Modern Transcendentalism


In today's society, there are several distinct individuals and groups that are successfully acting with a modern version of the nineteenth century philosophy of Transcendentalism. While it is virtually impossible in the world today to completely abide by all of the Transcendental philosophies, the Boy Scouts of America have done well in adopting some of the major characteristics of this unique way of life. The Boy Scouts have shown, and continue to show, similar views with Transcendentalists regarding the topics of nature and the learning process.
The Boy Scouts of America is a program that is very outdoor-oriented. Through the Scout's career, they are taught to appreciate nature. They learn how to live away from the technologically dependent society that is present in everyday life. Every trip taken by the Boy Scouts is like Henry David Thoreau's escapade to Walden Pond. Also, like Thoreau's Walden experience, all trips must come to an end, but not without the Boy Scout learning something about living harmoniously with nature.
Eagle is the highest rank in Scouting, and the only way to achieve this great honor is for the Scout to demonstrate a wide array of knowledge in various fields. The requirements for Eagle range from extensive leadership experience to book learning different career fields (merit badges). Like Transcendentalists, the Boy Scouts feel that the best way to learn is through personal experiences rather than listening to other people lecture. In his writings, Henry David Thoreau remarked, "Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth." The goal of a Boy Scout is to seek truth and to build a successful life upon those truths.
The Boy Scouts of America did not intentionally adopt the ways of the Transcendentalists; however, some of the philosophies do prove useful in accomplishing the overall goal of the Boy Scouts. While the Transcendental movement is not as prevalent as it was during the nineteenth century, the Boy Scouts of America have managed to preserve some of the philosophies of this nonconformist group of people.