There is a nice article in Bryan on Scouting today with comments and discussion on the blog about Scouts being on a first name basis with their adult leaders.
I know it may be bad form to take this discussion from Bryan and use it here, so I apologize up front and if you will allow me to approach it as an opinion piece I will be ever grateful.
So, in my opinion… And given the comments on Bryan’s Blog I am in the minority, I am a big fan of first names.
In my Troop we use first names for everyone from the committee to the members of the new Scout patrol. The only argument for not using first names that I can find (again referencing Bryan on Scouting) is the issue of respect.
Comments like “Mr. And Mrs. It shows respect, and also gets the boys in the habit of respecting their elders when not at scouts” kind of bother me in that it is clear that formal names are not a great indicator of respect. I work for a company (UPS) which, from the beginning has been a “First name” company. From the CEO to the newest part time employee, everyone is on a first name basis. Respect comes from how people act.
I served in the Army for 21 years. In that time the naming convention, which is the only convention allowed in the Army is Rank followed by last name.. Sergeant Smith for example. I served with people for years and never knew their first names. It is a method of forcing respect due to an authority. There are many leaders in the Army that I respected because I had to, but when it comes to real respect I can honestly say I did not respect them as individuals.
So what is it that we are trying to teach our Scouts?
First, I am not an authority figure. I am their Scoutmaster. A teacher,coach, and mentor. As these young men grow, I want them to respect me for my actions and what I have taught them. I want them to know that they have access to me and that Mr. Schleining is approachable and is their friend.
Baden Powell said that a “The Scoutmaster guides the boy in the spirit of an older brother”.
I understand that many folks feel a strong connection to the “Way it used to be” implying that the old days were better. Well yes and no.. the old days were different and the standard of the “old days” can’t always be applied today. Respect is not measured by how you address someone. When we teach the Scout about respect that is done by us being mutual in that respect. I respect our Scouts as much as I expect to respected. As long as their language and actions demonstrate an attitude of respect than the Scout is practicing those lessons taught. Using the Scout Oath and Law to guide the Scout in those actions will compel him to show respect to his leaders. The fact that they call me Jerry does not take away from that.
We do not live in a time depicted in Normal Rockwell paintings. Too many adults feel that young people today lack respect. No, I can’t paint all young people with that wide brush. Sure, there are young people that lack respect, but then again, you can find examples of that in every age. There has always been an element of young folks that did not have respect for authority, institutions, and other people. What and how we teach in more important than what we are called.
It’s all about how we teach and coach our Scouts.
Ever since I was a Cubmaster, I have asked that the Scouts and their parents call me Jerry. Some parents are not comfortable with this and I understand, so they may call me Scoutmaster Jerry or Mr. Schleining.. I really don’t care. When I am called Mr. Schleining by a Scout I tend to return the greeting by calling the Scout Mr. Soinso.. They don’t feel comfortable with that either, but again I am trying to teach them that we can respect one another with first names.
Here is the bottom line and I will close with this thought. I am here to serve them Scouts. They do not have to earn respect from me, I have to earn their respect. I am their Scoutmaster and as such.. their friend. We treat one another as we would like to be treated.
I would like to thank Bryan for a good thought provoking article. It is a great discussion and is obviously one that has differing opinions. Thanks for letting me share mine.
What are your thoughts on this issue? I would love to hear.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
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