Monday, May 24, 2010

Scouting Meets Homeland Security

In keeping with both our family's pledge to do something every day to better our family's circumstances and independence, and my midwife's orders to take things easy for an extra two weeks, my project today was to research a few homeschooling links and topics online.  Our biggest hurdle with homeschooling is likely to come from family, and their fear that our kids won't have opportunities to socialize, I figured I'd explore a few organizanations that would provide both skills and socialization.  First stop, the Boy and Girl Scouts of America.

I was surprised to learn there was a co-ed program in the Boy Scouts, the Explorer Program.  It has also been called Learning for Life, the Exploring Program, and the Venturing Program.  I had never heard about the program  before, so I did a search and found the New York Times article, "Explorer- Scouts Train to Fight Terrorists, and More".

The article details how Homeland Security has partnered with the Explorer Program to teach children how to take down terrorists.  According to the director for Learning for Life, John Anthony, "Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many posts (in the Explorer Program) have taken on an emphasis of fighting terrorism and other less conventional threats."

Less conventional threats?  That line in the article brought me back up to the very first paragraph where teenagers were being trained to take down a gun-toting, murderous, disgruntled, Iraq War Veteran.  I have to ask the question, is Homeland Security expecting so many of our Iraq War vets to come home mentally unstable that even our children need to be recruited to subdue them?  And if so, why?  (Ok, conspiracy theory moment over.)

We should not be teaching our kids that veterans are a "less conventional threat." We should be honoring them for their service and sacrifice, regardless of the policies that send them to war.

Do I think these kids will be called in if there is a disgruntled Iraq War veteran emergency?  No.  Professionals would be called in to deal with such a situation.  I am, however, concerned that these drills of American children battling American Veterans even exist.  It has the potential to predispose these young adults into thinking of Veterans as unstable, violent, and a threat. I think it is a dangerous message to send to our impressionable youth.  I also find it a slick bit of spin that the "disgruntled veteran" stereotype is being pushed along side of criminals, such as illegal border crossings and drug traffickers in this training. 

What we have here is a battle for our childrens' minds being played out through Homeland Security sanctioned role playing.  And, I find that disturbing.
While this is just one program associated with Boy Scouts of America, I think we'll just keep looking for other socialization opportunities.
Live better, a little every day.


  1. Hi, as a reader of your blog, and a former Scout, I would like to make a few points. The first of which being that Exploring (as it was known when I was active in the Scouting programs), is a program that, while co-ed, is designed for the "Older Kids" (ages 14-20) and is focused on a career of some type (Police and Fire being the two most active kinds in my area). In the late 90s, the Exploring program split into two groups, one ( the kind mentioned above ), and the Venturing program, which is an outdoor-based co-ed program for the same age group.

    Venturing is kids climbing, repelling, backpacking, camping, SCUBA diving, rafting, etc. Not kids directing traffic at large events (what a number of the police Explorer posts end up having the kids do). I've got a few friends that are Adult Advisors for a local Venture Crew, and the do some fun stuff.

    So please, don't discount the entire BSA because you disagree one type of one section of the program as a whole.

    One more thing about Exploring (or Learning for Life, as I believe it is now known), it exists mostly for the kids that want to go into that particular field (i.e. kids who want to be cops join a Police Post). This is a fantastic opportunity for those kids that gets them experience in the field they want to go into, and puts them a head above other applicants should they decide to actually go into it.

  2. Thank you for clarifying the difference between the programs. When I went looking, the sites I saw didn't do a very good job, and it seemed like they were just different names of the same program over time.

    I don't think that because the kids involved in the police-greared program are between 14-20 makes it any better than if they were say, 7-12. Teens are very impressionable. Coming from a military family full of veterans, and married to a disabled vet, it certainly got a raised eyebrow from me.

    What can you tell me (and other readers) about the other programs? I'm assuming that you had a good experience in scouting. Please feel free to share that.

  3. Well, I had a fantastic reply typed out, but the system returned an error and it got lost in the tubes. I suppose I'll sum it up because there's little chance that I'll be able to recall it all in as nice of words:

    - I was involved in Scouts from when I joined Cub Scouts at age 6 until I went to college at age 18
    - I was in 3 different troops, the third being a new troop I helped get on it's feet
    - I disagree with you on there not being much difference between the age groups for the primary reason that the youth ages in the Boy Scouts (12-17), and Explorer and Venture programs (14-20), combined with the youth-led designs of the program cause the scouts (youth) to crave the responsibility, and to carry out their jobs well, to prove that they can handle it. The scouters (adults), in a well run Troop/Post/Crew are there as advisors, and for assistance as needed.

    - My first "real job" (with taxes and W2s, not just mowing lawns around the neighborhood) was at our council's major camp.

    - Scouting is a great opportunity, and has something for everyone.

    - Exploring provides career based fun and learning, similar to JROTC (ROTC in High Schools), but with a non-military theme.

    - Can't wait until my son (currently 2) is old enough to join the local pack, as he will be the 3rd generation (my eldest uncle was a charter member)

    - In the mean time, he gets "socialized" by the occasional play-dates my wife arranges, as well as by our participation in the local SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) group, which can be as fun and as educational as you want it to be.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions about scouts or anything else for that matter, and I'll answer to the best of my ability.

  4. Thanks for the reply Kenzal,

    Sorry to hear about losing your original comment. I would have liked to have read it.

    I agree about the SCA. When I've attended our local SCA gatherings, it can be very educational. It can also be very social as well, which is a good thing if that's what you're looking for.

    I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree about the age requirement being enough. Teenagers are notoriously impressionable. How many teens get in trouble due to peer pressure? There is also the whole power differential thing to consider as well... authority figure (parent, teacher, coach, doctor, etc.) vs teenager.

    I also have a serious distrust of long rage goals of Homeland Security. Their involvement in the Explorer program leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    I do not see why Homeland Security needs to have a hand in developing drills, especially ones that depict American veterans as unstable. Anyone age 14-20 isn't going to be able to sort through what is propaganda and what is a legitimate threat. In fact, lumping such drills in with those to fight legitimate threats lends an air of credibility to such stereotypes.

    However, I am glad you cleared up the differences between the programs. The Venture program sounds interesting.

  5. Yeah, I'm not sure what the deal is with the DHS Explorer post thing, as it doesn't sound like it really fits in with the Exploring Program.

    As for the Authority Figure thing, I think I may not have been clear. Explorer Scouts are not in any way put into any unreasonable risk situations (or any Scouts for that matter). What they will do is be taught what it's like to be in the given career, and they will do safe drills with a real unit of that service.

    I agree with you about the types of drills you said were being done in that DHS Post.

    As for the "How many teens get in trouble due to peer pressure?", please allow me to counter with "How many of those were involved with scouting at the time? and among that number, how many held a leadership position of some sort?" I think you will find the first number of my question quite low. And the second number much smaller.

    Yes, teens are impressionable, but the scouting program makes uses of that to impress a good set of values, for example, the Boy Scout Law(at least in BSA): "A Scout Is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent." And that was from memory, after 10 years. And as someone pointed out to me many years ago, the three most important words in the Law are the first three: "A Scout Is".

  6. Thanks, you've given me a few things to think about.