Preparing Scouts for life Handbook: An updated manual warns about sex, drugs and Internet abuse while continuing to teach traditional skills.

November 12, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Robert Baden-Powell, meet the new century.

Boy Scouts, founded by Baden-Powell almost 100 years ago, still learn to tie knots, make fires and avoid being bitten by copperhead snakes -- although they can no longer get a business merit badge by making and banking $2 in one year, as they could in 1910.

In the updated Scout manual appearing nationally in about two weeks, they are warned against meeting strangers via the Internet, using drugs, alcohol or tobacco and leaving a mess in the woods.

A new section, "Prepared for Life," gives advice on how to get along with people of different races and ethnic backgrounds, help around the home and avoid being abused.

Helping an elderly woman across the street, illustrated in the first handbook in 1910, is long gone, replaced in recent years by such topics as the Heimlich maneuver and warnings against sexual irresponsibility.

Scouting has always stressed helping other people, exercising minds and bodies, and knowing right from wrong, says national Scout executive Jere B. Ratcliffe. "The new manual connects those basic tenets more directly to the situations faced by boys today."

As Bob Myers, a Baltimore Boy Scout executive said: "The values transcend generations, but in the new handbook they are more user-friendly and perhaps more effective."

The old-fashioned skills are still valuable, said Myers, director of finance and marketing services of the Baltimore Area Council, which serves 8,000 Scouts and is considered the second-fastest growing council in the country.

"A local Boy Scout remembered his lessons in August," Myers said. "He and a 10-year-old were at Loch Raven Reservoir. The other boy stepped on something. It cut his foot deeply.

"The Scout applied a pressure bandage to stop the heavy bleeding and carried the boy up a hill to his home where medical help was summoned. He got 10 internal and 18 external stitches, and his life was saved."

The revised shortened handbook, about 450 pages, is the 11th edition and the first one in 10 years, said Renee Fairrer, the national Scouts associate director of external communications. About 750,000 copies will become available at $7.95 in a few weeks. There are about 859,000 Scouts nationally.

Instead of scattering social issues throughout the book as in the past, the handbook expands them, adds new sections and pulls them together.

How much of the social lessons are learned by the Scouts at the troop level depends on individual troop committees and scoutmasters who are responsible for their own programs.

"We wanted to make it easier for the kids to grasp the social issues," Fairrer said. "Mr. Baden-Powell would not even begin to fathom how we've changed. Yet, the first handbook shows parents of Scouts wanted the same things for their children then as today."

Under one chapter, "Chivalry," the original book urged Scouts to "stand up for right against the wrong, truth against falsehood, to help the weak and oppressed and to love and seek the best things of life."

The new volume covers such essentials as reading, writing, listening to others, getting along with people of different backgrounds and avoiding peer pressure to do unhealthy things.

It addresses families' concerns in the late 20th century:

"Television must be used wisely. Many families pick a few good shows. Otherwise, they leave the television off."

The Internet can be useful, but some people use it to take advantage of others, so watch your privacy: "Don't give out personal information, including your address, telephone number, photograph, school name, or your parents work address or telephone number."

"Sex is never the most grown-up part of a relationship. It is never a test of manliness. True maturity comes from acting responsibility in a number of ways. Don't burden someone you care for with a child neither of you is ready to bear."

The handbook contains a new code of outdoor ethics for camping: "The Principles of Leaving No Trace."

Tips include knowing campground regulations, using existing trails, taking trash home, minimizing campfires, respecting the privacy of others, and leaving rocks, plants, animals and archaeological artifacts for others to enjoy.

Sections on mammals, insects, plants and pioneering have been deleted and are expected to be printed in the next edition of the "Boy Scout Field Guide."

` Pub Date: 11/11/98

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