Ambivilent Scouting

Despite the shiny-faced utopian vision of Norman Rockwell (of whom I am a fan) I am finding myself not a fan of Scouting. Jeffrey just started this year, and while in theory I can see the benefits, in practice, I’m finding it lacking.

Pin-pointing exactly what bothers me- and articulating it- is proving evasive, which makes this more of a rant than a legitimate criticism. If my son were not actually at Scouts right now, I might even be able to refer to the handbook.

The whole thing just sits a little… askew. So many of the tasks the kids are supposed to do to earn their marks involve the parents actually doing the work- or at the very least, pushing and prodding their kids along. It seems about the status of achievement- achievement that is actually about the parents’ work and status. How many pinewood derby cars have you seen that were actually made by a kid? And the poor kid whose parents actually allowed him at the helm for design and production? Watch him get smashed at the races and tell me what lesson he’s learned.

I don’t know how long our scouting foray will last- Jeffrey hasn’t earned one badge yet- but I know if I have to be the motivator, it’s not going to be long.

I guess that’s all.

25 thoughts on “Ambivilent Scouting

  1. Scouts vs Cubs…..Cubs parents…scouts awesome scout masters, activities to earn badges etc…except when you get to Eagle…which is why they give a pin to moms!

    Hang in there, my boys never did any of the Cub badges but blossomed under the Men in scouting.
    (/Bek’s mom)

    • Thanks for the feedback Jane- and I’m delighted to have you comment here. I adore your daughter- positively adore her. I’ll look forward to that change- I know our area Scoutmaster for the older boys is a fantastic man, and I wouldn’t mind my son’s doing some of the things he’s organized.

  2. Were you a Girl Scout? Because I had huge problems with the inflexibility of Cub Scouts compared to GS. The youngest to the oldest girls get to choose which badges and which of the requirements within that badge they’d like to do. Cubs (and to a degree Boy Scouts) have that little checklist cutely disguised as a path of paw-prints to fill in. My list oriented friends have loved it. Check, check, check: you’re a Bobcat. Checkitty-check-check: you’re a Wolf. All the way up to the Arrow of Light. It’s a bit too stiff for me. And a tad dull. But my boys have really liked it. And it’s the only contact they have with LDS boys their age. So I checkitty-check.

  3. I think I feel the same way. My third son is about to turn 8 and therefore start scouts. I don’t know that he really cares about it or if he wants to go or what? I despised going to pack meetings with the first two and I have been happily enjoying my break from it. My oldest didn’t get eagle…mostly because we didn’t push and he didn’t care. And he’s a good boy, serving a mission right now. My second son loves the camp outs, hates earning the badges on Tuesday nights. I can see his end result coming up 5th Avenue!lol

  4. Lurker, long time begrudging Cub Leader, mother of two almost Eagles here to tell you, don’t worry. Cubs is a family based activity. The parents ARE supposed to be doing the activities with (ha! for) the boys. Blech, 1ooo more enjoyable ways to spend time. Earning the badges means nothing to the overall growth of the boy unless being awarded the badges gives them joy. If so focus on the belt loops, they can earn those just by breathing.

    Boy Scouts (within the LDS church is my only experience/frame of reference). Program run by the leaders, totally hands off for the mom (until you have an almost Eagle, then it is a lot of nag, nag, nag.) Super fun for the boys, camping and doing things on their own and experiences they might not normally have. Don’t let Cubs get you down, keep at it as long as it is fun (I’ve paid my boys to NOT do the Pinewood or else I make sure we have something equally as enticing to do on that same night) and know Cubs and Scouts are totally different experiences. Because if you get down on Cubs you can be totally freaked out about “what’s going to happen to his YM career if we hate Scouting.” No? Just me then?

    Well, anyway, keep you chin up until he is 11, that’s when Scouts gets good and gets turned over completely to the male leaders.

  5. My son designed his car himself last year (submarine) for his first pinewood derby. The wheels fell off halfway down the course, he won “Best Crowd Reaction” and learned to laugh at himself, which is something he sorely needed. This year, he browsed the web and found a template to make the car look like an iPod. He’d like to win a race someday, but for him the fun is in the design. It helps that his tremendous lung capacity makes him a competitor at the Raingutter Regatta each year.

  6. Hmmmmm, my son’s won’t be starting scouts for a few more years, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I think they can really learn quite a bit, on the other hand, I am a newly called upon assistant scout leader and I don’t know what the heck I am doing! It just gets me wondering how many of us scout leaders really have a clue. Although I must say that my husband is also a scout leader (yeah look at us go) :D And he does a phenomenal job.
    Is it really so terrible to be involved with a sons scouting, the pine wood derby cars really should be a project that the kids do themselves though.

  7. oh, I’ll commiserate. I have five sons– my oldest two have their Eagles and my fifth just started Cubs today. If I had my druthers we’d skip the whole process, but the boys love it. Well, they love it until they have to deal with the Eagle paperwork…

  8. My son has been doing cubs for almost a year and the only patches(or whatever they call those things) he’s earned are the ones they do at the activities. He has no desire to work on it at home and I’m good with that. He mainly goes for the social part of it. He leaders know that’s why he’s there and they’re good with it too. I figure when he gets older he’ll either get really into it our not, either way I’m good with it. Though I must say I have 5 brothers, 3 of whom were eagle scouts. They all worked really hard on their projects and my mom & dad helped, but they didn’t push them to do it. Those 3 brothers just really were that into it.

  9. My high school boyfriend had parents who wouldn’t let any of their 5 sons even take Driver’s Ed, let alone get their licenses until the had their Eagle. For three of them, it was fine — they liked doing the Scouting thing anyway. But for my bf, and one of his brothers, not so much. They hated scouting, and pretty much everything about it, and neither of them had a driver’s license until he moved out and got it on his own.

    If my sons (currently 7 & 4) are into it, I’ll be their biggest cheerleader, but I don’t see myself forcing them to do it if it’s something they genuinely loathe. Especially if there are other activities that they prefer out of which they get the same kind of encouragement and satisfaction. This opinion is of course, subject to change…

  10. My husband lived overseas during the scouting years so he was never subjected to scouting. I remember my brother’s boy scout years filled with campouts, fights with my Dad, and eventual inactivity as scout nights devolved into basketball night. Now our son is about to turn 8 and we’re both nervous. I am not a checklist person, or someone who cares about trophies/badges. My son, on the other hand, is totally excited. He also really has no idea what it is.

    We kept hoping the Duty to God program would eventually phase out Boy Scouts in the church (after all there isn’t girl scouts in addition to Personal Progress in the church). But after the Boy Scouts made a stand on the gay issue it seems that the church committed to supporting them forever after. There is so much manpower (callings) dedicated to the scouting program in the church – is it really something necessary for salvation or could we just let the community run the program? Then if we’d like to participate we can, and there wouldn’t be this Mormon peer pressure and guilt over an optional program.

  11. the pinewood derby is horrible, horrible. we always let our boys work on their own cars–which is the point, right?–and they are always slaughtered in the race. i have so many pictures of boys with tragically crestfallen faces.

    but aside from the pinewood derby, and even though i hate going to pack meeting, i’m a supporter of cub scouts. i feel boys need plenty of good models of what it means to be a good boy and man–and this is an ardent feminist talking. they need plenty of male mentors. they need environments where boy stuff is validated and honored. i think this leads to men who can respect and honor women (not resent them).

    seems like this is an important time in your boys’ lives to be exposed to positive male mentors.

    tracy, have you read _Boys Adrift_? i think you’d like what it has to say about raising boys in the modern world.

  12. I agree with most of what has already been said. I hate the peer pressure of the Pinewood Derby. Cubs requires more family involvement than scouts. Scouts is more fun. My husband and 2 sons enjoyed the camp outs and the social aspects, but never cared much about the badges and “status.” None of them are Eagle scouts, but they are phenomenal men.

    Tracy, if you can stick it out for 3 years, then the most important comment (IMO) is the one about positive male role models for your sons. And (IMO) the most important take-away is that regardless of the level of your son(s) involvement in scouts, they can be (and become) amazing, well-balanced boys and men.

  13. I have to agree. Cub Scouts is about the parents helping the child and I don’t like the checklist thing. What does starting a collection teach him, really? On the flip side, I am a Girl Scout leader and love it! There are no requirements. If a girl is interested in science, she can earn a badge about science. Or if she would rather work on theater, or learn about healthy relationships, leadership, or art, she can. My daughter has learned that she really likes to sew (I have no skills) and knit. She has also learned about math, first aid, and business skills. I much prefer the approach of letting each child choose their own path instead of insisting each child complete an identical path.

  14. oy, the sacred cow that is scouting.

    As the mom of 3 boys let me just say that even being the stinkin’ cub leader, I didn’t get it; and yes, because the little boys who had less involved parents got the shaft.
    In my ‘control’ the boys did the work and I made the rules as to how specific projects had to be to actually get the reward. (We had one little guy who just didn’t have the same playing field as the other boys…rules changed for him in my book.)

    As far as pinewood cars? If it showed 1 ounce of parental help it was ditched. Parents knew that ahead of time. When the kids got there, older Scouts and leaders worked as a “pit crew” to make sure newbies knew all the trade secrets, sanding tires and such, to level the field again. We countered the stage dads/moms by making a second contest after the original had completed: an all out no holds barred for all adults.

    As scouts, my boys did their own work or mom didn’t sign off. Amazingly all three did an eagle project only to see it all the way accomplished and then walked away NOT wanting the award. O.k. In my heart and theirs they are still “eagles” just without the prize.

    BTW: We were pretty much scorned for our “attitude”. Oh well, my boys fully earned their own badges and work ethic.

  15. Does your son have to have been in Cub Scouts to be in Scouts? Because it seems to me that Cub Scouts is what sucks, and Scouts is what most people like. If that’s the case, then I want to totally skip Cub Scouts. If I ever have a boy.

  16. I hate to see you so down on Scouting–sounds like you need a different Pack! Our Pack boys did their own work on their cars, did their own work on all their requirements. My ds is inordinately proud of his Arrow of Light–he earned it! And he earned his Eagle this fall. Find a mom that likes Scouts–that would be me! There should be none of the identical path for Cubs–they don’t earn all the same things–look into the beltloops and pins. Yes, there are some requireds for AoL–but every boy should know first aid! We use BS meritbadges as part of our homeschooling day–there’s a huge variety of things to learn–124 of them! Currently my ds is working on Metalwork, Nuclear Science, Dog Care, Coin Collecting and Astronomy. Oh, and a headdress for Order of the Arrow. WIth the exception of Astronomy, none of the other boys in the troop are working on those badges. They’ve put him in touch with a Navy nuke guy, the vet, a welder and a geologist that just likes coins. Great men to have in his life. Dig deeper into Scouts and you’ll see a lot more there.

  17. My experience with scouts pretty much consists of listening to my brother complain about the Order of the Arrow (or something? maybe it was the Arrow of Light, but I swear there was an Order there….) was one of the worst experiences of his life. He will still whine about it if you let him.

    My other brother got his eagle though, but I think it was more because he felt he should.

    My husband wasn’t big on scouts. It should be interesting to see what happens in a few years with our son.

  18. 3 boys = 9 years in cubscouts & 24 years in scouting. I agree with most of the posts. If your guy gets into it run with it, if he just sees it as a social time, encourage him to learn the social skills. As in most of the programs the church offers, it doesn’t work for everyone but there’s nothing that happens that causes actual harm.

    My brother is a professional scout, as in works for the BSA vs the looney guy that likes the smokey the bear hat & patch vests. So I have a different view of the program. I’ve heard some of the background of why the church, in the US, has continued the program.

    As for the pinewood derby, my rule is the car belongs to the cub but the wheels are mine. When I was a single mom, feeling overwhelmed by the competition with all the dads working with their sons, a kind father took me aside and showed me some mad skills on how to work the wheels.

    I remember when by brothers were competing in Sunnyvale, CA against the rocket scientist kids, the dad’s would take the cars to a wind tunnel to test their wind resistance. I like it when they set the rules to level the playing field.

    Good luck.

  19. I have the same opinion as you. My husband and son love scouts, and guess what I was just called to be a cub leader. (Bears)

    The point is to make it fun for your son. Look through the book and see what there is to do. Often you find things that interest him or are really, really, easy to do. It doesn’t have to be fancy or detailed, just plain fun.

    The one thing that has softened me slightly on the scout thing, was a report that I read about survivability rates in the military and wars. Men that were in the Scouting program and particularly Eagle scouts had a higher survival rate than those that did not. I figure well, if this helps my son out in the future if the draft ever is needed, I will deal with it. :)

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