What would your city be like without Scouts?

In Scouting’s April 1921 edition, a U.S. District Court judge states, “No city can afford to be without its Boy Scouts.”

Judge Foster argues, “I have never come in touch with a man who had Scout training without finding him efficient and proud that he had been a Scout.

“If every boy in the United States could be taught Scouting, we could be assured of a patriotic, virile citizenry that would be a lasting bulwark against all enemies from within and without.”

Set in the context of the 1921s — in the post-World War I, Roaring Twenties climate — it’s not too hard to imagine how Scouts (and plentiful Good Turns) helped strengthen communities.

Help us examine this statement in the context of today’s cities.

Share your comment: What would your city be like without Scouts? How do your Scouts improve the community in which they serve?

Have you viewed some of the historical editions of Scouting magazine housed in our digital archive? You won’t be disappointed.

21 thoughts on “What would your city be like without Scouts?

  1. You know in my tiny hamlet, we have a small but pretty significant national park which memorializes and educates about two significant and historic battles in the US Civil War. I know for a fact that every year the park is inundated by Life Scouts looking to do a project for that park. My son’s project involved trail benches, another years before blazed some of those very trails, another made the bridges along them… If you think of just what Scouting has done in the small national park in our small southern town think about the the rest of this beautiful nation…

  2. “If every boy in the United States could be taught Scouting…”

    If only membership in the BSA was actually open to every boy in the United States.

  3. Unfortunately, in a vast majority of our cities and towns, very very few people know that Scouting even *exists today*. I’ve been to many of those cities and towns over the last 20 years — mostly at the invite of Scouters and parents who simply ask me to “come to their town. Be around. And wear your Scout uniform”. When people come up to you and ask either “you’re in Scouts? I didn’t even know we still had Scouts in this town…” or “can you tell me how to be a part of Scouts in this town?”, pretty well Scouting has all but dried up.

    At least the awareness of Scouting by the general citizenry, any way.

    I (and many of you) can share stories of our youth, in which if not every kid in town was a Scout, they knew of at least three or four Scouts; show you projects which Scouts did, not for Eagle but rather because “they saw a need and did it…”; and talked openly about what they did somewhere as a Scout and as a member of “the best Scout group in town…”

    Today, it is as if the word “Scout” or “Boy Scout” is a negative word. Don’t blame the media, those who don’t like our direction, those who had bad personal experiences in Scouting — nor video games and “electronica”. As Michael Jackson sang, it’s “that man in the mirror…”

    It’s us.

    Today many of us treat Scouting like its a secret fraternal order. In our childhood, we would see bumper stickers proclaiming not only that that vehicle contains or is driven by a person connected to Scouting — but of camps, high adventure centers, and other activities (Wood Badge or National Camping School, for instance). Today, we see very few of those, because of some fear that someone will come up to us and start yelling in our faces about how we’re “not fair” or “not right” or whatever. So we cower in our vehicles as we drive to and from Scouting events; bring changes of clothing to change from Clark and Clarissa Kents to “super people”; and resist the urge to even wear a pin or have on our desk an Eagle Scout cube.

    Not me, buddy or buddette.

    My van has Scouting stickers. I wear Scouting clothing every day — most notably a red jac-shirt with several patches on it; a red fleece jacket with an Eagle Scout cloth badge and a large OA patch in the center of the back; a blue fleece jacket (until I can find a blue jac-shirt in my size) with patches; or when I have to be semi-formal and professional-looking, a suit jacket with a small Eagle pin (and now a small Outstanding Eagle pin) on it. I freely talk about my Scouting experiences at lunch. I sometimes bore friends with what things Scouting is doing locally and nationally. I answer questions based on my own experiences and knowledge. I’m the guy who actually points people to the BSA’s or a local Council’s website. It’s no fraternity to me. Our handshake’s not secret, we don’t whisper in each other’s ears “be prepared” and “for life”; and I don’t know how many times I’ve made the Sign of the Scout at an NON-SCOUTING event or meeting and got people to pay attention and stop their yapping for a few seconds.

    Society has changed a lot…but at the same time, kids today are wanting the same things that kids in the 20s wanted. Adventure. Respect. Hard work and reward for the hard work. Pride. Belonging. and most of all, they want confidence or to build upon what confidence they already had. Scouting provides all of that and more…but not if the adults involved in our programs are too chicken to even SAY or DEMONSTRATE that they are a part of a program aimed at doing those things young people want.

    So we need to stop treating Scouting as if it was a secret social club, only available to those “special few” who can afford not the costs — but afford to be *known as members* to the public. When people in the public eye — all of us, not just the ones on the TV or computer tubes — start talking about their Scouting experiences — or their lack of Scouting experiences but their respect and confidence for those engaged in Scouting leadership — we’ll get out of these “dark days” and enter back into the bright light of community acceptance and integration.

    It’s that person in the mirror, Jackson sings. They’ve got to change their ways, and no message can be clearer…

    • Mike you make great points… I for one drive a little Scion with a “I’m Proud to be an Eagle Scout” sticker on the back long with one of those nifty new “Don’t worry… My Son is an Eagle Scout” vinyl jobs the Scout Shop just got a couple months back. When you open the doors. the headlamp is a joyful Kelly green color, along with my illuminated door sills. But the coup-de-grace is the license plate “VNTRNG” which more than once has struck up a conversation.

      By the way Mike, you are always welcome to come to our little town, and wear the uniform. I’ll join you any day! I’d like to think that you’d be pleasantly surprised.

      Oh… If you ever do take me up on it, I’m sure my crew will even give you a small flamingo… (See my posting on patrol emblems for the explanation.) 🙂

      Cheers, sir!

    • Speak for yourself. My car’s got Scouting stickers plastered. I am regularly seen in uniform or a Scout tee shirt.

      What is killing Scouting in our town is sports, specifically soccer. The time commitment demanded of the kids is such that they cannot devote time to Scouting nor do their parents in many cases have the time and/or money to support their cons in both Scouting and sports.

      Then again, recent social engineering changes may be involved as well. Both of my sons have been harangued at school because, “You know Scouts is gay.” True story, whether you choose to believe it or not.

  4. “If every boy in the United States could be taught Scouting…”

    If only membership in the BSA was actually open to every boy in the United States.

    Over 15-million children in the United States are atheists, of a non-theistic religion/faith, or are otherwise religiously unaffiliated. These youth are not welcomed into the BSA simply based on their beliefs and are never taught Scouting.

    And more than 6-million children in the United States have a LGBT parents (over 270,000 of them live in households headed by a same-sex couple). They are not going to join an origanization where their parents aren’t allowed to get involved. Cub Scouting after all is a family-based program. These youth are not welcomed into the BSA and thus never taught Scouting.

    Scouting should be open to all youth in America!

    • I’m sorry, Jorma, that you don’t understand the Scout Law and oath. Duty to God is, and has always been part of Scouting. So is reverence. If you wish the law to be pick 11 of 12, this isn’t your organization. If you want to remove “duty to God” from the oath, then how will you argue against someone wanting to remove another of the tenets. Scouting teaches acceptable behaviour in addition to skills. Please don’t try to dilute it until it has no metrics of behavior at all. Don’t drop it to “On my Honor, whatever…” Even then someone will argue with honor.

      • Sorry, but Scouting was not started as a religion club… and “reverent” does not mean “religious.” If the BSA wants to continue hanging on to these out-dated, discriminatory views, perhaps they should remove themselves from the World Scout Organization.

        The World Organization of the Scout Movement stated in 2011:
        “Scouting is an organization that is not exclusive on any grounds of discrimination. The World Organization of the Scout Movement has to stand up for civil and human rights… The World Scout Committee expresses deep concern at the occurrence of violations and discriminations of human rights in the world against persons on the grounds of their race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, sexual orientation, gender identity, birth or other status stresses that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the birthright of all human beings, that the universal nature of these.”

        I’m surprised that WOSM allows BSA members to wear the purple World Crest on their uniforms when the organization continues to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and religion. The Scouting movement in the UK (the organization founded by Baden-Powell himself) allows atheists, agnostics, and homosexuals in their ranks.

        If the BSA wants to continue this discrimination (which they have the legal right to do in America), then they really should stop calling themselves “Scouts” and remove themselves from the World Organization of the Scouting Movement. As WOSM says: “Scouting is an organization that is not exclusive on any grounds of discrimination” including “religion,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity.” It’s clear as day.

        • Sorry, SMSteve, but you cannot singlehandedly rewrite the 12 points of the Boy Scout Law as it is used in the US just to suit YOUR prejudices.

          To call someone or some organization discriminatory because they do not believe exactly as you do is in itself discriminatory. The simple statement that “A Scout is…” is discriminatory in that it disqualifies those who are, by nature untrustworthy, disloyal, unhelpful, unfriendly, discourteous, unkind, disobedient, uncheerful, etc.

          If you disagree with the tenets of BSA, then you are being hypocritical staying a member. The sexual orientation issue was not really an issue, since sexuality, apart from the YPT angle, was not part of the program. It only became an issue when certain people demanded shoved their sexuality in your face and DEMANDED acceptance of their views. If it weren’t so repulsive, the intolerance of “tolerant” people would be humerous.

          Likewise, someone who says they will do their best to do their “Duty to God” is untrustworthy if he simultaneously claims to be atheist or agnostic.

          Now, can we get back to reflecting on the positive accomplishments of Scouting – the boys who have learned leadership, self-sufficiency,developed character, provided service, etc.

        • Carey –

          You say sexual orientation issue was not really an issue since sexuality is not part of the program (I agree with you that sexuality is not part of the Scouting program) but you go on to say it only became an issue when certain people demanded to shove their sexuality in your face.

          If a Scout leader (of any sexual orientation) is bringing sex into Scouting it is wrong.

          Now when a male Den leader brings a plate of homemade cookies to a Cub Scout meeting and says “my wife baked these cookies for our meeting, I hope you enjoy them” is he shoving his sexuality in your face? No, of course not.

          Now if the same male Scoutmaster brought the same cookies to the same meeting but said “my husband baked these cookies” he’s all of a sudden shoving his sexuality in your face? What?!? Sorry, but that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.

          If a male leader simply mentioning that he has a boyfriend is considered “too sexual” for Scouting then a male leader mentioning that he has a wife (which he made children with) should be also considered “too sexual” and he should be removed from the program too.

          If you truly want homosexual leaders to “stay in the closet” and keep their sexuality out of Scouting (and out of “your face”), then you need heterosexual leaders to do the same (i.e. Scouts shouldn’t know if leaders have wives or husbands or girlfriends or boyfriends… or even children for that matter). Scout leaders should be 100% asexual.

          Now if a leader (of any sexual orientation) is truly bringing sex into Scouting (i.e. talking about sexual acts, having explicit public displays of affection in front of Scouts, sharing the details of their sex life or bedroom activities, showing pornographic material, etc.) it is wrong and that person should be removed from Scouting. If bringing your significant other, spouse or family into Scouting is considered bringing your sexuality into Scouting then there are a lot of heterosexual Scout leaders that have brought their sexuality into the program already.

        • BSA has jumped on the bandwagon to promote homosexuality as something natural, normal, healthy, and desirable. I find it quite interesting that policies mandate separation of sleeping, toilet, and bathing facilities for male and female (to eliminate sexual temptation) but not for homosexual and heterosexual, particularly among the youth (evidently under the pretense that there is no same-sex sexual temptation). Frankly, I wish BSA would remove itself from WOSM and get back to Scouting instead of social engineering.

        • “We realize that in addition to the interests of our particular country, there is a higher mission before us, namely the promotion of the Kingdom of God ….”

          “There is no religious “side” of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.”

          Quotes from BP himself. The fact that others have twisted or ignored his words does not change wrong into right.

    • The BSA is by design a religious organization, we may support dozens of different faiths, but at our core we teach the value of reverence.

      There are certainly some great youth programs out there that teach honest values but don’t teach reverence, and that is OK too.

      Let’s face it, if people are wrong for either being religious or atheist, by the time we realize that we were, we won’t be in a position to tell any else what the true answer was anyways…. Just saying.

      • Jorma makes some good points, but for the wrong reasons. One can be “reverent” without a deist faith. I point to Budhism. Atheists have been members many times, without the hand raising and “I’m over here!!” attitude. True, the “Declararion of Religious Principle” can be a stumbling block to some, but then, the Scout Promise lets the Scout do “his duty to God” as he will, and be tue to his vision. It is not for me to tell him what that vision is. Is it yours?
        We talk to boys all the time who are questioning their faith (or lack of). I have no problem with a boy who doesn’t have a defined “faith”. It is not for me to question that, only to remind him of his need to be respectful of others’ faiths (and they of his).
        As for the sexual orientation of a Scout, that is none of my business either. So long as he (and our adult leaders) abide by our “Youth Protection” rules, there is no issue. Again, it is when someone waves his hand and insists that everyone “look at meeee!” ( and that includes the macho heteros too) that I have issue. We have no Sexuality Merit Badge. It should have no play in Scouting.
        The acceptance of “all boys” is already underway. The acceptance of all worthy adults will happen. Give it time.
        In the mean time, good PR and media use and the wearing of Scout garb ( a hat, a belt buckle, a T-shirt) can do wonders. When was the last time you read in the newspaper (remember them) about a Scout Troop or Cub Pack service project or adventure? It’s up to YOU to get the word out…
        Good Scouting to you!

  5. Mike Walton nailed it! We need to build a community that promotes our program. That starts within the Troop, Pack or Crew. Then it spreads to the community around our unit and then to the larger community of our cities and our states.

    We cannot expect our program to have any impact if parents ask their kids to do a tuck and roll at 35 as they drop them off for a meeting. It starts with engaging the parents,and getting them to see how much fun and how rewarding it is to be a scout parent. Then the boys will see that this program is worth doing when they see their parents involved and making a difference. If they see mom or dad in a uniform they will realize that this program is truly important to their families, and not just another burden on the already full family calendar.

    Once the adults in the unit are in community like the boys are, then get out there and share that feeling with others in your neighborhood. When people ask what I do for a living I tell them I have two jobs and one is that of a scout volunteer. I have yet to have to a negative response, usually its positive and they share a scouting story with me.

    When we understand the good we can do if we are in community with our fellow leaders and scout families, as well as our neighbors, we will begin to see the spirit of scouting return to our units. Our community at large will be better for it and so will our nation.

    I am sure when Baden Powell crafted the scout law he never imagined that it would take courage just to wear the uniform, but unfortunately It does take courage to wear the uniform today, and I for one am happy to do so. Join me and encourage others to get involved and do the same!

  6. Well put, both of you. If you do get some negative comments from anyone from being proud to wear the uniform and be a scout or scouter, simply tell the one criticizing “If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong!” – might take them a little time to understand. Also, ask them why they are “scoutaphobic”.

  7. A couple of observations I would like to make. First, to my observations, Scouting has always suffered from a perception problem of what the program is all about. Ask most people what scouting is about and you get the usual camping, knots, hiking etc. As if scouting is for kids who cant pass, block, hit or dunk. If you ask people if they know what the scout oath or law is you’re likely to get a blank stare instead of an answer. Too few people,, and I would guess especially in the larger cities understand that Scouting is a leadership program as well as a physical fitness program. They don’t understand that all the camping and hiking and knots etc are a means to an end, not the end itself. Secondly, and I know this isn’t the case eveywhere or should it be anywhere,, the inescapable fact is that economic realities too often determine what child becomes a scout, or a band member, or a little league player or what ever. My district is a perfect microcosim of this. In my district there are troops with over 100 scouts in them. There are two troops that have celebrated their centennials.. and there are tţroops that are circling the drain too. Where are the large troops at that have been around for ever? In the more economically affluent areas. Where are the troops that are circling the draIn? Where there isn’t much money going around. I guess it’s hard to ask an otherwise good man to devote himself to scouting or any other activity when he’s working two jobs just to keep a roof over his families head. To answer your question, what would your city be like without scouts, just look at any city and plot out where the troops are, and especially the larger more successful troops They’ll be in the affluent areas and the less affluent areas, if they even have a troop wont be setting any records. Not rIght, shouldn’t be but true none the less.

    • Good point – I promote Scouting as the premier organization developing character and citizenship – It may not be as strong as we would like in some communities – but see http://www.harlemscouts.org/ to understand that what is important to success are dedicated trained leaders who put the benefit to the boys first – I ordered and have viewed this video several years ago, and would recommend it to anyone.

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