Boy Scouting--without the geek stigma?

So how is Scouting seen nowadays? Does being a Scout necessarily equal being a geek?

My thirteen year old son has been attending a boarding school. To make a long story short, he was having trouble entering adolescence and we were unable to provide him with the help that he needed. In many ways the boarding school has been a great experience. He has learned horsemanship as a part of the curriculum, and at least twice a month they go camping, whitewater rafting or rope climbing. The school places an emphasis on moral guidance and leadership, and it is amazing how much my son has matured during his stay.

My son is at least halfway through his stay, and I am beginning to look for what will carry him after he comes home. I think that Scouting could be a natural thing for him. Everything that he has done at school is also emphasized in Scouting. I was a Scout in the '70s and I know that when it works it can be a great way to help kids grow up.

So that said, how is Scouting seen nowadays? We’re living in Austin, Tx and there’s a real emphasis place on being hip. Scouting may be great, but I’m concerned that it will be seen by his friends as being a very uncool thing to do. So what has been your recent experiences with it?

(For what it’s worth, my other son is in Cub Scouts. They don;t worry about looking cool, but we avoided any worries about geekiness by making tie dye t-shirts to wear as uniforms.)

Scouting is wonderful for kids. It teaches them a multitude of skills that the “cool kids” are probably too busy smoking and knocking each other up to learn.

I have been somewhat involved with scouts over the past 10 years or so, mainly volunteering with events and campouts and stuff like that. All of my volunteering has been with kids who are in Child Protective Services custody. This are kids of all types (big, small, thuggish, psychiatric, learning disabled, ect.) and they all seem to respond well to Scouts and the activities (other than the meetings- they hate those).

In my experience in Texas, the other kids in scouts appear to be on the “goody two shoes” side. The kind of kids who might be in their youth group at church and maybe part of a volunteer group at school. They also seem like the type who have good relationships with their parents and don’t mind spending time with them. I wouldn’t call them geeks, they seem to have friends and they seem to do ok with girls (kinda squeaky clean girls, but girls none the less!). They do seem to quit around 16 though.

Who gives a crap what other people think?, especially in Austin- freako capital of Texas. In Austin, everyone seems to have an opinion that they are totally ready to share with you at length then try to give you a bumpersticker about it. I think you owe it to your kid to give him the great experiences that Scouts in Texas can experience: Polar Bear Campouts in the Hill Country, Camping on the Lexington Aircraft Carrier, Primitive Camping at Buffalo Trails in West Texas, kayaking down the Guadalupe, just to name a few.

My son has a good friend who made it all the way to Eagle … this in spite of hanging with the sk8tr crowd, listening to the likes of Mudvayne and assorted friends getting busted for this and that over the years … the ‘cool’ guys always accepted what Long was doing as a scout; and some even helped him with his Eagle project (building a pedestrian bridge in a park). Long is now a student at Southern Miss and doing quite well. Scouting was a plus for him.

I say let your son go for it. His true friends won’t care if it’s ‘cool’ or not. And if some of the guys do, they aren’t true friends.

Good luck!

Of course, fitting in socially is probably a more relevant skill than learning to start a fire with a rock.

My experience with the Cub/Boy Scouts was that it is a pretty good group for kids to get involved with. Around middle school age, however, it did become less “cool”. Kids start getting into girls and whatnot and more or less outgrow camping out, skits and sleeping on battleships. Eventually, I realized a) I didn’t share any interests with the kids who were left (who were mostly into D&D, Tolkein, comic books and Monty Python) and b) I was never going to go back to that crap-hole Boy Scout summer camp with it’s outhouses and leaky Army surplus shelters and that was that.

Then again, one of my friends was an Eagle Scout and just married a Russian stripper, so there you go.
Look, you aren’t a “geek” because of the organizations you join. If you’re a cool, confident kid, those groups will be made cooler for you having joined it. Besides ultimately who gives a shit? It’s better to have lots of geeky friends than to be the coolest loner in the world.

Mesquite-oh, I think you just pegged Austin’s image to the outside world. I think that you’re right. It’s the doing that is cool, not the image, but the middle school years are tough at least partly because every kid risks ostracism over what they do. It’s stupid, but it’s just how things are.

Right. I’m a little worried about whether my son will have the confidence to not worry about what other people think. I’m probably just worrying too much about it. I’m already somewhat connected with the cubbies. I’ll probably just call around in the morning and ask about the troops in our area.

My son is an eagle scout. Troops vary widely from one another, so check out whatever ones might be close. Also, there is a great benefit IMO by choosing one that he might already have friends in, or kids whith whose parents you are friendly. Some of it might even come down to what night of the week they meet on. You might have conflicts for some noghts but not others.

One big way troops differ is the extent to which the kids direct and are responsible for things. The better troops IMO have the kids deciding what activities they participate in, and then handling most of the responsibilities. And the older boys should have responsibility re: the younger ones. It is neat as you see your kid move from being one of the younger boys being helped, to one of the older ones making decisions and helping the newbies. At the other extreme, you have parents running things and spending money.

IME, the geekiness becomes more of a factor as the kids get into high school. Also, as HS progresses, there are more and more demands on your kid’s time. So we encouraged our kid to get his eagle early, which he did by his 16th birthday. If he was gone slower, I assume he would have dropped out of scouts after soph year (which he did anyway).

If a troop does camping, your kid will likely do things through scouting that he might not do otherwise. Fires, using knives and axes, etc. Which is a good thing IMO, whether he sticks with it for several years or just a short while. And I can still remember some basic first aid and other stuff from when I was a scout 30 years ago.

Finally, IMO, the geekiness is not as big of a concern as the institutionalized homophobia and insistence on belief in a supernatural. But we are a family of leftwing atheists.

**Dinsdale ** covered the main points I was going to share, so I’ll second his comments. Contact your local council and get a listing of the active troops. Call the scoutmaster at each troop to get his philosophy with regards to how active the boys are in running the troop. IMHO, the better troops with the stronger boys are the ones that are largely boy-run rather than leader run. Once you find a few scoutmasters you’re comfortable with philosophy-wise, go visit with your son. You should be able to find a couple that will suit.

Whether or not he is in scouts he will be made fun of in middle school for something. That is the entire purpose of middle school! To be taunted and jeered, abandoned by your friends, etc. With a little help from mom and dad he can take these horrid experiences we all have and learn from them that it doesn’t matter so much what everyone else thinks, that people who would abandon you or harrass you aren’t worth your time anyway, and that we can only be responsible for ourselves and our actions. If kids learn these lessons properly in middle school/early high school they tend to blossom into confident people who truly enjoy life in late high school/college and beyond. If he wants to be in scouts let him, but if he wants to join the drama club or the marching band or whatever he can still get the same sense of accomplishment and learn the same social skills there. Just let him know he has options and help him choose what is best for him without worrying about the stigma. That will be there no matter which activities he chooses.

Eagle scout here, which I earned about 15 years ago just before I turned 16. Scouts was pretty geeky back then for anyone over the age of 16. Still I remained active on an intermittent basis until I finished high school, mainly to attend the “high adventure” camps each year, specifically Florida Sea base , and Philmont, both of which are worth joining scouting alone. Few of my “cool” friends in high school were going scuba diving in the Keys or mountain climbing in New Mexico for summer vacation.

I believe that scouting experience depends entirely on the quality of the troop one joins. I was part of a troop that made serious attempts to get its scouts to places outside of normal routine. Each summer had three trips, one to the local scout camp, one to a “high adventure” scout camp, and one out-of-state trip just to do basic touristy stuff. This required some serious fundraising though, especially on the part of the adult volunteers; it took some strong commitment to make it a worthwhile experience. Other troops I’ve seen do little more than work on badges in some church basement week after week.

When my son is old enough I figure I’ll let him choose whether or not he wants to do scouts. My wife thinks we should encourage him to based entirely on how many things it seems I’ve learned from scouts. To her it seems that whenever I exhibit a hidden skill and she asks how I learned it I say “scouts”.

That was my experience in the '80s. I started out in a troop that was largely run by the teenaged/early-20s assistant scoutmasters who were deeply interested in seeing us scouts advance up the ranks. That troop disbanded when its scoutmaster quit and us scouts were absorbed into the other troop in town, which was run by the scoutmaster and consisted of boys who were interested in having fun rather than advancement.

I had most of those metal badges that go on the belt and was working toward my first merit badge at the time of the switch. After the switch, I was stuck at second class, possibly first, don’t really remember.

Getting into a good troop is important. Some do lots of neat stuff, and other’s nothing. I left when done with Webelos. It was time to move on. I wouldn’t force it on a kid, beyond saying try it for a few meetings, and see if you like it, then you can quit or continue. Attempt this during the summer, when they do a lot of stuff.

The merit badges do add friendly competition to the experience. Nobody loses because you got the badge, but you did try to get more than the others.

I get the supernatural bit*, but the institutionalized homophobia I don’t know about. If it’s a specifically Boy Scouts of America thing then I don’t particularly care, but if it’s a World Scout Movement thing then I’d be interested in some linkage.

*In the Scottish troop I was in, the “Duty to God and the Queen” bit was rather rushed over by our Scoutmaster, who was nominally a member of the Church of England - a Church where a belief in a higher power appears to be optional, even for Bishops.

My experience with Scouting (based on my own membership back in the 1960s and my sons’ in the 1980s) is that if you are really involved in it, it’s cool with the kids your run with. It sounds like you’ve invested a lot of yourself in instilling some terriffic values in your son; I doubt that he’s going to be overly impressed with anything shallow or materialistic, regardless of how “hip” it is. Don’t get me wrong – cool cars are cool cars, no matter who you are, but everything has a priority. I’m betting he’ll be very successful in Scouting, rise to the top and take a lot of kids with him. Don’t worry, Dad – the kid is cool!

It’s a Boy Scouts of America thing. From wiki:

Scouting is a bit like Kansas: Geeky place to be right now, but terrific to have somewhere in your background.

The Dangerous Book for Boys is basically the **Boy Scout Manual **with history and lit. lessons, and that’s the coolest book out right now!.

Like SpoilerVirgin said, it’s a US of A thing. I think that the BSA main office made a statement that homosexuality is not allowed in Scouting.

That said, no one has to enforce that clause (as if they could on a nationwide basis) and it’s really left up to the troops, at least in my area. I was at a birthday a while back for the cub scout son of our Pack leader, and the adult crowd ranged from conservative folks to repo agents a crossdresser (this isn’t to single out crossdressing or repo agents, or to overgeneralize, just to show that it was a normal neighborhood crowd.) The former leaders attend a church with a lesbian minister (again, I’m just pointing it out.) I don’t see how gender preference could be an issue in Cub Scouting, but I doubt that it would be an issue with this crowd for Scouting either.

Personally, I like the “reverent” clause. It doesn’t have to mean that we have to follow one religion or another. Sure, I am Christian, but I see it as meaning that we have a responsibility to lead well and to care for the world around us.

You are right. But it is - um - less than desirable in my mind to wear the uniform of and pay dues to an organization that has such an express policy. Also, most scouts can receive religious badges. But not UUs. Why? UU doesn’t hate gays.

To my kid’s credit, during his eagle board of review, he was asked what - if anything - he would change about scouting. His response, drop the prohibition against gays, because that unnecessarily kept a lot of neat people - boys and leaders - from contributing to the organization.

Cornflakes - as one who never made Eagle Scout [turned 18 before I could finish my project] I will say that my overall scouting experience was a very good one. I am a Lifer, so I made Life in the ranks which are given here:

As you can see leadership, personal responsibility, collaborative work all go into this scouting venture. I would Highly recommend placing your son in scouting or at least talking to him about it. He would be entering as a boy scout, I think he would be too old for weblos, but it is a great experience, and has admittedly given me an edge I enjoy in life. I volunteer with my wife occasionally when the local scouts have a scout day or project like HUD or something like that. It’s very fun and I will certainly be placing my children in scouts when we have them…[mid-30’s already] I should get a move on. :slight_smile: Good Luck !

WOW!! Good on your son for saying that! Too many conflicts and bureaucratic BS happen in scouting these days! I’m glad scouting is turning around!