Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Dangerous Boys

You have read the stories in the news. (car fires & more)

Police are seeking information about a spate of vehicle fires north and west of Lincoln Park early Sunday morning.
Eleven vehicles and a Dumpster were set ablaze between 4 and 6:10 a.m
I’ll make a prediction. When they catch the culprits it will turn out to be an informal gang of unsupervised boys looking for trouble. Even if I’m wrong in this instance, we’ve seen this kind of thing before. Windows broken or mailboxes randomly destroyed for “the fun of it.”

There are no quick fixes. Building a rec center won’t keep this from happening.

At the same time I was reading about the fires, I received a notice from Amazon that they were shipping a book I had ordered. The book is titled, The Dangerous Book for Boys.

The book has had a bit of play on different websites. It promises politically incorrect humor and adventure. It even includes a section on "How to hunt and cook a rabbit".

I plan to read it and pass it on to my nephew and his three sons. I also plan on passing on my treasured 1959 copy of the Boy Scout Handbook. It teaches boys how to use a knife and build a fire. It even has advertisements for rifles and shotguns.

If you are still with me you are probably wondering how these topics fit together.

Boys, like puppies, are driven to explore their world. It is easy for them to get into trouble. When I worked for the Division of Youth Corrections, I dealt with a lot of boys in trouble. Some had started fires, boys like fire. No one had ever taught then to build a fire safely. Boys are fascinated with guns, but no one had taught them firearm safety. The first time some of them had fired a gun was at another person. Never having instruction or experience they had no idea what would happen. Schools have zero tolerance for knifes and a Swiss army knife will earn the boot. Yet, I've carried a knife since I was eight. My grandfather gave me a pocket knife (and instruction). He said, "A man should always have knife". I still think so.

I think our experiment in changing the nature of boys hasn’t worked too well. Boys need a little danger. They need to learn to build a fire even if they sustain a little burn. They need to learn how to use a knife and an ax, even if they cut themselves.

And they need to learn it in a context of responsibility. The Boy Scout Handbook isn’t just about dangerous things. It is also full of honor and duty to God and Country, to self and others. Reading parts of the book again I am surprised at how little schools and society talk about such things now.

We have tried zero tolerance and wishful thinking. It may be politically incorrect, but I think every boy should own a knife, know how to shoot a gun, build a fire and learn the concepts of duty and honor.


  1. Anonymous # 445723.981June 19, 2007 at 6:56 AM

    You know you are right on the mark here Gene.

    On the other hand girls need to learn how to cook, mend (darn) socks and to nurture children. And IMHO to learning some of the "boy stuff” is not harmful either!

    Seems to me that there was a bit of mending and cooking included within the confines of the Boy Scout Handbook, so the boys were learning what it takes to maintain “life’s things”….

    Mine (BSH) is a little newer than yours, wonder why that is?

  2. Yeah, right. The young are always in the wrong. It does not tax the few remaining active cells of grey matter in my grey-hair covered head to remember my parents and grandparents saying similiar laments about my generation a few years ago. The older generation always thinks the younger one is doomed to damnation. The best way to "save" the next generation is for the previous one to get out and work with them -- not only those you created but others as well.
    How about learning to teach them how to navigate in the world of 2007, 2010, or even 2015? We old folks can afford to live in the past. The new generation is doomed to a life less than ours if they are stuck in the past by we old folks.

    New old folks, but never changing lament.

  3. Sir,

    You are wise beyond your years. You have my admiration and my regret that we are separated by so many miles that I may never be able to meet you.

    Boy Scout Leader in North Pole, Alaska

  4. I have been a Scout leader for over 25 years and I fully agree that boys need a little "risk" in their lives. That is why Scouting can be a great program for boys. It allows the boys to take those risks in a fairly safe environment, and also teaches the boys how to be safe when taking those risks.

    Steve B

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