Thursday, September 22, 2011

LDS-BSA Relations redesign

The LDS-BSA Relations website was recently redesigned. It's now an easily navigable site with prominent tabs for finding stuff quickly, the most useful of which are Resources, Newsletters and the Shop.  Ever wonder what the Church position is on some aspect of Scouting? This page - an official LDS publication - will give it to you. Sometimes (more often than not) the official position is simply a link to the appropriate BSA resource.  There is also information about changes to both the Faith in God and On My Honor awards. (OMH is awarded to a boy who completes one of the three Duty to God modules and the Star rank.) Lots of good stuff, much better website, I wish were as simple to use and find stuff in.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scouting Safety

I pull in a lot of Scouting RSS feeds throughout the day and read them when I get a chance.  Here's a blog post regarding training and the safety implications of failing to get trained.  It's hard to verify, but I often see this statistic repeated:

19% (or 21%) of registered Scouts belong to LDS-affiliated troops. However, ~70% of fatalities across the BSA (that's Cubs through Ventures, 8-18, nationwide) come from that same 19% of troops. In other words, Mormon Scouts are disproportionately over-represented in Scouting accident statistics.

This is generally attributed to inappropriate activities, poor supervision and inadequate safety precautions. In short, it's due to not being familiar with and following the rules. We can't effectively serve the boys (and girls) under our stewardships if we don't take the time to learn how. The new Green Book, 2011 edition, expressly states that part of our callings is to get BSA-trained. The Church itself doesn't do this; it defers training to an outside organization (BSA) because the Church doesn't govern Scouting, BSA does. The Green Book doesn't replace official Scouting policies, it supplements them with Church-specific ones, and we are responsible to adhere to both.

Frankly, I don't want to have to look any parents in the eye and tell them their son got hurt, or worse, because I failed to learn my responsibility, and teach the boys theirs. Scouting resources - safety and other training, and policies.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Training item 1.3: Advancement

Hold on tight, this is a big one. This is the third of twelve Leader Training Modules.

Scouting is a Game with a Purpose. Advancement (Arrow of Light, Eagle, Merit Badges…) is part of the game, but is only one piece of the puzzle. It is one of the most visible aspects of the whole program, and it is through the process of advancement, the learning and development of knowledge, skills and abilities, that a boy learns and acquires the Aims of Scouting, and by extension acquires the qualities of a worthy Aaronic Priesthood holder.

Our job as leaders is to look at the big picture, and put it all together; to know the rules of the game. The big picture is summarized in the BSA Aims, Mission and Vision and AP Mission. The intent of this training module is to familiarize you with the rules and processes of the advancement game and will cover the following:
  1. Four Parts/Five Principles of Advancement
  2. Ranks
  3. Merit Badges
  4. Boards of Review
  5. Courts of Honor/Pack Meetings
  6. Proposals
There are four parts of Advancement:  

1. A Scout learns. A Scout learns by doing. As he learns, he grows in ability to do his part as a member of the patrol and the troop. As he develops knowledge and skill, he is asked to teach others; and in this way he begins to develop leadership.  

2. A Scout is tested. A Scout may be tested on rank requirements by his patrol leader, Scoutmaster, assistant Scoutmaster, a troop committee member, or a member of his troop. The Scoutmaster maintains a list of those qualified to give tests and to pass candidates. The Scout’s merit badge counselor teaches and tests on the requirements for merit badges.  

3. A Scout is reviewed. After a Scout has completed all requirements for a rank, he has a board of review. For Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle Palms, the review is conducted by members of the troop committee. The Eagle Scout board of review is conducted in accordance with local council procedures.  

4. A Scout is recognized. When the board of review has certified a boy’s advancement, he deserves to receive recognition as soon as possible. This should be done at a ceremony at the next troop meeting. The certificate for his new rank may be presented later at a formal court of honor.  

Five Principles of Advancement:
  1. Personal Growth is the prime consideration
  2. Learning by doing
  3. Each youth progresses at his own rate
  4. A badge is recognition of ability, not merely a reward for he has done
  5. Advancement encourages Scouting ideals
    • Scouting Ideals reinforce Church and Aaronic Priesthood Standards

ON the other hand

Here's a great story about what Scouting is all about: setting and achieving goals, and pushing yourself farther than you thought you could go. One Utah Scout has completed all 132 merit badges, including last year's centennial badges. Looks like he's sporting an Eagle award, too.

Ooo-rah, Nate!

Yes, all of them.

Here is a link to a heartbreaking story and dramatic (not to mention infuriating) illustration about why knowing the rules is actually important.  We need to know the rules and procedures. We owe it to the boys we serve to know what we're doing, so that a situation like this doesn't happen. Ever. We also have to be able to speak authoritatively about the consequences of certain (in)actions.  There is no excuse for this situation having gotten to the point it did, not with all the resources available.  It's symptomatic of voluntoldusdontgivadamitis.  Also, it's symptomatic of the If-You-Don't-Get-Your-Eagle-You're-An-Inferior-Mormon mentality we often see.

Broken Eagle

On a related note, over at Scoutmaster CG's podcast and blog, Clarke discusses and posts a list from Scouts Australia on How (not) to Kill a Scout Troop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Building Bridges

I try not to get into the personal on this blog, as "I did this, and I did that" statements would detract from my purpose - I'd end up just grousing instead of helping. That, and I tend to get a little snarky. That said...

Glen Canyon Dam bridge, from wikipedia/commons. Public Domain
My son turned eleven early this year, and joined the Scout troop and the 11YO "Coyote" patrol . He had earned the Arrow of Light a few months before his birthday, and got the traditional, overused face-paint ceremony at that time. Unfortunately, by earning his AoL well in advance of his birthday, he threw the Pack leaders a curve ball. There’s no tradition of holding crossover ceremonies in his pack/troop, so instead of publicly marking his graduation from Cubs and transition to Scouts, he simply had a birthday and didn't show up at the next den meeting.

This is wrong on so many levels. This is why I went to Wood Badge, and why I am maintaining this blog. This is volun-told inaction, the I-don’t-need-no-training mind-set. If we don’t make Scouting a Big Deal for them when they're young (both the boys and their families) we’ll fall into the trap of running a Scout troop merely because Salt Lake says we’re supposed to have a Scout Troop (kind of like building bypasses because they've got to be built*), but we won’t have the boys’ buy-in and we will lose them to other, better (in their minds) things. They may get badges for a while, but it will be because “boys are supposed to earn badges,” or “Brother Robinson is making me do this.” We’ll have the form of Scoutliness, but not the power inherent in it.

It starts in Cub Scouts. Cubmasters and Committee Chairs need to be committed to making it a memorable experience that looks forward to bigger and better things. There’s no shortage of resources on the web for holding imaginative, exciting and FUN Den and Pack Meetings. If recognition consists of barely more than ‘here’s your bag-o-badges, here’s a quick game, here’s a cookie, aaaaaaand we’re done, why bother? The Cub Scout handbooks promise adventure and excitement (both of which the Jedi craves not, but I digress). Are we delivering on the promise?

I learned in ROTC that you never bring a problem to the commander without having a solution (if not two or thee) in mind. Fortunately, I’m in a position to fix some things without too much bloodletting. There is a new Cubmaster, who just happens to have been the Webelos Leader. By taking part in Cub Committee Meetings I'll be in a position to make appropriate suggestions. At that point, it shouldn’t take too much to get him to sign on to making a Big Deal out of these seemingly insignificant things.

* Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (clip)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Scouting is ‘Spensive

There’s just no way around it, it takes a lot of dough to run a troop. Where does it come from? (Remember that this blog looks at Scouting in the LDS context, with all its attendant and sometimes seemingly bizarre policies.)

Well, let’s just bust a myth right here and now. Mormon Scouts (and other LDS youth groups) are allowed to raise funds for their annual Big Event, and separately for needed equipment. Too often we’re skittish about holding “fundraisers” for a Church group; I guess we’re afraid someone might get offended ( I’ll refer you to Elder Bednar’s 2006 talk about that being a choice), so we have fundraisers that aren’t really fundraisers, or “services” for which we “request a donation.” Let’s get one thing straight: a fundraiser by any other name is still a fundraiser.

If we understand the rules, there need not be any confusion.  So, what are the rules?

Quite simply, funding for LDS Scout activities (and all youth activities) should come from:
  1. The ward budget.
  2. IF that is insufficient, the participant and his family may be asked to pay for all or part (remember paper routes?);
  3. BUT it if that is still insufficient, One annual fundraiser may be authorized
Finally, a lack of funds should never prohibit someone from participating.

Again, that's (1) the ward budget, (2) the individual/family (3) then a fundraiser1.

1 and 3 above also apply to equipping a troop: a dedicated equipment fundraiser may be held if the ward budget is insufficient to procure adequate supplies. Those supplies are not to be used by individuals or families; they are for Church use.

By creatively renaming something which we need not worry about in the first place, or by not calling it what it is, what message are we sending the kids? That it’s ok to fudge a rule, if we call it something else? In reality, this creative renaming is a solution in search of a problem; we’ve created a situation that just doesn’t exist. But the impression is that we have to be sneaky to get things done.

Really, if done right, a fundraiser can be a huge learning opportunity about leadership, teamwork, goals, planning and execution, to name a few. It’s another opportunity to let the boys (and the girls) solve a problem with minimal adult involvement. The potential benefits and lessons learned far exceed just the monies obtained.

As for the disparity between funds allocated for boys' and girls' programs, I have two daughters. Don't get me started.

1. Handbook 2, sections 8.13.7, 13.2.8 and 13.6.8.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Scoutmaster's Minute: "One"

This is a Scoutmaster’s Minute I did at last night's Court of Honor. The inspiration for it comes from a letter from Eagle Scout Mike Rowe, Mr. Dirty Jobs himself. He wrote this in response to a father’s request that he write something to inspire the father’s son to finish his Eagle rank. Mike’s reply put the responsibility squarely on the boy, where it belongs.

Following is the text of the SMM; you can view or download the PowerPoint here:
Let’s talk about one:
  • One is the loneliest number. By itself. Alone.
  • A number times one remains unchanged.
  • One is the first whole number. It’s more than nothing. One is NOT Zero.
  • One is “on” in binary (computer) code.
  • It’s said that one bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • One is perfection in baseball. One is the pitcher, or the point guard. One is the best.
  • One (hydrogen) is the most abundant chemical in the universe. It’s the stuff stars are made of. It’s pure power. It’s critical to our survival.
  • One is unity: e pluribus unum means, out of many, one.
  • One man dreamed of changing a country;
    One man’s vision sent other men to the moon;
    One redeemed mankind
  • One percent of boys become Eagle Scouts.

Mike Rowe, from Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs, said this about reaching Eagle:
"The Eagle Award is not really meant for people who need to be dragged across the finish line. It’s meant for a select few… Only one out of a hundred Scouts make Eagle… doing something extraordinary can be very lonely, and most people simply aren’t cut out for it. Being an Eagle Scout requires you to be different than most everyone around you, and being different is really, really hard. That’s why the award is called “an accomplishment.”

Personally, and for whatever it’s worth, the best decisions I’ve made in my own life, are those decisions that put me on the outside of being cool. Singing in the Opera, working in home shopping, starring in the school play when the entire football team laughed at me, and especially earning my Eagle, were all choices that required sacrifice, hard work, and delayed gratification.

I have no idea … if you have the passion to follow the road less traveled. Only you get to decide that.” (
Looking around the room, I don’t see anyone who is part of the 99; all I see is the One (look around, look boys in the eye, call them by name, make it personal).

So, Troop 406, choose to be different. Choose to be that one percent. And be one.