Last week I received a large report by a Baylor University research team prepared by Sung Joon Jang, Byron R. Johnson, and Young-II Kim. I was a bit surprised that the study was done at a Baptist university rather than BYU since the "Y" includes coursework to prepare graduates for careers in professional Scouting.
I was intrigued by the report for a couple of reasons. First, the research was provoked by the premise that most Americans believe that instilling good values and character in young people is a high priority for families. However, there is also a perception that some kind of positive influence from outside of the family is critically important if solid value-development is to succeed.
Second, the study examined a unique population of Americans, Eagle Scouts, to see how their values and lifestyles compared to men with no Scouting experience.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout award, which was also a good reason for the Baylor team to take a look at what kind of men the 2 million Eagle Scouts turned out to be.
The Baylor report, titled "Merit Beyond the Badge," is 77 pages long and, like all quality social-survey documents, it includes the questionnaire, methodology, and notes. Dozens of lifestyle arenas were studied, from emotional, relational, and physical well-being, to civic engagement, to such character formation issues like moral development and openness to diversity.
It turns out that Eagle Scouts are different. Not surprisingly, they are far more likely than other men to enjoy the outdoors, particularly camping and boating. An Eagle Scout will also be more inclined to attend plays, concerts, and play a musical instrument. And Eagle Scouts are more satisfied with their leisure time activities.
Not surprisingly, Eagle Scouts are way out in front of their non-Scouting peers when it comes to environmental stewardship.
Other comparisons include:
Eagle Scouts report more closeness and satisfaction with relationships with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Eagle Scouts give far more volunteer time and money to both religious organizations and charities than men with no Scouting experience.
Eagle Scouts are 78 percent more likely to vote in a presidential election than a non-Scouter.
Eagle Scouts tend to be leaders in both the community and workplace.
And Eagle Scouts demonstrate far more tolerance and respect for diversity than men with no Scouting experience.
Again, it's a huge study covering far more than this column can report.
As for the Eagle Scouts who participated in the survey, they consistently gave credit to what they learned as Scouts for the positive and prosocial aspects of their character.
The bottom line is that Eagle Scouts are happier, healthier, and more productive members of our society than men who were not Scouts when they were youngsters.
Now, the usual suspects are going to be irritated by these facts. Scouting is among the traditional institutions that are targeted by deleterious forces in our society. For example, three weeks ago the Associated Press ran a news article about the conviction in federal court of a fella from Draper for running a Ponzi scheme. The felon was identified in the headline and opening paragraph as an "ex-Scoutmaster," as if that irrelevant datum was necessary to gin up a story about the scams that are a normal part of the Utah financial landscape.
On a personal note that explains my interest in the study, my adult Boy Scout uniform has a few rows of achievement knots, similar in appearance to military campaign ribbons except most of the Boy Scout ribbons are square knots with a variety of colors to indicate what I did to get them. I have a red, white, and blue achievement knot that represents the Eagle Scout award I earned about half a century ago. And for those who know what they mean, I'm also entitled to pin two silver palms on the knot.
Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.
And yes, like most Eagle Scouts, I know that most of the drive that got me and my two brothers to the Eagle Court of Honor came from my mother.
And finally, an Eagle Scout is far more likely to enter professional ministry, becoming a priest, pastor or rabbi, than a non-Scouting young man who is merely active in his church or synagogue.
There's all kinds of merit beyond the badge.