Are We Selling Our Scouts Short?


When I was in journalism school, one of the first lessons I learned (if I didn’t know it already) was the importance of novelty in news. As the old saying goes, it’s not news when a dog bites a man, but it is news when a man bites a dog.

I thought about that truism when I read a recent Bryan on Scouting blog post about Order of the Arrow members helping to restore a Scout camp in Puerto Rico that was damaged by Hurricane Maria. A hundred Scouts from the mainland and 50 Scouts from the island worked so quickly that the camp was forced to more projects for them during the week–a nice problem to have!

As it relates to the Order of the Arrow, this was definitely a dog-bites-man story. The project, dubbed Arrowcorp Puerto Rico, was just one more example of the brotherhood of cheerful service living up to its name.

But as it relates to Boy Scouting as a whole, I wonder if it was more of a man-bites-dog story. Too often, I fear, troops planning service projects don’t really stretch themselves, while Life Scouts planning Eagle Scout service projects don’t do the sorts of transformative service projects that they’ll be proud of a decade from now. Perhaps that’s because we’re all too busy these days. Perhaps that’s because we get tunnel vision when we’re looking for project ideas. Perhaps that’s because adult leaders underestimate their Scouts.

If you’re not sure what your Scouts are capable of, consider the fact that more than a million people, many of them teens, participated in March for Our Lives rallies about gun violence in March 2018. However you feel about gun control, that’s an impressive number.

The teens involved in those rallies participated because the cause meant something to them. So did the Arrowmen who gave up their spring break to restore a Scout camp in Puerto Rico.

What means something to your Scouts? What would motivate them to earn headlines with their community service?

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at


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