Scandal Creates Tough Questions for Former Scouts

What role should the organization play in your and your children's future in wake of the sexual abuse scandal?

Like many media organizations across the country, a trove of documents detailing cases of sexual abuse of children that were never reported to police.

The scandal hits home for many here in St. Louis, with cases of abuse reported in Hazelwood, Kirkwood and possibly more communities in the area. However, it's also a story that impacts a broader section of Americans, namely all those who grew up participating in scouting, like myself. 

I was involved with the Boy Scouts as early as first grade, enrolling as a Cub Scout, a kind of junior scouting level that lasts until you hit sixth grade and are officially old enough to become a scout. I stayed in the organization until I graduated high school and earned scouting's highest honor by becoming an Eagle Scout.

Unfortunately, this news is the second time an institution from my childhood has been rocked by such a scandal. In addition to spending many years as a scout, I also went to Catholic school and regularly attended church with my family.

On the whole, these organizations provided me with valuable experiences that have shaped me as an adult. Scouting ensured that a geeky kid attached to his Sega spent time connecting with nature. The church gave my family and its history a sense of tradition and additional meaning.

As such, these stories inevitable raise certain questions, but there is one that stands out as far more difficult than the rest, I think, for most former scouts. I'm not a father, and not planning to be in the near future, but before this scandal I had always assumed that I would encourage any son I had to join the Boy Scouts. After all, my own father frequently accompanied us on camping trips, ferrying groups of rowdy fifth-graders to and fro and never complaining about it.

The scandal and the way it has been handled has now cast that assumption into doubt. The Boy Scouts barring of gays from joining its ranks and its intolerance for secular world views are similar organizational values that I also find deplorable.

So, do I support the Boys Scouts for the memories and experiences it provided me, or do I condemn the organization for its failures to maintain its own high standards? Does the harm perpetuated by a few outweigh the good done by many?

There are no easy answers here, of course, and there likely never will be. A knee-jerk reaction to universally condemn the Boy Scouts as having nothing of value to offer or to attempt to ignore its failures are both wrongheaded, surely, but what can you say beyond that?

My hope is the impact of this scandal is not the unraveling of the Boy Scouts, but that it instead serves as a catalyst for reform. That way, my involvement in the organization, and in any future role it might play in my life, will be something of which I can be proud.

What do you think? How has the Boy Scouts of America and the sexual abuse scandal impacted you? Would you still encourage your own children to join? Tell us in the Comments.


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