When I wrote a post about Scouting a few weeks back, I was reminded that Scouting does not enjoy universal appeal. Thanks to the Dale case, many people, including my ex-wife, have strong misgivings about the Scouts. I don’t like that case, either, but I feel it’s outweighed by the appreciation of accomplishment and teamwork that I think my boys will derive from their Scouting experience, just as I did from mine.
And I particularly appreciate one specific aspect of Scouting that has helped me talk to the boys about the horrendous revelations that have come out of Penn State this past week.
One of the first things every boy does, regardless of age, when he joins a pack is to earn his first rank, the Bobcat Badge. Even my nine-year-old, who joined as a Webelo and is allowed to bypass Wolf and Bear (the subsequent ranks), had to get his Bobcat. There are eight requirements, and seven of them involve the usual rigmarole about salutes and mottoes. The eighth, however, is an extensive conversation between parent and child about personal safety, involving lots of What Ifs:
- What if you are playing in your yard and your neighbor asks you to help carry groceries into his house? Check first with a parent or a trusted adult before you change plans, go anywhere, or accept anything from anyone.
Absolutely. If you’re about to leave my sight, I want to know about it.
- What if you’re using the Internet and a pop-up asks you to fill out a form in order to win a prize? Do not give out personal information on the Internet. You never can tell how it will be used, or even who will get it.
Of course. Every kid needs to know that much of the Internet is ill-informed, bombastic, and perfidious.
- What if you are camping with a relative and he suggests that you allow him to take your picture when you are not wearing clothes? Tell your relative that you do not want your picture taken. It is your body, and you have the right to say no. Then tell your parents what happened. Tell any trusted adult any time you are hurt, scared, or made to feel uncomfortable.
This is where the red flags start flying high.
- What if you are in a public restroom and someone tries to touch your private parts? Yell “STOP THAT” as loudly as you can and run out of the room as quickly as possible. Tell your parent, a police officer, a security guard, or other adult (such as a teacher) what happened. Tell any trusted adult any time you are hurt, scared, or made to feel uncomfortable.
This is the sort of counsel that some parents might not think of giving, or know how to give. Run away. Yell like hell. Tell any trusted adult any time you are hurt, scared, or made to feel uncomfortable. And the Scouts make sure every kid who joins up learns that these dangers exist. Because they know the Canteen Boy sketch is funny, but also mostly not.
There are caveats to all this, of course. Each of these cautions, for example, refers to “a trusted adult,” which many predators turn out to be. And sometimes, the justice for these abuses isn’t served–especially when they occur within a cowardly, venal jockocracy.
I’ve been over these cautions with the boys once, and each has a brand-spanking-new Bobcat patch on his left breast pocket. And when we talk about why the career of college football’s winningest coach came to such a shockingly abrupt conclusion, we’ll go over them again. Scouting might still have some objectionable tenets to answer for, but this does a lot to help balance the ledger.