07 Aug 2012
- Written by Ken Alpern
ALPERN AT LARGE - Readers of the Los Angeles Times were treated Sunday morning to one of the most useless, bigoted and misleading articles on the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) that has ever been promoted by a major metropolitan newspaper. With an obvious attention-getting headline referencing a porous barrier against predators on the part of the BSA, it’s hoped that readers focused on the fact that it referenced instances dating from 1970 to 1991, and that the predators slipped past a system meant to keep them out.
This was a system, mind you, that was set during an era when computers and related tracking systems were in their infancy relative to our modern day, and that the wrongdoing was on the part of the predators, and not BSA. Furthermore, this was well before the scandals involving the Catholic Church, Penn State and our modern-day LAUSD that have rightfully commanded so much of our attention.
There ARE horrors and tragedies for us to confront and contend with—the tragic shootings by a lunatic in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and by what appears to be a terrorist at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. There is also the civil war in Syria, where children are daily killed in the cross-fire; closer to home, youths are being killed in record numbers in Chicago.
However, while no system is perfect and human nature will always present with wrongdoing individuals, the Boy Scouts of America is NOT a modern-day cesspool of enabled child sex offenders—which was obviously implied by the screaming headlines. These headlines reference an era decades ago, and are about as relevant to our modern day as are the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals.
Anyone with a clue … or actual connection … about Scouting today knows that BSA “gets it” with respect to previous transgressions, and that BSA wants nothing to do with past, present or future child molesters.
Tragically, the article did NOT reference the incredibly high, and markedly conspicuous, emphasis that the modern-day BSA places on Youth Protection. Adult leaders are absolutely required to take courses on Youth Protection—for example, no Scout can have a one-on-one discussion with an adult without another adult being within close visual range.
Furthermore, each Cub Scout and Boy Scout handbook has an up-front section for both new Scouts and their parents to address the issue of Youth Protection. For any reader who doubts this, feel free to peruse a handbook and it’ll be right up front for anyone to read. One cannot miss it—there is no question that BSA recognizes the importance of this topic, and the need to separate inappropriate behavior from the higher purposes to which Scouting aspires.
So what explains the pathetic, desperate attempt to grab readers’ attention on the part of the Times at the expense of a youth organization that is probably one of the MOST prepared organizations with respect to addressing sexual inappropriateness and child predators?
Perhaps it’s simple yellow journalism (nothing new with respect to trying to sell newspapers). Perhaps it was felt this would be a high-readership item in the era of sexual scandals coming to light from churches, universities and school systems throughout the nation.
And perhaps it’s because the Boy Scouts of America is an organization that has come under fire from individuals and groups who know very little about BSA, care very little for which BSA aspires, and understands very little about the real world issues that BSA must confront and operate under.
Having been a Boy Scout for several years during my youth (during which time I made the rank of Eagle Scout that, to this very day, remains one of my life’s most important and priority-setting accomplishments), and having just come back from a delightful few days at my son’s Boy Scout camp, a few things remain clear:
1) Respect for others, for adults, for the female gender, for younger Scouts, and for oneself is a high priority—perhaps the highest priority—in Scouting. Our society suffers from too many Bad Boys, and a dearth of Good Men, and the Boy Scouts of America is a first-rate training organization to create more Good Men to make our country and world a better place to live.
2) With anywhere from a third to over half of all Scouts at my son’s camp being Asian, Latino or African-American, BSA is one of the most inclusive and diverse youth organizations in our country today. Religious and ethnic tolerance, as well as respect for all campers, counselors (including female) and other Scouts, can be found in abundance in Scouting.
3) Nowhere in the Scout Law (Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent) does it mention any tolerance or enabling of child abusers or sexual predators—or, for that matter, being an apologist for any such activity. An abhorrence of such behavior, and a determined effort to stop and prevent it, are as vital to Scouting as are food and water for normal human function.
4) The issue of allowing openly homosexual individuals to lead Scouting has come up frequently in recent times, and deservedly so as our society debates the roles and rights that homosexuals deserve and must enjoy in an open-minded society that is both fair and responsible. However, those waging war on BSA on this issue are ignoring (or dismissing, or both) two facts that they need to grasp and confront:
a) Although homosexuals have probably been and are active in Scouting (as they are in ALL facets of our society, and they have been throughout history), both as Scouts and as responsible leaders, openly-homosexual (particularly male) adult leaders will drive away families from joining Scouting and/or create discord within a troop. On a similar note, there are probably responsible and pragmatic homosexual teachers who choose to “stay in the closet” in order to avoid conflict and discord with their students and students’ families—regardless of whether that choice is “fair”.
b) Boy Scouts of America does not aspire to be “heterosexual”, “anti-homosexual” or anything of the sort. Scouting is, for the most part, “asexual” or “pre-sexual”. The issue of sexuality is usually redirected towards family, church, counselors, etc. There are plenty of times that sexuality enriches and/or complicates our adult lives, but Scouting is not one of those times. A prolonged childhood while teaching cooperative, respectful and responsible friendships between young men is one of Scouting’s greatest achievements…one which our “enlightened” modern society might consider emulating.
So what should the Los Angeles Times focus on in their next screaming headlines? That’s certainly up to the Times, but the continued discovery of untapped revenues as our state weighs tax increases or the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars are probably more appropriate then the problems that Scouting had (or anyone else had, for that matter) during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
After all, these are problems that have, for the most part, been fixed and are continuously and aggressively being addressed … and problems which occurred well before any of today’s Scouts were ever born.
Vol 10 Issue 63
Pub: Aug 3, 2012