Monday, April 07, 2008

Marketing to Germphobic Societies - Turning next generation men into residential mice.

Or should it be the other way around - turning today's residential mice into men. Years ago the Boy Scouts of America started watering down the Boy Scout Handbook, and in my mind easing qualifications for advancement in rank in an effort to remain competive with the abundance of activities competing for a share of young boy's time. This is not a condemnation. What I'm saying is that less information is provided in more detail in today's scout handbook than I had in mine related to sheer survival skills 40 years ago. Now granted I'm an Eagle Scout and can survive with just a knife in the wilderness, even caught and ate a squirrel on my Order of the Arrow Ordeal. But never have I seen this more in evidence than in a scout outing with my son's new troop this weekend. Granted all the boys in his patrol are young, and less than "experienced" scouts - all are still working on tenderfoot or second class requirements. But the first thing I saw plopped on a table as the tents went up was a bottle of Purell. Now that in itself is not bad, but what I found disturbing was the boy's need to pump that bottle every time they touched a dirty stick, played in the fire, picked up a rock or gathered firewood. More, rather than be the example of what the boys should be doing (ie: demonstrating the Boy Scout way to prepare meals over an open fire, one dad showed up with Lunchables in his knapsack to feed himself. Self reliance has gone to hell in a handbasket here and I'm going to turn it around! It isn't that the parents attending were doing anything wrong, admittedly they'd never been scouts. So I started teaching scout skills. When I was a scout the challenge was to be able to build and light a fire with just one match. And if that match went out, you were SOL - and in a real life situation probably dead. When done, I challenged the boys to gather their wood, build their fires and then we'd have a competition to see who could light a fire with one match. An indignant parent stepped forward suggesting that that was too much pressure on his child and that he should have all the matches and chances he wanted. I asked him if he thought if in a survival situation that was realistic? - I was trying to teach the boys that in a survival situation they needed food, shelter and warmth. What was his child to do to provide warmth, if he did not even have a match? This is the Boy Scouts for Christ sakes and I'm trying to teach the boys to BE PREPARED. One dad slept in the back of his mini van instead of his tent anyway - guess comfort is king. The demonstration went on without a hitch. I lit two fires, each with one match - still not too rusty after 37 years away from my scout experience. I admitted that it took me 20 campouts before I could light a fire with just one match. Just one problem. I assumed the boys knew how to use matches. They didn't. So it's back to square one on the next campout and before we move on to the different types of fires: cooking, signaling, etc. More on turning boys into men later. One thing for certain, those boys thought the challenge was cool, and they all had lots of questions. Good men!


Anonymous said...

You're so right on the mark with this post. I was reminded of the tradition today to give every member of a losing team a medal to make them each feel special. We wouldn't want all the kids to have to seek professional counselling in the absence of such recognition, would we?! Maybe there's a Boy Scout video game out there for the ones who can't handle the basics of real world scouting. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Gents, lets just say I was of part of the last generation of traditional Scouts. I started in the 80s and went until about 89. Some of the old traditions were still in place, but the Scouts were fighting a losing battle even before the full on digital age. The Boy Scouts suffered an image problem, whereas even my friends who made Eagle were very hush-hush about the whole thing.
While there is something to be said for tradition, there has been a complete disconnect

even steven said...

Purell on a scouting trip is hilarious, When i scouted it was unforgivable to sleep in a car no matter how hard it rained. Enjoyed your post.