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Learning Stuff from the Boy Scouts of America

The Boy Scouts of America voted to allow homosexual boys to be scouts, reversing previous decisions extending back to the 1970s.  Perhaps most impactful, boys who were part of the Boy Scouts of America who came to the realization that they are gay previously would not be allowed to continue in the program.  Now, they are allowed to remain a part of Boy Scouts.

I feel scouts has been important for me and my family, 2013-03-03 12.36.19particularly over the last year as we transitioned back to the Blacksburg area. Prior to joining scouts, I’d thought it was targeted for fathers who don’t know what to do with their kids—the bumbling sitcom/cartoon dad with minimal competence with kids.  Instead, it was the opposite. I found that scouts encouraged and enabled me and other parents to connect with kids in lots of nurturing and supportive ways.  Some of the ways were in areas I knew a lot about: computing and skiing and chess.  And some ways were in fields that I enjoyed but wouldn’t have pursued on my own: visits to police stations and newspaper offices.  And in activities that pushed me into areas where I lacked knowledge and interest (but maybe my kids would like) like building the infamous pinewood derby car and camping out in the woods for extended times.  Most people associate scouting exclusively with outdoor activities like camping and tying knots and shooting arrows, and there’s certainly plenty of that.  But there’s also astronomy and maps and disability awareness and basketball and biking and pet care and photography and lots more.  Scout leaders work hard to put a modern spin on activities, with avenues for new activities to be added.  And there’s lots of flexibility to choose the best set of activities that meet the needs and interests of the great many boys who choose to participate in scouting.

Most importantly, I’ve found scouts to be very supportive of my boys–much more supportive than some organizations that claim to be more liberal and compassionate.  Over 100 years of dealing with boys has resulted in a rule structure that addresses the needs of the individuals and the group, realizing the unique gifts and issues that each person brings to the table. I’ve found the leadership to be knowledgeable and compassionate, often because they have experiences as scouts and parents that help guide their decision-making. And participation by the parents at every stage of the activities reflects the importance of growth and inclusion that is strengthened by this new ruling.

Many people are arguing that the decision by the Boy Scouts of America does not go far enough, because homosexual adult leaders are still banned from participating in scouting.  At the root of the arguments to ban homosexual leaders is a belief that homosexuality somehow is correlated with pedophilia, which doesn’t seem to be supported by any viable source. Others point to scouting’s roots in Christianity, but lots of branches of Christianity are accepting of homosexuality. I’m hopeful that the Boy Scouts of America leadership will continue to debate this point—it’s unclear why turning 18 and becoming an adult would somehow make a person unqualified to be part of scouting. But yesterday’s decision was an important step that I feel should be applauded.

There’s also a push to create alternate organizations that are similar to Boy Scouts, minus the religion and restrictions.  Certainly you should feel free to do that, if you wish. But I prefer to leverage the many years of experience captured in the Boy Scout experience, and work from within the organization to affect change. Leaders and participants in scouting will always have differing opinions than mine on a wide variety of issues—all I can do in that regard is hope that I can learn from them, and they can learn from me, and our boys can learn from all of us. That’s why I encourage my boys to take part in scouting.

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