Jamboree Article from the Washington Post
Paul Meyermann (Paul.Meyermann@UNI.EDU)
Mon, 4 Aug 1997 11:45:53 -0600
Please read the article below. It is a compliment to the Scouting
movement, if the society in general thinks that Scouting can/should
make a contribution toward fixing social problems in our country.
A danger is created however, when Scouting is somehow considered to be
suspect (implied to be racist) because it has not been successful in
these areas. The article seems to imply that if only the Scouting
program was more flexible that it would be more successful with ethnic
and minority groups.
The genius of scouting is its flexibility in how its core values are
shared. This flexibility frustrates (as is shown by debates on this
list) those who think everyone should follow the 'letter of the law'.
The mechanics of the program are IMO intentionally vague but its core
mission is crystal clear.
Maybe the problem lies in public perception that 'the uniform' or
'the structure' or 'scout craft' is the program instead of just being
tools used to deliver the program which is the Scout Oath, Scout Laws,
Scout Motto, Scout Slogan, self reliance, leadership training etc..
Public mis-perception regarding scouting is should not be surprising
since many of the debates on this list seem to stem from
(interchanging/confusing) the methods of scouting with the purpose of
On the Trail of Cultural Diversity
Scout Leaders Say Increasing Low Minority Participation Is a High
By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 2, 1997; Page B01
The Washington Post
FORT A.P. HILL, Va._Under a purple and white tent at the National Boy
Scout Jamboree, a group of white faces stared intently at a row of
computers translating the Scout oath, motto and slogan into Spanish,
Swahili, Lao and other languages.
There may be no sharper illustration of the lack of racial diversity
in Scouting and at this gathering of 30,000 Scouts, where thousands of
teenage boys are turning to computers and pocket-size brochures to
learn about cultures other than their own.
"It's helpful stuff," said Brad Davis, 14, of Farmington, N.M., as he
scanned a list of facts about African, Asian and Hispanic Americans.
"It's mostly stuff I haven't heard before."
In the Washington area and nationally, officials with the Boy Scouts
of America cite the low participation of racial and ethnic minorities
as one of the Scouting movement's biggest problems. Organizers say
they are trying to reverse the pattern so that more youths can benefit
from Scouting's emphasis on character, values and leadership.
They also want Scouts to learn about cultural diversity from one
another rather than from computers.
"I would love to see Asian and Hispanic and African American Scouts
working together on the computers and then going off and talking about
it," said George Randall, the national Scout official heading the
effort to increase minority participation. "But, as you can see, there
aren't that many.
"These boys will not get an opportunity to meet with minority kids and
become friends. Minority kids won't get that opportunity, either."
Scouting officials do not keep statistics on the racial makeup of the
4.4 million youth members. But based on information supplied by troop
leaders around the country, they have concluded that there are
relatively few troops in urban areas with large concentrations of
minority group members. The overwhelming majority of Scouts at the
Jamboree are white, and there appear to be very few nonwhites among
the 430 Jamboree participants from the Washington area.
So far, the four-year-old effort that Randall heads, known as the
Urban Emphasis program, seems to have led to only a small increase in
minority membership, officials say. They say they continue to have
problems recruiting Scouts and scoutmasters in inner-city areas,
including Washington, despite printed brochures and speeches by Scout
leaders at community meetings. In a few cases, they have resorted to
paying people to become scoutmasters.
"The black and Hispanic communities . . . see Scouting as a suburban,
white program," said Larry Pinkney, a Washington Scout official. "All
they see in the forefront is the white, suburban kids."
African American Scout leaders cite a number of reasons black youths
traditionally have not been attracted to Scouting. They say the youths
often have been turned off by the Scout uniform and the failure to
promote sports as a Scouting activity. Another problem is that
compared with the suburbs, the District and other urban areas have few
public facilities open in the evening for troop meetings.
In interviews at the Jamboree, Latino, Asian and black Scouts said
that they have found significant rewards in Scouting -- learning
leadership, camping and values -- but that many of their friends scoff
at the idea of becoming a Scout.
Raleigh Marshall, 13, of Northwest Washington, said few of his
classmates are Scouts because "people see it as dorky. Some people
don't want to waste time."
Malcolm Edmunds, 13, also of Northwest Washington, said he's had
little luck getting friends on his football team to join Scouting. "A
couple of people will go out to see if we can recruit people," Malcolm
said, "but nobody wants to join."
The Boy Scout uniform -- a tan shirt, green shorts or pants, and green
socks with a red stripe at the top -- is a particularly hard sell in
inner-city communities, Scout leaders say.
"When my friends see the uniforms, they say I'm a gay Boy Scout," said
Jose Torres, 13, of Norwalk, Conn.
Scout officials from Orange County, Calif., said some local Latino
adults and children associate the uniform with repressive police or
military officers in their home countries.
In addition, inner-city Scouts said that many of their friends can't
afford a uniform, a Scout handbook, camping trips and other outings,
although in some cities the price is lowered by charitable donations.
Attending the Jamboree can cost up to $3,000, depending on the amount
of travel involved. Some scholarship money is available, but local
Scout leaders said it's not enough to boost participation
significantly. Some Scouts said they financed their trips by selling
popcorn and candy or by taking part-time jobs.
The efforts to increase minority membership take different forms in
different cities. In some places, Scout materials have been translated
into Spanish. In the Washington area, Scout troops have formed at
housing projects, and leaders are considering whether to solicit
donations to sponsor individual Scouts.
In Pittsburgh, leaders are trying to attract and retain African
Americans by emphasizing the movement's African origins. Ronald Curry,
a Scout official there, said he's planning a retreat in which he will
tell boys that Scouting's lessons about surviving in the wilderness
originate from Zulus in Africa. He's also encouraging the use of kente
cloth neckerchiefs, an item added in December to an official Scout
"It really is an image problem," Curry said. "The image shouldn't be
negative. We're trying to show how black Americans can fit into
Alan F. Lambert, a Washington Scout official, said encouraging troops
in inner-city areas is important because Scouting can positively shape
the lives of "at-risk" boys by teaching them the Scout tenets -- the
importance of duty to God and country and of helping others. "These
are the kids that need the Scouting program most," Lambert said.
The brochure distributed to Scouts at the Jamboree booth provides
facts and statistics about various ethnic groups, as well as some
marketing information. For instance, it says: "The vast majority of
African Americans are not offended by the terms `black' or `African
American,' " and, "The marketing message to Hispanics is that Scouting
strengthens family relationships and increases a young person's
Some minority Scouts said that not enough is being done to help
overcome a lack of racial tolerance among many of their peers.
Larry Bowden, 14, of Bridgeport, Conn., said a group of Scouts
recently made racial comments in his presence.
"They were saying black people have wider noses, that kind of stuff,"
he said. "If it was more diverse, I think they would have more
c Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City