Friday, February 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Boy Scouts of America

It all began in a fog.  While walking the misty streets of London in 1909, American businessman William D. Boyce became lost and disorientated.  A boy appearing out of the fog came up to him and offered to guide Boyce to his destination.  After safely arriving, Boyce tried to pay the boy for his services but the boy refused.  When asked why, the boy explained that he was a Scout and that Scouts should not accept money for doing a Good Turn.

Eager to learn more, Mr. Boyce sought out and met with Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement in Great Britain.  Boyce knew that the boys back home would like the idea, so he brought Scouting to the United States.  Papers incorporating the Boy Scouts of America were signed on February 8, 1910, which is the date we celebrate the official birthday of the BSA.

So, Happy 103rd Birthday Boy Scouts of America.  You have been a huge part of my life, disproportional really, if you think about it.  I began Scouting in 1986 and haven't stopped since.  Aside from the awards and honors I have been presented with, Scouting has given me experiences that to this day I am thankful for.  Most of my friends I met through Scouting, whether working on summer camp staff in Western Massachusetts or through the Order of the Arrow and the many weekends I spent outside in the woods.

If it wasn't for the Boy Scouts of America, I wouldn't have met my wife back in 1998 and we wouldn't have three awesome boys, two of which are in Cub Scouts.  I wouldn't have contacts all over the United States and beyond that I can call upon to help out at a moment's notice.  Without the Boy Scouts, who knows where or who I would be today.

However, recently the BSA has come under fire again for their "membership policies" and this week they were supposed to make a decision on the topic.  They released this statement:

Click on me for larger version.
 In a nutshell because of the outcry from "both sides", they need to keep deliberating about the "membership policy" and for a good reason I would imagine.  They are deciding which side to piss off and there you have the two problems..."both sides".  "Both sides" have forgotten what this program is really about...

...the youth of America.  I say youth and not boys because Scouting has evolved over the years into something bigger than just Cub and Boy Scouts.  With this evolution came criticism but in time the critics have evolved too.  Scouting has had many obstacles in the past all of which they made a decision and over came the obstacle.

  • In the late 1940s there was an uprising where Scout Troops threatened to leave the Scouting program because the BSA was allowing African Americans into their group.  Everything worked out thanks to James E. West.
  • It wasn't until 1988 when the BSA voted to allow women to be direct leaders in the organization.  They were allowed to be Den Mothers or Den Leaders later one, but the BSA voted to change that and allow them the ability to be Scoutmasters and Cubmasters within the units.  Today, I know many women who are Scoutmasters and Cubmasters and they do a fantastic job.
  • In 1913 the Catholic church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepted the BSA, with stipulations, thus bringing the Scouting program into their organizations.  They did not want to be affiliated with the BSA because of the enduring ties with the YMCA, which is a firmly Protestant organization.

Like I mentioned, I've been in Scouting since 1986 and not once did a Leader, Youth Leader, Merit Badge Councilor or any other adult in the program discuss sexuality with me.  There is not a  merit badge or belt loop for it, it's not in any of the requirements in any of the handbooks and it isn't in the Scout Oath, Cub Scout Promise, Law of the Pack or the Scout Law and "both sides" need to see that.

You have one side who wants to be recognized and "accepted".  They want the BSA to come out and publicly say "You guys are OK."  Then you have the other side who believes that if someone is not like them, they are wrong and they want the BSA to uphold that.

From my point of view, they're both wrong.  We are all humans and the Scouting program promotes that.  "Both sides" have lost sight of the youth and instilling good values and helping them find who they are.  In my opinion it isn't about religion, race or sexual orientation, it's about having the Scouts grow up, learning life skills and preparing them for adulthood.  As a Cubmaster I teach the Scouts about equality, respect and being kind.

What it comes down to is humans are made up of the same organic matter, breath the same air and live on the same planet.  Both sides need to see that, maybe some more than others and get back to who the Boy Scouts of America is geared for, the youth.

The next time you see a Cub Scout selling popcorn in order for the Pack to afford the awards he has earned, a Boy Scout selling candy bars so he can attend summer camp or a Venture Scout trying to raise money so she can take the trip to Philmont, I challenge you to look into their eyes and tell them you won't support them because of "both sides", it's not about "both sides" it's about them.

Boy Scouts of America, you have stood strong for 103 years and have overcome many obstacles and made hard decisions.  I have faith in you now that you will make the right decision and continue to put the youth first and not let "both sides" overtake first priority.  Happy Birthday old friend.


  1. Very well said, I applaud you for bringing this "side" of the argument to light. I can honestly say, never once since this started, have I heard anyone standing up for the kids rights. And I have certainly been guilty of thinking, "I won't be giving any more money to the Scouts" - but I actually haven't been in the position to make that decision, since I don't know anyone with Scouts geographically close enough to me right now to help them or not.

    thanks for giving me something else to think about.

  2. This excellent, a lot of what I have been thinking and saying on the topic too. I was one of those Den Mothers who coukdnt.move up in the early 80's and have seen so much change since then, including 2 tours of duty as a cubmsster. Ive cut back a bit lately on Boy Scouts because the boy is almost grown snd his sister needed a girl scout leader. None of this erangling has anything to do with aBaden-Powell's vision of an orgainization that would serve youth and teach them to serve others. I think he would be appalled at the idea of excluding any youth.
    By thewayI have of ten used the story of Mr Boyce with my own scouts, reminding them that you never know the consequences of that Good Turn.

  3. I agree that Scouting should be about service, learning life skills and all that, but unfortunately, sexual orientation has become an issue, and not just because one side wants the Scouts to "legitimize their lifestyle," but because kids are being denied the opportunity to learn these skills as a result of being gay. (Do the BSA teach how not to write run-on sentences? If so, I need to join.) From my perspective, it's not a two sided issue, it's that kids are being actively kicked out of the scouts (a boy in Missouri was kicked out of the Boy Scouts for being gay) and not given the same opportunity. So, while I agree with what you say regarding the positive aspects, characterizing a 'side' as wanting nothing more than the BSA to exclaim "you guys are ok" misses the point. Like you say, it's about giving all boys the same chances, right?

  4. So well said Kevin. It's more than a shame when kids get caught in the crossfire of political debate. People need to think about them first and understand fully what the organization is all about and how much good it does. I commend you for all you've done in scouting. Well done!

  5. Well said. Both of our sons were Scouts, I was a den mother for a couple of years, and our amateur radio club has been sponsoring a Venture crew for about fifteen years. All of the Scout leaders, and Scouts we've gotten to know over the years are top-notch. I'm sorry BSA has been put into this position, and worry that some of the church sponsors may dump them if the decision doesn't go their way.

  6. Good, thoughtful post. I didn't know the history behind those past "obstacles" you listed...

    And I think there really is no political fight so marginal that rabid partisans looking for an argument won't jump in.

    I'm gay, and no one I knew in high school was out and about and running around telling everyone about it when they were Scout age. That's just not how it works.

    The Scout leaders might be another matter. If two guys or two women who are together have a kid in scouts and want to be active as a leader of some sort, that seems legitimate.

    But BSA is going to be called the enemy of all that is good regardless of how they come out on this. All they can do is try and sound as though it's THEIR decision...