An Open Letter to the BSA
Dear Boy Scouts of America,
I spent many years in scouting, beginning as a Cub Scout and continuing on in Boy Scouts until I was 17, a few badges shy of the rank of Eagle. I learned a lot from your organization, and at certain points in my rather painful teenage years, the Boy Scouts were my primary social group, the one place I could go to feel accepted.
Let me stress that point. The most important aspect of Scouting, for me, was that sense of acceptance.
So you might wonder why I dropped out. There were two reasons.
- Disillusionment with our local adult leaders, who seemed more interested in power than in creating good experiences for the kids.
- The Boy Scouts’ ongoing discrimination against homosexuals.
The former is something that happens anywhere. These are volunteer positions, and while some of the leaders were awesome, some were not. There will always be petty, power-hungry people who try to carve out little kingdoms for themselves in any organization.
The latter, on the other hand… Well, back in 1991 when I was dropping out, Parvin L. Bishop, National Director of Program of the BSA, was in court explaining that:
“…the requirements that a scout be ‘morally straight’ and ‘clean’ are inconsistent with homosexuality, and therefore known or avowed homosexuals or those who advocate to scouting youth that homosexual conduct is morally straight or clean, will not be registered as adult leaders.”
My response as a 17-year-old boy was something along the lines of, “Go to hell.”
That was 20 years ago, but it doesn’t look like things have changed. In 2009, after rejecting a lesbian couple from volunteering as Cub Scout leaders, Richard Stockton, Scout executive for the Green Mountain Council explained, “The national policy of the Boy Scouts of America is we don’t accept gays and lesbians as volunteers.”
My response to your discriminatory policies, 20 years later, is likewise unchanged.
This has created a dilemma for me. You see, my son heard about the local Cub Scout pack at his school’s open house, looked at the activities they did, and wanted to join.
My son is autistic, and my wife and I are working hard to find opportunities for him to socialize with other kids and improve those skills. I remember how much scouting gave to me as a child, and I suspect it would be just as helpful for my son, if not more so. And this is what he wants.
A six-year-old won’t understand that his father is uncomfortable with the organization he wants to join because the people who run that organization are engaging in their constitutionally-protected right to be bigoted douchebags. (I’m paraphrasing the court decision here a little bit.)
On the other hand, in signing him up for Cub Scouts, I’m writing a check to an organization that believes many of my friends and loved ones are unclean and immoral. I’m supporting an organization that actively discriminates against them.
As angry as I am at you for putting me into that position, I’m even more pissed at what you’re doing to your members. When I sat in on the local pack meeting a few weeks back, I found myself wondering how many of these kids would grow up and realize that they aren’t, in fact, heterosexual. At which point they’ll find that the organization they’ve been a part of for so many years is ready and eager to condemn them, and to turn its back on them.
In the end, we signed my son up and wrote the check. He wants to be a Cub Scout like his cousin, and I don’t feel okay with letting my beliefs stand in the way of that. My own conflicts aside, I think this will be a good experience for him. He’s enjoying it so far, and apparently made a bit of a splash at his last meeting when he explained what justice was by likening it to the Justice League of America.
I don’t know if this was the right decision. But I do know that for every check we write to the BSA, I plan to write a matching check to an organization that works to end discrimination against homosexuals. (Suggestions welcome.)
According to the supreme court, you have the right to discriminate. Just as I have the right to speak out against that discrimination, and to limit my support of your organization until you change those policies.
Actually, speaking out against your policies feels more like a duty, one based on things like loyalty to my friends and loved ones; trying to help other people who have been victims of your bigotry; and following my own moral principals.
You know, things I learned in Scouting.
October 19, 2011 @ 9:49 am
If I may make a suggestion for donation: donate to a local group that deals with LGBT issues. They can often use the funds that are siphoned by an organization like the HRC.
As a note, this also makes me glad that when I moved to the US, they wouldn’t let me transfer my work with the BSA in Germany. I was unabashed when I came out, and I can only imagine the conflict that would have caused in my life (and I already had plenty).
October 19, 2011 @ 9:53 am
If you’re looking for a group that really strives to be open and accepting of all religions, genders, and sexual orientations, you might consider SpiralScouts. The group was founded as an alternative for those who were uncomfortable sending their kids to the G/BSA because of their discriminatory practices.
The organization was developed with modern Earth-centered/Pagan influences in mind, but my understanding is that every group can decide how much or how little of that influence they want to incorporate. It might be worth investigating whether there’s a group in your area, and what their approach is.
October 19, 2011 @ 9:53 am
I don’t know, Jim. This sounds like using expedience as an excuse. We had to make the same call, with a kid who has a disability that makes social interactions difficult for him. And we said no. My kid will never join an organization that promotes discrimination.
October 19, 2011 @ 9:55 am
Bravo. I’ll be looking for your books the next time I have the cash to spend on leisure reading.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 9:59 am
I’m glad you made a decision you were comfortable with. I hope it was the right decision for your son. I don’t appreciate being judged for making a different one for mine.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 9:59 am
I’ve never heard of this group, thanks. I’ll check them out.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:02 am
I’m a very judgmental person, it’s true–and I apologize. Would you like me to delete the comment?
October 19, 2011 @ 10:07 am
I agree with you in so many ways…and the following novella will express that in many many words 🙂
You sir are being American. I mean that in the best way. You are utilizing the free speech we are blessed with and expressing your displeasure with the BSA policies that discriminate against some of your (and my) friends and neighbors. However, you are also supporting the rights of other Americans (specifically the BSA) by using/purchasing their services.
I see the good that BSA does in the lives of so many people, so I feel ok with paying them for that service. And like yourself, I disagree with their discriminatory policies. But, I am so happy that my country allows them to have their beliefs and that they do not have to compromise those beliefs just because you and I don’t agree. We have other choices of organizations for socializing our children, but not many are as effective as BSA.
So, until we have another choice that is as good for the development of our youth, I will still pay for the BSA services, I will still express my displeasure at their policies, I will still understand that their religion (and freedom to practice it) allows or mandates these policies, and I will pray (yes I still do that) for them to someday change.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 10:08 am
No, that’s fine. I guarantee you’re not the only one feeling or thinking this; you were just the first one to write it out.
Weirdly enough, I *do* appreciate that you were willing to write it, despite my cranky response. Don’t know if that makes sense, but thank you.
I don’t know if this was the right choice. I don’t feel at all good about compromising a belief I feel very strongly about. But for us (my wife and I), we couldn’t find an easy answer. We couldn’t find a “right” answer. This, for us, felt like the best of the bad options.
I’m getting defensive, and that’s not where I wanted to go with this. I did want to say that it wasn’t an easy choice, but it is the choice we made.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:12 am
You don’t sound defensive at all!
In addition to being judgmental, I’m also highly opinionated, and this is one of my hot-button issues. I detest the BSA’s discriminatory policies. There is a kid in Theo’s class (his equivalent class, if he were in public school) whose mothers cannot volunteer for the BSA, and it burns me up. Also, we’re very lucky to have a wonderful alternative here (http://taprootnatureexperience.org).
October 19, 2011 @ 10:13 am
I was made to enter the boy scouts by my father as a sort of mandatory thing. As much as I tried to get into it, we spent a lot of time selling candy and popcorn and whatever else the adults wanted us to pimp out. My brother was in a special troop for ADD kids, so he went camping and got to do some of the fun stuff. But mostly being a scout sucked for me.
It sounds like what your son wants is a chance to belong to a group, to any group, and this is where peer pressure has the strongest pull. And you’ve decided that in spite of their discrimination and your personal hatred of them, the peer pressure the BSA exerts on your son is so good, you just can’t resist giving them money.
No, I don’t believe your giving money to an anti-discrimination group is nearly a good enough response when you’ve signed up to fund religious discrimination. Your son is a victim of peer pressure, and you should be a better parent and tell him not to follow the cool crowd just because it looks cool from the outside. I’ve agreed with you on past issues, but on this, I think you’re way off the mark for caving to peer pressure and paying for religious discrimination against gays, against trans folks, and against Atheists. Paying “the other guys” too will not make you right here. Pulling your son out of the Scouts and explaining why would be the more responsible thing to do.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:21 am
It saddens me to see this. It wasn’t something I paid attention to back when I was in Scouts. I stopped Scouts at the age of 15 (just after getting Eagle).
I started rethinking the scouts after an issue with my dad (who was my Scoutmaster) caused him to be removed from the position and for them to even go as far as to say that all his accomplishments when he was in Scouts (back in the early 70’s) were moot.
I keep being torn because I would love my son to be involved with an organization like I was, but its going to be hard finding the right one. At least I have about 5 years before I have to think too hard about it.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:27 am
I went through the same dilemma a few years ago when my son joined Scouts. he isn’t into sports in the least. We tried soccer and baseball, but he just wasn’t into them.
But he loves scouting.
He has a tremendous group of leaders who mentor and educate him. They go camping, hiking, and take trips to museums and memorials and other places of interest at least twice a month. He’s going to help out at a local equestrian show tomorrow night.
My “rationale” (because that’s really what it was), is that I don’t give a crap about the national group. I don’t consider myself to be supporting them, even though some of my money makes its way to them. But most of my contribution supports the activities of my son’s troop, and that I’m okay with.
I went in with the attitude that “all scouting is local.” It’s not completely accurate, and it is something of a rationalization, but so far it’s worked well for us.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:33 am
Kudos to you for making the best out of a bad situation. I can clearly see the catch-22 and applaud the fact that you’re trying to balance one less favorable or conflicting action with another. Screw anyone who will judge you for that — until they’ve walked a mile in your shoes, they have nothing of relevance to say. (And this coming from an opening gay genre writer).
Here’s my suggestion for a charitable contribution:
It’s a link for the True Colors Residence, a project of West End Intergenerational Residence and partners Cyndi Lauper and her manager Lisa Barbaris, that recently opened in Central Harlem this summer. True Colors is the first permanent, supportive housing facility for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in New York State.
Might be a great way for you to support a youth-based cause to counter your inner-conflict with supporting the Boy Scouts.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:46 am
When I left the Boy Scouts about 14 years ago, I was also just short of Eagle scout. My family moved to a wealthy, fringe county of suburbia which hosted a more autistic-friendly school system for my stepbrother.
I was okay with not joining back up with the Scouts in the new city. I had come to realize the hypocrisy and perhaps even corruption (considering there’s scholarship opportunities, yeah?). Scouting provided an escape for parents just as much as it tried to construct a learning regiment for kids, and in that escape many of the leaders didn’t bother to keep an eye on their Troop. Pyromania and alcohol are two things that impressionable young people shouldn’t have peer pressured upon them without a escape route, as happened to me one summer during a Scouting camp.
It makes me happy to see other people suggest we need an alternative to Scouts, and I’ve actually said this myself in other venues. It needs to be non-discriminatory even more than it needs to be modernized. I’d even go so far as to say they should include self-defense into its required learning.
(please excuse the rambling thoughts, it is very early here and I wanted to post while I had a chance.)
October 19, 2011 @ 10:47 am
Another scout group you might want to check out is Camp Fire USA. Their website is here: http://www.campfireusa.org/ . They’ve been an inclusive organization since way back, and their troops are co-ed.
Best of luck! I love your blog.
October 19, 2011 @ 10:55 am
I think when your son is old enough to understand why you were reluctant, he will be old enough to make the right choice for himself, and will be proud of himself for doing so rather than annoyed at you for forcing the issue. A sure way to make a child rebel against your values is by forcing him to make painful sacrifices to them before he’s old enough to appreciate the necessity.
I have yet to come up against a similar dilemma (my daughter is not old enough to even articulate desires for particular activities/memberships), but reading this has gotten my mental wheels turning and helped me prepare for that eventuality.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 11:12 am
I responded to you on Twitter before I caught up on comments over here.
Let me clarify a few points here.
1. I don’t hate the Boy Scouts of America. I despise this policy and a few of their others, but please don’t put words in my mouth.
2. I said very little about my son’s motivations for wanting to join. The only comment I made was that he thought the activities looked like fun. Please stop making assumptions about motivations and such.
I’m sorry you had a crappy experience in scouting. I didn’t. A lot depends on the troop and the local leadership. There are some great scout leaders out there, but there are certainly some assholes as well.
Obviously, you’re welcome to think I’m caving to peer pressue, that I’m not a responsible parent, to be offended by my choice, and so on.
It seems to be very simple for you to see the “right” choice here. I never claimed that this was the right choice, and unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple for my family. I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you, but we made what we felt was the best choice we could.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 11:13 am
It saddens me too. This is an organization that has done a lot of good, but they’ve done harm as well, and that’s not okay.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 11:19 am
Thanks, Vince. I appreciate it, and I’ll definitely check them out.
Inner conflict is great for characters, but it rather sucks in real life.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 11:23 am
Thanks, Patti. I’ll check them out.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 11:25 am
Thanks. And for what it’s worth, the Girl Scouts seem to be a bit more sensible about these things, so when and if your daughter decides she’s interested…
October 19, 2011 @ 11:34 am
My wife and I have had some similar discussions recently, with a son who’s about the same age as your (if it’s the same one in your G+ post from last night). We not only have the same reservations you do, I have further ones regarding GS/BSA’s nondenominational religious stance when I am an atheist.
Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever said it in quite those terms.
Like you, I participated in Scouts from Cub through high school, although I left when I turned 15-ish and at the rank of First Class. My reasons for leaving at the time had nothing to do with the organization’s stance on homosexuals, although such court cases were in the news at the time, and they contributed to my reasons not to seek out another troop and not to offer my services as an adult leader of any kind (merit badge counselor, etc.)
One thing that you may like knowing is that often (but not always) school-sponsored troops are required to abide by the sponsoring organization’s nondiscriminatory policy, if one exists.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 12:17 pm
I’ve come across a number of stories where the BSA lost funding, or schools refused to let them use their space, because the Boy Scouts were in violation of those nondiscrimination policies. I’m hoping that if this happens enough, it might finally push the organization to change…
October 19, 2011 @ 12:33 pm
Some of the replies here are a bit judgmental. I sympathize with your dilemma. I have never been a Scout but I support LGBT rights and I can understand how important it is to get a special needs child into a program they enjoy. Spiral Scouts are an alternative, if there is one in you area, or you have the time and energy to start one, and you can find other parents with children who want to jion. But it is so much easier to take advantage of an existing program that doesn’t actually discriminate against your son. It’s not an easy choice.
October 19, 2011 @ 12:37 pm
Check out Spiral Scouts http://spiralscouts.org/
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 12:41 pm
You’re the second person to recommend Spiral Scouts – thank you! I wish I had the time/energy to start a program, but there’s no way I could work that in right now. But I’ll definitely check them out.
October 19, 2011 @ 2:39 pm
I’m not sure about their stance on LGBT issues, but I remember hearing about an official alternate oath for atheist girls to swear. So there’s that.
Privilege in action « Zoe Whitten’s Blog
October 19, 2011 @ 2:55 pm
[…] so angry right now, because fantasy author Jim C. Hines wrote this open letter to the Boy Scouts of America. I guess Jim thinks he’s showing how he’s trying to do the right […]
October 19, 2011 @ 3:47 pm
I absolutely detest the BSA, but I have to say kudos to you. Yes, it’s important not to support discriminatory organizations… but in the balancing test between your duty to society, and your duty to your child, well, kid is supposed to win every time. It’s a question of where is the greater harm. Is the harm of nominally supporting the BSA through membership dues and such greater than the harm to a six year old who will only see other kids getting to do fun things that he can’t? Frankly, whatever you have to pay to BSA isn’t such a great amount that them not having it will break them, but speaking from experience, a six year old will remember that he couldn’t do the things his peer group did for the rest of his life.
Or, teal deer; haters gonna hate.
October 19, 2011 @ 4:35 pm
As a lesbian, I personally wholly support your decision. It’s the side I would have come down on in your situation. At his age, particularly since he’s autistic, I think that being involved in a group setting and getting to exercise his social muscles, and getting to be like his cousin, are almost immeasurably valuable.
Certainly as your son gets older, it may be appropriate to talk with him about this policy and why you disagree with it, and if you do so he may eventually make the same choice you did as a teenager.
(I think the same would be true if they suddenly accepted homosexuals but the troop you were involved with was more about fundraisers than the fellowship, learning, and experinces associated with scouting. That’s why my wife quit Girl Scouts, and why I really wished there was a Campfire group in my town growing up. Selling cookies and nuts vs. learning how to actually read a map and do trail signs and tie knots? Really?)
I also love your solution of supporting gay rights organizations with a financial match. 🙂 Lambda Legal is of course always an excellent organization http://www.lambdalegal.org/. I also agree that finding local organizations may be the best bet as far as getting the most bang for your buck.
Mostly I want to say congratulations on being a great father, and an incredibly decent human being.
October 19, 2011 @ 4:42 pm
Just to add in another possible way to see this response (from a parent with a non-neurotypical kid who decided “no” on Boy Scouts).
What if allowing the kid to join a discriminatory organization was damaging to the kid? What if that’s the greater harm? It’s possible the child would be harmed by seeing other kids getting to do fun things he can’t; it’s also possible he’ll see people being discriminated against. Which is more harmful?
October 19, 2011 @ 4:55 pm
If the child were a little older, I’d probably totally agree with you. But right now, he’s only six. Full disclosure, I’m not a parent, but I doubt even a neurotypical six year old would understand discrimination if he saw it.
I mean, in most circumstances, I’d be full on, stick to your guns, no support for the BSA period… but Jim is obviously the one who knows his kid best, and knows best how his kid will react at this point in time. I am of the opinion that at this point in time, the immediate benefit for Jim’s kid probably outweighs potential future harm. That will certainly change as he grows older, and obviously, Jim can address those issues with his son at that time.
The ideal would be the BSA dropping its discrimination policy and all the kids getting to be scouts in a world of tolerance and happiness – but we live in the world we’ve got, and do the changing we can. Obviously this isn’t the ideal situation, and it’s not an easy choice.
October 19, 2011 @ 5:08 pm
I’ve been thinking about this all day! It’s a perplexing problem.
As a parent, one of my jobs is to make tough decisions for my kids. I can’t always explain those decisions to them–they can’t always understand. Because they’re kids.
Also, I’d argue that a six-year-old might not be able to point to something and say “that’s discrimination,” he can absorb discriminatory attitudes, and be harmed by them.
Jim C. Hines
October 19, 2011 @ 5:54 pm
Personally, I’m not sure I have an answer to those questions. They’re valid questions, but I don’t know how to weigh the what ifs.
As an alternate scenario, what if his teenage years follow the same path as my own? It’s possible, given the space I was in during my teenage years and the acceptance (bitterly ironic, I know) I found from my peers in Boy Scouts, that being a part of that organization saved my life.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, or what he’ll be exposed to. The best I can do right now is to stay involved, to help him maximize the positive, and to confront the negatives as they come. And if it turns out to be a harmful choice, it’s also one we can revisit.
October 19, 2011 @ 8:15 pm
The public area is never the place for sex. The BSA is a community group based on community values. There is no reason any club needs to know your sexual preference because it is not a public event.
I hope your son learns as much about himself as I did in the scouts/
October 19, 2011 @ 8:21 pm
Letting people know what you think is never a bad thing. But letting people know they did good is even better.
October 20, 2011 @ 1:35 am
What about the Matthew Shepard Foundation? http://www.matthewshepard.org/
October 20, 2011 @ 7:09 am
I don’t have kids, so this dilemma is one I don’t have to go through, but I don’t buy any boy scout fundraiser stuff. Occasionally that makes it difficult for me to explain to a 9-yr old why I’m not buying popcorn from him, but I just can’t stomach giving the scouts any money.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2011 @ 8:09 am
That’s something we’ve been struggling with for a while with the neighborhood kids too.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2011 @ 8:09 am
They’re one of the groups I was looking at. Thanks!
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2011 @ 8:11 am
Thanks, Anita. I hope and trust that as he gets a little older, he’ll be able to make his own choices. And we’ll definitely continue to talk about stuff.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Lambda Legal in the past 24 hours, but checking on local organizations makes sense too. Thanks again!
October 20, 2011 @ 10:44 am
So I am confronted with two views on this. The first is that yes, sometimes you have to make a decision where there is no good or right choice. I feel like we’ve only been given a snippet of the whole picture in this case, so I am unsure if this applies, and I really want to believe that this is what applies here. Like, if there were no other options available so it would be the BSA or nothing, and nothing would by far hurt your child more so than having him participate in this now. (my opinion) But my 2nd feeling is that you caved.
The only caveat for your caving was that you do not think your son can understand discrimination, and that you would be refusing him something that’s good for no apparent reason to him, thereby hurting him. Now, I do not know if this applies to autistic children, but I do know that most 6 yr-olds would understand. Telling your child that although this org does all these wonderful things with kids, they also tell some kids like (…) that they are not welcome, that they cannot participate, and pushes them away. Because it has, it has kicked out gay kids when they find out that they are gay, not just kept adults out of leadership positions. And children understand how it feels to be treated that way, even if they do not understand completely why (…) is being treated that way.
Again, I do not know your son, nor do I know all of the particulars in this situation, but it feels like your son may understand better than most what it feels like to be left out, and because of something that cannot be changed. I also do not know if you had checked before making your decision, and that there are no other options available to you, therefore it would be the BSA or nothing. And since you want your son to have these experiences, without clouding them with the facts, you have chosen to not explain it to him until more options are available when he is older.
I think we often do not give our children the credit they deserve to make hard decisions for themselves, and maybe you would feel better about this decision if you did talk to your son about your reservations, even as he continues on with participating with the local BSA until those other options become accessible.
PS: I agree with giving to a local org. instead of a national one. I also think you might want to send the open letter to someone from the BSA, there’s no reason to believe that internal pressure could not have some affect to make change, while your son is participating in it.
Jim C. Hines
October 20, 2011 @ 11:02 am
Paula – out of curiosity, exactly who or what do you feel I caved to?
October 20, 2011 @ 5:28 pm
Jim, it sounds to me like you and your wife made the best decision you could between less than excellent choices.
You might consider contributing to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for your “balancing” donation.
BTW, I used one of your cartoons to illustrate my blog post today. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
October 21, 2011 @ 1:24 am
Fever- Discriminating against myself, my friends and my family? Those aren’t my community values.
October 21, 2011 @ 9:43 am
Great essay. Seems like a possible conflict within the Boy Scouts’ Oath:
“On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
Depending on how one interprets “duty to God” or “obey the Scout Law”, it could conflict with “help other people at all times” and “morally straight” if you feel that heterosexism is unhelpful and immoral.
Too bad there’s nothing in the Scout oaths or laws or mottos about who gets to set Scout law. A little too much emphasis on being “obedient” toward unseen and unnamed authority.
Jim C. Hines
October 21, 2011 @ 9:54 am
Agreed. The church I grew up in allows openly homosexual members and ministers. I never interpreted that part of the oath as “To do my duty to your narrow-minded interpretation God”…
Likewise about helping other people and morality.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones
October 22, 2011 @ 12:03 am
Well spoken, Jim, and I fully understand your issue. I went all the way to Eagle Scout and never quit in protest, but I never understood or agreed with their stance on homosexuality (or atheism, for that matter). Now my son is in Cub Scouts and I have to balance the same concerns you have. I think the plan about giving to a gay rights organization is a good one. Perhaps it doesn’t make the situation fully just, but the organization will never change if people who object to the current policy don’t get involved in Scouting. If the only people who go into Scouts are kids whose parents are perfectly fine with the homosexual discrimination, there’ll never be any incentive for them to change.
October 22, 2011 @ 5:46 pm
Hi Jim – If you did follow up fairly intensely on Spiral Scouts in Michigan, you will probably get directed to me. I have been leading or co-leading a Spiral Scouts circle for about 10 years now for almost exactly the reasons you are uncomfortable with the BSUSA. I grew up as a Girl Scout, my mother was a neighborhood chairman (leader of leaders and other volunteers) in our town and I participated in several GS programs as an adult volunteer off and on. Until I had kids, and all 3 of them turned out to be boys. After some Cub Scout experience with number-one-son, we bailed on BSUSA and became Spiral Scouts.
There was interest in starting another circle in the Lansing area, so I can direct you where to speak up and see if anybody is still interested or available. Spiral Scouts does allow for a family to participate alone, if there aren’t others who are interested in their area. Plus, the Oaken Gove Circle just outside Ann Arbor are open and welcoming to Scouts or potential Scouts from all over Michigan or coming up from Ohio, and have some experience with autistic kids My founding co-leader is the dad of 2 kids on the spectrum and 2 with other issues. We might even do a state-wide campout again, if another circle gets going that we could team with.
October 24, 2011 @ 6:10 am
Hi Jim, avid reader of your work here 🙂
I just wanted to say that I’m always really interested in your approach to these matters. It’s strange to see how judgemental some people here are, while you always raise issues on your blog regarding sexual assault, gender inequality, and queers. I’ve always regarded you as someone who dares to step up and say his piece, even if it’s potentially damaging to your writing sales. That’s why I started buying your books in the first place!
What I really like about this post, is that you show that in regular life sometimes your own beliefs and practical issues can clash. I personally think you’ve made the right choice in letting your child do what feels good seeing that he has special needs, but even if I didn’t I would have respected that you dare to speak so openly about your doubts.
So go you! It’s so easy to be judgmental on the Internet, and you don’t deserve it at all.
October 25, 2011 @ 6:56 pm
My 14 year old is autistic and doing well except for socializing with others his age. He’s great with adults. He didn’t care for Scouts because there were too many kids interacting with each other in ways he didn’t understand and didn’t care for.
However, he loved martial arts and thrived there. The classes are heavily structured and contain the same honor, etc. that you’re wanting for your son. The structure and reduced direct social impact allowed him to make friends at a slightly slower pace, and allowed him to be around others while engaged in an activity. I coached him in baseball as well.
You have issues with the Scouts and I totally get that, but I wanted you to know you had alternatives that you might not have considered that would be easier for your son to cope with.
Jim C. Hines
October 25, 2011 @ 7:00 pm
I’m glad your son is doing well.
Mine did karate with me over the summer and mostly seemed to enjoy it, but since Cub Scouts and karate are on the same night, he had to make a choice and was much more interested in trying Cub Scouts.