Saturday, August 21, 2010

And a follow-up to Anonymous

My last post received this comment:

"Our family's experience with Scouting has been very positive. Scouting plays out in the local church basement or school cafeteria, not in the boardrooms in Dallas. We have watched our son grow in skills and confidence as he has progressed through the Scouting program from Cubs to becoming an Eagle Scout. He has had had experiences that simply would not have been available outside of Scouting. It is a very meaningful part of his life.

We have found that our son's unit has been remarkedly inclusive ranging from boys in high honors programs to boys struggling with serious disabilities. The group has been very accepting and supportive of of all boys. The issues that concern you simply do not play out at the local level in most cases. You would find a significant number of Scouting families who value inclusiveness.

I would caution you not to believe everything you read or hear in the media. I would also caution you not to allow your own biases to automatically dismiss an organization without taking time to actually view it first hand. Prejudice can take several forms, can't it?"

I was going to just write a comment to that one but felt that this needs to be put into its own post:

Anonymous, I'm glad that your family is having a positive experience. So was my husband's. I'm glad that you haven't found the national rules (that are not just "reported by the media" but were actually enacted by the organization itself) aren't played out at your local organization. I read the link that you posted and saw that the same thing is going on in his local chapter. I'm sorry you didn't feel the need to sign your comment so that I could address you by name.

But as to your thoughts, let me explain myself further. If you will look at, you will find the actual statements made by the Boy Scouts of America organization regarding homosexual and atheist leaders. While the website is not the Boy Scout website, it does not make it any less their statements that were released publicly. I find it hard to argue that it's the media blowing these up into some sort of inflammatory argument when they are the words of the Boys Scouts themselves. And as glad as I am to hear that local organizations are not following the national rules about this, it doesn't change the fact that the national organization made an anti-homosexual and anti-atheist policy.

Yes, prejudice can take many forms. If we look at the definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we see that it means "a (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge b : an instance of such judgment or opinion c : an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, a race, or their supposed characteristics". Therefore, I don't think that my policy on Boy Scouts can be termed prejudice because a) it's not a preconceived judgment (I had assumed that our boys would be Scouts until I learned of these policies), b) I've provided you with the "sufficient knowledge" in the form of the Boy Scouts' policies above to show that it's not based on my own "biases", as you called them, and c) I don't have an attitude of hostility against them based on supposed characteristics. I don't think it's a hostile attitude at all simply not to let my children join and not to buy popcorn from those children who have.  However, even if you do feel it is hostile, it is based on the published policies from the Boy Scouts themselves.  That's not "supposed characteristics", that's factual information.

I don't feel that Scouting is the only way to learn the characteristics of which you speak. By being good parents who find ways to get our children involved and active in the community, Jason and I can make those opportunities for our children. I find an important characteristic for my children is to learn to stand up against prejudice when we find it--whether we have a vested interest in that or not.

I'll end with a poem you may have heard by Martin Niemoeller that I think speaks beautifully about our family's policy on this:

"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak out for me."


art-sweet said...

Bravo Erin!

Julia said...

It sounds like Anonymous' experience that 'it doesn't play out on the local level' basically just means that no scouts or scout leaders have shown up that are gay or atheist, not that the local group would accept them if they did.

Or maybe I'm reading that wrong...

It's great that his/her kids have had a great experience but you don't have to view something first hand when the organization puts it out there as a stated policy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your taking time for a thoughtful and reasoned response.

Let me add a final comment.

(1) As parents we have the responsibility to help guide our children in the direction that we feel is best. Scouting is not for everyone as sports may not be, although they both have merit. It is wonderful that we have many opportunities to choose from. Ultimately each of us must make decisions that we believe are in the best interest for our children.

(2) I think that many of us in Scouting share your concerns that the national policy is exclusionary. In our instance, we believe that that there is strength from working within an organization to attempt to bring about needed change.

(3) From our experience I believe that there is confusion about the national policy which has been misinterpreted to a certain extent. Gay youth are not automatically excluded. Read the actual policy carefully. In our unit we have and have had youth who at some point announce that they believe that they are bi or gay. Our troop has been supportive and accepting. However, the national policy does prohibit gay leadership at this time. Again, this remains very controversial within the ranks and the national policy at present certainly is not reflective of the beliefs and values that many current Scouters hold. Again, do you simply turn your back to an organization which , as your husband from his experience acknowledges, has many merits or do you actively work internally to bring about positive change?

(4) Our daughter had a wonderful experience in Girl scouting. At the same time we learned that it is not without its share of exclusion. While the national policy is officially non-discriminatory, the national office chose to allow local councils and units the authority to adopt their own standards. The same sort of exclusions have played out at the local level as a result. Please note There is no guarantee that the little girl who offers you the tempting box of tag-alongs is not a member of a local group that has exclusionary policies.

(5) I would agree that positive change only occurs when people are willing to speak up and to work toward that change. Be assured that many of us in Scouting today are working to bring this change about. I would urge you to please keep an open mind on the merits of the program and to continue to be an advocate for change.


Julie said...

Yay Erin!

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Courtney said...

I am really impressed by the level of respect that has been maintained in this discussion. We have all seen blog comment sections deteriorate into some not so nice vilifying and rudeness.

I appreciate Anonymous's second comment here and must humbly and sheepishly confess to being guilty of prejudice as so articulately delineated by Erin in this post. I had unconsciously painted the whole of the Boy Scout organization with a rather broad swath and had not stopped to think about individuals striving for change from within and fighting to hold on to what is good and seeking to grow where growth is warranted. I think that is a very valid approach to this issue as well and thank you for adding to your original post.

Hoping you and others like you can and will see the fruits of your labors.