At dinnertime on a recent campout, Scouter Ted saw the older, bigger Scouts push to the front of the line.
“Rank privilege,” the boys explained to the younger Scouts.
The next day, it was too windy to set up tents, so the boys slept inside a cabin. There were two rooms: a simple, carpeted room and one with cushioned benches on which the boys could sleep.
Once again, “rank privilege” was invoked. The older guys said only boys who were Star Scout and above were allowed to sleep on the comfortable benches. Everyone else got the floor.
Ted, the Scouter, couldn’t stand silent any longer. He stopped the practice and told the boys that if they were truly following the Scout Oath and Law “they would make sure the smallest and youngest were comfortable and then take what was left.”
He wrote me asking whether he was right to step in. “Is there such thing as rank privilege in the BSA?” he asks.
I told Ted my opinion: Yes, he was right to intervene. Rank privilege seems incongruous to the spirit of Scouting.
But I wanted to check with the experts. I asked Mike Lo Vecchio of the BSA’s content management team, who offers this simple response:
There is no such thing as rank privilege, nor do we support or endorse this kind of behavior.
So there you have it.
Special privileges for Eagle Scouts?
At the summer camp I attended as a Scout, now called Camp Trevor Rees-Jones, there was a lake between our campsite and the dining hall, pool and most of the activity areas.
Most Scouts walked around the lake, but Eagle Scouts were allowed to ride in a boat reserved just for them. It made the journey quicker and more enjoyable.
Ted’s question got me wondering whether this was an example of unfair “rank privilege.”
I think it was fine. The boat only existed as an added perk; it didn’t give Eagle Scouts special treatment for essential elements of camp like eating or sleeping.
Plus, it gave older boys another reason to return to summer camp. And I can confirm it motivated me to want to earn the Eagle Scout rank even more.
What do you think?
Was the Eagle Scout boat at my summer camp unfair? What’s your opinion on rank privilege?