Being a father, I find that I must become a follower to my son and daughter’s wishes some times and this seems to expand as they grow older. One day my son came to me and said he wanted to join a Boy Scout troop. It seemed a couple of his friends were in a particular Troop, 723, in Portola District, North Orange County, Calif. I was not keen about the idea because I had some problems with the Boy Scouts when I was a child. My son would be joining a bit late and would need to do some catching up in meeting the scout advancement to be equal to other boys his age.
My son joined and I joined shortly as an active committee member and eventually as their first troop web master. I took adult classes on how to be an assistant scout master and even had a uniform and went on outings with the troop.
I had been involved in other community groups but the troop my son joined seemed full of adult drama. Some of the parents had difficulty getting along with other parents. The troop adult leadership was cliquish and controlling. The troop adult committee meetings were well attended by parents but failed to take charge of the troop as specified by the Boy Scout dictates; probably intimidated by the leaders that seem to know a lot more about scouting.
My son gained in rank slowly at first but then spurted ahead for quite some time. He was popular enough to make patrol leader quite a few times and he would come home to complain that the troop was being run by the scout master and his son not the boys. In particular, the scout master allegedly was running the troop as if its existence was to serve his needs. More than once our drives home from patrol leaders council meetings, my son remarked that he had learned the true meaning of hypocrisy. The scout master allegedly would not let the patrol leaders decide much and misrepresented issues to the parents to cover discrepancies. Many decisions were arbitrarily made according to my son’s reports to me. The committee chairman was even told he could not attend the patrol leaders council but friends of the scout master were allowed in even his son when he held no position in the troop.
Just after I joined, it seemed a number of parents were also new to the troop and we were all encouraged to take assistant scout master training so the troop would have a large pool of assistant scout masters. A number of us took training classes together, purchased uniforms, and became involved in the troop in various ways.
Approximately a year later, one of the assistant scout masters came and informed me that all but a few of the assistant scout masters had been removed from the troop roster. No one could figure out how this happened.
Troop advancement now ran completely through the soda straw scout master. The committee was expected to run the troop but only seemed to put together the yearly events calendar. It effectively was a rubber stamp for the scout master and his clique. The committee chairman was ineffective at setting things straight, possibly because he only was looking out for his three sons. A fair amount of our troop problems seemed to arise out of parents thinking first about their own children.
About a year and a half before my son would time out and remove himself from the troop, he came to me and said the scout master had told him that there would be no more advancement for nine months. My son had finished Star ranking and had six of seven items to finish for Life Scout when he was denied going further. There was no explanation. The advancement chairman was a personal friend and I went to her and she could not understand what was going on.
I pleaded with my son, numerous times, to move to another troop but his friends were at the current troop and he refused. At about the end of the nine months a new scout master was picked after being groomed by the one who denied my son being advanced. He had some family medical problem and failed to go out on outings for about three months. They said that my son could only advance by going out on an outing and participating in a scoutmaster conference. No other assistant scout master was allowed to advance my son for about one year! My son seemed to give up by skipping meetings and finally not going all together. The whole structure of scouting is advancement.
A half year prior to my son’s birthdate, which would require my son to leave the troop, we got a call from the then current scout master. I think my son had not been going to scout meetings for at least half a year, when we get this call.
They “noticed” that my son had about six months to finish Eagle Scout. I asked my son what he wanted to do. My son had already given up on the troop due to their blocking his advancement. We were not convinced that the very people who denied advancement would, all of a sudden, do better. I thought that the call was a means of making an offering that they knew could not be fulfilled to cover their misdeed. We went over everything that he had to do to make Eagle Scout. The time line looked daunting. My son said it was too late for him, he had to focus on high school studies.
I have had three years to reflect about all of this and I am still most angry at the Boy Scout organization for not allowing my son a chance to achieve Eagle Scout. The fault is in its organization structure. Boy Scouts for me is a my son first organization. They need to make a change so that assistant scout masters are in place and can advance the boys in case a scout master becomes ill or stops advancing a scout.
My son is not bitter about this experience. He just thinks this is normal adult behavior for some people. I totally disagree on both points.
Received this from Facebook (Feb 12, 2010) from LOMcC:
In our area the Scouts are just another adjunct of the LDS Church. An acquaintance told me her grandson was discouraged from any further achievements because he wasn’t keen on being baptized as a Mormon. Perhaps your son faced this same discrimination.
You might be on to something. Our troop’s meetings were at a Methodist Church and quite a few of the troop members did attend that church. My son is no lemming, does not goose step down the approved White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) chalk line. He might have stepped out of line a bit by telling other scouts that he was agnostic. He does believe in a supreme being but one of his own, I think. At that time he was reading about other religions and found some eastern religions had some interesting features that he liked. Boy Scouts embraces, if not being the poster child, for the WASP chalk line. Our troop membership came from engineers, police, law and a mix of other WASP professions. The Boy Scouts exit door is directly across the hall from the entry door to the military, another WASP institution. Society does have its means of filter and control to the values of conservatism.
To read more about this subject: An excerpt from On My Honor Boy Scouts and the Making of American Youth by Jay Mechling.
A book that explores this problem from a whole different perspective is The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robins.