What do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children that question all the time.
It’s a tough question because it requires children to bring together their interests, experiences and visions for what they’d like their lives to look like; to create narratives about who they will become. For that process to work well, children need to have been exposed to varied opportunities, experiences and role models so they know their options. Black History Month is opportune time to expose children of all backgrounds to role models in the African American community who have lived the types of lives that children should aspire to.
My renewed interest in role models was sparked by reading Fatherly’s 2017 Imagination Report. This study tracks what children under 10 want to be when they grow up, how their answers change over time and what influences their selections. The top 10 answers were pretty standard: doctor, veterinarian, police officer, firefighter, scientist, engineer, musician, athlete, teacher and astronaut. The results mirrored what we learned from our 2017 Exploring Career Interest Survey, which you may recall found that four out of the ten most popular career options cited were healthcare-related.
But most interesting to me, the study pointed out that children’s answers seem heavily influenced by the careers they see in media, the role models of a YouTube era. For example, it pointed out that many more girls than boys in early elementary school want to be doctors, which likely can be attributed in part to Doc McStuffins, a very popular children’s TV show about an African-American little girl who is a stuffed animal doctor.
Knowing the influence role models have on shaping kids’ visions of their lives, I think it’s important to point young people to role models who exemplify Scouting values. I am honored to be able to note that Scouting has been a part of the journey of many African American leaders who not only went on to have the careers children dream about, but made history in the process. It’s gratifying knowing that Scouts see that young people like them grew up to become Martin Luther King Jr., Ernest Green, Hank Aaron, Michael Jordan, President Obama, and Colin Powell.
Our history is rich with the stories of people of character living lives of greatness. I encourage us all to learn about these figures in the African American community and beyond, and to share the stories of people who demonstrate the values we all share.
My hope is that young people of all backgrounds will be inspired by the role models they find in the Scouting community and by the experiences they have in our programs.
Yours in Scouting,