Tuesday, May 05, 2015

I'm A Little Pansy Ass, Here's My Pout

There is a fine tradition enjoyed by Boy Scouts (and some Girl Scouts and Girl Guides) worldwide. If you lose a piece of your gear, and someone turns it in to the Scoutmaster (or Leader), then you'll probably be asked to sing "I'm a Little Tea Pot" or something else embarrassing in front of the troop. Well, they used to do that. Now it's considered bullying.

The wussification of the Boy Scouts is something I'm going to talk about from time to time. I want to be clear about something: Boy Scouts are not wusses. They're fine upstanding young men. I have yet to meet a boy who sticks with scouting who is in any way irredeemable. They're not perfect. They're boys.

The wussification is actually a top-down issue in which adult leadership at national, council and sometimes district levels seek to change policies to soften certain aspects of scouting. I'm not referring to safety, mind you. As adult leaders, the safety of your scouts is a paramount consideration in your program. Rather, I'm talking about the politically correct, hyper-emotional wussification of how boys are regarded. It's the Scouters who are becoming wusses.

First, I want to explain why singing for your stuff is important, and I'll do it through an anecdote involving my son. He was afraid he would lose a piece of gear, and he flatly told me he would not sing for it if he ever did. I told him that I could not make him do it, but if he didn't sing for his gear, nobody would respect him. I explained that is fear is that people would make fun of him for singing a silly, goofy song. I told him they would probably make fun of him for not singing it. The inevitable happened, and he lost his water bottle. When the time came, he hesitated, then walked in front of the troop. Then he climbed on top of a picnic table. Then he proceeded to screech out the worse, most purposely off-key, top-of-the-lungs rendition of "Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty" anyone has ever heard. The troop roared with approving laughter. As he stepped down, he had earned his water bottle back. He had also earned the respect and admiration of his fellow Scouts.

To the egghead academics who live in cloistered ivory tower worlds of theory and supposition, such an act would be deeply humiliating and permanently scarring for every boy who was forced to do it. In actual practice, it is an important part of the rituals of boys which result in increased cohesiveness and camaraderie. The first element of this act: a willingness to acknowledge to all members of the troop equally that you have violated the rules everyone lives by, and are willing to make amends. Young and old, regardless of rank, social status or wealth, every Boy Scout is equal before the law, and true to their oath. The second element of this act is trust: trust that your fellow scouts will not judge you too harshly. Trust that your fellow scout will forgive your transgressions, and will not let your membership be tainted by resentment.

To the egghead academics, every group of boys will eventually devolve into Lord of the Flies without adult leadership, and grown men will abuse boys if not given strict blanket guidelines. This presupposition is part of the overall war against manhood, and it starts with a war against boyhood. In reality, boys form cohesive groups based on hierarchical relationships, mutual understanding and respect. Occasionally, adult guidance is needed to bring boys together when emotional immaturity and conflict would drive them apart. But with a little guidance, good modelling and a consistent emphasis on values, Scouting can and has produced good men and quality citizens for more than 100 years when has been allowed to do so. They've also given good, if sometimes embarrassing, campfire stories that are shared through generations.

That being said, there are rules. First, singing has to be voluntary. If a boy loses something and does not wish to sing for it, they will get it back at the end of the activity. If its a piece of gear needed for the activity (water bottle, scout handbook, etc), it should be returned after they decline to sing. A boy who declines shouldn't be called out or ridiculed, but instead assigned another task or chore such as cooking or cleaning. Boys who do step up should be applauded no matter how their performance goes. And for scouts who are chronically losing things, the number of performances should be limited to one per event, and leadership should instead focus on organizational skills. (Or, be conscious off the troop clown.)

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