Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Moral Foundations of the Boy Scouts

Recently I read "The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt. It's another one of those books that makes you feel smarter in a way that you know is going to improve your life. I've always been confused why intelligent people with good intentions can have such differing views on morality (this is actually a big the motivation for this blog) and I think this book will help me.

In "The Righteous Mind", the author presents Moral Foundations Theory which includes 6 areas used universally by all cultures and social groups to determine what is right and wrong.
  1. Care/Harm - Be nice to others and don't hurt them
  2. Fairness/Cheating - Be fair in how you treat others and don't cheat
  3. Liberty/oppression - Respect others rights and don't be a bully
  4. Loyalty/betrayal - Be loyal to your "group" (family, friends, etc.)
  5. Authority/subversion - Respect your leaders. Don't put up with bullies or dictators.
  6. Sanctity/degradation - Be clean, avoid filth.
For more info, go to moralfoundations.orgI've been a long time participant in Scouting, so I thought I would see how it measures up using Moral Foundations theory.

Scout Oath

On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
[Loyalty, Authority]

To help other people at all times;

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

I'm sure "Liberty" fits in their somewhere.

Scout Law

A Scout is:
Care Fairness Liberty Loyalty Authority Sanctity

Scout Slogan

Do a good turn daily
This fits into "Care" and "Fairness"

"Leave No Trace"

This principle is to leave the outdoors the same as you found it.  I always taught that we should leave it better than we found it, for example, pick up any litter that you or the previous visitors left behind.
"Leave No Trace" is a great example of Sanctity, or respecting the sanctity of nature.

Boy Scout Leadership

The Boy Scouts provides leadership opportunities for boys.  They experience many roles and responsibilities   as they go through the program.  The Scout Master and other adult leaders are there just to make sure that the boys are executing the program correctly.  It is a great example of the "Authority" Moral Foundation as it is training benevolent leaders.
When a persons moral values are opposed to authority, it is usually oppressive authority, not the kind that the Boy Scouts promotes (I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule).


Moral foundation theory provides a framework for evaluating a system like Boy Scouts.  By looking at the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan and other principles, there is an obviously strong moral foundation to this program.

1 comment:

RudyJHaluza said...

Question: Why would any organization or individual oppose the values promoted by the Boy Scouts? Isn't it telling about such groups?