The Boy Scout Law states that a Scout is physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. The Scout Oath states that a Scout is Clean: in body, mind, language, and environment.
So why are so many Scouts using bad language and swearing? It is not too bad in my own troop but I have seen it pretty bad in some troops. I hear Scouts swearing. I read bad language on their messages left on internet forums and on their myspace pages. I see it in the sign language they use.
I put a lot of the blame for this on the adults, the parents, and yes, even some adult Scout leaders. I firmly believe that if adults use bad language then the youth they are associated with will also use the same bad words. After all, if the youth hear it from adults then what is to stop them from using it.
During the last twenty-five years that I have been a scoutmaster I have enforced a policy of “no bad language” in the troop. When a Boy Scout swears during a troop meeting or activity he gets to do fifteen push-ups, right there and then. I have had Scouts do push-ups at meetings, on campouts, in parking lots, and various others places.
When a boy joins our troop I sit down with him and his parents and explain several things about our program, including the policy about bad language and push-ups. You know, in twenty-five years I have never had a parent complain about it.
Of course, boys will be boys, and sometimes someone will start teasing the Scout who is doing push-ups. All I have to do to stop him is to ask him if he would like to get down on the floor to join the other Scouts. That usually quiets them down quickly.
I expect all adult leaders and parents who attend activities to follow the same rules as the Scouts. They are usually happy to comply. In fact, there have been several times when a father gets to show the boys how to do push-ups after he has a slip of the tongue. Yes, I even remember there has been two times that I have done push-ups over the years.
It is truly amazing. The Scouts in our troop watch their own language doing troop activities, and they listen to everyone else’s words. They also tend to watch what they say outside of Scouting when they know I am around. It just serves as proof that if an adult refrains from using bad language, and expects the youth to do the same, that they will usually rise to the challenge.
A case in point… I was bowling with a few Scouts one Saturday afternoon. In the lane next to us was Brian, a former troop member, and a few of his teenage friends. When I heard one of his buddies swear after a bad throw I glanced over to see who said it and caught Brian’s eye. Brian immediately turned to his friends and told them they should not use language like that.
I smiled. I had not said a word to Brian and his friends about it. In fact, I had not even looked sternly at the group of friends. But Brian took it upon himself to correct his friend. He rose to the challenge.
Set a good example for the boys and they will follow it.