By Richard Larsen
While most of us have been preoccupied with events and developments in Washington and the around the world, a first class organization dedicated to the development of character, leadership qualities, citizenship and personal fitness in youth achieved a landmark recently. Praised by parents whose children have been groomed and nurtured by it and loved by the boys who learn so much from it, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) celebrated its centennial in February.
Robert Baden-Powell was concerned with the lack of direction manifest by young men 100 years ago and resolved he had to do something. He founded the Boy Scouts with a vision of teaching boys the codes of chivalry and Victorian virtues, a la King Arthur’s Round Table. He was convinced the reason that story resonated with young men was because it represented the convergence of strength and goodness.
Baden-Powell stated that the aim of the new organization was “…to develop among boys a power of sympathizing with others, and a spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism.” His Scouting manual, according to historian Paul Fussell, is a “book about goodness,” as it taught fundamental acts of selflessness, service and citizenship. The original manual was replete with dicta of chivalry. “A Scout is friendly, courteous, kind, cheerful, brave.”
“When in difficulty to know which of two things to do, [the Scout] must ask himself, ‘Which is my duty?’ that is, ‘Which is best for other people?’—and do that one.”
A Scout is “polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless.” He must obey an ironclad law of personal integrity: “If a Scout were to break his honour by telling a lie . . . he would cease to be a Scout—he loses his life,” Baden-Powell warned.
The positive impact the BSA has had on the nation is inestimable. In 2000, the BSA achieved the landmark of 100 millionth Scout since its inception in 1910. Just last year they celebrated the two millionth Eagle Scout award, which represents the pinnacle of youth advancement. To receive the award a requisite mastery of skills, knowledge and character development must be attained.
Today, there are over three million Scouts and 1.2 million adult leaders nationwide. In Eastern Idaho, there are 21,000 youth and over 10,000 adult leaders associated with the BSA. Over 600 young men achieved their Eagle Scout award last year, providing over 45,000 service hours to Eastern Idaho communities in the process, according to Clarke Farrer, Scout Executive for the Grand Teton Council.
Research conducted and compiled by Harris & Associates indicates conclusively that “Young men with strong Scouting backgrounds maintain higher ethical standards, attain higher educational levels, and show less antisocial behavior than do those with no Scouting background.” The research concluded that such positive results are due to Scouting effectively addressing what experts consider to be the “…six critical elements of healthy youth development: (1) strong personal values and character, (2) a positive sense of self-worth and usefulness, (3) caring and nurturing relationships with parents, other adults, and peers, (4) a desire to learn, (5) productive/creative use of time, and (6) social adeptness.”
In today’s climate of self-destructive, antisocial and violent behavior among our youth the goals of Scouting seem anachronistic, like a beacon of light and hope for young men. Any organization that strives to inculcate values, character, and teach valuable skills in a fun and safe environment deserves our individual and collective support.
Some may scoff at the idea of the “safe” environment in light of some regrettable events in recent years. As long as mortals are involved, there is a chance of error, regardless of how good the institution and the precautions taken to prevent problems. Yet according to the Harris research, 98% of young men feel safe in the Scouting environment. Statistically, that’s probably much higher than how many young people feel safe in their own homes.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those most critical, and who seek to do the most harm to Scouting, are the same ones who do all they can to put the youth more at risk by forcing the BSA to allow avowed homosexuals into the program. But we have learned to expect that from the ACLU and others who, rather than create organizations to their specifications, strive to destroy that which is good and noble.
Scouts promise, “On my honor I will do my best. To do my duty to God and my country…” How refreshing in this day and age! The BSA, our local council, and our local units deserve our support, financial and otherwise. There are so many destructive forces working on our children, we need all the positive reinforcement we can get, like we get from the Boy Scouts of America.
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