Mike Walton (blackeagle)

I thought you taught...

By: Posted On: 2019-04-15


Norman Rockwell print used under Fair Usage guidelines


A frequent comment which finds its way into part of the daily email I receive from parents and Scout leaders ("Scouters") goes something like this:


"Isn't scouting one of the last or THE last traditional boy's program left where boys can be taught how to be men."


No. The BSA was never designed to "teach boys how to be men."


Actually, this goes back to the PARENTS of the Scout. THEY -- especially the male part of the family -- should be coaching their sons on "behavior which men should behave under" and set the personal example for their sons. Scouting only reinforces those positive behaviors gained from families. 


This is why many families just send their sons to Scouts saying "I can't do anything with him...maybe if he's around you, he'll learn some things about being a guy..."


Sure, yeah. He'll learn some leadership skills, some outdoor skills, some health and safety skills especially around sharp objects. Will Scouting be the "primary instructor" in teaching things like manners, proper behavior around girls and women, and self-esteem (maybe)? No. The parents serve as that "primary instructor," and Scouting, church, school and yeah his peers provide that "secondary and application instruction."


Part of the problem that both schools and programs like Scouting have today is that parents are expecting everyone else to "teach my son how to behave the right way." That teaching that instruction begins at home. 


A Scouter named Charlie and I travel around in many of the same Scouting circles; he stated a truism:


"For both of the (Cub Scout) dens I have led through the program I have had several single-parent families where mom wanted her son to get a male role model and learn how he should act and behave. From my first group, I still have moms stop me and say how much they appreciate the fact that I gave their son a proper role model of what a man should be. So in some cases, the leader or coach is the only role model that the boy has."


That's a great outcome from what Scouting can do....but I still hold to my contention that the PARENT (and the support group he or she has confidence in) should be the "first line" of teaching those male role modeling "rules of behavior" to their children, male and female. 


I get lots of emails (not as much as what I received after the turn of the century but I do get....17 pieces of mail today so far this Sunday...) which say in a similar form what Cheryl wrote to me this morning:


"I need a male to show my son "the ropes" so to speak, in how to be a [Black] man living in this world. My son watches TV and listens to the radio, and if the words are not bleeped out, they are still spoken. I do my best, but I need a man to tell him that this is not what real men say or do. I want him in Scouts so that he can learn what is right."


Her son is eight. I wrote back to her that Scouting won't teach him to know what is right, but rather to give him some tools to help him decide what is "appropriate speech" around people and what isn't. We're NOT in the "teaching business" but the "responsible citizenship, personal character, and personal and mental fitness development business." 


I also wrote to her that in her circle of friends which SHE can rely on for positive "impressions," that there are men and women she should reach outward to influence her child. Chances are, in that Cub Scout Pack she is asking for more information about, there are going to be very few male "models" and a lot more female "models."  


As I stated earlier, it is not the gender of the person giving the "example," but rather what that person actually "says and does" which imprints to the child.


"We adults don't "teach" anything...that is the role of the Scouts' peers and their elected leaders. We SHOW and DEMONSTRATE to them responsible citizenship by our actions."


Several Scouters took issue with what I stated on Scouts-L, a daily electronic "Roundtable meeting" which "never ends" about this. I defended what I wrote above there. Many did not agree with me. 


That's fine. If that's the way their unit approaches Scouting, that's all good. I'm not trying to argue with their delivery of Scouting in their units, for every Scouting unit delivers the Scouting program uniquely.


What I am taking issue with, and which many of you do agree with me, is the lack of parental training of their sons, then leaving it to me and you and other Scouters to "teach him how to be a man." That has NEVER been the purpose of Scouting, then as well as now.  Our job isn't to "teach him how to be a man" or "how to grow up." That's a parental obligation and responsibility -- whether there's a male "figure" around the house or within one's circle or not.


"According to the Boy Scouts of America charter, the purpose of Boy Scouting is to develop in a young man the ability to do things for himself and for others; to train him in outdoor skills; and to teach him patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues."


Yep, it does say that in both the Charter and in several other documents, to include the Scoutmaster and Cub Scout Leader handbooks. However, WE AS ADULTS don't train him in outdoor skills (or I'll put it this way -- we're not "supposed to be the one's training" Scouts in outdoor skills). We "teach by example" and those things like patriotism, courage, self-reliance and kindred values are "taught" by personal example of ourselves and other adults. We hope that by seeing those values IN ACTION, that the youth in our units will want to behave in the same manner.


We are living in a society whereby many parents don't fully understand that programs like Boy Scouting exist not to "create a man from a boy" but rather to give him the tools he needs to "develop into a man with positive qualities of citizenship, character, and fitness." We are a "developer," not a "teaching institution." 


As a merit badge counselor and when I was a Scoutmaster (and now as a Commissioner), I teach things to Scouts, Venturers, and adults. I do so because I have things to share and not because of its part of a course outline or curriculum. That's not my PRIMARY role, it's a secondary one to the youth in that unit that Scout or Venturer comes from or secondary to the fact as adults we serve as positive role models and examples for those youth members.


As we move forward in further making Scouting available to the entire family, I feel we need to keep the reasoning why we have adults involved in Scouting foremost in our minds. We exist to be that beacon, that example that young men want to become like. 


This is why the iconic Rockwell Scouter at the End of the Day ("The Scoutmaster") print (shown above) is my favorite. When I look at it, I am reminded of my roles to the youth I serve: 


Positive role model, vigilant defender/protector, guider of Scouting values, and drinker of coffee.



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