Friday, May 27, 2011

Scouting Sucks

Being a Boy Scout is about as counter culture a program you will find for a 10 – 18 year old youth today. On purpose these guys do things others do not. They camp once every month from Friday night to Sunday afternoon --rain, shine, snow, heat, bugs, filth with no access to electronics or girls.

While on these outings they have complete responsibility to set up camp, plan/cook meals, clean up and deal with the interpersonal conflicts that naturally arise among teenagers of diverse backgrounds.

Yes there are adults but they keep to themselves and let the Scouts run the weekend.

Three or four Mondays a month they put on a uniform and attend a chaotic meeting planned and run by fellow Scouts that have been elected as their leaders. These meeting times are used to learn skills like first aid, pioneering, hiking, cold weather camping and more. Amazingly, these skills are taught not by adult “experts” but instead by an older Scout that has been assigned the task of teaching.

At the end of the meeting, the Scouts still have work to do by cleaning the meeting room by either vacuuming or sweeping.

Many times throughout the year they spend hours doing community service through projects that include building trails, gathering food for the food bank, doing projects that benefit local non-profits and other menial tasks that tend to totally blow personal time on a weekend.

Then there is the teasing. Chances are that at school their non-Scout friends give them a hard time about being a Scout. “What do you mean you can’t hang out this weekend?” “Scouts are dorks” “That uniform is gay” “You are in High School now, aren’t you a little old to be hanging out with 11 year olds playing campout?”

Scouts do hard things. Why?

First of all what other organization trusts youth to completely run a program and puts them in charge of adults? Second of all, as crazy as it sounds, community service and camping through hardships is actually a lot of fun.

The truth is that by doing hard things now that few others are willing to do they are learning to do the same throughout life.

Someday in their career they may be tasked to complete a complex project and think back to the planning skills they learned to pull off on that winter campout for 60 people. Someday they may be faced with an interpersonal conflict and think back to that time they successfully mediated between two younger Scouts that were arguing. Someday they may see a need to serve others and have the skill to organize a team to clean up after a great storm. Someday they may happen upon an injured person needing immediate medical help and find they are the only one that knows what to do. Someday they may find themselves trapped in a personal hardship, remember that day they hiked 16 miles in the rain at Philmont and know they can climb any mountain life sends their way. Someday they may be faced with an ethical issue and deep down remember the Oath and Law they recited so many times.

Most of all, when faced with a hard task that looks to be insurmountable they can look back and say “I am Prepared and I can do it”

The funny thing is that during all the learning of their youth, most will never know that the Boy Scouts of America purposely had them experience challenges as a Scout so they could conquer even more difficult ones as an adult.

No Scouting does not suck.

In our sterile world we need to raise a generation of people that are willing to do what is hard and learn to enjoy giving up the self for the betterment of others. I for one and glad to be part of an organization that for over 100 years now has been doing that.