respect

Who’s to say?

DISCLAIMER:  THIS IS MY OPINION AND NOT THE OPINION OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, TROOP 664, OR THE FINE LEADERS THAT I CALL MY FRIENDS.

Having said all of that I am going to briefly revisit this whole “Gay Scout” issue.
This last week it was announced that the BSA will be putting the issue on the table for a vote.  You can read all about it elsewhere, I am not going to go into the details here.
The bottom line is that the vote will come down to this;  The BSA will change it’s membership policy to include “openly gay” Scouts but it would continue to restrict the membership of “openly gay” adult leaders.
OK…. here is my opinion on the matter, and in light of recent announcements from a few of the Churches that seem to be at the fore front of the issue, I should say that my opinion has not changed.
First, I really don’t think that the issue will make a difference.  I do not care personally what a person does sexually.  Now many will argue that this is a sexual issue, I tend to disagree.  How many “openly gay” Scouts do you know?  I have a feeling on some Scouts and in most if not all cases when it comes to our teen-aged boys… they don’t really care either.  I guess the better question is how many gay boys are beating down the doors to get in to the Boy Scouts of America?  I have yet to meet one.  Most if not all gay boys will not be looking for the activity that the Scouts offer.  This is not a predatory issue.  They, gays, are not looking at the BSA as an opportunity to meet and date.  I mean.. that’s so ridiculous.
Anyway… Morality is the next issue.  So I suppose we need to address what that means.  Now, I know that I will piss some folks off with this, but I think it needs to be said.  Church does not make you moral.  I know openly gay members of the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and the LDS Church.  They may not make it to public, but you don’t have to be a sociologist to know that they are gay and they tend not to hide it among friends.  They hide it because they are made to feel like lepers in their respective communities that preach love, peace, and compassion.
If we look at moral thinking then where does love enter the conversation?
When we look into the definition of morality it leaves the reader wondering where does morality come from?  Defined morality looks like this:
1. a : a moral discourse, statement, or lesson.  b : a literary or other imaginative work teaching a moral lesson.
2.  a : a doctrine or system of moral conduct.  b. plural : particular moral principles or rules of conduct
3.  conformity to ideals of right human conduct
4.  moral conduct : virtue
So we over time have decided what the social norms are and how we practice moral thinking and teaching.  The first documented use of the term “Morality” was not till the 14th century.  What ever did we do before then?
Since morality is decided by man’s ideals and virtues, some say they received from God, again, in the Scouting context, which God is that?  It is common that all virtue and religious teaching universally comes down to “Do unto others…”
So why then do we treat people like outcasts, deviants, and unworthy of membership in our club?
There are those that think homosexuality is deviant behavior.. and it may be.. who am I to judge?  It’s not my cup of tea, but then again, I don’t like rap music either and certainly not the life style it promotes.  Not a big fan of smoking or excessive drinking either.  Not a fan of those that abuse their kids or beat their wives… yet that deviant behavior seems to be just fine.
I work with openly gay folks.  They are good people.  I have had discussions with them about Scouting and they all think it is a great organization… BUT…
Yeah, they always have the “but” comment.  They to do not understand that a group that claims to live by a certain code and a set of values would exclude people based on their sexual orientation.  Further, they consider the argument not one of sexual acts but of who they love.  And that gets me wondering where the morality comes in and who decides it.
A Scout is starts the Scout law.. it is followed by the set of values that we live by.  Which one of the 12 points would not allow a gay boy in?  Right away people go to “Clean” and “Reverent”.  Defined (again) the Scout law suggests that a Scout is Clean in thought, word, and deed.  But I still can’t find where sexual orientation would be an issue, especially when it comes to a boy.  Straight boys don’t even have sex when they are 13 for the most part… right?
Reverent?  The Boy Scouts of America does not define who God is nor does the organization suggest how a Scout must worship.  The Boy Scout handbook says “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”  The BSA does not extend its moral teaching beyond that of the Scout Oath and Law and refers the Scout to his faith group and family for furthering religious teaching and moral thinking.
So that is where it comes from and that is where it should stay.  Once we put our uniforms on and raise the Scout sign we should be inclusive and respectful.  We should be friendly and helpful.  We should be courteous and kind.  We should be loyal and cheerful.
All of this is found in Scouting and why not let openly gay Scouts in?
Now the LDS church has come out for this, the Catholic Church is sitting on the fence and other faith groups are afraid to take a stand that allows for love and friendship to trump bed room activity.  Even though we are talking about young men here and not pedophiles or social deviants.
So happens after the vote.  Gay boys will either be allowed in or not.  If they are in… who leaves?  If they are out.. who drops support?
It seems to me that what ever happens the Scouts will loose.  So are we willing to deal with the results and how?  My guess is that at the unit level nothing is going to change.  If the new policy is that gay Scouts will be allowed, I wonder how many families leave my troop?  I don’t care about funding or policy… but what about those folks that are unwilling to change?  I figure that if the families that are currently in my troop are happy now.. why would that change?  But I know it will and so I need to be willing to deal with it.
Will this be the end of Scouting as we know it?  I hope not.  Are there still Scouters out there that will be willing to stay the course, even though the course will have changed?
I don’t know the answers.. I am curious to see how this all plays out.
Let me know what you think.  Leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Running to action

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

The Promise Continued

SMCONFIt is the Scoutmasters obligation to work to achieve the Aims of Scouting… that’s pretty much it.  To do that it should be every Scoutmasters goal to get every Scout to the rank of First Class not Eagle Scout.
If you take a look at the requirements to achieve the First Class rank you will note that its pretty much all about Character, Citizenship, and Fitness.
Through the working of these requirements the Scout will learn about the three aims of Scouting and coupled with the skills learned, the teamwork developed, and the fun of the program, the Scout will assist the Scoutmaster in attaining his goal.
Once the foundation has been laid in the working to First Class, the Scout then should be prepared to work toward Eagle Scout where he can explore his world while working merit badges.  He can learn and demonstrate leadership, and he can develop a sense of service to his community.  Putting it all together we will have produced a good young man.
So back to the First Class rank.  When we do not put in the proper perspective and make it all about skills and a means to the end (Eagle Scout), we lose focus on what we are trying to accomplish in Scouting.  We are not here to make Eagle Scouts, we are here to make good men.  Good Citizens of Character that are fit, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
So, the next time you sit down with a Scout to chat during his Scoutmaster conference for Second Class.. take a look and see if that young man is getting it.  If not, reinforce those ideas and share with him your goal.
This is a part of the promise that we make to our Scouts.  The adventure comes when the rest is worked.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Random Thought

newsmmheader1.jpgIts been a few days since my keyboard and I sat together and jotted down some thoughts… It’s been a long week and a pretty eventful one at that.
Monday we had our weekly Troop meeting, and to be honest.. I have no idea how it went.  I was upstairs with a group of parents and a couple of the Assistant Scoutmasters showing what is expected in the type of gear our Scouts should have.  In particular the winter gear that we need to see on the next couple camp outs.  I thought it went well.  It can be an overwhelming discussion to some parents and I try to keep it simple and show the parent that you don’t have to take out a loan to get the right gear.  I reinforced with the parents that is about the Right gear and Not a lot of gear.  To many grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles feel the need to get all the cool gadgets for their Scout and not the right stuff.  Anyway, that went pretty good and I think will be an annual thing with all of the new Scout parents.
Tuesday, I got an email from a reader that really made my week.  The reader called me an opinionated a**.  That’s ok, I can live with that.. what really got me was the reader said that “someone who gets paid from the Boy Scouts of America should watch what I say”.   Now that’s where I draw the line.  There are many good Professional Scouters out there.. but I’m not one of them.  I pay to do this thing called Scouting and like it.  I have not worked a day in my life in the employment of the Boy Scouts of America… nope.. I’m just a Scoutmaster, a run of the mill volunteer.  And yep.. I am an opinionated a**… but it’s my blog and so unless I am spouting off nonsense contrary to Scouting’s Values and methods… ahhh.. it’s just not worth the time.  But thanks for that nice email and I appreciate your comments… Kill ’em with kindness my dad always said.
Wednesday I replaced the continuous ridge line on my tarp.  I ordered 50 ft. of  1.55 mm Z-line spectra cord from zpacks.com.  This stuff is amazing!  It will hold 200 lbs.. not that I will ever have that much weight on my tarp.. but what it really did was cut weight.  The old continuous ridge line was Nite ize cord.  It is really good stuff too and I like the reflective taping in it.. but the Spectra is super light and tough.  I only need 25 ft for the ridge line.. so I configured it like I had the old set up and went from 38 grams of line to 18 grams.  Considerable weight savings.. and I am going to need it to get to my goal base weight of 16 lbs.
Thursday my kids ordered (with my help) a birthday gift for me.  They ordered me a Solo Stove.  I got a tracking number Thursday night and it will be here on Tuesday.. more to come on that one.
And here we are Friday night.  I am getting my uniform together for tomorrows Trainers EDGE class.  I am helping on the staff.  Looks like I am teaching and being a guide throughout the day.  It should be a great Scouting day!
I’m not sure if what I am about to say is for public consumption yet.. but I’m going to tell you anyway.  I got an email the other day from Chris, our partner with PTC Media.  Actually he is the leader of our network, but anyway, after months and months of no contact, Chris sent an email to all of the show hosts of PTC Media stating that essentially we are done.
The network will remain up and available so folks can listen to the shows, but so far as the future.  Well, PTC has run its course.  So what does that mean for me and my podcast.  Well, after all the great feedback I received I did promise to keep it going.  I will do one more show on the PTC network and then my affiliation there will be over.  I will look for a server or a way that I can run a podcast from the blog but in the mean time I will continue to blog and produce the videos.  For those of you that came to the blog via the podcast, please know that the blog was here first and has always been that medium that I have preferred.  It was the blog that got the attention of Steve and an introduction to Chris and then a podcast.  So the blog (which I pay for) will remain unchanged.
I want to thank everyone that supported PTC Media for the last 8 years and in particular my show.  I hope that I can find the time and passion to put more out.
I thank Chris for given me the opportunity and the forum to talk about Scouting!  It was a real fun ride and along the way I have personally met many of you and have developed some great friendships.  Again.. nothing really will change in that regard.
Well, time to go and get a good nights sleep… I get to hang out with Phil and Adam tomorrow and I am sure I will need all the rest I can get.
Thanks for letting me get random with you.  After all… I’m just an opinionated a**!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Words

“If you aint cheatin’ you aint tryin'”… “it’s only illegal if you get caught”… “No harm.. No foul”…
These three little phrases raise the hair on the back of my neck.  They are attitudes that while seem harmless, they dictate an attitude that it’s ok to do wrong.
Last night I was at a Super Bowl party and heard one of these little phrases.  With a chuckle and a smile the person saying it followed it up with..”That’s how we roll”… ha ha…
I wonder if they really believe that.. or are just trying to be funny.  But then I go back to an old truth that has proven itself over and over again.  That is the fact that the first thing out of your mouth is the truth.  The mind is not quick to lie and usually those things that are said first, without thought, are what the person is really thinking.  And so… that is “How they roll”.
So, if it’s only illegal if you get caught.. then don’t get caught, right?  After all.. that’s how you roll.  OR… don’t do illegal things, play dirty, commit fouls (both off and on the field) and you don’t have to worry about being caught.
Ok.. here it comes.. and you knew it was on the way..
The Oath and Law… dang.. those two always ruin the fun…
But that’s how we roll.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

LNT for Everyone

I was up at my local Ranger station up in Sandy to buy new maps of the Mt. Hood area.  While I was up there I got into a great discussion with one of the Rangers about Scouts, nope it JeffPionnerdidn’t have anything to do with policy changes it was about Leave No Trace.
The Ranger asked how much camping our Troop does up on Mt. Hood and in the wilderness areas up there.  I shared with him some of the great treks we have taken and all of the places that we frequent up on the mountain and the surrounding wilderness.  He told me that was great, but he was concerned.
I asked him what his concerns were and he quickly stated that “Typically he has trouble with Scout Troops camping up on Hood”.  I asked him how so.  The Ranger went on to explain the noise, the trash left, and the fact that they don’t practice leave no trace.  I told him that I was sorry to hear that and assured him that our Troop was not like that at all.  He went on to explain that it was not backpackers he was concerned about.. it was the car campers.  Troops that go up to the big camp grounds and pull in and camp.  “They are terrible in most cases” he said.
Now, I am not sharing this to promote backpacking, nor am I pointing the finger at those of you that do the car camping thing… I am sharing this because when we as Scouts do not practice Leave no trace.. it hurts all of us.  To this Ranger, pretty much all Scout units are the same.  And we have a bad reputation within their office.
Leave no trace is for all of us.  There are Front Country methods for those of you that car camp and there are back country methods for those of us that backpack.  USE THEM.  They need to be taught and practiced in every unit or we will no longer be welcomed in the areas we like to camp.
I am sure that this is not an isolated issue here.  I have seen units at Summer camp that drive me nuts the way they act and treat our out doors.  I blame the adults that allow it and fail to teach Leave no trace to their Scouts.  Yep.. I said blame.  If the shoe fits.. slip it on.. but remember that Leave no trace is for everyone.
Teach it.. Practice it… don’t screw it up for the rest of us.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Modeling Expected Behavior

expectmoreI often preach about how I expect more out of our young men, that nothing in life will be easy, and that there are no participation ribbons just for showing up in life.  When it comes to leadership, the Scouts in our Troop hear it over and over again that we all need to “Model Expected Behavior” and they all  should at least have an understanding of what that means. For the Scouts of our Troop that means that good is not good enough.  It means that we do things right, we learn from mistakes, and we hold one another to a higher standard.
So what does that mean?  Is is arrogant of us to act that way?  Well, to the outsider looking in, yep.. but for us we look at it this way.  The world around us is happy with mediocre leadership, results, and standards of living.  I’m not ok with that when it comes to our Scouts.
We are not a merit badge mill nor are we an Eagle factory.  We do not measure success in the amount of Scouts that earned awards or rank each year.  We measure success in the way our Scouts act.  We see direct results in watching older Scouts teach younger Scouts and hold each other accountable.  We measure our success in growth and sustained attendance.  Is our Troop for everyone.. nah.. but no troop is.  Even though we all work toward the Aims of Scouting, our programs are different in their delivery.  I could not be in a Troop that had more adult involvement than Scouts.  I could not be a unit that did merit badge classes each week.  I could not be in a Troop that produces Eagle Scouts that can not do the basics.  I could not be apart of a Troop that did not seek adventure and test the limits.
This weekend, our Troop camped at a local Scout camp.  There were not a lot of miles walked and the weather was great.  It got real cold, and that tested some of the boys in the troop.  Some Scouts pushed their boundaries by shooting Shot guns for the first time, while other Scouts increased their knowledge and leadership skills at Junior Leader Training.  A few Scouts were taken out of their comfort zones as they taught the Junior Leader Training.  No matter what level of the Scout there was challenge enough for everyone.
Our Junior Leader Training follows the National program, but we tend to focus heavily on communication skills, team development, Conflict resolution, and expectations of leaders.
We start the session with a talk about Modeling Expected Behavior and then everything that follows in the course of training maintains that theme.  We expect our Scouts to be and act the best.  Good is never good enough.  The team deserves that attitude from everyone.  If they all act their best.. they become the best.  A high performance team.
Now you may ask.. aren’t you expecting too much from these young men.  Nope.  If I don’t who will?  We see too much “getting by” in our world and I will not be party to it.  Do we exclude young men when we expect more from them?  NO.. we expect more and they give more… like it or not.. That I don’t care about.  Life is going to expect a lot from them.  Why treat them with kiddy gloves now.
Does this mean we are hard ass’s?  Not at all.  We stay within the Scout Oath and Law.  Teaching in a friendly, fun, challenging atmosphere.  But when things are not right, a leader (adult or youth) simply corrects the issue and we move on.  Un tied shoes, un tucked shirts, gear looking like a yard sale, bad attitudes, improper set up or use of gear, not living the vlaues of the Scout Oath and Law.  These are things that other Scout leaders just allow.  Kids will be kids… yeah.. but bad habits last forever.  Good attitudes, skills, and behavior does to and gets them a lot farther in life.
So modeling expected behavior is a cultural thing.  We don’t march, we don’t yell.. yelling is for ineffective bad leaders.. we just teach, coach, train, and mentor.. oh and we model expected behavior.  Adults don’t get a free pass on bad behavior either.  We are expected to model what we expect.
The proof is in the pudding.  Our Troop grows annually.  We lose Scouts too, and that’s ok, maybe we are not the fit for them.  Maybe XBox and lower expectations is what they are looking for in life.  And that’s ok.. just not in our Troop.
This morning a Scout was standing under a shelter pouting.  His hands were cold, after all, it was 24 degrees outside.  His Patrol leader had just instructed him to get his gloves on.  The Scout could not find them.  So the Patrol leader and the Scout went to his pack and dumped it out.  There were the gloves.  I then saw the Scout standing there not assisting with his Patrol in breaking camp and wrapping up the clean up.  I called him over to where I was standing watching.  I asked him if he was ok.  Yeah.. he said, but I’m cold.  I suggested that if he would get moving he would warm up.  If he would help his Patrol mates out.. he would start to feel a bit warmer.  I asked him why he was pouting earlier and he told me that his hands were cold.  I asked him what he did about it… fully knowing what had happened.  He said that he found his gloves and put them on.  Then I had him recite the Scout Law to me.  And asked to him to reflect on the meaning of being Trustworthy.  We talked a bit about making choices and how he was either going to develop good habits and skills, or he would develop bad ones.  The choice was his, not mine, the Patrol leaders, or his parents.  He would have to make a choice which path he wanted to take.  He turned and walked back to his patrol and pitched in.  You see, if we let it go, it won’t change.  If we expect little, that is what we get.  So we chose to expect more.  And not surprisingly we get more.
When our Youth leaders set good examples and model the behavior that we want out of our Troop.. that is what we get.
There is nothing wrong with winning and losing.  We can learn from both.  There is everything wrong with not learning and not trying to learn, to push, and to find success.
I had a talk with a Scoutmaster about this a while ago.  He said that “I bet they all march around and it’s all yes sir this and no sir that..”  On the contrary.. In fact the Scouts in my Troop call me Jerry and we call them by their names.  There is no marching, yelling, or military like behavior.. just a lot of fun and development.  It is an environment that is comfortable, friendly, and leaves them wanting to come back.
At the end of each camp out we close with lessons learned, Start, Stop, and Continue.  Today the Senior Patrol leader led the discussion with whole troop.  As the next two camp outs will be up on the mountain, this camp out was a great opportunity to learn and get ready for the up coming outings.  He had each Scout share one thing that needs to improve in the next 3 weeks.  I listened as the Scouts really gave some thought to their answers.  It was in some of the more experienced Scouts answers that I realized that they got it.. they are modeling expected behavior.  They were critical of themselves and how they prepared for this camp out.  The next one will be that much more successful.
Expect more.. get more.
Have a Great Scouting Day!