Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Dying Breed: Boy Scouts Need Your Help

My father was quick to remind me earlier this week that today marks the 98th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America program. The Scouting program itself began with Lord Robert Baden-Powell in 1907 when 'LBP' opened a camp for boys on Brownsea Island. The following year, Baden-Powell created The Boy Scout Association. Then, in 1909 a scouting legend...'the scout in the fog' helped inspire W.D. Boyce to bring the principles of the scouting program back home to the United States.

A native of a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, W.D. Boyce jump-started the program on this side of the pond by establishing the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. Now nearly a century later, nearly three million young men participate in the program nationwide. But a quick check of the BSA's statistical breakdown shows a rising (or falling) problem. They are losing members. The numbers are down in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and in Venture Scouting. However, there is an increase in the amount of high school students participating which shows that older boys are valuing the program. However, there are less people to lead them because there is also a noticeable drop (1.4%) in total Scout leaders.

It's not a new trend. Here's the youth Scout totals over the last four years that the BSA has publicly reported to date:

2003: 3,200,218
2004: 3,145,331
2005: 2,938,698
2006: 2,868,963

Slight, but noticeable drops with each passing year. While the BSA has known about this issue for years, the country has yet to rally around their cause. It's because the government and our civic leaders are afraid to publicly support the program.

All of the negative press the Scouts have received, from membership controversies to an over-exaggerated history of sexual molestation cases, the Scouting program has been pounded with verbal salvos from the media and misinformed parents and/or community leaders. The message of the program has been lost.

College fraternities and 'old-boy' social groups like the Masons claim to value strong principles and to improve the lives of their members. But only the Boy Scouts consistently meet the challenge.

By simply reading the Scout Oath and the Scout Law one can see all of the qualities we would want our own sons to cherish. The qualities and principles that many of us adults forget to honor.

The Oath:
"On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

When was the last time you met those criteria everyday.

The Law:
"A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent."

Twelve points to live by that are seared into the memory of Scouts and Scouters across the world.

Scouts are taught to truly operate throughout their daily lives while applying the Law and Oath to every person, situation and obstacle they encounter. And it works.

I was born into a 'Scout family.' My father served as a Scoutmaster from the time he was 18 until last year. From 1964-2007. Think about that. And from 1984 until this very moment, he's watched me grow from Tiger Cub to father of two.

I know my father reads these blog entries. He's probably the only one. But here's something he may not now. When I was hovering between the ages of 11-13, I wanted to quit the Scouts.

I wanted to quit the program because I was tired of working on something non-school related. I went to my Mom about it. She told me to have an honest discussion with my Dad. I remember telling him once or twice that I needed to 'take a week off' from our meetings. I don't recall ever telling him what I really wanted to do.

But you know what...I'm sure he knew exactly what I really wanted. But he never relented. And he never took a week off.


And that taught me what I needed to know about the BSA and life in general. Life doesn't take a week off. And neither do the people who need you.

The Boy Scouting program needed my father. And he answered the bell every time.

I got the Eagle Scout award at the age of 16. My Dad (a lifetime Life Scout who uses the fact he never achieved Eagle as a way of inspiring his scouts) stood in the back of the room and wore one the biggest smiles I've ever seen.

Years later, I still remember that smile. I remember the joy of that accomplishment.

I remember making my father proud. I lived my whole life for moments like that.

Today I wear an Eagle Scout pin on my tie in celebration of the program that made me the man I am today. Along with the influence of friends and family, the Boy Scouts shaped my soul.

I owe the program for that. I owe my son the same opportunity my Dad gave me.

And you owe it to the men in your life.

The Boy Scouts may be one of the only programs left in our country that can truly help build the foundation for boys to become good men.

Do your part to keep it alive.

I will.

Scout's honor.


Shane said...

I don't know if you still keep up with this blog, but I feel the same way as you. Without Boy Scouting, I would not be in the position I am today. I also earned Eagle Scout at 16, in 2003 for me. I have now taken it upon myself to return and become a leader in the same troop that taught me how to be a strong citizen in this country. I owe it to myself, my previous scout leaders, and most importantly, the boys who are seeking the leadership to help them become leaders themselves.

Anonymous said...

Scouting is interesting and can be fun, but the uniforms are terrible and by the time boys reach high school they have better things to do. Sitting around singing songs sorrounded by adults who treat scouting like it is something more than it is leads to people leaving the program. Scouting would be more successful if it got rid of the scarf, the singing, and focused on becoming an outdoor leadership program. Otherwise, it will never compete with sports as an activity which get more attention from the community and is more valued by colleges.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to get a Tiger group started in a suburb of Boston, and am finding a humongous lack of interest. If it doesn't give their boys a leg up over another kid for the Ivy League, well then what a waste of time.

Makes me sad for my wild, adventurous boy, and the straitjacketed world that awaits him. But we can have countless outdoor adventures with whomever dares to join us, just as my father did with me, in a town too small for a boy scout troop.

Anonymous said...

It is every sad to see so much success and values disappear nowadays. I volunteered three years of my life to help the cause, which I would gladly do it again. Learned and taught so much and people loose focus on what BSA was all about! BSA will never be the same, and may die out completely, but know that it did help shape this country to where it is today!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to agree with some here but scouting is a serious waist of time, now in order to have any outings you have to drive 3 hours to headquarters and take a class for each outing you would like to have, I am sorry but I work for a living and I have a large family so I don't have any given moment to drop life to take these classes so therefor we never get to have outings.

We started with 16 scouts and now they have 9 scouts because of this and because the cost for uniforms are to high making it difficult to do fund raising because the rule is you cannot do fund raising without uniforms.

if they would update the scouting style and make it a little easier for parents to lead they might actually have a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party but I agree with the posters above.

My biggest complaints with scouting: 1) pushing of boomer morals on today's generation 2) ridiculous uniforms 3) training requirements.

As an attorney, I understand BSA not wanting liability, but that is why there is insurance. I think that 3) training requirements should be lowered and higher insurance premiums paid. I agree with a poster above that the training is ridiculous. I am fortunate to live in DFW so we have local training available however it is still a two hour commute through rush hour traffic going to the trainings that always begin at 5:30pm so a parent that lived at the edges of DFW would have to take off work at least by 2pm to even have a chance to make it to the trainings.

. . . and everything requires a training. Campout? Training. Summer camp? Training. Participating with cub scouts at pinewood derby? FOUR HOUR TRAINING! The trainings are ridiculous.

My second complaint 2) ridiculous uniforms is pretty self explanatory. At one of our last council meetings (which are even worse than trainings) some ancient boomer was yammering about how we should make our sons wear their scouting uniforms to school at least once a week and the other "kids would see the uniforms and be impressed by their achievements and come talk to them about joining Scouts." Really? My sons wear school uniforms and they freak out if the tailor at Brooks Brothers doesn't hem their khakis correctly--even if they could wear their uniforms, there is no way they would wear a scout uniform to school. To wear a Boy Scout uniform in public is equivalent to wearing a shirt that says "I have never touched a boob before." No teenage boy would ever want to do it. These olds that run scouting are out of touch.

My number one complaint? Pushing boomer morals. I live in Plano, Texas where the only person more worshiped than Trump is any Dallas Cowboy that played on a Super Bowl team. Even here in ultra-conservative Plano our kids think that the BSA's persecution of gays and people with different (or no) religion is horrific. Many of the "moral lessons" that BSA attempts to teach are simply out of touch. Most of the youth just wants to go camping and be able to write something about Scouting on a college application. Why is that so hard for BSA to understand?

vccstudents said...
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