a youth organization with policies I can not only agree with; but stand up for.

      I’m more than happy to talk about the organization and we have lots of resources on the web site as well. The link I gave is the upcoming new web site, the old one is located at http://bpscouting.org and will eventually redirect to the new one.

      Feel free to drop me a line or ask any questions if you’re curious.

  63. I find it humorous that parents exhilarate their child’s membership in bigoted organizations by saying “It’s was hist choice” or We let him decide.” And if junior came home and wanted to join a Skinhead Youth group, or if he declared he wanted a gun, would you again “Let him decide” ? It’s is our job as parents to instill integrity in our children, to instill a sense of self which allows them to know how and when to say No to bigotry. If your kid is in the BSA or their starter program the Cub Scouts, the only thing you are teaching your child is that intolerance and discrimination are okay. You have missed the teachable moment and instead chosen to support hate-Bering bigotry.

  64. I find it humorous that parents exhilarate their child’s membership in bigoted organizations by saying “It’s was hist choice” or We let him decide.” And if junior came home and wanted to join a Skinhead Youth group, or if he declared he wanted a gun, would you again “Let him decide” ? It’s is our job as parents to instill integrity in our children, to instill a sense of self which allows them to know how and when to say No to bigotry. If your kid is in the BSA or their starter program the Cub Scouts, the only thing you are teaching your child is that intolerance and discrimination are okay. You have missed the teachable moment and instead chosen to support hate-Bering bigotry.

  65. I just want to say thank you, even if you don’t know me you’ve made a difference in my life. You see, a couple weeks ago I started reaching blog owners mostly to exchange idea, etc… and I came across an amazing tutor that’s almost too good to be true. I *swear to god* that August 13th 2011, I made $225.46 USD and so far in the last 7 days I’ve netted over $800, proof in the link below. I almost went crazy!! It was the easiest thing and cost virtually too, I spent about 25 minutes setting it up and was good to go. In my life, I know that opportunities like these don’t come often and don’t last for long so if you’re at all interested, I would check this FREE video out immediately 🙂 so here you go: http://sn.im/ChronicIncome This is my way of giving back I guess, I hope you find whatever you’re looking for today. Cheers! Latonya Chamblis

  66. I just want to say thank you, even if you don’t know me you’ve made a difference in my life. You see, a couple weeks ago I started reaching blog owners mostly to exchange idea, etc… and I came across an amazing tutor that’s almost too good to be true. I *swear to god* that August 13th 2011, I made $225.46 USD and so far in the last 7 days I’ve netted over $800, proof in the link below. I almost went crazy!! It was the easiest thing and cost virtually too, I spent about 25 minutes setting it up and was good to go. In my life, I know that opportunities like these don’t come often and don’t last for long so if you’re at all interested, I would check this FREE video out immediately 🙂 so here you go: http://sn.im/ChronicIncome This is my way of giving back I guess, I hope you find whatever you’re looking for today. Cheers! Latonya Chamblis

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