According to the Boy Scouts of America, the organization’s mission is to “prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”
Every year, when the Boy Scouts sold tickets for pancake breakfasts or other fundraisers, we purchased whatever they were selling. It was our way of supporting our community.
Here’s another one of our experiences with our local Boy Scout troop this past summer. As my son — who was not yet in kindergarten — and I left our local pool, a line of rowdy Boy Scouts was queued up, waiting to get in. As we walked past them, a trio of blond Scouts made racist remarks to us. They lacked the moral compass to know that it wasn’t right to make fun of others for the way they looked, or that picking on children half their size was cruel, or that saying such things to an adult was unacceptable.
When I calmly told them that they weren’t being kind and were being poor role models for the younger Scouts in their group, they just laughed it off. And, after we had left, a friend told me she witnessed them doing the same thing to another little girl who dared to look different than them.
According to reports from other parents there that evening, that same Boy Scout troop — which was there on a Scout-sanctioned outing with supposed adult supervision — ran rampant at the pool all night, taking children’s goggles and bullying toddlers. They were so obnoxious and rude that some of the parents left early with their children, because they no longer felt safe.
This wasn’t a case of boys being boys. It was a case of Boy Scouts running wild and their adult chaperones talking amongst themselves and not doing their jobs.
I was discussing this with a friend, and another mom who we didn’t know very well asked what we were talking about. As I filled her in, I saw her eyes glaze over and I could tell she had stopped listening. She couldn’t relate to any of this, because it had never happened to her (I know this because she told me) and she couldn’t imagine what it must be like to watch a group of “role models” taunt a child for looking unlike them.
The reaction I received from the men in my neighborhood was decidedly different. One wanted to stand guard at the entrance, ID the boys and let everyone know what kind of kids they were. That was actually the mildest response.
As a non-white person living in America, I’ve experienced things like this often enough to know that it will happen again. And as upset as I was, I wanted to forget about it and just let it drop. It wasn’t so bad, I told my husband. Worse things had happened.
But Denton said no. It wasn’t acceptable for me to let these kids off the hook, or for them to not learn the difference between right and wrong — that if their parents and the Boy Scouts weren’t teaching them how to grow up to be caring and responsible young men, then it was society’s job to step up and show them what it meant to be a good person.
My husband’s one and only encounter with a bully was when one of his not-so-bright classmates tried to intimidate him in kindergarten. Denton — who was almost always the tallest student in his class — shoved the kid into a coat closet and left for recess. And, that was the end of that.
He dealt with the Boy Scouts organization for several months. And in the end, he got this pat answer: “We tried to find out who was involved but didn’t have any luck.” As expected, none of the boys confessed to what they had done. One boy said he saw a little of what happened, but he wouldn’t give up his troopmates. And, as far as we know, the troop wasn’t punished for failing to follow the Scout Oath of doing their best.
The troop leader basically threw his hands up in the air. “What can we do? Tsk tsk.”
Here’s what you could’ve done. When the offending Scouts failed to admit their actions, the rest of the troop should’ve been told that covering up for their friends wasn’t beneficial to anyone. And, when the pals refused to give the other boys up, the entire troop should’ve been made to apologize to the community and done community service. The boys could’ve learned a lesson that would’ve served them well — that there are repercussions to their actions; and that sometimes, the worst action is in pretending that it never happened.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM
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