In a world that’s divided, Scouting unites us around shared values

There’s one key difference between Scouting friendships and other friendships.

It’s a fact Ray Capp has discovered after being involved in Scouting for more than 50 years. During his tenure, the Distinguished Eagle Scout, past chairman of the Order the Arrow and 2016 National Alumnus of the Year has formed countless long-lasting friendships.

“Now I’m going to tell you something non-Scouters will find hard to believe,” Capp writes in a new essay you can read in full below. “I have no idea who most of these Scout friends voted for, which party they have joined or what they think about certain political values.”

That’s because, Capp writes, “In Scouting, we don’t talk about issues from cable news programs.

“We talk about honor and the importance of one’s word; we discuss our next adventure, and how it will test and increase resilience and persistence among Scouts in our care. We talk about how Johnny needs a chance to lead his patrol. We talk about improving the troop’s next ski trip, who will help the boys plan the next worship service, or the need to retire that old flag in a proper, ceremonial way.”

To Capp, the value of Scouting is found in the values of Scouting.

Scouting’s values are fundamental and form the foundation of a young person’s life. They don’t revolve around the latest controversy playing out in someone’s Facebook feed.

They’re found in the 12 points of the Scout Law and 40 words of the Scout Oath.

Capp agreed to let me post an edited version of his essay here. He wrote it as an open letter to parents of Scouting-age youth. Take a read:

Scouting’s value? Scouting values!

By Ray Capp

Some parents of Scouting-aged kids wonder if Scouting has value for their family.

I say Scouting’s value can be found in the values of Scouting!

Scouting teaches values that transcend national origin, race, political affiliation, gender, class and time. Each Scout knows the Scout Law by heart. All Scouts recite THESE values weekly and remember them throughout life:

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Every day we hear talk about controversies and issues that are really about values. For example, many people value transparency in government. But, would we even need to talk about that if everyone was trustworthy?

Adherence to principles can form a philosophy of governing for many patriotic people and serve as important guideposts in civic life, but how can their value exceed the importance of being loyal to one’s family, friends and country? Don’t the Scout values of being helpful and cheerful serve as a really strong foundation for a good life, regardless of political points of view?

As adults, we strive to instill the virtues of cultural diversity. Leaders of our religious communities work tirelessly to encourage positive behavior, generosity and service to the poor, sick, homeless and downtrodden. These are vital attributes to imbue into our youth. The points of the Scout Law (friendly, courteous and kind) deliver this message in no uncertain terms.

Before a boy knows to follow the laws of his community, state and nation, he knows the importance of following the rules in his family. Scout leaders reinforce this with the value of being obedient to God — and a young person’s mom or dad. Obedience applies whether or not anyone is looking.

As adults, we hope fellow citizens will show fiscal responsibility in their work, personal and civic lives. But first, our Scouts learn the more foundational value of being thrifty.

The Scout becomes part of a community. His fellow Scouts are his colleagues, and a Scout will be bold and brave in demanding just treatment of others.

Scouts commit to be clean in word and deed, in our personal, community and outdoor lives. A Scout learns to always leave a place or situation better than he found it. Applying this principle alone can positively turn the life of a Scout.

Aren’t these root Scouting values more fundamental to our nation’s health than the many other principles that flower from these roots?

As a Scout for more than 50 years, I’ve developed some of the longest-lasting relationships of my life. Now I’m going to tell you something non-Scouters will find hard to believe. I have no idea who most of these Scout friends voted for, which party they have joined or what they think about certain political values.

I don’t know whether my Scouting peers support charter schools or unions, lower or higher taxes, tariffs, less or more regulation, or net neutrality!

In Scouting, we don’t talk about issues from cable news programs.

We talk about honor and the importance of one’s word. We discuss our next adventure and how it will increase resilience among Scouts in our care. We talk about how Johnny needs a chance to lead his patrol. We talk about improving the troop’s next ski trip, who will help the boys plan the next worship service, or the need to retire that old flag in a proper, ceremonial way.

Every week, Scoutmasters end meetings by summarizing nuggets of learning. These “Scoutmaster Minutes” are mini-lessons that address values to help kids to grow into better citizens.

Scoutmaster Minutes are distilled for an audience of eager-faced young people. They’re never about political points of view, culture wars or divisive issues. They are always about life’s more fundamental values. Values like doing a good deed, telling the truth, being prepared and being helpful at all times.

Scouting delivers these messages (and the values that underpin them) consistently, creatively, robustly, timelessly.

A youngster has many choices for spending his discretionary time. But Scouting is like no other program in systematically and strongly putting kids into situations designed to help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually.

And there’s really no need to choose between Scouting and sports, debate, student council or videogames. In our troop’s last year, five of our Scouts were enrolled in Ivy League schools. Each of them was an Eagle Scout, yet each also excelled in another specific niche: an All-American lacrosse player, student council president, state champion swimmer, national debate finalist and videogame design genius.

Every parent who has encouraged a son to persist in becoming an Eagle Scout is glad they did. Get and keep your son in Scouting. He will be glad you did. And you will be glad you did.

Scouting’s value is in planting Scouting values.