This is Sean at the recent Boy Scouts Court of Honor, getting his “Scout” rank. Scout rank is the baby rank; you pretty much get it just for joining and jumping through a few simple hoops. Still, this is the beginning! Now he is working on “Tenderfoot” rank, and then it will be Second Class, then First Class… maybe one day he’ll make it to Eagle.
I love the Boy Scouts! Cub Scouts are… meh. We’re doing Cub Scouts with Ethan. It’s a good thing. They learn some skills, make some friends, participate in some cool activities. It’s a nice organization, but you could get similar benefits from other activities.
Boy Scouts, on the other hand, is AMAZING.
This is what makes the difference. Cub Scouts are parent led, while Boy Scouts are boy led.
A Cub Scout troop is all same-age kids with some parent leaders telling them what to do. As such, it’s pretty similar to what they experience in school. Our troop has a lot of not-very-well-behaved boys who can make meetings an exercise in frustration. They have little interest in cooperating, and a great interest in goofing off to impress the other boys.
A Boy Scout troop, on the other hand, is grouped into patrols containing boys of all ages from junior high through high school. Each patrol is led not by parents, but by older boys. This gives the Boy Scouts a completely different culture from Cub Scouts. The younger boys in a patrol greatly respect and look up to the older boys, who are given the job of teaching them how to be good Scouts. There is no misbehavior! Flag ceremonies in Cub Scouts are often pathetic, giggly affairs. Flag ceremonies in Boy Scouts are precise, dignified, and respectful.
I believe boys crave a sense of belonging with other boys–they want to form their “posse”–and when boys are grouped by age, that will be their posse, other boys of the same age, and then you get a lot of group-on-group bullying of younger boys by older boys. If you give them no structure at all, they may form gangs. But Boy Scouts gives boys a “posse” that is healthy, where older boys are placed in leadership roles and younger boys look up to them.
In Boy Scouts, in order to gain a rank, the boy must fulfill a number of requirements, and to get checked off on each requirement, the boy has to demonstrate the ability to a higher ranked Scout (usually First Class or above), who signs off on it. Thus the authority the older boys have is absolutely real. They control the younger boys’ ability to rank up. Meanwhile, the older boys must exercise their leadership duties in order to achieve the highest ranks, like Eagle Scout. The whole system is set up to encourage healthy mentoring.
At the last Court of Honor, we honored two new Eagle Scouts, and the whole scout troop, sitting separately from the parents, spontaneously leaped to their feet to give them a standing ovation. Angie turned to me and said, “You can’t buy that.”
She’s right. You can’t.