Mike Rowe, an Eagle Scout and a Distinguished Eagle Scout, shares his thoughts on the current state of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
His experiences as a scout mirror my experiences – I very vividly remember playing British bulldog, learning First Aid, shooting rifles, tying knots (I can still a bowline one-handed with my eyes closed), and lots of hiking and camping. The fact that our experiences are similar should not be a surprise — he is only 2 months older then me.
Reading his thoughts got me thinking about todays role of the BSA.
Some background –
I am an Eagle Scout, my dad is an Eagle Scout, my dad’s brothers are Eagle Scouts, my brother is an Eagle Scout, and one of my sons is an Eagle Scout.
I spent 4 summers working at Scout camps.
My Grandfather served as Scoutmaster of Troop 40 in Hartford, NY for decades, my dad was Scoutmaster and spent years as a volunteer, and I was Cubmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster for my boys Pack/Troop.
So you could say I have some history with the BSA.
It is challenging to sum up Mike’s thoughts in a couple of snippets, but my take aways are that he believes that
our country’s current obsession with “safe spaces” is destroying character faster than the Boy Scouts of today can build it.
if Scouting could somehow recapture that combination of risk and wonder and pride and personal accountability – I believe their ranks would swell with the sons and daughters of millions of anxious parents, desperate to expose their kids to a program that prepares them for the real world.
All Baby Boomers remember riding our bikes around the neighborhood with no one watching us, walking to school or the store by ourselves, playing sports and not being given a ‘participation’ trophy, having free rein of the fields and farms around where we lived, getting punished for pointing an unloaded air gun at a passing car (if that seems pretty specific it is because it happened ‘to a friend’ of mine), or getting hurt playing, getting patched up, and back at it again.
The world has changed since I was a kid, but I think we have gone too far and are to protective of our children – scared by what we see and hear on the news of all the bad things that could happen.
I don’t deny bad s#!t can happen, but we should not be paralyzed by fear.
If kids are not pushed out of their safe spaces by their parents — how do they grow and be confident adults. And if the BSA is not willing to fill that role — who will be?
We need to teach boys (and girls) the life skills they will need as adults and challenge them to help them grow — aka push them out of their safe zones. I think the Boy Scouts of America is a great resource for that challenge.
Since I was a scout we have seen significant changes in the BSA. Two that come to mind are the policy changes regarding gay leaders and scouts, and the recent news regarding the expansion of programs for girls.
I think these were positive changes and show that the BSA is aware of the cultural changes in the 21st century and is trying to adapt. The challenge BSA leadership has is how do they adapt to societal changes but not lose the core of what they are – an organization
to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
Unfortunately the state of affairs at the Boy Scouts of America is a reflection of way far too many or todays parents who seem to believe that their children should never fail. It is also considered necessary for every child to get a reward of some sort even if it is a ribbon for ‘participating’. I think we all need to experience challenges at which we fail a few times and are encouraged to continue trying we will have a really tough time developing the sort of character needed for success in todays world.