Saturday, May 15, 2010

Boy Scouts

Apologies for the long hiatus, but in between a publication, conferences, and finishing my thesis, I was sorely pressed for time. Activity on the blog will not subside over summer (I've got all school year for that), but will consist of my long-anticipated ongoing feature on contemporary music. Before that begins, I'd like to take this opportunity to talk on a more personal subject. As some of you might know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America.

Whatever my personal disagreements with some of their policies, as an Eagle Scout, I was able to participate in numerous activities that I otherwise would not have been able to, and have experiences that have shaped me for the rest of my life. Outside of the character development, which is obviously important, the leadership opportunities were invaluable. Having to take charge, get things done, meet deadlines, and deal with conflict at an early age were all things that I believed helped me, but more than that, I think that the type of organization that can give young people the chance to be in those positions deserves to be around at least another 100 years. Too often, people shy away from giving youth real opportunities to lead, to be out front, and to make mistakes. However, such opportunities are crucial to developing people who can be leaders later in life.

On that note, it takes a certain kind of crazy to trust a 15 year old with anything, and I'd like to thank all of those who took that chance. The best way I know to repay them is to return the favor, which brings me to the point of this post. As part of acknowledging my debt to both my leaders and the organization, I'm filling out an application to be a merit badge counselor. For those unfamiliar with merit badges, the BSA has a great site here that explains the program, what a counselor is, etc. There are a wide variety of merit badges, and although I am only qualified for one (nuclear science music), many of you might be able to help out in additional ways.

If I have boys, I'll certainly encourage them to do scouts. Until then, this is a great way for me to start paying back a group that gave me so much, and a fantastic chance for people who have never been involved in scouting to help an organization that certainly deserves it!


  1. Firstly, I just came across your blog via Amusicology!

    Secondly, I too am an Eagle Scout and ironically enough just spent the last hour reminiscing about Boy Scouts with my father, two older brothers, and a friend that was also in our troop. You are right that although the organization may have some short-sighted polices, the opportunities it gives to young men to take chances and lead and learn about themselves make it worth keeping around if not promoting!

    I've wanted to be a Music merit badge counselor since I was old enough to register as an adult leader, but I have pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I need to finish my undergraduate degree and at least settle down somewhere for graduate school (hopefully for musicology!) before I do that. I hope you have lots of luck with it though and get to impart some wisdom to lots of young men. Thanks!

  2. My family was big in scouting--many generations of scouts, every male an Eagle Scout. I was on my way to being an Eagle Scout. Made it to Life, had my merit badges, was planning my service project, and was serving as the senior patrol leader of my troop. Then, at age 17, I came out of the closet, and helped start a Gay/Straight Alliance at my high school. I was asked to leave Scouting.

    Helping kids is a worthy goal, but remember that you are actively choosing to only help straight kids. And furthermore, you are actively telling all the gay kids out there, at the most vulnerable time of their lives, that they are bad people. That was the lesson I learned from my Scout leaders. You might think that you'll be the exception, but if you are part of that organization, you are part of teaching the next generation of youth how to be homophobic.

  3. @Steven- I'm glad you found us! I felt similarly to you (wanting to settle down somewhere), and now that I have, I hope I have the opportunity to help. Good luck working towards your masters, and I do hope that you visit our blog again.

    @Anonymous- I appreciate your willingness to share your experiences, and I am sorry that you had such a negative experience. I can't try and whitewash or excuse any of the BSA's policies, especially regarding homosexuality. A quick bit of research ( reveals that BSA's argument is as follows:

    “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”

    I personally don't believe this at all; I don't link homosexuality with the apparent moral deviancy that the BSA thinks will ensure if they let gays participate (and, I just learned that they don't allow agnostics or atheists either). There are two sad truths: BSA IS a private organization, and are permitted to uphold their personal beliefs. The second is that, despite it being 2010, large portions of America are ridiculously backwards when it comes to homophobia; the BSA is a bastion of conservative thought.

    I can't change their policy, and perhaps I don't have enough personal experiences to alter my thinking about the intrinsic good of the organization for the majority of people. Part of being American is having to deal with large groups, such as political parties, that don't uphold every one of our personal beliefs. When that happens, we can only work to change policies we dislike, try and educate others to our point of view, and deal with our disagreements in a civilized fashion. Maybe that is something I learned in scouting, but however naively, I can only hope that I could work and be part of the solution.