Personal Growth

Prior to this past month, I knew absolutely nothing about Boy Scouts. I wasn’t “for” them or “against” them. I wasn’t a Scout as a child, and I’ve never had any reason to interact with them since then.

All that ended with a Cub Scout recruiting drive at my son’s school. They held a big meeting at the school, inviting all the first graders and their parents to come to learn more. Siblings, of course, were not invited, so I stayed home with the big guy’s little brother.

When my wife came home with our first grader, he was positively bouncing.

“Guess what Daddy,” he said. “I’m going to get to shoot guns and bows and arrows!”

Um, what?

“They have trips and they show you how to shoot! Isn’t that cool? There’s a pack meeting where we’re going to learn how!”

We explained that probably wasn’t going to happen in the near future, but he stayed strong in his enthusiasm. A few weeks later, I took him to the pack meeting. Sure enough, there were no archery (or riflery) lessons available. Instead, they reiterated the benefits of scouting. It turns out the Scouts are all about positive father-son time, character building, and having fun. Pretty cool, huh?

They also mentioned their fund-raising: selling popcorn. They were very excited because the locals get to keep 50% of the proceeds. I guess that’s a good thing.

A couple weeks later, my wife took our son to the first den meeting. She had to, because the den meetings are scheduled during working hours. I have to admit to a fair amount of grumbling over this. I guess the “father-son” time doesn’t include the den meetings. No worries, though. The big guy and I do a lot of things together.

When they returned, I asked for the report. “So, how was it? Was it fun?”

“Well…” he said. “Not at first.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“What about once you started to play?” my wife asked.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “That was great!”

Apparently, part of the meeting was talking and the rest was playing. He loved the playing part.

“And you learned stuff too, right?” my wife asked.


“About building?” she prompted. “How do you grow?”

“Um,” he said. “Grow?”

“We talked about how you get bigger as a person, right? How do you grow?”

“Oh yeah,” he said. “By selling popcorn. Whoever sells the most popcorn wins, and if you sell enough, you could even win stuff!”

“Huh,” I said.

“No,” my wife corrected him. “What’s the Cub Scout motto?”

“Um,” he said.

“It’s do your best,” she said. “You’re supposed to always do your best, and that’s how you grow – as a person.”

He looked at her skeptically. “No,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it was about the popcorn.”

By the way, can anyone explain the point behind the kids doing fundraising for the scouts? I tried asking a couple of scout fathers and all I got were angry glares.

Here’s my (admittedly uninformed) point of view:  

I don’t see the benefit to having seven-year olds sell stuff. I mean, it might make sense if they connected the fund-raising to something. Like, if they said “sell enough popcorn and we can go camping,” that would teach some cause and effect, reinforce the idea of working toward your goals, and all that good stuff. Instead, it’s “sell enough popcorn, and you might win this toy.” I realize that approach is time-tested and wonderful, but it really bothers me. Why?

  • The goal is individual, not team. It’s not “we all win.” It’s “do better than your teammates.” There is no sense of community-building. Instead, the fund raising actually pulls apart the community.
  • The goal is incorrectly valued. Yes, the kids get excited, but it’s a bait-and-switch. It’s “I can’t wait to get this cool thing!” followed by “aw man, this sucks.” No, I’m not taking a shot at quality of the prizes. But at some point, your kid will realize that he just sold a thousand dollars worth of popcorn to win a $12 prize.

It seems to me that their fund raising runs counter to their stated goals of character-building, having fun, and father-son time. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Personal Growth

  1. Zarluga says:

    Oh man – that is a great question. I can only come from the point of view of the Girl Scouts – and the ever popular cookie drive. And – that it is done differently in different councils. So, for the cookie drives where I was the troop leader, there were some individual rewards, but they were more along the lines of a badge to put on your sash – not a toy. The badge indicated you were a great contributer to the team. – I like that, it works for me.

    Now – for the proceeds from the sale – they go to national, council and troop in descending order. The National has some goals, and even though it is non-profit – they need cash to keep the programs going. They have national GS HQ down in DC and some other areas that troops can go very inexpensively. Councils usually have costs such as the local camp grounds as well as council-sponsored stuff like activities.

    At the troop level – we always knew what we would get cash wise based on volume. For our troop, we sat the girls down and looked at what we would get based on what we sold. We always planned an event, such as camping or even a ski weekend, as the reason for doing the cookie drive. We also made sure we had costs for troop activities in hand so that lower income girls could fully participate. For that, the cookie drive was always worth it.

    As a younger scout, I don’t remember ever discussing as a troop what we would do with the money (I’m talking about brownies here, which would equate with the age bracket of cub scouts, I guess). But, we did do things, and I assume the cookie money offset dues and expenses as they are supposed to. I assume the popcorn sales has revenue going to the same places – but scout leaders should CERTAINLY be able to discuss it appropriately with parents. Boy scouts tend to do even more camping and activities that require equipment.

    I know both GS and BS will tend to build a “troop” inventory – where the troop will get gear, sometimes with fund raising money – that will support the troop doing more activities. The gear stays with the troop, the girls move on. New girls contribute, and the troop maintains the inventory.

    Good leaders and not so good leaders can either do a great job with the inventory or kill it. Maybe for a kid these days a little toy is fine for the youngsters, but I think as the boys get older, they should be involved in understanding what the money is for and how it should be spent. It is part of the GS way, and I’d hope the Boy Scouts would recognize and take advantage of this learing opportunity!

  2. Zarluga says:

    Well, that came out with no paragraph breaks!

  3. OrlandoDad says:

    I just addded them. I hope they’re in the right places… Thanks for the good answer, by the way!

  4. Barbara says:

    Welcome to the world of Boy Scouts- It only keeps getting better! The popcorn drive is the equivalent of the Girl SCout cookie sales. Most of the Packs use it as their only fund raiser. The money raised goes to the national level (just a little bit) the Council level and the pack- The national and district level use it to help support the camping programs. the pack uses the money to pay for the advancement awards and usually the blue and gold dinner.
    personally i dont like my kids selling the stuff- so I ask the popcorn chair how much profit each scout is supposed to raise- and write a check- its a lot easier in the long run! dont have to pick up or deliver-
    the bottom line is that the pack needs $$ to purchase the advancements. the advancement awards are the most important expense of the pack because it is instant recognition of achievement.
    Tigers is traditionally a parent-child activity- in that all the advancements used to be done in tandem.
    the cub scout motto is one of the best- i like it better than the boy scout motto- because if you always do your best you will always be prepared
    the riflery and archery opportunities in cub scouts are at cub scout day camp. My oldest did not go to day camp as a cub scout because i was not keen on him learning to shoot- then when i went to visit him at boy scout camp and saw that he learned how to throw tomahawks, my objection to learning how to shoot a bb gun seemed pretty foolish.
    I am a firm believer in the value of scouts- however its success is very dependent on the adults that are involved in running it. if they’re only focused on fund raising, you will not have as good a program- if they view the fund raisers as a necessary evil, and are open to other forms of fundraising- then they can get on with the business of offering an excellent program for the kids

  5. Lisa says:

    Our first year and only experience with boys scouts left a bitter taste in our mouths. Every time we went to a pack meeting they were asking for money in addition to the fundraising which consisted of selling 110 candy bars for a $1.00 a piece or you can just had over $70.00 in cash to not sell. Not a problem if you have one kid in scouts but a big problem when you have two or more. That’s just too much! And the experience we got out of scouts did not even come close to equalling the amount of money we dished out. Still get pissed off when I think about it.

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