5.14.2009

I find this... unsettling

I popped over to The Spine to see if Marty Peretz had anything to say about the subject of my last post. (Not yet, it turns out, but I can't imagine he'll have nothing to say.) I don't tend to see eye to eye with Marty on much, but I find myself agreeing with him about this:
The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.

“This is about being a true-blooded American guy and girl,” said A. J. Lowenthal, a sheriff’s deputy here in Imperial County, whose life clock, he says, is set around the Explorers events he helps run. “It fits right in with the honor and bravery of the Boy Scouts.”

The training, which leaders say is not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting, can involve chasing down illegal border crossers as well as more dangerous situations that include facing down terrorists and taking out “active shooters,” like those who bring gunfire and death to college campuses. In a simulation here of a raid on a marijuana field, several Explorers were instructed on how to quiet an obstreperous lookout.

“Put him on his face and put a knee in his back,” a Border Patrol agent explained. “I guarantee that he’ll shut up.”

It seems rather a long way from Lord Baden-Powell's "Scouting for Boys," no? On the one hand, I'm all for teaching young people interested in law enforcement more about their chosen field in a setting supervised by professionals. On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure about the value of training a pack of hormonal vigilantes.
Cathy Noriego, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns — known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets — in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.

“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”

Then there's this:
The law enforcement programs are highly decentralized, and each post is run in a way that reflects the culture of its sponsoring agency and region. Most have weekly meetings in which the children work on their law-enforcement techniques in preparing for competitions. Weekends are often spent on service projects.
"Highly decentralized" seems like another way of saying "poorly supervised," and I'm not 100% sure I trust the "culture of [the] sponsoring agency and region." Some cultures are probably better off without adolescents trained in combat and fire-arm skills.

I would probably have raised an eyebrow and moved on, if not for this:
In a competition in Arizona that he did not oversee, Deputy Lowenthal said, one role-player wore traditional Arab dress. “If we’re looking at 9/11 and what a Middle Eastern terrorist would be like,” he said, “then maybe your role-player would look like that. I don’t know, would you call that politically incorrect?”
No, actually, I would call that stupid and xenophobic, and precisely the wrong kind of thing to be teaching a pack of armed children.

What with my being gay and all, I was unlikely to have much to do with the Boy Scouts of America. (I tend not to try to crash parties to which I am conspicuously not invited. See also: the GOP, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, etc.) But this? This just freaks me out.

6 comments:

  1. Dan, are you being... judgmental? Aren't all cultures valuable for the diversity they bring to the planet? Besides, all you are getting is the NYT view here. Before freaking out, remember that the NYT has an agenda, and part of that agenda is to demonize any domestic group that doesn't abhor firearms.

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  2. I am willing to cut this group a certain degree of slack, though the idea of a group of militant adolescents with guns putting their knees in other people's backs makes me a bit uneasy.

    And where on earth did you get the idea that I pretend not to be judgmental? Why do you think I bothered to start up a blog in the first place?

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  3. I thought this was a neat story. I'm curious to know if these types of activities motivate the students to perform better in school...I wouldn't be surprised if they do.
    -joe

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  4. Well, I'll certainly agree with your last statement, Joe. Purpose-oriented group activities (eg. sports, band, etc.) often predict better academic and mental health outcomes for kids. I wouldn't doubt that the structure and adult mentoring (though probably not the reported sexual abuse) are helpful in that regard.

    Still kind of worried about the xenophobia, and I don't like the "hunting down illegal aliens" angle.

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  5. Better to learn to put the knee in the back than a bullet. Studying martial arts, self-defense, or really any use of force on others can always be made to look dangerous. I'd hope that law enforcement instruction would be about as non-scary as can be, and if it isn't, this program would be well down the list of my concerns. The kids have other problems if law enforcement is out of control.

    Come to think of it, I wouldn't be at all upset if every adolescent learned how difficult law enforcement can be.

    And really, what should we do with illegal aliens if not hunt them down? They are, by definition, lawbreakers.

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  6. I would prefer that the pursuit of illegal immigrants be left exclusively in the hands of law enforcement personnel, and that youth in various parts of the country not get the idea that they should be participating therein.

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