Two years ago this summer, we took a vow of marriage. And when we did, we not only pledged to love one another forever, we also recited the Scout Law: to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
Although it has been more than a decade since we both earned our Eagle Scout badges, we can still recite that mantra from memory. So it seemed like an obvious choice for our marriage vows—those values embodied the essence of what we learned as scouts, and they continue to guide our conduct today.
For us, earning our Eagle was about much more than learning to tie knots or build a fire in the rain. Although those are important skills scouts learn along the way, at its core, the Boy Scouts is about imparting the amorphous but critical skill of leadership. The basic premise of scouting is to build a future generation of leaders, to grow a cadre of young men who embody the moral and ethical virtues of a society and have the capacity to mobilize those values for good.
How, then, is this skill imparted to ragtag groups of young boys? By letting them learn for themselves. Boy Scouts affirms the autonomy of youth by allowing young men to make their own choices, to take responsibility for planning, training, doing, and most importantly learning from their mistakes.