Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.


(alternatively titled, “Why We Don’t Scout – A Personal Commentary That is in No Way Condemnatory of Those Who Do“)

Kate Miller at GeekMom wrote an article called Cub Scouts: Wonderful or Whack?

This is an interesting article for me because I have considered this aspect of scouting myself, and came to a somewhat similar conclusion. The comments on the article naturally bring a lot of extra commentary to the table, which made for interesting reading.

I don’t have a problem with the Boy Scouts or their Laws, necessarily. I think that open discussion about each point in the BSL is valuable; teaching the kids to think critically about the meaning of each of them and how they each relates to your own beliefs is a good thing. The Boy Scout Law states:

“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

I think the main ‘problem’ I have with the idea of a ‘law’ that a scout must follow is that, in my opinion, these are traits that PEOPLE should have, scout or not. Taking them one by one, I have no trouble with each individual trait as I would define it; but the official meaning of most of them does present the need a ‘qualifier’ to make them fit into my personal ideals.

Naturally, a well-brought-up young man will be courteous and kind and helpful. Meet a child’s physical and emotional needs, value him and what he says and thinks and he will grow up with that dynamic as ‘normal’ and will emulate that behavior in his interactions with others. I belive that this is a key step in developing traits such as loyalty, trustworthiness and bravery and to some extent covers reverence (defining that as ‘deeply respectful’ and directing that towards other people).

But I run into trouble when I read that, according to BSoA’s definition of ‘reverent’, I would be agreeing that ‘A Scout is reverent toward God’. As a secular parent, this would obviously present a problem for me. As a secular parent, I believe in respect for others deeply held beliefs, and teach my children to be also, but that’s all that I think can be reasonably requested. Even opening that statement up to ‘all Gods’ would be problematic; few enough people understand all the facets of their own religions much less the ins-and-outs of others. I do think that it is implied that the Christian God is the target of that reverence. One can’t personally hold deep reverence for something one does not  believe in, and religious preference/choice/indoctrination would have a lot to do with which god or gods one believes in. As an organization that is ‘open to all’, I feel that such a statement and requirement makes for a lot of exclusions.

Moving on to ‘bravery; in our part of the world it’s quite common to come across people who hold bigoted world-views. It takes strength of character and bravery to challenge them, and I want my children to grow up knowing how to stand up for the things they believe in; to the fortitude and stamina to oppose discrimination and injustice. I tend to see the BSL version of ‘bravery’ more along that line than the ‘jump off a cliff’ variety (which smacks more of bowing to peer pressure and not being brave at all).

I can also agree to obedience – with a proviso… obedience when the directive has been weighed and deemed appropriate to follow. I’ve never been an advocate of blind obedience (and had many a hot seat to try to convince me otherwise), and really don’t expect it of my kids, either. Yes, of course there are some days when ‘explaining why’ is just beyond my limit of tolerance and I resort to, ‘Because I’m the Mom and I said so, that’s why!”, but really, my JOB as a parent is to help them become productive members of society. I can’t do that and expect them to comply if all I ever ask is blind obedience. At some point, that’ll backfire – as a member of a pretty strict religious upbringing – and though my parents didn’t expect blind obedience for the most part – I saw it again and again and again. The minute the kids were out from under the ruling thumb, they went wild. I don’t want my kids’ world to be filled with ‘no’ and demands for action without reason. I want them to think critically and have the wherewithal to weigh a request or demand and respond with the best course of action. Sometimes that will mean compliance. Sometimes, it may mean rebellion. I want them to know the difference and have the fortitude to act accordingly.

Clean, I actually do have a problem with. There seemed to be a lot of talk in the comments about ‘clean’ referring only to physical cleanliness, and yes, I can agree that BSoA does concern itself with the physical cleanliness of a growing boy and that’s fine. I actually have a couple of Boy Scout handbooks (they make great additions to our field trip box), and there are some sections that do deal with bodily cleanliness and care. But I have a hard time believing that BSoA is only using that definition when they talk about ‘clean’. I wholeheartedly believe that their ‘clean’ also infers ‘moral cleanliness’ as defined by the generally Christian point of view that homosexuals are ‘unclean’. This is not something that I pulled out of my hat; BSoA released a youth leadership statement in 2004 that echoes this line of reasoning:

“Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed. The conduct of youth members must be in compliance with the Scout Oath and Law, and membership in Boy Scouts of America is contingent upon the willingness to accept Scouting’s values and beliefs. Most boys join Scouting when they are 10 or 11 years old. As they continue in the program, all Scouts are expected to take leadership positions. In the unlikely event that an older boy were to hold himself out as homosexual, he would not be able to continue in a youth leadership position.”

What I can agree with is that BSoA does have the right to set whatever exclusionary rules that they like, as long as they remain a private organization. However, my problem is that they market themselves as ‘open to all’ when that’s not really the case. But that’s really another post. Moving on…

For ‘Friendly, Courteous and Cheerful’, I can agree with Ms. Miller’s – ‘Get out of my personality!” I’m not always friendly, courteous and cheerful, indeed, some days I am surly, rude and full of negativity. I try to stay home on those days, and certainly teach my kids to recognize those days when they strike and attempt to stay out of the limelight. It just seems manipulative to try to ‘make’ kids agree to uphold those traits all the time. I can totally see some well-meaning parent giving her kid a guilt trip on a bad day, “Remember hun! The BSL says that Scouts are cheerful and kind!”… asinine.

Trustworthy, I can agree with, but again this is something that PEOPLE should strive to be – not something that one must be a Scout to exemplify. I really don’t see how Boy Scouts could possibly instill ‘trustworthiness’ into a child. That seems to be a parental role. Loverly Husband and I underscore trustworthiness with our kids all the time. We want a good foundation built now so that when they’re 16 and asking to borrow the car, we can trust that they’ll go where they say they’re going, with whom they say they’ll be with and be back when they agreed to be back. Talking about trust and granting small freedoms now as their level of maturity and responsibility indicates lays that foundation far better than any Boy Scout activity ever could.

So to sum up, I’m not ‘against’ Boy Scouts. I think it’s a neat organization, and if it wasn’t so religiously and politically oriented, I might have let the boys give it a go. I like the skills that they teach and the personal goals and achievement recognition that they provide, but I don’t like the militaristic attitude or the indoctrination aspects. In conclusion, to quote Kate again,

“So, enough with tearing down TLHFCKOCTBCR. I want to prepare for the day when BSA calls and begs me to rewrite the Boy Scout Law for them. Here’s my official redraft:

“A scout is kind, inquisitive, creative, open-minded, resilient, resourceful, confident, collaborative, globally aware, honest, helpful, and just.”

I guess that would be KICORRCCGHHJ. These are the qualities I think a boy should aspire to as he grows into a man. Or a girl into a woman for that matter. Or a transgendered child into a… oh, you get the point.”

I guess we’ll just have to work on instilling those traits into our kids without the Boy Scouts.




6 responses

  1. What a great post, H! See, this is why we do Roots and Shoots (no offense whatsoever to my scouting friends, of course). I actually have a rough draft post for my own blog about this but I keep hesitating to finish it because I don’t know it will offend folks who go the scouts route, but maybe I just need to work on it.
    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this and now I am off to read the article you sited.

    January 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    • Thanks 🙂
      I checked out R&S and there’s actually a group near us – but it’s a high school group. Our local homeschooling group is starting a new 4H club this year, so we’ll be occupied with that – I don’t think we’ll miss out on scouting-type activities!
      Finish your article! I’d love to hear your perspective.


      January 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm

  2. Yep. We could never put our boys in Boy Scouts for those reasons you mentioned. We just started Spiral Scouts which has the potential to be a whole different can of weirdness. It was founded as a “pagan” group but now it is secular and open to all faiths, races and people of various sexual orientation. And it is co-ed. At least our local chapter is. I’m sure it depends on who is running it, I’m sure it could be full of wackos. Their pledge for the little kids is “I promise to serve the wise ones, To honor and respect mother earth, To be helpful and understanding toward all people, And always keep love in my heart.” In other words, it is pretty hippie/earthy and we can swing that way so it works for us.

    January 16, 2011 at 6:44 pm

  3. Hi Amber! I know what you mean about the potential for weirdness, lol. I think our area is entirely too conservative for a SS group – though I think it would be neat to have one here.
    Thanks for commenting!

    January 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm

  4. Ah, the good ol’ Boy Scouts. I was a scout myself for about five minutes, until I got into a heated debate with the troop leader over the terminology of the law.

    I was pretty young, but something just smelled wrong to me, even then.

    In short, the guy asked me what the most important quality in the law was. I said trustworthiness. He said reverence to God. A semantic argument ensued.

    The long – and more interesting – version is here:

    I just ‘discovered’ your blog today, but I’m enjoying what I’ve read so far. I look forward to having a few good homeschooling debates with you. 🙂


    January 24, 2011 at 12:36 pm

  5. Hi Kristian!
    Glad you stopped by. After checking out your blog, I’m really not sure if I should be excited or afraid at the prospect of crossing swords with you on the topic of homeschooling… on second thought, bring it 😉

    I meant what I said though – anyone who can picture Buffy and Starbuck in the same post can’t be all bad!

    January 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Love it? Hate it? Let me know! Leave a comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s