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article imageOp-Ed: Esquire and Robert Gates make strong case for Scouting

By Calvin Wolf     Sep 17, 2014 in Lifestyle
The new president of the Boy Scouts of America, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, makes his case for the importance of Scouting in the 21st century in Esquire. As an Eagle Scout, his words ring truer than ever.
Today I will be calling my local council to inquire about signing my first-grade son up for Cub Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout, my brother is an Eagle Scout, and we both spent our summers during college working at Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico as backpacking guides. Despite all that Scouting and the Boy Scouts of America have helped young men (and women) accomplish, membership is rapidly declining. Created in 1910, the organization, which is still the largest youth organization in the country, is struggling to remain pertinent in 21st century society. From the camping to the uniforms to the hierarchical nature of ranks and badges, the quasi-military style of Boy Scouting clashes with our increasingly individualistic, tech-obsessed, brash, reality TV pop culture.
Current BSA president Robert Gates, the famous Secretary of Defense who served under consecutive presidents from different political parties, wants to return Scouting to prominence in America. In Esquire, he writes about the importance of the organization and its mission. As a man who was planning to pick up the phone during his lunch hour to call the council office about Cub Scout packs, Gates' words rang true. As a high school teacher, I see many young men, and women, who could benefit from Scouting, be it Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or co-ed Venturing.
Scouting taught me many skills, introduced me to many excellent role models, helped create friendships, and encouraged physical fitness. On camping trips I learned how to make fires, set up campsites, develop organizational and teamwork skills, and develop self-discipline. Earning merit badges and moving up the Scouting ranks helped me develop confidence and feelings of accomplishment. And becoming an Eagle Scout has opened plenty of doors: People are impressed when they know you have reaching the highest rank of Boy Scouting. It signifies a measure of ambition, discipline, and interpersonal skills.
More young people need to experience the challenges and joys of Scouting, particularly in regard to its activities in the outdoors. Day camps, summer camps, camping trips, and backpacking trips provide wholesome benefits that are too rarely found on TV, computer, and cell phone screens. Though critics might scoff at the idea that learning how to lash together logs is valuable in our tech-obsessed society, the basic knots I learned in Scouting still come in handy. I can also read a map, keep my cool in stressful situations, render first aid, and do plenty of other things. Scouting has given me that.
Too few parents try to put their children in Scouting today, opting instead for other extracurricular activities. As a boy in the 90s, many friends gave up Scouting to focus on sports. Honestly, they missed out. While only a handful ever got those coveted college scholarships, my friends who remained in Scouting and earned the rank of Eagle have something on their resumes for life. It means something. In a word of rapid changes, things that have great meaning seem few and far between. I encourage you to give Scouting a try; you won't be disappointed.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Robert gates, boy scouts of america, Scouting, Boy scouts, Eagle scout
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