Junior Ganymede
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Today’s Dose of Mormon Internet Misanthropy

February 05th, 2010 by John Mansfield

Reading via the internet, one can find any number of people who wish the entire Church were inactive so as to accommodate their preference for avoiding human contact with their coreligionists. Sunday School should be eliminated and leadership meetings and seminary and stake conference and MIA activities and proselyting missions, and couldn’t sacrament meeting be cut to half hour and held quarterly? Because “I dislike being in the same room with other people” lacks something as a rallying cry, often the would-be destroyers proclaim their devotion to service and dream of all the service they would be performing if the church wasn’t holding them back. I have my doubts.

A frequent target for the misanthropes is scouting. I wish to take up one small item that the anti-scouts throw down every time as an example of the silliness of scouting: knot tying. What kind of person never learned the square knot and the bowline? Answer: an incompetent person. A wise, experienced mother training our district’s den chiefs one Saturday said something that has stuck with me the eighteen years since: Scouts do craft activities because a boy who doesn’t learn to do things with his hands becomes a man who is handicapped. There are a number of cub scouts in whose hands I placed a hammer or a screwdriver for the first time. As with the tactile, so with the social. A couple times teaching knots makes it abundantly clear how socially useful the activity is, besides being a lot of fun playing with rope. The boys learn, and then they teach others. After watching this happen a few times, I thought “No wonder knot tying is the stereotypical scouting activity!” “Misfit loner” is a label that most people could apply to their own feelings during some period of their own youth. Scouting is an excellent setting for a boy to begin getting experienced at something, and then share his nascent skills with the next boy.

“One step towards happiness is to make yourself healthy and strong while you are a boy, so that you can be useful and so you can enjoy life when you are a man.”—from Baden-Powell’s farewell

Comments (5)
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February 05th, 2010 07:06:28

John C.
February 5, 2010

I rather like knots. But is it acceptable to say that Scouting isn’t the best fit for everyone and that there are other options that are perfectly fine out there? The post isn’t about Scouting per se, but rather about the its tendency to smush those other options that might better suit some folks. Nevertheless, carry on. I’m a fan of the sheepshank myself, though I’ve never really needed to use it.

February 5, 2010

I believe you are absolutely spot-on, John. “Misfit loner” is an amazingly accurate label for me as a Scout-aged boy. I owe a lot to leaders who got me to go on campouts and took an interest in getting me out of my shell generally.

John C.,

Letting every boy go his own way may appeal to the radical individualist, but it totally defeats the social purpose of Scouting. Or of the Church in general. I don’t know how John could have made that any clearer.

sister blah 2
February 5, 2010

> The boys learn, and then they teach others.

So, if I understand you right, we need knot-tying because no other activity on earth provides this phenomenon? There’s like an entire literature on peer teaching in the field of educational philosophy, applied to everything from Algebra to Zoology. It doesn’t seem like you’ve developed any kind of defense of knot-tying specifically.

That said, I like knot-tying and I use my skillz frequently. I think knot-tying can so easily be defended that it is a silly thing to attack.

I just don’t see how you’ve defended it in this post.

February 5, 2010

I’m not Bruce, but I would not defend knot-tying, or even Scouting in general, as uniquely appropriate for the purposes to which we put it. We could substitute any number of other group activities involving development of skills that accomplish this marvelous paradox of simultaneously increasing the young man’s sense of self-reliance while increasing his sense of bonding to a supportive group of men and boys. I suppose even going into the woods and banging drums and reciting poetry might have some value. Certainly learning to use shop tools, or program a computer, or anything else challenging would likely work.

The problem is that it has to be something the group agrees to do together. You can’t do that letting each boy go his separate way. Scouting happens to be what we’ve chosen.

John C.
February 5, 2010

Nor was I endorsing anarchy in young mens. I was trying to say that the original post wasn’t misanthropic, just suggesting that the importance of scouting is overstated in the church. There are other organizational activities that could do similar things and that might better appeal to certain groups of boys.

Also, I was agreeing that knots are fun.

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