Timberlake: “Be prepared” to lose some weight


Photo Illustration: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

This year’s National Jamboree has a fitness requirement that must be met to participate at the jamboree. Boy Scouts with a body mass index of 40 or greater are entirely barred from the event.

Ian Timberlake

You’re too fat: Not quite the precise words, but definitely the message the Boy Scouts of America is sending.

Every four years, the Boy Scouts of America holds a National Jamboree to which boys from all over the world gather in numbers greater than 40,000 and participate in activities such as mountain biking, rock climbing, scuba diving, zip lining, skateboarding, shooting and more. The Jamboree has taken place since 1937, when campers slept at the base of the Washington Monument and had speakers including President Franklin Roosevelt.

This year, the National Jamboree enacted a strict fitness requirement that must be met in order to participate in the event. Boy Scouts with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater were barred from the event in its entirety. Those who had a BMI between 32 and 40 had to provide ample health information from a doctor in order to be considered to join the Jamboree.

If it’s not about being gay, it’s about being black, or atheist, or Jewish or in this case… fat. At least that’s what first knotted in my head and probably the rest of yours when you saw this headline appear in your news feed. The Boy Scouts of America is failing miserably in this effort to push for health, fitness and safety.

I have written about the Boy Scouts many times, mostly because 14 years of my life were spent attaining the rank the of Eagle Scout. I have a love-hate relationship with the good ol’ class-A uniform. But at this moment I believe the Boy Scouts of America means well. The problem is this new weight policy sounds more like a punishment than an incentive to get in shape.

The last thing an overweight child needs is to feel like they aren’t worthy of participating in more physically demanding activities. It’s because the child is not active that they are overweight, not the other way around.

To be clear, a BMI of 30 or greater is considered “obese” (neglecting consideration of the inaccuracies of the measure). If any scout has a BMI of 40 or greater, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say their health, and life, was in jeopardy. According to the BSA’s official Jamboree website:

“A lot of things about the jamboree at our new home, the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, are different from past jamborees. The Summit is a physically demanding facility, and minimum physical fitness standards will be enforced. While the jamboree is not as strenuous as an extended high-adventure trek, it will be appreciably more demanding than the jamborees held at Fort A.P. Hill. We want your 2013 National Scout Jamboree experience to be the best 10 days of your life! Please read carefully the Be Prepared policy.”

Nation-changing organizations like the Boy Scouts of America need to help lead the way with civil betterment. It took them long enough to get rid of their rules against gays (and it’s still not fully abolished). An appropriate method of promoting health and fitness would be to allow any and all body types to participate but at appropriate levels that push personal ability.

Kids who are overweight need to be given the priority to participate in activities such as the National Scout Jamboree. Obesity is a significant problem in America, and it keeps getting worse. America is the butt-end of the obesity jokes for the rest of the world, a somewhat deserved status.

The Boy Scouts of America National Council may have appropriately deemed the new Jamboree too strenuous for obese children, but that doesn’t grant a simple barring of any child “incapable” of the said activities. If the Boy Scouts want to facilitate a jamboree that promotes fitness and health then they should start by making the environment accepting of those who aren’t already fit and healthy. As in previous matters, I urge you to write to the National Council and express your opinion in regards to this matter. Help the BSA, help America.

Boy Scouts of America, National Council

1325 West Walnut Hill Lane

Irving, Texas 75015-2079