|Courtesy Scouting Magazine|
For a good portion of my life a great deal of my personal identity was tied directly into what I did and in many ways it still is despite my attempts to move past these limiting definitions. With this in mind, knowing that I'm a Gamer, a Toastmaster, or even an Eagle Scout should cement the simple truth that I hold these activities or institutions important and when I see them being attacked I get upset.
Last night someone I follow on Twitter posted a link to this CNN.com article: Gay Scout's request for Eagle rank rejected.
What I saw was an attack on Scouting, something I do not take lightly. This man, Ryan Andresen, his family, and the media are attacking an institution I hold dear because of their own shortcomings. Now don't get me wrong, I think there is plenty of blame to go around, but I'll get to that later.
Fortunately I think that they know enough of how my thought process works to be able to read this with at least as much emotional disconnect as I'm attempting to do.
When I say that the issue of Ryan Andresen being denied his Eagle is an issue of integrity, I don't mean to say that homosexuals have no integrity. I am saying that many people involved in this mess have failed. Failed themselves, failed each other, and failed Scouting. Gay.....straight....to a certain extent neither matters.
In general, sexuality doesn't have a defined role in a Scout's life. You are under 18....a kid. Matters pertaining to sex should be handled outside of Scouting. Sure, as young men the subject does come up, but it isn't part of the program, just part of kids being kids. To a certain extent a Scout cannot be gay....he'd just a kid. He isn't necessarily straight either. He is a kid....a youth. If a Scout is having problems he should be able to turn to his Scoutmaster, who will immediately direct him to the appropriate authority figures for these matters, his family and/or religious elders.
Once you turn 18...ding!....you are now an adult and your decisions and actions have repercussions. If you are openly gay adult in an organization that doesn't want homosexual adults they are going to exclude you. This shouldn't be surprise to anyone.
I'm hoping that I've gotten most of the sexuality aspect of this debacle out of the way. This has been the heart of the matter with the press and quite frankly I think they've gotten it all wrong on so many levels.
According to Ryan's mom, "Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning that well-deserved distinction". This is just misleading and flat-out wrong. First of all, the only way you could possibly spend 12 years working on becoming an Eagle Scout would be if the Scout was mentally and/or physically challenged and they had prior approval from the Scouts to continue working on the Eagle award until a specified date after their 18th birthday. Becoming an Eagle Scout is something you do as a Scout, not a Scouter (adult volunteer) and the 18th birthday is the demarcation between Scouts and Scouters. Outside of pre-approved reasonable accommodations, you have to get everything done by your 18th birthday.
Now on the beginning journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, you basically have to be 10. There are some allowances for coming in via the Cub Scout's Arrow of Light or finishing 5th grade, but you are going to be at least 10 for practical purposes. Most likely the mother simply meant to state that her son joined the overall Scouting program at age 6, which would mean he was a Tiger Cub. The program has changed over the years, but the Cub Scouts were basically a funnel to get boys into the Boy Scouts and the Tiger Cubs were a funnel to the Cub Scouts.
Realistically Ryan did not start working on his path to Eagle until he joined a Boy Scout Troop no earlier than age 10. I don't know any six year old that is capable of working towards the Eagle rank. They may know some Eagles and think they are cool, but cognitively working towards the rank...come on. This is just some emotional manipulation.
I make a point about the "actual" path to Eagle because there is something extremely important that happens at the actual starting point. In order to become a Boy Scout you need to meet specific joining requirements. I'm going to pull these straight from my 10th Edition Boy Scout Handbook. I'll have to make an assumption that it hasn't changed considerably in the 11th Edition that Ryan had when he became a Scout:
- Submit a completed Boy Scout application and health history signed by parent or guardian.
- "Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance"
- Demonstrate the Scout salute, sign, and handclasp
- Show how to tie a square knot.
- "Understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath.....the Scout Law....the Scout Motto...the Scout Slogan....and the Outdoor Code"
- Describe the Scout badge
- With your parent or guardian, complete the exercises in the pamphlet How to Protect Your children from Child Abuse and Drug Abuse.
- Participate in a Scoutmaster conference.
Outside of some of the paperwork, these joining requirements are NOT a one-time good deal. Every Scout is expected to know and live by these ideals. The one exception might be the Outdoor Code. In my Scouting history it came up multiple times, but not nearly daily like the Oath or Law. Even though it has been over fifteen years since I was a Scoutmaster and even longer since I was a Scout, I still remember, and try to live by, the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan. It is hard not to, because at its core these things are what Scouting is.
Fast-forward six years to when Ryan was 16 and "came out". You could easily argue that being gay is not "morally straight", just like you could argue that homosexuality is a choice. (Late Edit: I'm not of this opinion myself, but that isn't important) For the purposes of this discussion I don't really care what people's opinion is. Ryan is a Scout.....still a youth. His sexuality probably didn't matter to his family, his friends, his fellow Scouts and I think it shouldn't matter to us either. He gets a pass because he is a youth and it isn't a factor as a Scout.
|The Path From Scout to Eagle|
What does matter is that Ryan has had at least six years, ten years if you take his mother at face value, of knowing and hopefully living, the ideas of Scouting as expressed in the Scout Oath and Law. By his mother's admittance he is working towards becoming an Eagle Scout. This is where some personal integrity should come into play. If Ryan had the emotional ability to identify his sexuality by the age of 16, if he had the cognitive abilities to firmly identify the goal of becoming an Eagle Scout, he should have easily had the ability to identify the requirements of that goal and the ability to clearly see he couldn't become an Eagle Scout because he self-identified as being unable to live up to the Scout Oath and Law, central tenets of the Boy Scouts of America.
I really hope you've been following me so far because this is where I try to separate the wheat from the chaff. Ryan Andresen should have been able to realize years ago that he could never be an Eagle Scout. Not because he was gay.....remember he should get a pass for that....but because he "proactively stated that he does not agree to Scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet Scouting's membership requirements".
Did you see that one coming?
In order to become an Eagle Scout you have to first be a Scout. In order to be a Scout you have to "understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath ...[&] the Scout Law..."
The Scout Oath
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my county
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Scout Law
A Scout is Trustworthy
A Scout is Loyal
A Scout is Helpful
A Scout is Friendly
A Scout is Courteous
A Scout is Kind
A Scout is Obedient
A Scout is Cheerful
A Scout is Thrifty
A Scout is Brave
A Scout is Clean
A Scout is Reverent
I'm willing to bet that Ryan Andresen is pretty good guy. I bet that he follows most of Scouting's principles without even thinking about it. The thing is he could not meet all the requirements of a Scout and he was called on it. Now as an adult he doesn't meet the requirements as a Scouter and he has been denied membership as an adult volunteer.
None of this should be a surprise for someone who was otherwise able to fulfill the requirements for the Eagle rank. Even if he couldn't see this for himself, it should have been pointed out to him before his Eagle application was submitted to National. His Scoutmaster should have had the integrity to sit him down and explain that he wasn't meeting his obligations as a Scout. Ryan's Scoutmaster was required to sit down with him for a Scoutmaster conference before earning his Life and Star ranks and before his Eagle application was submitted. I don't know when Ryan stopped believing in the Scout Oath or the Scout Law, but I presume it was sometime before at least one of these conferences.
Even if it wasn't, which is highly unlikely, any Scoutmaster worthy of the position is going to take some sort of action when he sees a Scout "going South". He is going to talk to the parents and the Scout. The Scoutmaster's role is more than just marking off merit badge and rank requirements. If it was they'd let anyone do it.
In life we are constantly being tested and measured. We grow in response to the stresses imposed by these tests, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. Success isn't always assured and I'd say we learn and grow more from failure than we ever do from success. I also say you learn more of a person's true nature from how they deal with failure.
Ryan Andresen was measured and found lacking. It shouldn't have been a surprise, but instead of moving forward from this lack of success* Ryan and his parents have instead decided to challenge the whole process in an effort to avoid any personal responsibility. They do not seem to understand, or simply do not care, that by trying to diminish the requirements for earning the Eagle rank they are diminishing the rank itself, and the Scouting organization as a whole.
If that doesn't demonstrate a lack of integrity, then I don't know what does.
The surface issue has been portrayed as a Gay Scout being discriminated against and I think the real issue, the issue behind the press picking up the Ryan Andresen story and running with it, is an attack on the institution of Scouting itself. Please don't take my word for it, read in between the lines yourself. There are other good articles that can fill you in on the subject and even better, take you to other information where you can make some determinations for yourself. Below is a bibliography to get you started.
Donohue, William A. "Culture Wars Against The Boy Scouts." Society 31.4 (1994): 59-68. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.
O'Quinn, John C. "'HOW SOLEMN IS THE DUTY OF THE MIGHTY CHIEF': MEDIATING THE CONFLICT OF RIGHTS IN Boy Scouts Of America V. Dale, 120 S. Ct. 2446 (2000)." Harvard Journal Of Law & Public Policy 24.1 (2000): 319. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.
Perry, Rick. On my Honor : Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts are Worth Fighting for. Macon: Stroud & Hall, 2008. Print.
Salzman, Allen. "The Boy Scouts Under Siege." American Scholar 61.4 (1992): 591. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Dec. 2012
* I'd not call completing so many Eagle rank requirements a failure