Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In Defense of Scouting

I just spent 4 days at Webelos Extreme camp, which was created 5 years ago as an opportunity to introduce Webelos (10 and 11 yr olds) to Boy Scouts and the cool things they'll get to do when they get there. Over 200 boys from across Central Texas participated in cooking, shooting sports, rock climbing, canoeing, and a ton of other activities. Its a really great experience, and I saw a lot of very tired, but very happy boys this afternoon when we had our closing ceremony.

Now, I know that Scouting organization has had its challenges, the adults that have created problems, and so on. I get that, and I also know the lengths that Scouting has gone to in response. I also know that a lot of people thing that Scouts is full of weird kids that don't fit in elsewhere. Here's what I say in response, yeah, there are some kids like that, and I think that is one of the greatest strengths of Scouting. The kids that cannot throw a football may discover through Scouting that he's a great cook, or that he can design and build a 40 foot tower with tree branches and rope, or he can start a fire with battery and steel wool. Or, he may discover that he can organize and lead a group of boys through a weekend of activities. Scouts offers kids an exposure to any number of opportunities they would not have elsewhere. My son Jack is headed to Washington, DC this weekend for the National Jamboree, he'll spend a couple days sightseeing, then 10 days with 40,000 other Scouts at the Jamboree. In a couple of years, I hope he'll go to Philmont for an 11 day wilderness experience. If he chooses, he can sail tall ships in the Bahamas, scuba in the Keys, canoe the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. My brother served as an honor guard and stood on the podium with George HW Bush at his inauguration, I opened doors for people at an inaugural ball. The potential is endless and its not available elsewhere. Scouting is a place available for everyone, you don't have to be an athlete, exceptionally smart, good looking, or anything, you just have to want to participate.

Like any big organization, Scouting is not perfect. However, I don't think there is another organization that provides as much opportunity for the boys who participate in it. No place else will they be able to do so many different things, meet so many different kinds of people and do so many cool things.

I haven't even talked about the fundamental purpose of Scouting which is character development. Young men in scouting learn and hopefully adhere to the Scout Oath and Law to become well rounded men who have led and understand the responsibility of leadership. This is the key thing that sets Scouting apart because no place else will they be surrounded by so many people focused on the same goals, with the same purpose, working together to become men of character.