Oath and Law

The Boy

all togetherThis 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!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Scouting… Cool?

cropped-rockwellphilmont.jpgFirst 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.
THE PRESS.
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.
NERDS.
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.  game-designI did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges.  Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
OUR STORY.
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.
Your thoughts?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, canoe, Character, Citizenship, Climbing, fitness, gear, Good Turn Daily, High Adventure, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Oath and Law, Patrol Method, Philmont, Scouting, Scoutmaster conference, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, Values, Youth Protection | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

YouTube Channel bump

Again with the reset subject.
Yesterday, I did some major work on the YouTube channel.  I am phasing out the old channel, which became a real pain switching back and forth between accounts… so it’s all in one nice bundle now.
Like I said before, most of the videos will post here on the blog also, but not all.
So here is the trailer for the new and improved channel… same old me.. but new focus for 2014!

Stay tuned friends… I have a great give away coming up!  Just wrapped up the details yesterday… Look for details this weekend!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, gear, Hammock, High Adventure, Journey to Excellence, Just fun, Leadership, Leave no trace, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, Philmont, reviews, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, stories, technology, training, Values, Winter Camping | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Thermometer or Thermostat?

thermostatThermometer 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!

Categories: blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Methods, Motto, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Skills, teamwork, training | 5 Comments

‘Tis the season

tis_the_season_I am sure that I have said this before in the blog, and I know this to have some truth as I have often experienced that there are themes that seem to crop up from time to time in our lives.  This month theme, and I would suggest that it started around the Thanksgiving holiday is being selfless.
It seems that the theme of being selfless or unselfish has been overwhelming since Thanksgiving.  It has cropped up in Scoutmaster minutes I have shared with the Scouts of our troop.  It has reared its head in news stories, we have seen its appeal in “adopt a family” programs at work.  We demonstrated it in our annual Scouting for Food drive, and in my own life I have really been hit with the theme of forgetting about my self so much and focusing on those around me.  I consider myself a giver.
In Scouting, I have dedicated a lot of time, talent, and treasure to the organization, knowing that my dollars and time have a direct impact on Scouts.  I am not sharing this for a pat on the back, rather to plant in your mind the spirit of giving.  A few years back I was asked to give and become a member of the James E. West fellowship.  After some discussion with my wife, we decided that this gift to Scouting would be a lasting legacy gift, money that will stay in Scouting and have direct impacts on Scouts forever.  We annually give through the Friends of Scouting program.  It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.  28% or so of the operating budget comes from FOS, but the impact is direct.
Giving of time and talent are perhaps the most important thing that we do as Scouters and to put a price tag on it would take an advanced math degree and sliding rule.. maybe even the use of an abacus and someone that knows how to calculate it.  That is where the rubber meets the road, where it really counts.
But that spirit of giving does not end when we take off our tan shirts.  Living the Oath and Law in our daily lives suggests that we are givers.  “To help other people at all times”.  This is all about giving.  Being courteous and kind are gifts to others.  I once heard Dennis Prager speak about Happiness as a Moral obligation.  I am going to quote part of his talk on this subject, as there is no way that I could say it better.  Prager said, “When people think of happiness or pursuing happiness, the first thing they think of is, “Well, it’s a pretty selfish desire, I want to be happy for me.   I mean, after all who wants to be unhappy?”  Actually, there is an answer to that, but that’ll be for another time.   But I am here to tell you that in fact happiness is far, far, far more than a selfish desire, it’s actually a moral obligation.  That’s right.   I’m sure most people have never thought of it like this, and I didn’t for most of my life.  I thought that happiness, the pursuit of happiness, was primarily selfish, but it isn’t.  Whether or not you’re happy, and certainly whether or not you act happy is a very, very altruistic endeavor.  In other words, it’s how you touch other lives.  Ask anybody who was raised by an unhappy parent whether or not happiness is a moral issue, and I assure you the answer will be “yes”.   It’s no fun being raised by an unhappy parent,  it is not particularly good to be married to an unhappy person, it is not at all nice for a parent to have an unhappy child, it’s lousy to have a chronically unhappy co-worker.  Yes, our happiness affects others tremendously. That’s why I believe and that’s why I advocate that happiness is a moral obligation.  We are morally obligated to at least act as happy as possible. Even if you don’t feel it. You can ‘t be guided by feelings.  How we act affects others.”
So look back now at the Scout Oath and Law and see how this directs us in our daily lives to be helpful to others.   How do we make happiness a Moral obligation in our lives.  Being Selfless is the answer.
Being Cheerful, Thrifty and Brave certainly impact other people.  Being Trustworthy and loyal directly touch peoples lives.
Ok, so lets get back to this recurring theme.  Why is this so important to me tonight as I sit at the key board and rattle on about it?  Simply put.  We need to think about being better givers.  Take care of our families first, friends, and other people.  Make other people happy through our happiness and our selflessness.
Again, I am not bucking for Sainthood here, but basic compassion for our neighbor dictates that we give.  About a week ago it got real cold here in the Portland metro area.  When the snow hits the ground we go about our daily lives just a little different.  Being a good Scout, I go prepared.  I throw some extra socks and a headlamp in my lunch box along with a few extra snacks to get me through the long UPS days.  It was hovering around 14 degrees as I pulled up to an intersection that a panhandler “works” every day.  I was surprised to see him out there on as cold a day as it was.  But there he was none the less.  Like most people, I am skeptical in giving money to panhandlers, so many of them here in the Portland area at least turn that money into booze or drugs.  And maybe that is the way that they deal with there condition, but I can not justify contributing to that.  The light was red so I pulled to a stop.  He made eye contact with me and I gave him a courteous smile and nod.  I could see he was freezing.  So I turned off the truck and got the socks out of my lunch box.  They were good REI smart wool socks and I knew that this poor guy needed them a heck of a lot more than I this particular morning.  I handed him the socks and encouraged him to try to stay warm.  He smiled and thanked me.  Now I am not going to judge this guy.  And I have heard from local business owners that he is running a major scam out there.  But the fact remained that he was cold and I had extra socks.  No harm, no foul.
With a cheerful spirit it was good to give.
Tonight I rolled the UPS truck up to a house that looked pretty dark for this time in the evening.  No lights were on except to glow of a few candles I could see from the front porch.  The package I had for them was clearly a Christmas gift from someone, perhaps a family member, in South Carolina.  As I got closer to the door, I noted that there were door hangers attached to the door and knob.  The electric company, the gas company and the water had all been turned off.  I could not help but feel for that family sitting by the glow of the candles.
It is easy to judge and say, its their problem for getting into that situation, yes it is.  But what of compassion for those people.  We all have had hard times in our lives.
I knocked on the door and a lady answered.  She looked at me and smiled, I returned her smile and wished her a good evening and a Merry Christmas.  I could see on her face that Christmas was going to be thin this year.  She thanked me and before she closed the door wished me a Merry Christmas.  My heart sank as I walked back to the truck.  It was my last stop of the day.  As I drove home I thanked God for all the blessings that I have.  I thought about my wife and kids at home that have never gone to bed hungry or in a house without heat.  And a voice inside reminded me of my moral obligation to be happy.  You see, I feel that because we have always had a spirit of giving, we have been given so much.  We work hard and try to share in our time, treasure, and talents and as a result we are blessed.  We try daily to live the Scout Oath and Law, and because of that we make those around us better too.
Last night I was honored by being recognized for being elected to the Vigil Honor of the Order of the Arrow.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the Order of the Arrow,  I will sum up its purpose by saying that the Order was founded to enhance the spirit of Scouting within its members.  The foundation is Service to others.  Service rendered with a cheerful spirit.  The National Order of the Arrow web site states that, “The Vigil Honor is a high mark of distinction and recognition reserved for those Arrowmen who, by reason of exceptional service, personal effort, and unselfish interest, have made distinguished contributions beyond the immediate responsibilities of their position of office”  further “Alertness to the needs of others is the mark of the Vigil Honor.  It calls for an individual with an unusual awareness of the possibilities within each situation.”  In short, those that make an effort to serve in their daily lives and live the Scout Oath and Law.  This applies to so many people I know, but it is nice that our Lodge has deemed me worthy of such an honor.  But there again, in a short period of time, this theme of selflessness was looking me in the eye.
And now we enter the Christmas season.  Perhaps the season that’s hallmark is giving.  The whole reason for this season is the celebration of the worlds greatest gift.  A gift, that if you believe is renewed over and over.  It is a gift in which our God modeled an expected behavior.  Tonight as I pulled into our neighborhood, I passed the lights decorating houses, Christmas trees glowing from front windows, and the hope that every house has a Merry Christmas filled my heart.  I opened the door and there sat my wife writing Christmas greetings in our cards, that may or may not make it by Christmas.  Our tree, decorated with lights and ornaments collected over the past 22 years, each with meaning and sentiment to our family.  I could not help but pause for a minute and just enjoy what we have.
Being selfless has made us better people, sharing that selflessness is what all of this is about.  Giving each and every day, even if that gift is a smile, a hello, or a pair of socks.  It could be as simple as holding a door open or helping carry a load of groceries.  It can be as big as a James E. West Fellowship or just paying for the coffee of the guy behind you at Starbucks.  The impact you leave with your simple act of kindness, selflessly going through your lives make a difference.
‘Tis the season to be reminded of that.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Oath and Law, Order of the Arrow, Scout Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, Values | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Watch your mouth

During our last camp out I was forced into a situation that I am sure most if not all Scoutmasters hope that they never have to deal with.  I was sitting with the Assistant Scoutmaster when from over in the Scout area of camp I heard a word that got my attention.  I jumped from my chair and offered an ultimatum to the Scouts.  Use that language and find yourself on the “uninvited” list.
A Scout is clean in thought, word, and deed.  Living that part of the Scout Law that is Clean does not stop at brushing your teeth.
That sad part is that it’s not just the older Scouts that seem to have trouble with their language.  I have heard on occasion some of the younger Scouts using foul language.  Now, we do not encourage the use of foul language in our Troop and never model that language ourselves.  I will not say that I am a saint, but never use bad language in front of the boys… never.
I would love to say that this is isolated and I wish I had a solution.  I do a lot of volunteer work at the High School as well as the Elementary School that my wife works at.  I am shocked (not offended) when I hear how some of the kids talk.  3rd and 4th graders that swear like merchant marines.  High School kids that can not get through a sentence without throwing a four letter word out there.  And so it is no surprise that we are hearing this kind of language in Scouting.
The older Scouts are typically the worse and no matter how many talk withs we have they do not seem to care how we feel about the issue.  It is comply till the Scoutmaster leaves then back at it.
I have a few Scouts that fall into this category, and you can always tell a difference when they are not around.  But those are the guys that really need to be there and it would be great if they stepped up and led by example… well I suppose they are leading by example, its just not the example we want them to be teaching.
I am not naive’  enough to think that bad language is not just becoming a part of the world today, in fact it’s pretty much always been there.  We try to teach good manners, values, and social norms to our Scouts.  The rub comes from the social norms that they learn at School, Home, and with their peer groups outside of Scouting.
So how do we fix this?  I am not sure, but what I do know is that we don’t condone it and we nip it when it happens.  Is it going to stop.  No.  And truth be told I won’t fight it either.  I will just ask that they not talk that way and oh by the way.. you don’t get to camp with us till you decide that you want to watch your mouth.
I had a long talk this last Saturday with the Troop about language.  I was once told that the mark of ignorance is foul language.  You will never be considered “Cool” because you can drop and “F” bomb and you will not be looked upon favorably by those that matter in life when you talk and act like an idiot.  There is not excuse for it and we can’t have it in our program.
I suppose I am taking the easy way out by uninviting young men to camp with us because they fail to live up to a simple part of Scouting… but I am a Scoutmaster not a baby sitter.  I am a parent to my kids and a role model to others and when it comes to the Troop… the many over rule the few.
If you have suggestions or thoughts… please share them.  This issue seems to be getting worse and I know that me and other readers could use some additional knowledge in this area.
Thanks in advance for sharing…
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Character, comments, fitness, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law | 8 Comments

Two Stars

2starsLast night I had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of Webleos Scouts that needed a Scoutmaster Conference to earn their Arrow of Light.  I love the opportunity to sit with these young guys, they always have an interesting take on what they want out of Scouting and they are always enthusiastic about coming up to the Troop.
The two fellows last night were no exception.  It was apparent that they had been studying for their arrow of light particularly the Oath and Law.  In our talk I asked the Webelos if they knew what the elements of the Scout Badge meant.  There is a pretty good explanation in the Webelos book and I could tell right away that they knew the parts.  They had their own way of sharing it with me, but their collective answers assured me that they had been learning.
I asked them what the two stars represented on the Scout Badge.  They struggled for a little as most Scouts do, but then one of the Scouts chimed in with “Heart and Mind”.  I hesitated for a minute and then before I could correct the young Scout he continued by saying something that I thought was amazing.
He said, “Heart and Mind… The one star represents our Heart where we find Truth and the other star represents our Mind where we keep Knowledge.  They work together to help us do the right thing.”  I picked my jaw off the ground and asked him where he got that from.   It makes total sense.  He said that it was the only way he could remember it.  Truth and Knowledge just did not stick in his mind, but heart and mind did.  I asked if I could borrow it and he told me that it would be ok.
The other Webelos Scout that was with him said that he could remember that better than Truth and Knowledge also.. I said.. he whatever works guys.  The point is that we use the images that help up remember those things that help us become better people.
After our little chat, the two Scouts went over and joined the rest of the troop working on lashing our Gateway for the upcoming camp o ree.  After the meeting they came to me and thanked me for my time and asked if they could sign up for our troop now.  I thanked them and told them that we would talk, but wanted them to focus on completing the Arrow of Light and we would see them at their cross over.
The more I thought about those two stars I could not help but think that it is more than the Scout Badge.. The two stars were those two young Webelos.  They taught me something last night and on the heals of Wood Badge assured me that this Scouting thing is truly a fantastic organization and I thank God that we have little guys like that they keep wanting to be in it.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Good Turn Daily, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Oath and Law, Scoutmaster conference | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Passion

course_logoI just walked in the door from another fantastic Wood badge course.  W1-492-13 is now in its application phase and as the participants walked out of camp yesterday I could not help but think about the impact that was about to hit the Scouting world.
53 Scouters took labored steps toward their cars yesterday heading back out into the Scouting world with a new set of tools, a renewed spirit in Scouting and new friendships made.
As the staff gathered to have a final staff meeting the comment was made that like a pebble thrown into a pond causing ripples, we have cast our pebbles into the pond of Scouting and the impact will be endless.  Those 53 Scouters will make such a difference within their units, districts, and even the Council.  Touching the lives or more Scouts and other Scouters than any single leader can.  When we talk about making a difference, I believe that Scouters that have the Wood Badge experience make a the biggest splash!
I love Wood Badge and each time I participate, I learn more.  Wood Badge compels me to take seriously the concept of life long learning.  This was my second time on staff, and I hope not the last.  The first time I staffed Wood Badge, I learned more than I think I learned as a participant.  In fact, diving into the syllabus I know that I learned the material which allowed me to make a difference as a Troop Guide.  This time I served the Wood Badge course as the Assistant Scoutmaster for Support and Physical Arrangements.  Part of the Administrative staff I got to see “the other side” of Wood Badge.  I got to see the nuts and bolts that it takes to hold a Wood Badge course together.  And I must say that while the troop guides make a hands on impact on the learner, the admin staff set the enviroment for good learning.  They coordinate speakers, materials, and facilities and most of all are the guardians of maintaining the standards of the Wood Badge course.  Ensuring that the syllabus is followed and the learners have the best opportunity to succeed.
Ok, that’s all logical and expected.  It was a great experience to be on the staff in this position.
Here is what I saw that has made a lasting impact on me.  Yeah.. on me.
Our Course Director/ Scoutmaster is John Caputo, he is a Scouters Scouter.  He is humble and knowledgeable.  He is compassionate and strict, he is a great teacher.
Spending the the last 6 months on his staff was special.  John’s greatest lesson was passion.  John is passionate about Scouting, but more specifically, his passion lies in training.  He has been a Trainer in Scouting for “a few years”.  His knowledge and commitment to dropping rocks in the pond is not just visible, it’s contagious.  I left the Wood Badge staff in 2011 with a renewed committment to my Scouts and the Scouting world as well as being a better father, husband, and friend.  I left this years staff with a renewed passion for training, for making my troops leaders better, and with the first draft of my next ticket.  A ticket the will focus on my wife.
This is the impact of Wood Badge and I love it.  It is such a special part of my life and I am happy.
Thanks John!
Have you found passion in your Scouting world?
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Camping, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Oath and Law, respect, Scouting, Service, Skills, teamwork, training, Wood Badge | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Last Word

morallystraightAnd on the heals of this great debate, and to be honest… like a reader suggested… I’m ready to stop talking about this and get back to backpacking and other more meaningful subjects…
But on the heals of the debate, yesterday Jason Collins, a professional basketball player in the NBA “Came out” in an interview with Sports Illustrated.  This morning on ESPN that is the head line news and Jason is being hailed as a hero.  Now, I am not going to rehash my position on homosexuals.. well maybe I should just clarify my belief.
First.  People are people and deserve respect no matter who they sleep with.  Second.  I am not homophobic and believe in live and let live… In short.. I don’t care.  Third.  I am not gay, it is not my thing, but the “Gay agenda” has little or no impact on me and my life, so… live and let live.  And finally, I think when it comes to religion and religious institutions, they should practice what they preach.  If it is a sin.. hate the sin.. not the sinner.
Ok.. having said all of that for the last time… I am going to move on.  The BSA is going to make a change in the policy.  I think they are to far into this to turn back and I think in light of Jason Collins interview, the public will not allow any other decision other than to change the policy to include openly gay Scouts.
So what do we do now?  Well, let me tell you what this Scoutmaster is going to do.  NOTHING.  I will comply with the policy and treat every Scout just like I treat them today.  I will keep teaching and coaching.  I will train leaders and I will go camping each month with them.  Nothing will change in Troop 664.  Now, some families may leave due to the fundamental idea that the organization has let them down and changed a policy that they feel contradicts their values.  I hear that, but at the end of the day… it is the collective values and training at the unit level that matter.  The Oath and Law stand firm.  I believe in the Oath and Law and know that they assist in making good citizens and men of character.  Gay, Straight, or whatever would be in between.
How I deal with the conversations that happen with those families that will certainly be unhappy with the BSA’s decision is going to be critical in maintaining a positive Scouting experience.
I had a talk the other day with a parent.  They shared with me that they did not want to see the policy change.  I shared with her that really nothing will change locally and asked if she and her family had up to this point a positive Scouting experience.  The answer was yes.  so I had to ask if she thought any of that experience would change.  She said not locally, but she was disappointed in how the Boy Scouts could let down the majority of its members.  I agreed.  Like it or not, the BSA is a pretty conservative organization that has took pride in staying the course.
Again, I don’t have a problem with opening up the doors, but that is where the change stops.  When a boy joins our Troop we ask him to promise to live the Scout Oath and Law.  We expect that they live a certain way in which the values found in the Oath and Law dictate their daily walk.  We don’t allow abuse, hazing, or disrespect.  And so when a gay boy comes in, he will be expected to do the same.  I will not make concessions in the Law and Oath.
I really hope that no one leaves Scouting because of this.  But I know it’s going to happen.  For that I am sad.  I am not leaving.  At the core Scouting will still be the best program for our youth and the program will still be selling point that keeps Scouts looking for adventure and developing into great men.
This is the last word on this subject for me.
Now, I need to weigh some gear and get packed for Wood Badge.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

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