I approach this subject as one who benefited from the Boy Scout Movement, first as a young boy, and then as an adult.
I entered Cub Scouting at the age of eight, and continued through the ranks to WeBeLoS, and eventually obtained the ranking of Second Class Boy Scout. I later got involved with scouting as an adult, first as an Army Chaplain stationed at two military installations (one state side – the other overseas), and then as a parent of two boys.
Robert S. S. Baden-Powell
The founder of the international Scouting Movement was a former British military officer named Lord Baden-Powell, who became concerned when his military manual, “Aids To Scouting”, became a best-seller and was being used by youth organizations. He felt that boys should be learning to develop their skills, and make significant contributions to society.
Observing the work and organization of the Boy’s Brigade, Lord Baden-Powell saw potential for the use of boy power… and was challenged by Sir William Smith to re-write the manual, naming it “Scouting For Boys” – which formed an ideology and training method that captured the minds and spirits of boys, and sparked a movement around the world. As a military officer stationed in South Africa, he observed the rites of passage of the Zulu people. This he combined with certain “non-combatant” military skills, a pledge to a life of service, a code of conduct, and a distinctive uniform. He explored his concepts with 22 boys of mixed social backgrounds on Brownsea Island (off the coast of England) in 1907 – the rest became history.
William D. Boyce, a Chicago Publisher visiting London, was assisted by a British Boy Scout in a dense fog – without accepting a tip for his service. The scout cited that it was his duty to do a “Good Turn” without payment. Amazed, Boyce studied this movement – and later on February 8, 1910, founded the Boy Scouts Of America (BSA). This organization incorporated rich Native American scouting customs, along with the works of Ernest Thomas Seton’s Woodcraft Indians and Daniel Carter Beard’s naturalist and pioneering spirit. James E. West became the first Chief Scout Executive.
I salute Lord Baden-Powell for being instrumental in the creation of positive directions for youth, thus helping young boys develop character and a commitment to a life of service. The same can be said for Boyce, Seton, Beard, and West.
If presented and modeled well, scouting gives boys a sense of purpose, worthy goals to strive for, a code of conduct, and a life of service. These are the building blocks of assisting boys to understand the responsibilities of adulthood. These were principles which scouting taught me, and that which I still regard highly today.
Unfortunately, the growth of scouting surpassed its ability to supervise, manage and maintain quality control… it became a business, largely losing its vibrant spirit and commitment to the development of youth… it’s personal touch was lost. It also became subject to religious influence and political correctness of the times.
Many Scout Councils fail to develop and maintain strong and influential adult leadership on a Pack/Troop Committee level… so, several boys suffered discouragement. This was true for me. I know that with a little more personal assistance and encouragement, I could have become an Eagle Scout. Sadly, I must admit – as a scout, I didn’t know of ranks beyond that of First Class Scout (I didn’t make First Class because I couldn’t swim – and I didn’t receive much assistance in learning). Progression through the ranks is the job of the local Advancement Committee… whose first job is scout education.
As a former Cub Scout, WeBeLoS Scout, Boy Scout, Scouter (Adult Scout Committee Member), Assistant Cub Scout Webelos Leader, Assistant Boy Scoutmaster, and adult Order Of Arrow – Brotherhood member.. I know that scouting in theory, is much more than scouting in practice today. Scouting may have grown and developed into a massive organization through the years… but, it has lost much of the original glow of the “scouting spirit”. This is in no way discounts the earnest dedication and commitment of exceptional individuals – who personify the spirit of scouting’s founders. To them, I give my utmost respect and eternal loyalty… for a selfless job, well done!