When our son brought a note home from school asking him to join the Boy Scouts, it was just one more time we saw a government body giving a special boost to the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts get support from all levels of government, from schools to municipal governments and all the way up to the federal government itself.
It’s a powerful organization, but I won’t have my son join. That’s because the Boy Scouts of America uses its power to exclude people, driving communities apart, instead of bringing people together and serving all Americans. The group promotes discrimination against non-religious Americans and against GLBT Americans as well. The organization goes so far as to ban children from its ranks, just because they don’t share the religious, hetero-pure vision of the BSA. Then, of course, there’s the fundamental gender discrimination of the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Scouts too. From the very act of signing up, these scouting programs teach kids that segregation, prejudice and inequality are good ideas.
The problems with the Boy Scouts continue as the children age, with an approach that bears disturbing similarities to miltary life. The Boy Scouts of America is used, especially as participating children get close to the age of majority, as a tool for military recruiting. It’s no coincidence that a large number of Eagle Scouts sign up to become soldiers.
There is a better alternative. Check out the Earth Scouts. The Earth Scouts don’t exclude children on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender, disability. Earth Scouts does not serve as a feeder organization for the U.S. military.
What the Earth Scouts exists to encourage children, their parents and their communities to learn and take action around the Earth Charter, an internationally-created document that describes a set of values to create a more positive future for our planet. The Preamble to the Earth Charter reads:
We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.
There are more than 50 chapters of the Earth Scouts. You can add one more where you live. I’m meeting with other parents this weekend to begin the process of organizing a group for our town. That will require more work on our part than if we were to join the Boy Scouts, or start up our own troop. The Earth Scouts isn’t a top-down organization. It’s grassroots – from the bottom up.