Boy Scouting: Be Repaired


Many students will be graduating next month. To them I say: Good luck finding a place to park at the graduation ceremony! When you get out your car will probably have been towed. Ha-ha, welcome to The World!

Although I’m not graduating this year, or perhaps in any year, I’ve begun to wonder what I’ll do in the event that I do leave BYU. As with most college graduates, I’ll have many options. The first of these options is to earn a lot of money by doing nothing.

I learn of these options frequently through the magic of e-mail. E-mail, and the various other computer advancements we have recently made, are nice, but I think I prefer the old days, when computers were useless. Remember when we were kids, and the only thing you could do with computers was play Lemonade Stand and Oregon Trail? Oh sure, we heard fantastic stories of people using computers to solve complicated math equations, and to design the robots of the future, and we wanted to believe that was possible, but we knew in our hearts that the most we’d ever do with our Apple IIe’s was sell imaginary lemonade and lead imaginary frontierspeople to their imaginary deaths in Wyoming.

So anyway, things are a lot more advanced now, and through e-mail, we have the luxury of communicating with friends, family, and, most often, total strangers whom we want nothing to do with. Nearly every day I get a message that says something like, “If you are not the kind of person who wants to earn $10,000 a week simply by taking a nap on the floor, then delete this message immediately!” And so I always delete the message immediately, not because I don’t want to earn $10,000 a week, but because I know they’re lying. And I know they’re lying because the next sentence is always: “This is NOT a multi-level marketing scheme!” And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that the surest way of identifying a multi-level marketing scheme is when you are told, “This is not a multi-level marketing scheme.” It’s the same as how when people begin a sentence with, “Now, I’m not a racist, but…,” you can be certain you’re about to hear something very racist, such as, “I’m not a racist, but I understand all people from Mongolia eat their young.” (This also works for sentences beginning with, “I don’t want to be rude” and “I don’t mean to gossip.”)

So the “get rich quick” schemes are a career option, but probably not a very good one, considering they don’t work. Whatever I do for a living, though, I’ll have to do it outside of Utah. This is not because I dislike Utah. On the contrary, I rather enjoy Utah’s majestic mountains and quaint mispronunciations of basic English words. No, the reason I fear I shall have to seek employment out of this state — and I am ashamed to admit this publicly — is I never earned my Eagle Scout award.

Please don’t stop reading now. If I ever needed a reader, it’s now. Please stay with me.

It was made abundantly clear by the many people who spoke to us when I was a Boy Scout that if two equally qualified people were up for the same job, the employer would hire whichever one was an Eagle Scout. I believe this to be one of the many lies the grown-ups told us when we were young and impressionable. I think most employers don’t care whether you’re an Eagle Scout because for most jobs, being an Eagle Scout won’t help you any. (“Farnsworth — good work on the Johnson account. Your quick knot-tying skills saved the day at that presentation.”) And I won’t even address the likelihood of two people being up for the SAME job with EXACTLY the same level of expertise, experience and skills, forcing the employer to ask which one knows the hand motions for “Father Abraham Had Many Sons” and which one doesn’t.

But despite all this, I suspect the powerful Boy Scout Industry has convinced all the employers in their areas of influence — Utah, for example — to use the Eagle Scout test as a means of hiring people, which means I won’t get a job around here.

The reason I didn’t become an Eagle Scout is simply that I wasn’t interested in Scouting. (Believe it or not, I was still able to get a temple recommend with this attitude.) I have nothing against the Scouting program, mind you; it just wasn’t for me. And I’m glad I had parents who understood this and didn’t insist, as many parents do, that I couldn’t get my driver’s license until I had gotten my Eagle. I don’t wish to criticize the parenting techniques of others, but this is a stupid parenting technique. For my kids, I’m going to insist they can’t get their driver’s licenses until they’ve had an article published in a magazine. So what if they aren’t interested in writing, or aren’t any good at it? Writing and submitting and eventually publishing an article will teach them determination and goal-setting and the value of work. They’ll thank me for it later, when they’re making $10,000 a week stuffing envelopes.

This column was satisfying to me for two reasons. First, I'd been wanting to mention Lemonade Stand and Oregon Trail for a long time; second, I'd been wanting to mock the "no-drivers-license-until-you're-an-Eagle" method of parenting for a long time.

There was much discussion amongst my friends who pre-read the column for me as to which Boy Scout campfire song I should make reference to. I originally had "My name is Joe and I work in a button factory." This proved to be familiar to only about half of the former Boy Scouts I polled. "My Bonnie Lies over the Ocean," while familiar to all, was too awkward to describe in a brief half-sentence, what with its standing up and sitting down motions. So I ultimately went with "Father Abraham Had Many Sons" (though in my troop we sang it about Boy Scout founder and possible creepy old guy Robert Baden-Powell, instead of Abraham).

I am very pleased with the line "I don't wish to criticize the parenting techniques of others, but this is a stupid parenting technique." Not only is it funny on its own, but it's also a nice, semi-subtle reference to an earlier part of the column where I mentioned introductory phrases like "I don't mean to gossip." Did you catch that? Man, I was pleased with that.

I was VERY surprised that I didn't get any e-mail either from parents who had forced the Eagle policy upon their sons, or from guys whose parents had forced it upon them and who had liked the policy. Instead, I got mail from people whose parents forced them to get their Eagles, and who resented their parents because of it. Interesting.