December 19, 2007 11:10 PM   Subscribe

Scoutmaster is a blog from a long-time troop leader in which he talks both about practical scouting tools, such as how to make a fire and how to lash a tower together, and about current issues with discrimination in the BSA.
posted by Upton O'Good (50 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Boy (Cub) Scouts of America -- previously here on Mefi:
Boy Scout Jamboree Vital for National Security.

Cub Scouts - Yes or No?

Spiral Scouts are the Wiccan/Pagan Answer to Boy Scouts...

posted by ericb at 11:25 PM on December 19, 2007

The Mormon | LDS influence in the American Scouting movement.
posted by ericb at 11:31 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

"LDS Scouting.
"Although many churches endorse the 'Scouting' program, only the LDS ('Mormon') church has officially adopted Scouting as a church youth program. As a result, LDS-sponsored troops follow some requirements for membership, advancement, and activities set by the church (with BSA approval). For example, because of the requirements for a boy's progression within the church, LDS troops do not fully accept the 11-year-old Scout entry age. An LDS Scout must still be 12 before he is allowed to participate in the full troop program; 11-year-olds are placed in a special, limited-camping program (formerly called 'Blazer Scouts')."
posted by ericb at 11:39 PM on December 19, 2007

Yes I was a scout. Beyond belief but true, also.

[PS Here's the actual link for that jacket on Scoutmaster.]
posted by humannaire at 12:12 AM on December 20, 2007

"And this merit badge I got for persecuting gays and atheists..."
(Me is Eagle Scout.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:20 AM on December 20, 2007

I like how he has a page explaining what all his little badges mean. I think it's a bit silly to call the Inclusive Scouting one an award though.
posted by hjo3 at 12:44 AM on December 20, 2007

Are there any good blogs for Girl Guides? I was a Guide once...good fun.
posted by divabat at 12:47 AM on December 20, 2007

Former Boy Scout. I mostly lost interest around age 16. It's hard to maintain any interest when you're the exclusive fat, non-athletic kid in the troop.

My nephew stuck around, however. He's an Eagle Scout now and he's bloody insistent that the BSA not allow Atheists and Gays.
posted by SansPoint at 12:51 AM on December 20, 2007

Oh. I got all the way to Boy Scout. Approximately one month into it I realized, "Oh, dorks."
posted by humannaire at 1:16 AM on December 20, 2007

Boy Scouts was one of the best organizations & activities I participated in. Many opportunities for a kid with low self-esteem (me) to challenge & impress myself with what I was capable of. We built structures, snow sleds for winter competitions, fires with sticks and twine. We kayaked & canoed down class 4 rapids, biked from the Oregon border down to San Francisco, learned to ride horses. I made best friends who are still best friends 15 years later.

Fond memories...

I do remember... the kids whose dads were more involved got more leadership training opportunities.

I will encourage (not force) my son to join the Boy Scouts. Whether he does or not, I will be more involved in his life than my dad was in mine to make sure he becomes a strong young man with integrity & better direction that I had.

I would love to find something as powerful for my daughter to join... if you have suggestions? (Maybe martial arts...)
posted by PickupArtist at 1:22 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I look back on my cub scouting years and all I can think, aside from the fun of floor hockey and murder ball, is wtf were we doing chanting gibberish with a wolf's head on a stick?
posted by srboisvert at 1:29 AM on December 20, 2007

I... I was a Weblo scout. I remember corn.
posted by stavrogin at 1:40 AM on December 20, 2007

Very recent Eagle Scout here. As a national organization things definitely need reforming to get rid of the institutionalized intolerance. One of the few things that infuriates me about Scouting (at least on the national level), as the blogger in the post details, is its hipocrisy in this aspect. BSA needs to stand up to LDS etc. and make Scouting just a little bit more progressive. It's a shame that the thing people bring up most when they find out I was in Scouts is the descrimination issue.

Kind of funny: Bush is the honorary president of BSA, so his signature is on my Eagle card. Oh, if he only knew...
posted by anarcation at 2:27 AM on December 20, 2007

Refreshing views on the discriminatory policies of BSA. I hope they do change their evil ways, baby, because until they do, I support 100% all the shit that gets thrown at them, like being kicked out of publicly-funded spaces, and denied funds from United Way.

I'm not atheist, but god damn it, you've ever right to be so as you choose, and you sure shouldn't expect to be excluded from Boy Scouts because of it. And excluding gay boys is just plain stupid and evil, and makes baby Jesus cry.
posted by Goofyy at 2:32 AM on December 20, 2007

I was such an iconoclastic badass that I quit cub scouts way before I would've hit the arrow of light or whatever. Hell yeah, junior rebel me go go go!

Actually I quit because my particular troop was beyond bad. We didn't really do anything. My one vivid memory of cubs was doing some project or other at a house that had Cheerios all over the floor and getting grossed out by it.
posted by the dief at 3:06 AM on December 20, 2007

West Memphis Three.

That's all I'm sayin'.

No wait, those were Cub Scouts, never mind.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:11 AM on December 20, 2007

I would love to find something as powerful for my daughter to join... if you have suggestions? (Maybe martial arts...)

Why not scouts as well? It's no longer just boy scouts. My ex-girlfriend was a scout (prior to meeting me) and took it much farther than I did -- I stopped after boy scounts but she'd kept it up all the way to rovers. It was one of the cool things about her.
posted by Silentgoldfish at 3:23 AM on December 20, 2007

This thread is useless without pictures of naked boys and trees.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:33 AM on December 20, 2007

Whoa, how did that link break? Let me try again:
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:36 AM on December 20, 2007

I was in the Freak Scouts. You probably haven't heard of it as it is much more poorly organised and promoted that the Boy Scouts.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:49 AM on December 20, 2007

I am an Eagle Scout. Most of my adult male friends are Eagle Scouts. Most of my adult female friends were in Explorer Scouts with me. I attended several national and world jamborees and worked with the Scouting program on a national and international level. My father was our Scoutmaster, but I also loved the program. Loved it. I saw the potential in Scouting to change the world for the better. But I don't see that any more.

The program I love is discriminatory and pig-headed in its refusal to respect basic respect for the beliefs of others. It equates homosexuality with child abuse, ignoring all the information that for years has separated the two.

Recently, I started refusing to serve when my dad asked me to serve on Eagle Board of Reviews. He's my dad, and I love him, but I finally had to admit to him that I couldn't support the Scouts because of their policies of exclusion. Which was kind of hard, because I work for my dad, and a lot of our time is spent working on various Scouting projects and fund raisers. But I can't in good conscience do that anymore.

During their latest FOS (Friends of Scouting) Fund Raising drive, a local Scouting official came to our office to talk to my dad about the status of our mailings. He and I have been friends since I was a young Scout. He said to me, "I notice that we haven't received your pledge for Scouting for the last few years. When do you plan to fix that?"

I politely told him that I was unable to donate any money towards Scouting at this time.

"Why not?" He asked.

"Well...I'm having a hard time supporting a program that actively discriminates."

"You mean the gays?" he asked. "You're not gay, are you?"

"No," I told him, "But I'm not black either, and I'd never support a program that excluded you because of the way you were born."

Most people I know donate to the Scouts because they see the good it does on a local level. But the truth is, most of the gay people I know, I met in Scouts (both on the local level AND the national level). No longer is Scouting attracting the best and brightest kids. There are just too many non-discriminatory options out there. I look forward to the day that policy changes.
posted by ColdChef at 5:50 AM on December 20, 2007 [25 favorites]

PickupArtist, look at Venturing. Maybe look at Girl Scouts as well; I don't know if most Girl Scout troops do many activities or not.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:04 AM on December 20, 2007

Cribbing from the comment I made at the site, but when I was a kid, there was no Girl Scout troop for me, so the local Boy Scout troop let me participate as an unofficial member. I loved it; I learned so much, and it was with a great deal of disappointment that I chose not to enroll my son.

I just can't fund or support an organization that actively discriminates, and goes to court to try to enshrine a right to be discriminatory. It's a shame, because I gained a lot of confidence from the things I learned in Scouts, and I think my son would have really enjoyed it, too.
posted by headspace at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2007

I'm an Eagle Scout as well, and stayed in the program until I was 18.

It was some great times spent with people who've become lifelong friends (plus I can make fire in nearly any situation). The discrimination makes me leary about getting future lil' drezdns involved.
posted by drezdn at 6:28 AM on December 20, 2007

*does secret Eagle Scout handshake with all the other Eagle Scouts in the thread*
posted by drezdn at 6:34 AM on December 20, 2007

ColdChef said it well..

I was a scout as a kid, and worked with both cub scouts and boy scouts as an adult when my sons were involved.

I too would love to be able to support the organization financially and by volunteering, but can not for the reasons you all state...the discrimination against gays is wrong.
posted by HuronBob at 6:51 AM on December 20, 2007

I'm another Eagle Scout who is a little disappointed that the achievement flags me as a potential homophobe/religious intolerant rater than someone who can start a fire in the rain or tie a one-handed bowline.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:10 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some of the best times of my life -- both as a kid and a parent. And, no, there was no sense of exclusion or discrimination. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Sadly, what the media has blown out is now a political issue, and wouldn't Philadelphia be the first to take a swing at BSA?
posted by VicNebulous at 7:27 AM on December 20, 2007

Some random scout musings:

It was a shame when they added a uniform badge that everyone could wear, without even doing anything to earn them. Dilution!

The lone scout badge is kind of sad.

We used to think the bolo ties were so cool, because they were a lot easier than dealing with the neckerchief. We probably looked like a bunch of retirees.

We were so proud of our "Polar Bear Club" badges, because we got them at some upstate New York camp and they were so much nicer designed than the ones that everyone else local had.
posted by smackfu at 7:28 AM on December 20, 2007

I'm an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow (which really does have a secret handshake).

Personally, my experience is that everyone I've known in Scouting, with the except of one or two guys who actually did enjoy it, did Scouting simply because their parents made them.

I strongly disagree with the discrimination thing. While I'm not an atheist, I am very skeptical of Catholicism, even though I am technically a Catholic and I got a lot of guff over that when I was getting my Eagle because my Scoutmaster didn't believe I was "reverent" for not attending mass every week. Frankly, I think it's more important I actually do what Christ says instead of going to the same place every week and eat a magic wafer. I've known some Scouts who said they were atheists but I'm not sure how they got away with that.
posted by champthom at 7:36 AM on December 20, 2007

I'm also an OA member (though only ordeal), but I'm pretty sure I was taught a secret Eagle Scout handshake at my court of honor, just as we were taught the Boy Scout one when we became Boy Scouts.
posted by drezdn at 7:42 AM on December 20, 2007

Though I could be totally wrong.
posted by drezdn at 7:49 AM on December 20, 2007

Don't be afraid to use your nails, boys!
posted by jonp72 at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2007

After the bitter disappointment of watching what the BSA became in terms of intolerance, I decided to start my own scouting program.

Thus far I am the only member, but I've earned a number of merit badges so far:

Canoing while drunk
Setting up tent while drunk
Tying knots while drunk
Lighting fire while drunk

I'm still working on these:

Finding way out of tent with brutal hangover
Figuring out where the fuck I am on the river with killer hangover
Untying my shoes from one another with stupidly painful hangover
Putting out forest fire with I'm-never-going-to-drink-again hangover

I'm taking applications for new members if anyone is interested.
posted by quin at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2007 [5 favorites]

OA here (yes, I still remember the secret handshake), but commitment to the debate team meant I never had time to do my Eagle service project. One of my few regrets from an otherwise fairly successful childhood. And yeah, I too deplore the discrimination.

Does anyone here know of a way for former scouts to in some way register their unhappiness with the current state of the organization- something more proactive than refusing to donate? Is there an organization of some sort doing something more active about this?
posted by louie at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2007

I earned the Eagle Scout award. However, I just can't agree with the organization's neoconservative cant it's adopted over the past years. Its position is that being gay is against the "morally straight" aspect of the Scout Oath and the "clean" part of the Scout Law. It also believes that not only atheists but agnostics are also morally unstraight. I just can't support, with my money or effort, such an organization. The BSA used to support segregated troops; hopefully, just as it wised up with that, it will eventually wise up with this.
posted by WCityMike at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2007

I would love to find something as powerful for my daughter to join... if you have suggestions? (Maybe martial arts...)

The women I know who were sea scouts totally kick ass. Not sure if it's causation or correlation, but there you go.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2007

Does anyone here know of a way for former scouts to in some way register their unhappiness with the current state of the organization- something more proactive than refusing to donate? Is there an organization of some sort doing something more active about this?

You can write a letter. Don't know if it will do any good, the Mormons and the Catholic Church have a lock on the Boy Scout leadership and on funding.

A large fraction of the individual troops are at odds with the leadership over this. Perhaps eventually we'll see a schism, where the 12% of the BSA which is Mormon takes their marbles and goes home.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2007

I would love to find something as powerful for my daughter to join... if you have suggestions? (Maybe martial arts...)

Girl Scouts. Most Girl Scout troops are filled with activities that rival the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts do not have a policy of discriminating against atheists or gays. They are in no way affiliated with the Boy Scouts, either.

I was a Girl Scout for years and I loved it. It is part of what made me the strong woman I am today.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:57 AM on December 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I am happy to find that Scouts Canada does not have the same discriminatory practices that BSA has.

I was in the organization from Beavers through Rovers and spent some time as a Venturer adviser. I was not a "popular" child/young adult in the schools I attended, and scouting afforded me an alternate route for making friends. Some of the strongest friends I've ever made were through the scouting movement.

I eventually left because I couldn't deal with the petty politics at the local level. If I ever have children, I will probably encourage them to join the organization.
posted by vansly at 10:29 AM on December 20, 2007

Life scout here. Like many in this thread, I no longer associate with or donate to any cause connected to the Boy Scouts due to their official policy of bigotry. This has resulted in some issues with one of my neighbors, who is a Scoutmaster who fully supports and embraces the BSA's bigotry.

Here's kind of a hypothetical: Would you hire someone that listed a current, active association with the BSA on their resume? Although less common these days, I still see the occasional resume that lists volunteer work and outside non-employment organizations on their resume, including Scouting. It's not come up yet, but I would personally think long and hard before hiring a Scoutmaster - I have homosexuals and atheists on my team, and I certainly would be VERY hesitant to create a morale problem by hiring someone that can't get along with others on the team.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:23 AM on December 20, 2007

Girl Scouts. Most Girl Scout troops are filled with activities that rival the Boy Scouts,

When I was a girl scout a zillion years ago it sucked so bad I quit, and I would have taken almost any excuse to get out of the sticks and into town for something social. Plus the uniforms etc were a strain on our family budget. I'm glad to hear it's changed. And now... we'll stick more sequins onto styrofoam balls- Christmas ornaments! And now some God's Eyes...Not that anyone where I grew needed help making fires but SOME outdoorsmanship would have been nice.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2007

I was an Eagle Scout and loved scouting. I learned lots of skills that come in handy everyday, and had a bunch of great experiences. But for the reasons everyone else has mentioned, BSA is dead to me.

BSA needs to stand up to LDS etc. and make Scouting just a little bit more progressive

They can't and won't. BSA made a deal with LDS in the '70s (just before I became a scout) and LDS basically saved the boy scout bacon. Membership had been on a serious declien through the '60s (paramilitary uniforms were not in vogue) and attempts to attract "urban scouts" failed miserably. But, in need of a structured youth program, LDS swooped in and BSA made a bunch of concessions to provide LDS with some autonomy over the program which led, among other things, to the phenomenon of barely-16 year-old Mormon Eagle Scouts who were required to "get Eagle" before they could get their drivers license.

I don't see how Scouting ends up being anything other than very conservative, religious, and probably increasingly out-of-touch organization.
posted by donovan at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2007

ah, but are they addressing this concern about the troubling relationship (romantization/tokenization) of Native Americans by the Boy Scouts?

Hmm. I thought not.
posted by lunit at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2007

Another Eagle. I remember hearing about Scouting For All about nine years ago, and I was pissed off enough to write an actual letter to BSA, essentially saying they'd never get a dime from me until they joined the late Twentieth Century. Never heard a peep from them.

I don't know what I'm going to do if we have boys and they want to join Scouts. Having a bunch of biogted fucktards get my cash is annoying enough, but then I remember all of the petty troop committee bullshit my parents dealt with for me and my brother (who's also an Eagle). It's like Charlie Stross says about volunteerism: sometimes you'll get people with talent and a sense of duty, but most of the time you get jackholes with too much time on their hands.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2007

...what Charlie Stross says. And that was a paraphrase. Ahem.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:30 PM on December 20, 2007

Another alternative to boy scouting is your state park system. I'm not sure what the programs look like in other states, but New Jersey has activities for all ages that have to do with the environment and scout-like activities. There's a fee attached to a lot of them, but the most they've asked of me is $40, which was well worth it for the couple hours of crafting and hiking that my husband and I did with our four year old.

Most parks have pamphlets with activities and related fees for themselves and a couple other parks nearby, so it's best to go local and poke around. Check the vistor/guest station.

If you have young kids and you're in Jersey, then I highly recommend both Cheesequake and Holmdel Park.
posted by FunkyHelix at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2007

I'm an Eagle Scout, currently serving as Asst. Scoutmaster for my son's troop (and he just got his 2nd class, and I just completed my woodbadge training, and... )

Anyway, I've been reading Scoutmaster for awhile as I too have grown quite disillusioned with the way the program is run at the National level, and was glad to find another Scouter with a similar opinion. I've found there are many good troops out there who are inclusive and work hard to put on a good program for their members.

A good book on the subject is On My Honor: Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth by Jay Mechling, which follows a troop at summer camp, and examines the goals the Scoutmaster has for the boys, the disconnect from the national level, and the challenges of "God, Gays, and Girls".

On September 1, Robert "Bob" Mazzuca became the new Chief Scout Executive, and maybe there some hope for change coming down the pike. I also recently was invited by National to take part in an independently-run, anonymous survey looking at BSA's goals, strengths, and programs with the intent of getting volunteer's opinions. I rated the program elements as strong, marked down the policy pieces, and ended the survey saying that BSA would only truly improve when it ends its exclusionary practices. Don't know what difference it'll make but at least I had an opportunity to provide my opinion.
posted by jazon at 1:45 PM on December 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

Girl Scouts are specifically inclusive as an organization, and they're as good (or as bad) as your local troop parents. It's pretty great, it even says right in the guidebook that though the Girl Scout promise says "I will try to serve God" that the girls should feel free to express their notion of a greater good in any way that is special to them.

When I say the promise, I always say that I will try to serve good, and we've gone out of our way to make sure that all of our girls get an inclusive experience. Instead of the traditional "let's make ornaments and go sing carols to old people" that so many people do at this time of year, we created a care package for some deployed female Marines, and talked about the kinds of service we could offer to our community.
posted by headspace at 5:21 PM on December 20, 2007

An anecdote: When I had my Eagle Court of Honor in 2004, among the many RSVPs, my mother told me that about a half dozen people had called to say they were only coming because of my gay rights activism (I ran the GSA at my Catholic boy's school). About as many people called to say they weren't coming because of that work. This is in the Bay Area, rampant as we are with liberal democrats and tree-hugging affluent white folk.

This issue is hard for me. It's almost begrudgingly that I admit my 11 years in Scouting (Tiger Cub to Eagle) shaped me more than any other experience. If I have strength of character, I believe I owe much of it to the BSA. [Also cribbing from my comment on the blog:]

But I'm conflicted as to whether I will want my (notional) son to join the organization that means so much to me. The blogger says that the BSA should let troops decide their own policies on admitting gay scouts. I think the BSA needs to not just open itself to tolerance but needs to embrace and accept. Scouting nurtured and supported this straight white boy for 11 years, and I think anything short of explicitly welcoming policies for boys from all walks of life (and all sexual identities) will continue to leave so many others out.

champthom, I have to say I never understood OA. I'm going to go away for the weekend, people will treat me like shit, I'll do manual labor, not speak, and hardly eat, and then participate in this absurdly racist American Indian indoctrination ceremony? So that I can go back and treat other kids like shit and move higher? I mean, props to boys who used OA as an avenue to all sorts of great leadership, etc, but it was not my thing.
posted by coolhappysteve at 8:46 PM on December 20, 2007

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