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Media Mangle

Boy Scout Magazine Going PC?

Latest issue of Scouting magazine heavy on the touchy-feely

Aug. 31st, 2006
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RALEIGH — I’m never surprised to be hit in the face each morning with multicultural, victimization, support-group style reporting in my local papers. That’s the bread and butter of the mainstream media these days. But if any publication was going to resist the trend I figured it would be Scouting magazine. I was wrong.

Scouting bills itself as “a family magazine published by the Boy Scouts of America.” In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a big supporter of the Boy Scouts of America, was an avid Scout as a kid and am the father of two Eagle Scouts. I like the Boy Scouts’ no-nonsense, no-guilt, in-your-face advocacy of God and country and its ideals as set forth in the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

Imagine my surprise, then, as I leafed through the latest edition of Scouting magazine yesterday. The cover story, “Connecting Cultures,” sets the mood. It tells how Scouting helps Asian-Americans “become part of U.S. society while also maintaining cultural traditions.” Also promoted on the cover are “Boys with Autism Can Thrive in Scouting” and “A Bicycle Ride for Insight and Understanding.”

The theme is found throughout the publication. A news brief chronicles one Boy Scout council’s efforts to highlight “the issues of hunger, health, and shelter.” Another tells of a Cub Scout pack that was started for homeless boys. There are stories of Scout troops created for “sons of incarcerated mothers” and “disadvantaged youth.” Another story tells of a North Carolina man winning an award “for exceptional service and leadership to Scouts with disabilities.”

The “Riding for Insight and Understanding” story highlights a California council’s program to help Scouts gain a “deeper appreciation of different religious faiths.” A bike ride took Scouts to 12 houses of worship, including an Islamic Center, where they heard an imam discuss the sixth point of the Scout Law’s admonishment to be kind. Religion has always been a big part of Scouting, but only recently, it seems, is it assumed that Scouts won’t tolerate other religions without this kind of assistance.

The “Connecting Cultures Through Scouting” tells the story of a troop of Chinese-American Scouts. “We have many people from China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, India, and Korea — as well as Caucasians, Hispanics and Native Americans,” one Scout leader said in describing the council of which this California troop is a part. While the council may be diverse, this featured troop most certainly is not. Is this an argument for segregation? Is this story saying it is better for troops to be homogenized rather than draw from many different cultures, races and religions?

In “Boys With Autism Can Thrive in Scouting — With Help,” Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders discuss how they’ve dealt with Scouts with autism and “pervasive developmental disorders.” The story, written by the parent of an autistic child, encourages troop and pack leaders find ways to get autistic and developmentally disabled boys involved in Scouting.

Helping the disadvantaged, the homeless and the boys of the incarcerated are noble callings. Appreciating religions and cultural differences also are things a boy should be taught, preferably by his parents. I kept turning the pages to find articles about camping, hiking, first aid and lifesaving, anything that might make Scouting sound like fun instead of social work. Maybe they’ll be in the next issue.

Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of its newspaper, Carolina Journal.