What I learned as a Boy Scout

Over the past week, as my thoughts moved toward the new year before us, somehow they also seemed to pull from the past. At one point, a book that was popular in the 1980s came to mind: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten [Robert Fulghum, 1988]. That book was not about “knowledge learning”. It was about “things of life” learning that begins very early.  That moment of reminiscence, in turn, got me to thinking about a similar recollection in my own life.

I was fortunate to grow up in what most people today would call a “traditional” family, and in what many would call “Small-town America”. The value system this upbringing instilled in me is one that coincides very closely with the value system of our Founding Fathers — see Our Founders at this site.

It was this value system that generated my interest in the Boy Scouts of America. If you look at their Oath, their Law, their Motto, and their Slogan, it is easy to understand why an eleven-year-old boy with my upbringing would be attracted to this organization [my Boy Scout involvement was actually a natural progression from being a Cub Scout from age eight to age eleven].

I went on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, that organization’s highest honor. I doubt that most people understand what is involved in achieving that rank as a Boy Scout, and what the mindset of a boy in his pre-teen and early teen years has to be to achieve that goal.  Nothing I could write here could produce that understanding, but let me say that a love for God and country is at the root of that mindset.

Although Scouting has in recent years yielded to the “Political Correctness” movement and deviated from what it was in my Scouting years, the basic tenets of Scouting offer much today that could help us become a better society than we are at this point in our history. 

Scout Oath.  On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight [the connotation of “straight” in this context is not what “the LGBT community” might attach to it today — it is much broader in scope].

Scout Law.  A scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.

Scout Motto. Be Prepared.

Scout Slogan.  Do a good turn daily.

Can you imagine how many of our problems would just go away if everybody displayed the attitude described in these creeds?

So How Is All Of This Relevant To Anybody But Me? …

In what I’ve written in this post to this point, I’ve tried to articulate a backdrop to saying what I believe are my responsibilities as a U. S. citizen [which I believe are the responsibilities of all U. S. citizens].

The path to the Eagle Scout rank includes a number of specifically-listed requirements, one of which [probably the largest in terms of difficulty and time required to complete] is earning 21 merit badges, about two thirds of which are required [the rest being elective based on individual interests].  Merit badge requirements vary, but on average I’d say the overall load on the schedule of a boy meeting Eagle Scout requirements is about like adding at least one additional middle-/high-school class to a full academic year, maybe more.

Three of the required merit badges were Citizenship in the Home, Citizenship in the Community, and Citizenship in the Nation.  I was reminded of this recently when I read an article in the [Nashville] Tennessean about a bill currently under consideration by the Tennessee House of Representatives that would make passing a civics test a requirement for high school graduation.  And get this … the test would be the same civics test administered to immigrants looking to become U.S. citizens!  It seems unconscionable to me that we require immigrants seeking U. S. citizenship to know more of the basic rudiments of our government and how it works [ostensibly] than we do of a young citizen just entering the ranks of the voting population! If you’ve ever watched Watters’ World or [until he retired] Jay Leno’s Jaywalking segments on The Tonight Show, you can see that this lack of emphasis in our educational system has produced a generation of people who don’t have a clue about their government.

So, with the backdrop I’ve tried to present to this point, I believe every U. S. citizen has, at a minimum, the following responsibilities:

  • Learn, if they don’t know it already, at least the information on the civics test administered to immigrants looking to become U.S. citizens — preferably many times this very basic level of knowledge in civics.
  • Regularly pay attention to news [being careful to evaluate sources] and keep themselves informed on local, state, national and international matters.
  • Prepare for every election available to them — read candidate platforms and decide in advance which ones most closely align with their value system and their philosophy on government’s role [and ignore, to the extent possible, all negative mud-slinging ads].

{Note. … In this regard, it can be helpful for an individual to identify advocacy organizations which he/she trusts and which are aligned with his/her value system and philosophy on government’s role, and use the research data and recommendations provided by those organizations in his/her assessments of candidates for office. However, caveat civis [let the citizen beware] definitely applies here — an individual trusting an organization in this way should know it very well; many advocacy organizations purport to be one thing in order to gain appeal, but actually have much different philosophical views than their names and public profiles might portray.}

  • Vote in every election available to them — local/municipal, county, state and national.

To me, these are the basics that apply to every citizen. The propensity for more active, perhaps intense, involvement will vary greatly by individual. I’ll close with just a few examples of ways in which a person who is so inclined can act on that inclination: write opinion letters to his/her local newspaper; express his/her opinions on issues of the day in discussions with friends; be an advocate for candidates for office who share his/her values; encourage people he/she knows and respects to run for office; consider running for public office; join a political party; help with a campaign; join a civic group; join a community group; give an elected official your opinion on an issue; call senators and representatives; publicly support or oppose an issue or policy.



Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

2 thoughts on “What I learned as a Boy Scout”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: