BSA and its impact on American youth


The deadline for submitting a sexual abuse claim against the Boy Scouts of America is quickly approaching: Nov. 16, 2020.

My family and many American families have been involved in this organization and have had positive experiences. I must concede , however, that any organization that involves millions of participants, ages 5 to 21, and thousands of adult volunteers over a broad geographic expanse will have persons who do not embrace the BSA mission of character, citizenship, personal fitness, and leadership. These unworthy individuals have done extensive harm to the organization.

Ernie and Virginia Shaw have worked with BSA for decades, she since 1989 and he since 1990. All three of their sons, Gary, 42, Tony, 40, and Andy, 38, are Eagle Scouts. According to Ernie, there are advantages to the well-respected Eagle Scout designation: “Rank Up-Pay Up in the military, college entrance applications, and job applications.” Further, he says, “Some join Boy Scouts for the fun while others have little interest in fun and are there to work for the Eagle Scout designation.”

In regard to the scandal, both Ernie and Virginia indicate that applications for adult participation in the program are rigorous and include a requirement that they complete “Youth Protection” training every two years and be assessed on the materials. Such training is important to help protect the youth as well as the adult volunteers.

BSA is, according to this couple, an opportunity to see the world through the eyes of children, to help the participants bond with leaders and their parents (Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved), to teach skills in a host of areas from leading and communicating to very practical skills in cooking and outdoor activities. Crafts might include activities such as making walking sticks, tie dying shirts, or building and decorating stepping stones.

What happens to those who participate brings pleasure to the Shaws. A U.S. Ranger, 38, and now a contract worker in Afghanistan, this man found that the skill he learned as a Boy Scout in using a compass is essential in his current work. Also advantageous are his backpacking and climbing skills he mastered in a national park in Michigan in addition to the leadership skills he learned in his Eagle Scout project (reviving the very old overgrown Carey Cemetery, north of Hardin, Ohio, to a respectable place by working with local historians, making written plans, securing materials and tools, recruiting workers, and doing the physical labor of cutting brush and digging up yucca plants). This scout also learned an important moral lesson in a troop trip to Kings Island. It was raining, and he stole a poncho from a shop. Ernie addressed the issue. Problem solved; lesson learned.

Another scout had academic learning difficulties in writing and math. In 2019, however , he graduated from high school and his mother called to tell the Shaws, “He is graduating because of you two.” This former scout is now at age 19 gainfully employed driving a tow truck for a local factory.

A third scout, now 28, probably dyslectic, had trouble writing his proposal for his Eagle Scout project — had to write it three times — and according to Virginia, “He never complained, never gave up.” He built a trail on the north side of the creek at Tawawa Park. And when his daughters were born, he brought them to visit the Shaws. He now works at a major factory operation in his home town.

Another scout under the tutelage of the Shaws is now 38, the father of four, and scours garage sales for his eBay business. As a scout, he loved the trip to the Air Force Museum and the Imax theatre and camping out at the Columbus Zoo where the group had a night tour of the zoo and even got to observe the work at the zoo hospital.

I asked the Shaws about scouts who caused them problems. Ernie told about a scout who dropped out of the organization. He visited the parents who indicated that their son was being bullied. “Who is bullying him?” Ernie asked.

The response, “His brother.” That problem was easily addressed by putting the brothers in separate troops.

In conclusion, I’d like to share with you what my friend Ted Jones, 72, a Vietnam Era Coast Guard veteran and a former candidate for Ohio State Representative, District 80, told me about his many years in Boy Scouts. “My years in Boy Scouts allowed me to experience a world beyond the city in which I lived, an avenue out of the inner city to community service and the great outdoors. I was taught responsibility, the benefits of work that goes beyond self, and the importance of meaningful relationships.”

“I learned to persevere in the face of adversity and how that builds inner character. I received life experiences that will stay with me all of my days, and I can share those experiences with my grandchildren.”

Note: A search on your computer can help you locate BSA chapters in your area and contact information if your sons and daughters would like to consider membership.

By Vivian Blevins

Contributing columnist

Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., a graduate of The Ohio State University, served as a community college president for 15 years in Kentucky, Texas, California, and Missouri before returning to Ohio to teach telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and to work with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or [email protected].

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