Character

Membership Policy thoughts

rockgoldI was asked today via email (Thanks for reaching out and wanting my opinion) to share my thoughts and opinion on the newest policy change in the BSA.  That would be the Gender Identification policy and the fact that the Boy Scouts of America now open it’s membership to everyone regardless of sex or sexual orientation.
Ok.. I am going to do my best to express my opinion on this while supporting the Boy Scouts of America and give my thoughts on the issue in general.
First let me say that I do in fact stand with the BSA on this issue and policy change.  That may or may not turn you off.. but it is what it is.
Second let me state that in my opinion this policy change or clarification of the membership requirement will not really have that big of an impact on Scouting.  As much as the “Gay” issue did not really move the needle, the gender identification allowance will have about the same impact.  That is my opinion and mine alone.
I am not opposed to the opening of the doors to everyone and think that this move, while not popular in conservative circles is a gateway to opening our membership up to being COED in all programs of Scouting.  Again, I have no insight, just thoughts.  I am not opposed to a COED program either.
Having said all of that, we will have to learn and be proactive in how we deliver the program.  Logistics issues will be affected for sure, but the leaders of our organization are going to have to put together reasonable measures to maintain the program while integrating the COED aspect.
We do not have to rediscover the wheel here, we are one of less than a handful of Countries that are not COED, so we can learn from our brothers and sisters in Scouting across the globe.
The Boy Scouts of America has always kept up with or got in front of social issues.  The organization can not and will not survive by living in the past.
The Moral dilemma.  Scouting’s hallmark is found in the Oath and Law.  It is where we establish our code of conduct and our shared values.  Morality in its essence comes down to the difference between right and wrong.  That is pretty clear.  It has nothing to do with religion or faith.  Right and Wrong.
I tend to live in the world or reality.  Reality dictates that we accept things on realities terms.  The reality of the Scout Oath and Law is simply that we live by the Golden Rule, again, not necessarily a religious concept as everyone can understand and live by the simple idea of treating others as we would like to be treated.
So now we have to decide if that applies to everyone or just the people that are like you.. or us.
I am a conservative guy.. but the more I think about the way we treat people, the more I understand the golden rule.  I think that is an important part of “Help other people at all times” too.
Now lets talk about science.  There are male and female members of our species.  Black, white, or what ever, nature has maintained that in order for us to survive as a species we need men and women.  X and Y chromosomes decide whether or not we are male or female.  The discussion of what we “identify” as is a discussion I do not understand.  Identification is a mental thing not a physical or scientific issue.  We are what we are.  If you are born a male, you are a male etc.  How you feel about that is not a gender issue in my opinion.  I feel like a millionaire until I check the bank statement and reality sets in.
I can identify as old man, and some days I feel that way, but then I look at my drivers licence and it says that I am only 51.  Again, I do not wish ill or will not treat anyone bad because of their feelings, I just do not understand it.
The issue as it applies to Scouting is simple to me.  Boys are boys and girls are girls and that is how they will be treated.  We will have to learn how to accommodate the arrangements, but we treat it like we treat things now.  With respect and keeping the individual safe.  If we have a young man that “identifies” as a young girl, then we use the Patrol method and make sure the Scout has a great experience.  Showers will have to be arranged as well as restroom accommodations.  Most camps are single seaters anyway.. but we will have to be sensitive to the needs of the Scout.  Just like we do now.
I do not think that Biology changes with feelings.. but that is my opinion.. and I guess the opinion of science.
But we are talking about the person.  The person has feelings and as long as they agree to live within the values of the Scout Oath and Law.. I do not have a problem with it.
That goes for everything.
I care less about how you feel and more about how you act.  That is a good moral position to be in I think.
Some may argue that this is a moral issue.  I would argue that it is how we treat people and that is the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
I think that this policy change or clarification of the membership policy is in keeping with the tradition and spirit of Scouting.
We do not discriminate based on well… anything… as long as they agree to live the Scout Oath and Law.
To me it is that simple.
If you want to learn more about the membership policy.. check it out at the BSA site.
I thank you all for allowing me to express my opinion.  I know that there are going to be some.. maybe many that disagree, and that is ok with me.  We can still be friends.
I wonder what the discussion was like when the BSA opened it’s doors to African American boys?  Think it may have gone like today’s policy changes.
Like we teach in Wood Badge.. Change is constant and Change is inevitable.  Change is going to happen no matter how much you dislike it.  As long as we move into the future with the goal of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law then we will survive.
Thanks again.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

A Scout is Trustworthy

leadership-skills
It is bad form to define a term or word by using the word or term.  When we ask a Scout what is meant by being Trustworthy it is almost a cop out for the Scout to answer “One that is worthy of Trust” or some one worthy of being Trusted.
Merriam-Webster defines Trustworthy as worthy of confidence : dependable.  Words that describe the actions or attitudes of someone deemed to be Trustworthy.
Reliable, Dependable, Honest, Deserving of Trust are a few more words that I think of when we talk about being Trustworthy.
For me it all comes down to actions.  Those tangible things that we can see and feel or read and process in our minds that lead us to put our Trust in someone or an organization.
We had an interesting discussion a few days ago with a Scout.  The discussion led to Character and how we judge the character of a person or group, in particular the discussion was about the Media.
How do we know what we can trust?  The Scout asked me.  What is credible and honest in today’s media?  How do we define in today’s media what is true or as they now say “Fake News”.  This young man explained that they were having this discussion in School that day and felt as though the teacher obviously had a certain bias for one side of the media.
Again, I led the conversation to what we believe character looks like.  What is the expectation of a Scout in our community.  Does he tell the truth?  Does he demonstrate leadership?  Does the Scout stay out of trouble?  When he makes a commitment does he follow through and complete the task?  Does he treat others with respect and dignity?
I am sure that we can go on and on.. the bottom line is simply this, are we dependable, worthy of peoples confidence, honest and deserving of trust.
So how do apply that standard to the media or society in general.  It appears that it depends on how you define character.  One side is “Fair and Balanced” while the other side is “First and Accurate”.  So who is right?
What is “Fake News”?  What are “alternate facts”.  The issue has become so clouded that we are getting to a point where we are hard pressed to accurately determine who is being Trustworthy.
This is a great lesson for our Scouts.  No matter which side of the spectrum you find yourself politically or socially.. The fact that no matter what you claim to believe the one thing that we can agree on is that the media is perceived as suspect.  In the discussion of Trust and Trustworthiness, we can agree that it is hard to believe either side because they are creating doubt in their character.  Both side make the argument that “They are right”, but we all know that the truth must be somewhere in the middle.  Gone is the idea of a clear “right and wrong” when it comes to some social issues and media influence.
I am not sure what the fix is, but I do know that when I discuss this with Scouts it is a great case study in what we look for in defining “Trustworthy”.
A Scout is Trustworthy.. so yeah… Worthy of Trust.  We must do everything not to take that away from how people view us as Scouts.
I am curious to know what you think.
Leave us a comment.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Little to Big

pennantDo a Good Turn Daily.. That is the Slogan of Scouting.  It is a challenge to each of us to look for some way to be of service.  The slogan asks us to seek opportunities every day to do something… anything that will ultimately make a difference.
It is my belief that when we look at this challenge we feel it is to large.  It is a lofty goal to actually make a difference in this world.
What we need to do is think little.  Little things matter.
When we teach leadership in our Troop one of our principles is to “Focus on the Little Things.”  That principle is all about details and those things that add up to big things.  Little things like keeping your gloves out of the snow.  Just a little thing, but the big thing is cold hands, wet gear, and maybe frost bite.  Another example is ensuring that your tent is pitched properly.  Making sure your guy lines are taught and pulled in line.  Not a big deal, until it rains and your rain fly does not function properly.  Just a little thing that makes a big difference.
And so it is with the Good Turn.  Little things make a big difference.  Holding open a door or carrying a bag.  Little things that make a big difference for the person you helped.
A smile could change someones attitude or outlook on the day.
I think we get wrapped up in service for service sake and not for the difference we make.
Just think.. there are about two million Scouts in America.  They represent about 103 thousand units.  Those units represent Schools, Churches, Communities.   So if 2 million Scouts did their Good Turn each day, just something small, we could change our world.  That does not event take into consideration the Adult Volunteers that teach, coach, train, and mentor those 2 million Scouts.  Add about 1.2 million to that number.  3 million people doing a small act of service every day.  When we talk about little to big.. we can see that we make a big difference when and where it really matters.
In 2015 the Boy Scouts of America logged 1.53 million service hours.  Those were hours of service dedicated to building things, collecting food, and working for our communities.  That seems like a big number but at the end of the day we may not see the big impact.  A lot of our service is dedicated to our chartering partners and people directly impacted in Scouting.  That is great and I certainly would not want to take one minute of those hours away.. they make a difference.  But in snap shots.
Little to Big.. each of us.. every day.  Now that would leave a mark that could be seen from outer space.
Think little to big.  Do your Good Turn every day!

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Scouting for…

HappinessYesterday was our annual Scouting for Food drive.  Scouts from all over our Council hit the neighborhoods with enthusiasm and the knowledge that for two hours of service they will help feed many people in our community that are in need.
Now, we won’t debate here why they are in need, the organizations that profit from their need at times, or social injustice.. we are talking about Scouts doing a good turn.
Our Troop not only collects food from our neighbors, but also work the better part of the day at the St. Vincent dePaul Food Pantry collecting, sorting, and boxing food to be distributed over the course of the next few weeks.
As Packs, Troops, and Crews collect the food items, they bring it to the Church to be weighed, sorted, and given.  So over the morning I get an opportunity to talk with Scouts and Scouters and thank them for what they are doing to make our community just a tad bit better.
A group of Scouts came in and started unloading their pick up trucks full of food.  The Scoutmaster of the Troop and I exchanged greetings and he remarked about how rude some people are.. kind of blowing off the comment I said, yeah you see that everywhere now a days.. he said no.. today when they were collecting food in their neighborhood a lot of people went out of their way to be rude when a simple, no thank you or sorry we are not donating would do.
He even went on to say that many of his Scouts were yelled at for “Begging” for food.  A real sad story.
I let that soak in a bit and then let it go.
An hour later, a group of Scouts and I were standing outside waiting for more units to bring in food items.  A man walking by stopped and crossed the street.  I smiled and said hello.  He asked what we were doing.  I told him today is our annual Scouting for Food campaign and we were collecting food for the pantry.  He asked why the Scouts were doing it.  I replied that this is a good opportunity for the Scouts to do their good deed for the day and also a way of giving back to our community.  It was then that the discussion went South and in a hurry.  The man said that “these boys should not be our here begging for food”.. I thought back to the conversation I had with my friend the Scoutmaster.  I wonder if this is the same guy?
I smiled and assured him that we were not begging.. just simply helping collect food for the St. Vincent dePaul pantry.
He seemed to be getting very upset.  I asked him if there was something I could do for him, offered him a cup of coffee and a place to get out of the cold.  He did not want any coffee and asked again why were out here.  I again explained the Scouting for Food campaign and thought we were through.. and then he said it.. “It is a shame what you are doing to these boys”  Excuse me I asked.  “Brainwashing them into a bunch of robots” What?  Are you familiar with Scouting I asked?  He said sure.. I know all about how you are grooming these young kids to go into the military.  I said to him that while I know of Scouts that do enter the military, Scouting is not a military organization nor does it “Feed” the military with new recruits.  “Then why the uniforms, badges, and saluting?”
Scouting is like a team I tried to explain, we wear a uniform just like a sports team wears a uniform, it gives us a sense of team and pride in belonging together.  It is a great equalizer, we are all the same, no matter where we come from, what economic status, religion, or race.  We are all just Scouts.  The badges and saluting, well, they are to show achievement, teaching the Scouts that when you work hard you get rewarded.  So far as saluting, we only Salute our Country’s flag.  That is just our way of showing respect to the country that we live in.
He kept on.. well you are a “Ultra Right wing radical group”.. At that I had to laugh.  I told him that I was not exactly sure what he meant by that.. he said we were all radicals and want war.  At that it was time to have a little fun.
Sir, you don’t know a lot about Scouting do you?  I know plenty he said.. You said we all want war.. I suppose you are right.. we wage war against poverty, we want to kill hunger, we want to remove intolerance, we fight against our Scouts using drugs and battle against lack of character.  In 1918 after World War 1, Baden Powell moved Scouting’s goal to be a movement for peace… and that is what it has been for over 100 years.  Scouts from all over the world fight for peace in their own way every day.
Do we seem to be very conservative, sure.. it can be said that we have conservative values, you know all those terrible things like being loyal and friendly, Trustworthy and kind, Brave and clean, Helpful and Courteous.  We value hard work and earning our way in the world.  We teach our Scouts how to be people with Character, good Citizens, and young people that are fit.
No Sir, we do not brainwash or indoctrinate our youngsters into the military or force them to vote republican when they grow up.  We teach them to be good people that are self reliant, we do not want them to be a burden, rather people that take away the burden of their neighbor.
And that is why we are here today.. to help our community and those that are in need.
He made some weird sound, snorted, and turned to walk away.  I had to get one last shot in.  I said to him that I hope he has a better view of Scouts and Scouting now and that he is always welcome to come pay us a visit.  I said “Sir, we are just trying to do our part to make things better”.  He smiled and walked away.
Maybe Scouting for food was different this year.  Giving was down and the mood was strange, it has been a long weird year.  I hope that my exchange with that man yesterday was helpful.  He was Scouting for Food.. the food that is knowledge.  I am sure he was looking for an argument, but found Scouting and a group of young men that showed him at our finest. He found Scouts and a Scouter that have passion for what our organization does and believes.
After Scouting for Food, we went to a Cross over Ceremony for Webelos Scouts moving to Boy Scout Troops.  Our Troop received one of the four that crossed.  As I watched our ceremonies team tell the story of the Scout Oath and Law and the trail that these new young men were stepping off on.. I reflected on my conversation of that morning.  Smiled and knew that we did well today.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Boy Led or Lord of the Flies?

lord-flies-william-golding-paperback-cover-artI often have discussions with Scoutmasters about what constitutes a “Boy Led Troop”.   There seems to be a misunderstanding as to what that means and it is executed in different ways depending on the unit.  But there is a right way to have youth lead and a wrong way.  Finding balance and understanding of the roles of the Adults and Youth in the Troop becomes the difference between Boy Led and Lord of the Flies.
Youth leadership is the method that we use to teach and provide opportunities for the Scouts to learn, develop, and practice leadership.  It is an opportunity to learn styles of leadership and challenge personal growth, communication skills, and working as a member of a high performance team.  Leadership in a Scout troop is shared.  Shared between other Scouts and with adults.  They share experiences, learning, and responsibility.
A Boy Scout Troop is Boy (or Scout) led but it is Adult run.  We do not expect our Scouts to administer the Troop, maintain the checking account, resource seat belts, or make camp reservations.  All items that certainly would fall under most leadership descriptions.  We also do not allow the Scouts to discipline one another, that to would be a leadership role in most organizations.
We use a technique called Guided Discovery when teaching leadership and expectations with our Scouts.  This keeps them from becoming tribal.  It removes the conflict between Ralph and Jack (the principle characters in Lord of the Flies).  It is done by asking leading questions and offering the Scouts the chance to find solutions in their leadership challenges.
Guided Discovery is all about coaching the youth to find success.  Not doing it for them, but keeping them within the limits.  It allows for the Scouts to set boundaries and learn from mistakes in a safe environment.
A few weeks ago I stood in the back of the meeting hall with some parents.  Mom and Dad were concerned that our Troop did not allow the boys to do “Everything”.  Their idea of Boy leadership was that adults monitored but did not get to involved with the operation of the Troop.  They wondered why the Assistant Scoutmasters were working with the Scouts on advancement.  One of the Assistant Scoutmasters was signing off a Scouts handbook.  Dad asked why the Scouts were not doing the signing.  I suggested that when the ASM signs the book he can take that opportunity to get to know the Scout, understand the Scouts knowledge of the skills, and keep his (the ASM) finger on the pulse of the unit.  This allows the Adult leadership the opportunity to know what is going on and understand how the Scouts are doing in the their Scouting experience.
We teach the Scouts through Guided Discover what leadership is and how to lead.  We allow them to ask questions and test their leadership skills.  If they feel that they are totally left to their own devices, they will feel overwhelmed and not learn.  Scouting is a safe place to practice these valuable life skills.  It is an environment where the leader gets mutual support from both the adults and his Troop mates.  If you recall in the book “Lord of the Flies” the conflict between Jack, Simon, and Ralph and the division between the biguns and littluns came when they lost the ability to resolve simple issues.  When and were to hunt, building shelter, and protection the tribe from the beast.  Simon rises as a leader bound to protect the littluns from the biguns.  Piggy becomes an outcast and the butt of pranks and laughter from all of the boys.  They did not understand the concept of leading to serve and without adults on the island to assist in decision making and conflict resolution they quickly turn on one another.  Without learning from mistakes and being led in reflection the boys turn on each other develop a lack of trust and paranoia.  Their experiment in civility is crushed.
This can easily become analogous in the life of a Troop without guided discovery and the ability for Adults to step in and drive the learning.  It does not mean that the adults do everything for the Scouts, but it does mean that the development of young leaders is conducted in a meaningful and focused way.
100% youth led does not allow for learning.  They just don’t know what they don’t know.
The argument of “Well, have the older boys be the guide” is valid.  But like the Lord of the Flies, the older boys will also have their agenda and reasons for wanting to lead.  I am not suggesting that we allow agenda driven leadership, that is where guided discovery comes in.  When we can direct the learning and keep it all focused on achieving the goals of Scouting we can eliminate the Lord of the Flies.
So where is your unit?  Boy Led or somewhere on the island?  Guided discovery can fix that.  Learning, developing, and growing as individuals and a unit is dependent on the shared leadership of youth and adults.
If you have not read Lord of the Flies recently, it is a good study on human nature and leadership among youth.  It is a great study on what we can become.  Worth the read.
Check out Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What are you?

knowledgeIn the last blog post I shared my answers to the first four questions of the 20 questions that we ask participants of Wood Badge to consider before they get to their course.
Who you are and what you learn about yourself gets you started in discovering your life’s Vision and Mission.  In other words it sets you on a course for a life with purpose.  I will be sharing more about myself in this post as I move through a re look of the 20 questions building toward a better future for me and those close to me.
Before I get to that however, I would like to ask you all a few questions.
First.  Does this blog help you?
Second.  Do you find value in this blog?
Third.  What would you like to see more of in the blog?
Finally.  Do you share the content of the blog with other Scouters?
I ask this not to determine whether or not to continue, I am all in.  I ask this to make the blog better.  A blog with content worth sharing and a blog that keeps you coming back for more.  I truly want to help deliver the promise of Scouting in whatever way I can.
One thing that I think most of the readers of this blog have in common is a desire to make Scouting great and build fantastic experiences for the youth we serve.  Scout training is often not enough.  Round table is typically not attended by those that really need the coaching.  The internet has opened so many pathways to information and I want to use this tool to teach, coach, mentor and inspire other Scouters.  Is that happening?
I am not a numbers guy, but I do look at the blog stats on occasion to see trends and where impact is happening.. or not.
I have noticed a drop in subscriptions to the blog.  That is a natural thing.  And do not worry I do not lose sleep over it.  It is what it is.  In my perfect world I would have millions of subscribers, not to pad my ego, but to help Scouting.  But holding at 1630ish subscribers, I will go with it.  I don’t understand how it all works sometimes.  I think that site identity and recognition have a lot to do with it.  During the time when I did the blog and podcast I had the most views and subscribers.  The podcast is not coming back anytime soon, so I need to build this brand to the best it will be.
That may mean that I never see 2000 subscribers.. and that I will live with as long as this blog speaks to those that need it, want it, and keep coming back.  And to all of you I say Thanks!
The title of this post is “What are you?”  I selected that title because in answering the 20 questions you should also learn about what you are in relation to your relationships and activities.  What you are to other people, a leader, a parent, a friend, a partner.. you are identified by not only who you are but what you are.  Leaders are often viewed in this manner.  Their leadership style is not so much who they are but what they act like, what their actions are, and what they do for the group.  So what are you?  Understanding what you are is an important part of seeing your vision and building your life plan to get there.
Here are a few more questions and my answers:

5. Who is a person who has made a positive impact on my life?
My Dad.  We learn by watching others.  My Dad has always been a role model.  Teaching me many of the attributes to being a good Dad, Husband, and worker.  My Dad is not perfect, but his imperfection has been great lessons in leading, and living.  He instilled in me the importance of family, hard work, and taking care of others.  He taught me how to interact with people and when to filter my thoughts.  He has been a constant part of my life and I appreciate him.
6. Why was that person able to have such significant impact?
He is a good teacher.  I think that teachers teach more so by their actions than lecture.  For good or for bad what they do models how to be, know, and do things in your life.
7. What have been my happiest moments in life?
Watching my children find joy and success.  I have always loved watching as my kids grew up.  They had something that I never had growing up and that is friendships that have lasted their entire lives.  I grew up moving just about every three years.  They have lived on the same street their entire lives.  I have grown to know these kids (the friends of my kids) all their lives.  Seeing their relationships with one another is amazing.  Through sports, school, band, and scouting they and their friends have all grown to be good people.  Watching them will always be happy moments.
8.  Why were they happy?
Because my kids always bring me joy.  Through good times and tough times, they have always been my greatest success.

Well, OK.. there are the next four questions.  I hope that you are taking the time to answer them for yourself.  As you do, look for the opportunities for personal growth and understanding.  When we get to the end, go back and read your answers.  You never have to share them with anyone.  But as they say ‘knowledge is power’ and you will have the power to make your life better.
Please share the blog with your friends, Scouters, and whomever you feel will get something out of it.  It’s not about numbers, it’s about Vision and the mission of helping where I can.
Leave a comment below with the answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of the post.  I really do want to know what you think.  It is all about the assessment of this process and I do want to make it better to serve you.
Thanks for coming back time and again.  I sincerely appreciate it.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Creating separation

4-PercentOnce a Scout meets the requirements for First Class the focus changes from basic skills development to discovering all that Scouting has to offer, service, and leadership.
The Scout will discover Scouting through the merit badge program, high adventure bases, Jamboree’s and being an active member of his Troop.  Often times his participation in high adventure increases once he has developed the skills and is a little more mature and taking on greater responsibilities in the unit.
But it is in leadership that the Scout starts to separate himself from the pack.  When a Scout sits with me for his First Class and Star conferences I explain to him that it is important to begin that separation from the crowd.  I am not suggesting that they leave, I am encouraging them to stand out.
Only 4 percent of all Scouts that stay in our program will earn the Eagle award.  Only 4%.  So it is important for a Scout that wants to earn his Eagle award to stand out from the other 96%.  There is a difference in those young men.  Not everyone is supposed to get their Eagle.  It takes dedication and effort and a willingness to serve and lead.  The Scout that does not separate will not stand out in leadership and service.  They need not go above and beyond.. they only need to meet the standard, but the standard [when kept] is high… by design.
While I want all of my Scouts to achieve the rank of Eagle, I find it more important that they have a well rounded Scouting experience.  I want to them to demonstrate sound leadership and develop the heart of a servant.  In the world in which we find ourselves.. that is a stand out person.  We can teach the value of merit and working for what you get.  We can reverse the cycle of “participation trophies” and meaningless activity. The Scout that learns about the value of setting goals, working hard, and making a choice to be better than average is a young man that is separating himself from his peers to be a better man.
Creating separation is an important part of achieving goals and being a better man.  It is easy to go with the flow and maintain mediocrity.  It is another thing to actually do your very best and make a choice to make a difference.
Encourage your Scouts to stand out.. separate from the pack.. be better.
Thanks for hanging out on the blog.. let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!