Since 1937 Boy Scouts from across the country have gathered every four years for a big Boy Scout Jamboree. This year an estimated 30,000 Scouts, plus 7,000 staff and adult leaders, will come together in the mountains of West Virginia for the national 10-day wilderness gathering, but there will be one big difference -- no obese Boy Scouts will be allowed.
According to USA Today, the organization won't let anyone attend who has a Body Mass Index of 40 or above; those with BMIs between 32 and 32.9 aren't allowed to attend without medical clearance.
Dan McCarthy, director of the BSA's Summit Group, told the Associated Press:
We required a level of fitness in order to come to the Jamboree that we haven't required before. And that has motivated an enormous return in terms of both kids and adults getting serious about improving their health.
Motivating people to improve their health -- great! Excluding kids for something like this -- heartbreaking.
It's true that some of the "high-adventure" activities planned for the week, like kayaking, rock climbing, skateboarding, and hiking, could prove challenging for an obese kid, but what a great way to get some exercise and possibly find motivation in those things. These are the kids who need this kind of exercise the most!
Could it be a risk to their health? Possibly, but it could be to kids with asthma, diabetes, allergies, or other health issues too. What about severely underweight children? Requiring everyone to get a doctor's permission to participate or offering modified activities for some would have been a much better way to approach this.
While kids should absolutely be encouraged to maintain a healthy weight, the fact is they're often influenced significantly by their home environment. If mom buys all the groceries and fixes all the meals, some kids may not have the tools they need to effectively lose weight. To exclude them because they don't have parents who have set a healthy course or who are not willing to help them is wrong.
And what about body type? As Fox News points out, a BMI limit of 40 would mean many pro football players couldn't attend. Not to mention there's more and more evidence that some overweight people can actually be quite physically fit.
Any way you look at it, it's wrong. I can't imagine how humiliating it must be for these children who were told they couldn't attend such a huge, meaningful event because of their weight. Shame on the Boy Scouts.
Do you think excluding obese Boy Scouts from this event is wrong?
Image via Rob Young/Flickr