The short version:
If you give a First Class Scout a tent, a sleeping bag, and a backpack that is properly stocked (food, water, a first aid kit, a compass, a map, a knife, matches, cooking utensils, rain gear, a change of clothes, etc.), you can drop that Scout in the woods anywhere and he’ll be able to take care of himself for three days and find his way home safely.
And probably have fun along the way.
But I offer the following for discussion:
I heard this talking point at some Scout thing years ago, and I just loved it.
The point is that Scouting teaches self-sufficiency and personal confidence to youth at an age when those lessons sometimes are hard to learn.
This is a talking point I sometimes use when asked to speak on behalf of Scouting. Prime audiences for this point are parents who have brought their sons to a school night or other recruiting meeting, but who “aren’t sure.”
It’s also a good fundraising talking point. You want potential donors to know that the program helps youth at a tender transition time of their lives to be better able to deal with the adult world.
This point also reinforces much more:
From an advancement perspective, this talking point emphasizes that requirements for Scout through First Class are not just “Scout stuff,” but life lessons. It’s not just about how to stop bleeding from a cut, how to use a map and compass to find your way, or how to pitch a tent. it’s about having the personal wherewithal to take care of oneself in any situation. Cf., algebra. Few adults use algebra in their lives, but anybody who took algebra in high school probably is a better problem-solver because of what’s mentally needed to learn algebra.
Another point of the talking point: Scouting is outdoor based. It illustrates that the key method of Scouting is getting kids outdoors – probably out of a kid’s comfort zone in most cases — to learn life lessons in situations that they won’t experience through other youth activities, such as school sports. (Not to disparage school sports, which teaches life lessons, too; but Scouting is a different youth formation platform, with its own unique advantages.)
You don’t have to be an Eagle Scout to get something out of Scouting. The metric I’ve heard is three years: If a youth spends three years in a Scouting at any level (anywhere from Cubs to Venturing), they’ll get a big part of what Scouting has to offer: Self-sufficiency, personal confidence, along with good values and leadership training, citizenship, and among many other things.
Oh, and Scouting is fun, too. The key to the “First Class” reference is that most Scouts will spend at least a year or two getting to that rank, which is a good start to the three-year metric. Also, of course, all the requirements through First Class truly equip you for three days in the woods
(Not to disparage pursuit of Eagle, of course; but if the national average is that “only” 4% (or whatever it is) of Scouts reach that rank, then 96% do not. Have we not served the 96%? Of course we have. Any kid who spends some time in Scouting ought to get something out of the program, regardless of whether the Eagle rank is attained. Of course, we encourage every Scout to aspire to achieve Eagle, but we should never feel we’ve failed a kid who drops before that rank.)
Hope this helps. Happy that you asked, and I’d be pleased to discuss further anytime. Preferably around a campfire.
Pioneer Trails District
Editor’s Note: Michael was my friend long before I ever put on a tan shirt. Now, it is a pleasure to work with him as members of the Council Commissioners’ Corps. Thank you for contributing to our blog Michael, and thank you for all you give to Scouting. RJW