I don’t know what put it in my mind, but I got to thinking about the Boy Scout Oath. You can read it, along with an explanation of its meaning at:
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best:
To do my duty to God and my county,
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
and morally straight.
(Notice the three duties: duty to self; duty to country; duty to God.)
I remembered my old copy of the Boy Scout Handbook I’ve kept since my scouting days, and I pulled it down from the shelf and dusted it off. It had belonged to my brother before me, who was eleven years my senior. Printed in 1944, my copy is the thirty-seventh printing, consisting of 420,000 copies. At the time of that printing, a total of 8,746,607 copies had been printed, since it was first published in 1910. According to the introduction on page 4, “…the Official Manual for Boy Scouts… has been the Country’s best seller, with the exception of the Bible.”
On page 5 of the Introduction was this interesting paragraph:
The 37th printing of the Handbook For Boys is produced as a war-time edition with narrow margins in the interest of conserving paper. In this edition, for the first time, appears the new nature section with entirely new text, which has been developed by experts. New illustrations and an entirely new treatment make this, it is believed, the most modern and helpful material of this sort produced for boys of Scout age.
Considering the age requirement of twelve, I found the information and illustrations in this nature section to clearly represent a broad appreciation of the natural world. A variety of wildlife and habitats are described, and the goal of conservation is of course emphasized. In the sixth grade, we were taught about a new scientific field of study called “Ecology”. I remember thinking at the time that this was nothing more than giving a scientific name to something the Boy Scouts were already doing.
But nature is only part of Scouting. As the Scout Oath points out, Scouting is fundamentally about fostering honor and character. In fact, the oath says nothing about nature, while it specifically mentions God, country, helping others and self-discipline. Beginning at age twelve, the goal of a Boy Scout is to become a respectable, responsible and dependable man who is a credit to his God, his country, his fellow-man and himself.
As I read through the dog-eared pages of this old handbook, I was struck by the noble standards it was teaching. I remembered when I was twelve, how much I wanted to measure up, how important it was for me to become the best man I could be. And right there in the Scout Oath were my reasons: for myself, for others, for my country and for God.
Tears flowed as I recalled my inner agreement to that oath when I was only twelve years old. When I first said those words, they sprang from my deep conviction that these things really mattered. God mattered. America mattered. The people in my community mattered. I mattered. The whole idea was to become the best man possible — a good example, a good neighbor, a good citizen, a godly man.
The first requirement for a Boy Scout is to know the twelve points of the Scout Law. On page 32 of my handbook it explains, “The Scout Law is of especial importance as it outlines how one should live and act to get along successfully with people — to merit their respect and confidence by applying the age-old Golden Rule — treating them as one would like to be treated.” Here then are the twelve points of the Scout Law, as presented on pages 33 to 36:
1. A SCOUT IS TRUSTWORTHY
A Scout’s honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie, or by cheating, or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor, he may be directed to hand over his Scout badge.
2. A SCOUT IS LOYAL
He is loyal to all to whom loyalty is due, his Scout leader, his home, and parents and country.
3. A SCOUT IS HELPFUL
He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons, and share the home duties. He must do at least one “Good Turn” to somebody every day.
4. A SCOUT IS FRIENDLY
He is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
5. A SCOUT IS COURTEOUS
He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people and the weak and helpless. He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.
6. A SCOUT IS KIND
He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.
7. A SCOUT IS OBEDIENT
He obeys his parents, Scoutmaster, Patrol Leader, and all other duly constituted authorities.
8. A SCOUT IS CHEERFUL
He smiles whenever he can. His obedience to orders is prompt and cheery. He never shirks nor grumbles at hardships.
9. A SCOUT IS THRIFTY
He does not wantonly destroy property. He works faithfully, wastes nothing, and makes the best use of his opportunities. He saves his money so that he may pay his own way, be generous to those in need, and helpful to worthy objects. He may work for pay, but must not receive tips for courtesies or Good Turns.
10. A SCOUT IS BRAVE
He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear, and to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him.
11. A SCOUT IS CLEAN
He keeps clean in body and thought, stands for clean speech, clean sport, clean habits, and travels with a clean crowd.
12. A SCOUT IS REVERENT
He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties, and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.
These standards of behavior produce compassionate, principled and disciplined living. Comparing the brief explanations of each point to those currently in use on the Boy Scouts of America site, I noticed that the passage of time has brought a few changes of application and emphasis. Nevertheless, a principle remains a principle, and the Boy Scout Law promulgates an excellent standard of behavior for God-fearing citizens in a free nation.
Looking back on my life, I can say these standards of behavior have stood me in good stead. They have made me a better person, neighbor, citizen and child of God. And to the extent that others have also tried to live up to these standards, the character of the Scout Law reflects a distinctive American character. As I remember it, America was a great nation blessed by God and a blessing to other nations around the world.
In all fairness, I’m not talking about being a man so much as believing in certain values. My wife was a Girl Scout, and her experience taught her the same principles I learned as a Boy Scout. You can read and hear the Girl Scout Promise and Law at:
Part of the Girl Scout Law is to “make the world a better place”, which reflects today’s global philosophy. A fourth duty — Duty to the World — has been added to duty to self, duty to country and duty to God. While making the world a better place sounds nice, it’s only a socialist, utopian deception. This has been done in order to tone down nationalism, to make young people think that being a “citizen” of the world is a bigger, more noble aspiration than being a patriotic American.
To argue that everyone is a citizen of the world ignores the fact that there is no representative world government. There is no elected global government held accountable to the will of the people. There are no rights or privileges of world citizenship and loyalty to the world is meaningless. Such things derive from the laws of nations. To think of oneself as a citizen of the world is pure fantasy. Even if you believe in the brotherhood of man, it is not a sociopolitical reality. If you want to make the world a better place, take some pride in your part of the world and maintain the quality of your own nation by being a decent citizen.
My wife and I are of the Old School. We were taught to do good because that is the right thing to do, not because the world needed to be changed or because we thought we could change it. We were taught to directly impact our part of the world, whether it was by helping a neighbor or by cleaning up a nearby stream. We were raised to love and care for our country and let others love and care for theirs. But now, it seems as if we’re so busy trying to make the world a better place, that there’s no time left to care for our own.
Our experience of living in America today is akin to the culture shock of moving to a third-world country. We haven’t moved anywhere, but our own culture has changed so much, it’s just as if we had moved to a foreign continent with new customs and values, and even a new language to learn. I guess that’s supposed to be part of making the world a better place. People move here from their foreign lands and make our country change so that they will feel at home. Our country must change to accommodate them, but they don’t feel they have to change.
My point isn’t just about “change”. Something important has been lost. It feels as if what we learned when we were young makes us suckers in the eyes of the new “locals”. Everywhere you look is a demanding mob, a scandal, a crisis, a crime. And every lying politician promises to solve these problems with new taxes and restrictions, which only make our lives harder. Real, live politicians smile and lie and cheat better than any movie villain ever did.
At a time when we are desperate for leaders who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, a few good Scouts would be far more welcome than all those lying politicians put together.