Rocky Mount Elementary School PTA in Georgia sponsors this Cub Pack
Scouting has been in public and private schools since the beginning of the Boy Scouts of America. Hundreds of the earliest troops were started by school superintendents and principals who recognized Scouting as a unique educational resource. They were immediately impressed with Scouting’s emphasis on learning by doing, with the importance we place on good citizenship, and with the merit badge program as a motivational tool for learning.
A college professor in Kansas made this comment when the BSA was barely five years old: “Personally, from my own observation of its effectiveness, I would not trade one solid good year of Boy Scout lore and Boy Scout training, under a first-class Scoutmaster; for any three years of any public school system under the sun that I have ever seen.”
With praise like that, it is not surprising that Scouting thrived in the schools. But things have changed and now it’s the principal, not the superintendent that calls the shots. Most won’t budge unless their parent/teacher organization wants Scouting.
Traditionally, local PTAs have been among the largest users of the Scouting program. In fact, during my internship with the National Capital Area Council in 1975, in six weeks I helped parents organize three Cub Scout packs, all sponsored by the the PTA. During that era, Cub Scouting was available to nearly every youth in the country; it was a rite of passage.
However, in the late 1980s the BSA and PTA organizations parted over differences on membership standards and liability insurance. But that is all in the past and it’s time to ask, “Where is the PTA now?”
Setting the Stage to Start a Unit
If your school is not offering Cub Scouting as part of its after-school services, it’s time to call the school’s principal and PTA president. Since each school PTA is autonomous, a face-to-face approach with both is best.
The school principal can provide the president’s name and can be most helpful, especially if you take time to explain how boys in the school will be enriched through the Cub Scout program. Be sure to explain how Scouting fosters good citizenship and socially acceptable behavior among boys. Regardless of the level at which you contact school officials, be sensitive to their wants and needs even though they may not readily appear relevant to the organization of Scouting.
PTAs exist for only one reason—children, so that should be the focus of the discussion. PTA’s mission is “to make every child’s potential a reality by engaging and empowering families and communities to advocate for all children.” You should know these objectives too:
- To promote the welfare of children and youth in the home, school, community, and place of worship
- To raise the standards of home life
- To secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth
- To bring into closer relation the home and the school, that parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the education of children and youth
- To develop between educators and the general public such united efforts as will secure for all children and youth the highest advantages in physical, mental, social, and spiritual education
These PTA objectives and Scouting’s objectives are closely related. The local PTA is a natural home for Scouting units. Scouting continues to grow in PTAs, but these organizations won’t get back to their former level of service unless you and other Scouters take stronger action.
In addition to the local school PTA, PTAs have city, county and state councils. The presidents of these councils are important in the setup, and your cultivation of them can be invaluable. Ask for a 10-minute spot on their meeting agenda and offer your help to them, but do not assume they know about Scouting.
Scouting Benefits for Schools and Students:
- Citizenship Training. All Scouts are taught to do their duty to God and country (and, by extension, to their community and school), and to help other people.
- Positive Values. Scouts are taught and urged to practice such virtues as trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, courtesy, kindness, and obedience.
- Enhanced Motivation to Learn. While most of what boys learn in Scouting is not academic, their motivation to learn Scouting’s skills may carryover into their schoolwork. Thus, while not all Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts are outstanding students, chances are that they will study harder and achieve more than non-Scouts with equal ability.
- Good Adult Role Models. By and large, Scouting’s adult volunteers set excellent examples for children. This may be especially important for boys of single-parent families.
- Healthy Competition for Boys. Scouting offers boys a chance to compete with others in a fairly informal manner without the strict rules of organized sports. They also “compete” with themselves in trying to meet Scouting’s standards for advancement, and they enjoy the recognition that comes with success. “
- Good Turns for the Schools. All units operated by schools are urged to do service projects for their school. The Good Turn is an expression of citizenship in action and the fulfillment of the Oath or Promise by both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to help others.
Those benefits to the school pertain to both packs and troops. Cub Scouting has another benefit—its potential to improve parent/son relationships. Because it is a family program, Cub Scouting brings parent and son together more, both at pack activities and at home while the boy is working on Cub Scout projects. Elementary school principals know that such family relationships are critical to a boy’s success in school.
As you conclude presenting to principals and presidents, explain how Scouting operates and answer questions; you will get the ultimate in cooperation. You may find that a great number are now, or have been, involved in the program—especially with Cub Scouts.
BSA has a good selection of resources to help with your membership plans, especially the New Unit Development page. Study these, contact your district’s membership chair and district executive, and get going.
As a professional Scouter and past school board member, I really am left asking: “Where’s the PTA now?”