One of the hazards of being in the news business is you encounter so much preposterousness you never know whether to laugh or cry.
For example, Scouting, the official voice for the Boy Scouts in Britain, has advised scouts to stop carrying Boy Scout knives.
This is to prevent the spread of what Scouting calls “a growing knife culture in the U.K.”
In response to the outcry, a Scout spokesperson left little doubt they were serious: “Scouting helps to prepare young people with valuable life skills, while keeping them safe by not carrying knives.”
Wait a minute. The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” How are they supposed to be prepared to cut kindling, peel potatoes, open cans or other important Boy Scout stuff if they take away their Boy Scout knives?
When I think of the endless hours I spent as a Cub tying all those stupid reef knots and playing dodgeball in church basements so I could step up to Scouts and my own official Boy Scout knife, I feel the need to both laugh and cry.
Laugh because the idea of camping without tools or, depending on the pack adult, passing out knives at the appropriate moment makes a mockery out of the self-reliance required to be a scout. Either give the little blighters the knowledge and skill required to become good scouts, or keep them at home and give out badges for ordering pizza.
Cry because in an attempt to remove life’s sharp edges, we’re putting our boys in a bubble, and boys are suffering for it. Indeed, there is a thin line between savagery and civilization, but there is also one between civilization and demoralization, and somehow we have to civilize boys without turning them into ciphers.
I hasten to add that girls are just as disadvantaged by the ban, as girls need to be just as prepared as boys. What’s next? Confiscate all the needles from the sewing kits? No tent pegs?
And in case you were thinking Boy Scouts are anachronisms in the Age of Taking the 4-Wheel Drive to the Mall, last year there was a waiting list of 32,000 in the U.K. alone. Maybe kids are tired of Tweeting.
This knife thing is really disturbing because it comes out of England, home of the father of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell. Just in case you were wondering what old BP thought about it, here’s his take, right out of the Boy Scout manual:
“Be Prepared … a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practising how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.” And: “The boy is not governed by don’t, but is led by do.”
So … DYB! DYB DYB! (Do Your Best!)
Get the point?