A New Scout Code: Time For An Update, Beaver!
    By Greg Critser | April 22nd 2014 11:42 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Today, the Boy Scouts of America seemed to back peddle on last year’s promise to accept and recognize gay scouts--by rejecting and banning a gay scoutmaster who

    Why did the organization do that?

    Nasty administrators? Probably not.

    Bigoted leadership? Maybe.

    I suspect another factor: the organization’s core values.

    Geoff McGrath, 49, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach
    neighborhood. Link: NBC

    I say this as a former scout who spent many of his most formative years bending to the Boy Scout Law: trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. We had to memorize those. (Even today I can’t get them out of my mind when doing something fun.) Yes, I think the “law” needs a drastic retooling.

    Here we go:

    Trustworthy: It sounds good, but in a time of deep and pervasive corruption, I’d prefer “honest.” In fact, why was that left out of the list in the first place?

    Loyal: I’m sorry--to what? The government? Your employer? Breaking Bad? I don’t think so, Beaver! How about...skeptical?

    Helpful: OK, good start. But this conjures something a little paternal, like helping old ladies avoid the horse and buggie while crossing Main Street. I’d replace it with “charitable.” Again, where was that in the original?

    Courteous: No one will ever believe you mean it, anyway. Try: “respectful.”

    Kind: Do not change this! Please!

    Friendly: Except, apparently, if you’re a scout master. How about “respectful” again?

    Obedient: Fuck No! This is the problem! Try “independent.”

    Cheerful: Why? It’s phony. Humorous--yes, that’s it! And where was it in the original?

    Thrifty: Really? ( Ok, you get one “really?” a day and that’s it!) I like “responsible.” (But not “credit-worthy!”)

    Brave: Yes soldier Joe! No--no Army recruiting in the Scouts please! ( I once had a straight (?) scout master who made us stand at attention and listen to “The Ballad of the Green Beret” every night of summer camp.) Replace with “agile.” (Better prep for modern workplace anyway!)

    Clean: Bigtime repackage and reposition needed here. “....and sober” as addendum comes to mind. Organic? Colon-Cleansed?

    Reverent: This is too knee-bendy. How about “respectful” (again)? “Open-minded?” Even--dare I say?--”tolerant.”

    I’d sure like to hear other suggestions on this. It’s hardly a comprehensive list. And why just 12 Laws? It’s not a 12-Step thing. We still haven’t covered “creative,” “original,” “quiet,” “thoughtful,” and--wow-o!--”humble?”

    But those are a good start to making 21st-century equivalents to the Scouts’ current Model-T laws.

    We’ll start on those merit  badges next.

    Greg Critser never became an Eagle Scout. Out of respect for the bird.


    This article raises a whole mass of issues, and if I had the time and energy each of your twelve items could act as a jumping-off point for an article of my own.  However, nad oes ynof nwyf na amser (I have no energy or time, see footnote 1), so with your forbearance, I will take the opportunity to start sharing, bit by bit, some of my own thoughts — which are unlikely, though, to become as popular as those of the Great Helmsman.

    I will start with your apposition of loyal and skeptical.  Now disloyalty, or more precisely treachery, was considered perhaps the greatest of crimes in mediaeval times.  Loyalty is one of the main themes of the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon, and in Dante’s Inferno, the bottom layer of Hell was reserved for those who had betrayed “lords and benefactors”.  Satan himself was positioned right at the bottom, with three heads, each of which was continuously champing away on a traitor.  The middle head was chewing — no surprise — Judas Iscariot, but the other two were masticating — wait for it — Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar.  Obviously this was written from a rather ‘Romanocentric’ point of view.

    Today there has appeared news of a sociological conference presentation: Researchers discover what makes us feel European – and it’s food

    Dr Hanquinet, of the University of York, and Professor Savage, of the London School of Economics, found that characteristics most closely linked to feeling European were regularly buying items from other European countries, listening to European folk music, and eating European cuisine.

    These were more likely to mark a person as feeling pro-European than having lived in another European country, or keeping in touch regularly with friends and family on the continent.

    I detect something ‘sneaky’ there.  There appears to be a conflation, whether unconscious or deliberate I cannot tell, between ‘feeling European’ and ‘feeling pro-European’.  Now I am international, not cosmopolitan.  To me, the word ‘cosmopolitan’ suggests rich characters out of a James Bond film who have no sense of loyalty to anyone or anything.  I find the idea that people who have little experience of hunger would so easily give up their national identity for the sake of food reminds me of the Biblical story of Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, or in more modern English, a bowl of lentils [3].

    I feel most strongly British, but also very European — so much so, that I feel a much greater ‘distance’ between my British self and America.  However, what these people mean by ‘European’ is being a member of some proposed European ‘superstate’, referred to by its detractors as the ‘EUSSR’.  But in so doing, they would lose much of what it means to be a European, because the Europe they dream of is, though they do not realize it, more like an Oriental despotism such as the Ottoman Empire.

    ‘Skeptical’ can wait till tomorrow.

     * * * * *

    1.  A ‘take’ on the popular Welsh hymn Cwm Rhondda

    2:  The two types are found among scientists, see The Elettra Experience.

    3:  One caveat here: I do not recommend using the Bible to teach ‘good behaviour’.  I might say why in a future historical analysis.

     * * * * *

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I was never a scout as a kid but I am sort of one now, because I have a child in it. I'm fine with erring on the side of caution regarding kids. Unsurprisingly, most Americans are, the precautionary principle is practically stamped on the forehead of all of us and we have gotten more conservative in many ways. I am fine if that applies to kids even more. 

    But the scouts are already pretty conservative. If a kid even has to go to the bathroom, he has to go with another scout. If no other scout is available, two adults have to go with him. Clearly if the rules on the books are being enforced, the opportunity for pederasts is slim. 

    We often need to maintain a little skepticism about how this is being portrayed. The scouts feel like this whole troop was created for political reasons and they may have a point; when a brand new group in culturally aggressive Seattle gets chartered and immediately puts a gay man in charge, that is probably not a coincidence.

    The 'in your face' attitude is not going to work. Scouting needs a gay Jackie Robinson so for Seattle to jam in a gay Malcolm X was not advancing cultural sensibility, it is holding it back.
    A continuation, dealing with the word


    To readers of this site, the word will immediately bring to mind people such as Jim Al-Khalili, who was one of fifty signatories to a recent letter David Cameron fosters division by calling Britain a ‘Christian country’.  Now one may or not agree with what our Prime Minister said: after all, in Chapter 2 of Orthodoxy (1908) G.K.Chesterton wrote:

    You cannot fancy a more sceptical world than that in which men doubt if there is a world. It might certainly have reached its bankruptcy more quickly and cleanly if it had not been feebly hampered by the application of indefensible laws of blasphemy or by the absurd pretence that modern England is Christian.

    But I am concerned more by an attitude, close to cynicism, which has been progressively inculcated in our young people: one of disbelieving, a priori, whatever is said by parents, teachers, etc.

    This is why I take issue with our Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, who wondered aloud if most parents would rather their 17 year old daughter read Twilight or Middlemarch.  It would, of course, seem at first sight to be a no-brainer.  Who could not prefer the classic 19th Century novel to some arguably trashy modern stuff?

    But alas, Middlemarch is the last example a conservative politician such as he should have chosen.  His main battle is against the educational establishment, which is controlled by left-wing academics and the teaching unions.  Since WW2, these have created a situation whereby employers have to rely on immigrants, not only for cheap labour, but even for brain power.  Now Middlemarch is, admittedly, a novel highly critical of the establishment of its day.  But it seems to me a progenitor of the kind of thinking in which young people are taught to question for questioning’s sake, rather than to ask “is this good or bad, or right or wrong?”  One outcome is that expressed by Pink Floyd:

    We don’t need no education
    We don’t need no thought control.

    Now I am not arguing for supine submissiveness to whatever the powers that be throw at one.  After all, when Voltaire said of the Roman Catholic Church of his day Écrasez l'infâme” there was certainly plenty of infamy which needed to be rubbed out.  But it all too often leads to throwing out the baby but keeping the bathwater.  Concerning the Prussian emperor Frederick the Great, G.K.Chesterton wrote this:  

    Whether he was a Protestant hero or not can be decided best by those who have read the correspondence of a writer calling himself Voltaire, who was quite shocked at Frederick’s utter lack of religion of any kind.

    We Europeans live now in much gentler times than those of Voltaire.  But while his infâme has been very much weakened, one has only to look at the machinations of the unelected individuals at the core of the European Union to realize that l'infamie dure encore.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England