There are a lot of principles that we try to teach our children, that the next generation needs for success: respect for themselves and others, responsibility, and honesty to name just a few. As a parent, first hand, I get to see the challenge of instilling these values and experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Watching my brother grow up and now with my own sons, I’ve learned that one of the best ways to teach solid principles is Boy Scouts.
Even as a young girl, I was very aware of Boy Scouts. I followed along as my brother earned badges and ranks, cheered during the Pinewood Derby races, laughed at the skits--Scouts has some tremendously fun skits--and watched on the outskirts as my brother grew through a special group that guided him better than any other I’ve ever known. Today, my brother is an Eagle Scout and an admirable man, husband, and friend. I will be pleased if my sons grow into anyone near as good and honored as my brother and many other Scouts.
Scouting fills a gap that we often miss today. It provides a structured and fun way of learning to be good citizens and be in community. It provides a sense of real accomplishment and fulfills the human need for rites of passage that have become far too rare in modern society. But best of all, it illustrates for boys the path to honored manhood. I know of no other group with such basic and easy to teach principles as “Do your best” and “Leave a place cleaner than how you found it.” There is no other group I would rather have my boys a part of as they grow up.
So why do I bring this all up today, aside from the fact that I had just gotten back from a Cub Scout meeting when I started writing this post?
First of all, I believe in praising and standing up for the things and people that are noble and good in our society. Yesterday, The Boy Scouts of America complied with a requirement to release old files regarding child abuse in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. It is a sad truth that, whenever humans get together in groups, some of the worst comes out. Unfortunately, some suffer from these tragedies as a result, and they have my deepest sympathies. It is also a truth that, in such groups, some of the best and most admirable people can emerge. Boy Scouts is the best group I know of that encourages that best and those admirable traits and people. From personal experience, I know that Boy Scouts has some of the strictest policies in place to protect kids these days. My children and I have participated in lots of different activities and groups. None of them come anywhere near as close to the extensive precautions Boy Scouts takes to provide good and trustworthy leaders.
And second, as a writer, particularly one who likes to include historical touches to her fiction, I appreciate opportunities to see real life examples of people and education that might be similar to that I would wish a fictional hero to embody or experience. My eldest son and husband describe Scouts as today’s knights. As a Cub Scout, my son is like a page learning the foundation he’ll need later in Scouts and life. He takes great pride in this fact. When he is a little older, he will become a Boy Scout, much like a page becoming a squire. The responsibilities are greater, the opportunities and achievements more admirable, and, at the end, if he works hard, he has the chance to become an Eagle Scout, an achievement we liken to one of the rare ways he, as a modern American boy, can compare to becoming a knight, one of his greatest dreams. In short, I am blessed with the chance to watch how boys grow into young men in real life. I am able to observe how noble principles are taught through example, mentoring, experience, recognition and achievement, and guidance based on good values. Respect, responsibility, honesty, duty, goodwill, and the other values taught in Boy Scouts are things I want to see in my heroes, both fictional and real.