Monday, August 22, 2011

Training Item 1.2: the Methods of Scouting

With an emphasis on the Ideals and Adult Association

This is the second of twelve ward Scout Leader Training installments that I am doing as part of my Wood Badge ticket.

The previous training session was all about the Aims, Mission and Vision of Scouting. There are eight methods that the BSA uses to accomplish these aims. (Well, depending on the age of the boy, there are 7-9, but they are all variations on a theme.) They are: the Ideals, Patrols, Adult Association, Advancement, Outdoor Activities, Leadership Development, Personal Growth and Uniforms. These methods are very interrelated; within a working patrol, you’ll see personal growth, advancement, uniforms, leadership, and outdoor activities. Advancement will encompass patrols, adult association, outdoor activities, leadership, growth, etc. One method is not more important than another. To quote another LDS Scouter, “…advancement is one small part of the entire picture…
“We need to make sure that we are running our Scouting programs as they are outlined in the Scouting literature… We should feel compelled to help our young men advance. We should feel just as compelled to provide an environment where the young men are empowered to run their own program--gaining leadership experience by planning successful activities, making decisions, conducting meetings, leading outdoor excursions, etc. We should feel just as compelled to have our young men wear Scout uniforms. We should feel just as compelled to be having regular "Scoutmaster" Conferences with our young men to help them in their personal growth, to help them set and work towards meaningful goals. We should feel just as compelled to make sure that service activities are planned and run by the young men. There are a lot of things we should feel just as strongly about making happen [as completing one’s Eagle rank].” 1
The Ideals are embodied in the Scout Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan. These are principles and promises made – regularly and in public – that a boy says he will live up to. The BSA mission and vision are that every boy will be empowered to make good choices throughout his life based on living up to the Oath and Law. The Oath starts small, and adapts and grows with him. The Cub Scout Promise is really just an age-appropriate Scout Oath. Venturing builds on the Oath by having the Venturer look much farther beyond himself than he has likely ever done before. The Ideals are the correct principles that we as leaders should be teaching, and exemplifying, to the boys in our charge.Critics will accuse us of teaching boys to repeat a slew of empty words; of rote and meaningless memorization. The counter to such a hollow and ignorant charge is (after telling myself, “just because YOU couldn’t internalize these simple-but-lofty ideals and can’t handle living a higher standard”) that throughout his experience, a Scout is questioned on what it means, and how he is living up to it. And his responses are usually surprisingly astute.

Throughout his Scouting adventure, a boy should have multiple opportunities to interact with adults who can be mentors, role models and teachers. These include Scoutmasters, ecclesiastical leaders, teachers, family members, merit badge counselors and so on. This is a holistic approach, giving each boy the opportunity to work with many quality adults from whom to learn good behavior and habits. In this way, his Scoutmaster conferences and other interactions will gradually grow from the simple answers given as an 11-year-old to more thoughtful, complete statements of belief and character as a priest-age young man.  It gives him a diversity of opinions and experiences to draw from in forming his own identity, and just might prepare him to work with, understand and empathize with people from Guatemala, Botswana, Croatia, Latvia, Japan or any other strange and exotic place, like Kansas City, as a missionary. It teaches them to communicate as adult to adult.

The Methods exist to accomplish the Aims. Each is as important as the others, and done right, they go hand in hand (in hand in hand in hand...) toward molding tomorrow's leaders.

Resources:
Methods handout
LDS-BSA relations newsletter, May 2011, the first page is full of examples of great of Adult Associations
1. LDSScouting.org - excellent "Methods" essay; look through the FAQs for great answers to many questions.

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