For the last twenty-thirty or so years the Church has explored alternatives to scouting. One of the problems is that those who have been tasked with approaching the concept end up just creating boy scout clones, with the bottom line that they give up and suggest just sticking with the boy scouts. They have a problem in that they visualize everything in terms of the Boy Scouts rather than in terms of what modern needs are.
Yes, I believe that they are working with too narrow of a frame and can not escape it. I think that what they need to think of a program for both the boys and the girls and provides a modern replacement for the theme park that paramilitary training program that was the original Boy Scouts has now evolved into. [footnote 1]
I’d suggest the following:
First, that it be a program for both the boys and the girls, with the same curriculum and the same funding for both groups. Anyone who wants to start designing a program should probably be forced to watch Suffragette first. And read some of what Brigham Young and others said about the essential need to train young women and to create and nurture equality.
Second, that it include a standard curriculum with parts that fit a broad variety of life needs and skills.
- Practical Skills
- Employment Skills
- Emphasize that more than 80% of the young women who marry will find themselves needing to be the sole support of themselves and/or their families. If they are trained and skilled, they will need to work many fewer hours. Compare someone with an M.D. who can with three 12 hour shifts as a hospitalist earn more than five people with a GED who are working 60 hours a week.
- Understanding college tracks, professions and employment trees. Real knowledge such as the fact that only 20 philosophy PhD programs place their graduates in universities teaching philosophy. All the other programs are 100% dead ends designed purely to extract cheap labor from adjuncts. Kids should know things like this before college rather than at the end of seven years of graduate school.
- Resumes, job interviews, presentation.
- Life Skills
- Cooking, recipe planning, group dinners and how to plan so that the left overs from one meal flow over into the next.
- Basic housekeeping skills. Think how many boys go on missions not knowing how to wash clothes or iron shirts — a mission is not the time to learn these things.
- How to set boundaries. This is important and many of our kids don’t have the skills. There are many, many good books and spending one set of lessons on one, and one set on another would be very good. Those who need the information are likely to be willing to do additional reading on their own time.
- How to recognize, flee and report abuse.
- How to deal with and survive trauma.
- Spiritual Skills
- The value of individual personal prayer, study and a connection to Christ. Some things are much more effective if we do them ourselves on a regular schedule [see below] rather than only as a group.
- How the gospel exists to support us and to bring us to Christ. Just like the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, the same is true of the Church. We need to be focused on Christ.
- Learn how anger is used to manipulate people and to be aware of that.
- That spiritual strength, like physical strength, is built up over time by consistent practice and repetition.
- Recognizing the elements of a conflict between faith and intellect.
- Social/Societal Skills
- What a group is and how you are initiated into a group. Whether it is finding people to sit with at lunch or joining a club, there is a process.
- Proper social mores and approaches. For example, how to turn down coffee without insulting someone.
- The ways people dress in different countries and different social strata. Or how there can be a modest bikini in Brazil and an immodest one-piece in Saudi Arabia. In one era an exposed ankle or an exposed face is a scandal, in another exposed knees are not noteworthy.
- The roles various cultures give people.
- Integrity and what it really means.
- Social outings and relevant skills.
- Physical Skills
- Finding a fitness program that will last you (fitness for life).
- Appropriate physical skills and training guidelines.
- Dance and similar activities.
- A one or two week adventure project every year for both groups. It needs to take them out of the mundane (at least 100 miles from home). Equally funded. Not Sunday School in a tent.
- One two week or two one week adventures a year, where possible (though starting with one, one week adventure — and make it a full week).
- How to plan and execute a service project.
- Group service and the difference between projects and causes (the one has a definite start and stop, the other enlists you in providing labor forever).
- A capstone service project.
- Localized Lessons
- Four a year (with proposed regional lessons).
- Things such as how to recognize and deal with a minefield (if you are in an area where there are minefields).
- Protecting yourself from human trafficking.
- Dealing with floods.
- Various localized matters.
- How to volunteer and be involved in charities and charitable works.
This is enough material, with some reprising (e.g. the gentle art material could be presented once from How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable and once from How to Turn the Other Cheek and Still Survive in Today’s World) for the same material to be only covered twice over the time from turning 12 to turning 18. Everyone needs some repetition and the same lesson at 12 and at 15 is an entirely different lesson.
Why? This is a program that would
- Provide useful life training that is not redundant with Sunday School or other church programs.
- Help integrate children into becoming adults.
- Create core knowledge that youth in the church need.
- Replace a program aimed at a world of over a hundred years ago with one that fits the world we live in.
- Provide structure. Rather than a boy scout clone with less structure and fewer resources, this is a structured program that draws on a vast body of knowledge.
Footnote 1. I started scouting in Alaska. We went out into the raw wild (which could easily be someone in the suburbs back yard), scavenged our own wood, built fires into raw environments and cleaned up after ourselves in sometimes harsh conditions (I camped out in 20 degrees below zero weather before down sleeping bags and double walled tents). Years later I was asked to help with a scout troop and discovered that they couldn’t pitch a tent right or start a fire without an accelerant or keep warm when it was 40 degrees outside. The local scout camp had permanently pitched tents on permanently placed raised platforms, the kids ate from cook trailers that were mobile thousand dollar+ kitchens and the fires were from aged pre-cut wood, brought in from outside. Theme park camping is probably the most accurate description.
Not that I’m critical of the Boy Scouts for being a paramilitary program teaching kids how to prepare to become Airborne Rangers and Navy Seals, but it has migrated somewhat due to the increased pressures of population, numbers and civilization. When I was a kid people often invited scouts to camp on land to remove all the pine trees. That obviously has limited use in places without population density.
[Footnote 2] Everyone forgets that early on, the LDS Church fought scouting. However, there was nothing else in the way of social groups and it overwhelmed local resistance. More recently, ennui and a lack of relevance has overwhelmed the interest many have for scouting — or why many Church scouting groups are lackluster at best.