Serving Youth (was RE: Disturbing News)
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@USSCOUTS.ORG)
Fri, 18 Sep 1998 22:09:34 -0400
In any of our neighborhoods there are many young people in crisis.
Sometimes it is nearer - right next door or in our own homes. In the
United States we have more single-parent families than ever before,
families where both parents work and pursue careers, latch-key kids that
have nobody to look out after them, kids without any adult role-model,
kids with problems that don't know an adult they trust or can talk to,
kids who are not learning how to channel their energies in positive
directions, and more.
We have a media facination with glamorizing the gruesome details of any
untoward event to the point that a good news story sometimes seems like
a real news event all on its own. We have kids that watch the tube, veg
out like zombies in its glow and absorb a "reality" that is all too
violent. Some have already argued that as popularity of the Internet
and chat rooms cascades, many youth will forgo social associations for
instant online gratification and miss the developmental lessons of how
to get along with each other.
This sounds like a sky's falling episode by now, but it isn't. This
situation is not all that different than the early days of Scouting
where many of the youth that were attracted to Scouting came from less
advantaged homes where both parents labored in a mill or factory, where
being home alone and isolated was too common, and where it was difficult
to find adult role models that weren't too busy with other pursuits or
just plain survival for their families.
Then as now Scouting was for boys of every description and circumstance.
The idea was and has always been to provide an opportunity for healthy
growth in a rewarding environment where young people could learn
practical skills, have a good deal of fun and in the process develop in
character, citizenship and fitness.
Then as now the challenge is to give that opportunity to as many young
people as we can. Sure it is true enough that Scouting isn't for
everyone and that we can't touch every youth. The thing is that we can
touch a whole lot more than we do now. And we need to try. So many
kids need the adult association, the chance to excell and be rewarded,
the safe haven to have clean fun, the chance to learn how to get along,
a place where they can get a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. The
alternative isn't very palitable. Do we want to leave it to the
"lessons of the tube"? Do we want to make it so that the only "gang"
they can join is one that shows up on a police blotter? And what of the
future? What happens to these youths and to our society?
No the alternative isn't very pleasing at all. That is why it is so
important that we have so many youth opportunities including Scouting
and why they become so vital to the health of our society. When they
fail and when youth are no longer served, what is left for the ones that
come from broken homes, bad circumstances, and the like? If there isn't
a good opportunity they will create their own opportunities and then we
may not like the result.
It isn't easy and never has been. This business of life is tough. Even
so, we can't turn our shoulders on all but a select few.
It is easy to fall back on real concerns that the program won't work
without parent participation, won't work unless the kids already have
good morals, won't work if this, and won't work if that. Bunk!
Scouting works when we want it to work. It works when we give and keep
giving even when we aren't sure we have anything left. It works when we
quit worrying about what another parent is or isn't doing and worry
about what we are doing. It works when we look for creative solutions
and try to find ways around problems instead of seeing them as walls.
Easy answers - wish I had some. But that isn't the case. We face a lot
of difficult challenges and one of them is how to bring young people
into Scouting when all of the traditional trappings of family are just
not there and when the Scout may be a real handful or difficult case
and certainly no angel). How do we reach these youth and give them the
opportunity to grow in ways that will lead them to more productive and
Many wonderful Scouters have reached out a hand. Countless parents have
become "adopted parents" for a neighborhood kid - a safe house to come
to after school where neat stuff happened. The thing they all have had
in common is that they have quietly and maybe without realizing it given
just one extra kid a chance to have a place to grow with a lot of
patience and understanding. They forgot that someone else owed and
instead asked what can I do or simply just did it.
It makes all the difference in the world. Ask around in your own
community. Ask your fellow Scouters. And you'll find that no matter
where you live there are stories about Scouters who were headed in the
wrong direction as a kid, who had the chance, took it and turned around.
Some of these same folks are community leaders, business leaders, and
your friends. You'll find them here on this list too. They are the
ones that were like Whitey in Follow Me Boys and who changed because a
Scout leader gave them a chance, believed in them, and helped.
Here we have under one virtual roof a collection of Council and District
Commissioners, Professional Scouters, Scoutmasters, Cubmasters,
Venturing Leaders, Den Leaders, Guide Leaders, Girl Scout Leaders,
Committee Memebers, and many more. There is an enormous amount of
experience here among many people scattered far and wide. I would
challenge you all to present here your best experiences with reaching
out to single-parent families, "at risk kids", youth from families where
parental participation is just not forthcoming, and difficult kids. How
do you do it? What works? How can we as a movement reach out to more
young people? What are some creative solutions that we can offer new
Here is an issue we can do something about - right in our own
neighborhoods, one that can shape the future, one that can make all the
difference. Please share your thoughts with the list. Hopefully we can
all learn from successes, concerns, problems, and even frustrations. If
we can talk about this maybe we can come up with ways that we can all
use in our home neighborhoods to better deliver the promise of Scouting
to more youth, youth who will shape our future.
Michael F. Bowman --- Professor Beaver NE-CS-41
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit
from Alexandria, Virginia - firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City