Make your own free website on Tripod.com
A Radical Thesis from a Dissident Eagle Scout:
What's Wrong with the Boy Scouts of America
by Dana Williams

 

[ This is about an organization for which the author feels fortunate to have participated in. His experience likely differs greatly from others and was less restrictive than many. The aim of this piece is to supply firm, yet constructive criticism of the Boy Scouts of America organization. It is important to criticize institutions that one has been active in, if they are to be capable of reform. Otherwise, if the following concerns cannot be met, the author advocates the abolition of BSA, just as with all oppressive facets of a just society. ]

IN CRITICISM...

I

BSA resists allowing gays to participate primarily for two reasons: it would contradict the patriarchal example set by other male-leaders and it would violate the notion that gays are bad people. Until BSA (and the rest of America) wakes up to the reality that straight men are the largest perpetuators and perpetrators of sexual violence, harassment, and mistreatment (against females and males), it will continue to void itself as an organization worthy of training and raising real “men”.

II

The intricate practices and rituals of flag worship, patriotism, and nationalism continue to perpetuate the false notion that Americans are by birth the God-given leaders of the world. Ignoring the violence and destruction of US foreign policy, US-styled capitalism, and its increasingly pompous unilateralism will only raise an ignorant generation of American men who will foolishly proclaim indignance as the rest of the world laughs at their arrogance, trembles at their jingoism, and revolts against their hegemony. BSA continues, as it has since its origins, to deny that all humans of all ethnic and national origin are united in their similarities and that states and politicians continually construct war, poverty, exploitation, and strife in the name of national pride and supremacy.

III

Boy Scouts are trained to think hierarchically, be obedient to authority (especially adults), and to work through systems of power and privilege. From senior patrol leaders to assistant patrol leaders, troops are organized in classical military format: don’t question authority, don’t think for yourself, follow orders, and most importantly, don’t participate in democratic decision making practices.

IV

Countless scout programs, events, and merit badges emphasize oppressive institutions in society, ranging from campouts at military bases, to badges like rifle shooting and fingerprinting. Observations at any given camporee will illustrate this, via the plethora of army boots, camouflage, macho language, domineering individualism, and indiscriminate bullying of scouts towards one another, especially across troops in a perverse form of pseudo-capitalist competition.

V

BSA claims to be a value-based organization, whose ideals revolve around the fictitious “nuclear family” and conservative Christian morality. To this end, any recognition of varying family structures, gender roles, non-oppressive sexual expression, or deviation of the “Father Knows Best” paradigm greatly challenges the intolerant, exclusive, and totalitarian belief structure of the Boy Scouts. If boys are to grow to be educated, worldly, and tolerant men, they must not be forbidden knowledge and interaction with those with different attitudes and perspectives.

IN [selective] PRAISE...

I

At the bottom of the hierarchical structure of the Boy Scouts, is the patrol, which has the greatest possibility for democratic action and process. Some patrols function without directive leadership and employ collective decision making. All the same, even were this organizational approach encouraged it would likely falls upon deaf ears by boys pushed to be power-hungry and authoritarian adult "leaders".

II

With the exception of the sinister “obedient” clause, the Scout Law is a list of decent, compassionate, and humble goals for humanity. Unfortunately, most scouts and scout leaders have memorized this list, and reciting it does not elicit any diligent adherence to the tenets of the Scout Law. (On the other hand, indoctrinating language designed to eliminate dissent ruins the Scout Oath: “my duty to God and my country”, “obey the Scout Law”, “keep myself… morally straight”. One almost wants to shudder an “amen” at its end, since it rings of religious fervor and rote.)

III

The Boy Scouts have had the great potential to act as conveyors of ecological wisdom and environmental conservation. Naturalism, environmentally conscious and low-impact camping skills, and a holistic respect for the earth and its creatures permeate the Boy Scouts’ “outdoor doctrine”. Although lapsing into terms such as “natural resources” occasionally and indirectly promoting the colonialist attitudes of “exploration”, the BSA still is responsible for teaching many boys how to act respectfully towards Mother Earth.

IV

The dedication towards other humans in need, and the cheerful and humble adherence to volunteerism cannot help but deserve praise. A number of problems, of course, result from this: volunteerism is selective by nature, and the recipients of BSA assistance illustrate a limited focus; volunteerism as a government policy has recently been proposed as a way of circumventing public responsibility towards those in need; and the unfortunate attitude of superiority and moral righteousness.

[ The goal of this piece is not to only point out the bad aspects of the BSA, but to critique it in a way that provokes thought, reform, and benefit. The praise-worthy aspects are bounded by critique as well because I do not feel that they are clear assets devoid of shortcomings. I would love to hear the reactions of others, specifically those who were a part of Boy Scouts growing up or are currently active, those who are critical and supportive of the Boy Scouts as they are, and especially from pro-feminist boys and men. Write: danamwilliams@yahoo.com. ]