Boy Scouts celebrated their 100-year anniversary at their National Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia this week. President Obama decided not to attend, so he could instead tape his appearance on The View. That's too bad. For a century, Boy Scouts of America has been a top organization that cultivates young leaders by teaching them patriotism, morals, and responsibility. It’s a group the president should want to promote.
Eligible scouts range from fifth graders to young men headed off to college. A scout begins by gaining knowledge of basic skills, like how to start a fire and tie knots. Eventually, scouts should be able to lash intricate structures, know advanced first aid, and understand their roles as citizens. Merit badges offer scouts the chance to focus on a specific interest, skill, or hobby – from Rifle Shooting to Nuclear Science, Snow Sports to Coin Collecting, Entrepreneurship to Environmental Science – and demonstrate mastered knowledge of it. There is something for everyone.
Letting boys loose to explore in the woods on a weekend campout certainly contradicts the politically correct wisdom to insulate adolescents from every possible playground booboo. Yet setting up boys to fail by putting them in unfamiliar and uncomfortable environments and situations is part of the challenge of scouting. And scouts are better off for it.
Since its inception in Britain, and carried into the American tradition, scouting has also emphasized physical fitness. Each scout takes an oath, pledging, in part, to “keep [him]self physically strong.” Most scouts attend week-long summer camps, where they can canoe, rock climb, and, like I’m told kids did before video games, just run around. These activities are especially important since they’re usually done in the context of rank advancement or earning a merit badge or award, which incentives participants far beyond the abstract notion of “being healthy.” Also, scouts who attend a “high adventure” camp – like Sea Base in the Florida Keys, where they can choose to go sailing, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing – must meet minimum health requirements. It should be enough to make First Lady Michelle Obama proud.
Above leadership skills and physical fitness, Boy Scouts learn patriotism. When in uniform they salute the flag, and they know proper flag etiquette. In the Scout Oath, a scout pledges “to do my duty to God and my country.” He knows his constitutional rights and obligations as an American citizen. These aren’t dogmas necessarily taught in public schools.
It’s unfortunate that President Obama didn’t take the time to promote the Boy Scouts this week, but they should be able to thrive, as they have for the past 100 years, without him.
Nik Nelson, an Eagle Scout, is a National Journalism Center intern at THE WEEKLY STANDARD.