So who here has a perfect Troop? A group of Scouts that get along with no issues? A unit that has a culture of absolute peace and harmony?
Yeah? If you have that Troop, please let me know what side of Utopia you live on and I will come and check that out.. I certainly have some things to learn.
For those of you that live on our planet and work with Boy Scouts you know that at some point you will be dealing with problems. Personal issues and friction among the Scouts.
The BSA includes a block of instruction dealing with Conflict Resolution in the NYLT or JLT sessions. Yes, I know that there is no longer a program called JLT, but many units still run their own Junior Leader Training sessions as part of their annual plan.
The Boy Scouts train our Scouts to use the Key word EAR. Express, Address, and Resolve. Those are great to remember when Scouts get into sticky situations with one another. Again, I still have lots to learn, but feel some what qualified to speak on conflict resolution. I have been married for over 20 years, raised 3 kids, and have been a Scoutmaster now for 10 years.
I have come up with a few general rules of my own for resolving conflict.
1. Calm Down. When tempers are flaring and the parties are upset the best thing to do is calm the situation down. Separate the folks involved and get them, and everyone around to calm down. No conflict will be resolved when the blood is still up.
2. Listen. Both sides of the story need to be heard. Spend more time listening and less time judging. Give both parties time and attention. More times than not there is no one right or wrong side of the issue. Typically it is a personality issue or and issue of who’s idea gets picked. Listen. I have seen the issues work themselves out just because they talked and I listened.
3. Focus on Behavior. Behavior is the key to the direction that conflicts go. Never allow the behavior to turn bad because of the conflict. The Oath and Law are great guides in directing expected behavior. Reinforce that behavior is more important than feelings. How we act is more important than how we feel. In the end our behavior will impact how we feel, so if we control our behavior and keep it within the values of the Scout Law, we need not worry about feelings.
4. Shake and look ’em in the eye. Each conflict needs to have an end. A hand shake and look in the eye is the final point. Once that happens there can be no more issues. Those are the rules. Don’t shake and apologize if you don’t mean it and there is still conflict. It aint over till it’s over. When it’s over.. Shake and look each other in the eye.
I have been using those simple ideas for some time now and find that it works great. You have to be committed to working it through though. Don’t allow the emotion of the conflict override the resolution. Never allow the group to dictate or pick sides. That turns nasty and in the end you will divide the unit with that type of behavior.
Remember that the resolution is for the good of both parties and the unit. It’s not fixed till everyone has a sense of satisfaction in the resolution.
I hope that helps.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
So who here has a perfect Troop? A group of Scouts that get along with no issues? A unit that has a culture of absolute peace and harmony?
This is sort of a follow up to yesterdays post.
As some of you know I collect Scouting Literature and memorabilia. I often like to look back at the old Scoutmaster handbooks and see how things are different. The one thing that I have seen that is constant is “the boy”.
I am going to quote extensively from the 1953 Handbook for Scoutmasters in the this post. I know that it is not cool to use so much material like that. But I really need the BSA’s help (from 1953) here to make my point.
On what a boy wants:
He wants to stand on his own two feet, to make decisions, to show his independence and initiative. He dreams of being a leader.
I see that in today’s boys. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know and so we need to teach them.
He wants action and fun. He wants to be in the thick of things, to run and fight, to be on the move.
But today we don’t want him running, he might get hurt. But today’s boy still wants to run, just watch him. Most of what we call ADD today is pent-up energy. We need to let the boy let it out.
He craves adventure, a change of surroundings. He want to experience new things in new ways, to feel the wind in his hair, the sun in his eyes. He wants to escape, to get away from his everyday life.
Boy, that sounds good does it not? Sounds like all the reasons we joined Scouts when I was a kid. Sounds like the reason a lot of still do Scouting. Why not let the boys do that to.
In 1953 the Handbook for Scoutmasters shared “We must take him as we find him, and help him grow into the man he hopes to be.” Sounds familiar. Bob Mazzucca told us this just a few years ago. The handbook reminds us also that we in Scouting do not have the sole responsibility for helping the boy become a man. “Most of it, as a matter of fact rests within his home, his Church, his School.” The 1953 handbook goes on to say; Then in our own work with the boy, let us strive to do well the things that we know that Scouting can do- and can do better than any other agency… He comes to us because he wants to become a Scout- he wants to Scout!
The book goes on to talk about the fact that boys do not come to Scouts to get more School (paraphrasing), but for the Outdoor thrills of hikes and camp. I will wrap up my last quote from the handbook with this.
That’s what he comes for. And that’s what we must give him: THE SCOUTING ADVENTURE HE EXPECTS!
By giving him pure unadulterated Scouting, we come closest to reaching our goal.
Now I don’t know about you, but in my opinion boys have not changed. It is the parents that have changed and as a result, they are taking the boyhood out of the boy.
A quick look back at not so long ago gives a peek into a world that allowed boys to be boys. I contend that nothing today precludes us from still letting that happen.
I am curious to see where you stand on this. Leave us a comment, lets talk about this. I want our boys back!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
First off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution. You may not agree with some of what I am going to say. Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America. I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting. I think it is the greatest youth program around. But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout? Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout. Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story. In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool. I was drawn to the adventure. I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing. I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors. Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp. Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more. Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator. We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”. I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit. There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
Bad press is the only press. That’s the story we get. It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us. When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it. Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations. We are all looking to abuse youth. We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press. National does nothing. No ads on TV. Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts? How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir? They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group. It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube. Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect. Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy. What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it. Why was it not on TV? Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media? 10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people. A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
Scouting is for nerds. Just ask your Scouts. That’s what they will tell you their classmates think. I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review. One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool. He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School. The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked. “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered. “What do they think we do?” “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff. Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff. Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den. The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water. Signal towers that you could actually climb. Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now. In the name of Safety? Really? No, in the name of insurance fear. I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed. We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program. Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge. It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys. We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood. Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim. Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world. I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10. What was I doing? Trying to fly. Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire. A great laugh and no harm done. I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard. I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge. I did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges. Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same. Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship. Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience. Our Story is still about great outdoor programs. Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning. Our Story is cool. But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard. We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout. We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters. We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good. We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are. We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are. But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts. We clean up and get ourselves right. When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that. We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods. Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade. We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising. We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club. (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping. It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers. They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool? Then you need to act cool. You need to be cool. You need to look cool. Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense. I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting. And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Thermometer or Thermostat which are you?
I had a lengthy discussion the other day with a hand full of Scouts. We were talking about the way that if you want to, you can set the conditions in your life that will allow you to have the life that you want. Let me explain. For example, if you continue with your education, you will get better jobs. If you surround yourself with good people, you will stay out of trouble. If you manage your money well, you will have some when you need it.
So you are either a Thermometer or a Thermostat.
The thermometer is something that is effected by the temperature. It is effected by the conditions and can do nothing about it. It’s either hot or its cold.. or somewhere on the scale between, but the thermometer can not decide whether or not it’s going to be hot or cold, it just goes with whatever the conditions dictate.
There are a lot of people who are like that, they have no control over the conditions that life gives them. They play the part of the victim and never seem to get ahead. They are content with allowing the conditions dictate their behavior and the level of success that they have. They rarely demonstrate initiative and are happy to allow others to make decisions. They are rarely happy with the outcome, but that’s just the way it is.
On the other hand, there are those that are like Thermostats. The thermostat is a device that controls the environment. It can change the conditions. Instead of being hot or cold, it changes the temperature to the desired comfort level. It does not rely on the conditions, it makes new conditions. People that are like thermostats do the same thing. They create conditions for success. They are not happy just going with the flow. They lead themselves and others to a desired outcome. They are rarely victims as they have the ability to change the conditions or adapt and use the conditions in their favor.
I was telling the Scouts that when I was a kid, I was small. I was never a big jock. I played sports but never really had the skill or body type to be real good at it. But I tried. My coach gave me a chance because I set the conditions to get on the field and play. I worked hard. I was in the chess club and sang in the choir also. I was never bullied. I never let myself become bullied. Now, that is not to say that others did not try to bully me, I just would not allow it to happen to me. I stood up for myself and never gave the bully the satisfaction of making me a victim. When I went in the Army, again, I was small and light. Everyone around me told me I could not do this or that. I set the conditions to do what I wanted. I became an Airborne Ranger to prove everyone wrong. I got strong, smart, and tough and made the conditions around me work in my favor. I did not allow the temperature dictate my comfort, I changed the temperature.
Every day I see people who fall into these categories. I wonder what makes one pick one way or the other. What I really can not understand is why anyone chooses being a Thermometer. Just allowing everything around them to have control of their outcome.
As Scouts we need to be thermostats. We need to set conditions for success. In turn we can help those around us become successful. We can set conditions to make the Scout Oath and Law a part of our daily lives. We can choose to set the conditions to make our life worth living.
Think about it.. which are you?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Boys join Scouts for the Outdoors.. they join for the adventure and fun times that they are promised. Parents sign them up for Character development, life skills, and the values of the program. The outdoor program is the heart of Scouting. It is the place where the Scout learns, practices skills, develops friendships and a love for the wilderness and has fun.
I am sure by now that you have tore through the Aides to Scoutmastership… this has been a fun couple of days pouring through the writing of our founder. The more I dig in to the book, the more I know that the organization that BP was forming was centered on the boy and that his first and foremost goal was developing them to be good men. In the early years of the 20th century, England was a different place and boys were not allowed to just be boys. There are so many problems with suppressing the will and spirit of the boy and BP saw the destruction of boyhood and the effects that it has on manliness. I fear that this is happening again and its high time to take get it back.
The outdoor program of the Boy Scouts is how we do just that.
“In spite of teachers and parents, boys remain loyal to their own world. They obey their own code, although it is quite a different code to the one that is taught to them at home and in the schoolroom. They gladly suffer martyrdom at the hands of uncomprehending adults, rather than be false to their own code. “The code of the teacher, for instance, is in favor of silence and safety and decorum. The code of the boys is diametrically opposite. It is in favor of noise and risk and excitement. “Fun, fighting, and feeding! These are the three indispensable elements of the boy’s world. These are basic. They are what boys are in earnest about; and they are not associated with teachers nor schoolbooks. “According to public opinion in Boydom, to sit for four hours a day at a desk indoors is a wretched waste of time and daylight. Did anyone ever know a boy-a normal healthy boy, who begged his father to buy him a desk? Or did anyone ever know a boy, who was running about outdoors, go and plead with his mother to be allowed to sit down in the drawing room?
“Certainly not. A boy is not a desk animal. He is not a sitting-down animal. Neither is he a pacifist nor a believer in safety first,’ nor a book-worm, nor a philosopher.
Remember that the boy, on joining, wants to begin scouting right away; so don’t dull his keenness by too much preliminary explanation at first. Meet his wants by games and Scouting practices, and instill elementary details bit by bit afterwards as you go. “He is a boy-God bless him-full to the brim of fun and fight and hunger and daring mischief and noise and observation and excitement. If he is not, he is abnormal.”
I have made it pretty clear in writing this blog what my feelings are regarding how I think Scouting should be. I am a believer that Scouting is done in the outdoors. I know that there is a place and need for the merit badge program, but feel that it is over emphasized especially the “Filler badges” like fingerprinting and skating and those types of badges. Again, I know that there is a place and need… but sometimes I think they, and other non outdoor focused activities distract from the Scouting program.
Having said all of that…
The outdoor program provides adventure and opportunities that allow the Scout to develop skills that make them self reliant. The Scouts classroom is in the outdoors. That is were Scouting should happen. Scouts plan their adventures and carry them out in the outdoors. In short.. the outdoors is the center of the Scouting program.
The outdoor program is the fix for the boys and to Scouting. It is where we teach our Scouts the skills and an appreciation for the outdoors and adventure. It is were we let them play the game with a purpose and watch as they grow in leadership and we achieve the aims of Scouting. It is in the outdoors that boys develop character and practice citizenship and fitness.
As the Boy Scouts of America states; “Learning by doing is a hallmark of outdoor education. Unit meetings offer information and knowledge used on outdoor adventures each month throughout the year. A leader may describe and demonstrate a Scouting skill at a meeting, but the way Scouts truly learn outdoor skills is to do them themselves on a troop outing.”
There are many ways that the outdoor program can be executed. The key is to just get outside and do it. Make a commitment with the Patrol Leaders Council to add high adventure activities to the Troop plan. Make sure that every month has an outdoor overnight experience. NEVER Cancel an outdoor activity. Shame on the adults if they are the cause for failure of the outdoor program. The outdoors is a must for Scouting to happen. It is a must for the Scout to grow and meet the goals that Scouting has promised him.
Get out and play!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
I have been in discussions lately.. yeah still talking about “The issue”.. the good news is simply this. All of the discussions that I have been engaged in as of late are about where we go from here. Moving on.
The “Gay” thing really has become a secondary issue. What has become the primary topic is what we want Scouting to look like in the near and far future. Most Scout leaders that I have talked with, emailed back and forth to, and bounced ideas via Twitter want to get back to basics. I totally agree.
What this new spark has done for me is to look at what Scouting is really all about and why we do it. It has brought back memories of when I was a boy and the great times that I had as a Scout. It has asked me to look at how I work as a Scoutmaster and the example that I set for the boys of my Troop.
I am satisfied about how I am a Scoutmaster, but as with most things in life, I can do better. To do better I need to get back to basics. I need to teach, coach, train, and be a mentor to our Scouts in the tradition of what the Scouting Movement promotes and why it has had a lasting impact on not just the United States, but the world.
I think we fall short in the US in that we are not good historians. We don’t look to the past to see what got us here. We fail to look to the founders of the movement both here at home and of course Baden Powell as he founded Scouting with an idea and a promise.
Once again, I have been diving into Aides to Scoutmastership. If you have not downloaded a copy or got a hard copy.. stop reading now.. open up another window and download your copy.. read it.
… OK.. you are back… Great stuff in there, right?
Last night after the troop meeting a group of parents and I talked in the parking lot.. yeah.. you know, the meeting after the meeting. They wanted to assure me that they are in it for the long haul. That they believe in Scouting and they believe in how we offer the program in our troop. We talked about religion and it’s role in Scouting and what responsibility, if any, we have as troop leaders when it comes to religion. We don’t really have a role, other than being a good example. What I wanted to share with the parents was my loyalty to the program, to the troop, and to Scouting.
When I got home, I pulled out my copy of Aides to Scoutmastership and started to dig in. I wanted to see what BP had to say about our roles. And I got hung up on this section:
Loyalty to the Movement
Let the Scoutmaster remember that in addition to his duty to his boys he has a duty also to the Movement as a whole. Our aim in making boys into good citizens is partly for the benefit of the country, that it may have a virile trusty race of citizens whose amity and sense of “playing the game” will keep it united internally and at peace with its neighbors abroad. Charged with the duty of teaching self-abnegation and discipline by their own practice of it, Scoutmasters must necessarily be above petty personal feeling, and must be large-minded enough to subject their own personal views to the higher policy of the whole. Theirs is to teach their boys to “play the game,” each in his place like bricks in a wall, by doing the same themselves. Each has his allotted sphere of work, and the better he
devotes himself to that, the better his Scouts will respond to his training. Then it is only by looking to the higher aims of the Movement, or to the effects of measures ten years hence that one can see details of to-day in their proper proportion. Where a man cannot conscientiously take the line required, his one manly course is to put it straight to his Commissioner or to Headquarters, and if we cannot meet his views, then to leave the work. He goes into it in the first place with his eyes open, and it is scarcely fair if afterwards, because he finds the details do not suit him, he complains that it is the fault of the Executive.
Fortunately, in our Movement, by decentralization and giving a free hand to the local authorities, we avoid much of the red tape which has been the cause of irritation and complaint in so many other organizations.
We are also fortunate in having a body of Scoutmasters who are large-minded in their outlook and in their loyalty to the Movement as a whole.
It took a bit to digest that, remembering the time and place in which BP wrote the Aides to Scoutmastership. Like I said in a post last week… the more things change, the more they stay the same. You see, the world was a crazy place then.. and you know, with the exception of cool phones and the internet.. it’s still a crazy place.
When we demonstrate loyalty to the boys in our Troops, no matter what we personally think, we teach them valuable lessons in citizenship. It is no secret that our country is divided politically. The Boy Scouts of America prohibits us from participating in political or social activism in our role as Scoutmaster. We can not march in parades, use our position in Scouting to support a candidate or cause. We can however remain loyal to the process and teach that to our Scouts. Above all if we believe in Scouting we remain loyal to it.
It is because of generations of Scout leaders that came before us that got us through the rough spot in Scouting during the 70’s. It got us through World Wars and many issues “of the day”. Scouting did not change.
Anyway, I don’t want to get into a rant here. I just think that we need to get back to basics. Aides to Scoutmastership is one way that we can learn about what got us here.
Now that you have a copy, lets get into it and get back to the basics of the Scouting movement.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Those of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature. I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”. It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts. But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day. The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time. Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids. I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America. I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok. We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”. We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History. I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland. It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett. You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today? Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago? Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness? Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent? Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion? You are the descendant of those people. You are the guardian of what they built. You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing. It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy. It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks. Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank. But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us. We have stopped teaching them. We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy. Before long you will be an American man.” The ’59 handbook continues. “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” We all agree that there is no change there. The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure. “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout! It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe… to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.” Do we make that promise to our boys today? Why not? Nothing has changed there. The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle. There is a magic in the campfire. It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time. That magic is in the embers. It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it. And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire. Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting. It is for us to not allow things to change. Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit. The more things change, the more that will always stay the same. If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks. Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America. Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure. It will be gone if we don’t share it. If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal. Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land. We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety. I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes, are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors. You learn to notice every sound, to observe every track. Birds and animals become your friends. You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call. You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars. You become a true outdoorsman.” Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier. This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now. We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed. The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come. Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
As you may be aware, the Boy Scouts of America voted the other day to change its policy to allow boys that are homosexual to join the organization. This decision, even though it has been debated for the better part of a year continues to draw much discussion. At the National Meetings of the BSA the resolution was passed with a 60% approval. Earlier this year the BSA asked us to participate in a survey on this issue. I made the choice to participate in the survey and allowed my voice to be heard. It is my belief that the 60% approval is a fair representation of those that took the survey.
And so it is with thoughtful consideration that I feel the need to address this issue with all of you.
Within our Troop we have discussed this issue and have various opinions ranging from full support to no support of the decision. I have not withheld my opinion in the matter and am available to discuss where I stand in the matter, but I think this letter should serve to express how this decision should have an effect on our Troop, which ultimately is how I feel about the issue.
I think it fair to share some of the common arguments against the decision and where I think the Boy Scouts of America stand. I can not speak on behalf of the BSA, but I feel that I am in agreement with the policy change. You will see how and why in this letter.
First, the argument over the ability for a Scout to live up to the promise that he makes to be “Morally Straight”. I do not see an issue here as we as Scout leaders do not define a Scouts morals. The Boy Scouts of America have always insisted that moral instruction is the responsibility of the of the family and the religious institution of the individual Scout. At best it is my responsibility to model moral behavior. Behavior that I was taught as a young boy by my family and my faith group. I think it is safe to say that my family and my faith formation have led me to being a good man that makes sound moral decisions. I am of the belief that parents all start off with the best intentions for their children. Parents that introduce their boy to Scouting understand the timeless values and the ideals that Scouting offers. Parents that want their son to enjoy Scouting know and understand the shared commitment of the Scout Oath and Law that Scouts and Scouters make. Most parents may not understand the policies of the BSA or the methods of the program, but just like the average person, they know in one way or another, that Scouting is about doing good.
The decision to allow gay boys to join Scouting does not change our values in the least. We find the values of the BSA in the Scout Oath and Law. Just as I remind your son during the many Scoutmaster conferences we share, we make three promises in the Scout Oath. Those promises are our duty. They are to serve our God and Country, to Help other people at all times, and to remember the promise we make to ourselves in keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
Before we leave the Scout Oath, let me remind you that during our Scoutmaster Conference your Scout holds all of the answers that allow him to grow and advance, largely in part to how you have raised him and not because he says the Scout Oath. The Boy Scouts do not define God and does not require a Scout to be religious. When a Scout promises to do his duty to God and Country, we allow the Scout to decide who or what that God is. The Scout handbook tells us that we are to respect others and their religious convictions. When I ask your son what that means to him, I become a listener and not a judge. I firmly believe that in that answer we learn about how the Scout is growing in his faith and watch as he fine tunes his moral compass. When a Scout is struggling with this discussion I ask a few leading questions. Those questions are simply this, do you believe that it is a good thing to “do to others as you would like done to you?” They typically answer yes, which leads to question number two, “what does that mean to you?” Then I share with your Scout that religions of every creed maintain that as a foundation of living a good life. That simple phrase known as the “Golden Rule” is the magnetic pull that keeps our moral compass straight. It has nothing to do with life style or sexual behavior. It guides us in treating others with respect and dignity and is a foundation for the Scout law, the second area in which we find the values of Scouting.
It is with that in mind that we can expect our Scouts to live the Scout Law. To be trustworthy to one another, Loyal to family, friends, God and Country. It demands that we are helpful as you are aware we ask our Scouts to develop a habit of being a selfless servant. A Scout is a friend to all, so says the founder of Scouting Lord Baden-Powell. We ask that our Scouts are courteous and kind to one another and practice that at home, school, and in their daily lives. I can go on about how and what we expect from our boys in living the Scout law, but I will touch on just two more points that I think are relevant in this discussion. Obedient and Reverent.
Once again, as their Scoutmaster and role model, I find that it is my position to be obedient to the BSA and it’s policies. I do not have to agree with the gay lifestyle or the choice to be homosexual. Once this policy change goes into effect in January of 2014, I will comply and welcome every boy who wants to be a Scout into our troop.
Reverent. The Boy Scout Handbook tells us that a Scout is Reverent. According to the handbook that is defined as such; “A Scout is reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” Please take note that the definition does not define the Boy Scouts of America’s belief, it directly instructs the Scout to do HIS duty and be faithful in HIS religious duties and HE respects the beliefs of others. HE and HIS not OURS and THE BSA. Now this may seem like an easy out, but to be honest with you I would not have it any other way. Look at our Troop, we have members from many different faith groups. We have a wide variety of Scouts with many different levels of faith formation. We treat them all the same. We expect them to live what you have taught them and couple that home and church formation with that of the Scout Oath and Law.
So how will this be different with a gay Scout? It won’t be. Again, I am going to assume that the parents of that young man want the best for him. They want him to be in an organization that maintains a good set of values, that by and large will be consistent with those of their family, no matter what that family looks like. Again, that is not for me as a Scoutmaster to judge.
Here is the bottom line as I see it.
Our troop is going to maintain the values of the Boy Scouts of America. We are going to continue to focus on the mission of the BSA and never go away from the three aims of Character, Citizenship, and Fitness. We will use the eight methods to achieve those aims. We will still go camping every month. We will not change our program in the slightest. Just as we did not change when you brought your son to our troop, we will not change for any other boy who joins our unit.
I can assure you that our Troop understands and practices youth protection and this too will not change. The Boy Scouts of America have sound practices when it comes to protecting our youth. Nothing here will change. We will maintain a safe, friendly environment for your son and all of the Scouts of our troop. We will address all personal issues as they happen, just like we currently do for the Scouts that we currently serve. We will observe their privacy, and respect each and everyone in our troop as we would have them respect us.
Many Scouters are already talking about leaving the Boy Scouts over this issue. I know that we will lose some really good people, I hope none from our troop, but I do understand that some people must be true to how they feel and what they know as the direction of their moral compass. I would hope that you all trust that we have the best interest of your Scout in mind in everything we do.
To those that feel the need to part ways with our organization, I wish you well and pray that you do not have ill feelings toward those of us that stay. I welcome you back whenever that time is right for you and your family. I believe in the Boy Scouts of America and regardless of this policy change and the heart ache that it seems to have caused, is still the very best youth organization on earth. I believe this with all of my heart, and I trust that you understand that I am sincere.
Please feel free to discuss this issue with me personally if you have the need. I think it important that you understand that I am not and neither is the Boy Scouts of America, asking that you accept the homosexual life style. It is expected that all people are treated with respect and dignity. This is all I can ask of you, your Scout and our troop.
The Boy Scouts of America has made many ground breaking changes in its 103 years. This will not be the last. The testament of the stability of this great organization is in its timeless values that are there for everyone.
I thank you for the time and hope we have a lasting relationship in the future.
Yours in Scouting.
And as Always, Have a Great Scouting Day!
As I hit the publish button on the last post I realized that I never offered a solution. And I am still wondering what that is… but I can tell you that if I were King for the day… or at least the Chief Scout Executive here is what I would do tomorrow.
First I would call all of the major news networks and tell them that the Boy Scouts of America is going to have a press conference to talk about this issue.
Second. I would create a presentation that outlined what we as an organization stand for, provide, and believe. This presentation would highlight all of the great things that young men and women get out of Scouting. It would highlight our values and those promises that we make individually in the Scout Oath.
I would tell the world that we are the best organization in world that centers it’s mission on creating good people. I would remind the world that we are an organization designed for peace and service.
Then I would talk about the issue of inclusive membership and state the following: We are the Boy Scouts of America. You have seen all that we have to offer and I think you would agree that this program is for everyone. I would assure America that no matter what happens in this upcoming vote to change the membership policy that nothing will ever change in our program. The Boy Scouts provide a safe environment for all Scouts no matter who they are, where they come from, and whatever their family religious and cultural background may be. The Boy Scouts of America stand committed to provided that safe program free of abuse, hazing, and discrimination.
Then I would suggest that we as an organization have gone through many changes in our 100 plus years and have stood the test of time because of our values and our program.
I think that the Boy Scouts of America have not done a great job in telling our side of the story. The media have been given blank check with which they write and talk about our program given their limited point of view. The Boy Scouts of America need to get in front of this and do a better job in talking to America.
The organization is doing a nice job in communicating to its membership.. but we are already on board. They need to get on the 6 o’clock news and sell our story to America.
Wayne.. if you need help with this… let’s talk.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS MY OPINION AND NOT THE OPINION OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, TROOP 664, OR THE FINE LEADERS THAT I CALL MY FRIENDS.
Having said all of that I am going to briefly revisit this whole “Gay Scout” issue.
This last week it was announced that the BSA will be putting the issue on the table for a vote. You can read all about it elsewhere, I am not going to go into the details here.
The bottom line is that the vote will come down to this; The BSA will change it’s membership policy to include “openly gay” Scouts but it would continue to restrict the membership of “openly gay” adult leaders.
OK…. here is my opinion on the matter, and in light of recent announcements from a few of the Churches that seem to be at the fore front of the issue, I should say that my opinion has not changed.
First, I really don’t think that the issue will make a difference. I do not care personally what a person does sexually. Now many will argue that this is a sexual issue, I tend to disagree. How many “openly gay” Scouts do you know? I have a feeling on some Scouts and in most if not all cases when it comes to our teen-aged boys… they don’t really care either. I guess the better question is how many gay boys are beating down the doors to get in to the Boy Scouts of America? I have yet to meet one. Most if not all gay boys will not be looking for the activity that the Scouts offer. This is not a predatory issue. They, gays, are not looking at the BSA as an opportunity to meet and date. I mean.. that’s so ridiculous.
Anyway… Morality is the next issue. So I suppose we need to address what that means. Now, I know that I will piss some folks off with this, but I think it needs to be said. Church does not make you moral. I know openly gay members of the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and the LDS Church. They may not make it to public, but you don’t have to be a sociologist to know that they are gay and they tend not to hide it among friends. They hide it because they are made to feel like lepers in their respective communities that preach love, peace, and compassion.
If we look at moral thinking then where does love enter the conversation?
When we look into the definition of morality it leaves the reader wondering where does morality come from? Defined morality looks like this:
1. a : a moral discourse, statement, or lesson. b : a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson.
2. a : a doctrine or system of moral conduct. b. plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3. conformity to ideals of right human conduct
4. moral conduct : virtue
So we over time have decided what the social norms are and how we practice moral thinking and teaching. The first documented use of the term “Morality” was not till the 14th century. What ever did we do before then?
Since morality is decided by man’s ideals and virtues, some say they received from God, again, in the Scouting context, which God is that? It is common that all virtue and religious teaching universally comes down to “Do unto others…”
So why then do we treat people like outcasts, deviants, and unworthy of membership in our club?
There are those that think homosexuality is deviant behavior.. and it may be.. who am I to judge? It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, I don’t like rap music either and certainly not the life style it promotes. Not a big fan of smoking or excessive drinking either. Not a fan of those that abuse their kids or beat their wives… yet that deviant behavior seems to be just fine.
I work with openly gay folks. They are good people. I have had discussions with them about Scouting and they all think it is a great organization… BUT…
Yeah, they always have the “but” comment. They to do not understand that a group that claims to live by a certain code and a set of values would exclude people based on their sexual orientation. Further, they consider the argument not one of sexual acts but of who they love. And that gets me wondering where the morality comes in and who decides it.
A Scout is starts the Scout law.. it is followed by the set of values that we live by. Which one of the 12 points would not allow a gay boy in? Right away people go to “Clean” and “Reverent”. Defined (again) the Scout law suggests that a Scout is Clean in thought, word, and deed. But I still can’t find where sexual orientation would be an issue, especially when it comes to a boy. Straight boys don’t even have sex when they are 13 for the most part… right?
Reverent? The Boy Scouts of America does not define who God is nor does the organization suggest how a Scout must worship. The Boy Scout handbook says “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.” The BSA does not extend its moral teaching beyond that of the Scout Oath and Law and refers the Scout to his faith group and family for furthering religious teaching and moral thinking.
So that is where it comes from and that is where it should stay. Once we put our uniforms on and raise the Scout sign we should be inclusive and respectful. We should be friendly and helpful. We should be courteous and kind. We should be loyal and cheerful.
All of this is found in Scouting and why not let openly gay Scouts in?
Now the LDS church has come out for this, the Catholic Church is sitting on the fence and other faith groups are afraid to take a stand that allows for love and friendship to trump bed room activity. Even though we are talking about young men here and not pedophiles or social deviants.
So happens after the vote. Gay boys will either be allowed in or not. If they are in… who leaves? If they are out.. who drops support?
It seems to me that what ever happens the Scouts will loose. So are we willing to deal with the results and how? My guess is that at the unit level nothing is going to change. If the new policy is that gay Scouts will be allowed, I wonder how many families leave my troop? I don’t care about funding or policy… but what about those folks that are unwilling to change? I figure that if the families that are currently in my troop are happy now.. why would that change? But I know it will and so I need to be willing to deal with it.
Will this be the end of Scouting as we know it? I hope not. Are there still Scouters out there that will be willing to stay the course, even though the course will have changed?
I don’t know the answers.. I am curious to see how this all plays out.
Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!