Citizenship

Loyalty to the Movement

scoutmastershipI 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!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Scouting, training, Values | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

The more things change.. the more they stay the same

DanielBooneThose 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!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Cooking, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, stories, Values | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

From the Desk of the Scoutmaster

Dear Parents,

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!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

King for the 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.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments | Tags: | 2 Comments

Who’s to say?

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!

Categories: Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, Values | 10 Comments

Running to action

Wood Badge thoughtsBare with me while I try to collect my thoughts and try to share them in a coherent way…
We just wrapped up the first session of Wood Badge course W1-492-13 and as is the case in or of  the Wood Badge experience, there are plenty of opportunities to do some reflection and looking inward at the person that you are.
Learning leadership is just part of the Wood Badge experience and can’t really be placed into action until the leader has made internal commitments to be a better person.  Thank goodness we in Scouting have this wonderful set of values that we find in the Scout Law.  Assessment tools that are learned and practiced in our quest to find knowledge and self-realization of our strengths and weakness’.
What I am saying is that once again, I have had an opportunity to reflect and take that critical look inside.  Couple that with the rest of the fun of Wood Badge and we are on that emotional roller coaster that comes with the experience.
What I am always amazed about is the people.  The 53 Scouters that paid, took time off, drove out to the coast, and make the choice to attend Wood Badge are dedicated Scouters in their respective programs.  They are enthusiastic about learning how to be better Scouters, husbands and wives, Fathers, Mothers, and employees or employers.  The Wood Badge program makes all of those aspects of our lives better.
The amazing part is the dedication that they demonstrate.  They are great people.
Last night when I got home the news was filled with the Boston Marathon bombing.  Thank God that the damage was relatively small.  I am not going to rant and rave about the scum bags that would do something like this.  You all know how I feel.  Here is what I saw when watching the never-ending coverage.  The reactions of the people.  You see as the first bomb exploded we saw three groups of people.  The first group was those that were injured.  The second group was those that ran away from the danger.  And the third group were the people who ran to the explosion.  What makes people do this?
I saw this over and over again in my Southwest Asian vacation in Iraq.  When the shots starts soldiers face the fire and move toward the danger.  Yesterday, we saw runners, members of the National Guard, First responders, all heading to the danger.  They selflessly give, forgoing their own safety and comfort.  They put other people ahead of themselves.  They are living the values that we promise in the Oath and Law.
I am proud of these people and thank them.
Now this is going to sound like a stretch… but it is how I feel, so please bare with me here.
I have served on two Wood Badge course’s now as a staff member.  The number one thing that I have learned on those two staff’s is that there are terrific people who care so much about Scouting and Scouts that they give and give and yes.. run to the sound of the drum.  They are like the first responder that runs to danger.  They are dedicated and motivated to help.  They take the Oath and Law and apply it in their daily lives and it makes a difference.
Our Course Director is a Scouter that I have looked up to for many years.  He has a love for Scouting that shows in everything he does.  His passion is contagious.  On Thursday night at our staff dinner, he shared something with us just hours before the participants arrived.  He shared with us that it had been a long time since he served as a Scoutmaster in a unit.  For many years now he has been serving at the District and Council level primarily in a training capacity.  We all agree that where the runner meets the road is at the unit level where Scouters and Scouts interact and we teach, train, coach and mentor our youth to achieve the mission of the Boy Scouts of America.  John, our Course Director shared this with us.  While he has not served at the unit level in a long time do the math on the impact that we make as Staffers at Wood badge.  53 participants, mostly from Packs, Troops, and Crews will be learning from us. By myself I can only impact say 40 boys that are in my unit.  Over 10 years or so, I may have a direct impact on a couple hundred Scouts.  Imagine though the impact of a Wood Badge staffer.  53 participants will go back to their units and apply what we teach them.  Lets go low and say that each of those 53 have 25 Scouts in their unit.  That is about average.  Over the next 10 years this one Wood Badge class will impact thousands of Scouts.  That is far more reaching than I can do myself.  Over the next few years, these Scouters will run toward the target… they will run toward the Scouts that need help, coaching, and mentoring.  They will put hours upon hours into making Scouting and Scouts better.  They will dedicate time, money, energy, and love to our program.  This makes me proud to a part of it.
John inspired me to give my best when it was my turn to present course material, lead a song, and participate in a skit.  He made me want to give so that others would follow my lead.  John runs to the help needed as a trainer.  Most of all, he made Scouting better by leading us.
A lot is going on in our world.  We need Scouting and we need Scout leaders that run to the boys!
Thank you all that do what you do to make our world just that much better.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law, respect, Scout Law, training, Values, Wood Badge | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Are you tougher?

Well, by now most, if not all of you have seen or are keenly aware of the Hit TV series “Are you tougher than a Boy Scout“.  As they get through the first season, the subject of future seasons have begun.
It has been refreshing to watch Scouting on the boob tube presented in a positive light, showing high adventure and skills that most of us in Scouting like.  I am also happy to see the caliber of youth that have been selected to be on the first season.  They have really represented Scouting well.
But what of future seasons?  At what point are they going to show your average Scout.. the merit badge hunter, the mud finder, and the velcro scout.. you know, the young man that can’t be to far from the safe reach of mom and dad.  What will future events be on the show?  A trip to the zoo?  Maybe an aggressive game of chess?  How about a fun game of patrol box cleaning?  Sounds fun don’t it?  Sounds like the stuff boys join Scouting for.  Yep, and the nation will get to see all that adventure.. not quite High Adventure, but adventure none the less.    I get the feeling that once the public gets their collective eyes on that they will beat down our doors to get in.
OK.. OK.. sarcasm over.
I have been going back and forth with some Scouters via email and some discussions that go back to comments I made regarding Scouting not being for everyone.  It seems that most do not agree, and that’s ok.  It’s certainly alright to disagree and I encourage it.  What I don’t agree with though is that our program should be “dumbed down” for lack of a better term.  Go back to the beginning and you find adventure in Scouting at every turn.  That is what it’s all about.
Now, I suppose you could argue that adventure is adventure, and that is found in the individual.  Yeah.. you could argue that.  Ability levels can be accommodated, but at the end of the day, if we are not encouraging our Patrol Leaders Council to seek adventure, we are not helping in delivering that promise.
It serves us well to remember the Promise of Scouting that we are supposed to be delivering.
Allow me to refresh your memory:
Scouting promises you the great outdoors.  As a Scout, you can learn how to camp and hike without leaving a trace and how to take care of the land. You’ll study wildlife up close and learn about nature all around you. There are plenty of skills you can master, and you can teach others what you have learned. Everyone helping everyone else-that’s part of scouting, too.
Scouting promises you friendship.  Members of the Troop you join might be boys you already know, and you will meeting many other scouts along the way. Some could be lifelong friends.
Scouting promises you opportunities to work toward the Eagle Scout rank.  You will set positive goals for yourself and follow clear routes to achieve them.
Scouting promises you tools to help you make the most of your family, your community, and your nation.  The good deeds you perform everyday will improve the lives of those around you. You will be prepared to help others in time of need.
Scouting promises you experience and duties that will help you mature into a strong, wise adult.  The Scout Oath and Scout Law can guide you while you are a Scout and throughout your life.  (The Boy Scout Handbook 11th edition)
It is absolutely no surprise to me that the great outdoors is listed first!  That is where adventure is found.  Friendship and the bonds that last forever are forged in shared experiences and trials.  I love the last part there… “a strong, wise adult.”  The Oath and Law are great rules to live by and will last forever in the man.
So there it is.. the Promise of Scouting.. So are you Tougher than a Boy Scout?  Can you assist in living up to the expectations that boys join Scouting for?  Are you up to that challenge.  Imagine if you flipped the channel to watch a high adventure show and there are a handful of Scouts diligently working the fingerprinting merit badge.  Click!  I just turned the channel looking for the home shopping network.. maybe I could buy some adventure there.
I’m looking forward to the next season of the show.. man am I happy to see Scouting on TV and looking cool!
Let me hear it!  I know you have an opinion.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Skills, teamwork, Values | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brave

I have listened to the answers of many Scouts as they explain to me during Scoutmaster Conferences the parts and meanings of the points of the Scout Law.
I always asks the Scout to tell me which part of the Scout law is most important and what they struggle with daily.  I get pretty much the standard answer that all of the parts of the law are important and no one part is greater than any other.  But this Saturday I sat as both the Scoutmaster and the Scouts advocate during and Eagle Scout Board of review.  When the board asked the young man to discuss which part of the law he thought was most important, without hesitation, the Scout answered Brave!
He explained that as a teen ager it to courage and bravery to live the Scout law every day.  Among his peers, he felt that many points of the law are not “Cool” or popular in today’s culture.  Without the ability to stand up for what you believe and know is right, the rest of the law is immaterial.  Without being brave, you won’t live the rest.
I thought it was an interesting answer and tend to agree.  I wish it did not have to be that way, but the truth is, the world that our Scouts find themselves in does not value the way of life that the Scout law represents.  It’s really to bad.
Last night during my Scoutmaster minute, I shared that if we live the Scout oath and law daily we will be men of character and I made our Scouts a promise.  If any of the values found in the Oath and law ever cause them to do the wrong thing, or if any of the points of the Scout law are wrong, I will stop talking.  They know that I love to talk, so they know that I am serious.
Challenge:  If you can explain to me that there is something wrong with the Oath and Law I will send you a grand prize.  You better come strong though.  Be prepared to discuss.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law | 2 Comments

Just do something…

DSCN0627

It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster.  As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop.  We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered.  Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different.  James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders.  I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything.  We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t.  It comes down to decision-making and common sense.  We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.

When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction.  The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from.  The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing.  What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired.  In short, they do not have a good time.  We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting.  There are a few arguments for and against.  I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun.  I have also been told to stay the course.  Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers.  Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure.  They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop.  As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will.  We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful.  But we require that they make a choice.  They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn.  That is up to them.  Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class.  I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man.  the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man.  Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class.  But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves.  Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it?  Why have they not made the choice?  Is it a lack of training?  Is it a lack of want to?  Is it something that we have done or failed to do?  We could not put our finger on it.  Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago?  We don’t really know.  They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices.  So what is it?  We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop?  Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out.  Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills.  The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping.  I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out.  I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too.  It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what?  I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk.  I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us.  For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there.  These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter.  I am ok with all of it.
What do you think?  I think that things will be just fine.  I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future.  I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves.  I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble.  Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice.  That’s what I think.  I am curious to see what your thoughts are.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, comments, fitness, gear, Ideals, Just fun, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Scouting, Scouts, Skills, training, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Scouting for all?

Merit Badges or Fun?Allow me to play devils advocate here for a minute.  There has been quite a bit of discussion lately via email and in Scouting circles in which I find myself regarding Scouts in our programs.  One argument is that Scouting is for every young man, the converse is that Scouting is not for everyone.
Boys enter our program with certain expectations and needs.  Those Scouts have parents that also have certain expectations and wants.  What I have seen and heard lately is that some parents and Scouts are not getting what they thought they would out of Scouting.  I have been in discussions in which parents believe that their son is not having fun in the program.  The question that I ask is simply, is Scouting really for everyone?
I submit for the sake of discussion that maybe Scouting is not for every boy.  It may be that what Scouting offers is not what they want or need.  It may be that the boy is not ready for the adventures that Scouting offer and well-intentioned parents do not really understand what Scouting is all about.  It is also true that many Scout leaders do not know what Scouting is all about and therefore have promoted a program that misses the mark when it comes to achieving Scouting’s aims.  This has led to young boys joining troops that quickly disappoint or fail to deliver on the expectations they and their parents had on the join night.
Scouting at its core is about adventure and when a boy joins a unit that is full of adventure he may not be ready or willing to participate.  Now, some would argue that participation is really not something that is of real importance in Scouting, but it is through participating fully in the program that the Scout gets the most out of Scouting.  I had a mother say to me the other night that her son does not attend winter camp outs because he did not have a good experience during last years winter camping season.  Why?  Well, maybe he does not like camping in the winter.. I am ok with that.  But does that paint the whole program as a negative thing?  No, but maybe the Scout is not ready or willing.  Once a boy starts down the road of picking and choosing those activities that he does not wish to participate in he will find it easier to reduce the level of activity he does.  This is not true in all cases, remember that I am not suggesting anything here other that this is a question that we should ask.  Maybe Scouting is not for everyone.  Here is what I am saying…
Scouting is not for everyone.  Scouting should not change to meet the Scouts needs.  Scouting needs to stay the course on being an organization that has values, ideals, and adventure.  Scouting should not “dumb down” to allow for boys to have a club to join.  There are plenty of clubs out there that he can find a place in.  Now, before you all jump on me let me say this here and make it very clear that I am not talking at all about Scouts or I should say boys with disabilities.  This discussion has nothing… I repeat nothing to do with disabilities.  That is another discussion and I think that needs to be addressed another time.  I will say that there are ample opportunities for boys with disabilities to participate in Scouting and I encourage every young man who shows interest to try Scouting no matter the “ability”.  I will also say that no.. I do not consider ADD, ADHD, Autism, and a lack of focus a disability.  Not when it comes to Scouting and the Scouting program.  We prove over and over again that Scouts that have been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD and Autism can participate in Scouting and high adventure activities.  My Troop is proof of this.  Moving on…
Scouting should not promote that everyone will be an Eagle Scout just because he joins and has a pulse.  Scouting should continue to push the Scout to discover his world and find his limits.. then push them outside of his comfort zone.  If Scouting decides to become the YMCA or Boys Club it will no longer deliver the promise.  It will just become another after school club and that is not Scouting.  That is not what Baden Powell, William Hillcourt, James E West, and the rest of the men that founded and established the direction for Scouting had in mind.  We can met Scouts where they are, but we can never get away from the intent of the Scouting movement.  We can not stray from the methods that lead us to achieving the aims and we can never allow Scouting to just be another club.
Not everyone wants what Scouting offers.  Numbers, while they drive much of what the professional Scouters track are not the program.  A great program that stays the course will bring in the numbers of boys that seek adventure, values, and ideals that are the hallmark of the Scouting program.  Numbers for the sake of numbers will be just that and we see this play out each year with amount of boys that leave our units.  They don’t want to play the game with a purpose and we should not make them.  A football player is not allowed to join a team and then make up the rules of the game or change the team uniform.  He joins and plays the game that has been established.  Not everyone can or wants to play football, not everyone can or wants to be a Scout.  I recently sat with a group of Scouts and asks a few simple questions.  The first I asked was if they thought Scouting was nerdy.  They all said that they did not think so, but their friends at School did.  I asked what they thought the ‘nerdy’ part of Scouting was.. aside from wearing the uniform.  I figured I would take away the obvious answer.  They all said that their friends really didn’t know what we do.  I asked them if they ever tell them what we do.  They all pretty much said, no.  They did not want to bring it up so they could talk about something else.  Then I asked why not?  Why not tell their friends that we rock climb at Smith Rock, that we snowshoe and build snow caves.  That we have hiked the Oregon Coast trail, shoot shotguns and paddle the Deschutes river.  That we backpack miles of the PCT and go caving in some cool volcanic caves.  That we spent a week hiking in the Canyon country of New Mexico and that we have gone across the country to tour our Nations Capital and camp with 70,000 other Scouts.  I asked why all of that sounds ‘nerdy’.  They couldn’t tell me.  But these are the guys that want to do all of that.  These are Scouts and they want to be Scouts.  Their friends could not nor would they be willing to do all of that, even given the chance.  One of the Scouts spoke up and said that his friends thought Scouting was all about doing good deeds and being in Flag ceremonies.  His friend said he didn’t want to be in a club that did crafts and sang songs.  So I asked this young man what he told his friend.  He had a great answer, he told me that he said to his friend that “yeah, we sing songs, but it’s out in the middle of the woods at our campfire at the end of a day that was full of fun”.  But then again, that’s a kid that wants what Scouting has to offer.
Ok so what’s the point here.  The point is simply this.  We beat ourselves up to make sure that every boy joins Scouting.  Why?  If they join great, but if they quit, did we fail?  Did Scouting fail?  No.. they just did not fit in our program.  I have seen many Scouts come and go from our Troop and I can honestly say that the ones that left did not want to be there.  It was nothing we did to chase them away, they just did not want to be in Scouts.
I have said it many times, I would rather have a Troop of 10 motivated boys that want to be there than have a Troop with 50 that don’t.
Am I not supporting Scouting by saying this?   Nope I am delivering the promise of Scouting to those that want it.
Once again, I am a fan of the writing of William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt.  I have a copy of something he wrote way back when regarding the 10 Essentials of Scoutmastership.  It goes like this.

A belief in boys that will make you want to invest yourself and your time on their behalf.
A zeal focused upon one point-the boy’s happiness through his formative years- “A happy boy is a good boy, a good boy is a good citizen.
An immense faith in Scouting as the program that will best serve to mould our youth into fine men.
A realization that to the boys Scouting is a game – to you, a game with a purpose:  Character, building citizenship training and physical fitness.
A knowledge that to your boys you are Scouting.  “What you are speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say”.
A steadfastness of purpose to carry out a planned program with energy and perseverance, patience and good humor.
A willingness to submerge yourself and make boy leaders lead and grow through and effective application of the Patrol Method.
A desire to advance in Scoutmastership by making use of training offered and material available on the subject.
A readiness to work hand in hand with home, church, sponsored institution, school, Local Council, National Council for the good of the individual boy and the community as a whole.
A love of the outdoors in all its phases and a vision of the hand that created it.

With an effective program that offers the “want to” so a boy joins, stays, and grows in Scouting we can see that Scouting is a great program.  But that is not for everyone.  If you as a Scouter can honestly read the 10 essentials of Scoutmastership and apply it to your unit you will create that environment.  If you do not feel that you can do that, well then you prove the argument, that nope, Scouting is not for everyone, to include adults.
Before I get lots of hate mail… I am playing devils advocate here, but the point for me is taken well.  I do not think that everyone needs to be in Scouting.  I think those boys that want to be in should and once in we will do everything in our power to deliver to them the very best program.
Now, I do want to hear what you think.  Please leave your comments, I would not ask if I didn’t want to know.
Thank you all for all you do in Scouting!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, Character, Citizenship, fitness, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Patriotism, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Scouts, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , | 13 Comments

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