Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Return Of Militarism In The Boy Scouts- UPDATE BELOW
Explorer Scouts Under Homeland Security
Can you tie a "timber hitch"?
Start a fire in the rain with two matches?
Restore a wetland in an urban area?
- These types of activities have given millions of young boys and teens involved in scouting programs the confidence to become team members and leaders in society. But according to This New York Times Article, things appear to be changing.
I was a Cub Scout, and then a Boy Scout in the 1960's and early 1970's. By all standards, I never achieved high rank in the organization, but I had a hell of a good time. I almost got killed twice; the first time swimming across a glacial-cold collapsed artesian well on Mount Hood, the second while climbing The South Sister in Oregon, at night. We tipped over rotten trees, rolled huge boulders down mountainsides, and built all kinds of fires. We would sneak hard liquor into our "Tang". The Boy Scouts was the first place I ever smoked Pot. Indeed, it was "High Adventure".
While the structural organization of the Scouts helped prepare young men to function in the workplace as team-members, other jobs such as in forestry, park management, and agriculture were more directly related to Scouting.
Since 9-11 however, the focus of Explorer Scouts has now swung to anti-terrorism, drug interdiction and rounding up illegal immigrints. As stated in the "Times" article:
"Many law enforcement officials, particularly those who work for the rapidly growing Border Patrol, part of the Homeland Security Department, have helped shape the program’s focus and see it as preparing the Explorers as potential employees. The Explorer posts are attached to various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police and fire departments, that sponsor them much the way churches sponsor Boy Scout troops.
“Before it was more about the basics,” said Johnny Longoria, a Border Patrol agent here. “But now our emphasis is on terrorism, illegal entry, drugs and human smuggling.”
The controversy of milaritarism in the Scouts is nothing new; British founder Robert Baden-Powell created the program in 1908 based on Army Scout training, and the organization moved to the United States two years later. Not suprisingly, Baden-Powell used the 1900 British Army Field Manual as the text for the program. To be fair, I assume the manual was largely instructional regarding packing gear, setting up camps and the like. But the criticism of Baden-Powell was severe, and competing organizations began their own pacifist-oriented outdoor programs. Here's an excerpt from this history of the Scouts:
"Some authors have concluded that the defense of the British Empire formed a very important motive for the foundation of the Boy Scouts. Baden-Powell was impressed by the Military Mafeking Cadet Corps, which gained fame, as Baden-Powell did, through its work during the Boer War. In 1905, Elliot E. Mills published a pamphlet anonymously, The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. It encapsulated the xenophobic fears of England in that period. Baden-Powell treated the readers to excerpts of the pamphlet's themes in his book Scouting for Boys, reinforcing the belief that national defense was a prime motive".
After World War One, the focus of Scouting returned to the roll of fellowship and outdoor education for young people, a healthy and constructive program enjoyed by millions of kids. It stayed this way until the tragic events of 9-11, and now it seems as if the Explorer program may have been absorbed into Homeland Security. It coldly echos the "xenophobic fear of the decline of empire", as described above.
Marksmanship with bow-and-arrow or .22 rifles has been replaced with airsoft replicas of assualt rifles, map and compass replaced with handcuffs.
What are the ethical issues involved when you shape young minds in an "us-or-them" mentality? Where have we heard "You're either with us, or with the terrorists"?
And with anti-immigrint hysteria at an all-time high, what could happen if These Guys infiltrate these types of programs?
Ah... yes, I'd prefer to sit back by the campfire, have another burnt hot dog, and sip a little vodka and Tang.
***UPDATE: Town halls hire citizen snoopers as young as SEVEN to spy on neighbours and report wrongs