EXPANDING WHICH TENT, EXACTLY?
An article about Scouting “expanding the tent” to include immigrant youths prompted discussion on the Boy-Scout-Talk list yesterday. In the article, they state that the Boy Scout council in Framingham has 150 immigrants in their soccer program.
I can’t help but wonder if Boston is going to do what our district did a decade ago. Here follows the story of how a short-sighted chase after corporate donations for “at risk” Scouts ended up leaving a bitter taste…
We tailored our program to serve an immigrant population back in the '80s to accommodate the shift in demographics of the area we serve. At that time, no Spanish literature was available--we had to translate everything. The boys were bilingual, and did most of it themselves.
The youths we recruited turned out to be great Scouts. Many of them did not enter this country legally, but they had no future in their former country and wanted to become Americans. These boys were naturally outdoor people, naturally physically active, expected to work to pay their own way, and reluctant to take charity. Our first Eagle didn't have legal status, so it was an extra hassle because we didn't have a SS number for the application. We had a good thing going--these fellas won many district events and set a council record for camping, 58 nights under canvas in a single year.
So what happened? Our council came along and created "urban" units for "at risk" boys in direct competition with us. We were told not to approach our local schools any more to seek new members. The "urban" boys were given everything--uniforms, camps, even personal equipment--with our FOS money! And the result after a decade of this was hundreds of Hispanics on the district rolls, with very few active in the programs. And they were not real programs, bypassing the advancement requirements the district felt were inconvenient!
We really want to have some of the local Hispanic boys back. But they are not going to even look at us when they can get a free ride in the competing "urban" units. Sometimes I think even Boy Scout councils themselves do not put Scouting ethics into practice, and the result poisons the Scouting environment.
I'm not sure whose tent is expanding. Some members of our unit developed a commercial targeted at Spanish-speaking parents, promoting Scouting as an alternative to the gang culture so rampant here. (The picture above is one of the storyboard shots from the commercial.) National in Irving approved the commercial, the local Spanish TV stations agreed to run it no charge as a P.S.A., and a local TV station agreed to produce the commercial for the Boy Scouts. Incredibly, our own council didn't want to do it!
So I wonder what is really going to happen in Boston. Are they going to bring diversity to the traditional units there who provide a great program already? Or are they just going to sign up a bunch for show and put them in a "separate but unequal" tent?
Please tell me again why we can't give those 150 soccer boys a REAL SCOUT program.