Call me ignorant. I believe the versions I learned in school before the recent decades of history revisionism (rewriting what is known about what happened in the past, usually to suit someone's purpose today. You know, like Al Gore's "I invented the Internet.")
That public schools were created in the first place to achieve a universal, necessary minimum ability to participate in a Democratically organized government. Basic citizenship skills were all that schools were tasked with - until graduation from eighth grade, or age sixteen (16), whichever happened first. Sixteen (16) was the age of majority - adult responsibility under the law - and age of consent (for marriage and other sexual acts).
That school competitive sports were organized, team sports, that is, to prepare young men for the battlefield. The concept of team organization, of captains on the field being coached by someone responsible for game strategy. Huh, who would have thought this would prepare young people for basic training, with a Sargeant or Petty Officer guiding and working the group, under the orders of officers?
And that the Boy Scouts were organized for the same purpose. The need of the military for mentally agile, prepared people familiar with living outside the usual society, has not diminished.
Wired.com GeekDads writer Dave Banks writes about "After 100 Years, Are Boy Scouts Still Relevant?".
Banks covers the usual, the camping, the guidance, the criticisms over national policy - strict Judeo-Christian beliefs (although not strictly enforced at the local level), strict bias against gays (although not strictly envforced outside the national staff) - and using public facilities at reduced or no cost, from church meeting rooms to recruiting in public schools to extraordinary (though proven useful to all) access to national parks. He talks about friendships and relationships with family, and the prominence of past Boy Scouts.
But he overlooked something important.
The way Boy Scouts prepare citizens for military service. Banks quotes several numbers and statistics - but not how many enlisting service people have been in the Scouting program, nor how they fare in the military. If I recall correctly - Scouts tend to do well, for themselves and for our nation.
In times of emergency, having a core number of people thinking about community resources, about group tactics and looking ahead to the next step in survival - whether after storm, or flood, riot or other forms of unrest - can help a lot of people survive the experience, and recover their lives faster.
In short, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and other programs that prepare young people for service to community and country. If we care to pay for public education, for military defense of the nation, and a salary for the President, it only makes sense that we continue to encourage and support scouting programs.
Scouting, after all, takes its name from the military task of investigating the near or extended area for surprises, in advance of movement of a unit. It has become a synonym for people that customarily do tough and thankless jobs. There was a time that "Scout" was a common, and revered, dog's name. Scout is a nickname always bestowed as a term of respect.
I think Dave Banks wrote a sorry piece of article, leaving out measurements of the health of communities where Boy Scouts are active, vs. places that have banned or no longer enjoy a significant Scout presence - and what the profile of the community looks like five (5), ten (10), and twenty (20) years after Boy Scouts wither in their community.
Businesses grow by the accumulation of wealth. Communities grow with children and newcomers, as they assimilate and acculturate each other. Scouts get short shrift on an economic scale. For getting to know, honor, and promote the community and its citizens, I know which I think promotes stability, resilience, and strength.