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Should "Clean" be replaced in the Scout Oath? If so, with what?

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  • Should "Clean" be replaced in the Scout Oath? If so, with what?

    So what does "clean" really mean? A search for the word in this forum is almost 100% references to "not dirty with dirt or grime" as opposed to "pure or innocent." Biden got in a whole lot of trouble when he described Obama as "clean," which I took to mean "without known scandal" and not "neat and tidy," as others did, given the political context.

    The implementation guidelines for the new membership standards refers to "clean" in this context: “Your relationships with others should be honest and open. Respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions and faithful in your religious beliefs. Values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance.” Even here the word is used nebulously.

    Does "clean" need to be replaced with a word that has a clearer meaning in our modern language?

    Edit: Yes, I messed up with Oath and Law. Once you press the button, there's only so much time I guess you can edit your title.

    Last edited by Nike; 09-20-2013, 08:43 AM.

  • #2
    Are you asking about the Scout Law? I can't find the word 'clean' in the Scout Oath.


    • Nike
      Nike commented
      Editing a comment
      Yep, it's in the Law. Not enough coffee.

    • NJCubScouter
      NJCubScouter commented
      Editing a comment
      I believe that one of us moderators could change "Oath" to "Law" in the title, and if you'd like, I can try it. I did not just go ahead and do it because there has already been some discussion of what the title should have been, so changing the title at this point would probably just make things MORE confusing to readers.

  • #3
    Other than the circular references about being clean in your speech and actions..., what's nebulous? Do you have an alternative to suggest? But for me, I'd say no, I think the concept of clean is clear .


    • #4
      We need Clean in the Scout Law. It makes it more effective when we order Scouts to the showers during summer camp.


      • #5
        Do we want neat and tidy as well as lacking in the risque and vulgar? To me, it's two different qualities that should be differentiated.


        • #6
          In general camping is decidedly not clean.


          • #7
            Kindof seems to me that it says what is needed to be said.... No need in helping to dumb down language. It already has enough steam on that heading if you ask me.
            in the context of scouting
            clean = not dirty, neat, tidy, not vulgar, not rude, nice

            and yes KDD, camping is inherently mixing with "dirt", but there should be a pointed effort by a scout to keep his camp site tidy, to keep his cookware tidy, and keep his body tidy. I see it as a relative thing, not a concept to be taken to any extreme, such that clean only means sterile as in hospital operating room sterile.


            • #8
              My first thoughts were: If it's not broken then don't fix it.
              But on reflection.
              I like clean.
              While it's OK to get dirty.
              It's not OK to be dirty.
              Back when I was a young teenager, I thought that cussing was cool.
              Back then I was warned (And warmed!!) About having a dirty mouth.
              At school one of my masters found my stash of Playboy magazines. He must have known that I wasn't reading the articles.
              He said they were dirty magazines and would lead to me having dirty thoughts!!
              My Mother was informed and she said that this was just filth.

              I am able to get past a lot of things, but most of the time and in most cases (Not all.) I don't understand any reason for someone being always dirty.
              I don't think that being poor and being dirty, go hand in hand.
              I have met people who are maybe just a little too clean. - Scared to get their hands dirty or in the case of one nephew of mine who took five or six showers a day.
              A little overboard about what good hygiene is all about.

              At work I have to pat down a good many inmates everyday.
              Before I do I always ask each one "Are you clean?". Meaning do you have anything hidden on you that you ought not have.
              In a way it's maybe a little unfair, because if I find anything after they have said that they are clean, they also face a charge of lying to a employee.

              One great thing about the Scout Law, is that we youth and adult members grow into it.
              I'll bet if you ask a young Lad who has just crossed over from the Pack , his interpretation of the Scout Law, it's going to be different than if you asked a 14 year old, which would be different then a 17 year old.
              I have been on the planet for a good while. (Yes I'm an old codger!) Have been a Scout for over half a century!
              I like to think that I'm living the Scout Oath and Law.
              Then every time I think that I "Have it down pat." The bar gets raised a little higher or I do something or fail to do something which I know has let the side down.

              Without wanting to re-start any old arguments. I think that maybe with todays interpretation of "Straight.". Maybe we could come up with a word that replaces it?
              How about "Morally Correct"?
              We did take "Square" out of the Webloes Scout promise some years back when square no longer seemed to fit the bill.
              Eamonn .


              • #9
                So I saw this on Wikipedia, the definitive source of all knowledge:
                During the years, Baden-Powell himself edited the text numerous times, notably in 1911 adding:
                • A SCOUT IS CLEAN IN THOUGHT, WORD AND DEED. Decent Scouts look down upon silly youths who talk dirt, and they do not let themselves give way to temptation, either to talk it or to do anything dirty. A Scout is pure, and clean-minded, and manly.
                Maybe the problem is we have attempted to synthesize the Law to one-word answers and simply have failed to fully appreciate the meaning.

                That said, I noticed this on the UK scouting site:
                The Scout Law

                1. A Scout is to be trusted.
                2. A Scout is loyal.
                3. A Scout is friendly and considerate.
                4. A Scout belongs to the worldwide family of Scouts.
                5. A Scout has courage in all difficulties.
                6. A Scout makes good use of time and is careful of possessions and property.
                7. A Scout has self-respect and respect for others.
                Which seems to have replaced Clean with self-respect/respect.


                • #10
                  Respect was in there back when I was a Scout in 1969.
                  I'm too lazy to look up what is was before.
                  I do remember : A Scout smiles and whistles thru all difficulties"
                  Don't know about anyone else.
                  But I can't smile and whistle at the same time.
                  The only change that I see in the UK Scout Law is #4.
                  Back then it was A Scout is a brother to all scouts.
                  But back then we didn't have female Scouts.


                  • packsaddle
                    packsaddle commented
                    Editing a comment
                    "...smiles and whistles...." I like this. But isn't whistling against the law some places? Or am I confusing that with gum chewing?

                • #11
                  "....relationships with others should be honest and open. Respect and defend the rights of all people. Be clean in your speech and actions and faithful in your religious beliefs. Values you practice as a Scout will help you shape a life of virtue and self-reliance"

                  From "clean?"


                  "Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, and reverent" are in the law. It doesn't need "clean" to stand in for a repeat of some combination of those.

                  "Clean" means clean, hygienic.


                  • #12
                    The Scout Law hasn't changed since 1911. The Scout Oath and Law could be considered the constitution of the BSA. Of the world's countries that have constitutions only Australia (1900), Denmark (1849), Luxembourg (1868), Norway (1814), and the United States (1787) have constitutions that are older (the U.K. and Canada don't have constitutions). I'd say leave the Scout Law alone, it's passed the test of time.


                    • #13
                      Tend to agree with not messing with it.

                      Kind of.

                      Much in the same tend to think that its more then just about hygiene.

                      Same as "Straight." isn't about a direction.

                      Each and everyone of us has our own take on what the Oath and Law is about.

                      We take ownership of it.

                      I don't think that it is possible for us adult members to force or impose what we believe it means to the other adults or youth we serve.

                      We can explain what it means, but this is where having the youth be around different adults comes into play.

                      A Lad can look at us and take what he likes or sees as being a good fit for him and then make it his own.

                      On the other side of the coin, if we are not living the Oath and Law.

                      He can take that and make that his own.

                      This is where us being as good an example as we can be comes into play.



                      • #14
                        NO; absolutely not.


                        • #15
                          The most recent copy of The Boy Scout Handbook that I have is the 10th edition, 1990. Pages 553-561 present and discuss the Scout Law. As I recall, the first part of each section quotes from official BSA Rules and Regulations or Bylaws, whichever is the actual source (sorry, I haven't read those since the 1990's, though the last time was after BSA had banned access to them, since I had bought copies when they were still sold in the Scout Shop). On page 561:
                          A Scout is CLEAN. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He chooses the company of those who live by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
                          The discussion that follows mentions physical dirt, which is unavoidable but which can be washed off, and "moral dirt" (my own term for it which is not used within the text) which cannot be so easily washed off:
                          You never need to be ashamed of dirt that will wash off. If you play hard and work hard you can't help getting dirty. But when the game is over of the work is done, that kind of dirt disappears with soap and water.

                          There is another kind of dirt that won't come off by washing. It is the kind that shows up in foul language and harmful thoughts.

                          Swear words, profanity, and dirty stories are weapons that ridicule other people and hurt their feelings. The same is true of racial slurs and jokes making fun of ethnic groups or peolpe with physical or mental behavior. A Scout knows there is no kindness or honor in such mean-spirited behavior. He avoids in in his own words and deeds. He defends those who are targets of insults.
                          That is what BSA taught, though yet again that is not what BSA practiced, including BSA's targeted insults to those whom it wished to exclude. Just as we have seen in this topic, BSA added extraneous interpretations to this point of the Law. It is a binding principle for all BSA leaders that we are not to add nor subtract from the actual requirements, and yet that is what BSA was doing (and still is). BSA re-interpretation that point of the Law to mean that homosexuality is not "clean" and hence they justified expelling gay members for being unable to follow Scout Law. That is adding to the requirements for membership. And I suspect that it is that re-interpretation of that point of the Law, that addition to the Law, that prompted the opening post (OP) of this topic.

                          Also note that CLEAN, like REVERENT, are themselves additions to the original Law. I own a reprint of BSA's first Handbook for Boys, but it's packed away and I cannot get to it right now. However, as I recall, those additional points to Scout Law already existed in BSA's version of Scouting and hence have been part of BSA-style Scouting from the beginning. All I'm stating here is that any comparison between UK Scouting and BSA Scouting needs to keep that history in mind.

                          My opinion is that this point of the Law should be retained, but only so long as its proper interpretation is observed and it's not used for BSA political purposes. The same as with REVERENT, which does not require the exclusion of atheists and which does explicitly exclude the outright bigotry that we see so many Scouters express.