All Scouts are united by a common set of values, which I have been exploring this week at the 2010 National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. Each point of the Scout Law is something to aspire to, but one stands out as unique: Obedient.
While being thrifty and brave, or loyal and friendly, are things that someone can use their own initiative to demonstrate, obedience is perhaps the most challenging to live up to.
What does “A Scout is Obedient” even mean?
Ask a Tenderfoot Scout, at the beginning of his Scouting experience, and he might say that it means he has to follow the instructions of his Patrol Leader. Ask that Patrol Leader, who is a First Class Scout, he might say he has to follow the example of the Senior Patrol Leader.
However, you may find a different answer when asking that Senior Patrol Leader, what does it mean to be obedient as a Scout? Rather than following some superior Scout, he might say that it is important for Scouts to be obedient to the principles of Scouting, to their faith, and to the system of values they have developed for themselves over the course of their lifetime.
Certainly, part of the value of obedience is knowing when to defer to someone’s experience or authority. However, perhaps an equally important part of obedience is knowing when to stand up in the face of apparent authority, not to disrespect that authority, but to defend the system of values an individual has adopted.
This is not to suggest that Scouts should run around disregarding police officers and teachers whenever they feel like it. However, it does mean that Scouts should consider carefully everything they do.
Through their actions, do they obey their values?
Rosa Parks was not a Boy Scout. (Obviously.) However she was obedient. When the law of the land in Selma said she could not ride in the front of the bus, she thought carefully about how she would act. She determined that such a law infringed on basic human rights. It was not kind, friendly, nor courteous.
So she chose to be disobedient—to the law—but not to her personal values. While it is clear she exercised bravery, she applied obedience in equal measure. It was obedience to the rule of right.
What does any of this have to do with the National Scout Jamboree? Over 31,000 Scouts from all over the country are living together for eight days. They are challenging one another, sharing their ideas, and learning.
Most of these Scouts have not yet attained the highest rank, Eagle Scout. This jamboree experience allows them to continue to develop that personal system of values they will obey through their lifetimes.
Hopefully, by the time they head home, they will put together one more piece of that personal puzzle.
This week and next, I plan to blog about Scouting’s main principles as set out in the Scout Motto, Scout Law, and Scout Slogan.
Daniel M. Reck, M.S.Ed., is a copy editor for Jamboree Today, the daily newspaper of the Boy Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. An Eagle Scout, he is also the Assistant Director of Greek Life, Leadership, and Involvement at Monmouth College in Illinois.