August 9, 1991


Are You a Good Scout?

To think for himself! Oh, my God, teach him to think like other people!

Mary Godwin Shelley: On being advised to send her son to a school where he would be taught to think for himself, c.1825

Being in the army is like being in the Boy Scouts, except that the Boy Scouts have adult supervision.

Blake Clark

When you join a church, a political party or a lodge, it's a good idea to know what the values of the organizations are. If they are similar to your own, you might want to join; if not, it's probably a good idea to stay out.

The scouts (boy, girl and sea) represent an organization whose purpose is to inculcate children with certain values. If parents do not share those values, they might consider keeping their kids out. However, there's a price. That price is that your kids may give you a hard time: "Dad, everybody is in it!" The additional problem is that a parent might want his kids to get some of the things that the scouts offer, such as camping and other skills. It can be a tough choice.

What are the values of the scouts? As I see it, they come closest to the values of the military. From the uniform to the oath, the values are military ones. The only thing missing are the weapons. Unlike the military, if you don't like it you can always quit.

The girl scouts used to be designed to inculcate girls with the traditional female skills such as cooking --and eating. I wonder if this has changed now that women are now in the military as well as in other traditionally male occupations.

Organizations designed to indoctrinate children with prevalent values are not new. Every country has them. The Nazis had the Hitler Youth, the Communists had the Young Pioneers. Most religions have organizations which indoctrinate the young.

"Come off it", you might say, "the scouts are nothing like that." --Aren't they? Maybe they aren't the same, but the purpose is the same: to indoctrinate the young with the values of those who run the organization. All organizations that cater to children, from The Scouts to Little League, have one value in common: conformity. A kid who is "different" would not be expected to do too well in any of these organization.

I expected The Scouts to be associated with Teddy Roosevelt, because the organization's values seem similar to his. However, The Scouts were founded in 1910, a year after he ended his term as president. It was, nevertheless, in his time and represented the articulated values of that period. It has changed about the same way as people have changed, but the changes have not affected the basic aims of the organization. I suppose that there is now a computer merit badge.

If you live in Salt Lake City, there are Mormon troops as well as troops connected to many other churches. I am sure that there are troops somewhere which are basically secular, but they don't advertise. Nor do they make a fuss over the oath or the uniform.

If you want your kid to be an independent thinker, keep him/her out of the scouts. If your kid has different ideas or doesn't believe in God, and you don't want him humiliated or ostricised, find another organization.

But there is no organization for non-conformists!

Do non-conformists need an organization?

Only if they want something to conform to.

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