Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beginning Boy Scouts - Book Review

Having lived in the aviation world, I learned the value of checklists for performing both critical and mundane tasks. I wouldn’t get on an airplane today if the pilot thought he didn’t need his checklist or have to understand and follow established procedures.

So, you just volunteered (or were just volun-told) to be a Scoutmaster, or your son just joined (or had an 11th birthday) and became a Boy Scout. What do you do now? Wouldn’t it be great if there were a checklist so you knew how to get started or what he (and you) are getting into? Beginning Boy Scouts: an Unofficial, Practical Guide to Boy Scouting for Parents and New Leaders, written and self-published by Jeremy C. and Heather R. Reed through Reed Media Services, is just such a checklist. At 139 pages, it’s a quick read and shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to get through. Think of it as an abridged Boy Scout Handbook with an emphasis on procedure rather than skills.

The chapters cover topics such as uniforms, patrols (in my opinion, the most important method), advancement, camping, meetings and more, and even explains, step-by-step, how a boy should work through the Eagle paperwork and project processes. "What, there are procedures for these things? Who knew? I thought we were all just supposed to wing it!"

Throughout, there are many subtle (and not-so-subtle) reminders that the boy is the Scout: it’s his program and his (and his patrol’s) responsibility, not the parents’, nor even the Scoutmaster’s, to make things happen. This is especially evident in the chapter outlining the Eagle process. Chapter seven, on advancement, is well thought out and very useful to understanding what the whole process is about, especially for parents of the Driver License Mindset. Chapter eight, on merit badges, is again, full of handy tips about how the process is supposed to work. Chapter ten is very useful to understanding that goals will be set and met, and that keeping good and complete records is one of the most important things a boy can learn to do. In fact, I would dare say that this skill is one of the most significant things a boy can get out of Scouting. Processes are laid out, not as being for use under ideal circumstances, but simply as the way it is. Welcome to the Adult World.

When I was in US Air Force pilot training, instructors taught us that the checklists and flight manuals we used on a daily basis were written in blood, that each bullet point or instruction existed because of a fatal mistake. We were also taught that practice makes, not perfect, but permanent. We therefore realized that we had to practice flying the right way if we expected to get through the program with wings (or with our lives). Even when following procedures, accidents may occur, but the chances of that happening are lessened greatly.

If Trails to Testimony is the Why, Beginning Boy Scouts is the How. It could just as easily have been called “Scouting for Dummies” if permission could be had from the “Dummies” franchise. As an “eleven-year-old-Scout leader,” I’m thinking I’ll lend my copy to every parent whose son joins the troop. If we, the adult volunteers/ volun-tolds would simply pick up the plan and use it, we’d free ourselves up from wheel-inventing. This book will help with exactly that.

BBS is solidly about Boy Scouts, not Church Scouts, and although not specifically geared toward LDS Scouting units, the authors clarify that we do some things a little differently. The LDS-specific parentheticals seem a little disjointed and out of place; they could get a little distracting for some readers (at times I thought the book didn't know what flavor of Scouting - Traditional or LDS - it was about) but there are only about a half-dozen of them. Sentences can be a little choppy, but the content is invaluable. BBS focuses on Boy Scouting, but I believe there are Cub Scout, Varsity Scout and Venturing volumes in the works. I’d love to see a volume for the Scout Committee as well.

Full disclosure: the authors contacted and asked me to review the book, and I received a copy in exchange for this review. Go to for more information on obtaining a copy.


Brian Reyman said...

Nice review, thanks. Interesting to hear that there are some LDS excerpts in it.

These kinds of books are always helpful to ensure scouting is implemented correctly - and not just based on tradition.

Fishgutts said...

Boy every one in the LDS Scout blog-osphere gets a copy to read but me. :) Probably doesn't mention the awesomeness of Varsity Scouts any way!!

Eric the Half-bee said...

Geez, Fish, and I thought the EYOS were the red-headed stepchildren... ;)

Fishgutts said...