Oath and Law

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!

Living or Dying

r1933A Scout Troop is a family.. and it’s either living or dying.  It’s either growing or shrinking, viable or withering on the vine.  There are many reasons for this, but the point of the matter is that if we are not watching for it we will let units fail.  It isn’t always easy to pinpoint one thing or another, but the more you focus the clearer the issues become and the faster a unit can recover when it finds itself dying.
I find that a close examination of the how the unit is using the methods is a great start.  Oh and by the way, this is important for units that are living and living well too.  You may just find that you are slipping in an area that down the road can lead to a cancer that can not be cured in the unit.
Is the unit using all eight of the methods or just picking and choosing which ones are important to them?  I liken that practice to picking and choosing which of the values in the Scout Law are less important and need not apply.
A strong program relies on the methods to achieve the goals of Scouting.  Too many units favor advancement over other methods.  I have seen those units race their Scouts to Eagle and then die.. they lost the older Scouts and leadership.  The families disengage once their son “Eagles Out” [a term that does not have any place in Scouting].  There is no longer a dog in the hunt for the family and the Scout feels as though he has reached the end.  NO NO… he has just begun.  Now it’s time to give back and be a leader.  But with the emphasis on advancement, the Scout and his family see no other needs that the unit can provide.
Some Troops believe that the Patrol Method is all you need.  While I agree that the Patrol method is everything to the Patrol and health of the Troop, it is certainly not all you need.  Where do you practice the Patrol method?  At Troop meetings?  Sure, some, but its the Outdoor program that makes the Patrol method come alive.. so no the Patrol method is not all you need.  How do you put into practice the Ideals of Scouts, you know those ideals and values found in the Scout Oath and Law?  You need a well planned and executed Service program in the life of the Troop.  Service opportunities that engage the Scout and teach him to be a selfless servant to others.  This is a wonderful leadership trait as well.  Being a servant leader will certainly get the young man farther and reinforce the ideals of Scouting.
I once heard a quote, and I want to say it came from Baden Powell, “Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”  The uniform is an important part of Scouting.  I have talked about this before so I won’t beat that horse to death, but the uniform is an essential part of Scouting.  It builds the team.  It helps with discipline.  It is a great equalizer.  The uniform connects us in the World Brotherhood of Scouting and is the most visible part of the Scout in public.  It should be worn completely and correctly.  Many adult leaders make a choice to allow jeans and other parts of the uniform to be exchanged.  They claim that it is a money issue.  It isn’t.  A Scout is thrifty.  He can always go mow a lawn, rake some leaves, or even sell popcorn to buy a new uniform or pants for it.  Taking the easy way out on the uniform reflects the attitude of the leader to not use the methods of Scouting completely.  “Attitude reflects leadership” so says my favorite quote from the movie Remember the Titans.  This attitude of pick and choose can do more harm than good in the long run and it has been my observation that it can ultimately lead to a unit dying.
And no.. it’s not about the uniform.  It’s about the methods.  Those tried and true methods that lead our youth to a better understanding of who they are and what they will become.  It teaches Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.  And that my friends is why do Scouting.  We believe this works and that is proven daily, weekly, monthly in units all across our country.  It is proven in the Eagle Scouts that go on to do great things in their lives and in the Scouts that go into the world and become Dads that raise wonderful people.  Scouting works, but we need to keep it alive.  Using the eight methods will keep it from dying.
The methods need to be visible in your annual plan, in your interactions with the Scout, and in your attitude.  That will reflect great leadership.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Find a Map

philmontmapWatching an old episode of Bonanza the other day and as with most of the stories, the guys with the white hats typically come out on top while the bad guys in their black hats seem to have the opportunity to listen to Mr. Cartwright give them a lesson in good livin’.
The lesson this time was about finding your way in life.  I don’t remember the particulars of the story, but Old Ben Cartwright shared some wisdom that I immediately felt a need to share.  He said “It’s alright to find your way in life, it’s a lot easier if you have a map.”  I could not help but think that this is a message that we often share with our Scouts.  The map, our Oath and Law.  There are many other maps out there also, The 10 Commandments, our laws, the Golden Rule.  All pretty much lead you in the same direction and certainly make your life a little easier and worth living.
Baden Powell left us a good road map to a successful life in that first Scout Handbook.  He shared with us the Values of Scouting, a good Oath to live by, and skills that help make a young boy a man.
It is important to find a good map to live well.  Whether that is through your faith, our laws, or in our Scout Oath and Law it is of value to you and others to live right.  I always go back to what BP said about Happiness in that true happiness comes from making others happy.  It takes a good map for good living to do this.  I think that there are many ways just as there are many maps to do this.  I grew up in the Church and it gave me a firm foundation of how to treat other people.  As the Golden rule says in essence to treat others as you want to be treated.  I thought as a grew up that this was a Christian thing, but as I got older I learned and came to realize that happiness is universal and so too is the Golden Rule.  This ethic of one good turn deserving another goes a long way in the happiness of the world.  The Golden Rule often called The Ethic of Reciprocity is found in 21 of the Worlds Religions.  Knowing that it is a wonder why we fight and how Religions the world over have caused so much pain in the world.
The Roman Pagan Religions taught “The law imprinted on the hearts of all men is to love the members of society as themselves.”  Native America teaching lead us in “Do not wrong or hate your neighbor. For it is not he who you wrong, but yourself.”  And hundreds of years before Christ walked our planet, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow-man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary.” from the Jewish faith.
I think that this last quote speaks more to me in the world that we live in today as it relates to the Golden Rule and Happiness.
So what does all of this have to do with our map?  It’s simple.  The map does not have to be complicated.  It does not have to come with a degree in Social Science.  The map needs to be clear and easy to understand.  The map needs to have clear markings that lead us in the direction that we wish to go.
Our map in Scouting is the Scout Law.  It is simple, clear, and leads us in the right direction.  12 simple words that are the foundation of our happiness and the happiness of others.
So you can have the Bible, The Tora, The Koran, or any other of the sacred text, what matters in the end is that you use them to do find good and happiness… more importantly, you use them to give happiness to others.
If you don’t you are not using them right.  The same is the Oath and Law in Scouting.  Words are great, Actions are better.  Finding your way in life is a good venture… having a map certainly does make it easier.
Find and use your map.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

13 year old Eagle.

From the Facebook page of Steve Harvey

I thought I would let it simmer for a bit before I weighed in.. and now I just can’t keep my blog silent on this.
So, at a risk of pissing a bunch of folks off.. here it goes.
By now, if you are an active Scouter, you are aware of the young man named James Hightower III.  He was presented his Eagle award on the Steve Harvey show.
This ambitious Scout earned his Eagle award at age 12.  (he is now 13) He earned 61 merit badges, the last of which, the ever so tough Fingerprinting on the Steve Harvey show.
He is a member of the Order of the Arrow and appears to rank among the young genius’ of our time.  Band, Leadership in his Church, etc etc.
OK.. you all know that I am one that believes in maintain standards.  First, there is no age limit other than 18 for earning the rank of Eagle Scout, I get that.. but let’s do the math.
He crosses over at a minimum of 10 1/2 years old.  Earned his Eagle rank at 12.  From First Class to Star the Scout must be active with his Troop for at least 4 months.  During that 4 months, he needs to serve as a leader for that time period.  Then from Star to Life, the Scout needs to serve as an active member of his Troop for 6 months.  During that time, he needs to serve in a leadership position and do service.   We are up to at least 10 months… not to mention the 30 days it takes to earn Tenderfoot and at least a few months to get to First Class.  Since joining, he would have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight.  In most Troops that would represent at least 3 months.  So the simple math is 14 months.  He is now 11 1/2 or 12 depending on when his birthday is.
Then he must serve for another 6 months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle.  We are now 20 months into this young mans Scouting life.
20 months.
Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really.. we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
Yes I know that this wunderkind is active in many areas of his life.  Which begs the question.  When did his have all this time to lead, earn merit badges, rank, perform service projects etc?  Band, Church, Junior National Honor Society, active in the Order of the Arrow, Top Teens Program… 20 months as a Scout.  Just think about the Scouts in your Troop.
OK.. 20 months… Most Troops camp 11 times a year and go to Summer camp in that 11 months.  He needs 20 nights camping for the Eagle Required  Camping Merit badge.  That’s 6 camp outs plus a 6 night summer camp.  So that’s the first year.  12 of the 20 months got the basic nights out-of-the-way.  I assume as a leader he attends most if not all camp outs.. after all, that is where leadership and the Patrol method are really practiced.
10 1/2 to 12 years old is one and a half years.  That’s 18 months.  Now we don’t know when his birthday is, but the numbers do not add up.  From a math point of view and a practical point of view.  What has this young man got out of the Eagle experience.
The article says he plans on staying in Scouting.  That’s awesome.  Maybe now he will become the Eagle that he is.
I am sorry if I seem to be bashing this young man.  I am not.  I am really bashing his Adult leadership for not ensuring that the process is producing Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.. not just Eagle Scouts.
I applaud this young man for his achievement… I don’t know how he did it… 61 merit badges alone takes time.. when did he find all that time in 18 months.  I am sure he has friends, school, and eats and sleeps on occasion.
When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?  I wish I could applaud and not question.  But I have been a Scoutmaster for a long time and just can not see how this works.
For me, it takes away from every person that has earned the award and has come through Scouting with Knowledge, experience, and the ability to lead as a servant.
Again, I am sorry if I question this young mans achievement.  I just can’t see how this math works, which makes me believe that those standards are being manipulated some how.  And that my friends, I can not tolerate.  I never hold back a Scout, but I do make sure that he does it right.  I make sure that he is completing the requirements without short cuts.  I do not add to or take away any requirements and produce no false road blocks.  As a Scoutmaster, I just make sure that the experience is more important than the badge.
Congratulations?

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

 

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

treesScouts that join our units begin their walk on the Eagle Trail through our program forest.  This forest of Scouting has much to offer the passer-by.  When you enter the forest the trail is clearly marked and a guide is provided.  This guide keeps the new Scout on the right trail while he learns about the forest and the skills that he will need to navigate the trail through to his destination.  The trail is long and provides many opportunities for the Scout.  There is a fork in the trail called First Class.  Once the Scout reaches this point in the forest, the trial gets a little less clear.  There are still markers along the way, but the Scout is challenged to seek the path and maybe do some bushwhacking.
The trail through the forest at times will seem to be very narrow and at times the forest opens up into meadows and the trail needs to be tried and new routes found.  A Scout needs to remember that the forest is full of trees.  Those trees represent the opportunities of Scouting.  Every four years a Scout will find a huge tree called Jamboree.  He can choose to visit that tree and learn about its opportunity.  He will also chance upon trees called NOAC (National Order of the Arrow Conference), he will have the opportunity to visit four trees called the National High Adventure Bases.  A trip to the Philmont, the Summit, Sea Base or Northern Tier tree will prove to be a high light of his Scouting walk through the forest.  There are merit badge trees and places along the trail to practice leadership and service.  The trails always need maintenance.  There are trees along the trail that the Scout will find other Scouts that need help finding the way.  He will make the choice to lead them until they can do the same for other Scouts they meet.
There is a big lodge near the edge of the forest.  This is where the Eagle Scouts hang out.  They are still close to the forest so they can hear the call of Scouting and spend time back on the trail.
The forest of Scouting is full of great opportunity, fun, and adventure.  But the opportunity, fun and adventure only comes to those Scouts that see the forest instead of the trees.  The trees are the things that we bump into as we travel through the forest, but they are not the reason we go through Scouting.  Finding the trees in the forest are the things that we do as we move forward in Scouting seeking the opportunities and fun that come with the program.  The name of the trail is called Scout Oath trail.  Along that trail we learn our laws and rules.  We develop a habit of service, and we become a person that has Character.  The trail is hard at times and forces us to stay physically and mentally strong.  The trail is long and full of adventure, but we need to keep the forest the most important thing and let the trees appear.  The Forest is the Scouting Aims and along the way you will bump into those trees that keep you moving in the right direction.
Loosing focus on the Forest and jumping right to the trees will eventually cause the Scout to turn around and leave the forest.  He will hit all the trees that he wants but will miss the whole trail through the forest.  The trees that are deeper into the forest are bigger and better, but the Scout that enters the trees and not the forest will miss out on them.
I have seen Scouts that have walked into the forest only to find a small stand of trees.  They provided lots of merit badges and rank, but never any of the exciting opportunities that lay ahead on the trail.  I also have seen Scouts that have immersed themselves into the whole trail.  They have seen the big trees, participated in the great adventures and when he reached Eagle Lodge looked back at a great time in Scouting.
As you mentor young men in Scouting and as you introduce young men as they join your troop, show them the trail head into the forest and remind them to see forest rather than the trees.  The trees will appear as you follow the trail.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

What Pleases Jerry

IMG_6206It is interesting to hear what our Scouts think and say.  At most of their ages, they have not yet learned to filter their conversations based on who they are around or what the circumstances may be.  On the way to our last camp out a younger Scout asked an older Scout what they had to do at the camp out.  The response from the older Scout was this, “What ever pleases Jerry.”
Now I know this young man and I know that he was being sarcastic to a point, and on the other hand, I know that his comment was directed at the fact that I hold the older Scouts to a higher standard and ask them to demonstrate leadership.  This Scout would much rather sit around and do nothing in most cases… and by and large, that is exactly what he and his buddy did during the last camp out.
What this and other Scouts fail to realize is that his response to the younger Scout is actually 100% accurate.  “Whatever pleases Jerry” is actually the right answer.
So what pleases Jerry?
1.  When the Scouts have fun.
2.  When the Scouts learn.
3.  When the Scouts demonstrate leadership.
4.  When the Scouts seek and find adventure.
5.  When the Scouts develop the bonds of a high performance team.
6.  When the Scouts have a sense of accomplishment.
7.  When the Scouts get the opportunity to see and do something new.
8.  When the Scouts practice leadership and find success in their skills.
9.  When the Scouts learn that winning is better than losing in life.
and finally…
10. When a Scout looks back on Scouting, smiles, and knows it was worth his time.
That is what pleases Jerry.
So Mr. Older Scout… you nailed it!  And guess what.  The Scout you told that to lived up to that expectation.
Thank You!
Have a Great Scouting Day!