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!”
“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?