Thursday, March 26, 2009

And then they will gather around the campfire

Okay, in an effort prove I can talk about something besides me, let’s chat about the Boy Scouts, shall we? After this you will probably be dying for me to return to narcissism.

First I want to say, I do not hate the Boy Scouts. Even though they do not sell cookies, I believe that the program run in its intended spirit can absolutely be a positive thing. The situation up for discussion today is, in my opinion, an example of the program NOT being run in its intended spirit and is in no way representative of the entire Boy Scouts of America organization.

I also should explain that we are LDS, and so are a lot of our friends. We attend church and our children attend scouts within our ward boundaries (go here, it’s a much clearer explanation of the whole “ward” business), it’s basically a district. Our scout leaders are members of our wards and much of the funding for scout activities comes from each ward’s budget, at least that is my understanding.

Still with me? Okay, we have some friends who are not in our ward, they live a couple miles away and are in a different ward. They happen to live in a fairly affluent neighborhood and they and their sons attend church and scouts with the other boys from their neighborhood. Every summer the scouts go to camp, usually for 4 or 5 days. Sometimes it’s to a nearby scout camp, other times they really camp and they go rappelling or something adventurous like that. It’s usually a lot of fun for the boys. We generally pay between $100.00 and $250.00 for each of our boys to go to camp.

This year the scout leaders in my friend’s ward have arranged to take the boys (they have 15-17 scout age boys in their ward) on the deluxe granddaddy “camping” trip of all time. These very lucky young men will be going to Catalina Island, off the coast of California, where they will spend 4 long hard days earning merit badges in scuba diving, kayaking, and tide pool observation (not really on the tide pool thing, but they might as well). This experience will cost each family $150.00 dollars per boy and it will cost the ward an additional $400.00 per boy. At 15 boys that is $6000 the ward is shelling out for this little vacation priceless experience. $6000.00!!!!!

Does anyone else find this as wasteful as I do? When my friend suggested to the leaders that these boys might have a more meaningful experience if they were to commit some of those funds and some hard work to a service project, it was explained to her that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that the boys will never forget (ya think?!) and that it will be a chance for them to bond and forge relationships that will last a lifetime. I guess when you are doing service there is always the possibility you might get so caught up in the act of serving you could forget to bond. That would be a horrible waste of service to be sure.

I can’t help it, this makes me a little bit sick. I thought scouting was about building character and serving your fellowman. The fact that in our current economic climate anyone would think it’s a good idea to take a bunch of teenage boys on this kind of trip and pay for it with church funds makes me angry.

My husband has reminded me that it is not our ward doing this, and not my money being spent so blah, blah, blah……none of my business, blah….. probably will be fun for the boys, blahba di blah……..

Those things may all be true, and I realize that technically this has nothing to do with me. I guess I'm not very good at minding my own business.  I think it’s frivolous and wasteful. I feel as leaders and adults we have a responsibility to show good judgement and use restraint when necessary.  I’m sure those boys are going to learn something from this trip, but I bet it’s not the kind of thing you'll find in the Boy Scout manual.


Heidi Ashworth said...

Didn't Elder Packard speak against this practice of having the ward pay for extravagant activities? I think it was in the talk he recently gave in his home ward that was so wildly passed around on the internet a few months back. Salt Lake has been saying this kind of spending is wrong for years. Frustrating!

Cheryle said...

I'm not LDS, so I hope you'll forgive me if I comment anyway!

My boys were all boy scouts, and there were some packs and troops that could afford more extravagant trips because their parents could afford to pay more. That was fine with me, even though a little difficult to explain the perceived inequity to my boys.

But since Scouts is at least partially about building character, it seems to me that these young men would get more from their trip ("vacation") if they EARNED the additional money required instead of seeing it as their church community's responsibility to provide it!

We had a local high school band invited to Pres. Obama's inauguration and those kids had to work to get the money to attend - and they weren't from families and didn't live in neighborhoods that made it easy. But the looks of their tired faces when they returned to Oregon from DC was priceless and their pride was evident.

And, at some level, since it's your denomination, it is your business. We are judged by the company we keep and we should be voices to keep our "company" on the straight and narrow!

(Thanks for letting me support you!)

Peter G said...

You're right, it's really not your business. I have taken many scouts on this kind of trip, and the intangibles (the bonding, the teamwork, etc( that are derived from this kind of trip are not apparent to people who do not participate. I took 15 boys to New Mexico last year for two weeks and watched all those boys expand and grow in situations they never would have experienced at home . In an age or 'corporate welfare' when we give handouts of millions to millionaire executives, laying out 6,000 buck to send a handful of kids on an adventure like tis is a much more worthwhile investment, with a better payoff.

wesley's mom (sue) said...

Heidi-There seem to always be those who find ways to justify these types of expenses.

Cheryle-You are always welcome to comment here, I love to hear different perspectives. As I said I have nothing against the scouting program. My biggest problem is with the extravagance, but you are right with the whole "company I keep" thing. I'm a little embarrassed that a church group would, under the guise of scouting, take a trip like this.

Peter-My own sons have gone on trips with the boy scouts and been involved exactly the types of situations you describe, on the other hand, a couple of them have had the pleasure of going on trips similar to this California trip and found it to be nothing more than a vacation. So much depends on the leadership, and who can be trusted with your investments.

Homer and Queen said...

I am with you on this one, especially with the economy the way it is...I think we should make the rules!!! Just kidding...don't want that responsibility!

AuBien said...

Interesting situation. From my perspective,...the trip for the boys sounds amazing. And I think it would be a once in a lifetime experience for them...definitely. But, I personally favor the more conservative philosophy right now myself - especially in light of everything we are experiencing as a country with the recession. It just "feels" like bad timing for something so luxurious when so many are struggling. Tough call. So if you were in that ward, would you let your children go - or ask them not to participate on principal?

AuBien said...

Make that principle.

val of the south said...

I'm with you - I think it's an extravagant waste of money for the church to be spending. If the boys want to go, have them earn the money. The church money could be better spent helping people who really need it. And you do have a say - it's our donations that make up ward budgets. Too bad there's not a hotline you can call to report budget abuse!! :o)

val of the south said...

Now I'm going to have to go find out how our boys camp is being funded...