Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A Perspective on Scouting

I have learned recently that in the Defense bill that recently passed Congress, there were provisions to require state and local governments to get federal funds to support the Boy Scouts.

For any who do not understand the objections being made against the Boy Scouts, I offer the following story. This may be considered a sequel to "A Perspective on the Pledge" that I posted a couple of weeks ago.

A Perspective on Scouting

When the bell rang, Shawn stayed in his seat, securely holding onto his book and putting his foot through the strap on his backpack as it sat on the floor, waiting for the other students to file out of the room. At his previous school, he had learned valuable lessons against making himself vulnerable to the "accidents" that angry classmates might have.

He hazarded a smile against the thought that those who claimed that the words “one white nation” in the pledge had no significance got violent when others suggested that it expressed bigotry. Who gets angry over the loss of something that has no significance?

He was not the last to leave, however. Jenny, the white girl who was the first to side with him and also sit through the Pledge of Allegiance, stayed back as well and approached him as the class emptied. "I have to say that, if you want to make friends on your first day of school, that was probably not the best option for you to take this morning.”

"I can say the same to you," Shawn answered, while he collected his supplies. "You didn't have to. Honestly, what you did, as a white girl, took more moral courage than I showed today."

"Thank you," Jenny said with a smile.

Shawn walked out of the room with Jenny beside him, making him nervous on a number of different levels.

"What's your next class?" Jenny asked.

"Study hall," he answered. "However, I'm not going there. I've got something to do at the Principal's Office." He had stopped by a school bulletin board and stared at an announcement with the words Join the Youth Scouts written in large letters across the top. With the hallways starting to empty, he reached up and gave the paper a gentile tug, pulling it down.

"I don't think you should be tearing down other peoples' signs," Jenny said.

"I just want to show the Principal what I'm talking about."

"You're a trouble maker," said Jenny, smiling.

"Jenny, if somebody was attacking you, and you decided to defend yourself, say by grabbing a club and hitting him, who is the trouble-maker; you, or the person attacking you?”

"I'll go with you." Jenny said suddenly.

"You shouldn't do that," Shawn responded instantly. "You don't need to get into any trouble. Besides, what would your father say?"

Jenny smiled. "My grandparents were in Alabama in the sixties fighting to give atheists the right to vote. They’ve told me all about the firebombs and the angry men with rifles burning crosses in their yard. They can deal with my dad."

"I don't want you to," said Shawn.

“Sorry. It’s a free country.”

Shawn had to hurry if he was going to make it to the Administration Offices before hall monitors started taking names, and had no time to argue. He hurried down the hall, with Jenny close behind.

He had no appointment to see the Principal, who was busy getting the school organized on its first day. The secretary took his name and Jenny’s, gave them permission slips good until the end of the period, and emailed excused absence to their teachers.

While Shawn waited, having Jenny there added significantly to his anxiety. He had rehearsed this encounter a thousand times in his head, and not once did he imagine anybody standing with him.

Finally, Principal Hadley had a few minutes to spare. He got their names from his secretary and then called them into his office. He had a large office with a big oak desk, but he directed Shawn and Jenny to a chair at a small round table. After closing the door, he took a seat at the table and said, “Shawn, Jenny, what can I do to help you?”

Shawn found himself too nervous to speak, so he simply slid the announcement across the table for Principal Hadley to read.

"I see," said Hadley. He picked up the paper, looked up at Shawn, and stood up from the table. "Should I assume that you are opposed to this group recruiting on school grounds?"

"Yes, sir," said Shawn.

"Shawn, you should know that this school has a policy against discriminating against any group. If white kids want to get together and form their own club where they can enjoy the company of other white kids, I don't think that I should be stopping them."

Shawn sucked in a lung full of air. "It’s not actually the fact this is a group of people with something in common that wants to get together that concerns me, Mr. Hadley. It’s the fact that this group lives by the idea that anybody who is not white is . . . it’s a part of their statement of principles that a person has to be white to be of good moral character. If you read their handbook, it says that no person can be moral who is not white. They come in here and preach to my classmates that I am morally inferior because I am not white. They say that people like me are poor role models – a bad influence – on the other kids, simply because we aren’t white. If somebody comes into the school and denigrates a whole group of students who are required to be here, then I think that you should be stopping them.”

"Well, I’m sorry, Shawn, but I could not stop them even if I wanted to. The federal government just passed a law saying that no institution that gets federal funds – and we get federal funds – can deny access to the Youth Scouts. It's the law; we can't discriminate." He put the paper back down on the table and slid it back in front of Shawn.

"Discrimination is wrong," said Shawn.

"Of course."

“Okay,” said Shawn, pausing to think. “Let me see if I understand. An all-white Senate and an all-white House of Representatives pass a bill. They send that bill to a white President – the very same white President who said that the founding fathers wanted this to be a white nation, and that he would not appoint any judge who did not share that belief. That president signs a law that you cannot ban a group that holds that being white is necessary to being a person of good moral character. And, the reason they did this is because discrimination is wrong.”

"Yes. Exactly,” Principal Hadley said with a smile. “We are not going to discriminate against groups like the Youth Scouts in this school. I know that there are a lot of people out there who want to destroy this group. However, they are a good group. They teach a lot of important skills and values that it would be good for kids like you to learn.”

“Kids like me,” Shawn echoed.

Principal Hadley stammered, “Well, not kids like you, I mean . . . well, a lot of famous people were Scouts, and a lot of them will tell you that their scouting experience helped train them to become leaders in society.”

“Famous people," said Shawn.

"Yes. People such as . . ."

"Famous white people," Shawn interrupted. He pressed his palms down on the table and pushed himself up onto his feet. He then put his palm down on the announcement he had brought. As he closed his fist, he crumpled the paper within it. "I guess that kids who are not white either do not need, or do not deserve, these character-building experiences.”

Principal Hadley reached over to his desk for a note pad and offered it to Shawn. "Leave me your name, and I will look into the issue a little further. I'll let you know what I find out."

Shawn stared at Principal Hadley for a moment, then dropped the crumpled announcement back on the table and took the pad and pencil. He wrote down his name then handed it back. Principal Hadley then offered the pad to Jenny, but Shawn interrupted. “She is not a part of this. She was just curious, so I said she could come along if she wanted.”

Jenny then reached forward, took the pad, and wrote down her name. As she stood up, she told Principal Hadley cheerfully, “I think I would like to introduce you to my grandpa and grandma. I think you would have a wonderful time together.”

“I would be happy to meet them,” Professor Hadley said cautiously. “Now, is there anything else that I can help you with?”

“No, thank you, sir,” said Shawn. “Thank you for your time.” He stepped around Principal Hadley and headed out of the Administrative Center.

Principal Hadley watched them until they were a safe distance down the hall. He then dropped the pad on his secretary’s desk. “I would like to see their files, Ms. Farnsworth. Also, find out who their teachers are. Warn them that these two might be trouble. If they become a problem, I want to nip it in the bud.”

“Oh, not Jenny,” Ms Farnsworth sighed. “She has always been such a proper white child.”

“Well, she is obviously falling in with the wrong crowd,” Hadley answered. “There is a reason why we don’t let people like Shawn into the Youth Scouts. They’re a bad influence. Maybe we can find a way to end this and get Jenny away from him before he has more of a bad influence on her.”

Ms. Farnsworth had Shawn’s record up on her computer before Mr. Hadley was through his door and back in his office.


Dante said...

There were a lot of good COTG entries in this edition, but this was one of my favourites.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Don't leave us at a cliffhanger! Keep writing!

Oh, which is the boy scout's pet prejudice? Homophobic? Can't remember.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

The Boy Scouts ban homosexual and atheist members on the basis that their basic lack of morality prevents them from being a good influence on children.

Anonymous said...

We considered putting our 8yo son in the scouts, because we thought it would be good for him. I called the leader and bought the handbook. Then we saw how overt the religious assumptions are in the book (not to mention all the stuff about the flag), so that even if the local troop is low-key about it, we felt that it wasn't appropriate to tell our son to just ignore that part of the book. We could not in good conscience encourage intellectual duplicity in him. It's unfortunate because I think it would have been a good experience for him, and would have encouraged some independence in him.

Oh well. Yes, there is a price for being athiest, especially in the Bible belt. This is the first time (aside from arguments with my family) that we have been face-to-face with the prejudice.