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Friday, October 05, 2007

Is "Globalization" a merit badge? Lead-laden Chinese products now plague Boy Scouts

Yesterday the following item landed in my e-mail:
Attention Scouters and Parents,

We received notification on Oct. 3 relating to defects in the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit (Item # 01804). It may contain lead levels in excess of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards in the paint on the totem badge.

The Boy Scouts of America has directed all of its Scout Shops to remove it from their shelves immediately. We are requesting anyone who may have purchased the item to remove the Cub Scout Recognition totem badge from their children’s possession and, until further instructions are received, keep it in a safe place where only adults will have access to them. Our highest priority is the safety of our youth members and their families. Boy Scouts of America apologizes for any concern this matter causes parents. BSA is doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of all those who participate in our programs.

Over there on the right you can see what the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit looks like. It's something worn over the chest pocket (hence the hole for the button). Every time a Cub Scout earns three achievements, he gets one bead. You start out as a Bobcat in Cub Scouts and then you earn your way up to Wolf, and the yellow beads represent your progress toward that. Then after you've earned Wolf you can progress to Bear, and the red beads mark your way toward that.

I've still got my old Cub Scout uniform, including the Progress Toward Ranks thingy with all of the beads. I don't know who made that one (it was 25 years ago when I started in Cub Scouts) but the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit that's being recalled is marketed by Kahoot, a toy company in Roswell, Georgia. According to its website, Kahoot has been around for 22 years so my own Progress Toward Ranks predates the company.

In light of all the Chinese-made products - especially items for children - that are being recalled lately because of how much lead they contain, I wondered when I first got this e-mail if the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit was also made in China. I started looking into it on my own...

...but I didn't have to look for long: it turns out that the Cub Scout Immediate Recognition Kit sold by Kahoot IS being made in China!

Look, I've been an assistant scoutmaster for 15 years now. I've been involved with the Boy Scouts since 1982, when I became a Cub Scout. I earned my Bear Badge, then achieved the Arrow of Light as a Webelos Scout and then attained the rank of Eagle Scout: something that is still quite a rare thing for a Boy Scout to do. I defy anyone to tell me that I'm not loyal to the Boy Scouts and what they're supposed to stand for.

But how the hell is it that the Boy Scouts of America is using products made in China?

Aren't there any companies in the United States that can make these Cub Scout awards?

Did the Boy Scouts of America actively seek out companies to supply them, that have products that are made domestically?

Why is the Boy Scouts of America, in the least bit way, helping not just a foreign economy but one that would like nothing more than for there to be no more America?

I know that, unfortunately, it's not possible to avoid everything made in China at the present time. I wish it were otherwise. There is no reason why the United States cannot produce everything it needs so far as consumer goods go. Maybe someday we will be making things again instead of just buying them as cheaply as possible.

But let's get real: it's a thin plastic badge with synthetic beads and a thong. How really difficult is it for a factory in America to stamp these things out?

In the Boy Scouts there are three merit badges: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, and Citizenship in the World. All three are among the merit badges required for Eagle, so I had to earn each of them. Something I realized in the course of achieving those merit badges: we as Americans are at our best when we are good citizens in our communities. And we as citizens of this world are at our best when we are good citizens of America. If we take care of what is immediately around us and then apply that to the nation that God put us in, that is how we do our part to be good stewards in this world.

Helping foreign industry, to the detriment of our own, is not showing good citizenship in either our community or our nation. And it's not good citizenship in the world, either.

This kind of thing, of "going with the flow" and not supporting our own industry because something can be bought cheaper (and Lord only knows what kind of labor went into these badges) makes a mockery of everything that the Boy Scouts used to teach about American citizenship.

Maybe that's "globalization", and perhaps someone, somewhere in the Boy Scouts hierarchy is hoping that it will become a merit badge. But the day it does, then I can't be a part of the Boy Scouts of America any longer.

The Boy Scouts need to learn from this. The organization should begin to actively take steps to make sure that the companies it contracts with to produce Scouting materials, as much as it is at all possible, use American industry to produce these goods.

And I'm especially talking about materials with the "Boy Scouts of America" brand on them. If something made for the Boy Scouts of America can't honestly boast of being made in America, then it's not really of the Boy Scouts of America at all. It may bear the logo, but it will never boast the spirit of Scouting.


Anonymous said...

I was inside a US knife factory today (Bear & Sons Cutlery) along with my son who has been involved in Scouting for five years. Bear makes some of the BSA knives. For many years, US knife maker Camillus had produced the traditional scout knife. When Camillus closed, Bear offered to make the same knife for the BSA. But sadly, BSA took production of the knife to China!

This is a clear example of the BSA passing on the opportunity to have one of their products made in the US and still going to China. It’s just not the case that the item couldn’t be produced here…it could have been!

The owner of Bear & Sons Cutlery provided this information directly to me. I looked around at the employees and I recognized the passion and quality consciousness that is so rare to find any more. I wondered how much longer their jobs would last. Almost all of the former US knife makers are now just a memory.

If you check the BSA website, you will see that they now are offering quite a selection of knives from China…but again, all of these knifes could be produced in the US.

I am very disappointed in BSA! It is downright embarrassing when BSA will turn to a communist nation to produce an item that could have been produced in the US. When I was a Scout, BSA had high standards. I guess those days are gone.