Monday, July 23, 2007

The Value of Boy Scouts

For years now our son Tony has wanted to be a Scout. In the community where we previously lived Scouting was not strong, so we deferred his desire for several years. Arriving in North Mankato a year ago to a church who sponsors a dynamic, very strong scouting program meant we could wait no longer. Troop 29 is recognized for its excellence -- numerous adult leaders, regularly scheduled and well executed meetings, a full-fledged troop that each year recognizes the achievements of Eagle Scouts (the highest rank attainable in Boy Scouts of America). I never had the opportunity to be a scout when I was a kid, but I always thought it would have been a great experience, so I have been happy to have Tony so involved. Yesterday he departed for his first week-long Boy Scout Camp adventure, so at 6:45 AM I was present bright and early to see him off.

"Involved" with scouting is really a multi-faceted word, for it means not only being present, but often having a parent present and active, as well as "complicated." There are many details that need to be cared for if you are a scout or the parent of one. I have blogged previously about why it is that kids on the margins are often not involved in such a program, although what it offers are significant.

While I have only been a scouting parent for the past seven months or so, there are some immediate values I can identify:

* High expectations -- the boys are held to responsibility, mutual respect and accomplishment.
* Healthy adult role models -- the men and women who provide leadership to scouts are people of exemplary stature. While they are a diverse group (thankfully), they share some common core values and above all want the boys to enjoy the scouting experience.
* Positive peer interactions -- it is especially heartwarming to see the ways the older boys interact with the younger. While each personality is different, there is a common value that younger kids need to be treated with gentle consistency, appropriate direction and kindness.
* Attunement to nature -- I am one of those who believe that in our culture our kids are too removed from nature (one author has called this a "nature deficit disorder," see Richard Louv, "Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder"). Scouting provides the means to bring kids into connection with nature and teach respect for all of creation.
* Reclamation of "Lost" Basic Human Values -- when I hear the scouts chant in unsion that a scout is "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent" I am reminded how important, and how rapidly becoming lost, are those values to a civilized, healthy culture.

I am proud to have a son who is a Boy Scout, even though the details are sometimes overwhelming, especially for a parent with no personal scouting background. And I am hopeful that Tony's week at camp will be return him home to us in a better state of being than when he left.

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