[August 14, 2019] My trip to a Boy Scout Campout gave me a new respect for what young boys do and what they think. The job of adult leaders at the camp was clear;1 they were to teach boys to stand on their own feet and to be valuable young adults. One of the first things they learn is that there are no “participation trophies” in life.
“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonides, medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher
The quote by Maimonides above was modified on a sign at the scout camp (the thumbnail for this article). When we communicate important messages, the leader must do so in such a way that understanding is gained through action. Adult leaders in scouting – any leader – show young boys (and now also girls) how to gain their independence, how to set and achieve life goals, and how to act properly in the company of others.
Seeing young boys learning the skills that will benefit them throughout their lifetime is down-right exciting. You can see it in their eyes. It’s like an awakening for them as if a veil has come off the darkness. They learn to give a helping hand to others, but they also learn that they should not be so compassionate that they stifle the dignity of others.
“You cannot give dignity to a man. Dignity is already the inherent right of a man to be valued through his independence.” – Anonymous
Scouts learn by doing. I was sitting at our campsite talking with other adult leaders when a first-year boy scout came running up to tell us the news that he had caught a 7-pound Northern Pike while fishing off the banks of the lake. Later we discovered that he won the fishing competition and had beaten his father’s fishing attempts 20 years earlier also as a young scout. This first-year scout had heard about his dad’s scouting adventures for his entire life, and now he had a fish story to tell to everyone.
Teaching independent thinking and critical life skills is something that is hard to describe. The idea that we teach people to become independent is the basis of any well-functioning society and what separates those who struggle from those who succeed. I enjoyed my time at Boy Scout Summer Camp because we succeeded in our mission to teach boys to “fish.”
1. Other than keeping everyone safe.