Does Scouting really build character in young men? Two researchers from Montclair State University in New Jersey are trying to find out. The researchers are studying how adult leaders, or Scouters, build character in Scouts. Their initial research suggests that Scouting does offer a “distinctive character initiative that is deeply rooted in its culture”. Now they are studying how Scouters foster this development.
More Than Knowing Right From Wrong
I find this idea of a distinctive character initiative deeply rooted in Scouting’s culture to be very interesting. But, what is this character that is being referenced? According to the BSA’s website, character is an ability to know how to be good and do good. This is not the same as only knowing right from wrong. It is much more. The BSA suggests that it is trying to build an understanding of specific affirmative values such as “fairness, courage, honor, and respect for others”. Further, Scouts learn how to apply these abstract affirmative values in daily living situations.
Lord Baden-Powell, who inspired modern-day Scouting, first addressed this type of character in his 1908 classic, Scouting for Boys. Here is a quote from the book:
The idea of helping an old woman across the street came from this book and is as relevant today as it was 110 years ago. Yes, it might sound corny or old fashioned, but I think our country could use a little more of this.
Back to the research. The research has a goal of showing how Scouters are involved in this character-building process. Scouters play such an important role in Scouting. Most are volunteers who give time to help our boys (and soon girls) become better leaders and citizens. I look forward to seeing how this research turns out.