Thursday, December 13, 2012

One more reason to hit the trail

A recently published study finds that time in the outdoors boosts creativity.
"When you get away from that hustle and bustle and out in nature, where it is soft and fascinating, your brain can replenish, become sharper and focus on thinking."
- Study author David Strayer

"Some people say children have a right to be connected to the Internet, but what about the right to be disconnected from all technology?...We need that affiliation, that connection with nature. Without it, we do not remain fully human."
- Outdoors advocate Richard Louv
Maybe having empirical evidence touting the benefits of being outside will help put the kibosh on Wednesday "Scout Classes" (or worse, an exclusive program of "Duty-to-Spalding" nights) in favor of a more hands-on approach.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sponsorship

I asked my Stake Young Men President to pass the following message to the Stake Presidency:

I will sponsor one person - any ward, any position (bishopric, PrimPres, cubs, committee, ymp, ywp) - to attend Wood Badge in 2013, provided one member of the Stake Presidency also attends in 2013. I also believe  that I will not have to pay up. Please prove me wrong.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to list my golf clubs for sale.

Update, 12/10 - Two Caveats:
(a) Register by June 2013
(b) Both complete the course

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The meaning of trained

“…adult leaders are considered trained when they complete the following training:
  • Youth Protection
  • Leader Position-Specific training
  • Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills”
(LDS Scouting Handbook, 2012 ¶2.0)

What does that mean exactly, “considered trained?”

Does it mean “We have got [training] and there cannot be any more [training]?” Does completing those three items mean to say that you have all the information, skills, background and experience that you will ever need, or does it connote a basic level of education and competence to start being effective?

In 2001, I attended USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training at the 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance AFB, Oklahoma. I washed out of training early on, and did not receive my wings; I became an intelligence analyst instead of a pilot. However, my class-mates and friends who did complete the training went on to become Air Force (and Navy/USMC) pilots, and all served tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. But they didn't serve combat tours before completing graduate flight training, too. Earning your wings does not mean you are qualified to fly operational combat missions. Completing UPT means that you have satisfactorily demonstrated the level of competence necessary to safely operate an aircraft, and bring it and yourself home safely, and that you can be trusted to move to the next level. Yes, you’re a pilot, but there’s still much, much more to do before you’re a useful asset. There’s type-rating (F-16, C-17, UH-60), mission qualifications and myriad other tactics, techniques and procedures to master. A pilot’s training is never “complete,” it’s every day.

You have to master the basics first, but you can't stay there, either.  Above, a US Navy T-45 Goshawk rests in the early-morning sunlight next to its big brother, a F/A-18C Hornet at the MacDill AFB 2004 AirFest.  The T-45 is an advanced trainer, used for learning the basics of air combat and aircraft carrier operations.  The USAF uses the T-38C Talon for much the same job, minus the carrier quals. Both the T-38 and T-45 have prerequisites; the T-6A Texan II, or in my case, the now-retired T-37 Tweet (so named for its screeching engines), used for teaching basic aircraft handling and flight procedures (and guess what? they're both called Primary trainers). Image © Eric J. Larson.

To put it another way, my cousin’s husband is a professional Muy Thai fighter and instructor. They were visiting us a while back while he was preparing for a fight, and the conversation turned to my oldest, who was wrapping up his Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He explained that the years of learning and progressing through the colored belt system to the first Dan black belt (there are eight Dans, or degrees), is simply the necessary preparation for when the real training begins. That black belt is not the end, but the beginning of being dangerous.

In short, it is all called basic training for a reason.

So, while completing the three modules listed above will earn you a “Trained” ribbon, they’re just the first step. There is so much more to learn, from Roundtable discussions and presentations, to University of Scouting seminars, to Wood Badge, and a host of other opportunities both within and outside of Scouting, to build your own arsenal of tactics, techniques and procedures. But a trained ribbon is just like newly-pinned wings, or a freshly tied black belt – the beginning of being effective.

Make it your New-Year's resolution to be trained beyond the minimum standard.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, December 3, 2012

By Assignment

“The bishopric calls several capable adults (including fathers and mothers of boys and young men) to serve as committee members.” (LDS Scouting Handbook, 2012 ¶4.3, emphasis added)

“Several capable adults.” Not a Chair over a committee of one. Not the Young Men Presidency. Certainly not the adult Scout leaders themselves.

When you sign up your kid for little league, isn’t it expected that you, the parent, will take on some active role in the experience – fill-in (or assistant or even full-time) coach, transportation coordinator, snack-master…? But then, he turns 11 or 12 and in the Mormon Church is “assigned” to his Scout troop. What, then is expected of your parental participation, other than making sure he makes it the 2 blocks (or 12 miles) for his AIS time (Arse in seat)? It sometimes seems like the only expectation made of parents is to ensure the kid gets out the door each Wednesday, regardless of what may or may not be planned. It may be raucous jungle-ball, again, but hey, at least he’s at the church house, right? Yep, at least he’s in the right place while getting nothing of value…

The priesthood operates by assignment. Let me ‘splain. Several years ago, a member of my Stake Presidency led an EQ discussion about volunteering vs. assignments. He pointed out, rightly, that no one ever signs up for those “we need a coupla volunteers” sheets that get passed around each week (or if they do, it’s the same three guys every time).* This, to fill the stake temple or cannery assignments.  The solution was obviously to make a direct assignment of quorum members – in effect, invite them, by name, to help with the work that needed doing, just like cleaning the building each week. Under the stake’s direction, we re-established the three Priesthood committees with specific “mission-oriented” responsibilities. (Of course, our EQP was fairly efficient at giving assignments, we were all AF officers.)

Scouting, like it or not, is your son’s – by assignment – Church activity program. Parents should know as much – if not more – about the man-molding program which the Church endorses and which their sons participate in, as they do about the soccer schedule.

Every parent of every Scout, Cub or otherwise, should automatically be assigned to their son’s (sons’) respective Scouting committee (excepting those who are already called into Scouting positions), with responsibilities as directed by the Chair, and irrespective of other callings. It’s not a calling, it’s an assignment. Training is simple, YPT and Committee Challenge, and minimal materials need be purchased, as the Guide to Advancement is a downloadable PDF. At the very least, this would provide a corpus of “several capable adults” who understand how to administer a Board of Review.  Parents would learn what Scouting is supposed to be accomplishing in their sons’ lives, and they'd be in a better position to wave a big “BS” flag when things are amiss.  Parents and Scout leaders would be true partners.

This is just the most basic of outlines. To make it work, there needs to be a willingness to get over our inhibitions and reluctance to ask parents to take an active role in the programs their sons are assigned to. Many hands make light work.

*Because either (a) Nobody is ever Somebody, or (b) Somebody is always Someone Else. Try this experiment: go home and ask Somebody to set the table for dinner and watch nothing happen. Then assign Bobby to do it, and after he complains that "it's not my job" and you explain it's his assignment for the night, watch it get done. Assign washing the dishes to Bobby's brother or sister.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Helpful videos

I use these Early Rank Requirements video clips as a "Virtual Troop Guide" for my EYOS patrol.  It's kids teaching kids.  It works pretty well, especially for younger guys, but maybe your older guys need a refresher. This works for that, too.

Click the link above, then the appropriate rank badge, and select the clips you need.  Some requirement numbers don't match up with the current Handbook, the videos are a little older. (BSA site, requires free Quicktime player - add this to your favorites).

YouTube is, of course, full of good information, and some real crap too, so use wisely. But you can find swimming instruction (side stroke, breast stroke, trudgen, crawl (freestyle), elementary backstroke), how to make a shadow stick, and more!

Prepared. | For Life.™

Satisfaction.

Last night I got to see one of my former EYOS receive his Eagle Scout Award.  He was in my first group of boys, two years ago, and has always been at the forefront of the Troop.  He's currently serving as SPL (and DQP, so he's not yet 14), and before that was the Troop instructor.  In the EYO patrol, he served as Patrol Leader.

It was a good COH, as it was an everything-COH, not only his Eagle presentation, which he planned himself, and it showed.  In fact, the boys ran everything, which is a 180° turn from not too long ago, when they just showed up and did what they were told. 

Congratulations, BV!

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Years

Clarke Greene takes on the "Scouts should earn First Class in their first year of Scouting" premise:
...All that being said I think that Scouts earning First Class in the first year is an important aspiration and one that should be promoted. A healthy troop that is delivering the promises of Scouting will have Scouts earning First Class in the first year pretty regularly not because it is something they specifically drive towards but as a natural result of the health of the program.

What’s left to us is to look at our troops and see if we are getting Scouts to this benchmark. If we aren’t, what should we start doing, stop doing, or continue doing to make it happen?
Once again, the case is very strong against marking off a checklist. Instead, provide opportunities for boys to do Scouting (i.e., a strong outdoor program, with a determined adherence to the Patrol Method. Let advancement take care of itself). I've written about this topic before.

Here's what the Green Book says about that:
Eleven-year-old Scouts participate in rank advancement. They are encouraged to achieve the rank of First Class before turning twelve years old.  (§6.2, ¶4)
Notice that it lays the responsibility at the boys' feet.  It's not the adults' job to drive them to a finish line (or worse, classes), and doing so is a surefire way to ensure they voluntarily leave as soon as they get the chance. Marking off a checklist will never be incentive enough for any boy to stay involved; however, participating with their friends in fun activities that they plan themselves will go long way toward keeping them active. That advancement requirements are completed in doing so is a side-benefit.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Knotty Words

Does it bother anyone else that Scouts are always using so many knotty words - bight, turn, loop, hitch, bend?  What do they all mean, anyway?  I put together a small vocabulary list of useful knot-tying terms that you can print out and give away to help the boys understand which part of the rope is which, and to help them describe what to do.

Click for the list.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Journey to Excellence, correleated to the AP Purposes

At Roundtable last week, we discussed the 2013 Journey to Excellence scorecard.   I've been wondering how to incorporate this into my ward's Troop (and Pack, Team and Crew) program for a while now, even discussing it in my now long-forgotten Ward Scouter Training lessons.  I think I figured out how to rouse some excitement for using this performance measurement tool amongst ward leadership:  by correlating JTE objectives with AP Purposes, it underscores the "Scouting is Aaronic Priesthood in action" and "Scouting is the Aaronic Priesthood laboratory" concepts.

Tying each objective to one or more Purpose can help solidify in the minds of the more spiritually minded (I jest, but only because dedicated Scouters have all "gone rogue"; we just don't see the big picture ;^), that by taking an annual inventory of certain metrics, we can better gauge how effective our efforts are in meeting the needs of our Young Men (and our daughters, too, if we're willing to color outside the lines just a teensy bit).  It is my opinion that the Spirit can work more effectively when we have good information to work from in the first place - something I learned on my mission about studying it out in your mind, I guess.  It's like someone wrote a set of SMART goals for us to measure progress and further challenge ourselves.

Click image for printable document


Prepared. | For Life.™

That's the way we've always done it...

I read every issue of Ask Andy as it hits my RSS feed. I really like his "rules." Here's Rule #97, from the latest issue #334:
When doing it right collides with doing it the way we’ve always done it, the latter wins.

Every time.
It would appear that the challenges in LDS Scouting are not all that different from those of "regular" Scouting. If it were not so, Andy's column wouldn't be necessary.  Also, this is a universal, not Scouting-specific, rule.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, November 2, 2012

Can't complain

B playing in his first band concert
After my oldest finished school last spring, he announced that he wanted to play the french horn and be in the band in Jr. High. He did this all on his own initiative, and under no pressure nor influence from me or my wife - it was a bolt out of the blue. Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say that this decision can be attributed to Scouting, but I am pleased to have seen him make his own decision. I gotta say, I was pretty floored by his announcement. He now practices every day, and enjoys the camaraderie of fellow band members. The challenge will be to encourage him in this, while encouraging his Scouting progress, as well encouraging him to continue his Tae Kwon Do, which he hasn't touched since he earned his black belt in June. But since progress is measured in character and not in patches, this is a great step on the path to adulthood - making a decision, and sticking with it. It was a joy to watch him perform for the first time last night.

Also, I can't complain so much about the multiple draws on a kid's time and the interests they pursue, not if I want my own kids to be well-rounded.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, October 29, 2012

Living in fear

A post at Free Range Kids reminded me of this:

"Vivir con miedo es vivir a medias"
- To live in fear is to live halfway.

– From the campiest chick-flick of all time, Strictly Ballroom (ask your wife), with my own less poetic, but more accurate translation.


Prepared. | For Life.™

Winter survival kit

I got to the office this morning, and this was in my inbox. I've adapted it for use here.

Click for a pdf.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, October 25, 2012

No time for fun, we'll be late for fun

Warning: Rant ahead.

Bath Rock, City of Rocks National Reserve, ID, where I learned to rappel on a Spring Break camp out.
Bath Rock,
City of Rocks Nat'l Reserve, ID
© NPS
It seems like no one has time to go to fun places, because weekends are already all taken up by classes, leagues and the other stuff that parents pay for (the real question is, how many LDS parents would pay for their sons to be involved in Scouting if the Church didn't foot the bill?*).  And living on the Wasatch Front, all the cool places are at least an hour's drive, usually much more, so you can't go camping somewhere great and make the early-morning game without skipping breakfast.

Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, UT - this reminded my children of Peter Pan and the pirate ship.
Sandstone hoodoos,
Goblin Valley State Park, UT
© 2011 Eric Larson
I can remember having free weekends as a kid, so I could go to fun places like these to play with my friends (my parents didn't put me into leagues or such, we couldn't afford it; they expected me to attend the monthly camp outs, and I wanted to do that anyway).  And even if it was a four-hour drive, it received the support of parents and the bishopric.  I think the lack of enthusiasm stems partially from their being bored with "camping" within sight of home, but more especially never being told that they can pick way cooler places; they just go where they're told, when they go anywhere at all.  No wonder they lose interest at 12!  (Never mind that "I turned 14 and don't 'do' Scouting anymore".)

Mt. Magog and White Pine Lake, Wasatch-Cache National Forest. This is my favorite spot on the planet.
White Pine Lake,
Wasatch-Cache NF
© Scott T. Smith &
Utah Travel Council
Maybe I'm just bummed that it started snowing today, and nice weather won't return until late June next year.  Maybe this lament is just my dissatisfied response to the three-camp-outs-for-11YOS rule (and the dads-must-go-camping-with-11YOS pseudo-rule, tying us to a 15-mile leash).  Maybe it's just that kids today (crap, did I say that?  I'm only 36!) are too busy for Scouting.  The answer is D, of course, all of the above, but it's the kids who really get short-changed.  I guess that's to be expected when the objective is just a lame cloth patch...

Anyway, here's a short, incomplete list of places I’d recommend to my 11YO/New Scouts if I didn't feel like I'd be stepping on too many toes:

<End Rant>

On the other hand, we're going camping tomorrow, 5 11YOs, two adult leaders and a pair of dads.  The boys wrote their own duty roster at patrol meeting last night, with no prompting from me!  Success!!


Prepared. | For Life.™
 
*No, I don't think kids should be on a steady diet of just Scouting, any more than they should consume only basketball or any other single thing (bread alone, right?), and yes, there are many, many more factors to consider.  These are the factors I'm thinking about today.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender's Game, shares his feelings and opinion on the change in the minimum missionary age, at Nauvoo Times.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Opportunities

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these:
"It might have been!"

– John Greenleaf Whittier

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, October 22, 2012

Survival of the fittest

A discussion at Bobwhite Blather of upcoming real, proposed and possible changes coming to BSA ends with this counsel:
“Adapt or die” has never been more true of our movement. We cling to current methods and practices because we are familiar with them. Sentimental attachment to the past has to be ditched in order to bring our programs into the 21st century and become more relevant for the youth we serve. Scouting is, at any given time, only ten years from extinction if we don’t replenish our membership to at least maintain current levels, and hopefully improve them. Without changes for the better, we might as well shut the lights out in the Scout hut and say goodbye, and I don’t think Sir Baden-Powell or any of BSA‘s founders would take that too well. (emphasis added)

Prepared. | For Life.™

The purpose of a Board of Review

As explained by Commissioner Andy, in his newsletter of October 21, 2012:
The Scout’s conference with his Scoutmaster has two key purposes: To make sure all requirements are indeed completed (i.e., all signatures where they belong) and—more important—so the Scoutmaster can learn a bit more about how well the scout’s getting along in the troop and in his life beyond Scouting. The review with members of the troop’s committee members has four key purposes: To congratulate the scout on his accomplishments to date and to provide the Scout the opportunity for the Scout to reflect on this, to learn how well the troop is delivering the Scouting program, and to encourage the Scout to continue his advancement journey.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, October 18, 2012

LDS/BSA Newsletter

The LDS/BSA Relationships office has published the newsletter for October. In this issue, the YM General Presidency discusses "Real Growth through Scouting"; the Primary General Presidency discusses time at Philmont Scout Ranch for training (kind of a continuation of the sidebar article in this month's Ensign); a list of events celebrating 100 years of Scouting and the Church next year, and more.

Prepared. | For Life.™

NY Times Article

An interesting story from the NYTimes about the integration of Scouting in the Church.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Operation OVERBEAR

Parental-unit Air assault
The phenomenon of "helicopter parenting" is well-known - parents who, rather than empowering their children to make decisions and become functioning adults, make sure that Junior never struggles with or fails at anything.  Ever.  One of the most severe problems with this parenting philosophy is the un(?)intended consequence of grown children who simply cannot function as adults; who are dependent on Mommy and Daddy fixing all the boo-boos of the mess we call real life.

One of the great things about Scouting is that it's stated goals are to give kids the skills they need to be functioning adults.  Unfortunately, that message often gets lost in the patch-race:  Mommy and Daddy make sure that Junior gets all his badges; Junior doesn't really have to do anything.  Boxes checked, mission accomplished.

This morning's Deseret News has a really good article about this very real problem.  It describes helicopter parenting as having a "... contradictory nature: It features 'high levels of warmth and support, as well as excessive limiting of autonomy that is not at all consistent with the age of the child.'"  In other words, smothering a teenager, or young adult, with the same kind of praise, attention and hand-holding normally given to the accomplishments of a toddler, or a ten-year old.

So, what about it?  Do you know a Blackhawk or two who could benefit from reading this?  How would you broach the subject? Is it even our place? Why, or why not, and under what circumstances?

It is an axiom of Scouting that we "never do for a boy what he can do for himself, and a Scout can do anything."  To paraphrase William "Green Bar Bill" Hilcourt, Train 'em, Trust 'em, Let 'em go.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Related Link: FreeRangeKids as mentioned on the Scoutmaster Podcast

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

1,000 Words

Here's a nice graphic to hand out to your ward leaders - bishopric, YM, Primary - about how Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood work together. Links will download from LDS.org

Scouting Supports the Priesthood - lds.org


Add this Eagle Scout graphic to the mix, and you've got two good at-a-glance reminders of what's really going on, right on the ward bulletin board.











Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Primay Board Message

"Scouting in the Church has a specific focus ... to build boys into honorable, faithful, righteous men of God. Sister Rosemary Wixom, the Primary General President, reminds us that 'Scout leaders have a sacred responsibility. They help boys to learn Scouting principles that also help them live the gospel. We thank each leader as they foster faith in Christ and prepare boys to make temple covenants and become a missionary, husband and father.'"

Sister Erin Sanderson, Primary General Board Member,
   May 2012 LDS/BSA Relations Newsletter.

"I have clearly stated that our objective in the Scout movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God's Kingdom on Earth."

– Sir Robert Baden-Powell

Prepared. | For Life.™

Did you see this?

This has been on my mind for months.

LDS Young Men General Presidency
© Intellectual Reserve
Last night, I finally watched the 2012 Young Men Spring Training, held last May.  What's the big idea, you may ask, of a dude whose calling is in the Primary (11YOs are Primary Boys, NOT AP Young Men, after all) attending such training? Someone is probably yelling at me to, "Shut up and color [in the lines]!" as we used to say in the  Air Force.  Well, I see my role, along with the boys' Primary teacher (a division of labor with which I disagree), as being the last push before AP activity - which it is.  If Scouts are to be prepared (and remember, the Priesthood Preview anthem is, "A Young Man Prepared," also known as the LDSuperman Song), well, it's my job to prepare them for the next six years. I should be familiar with what they'll encounter.

There was a very good discussion on Scouting (segments 5, 7, 11) that to me really drove home how integral Scouting is in (US) AP quorums. (It's unfortunate that the Church hasn't found a way to make Scouting work for boys around the world.)  And there is plenty of room for adapting what was said to a Primary setting, too.  Add in the new 2013 curriculum, and the "DTG Online," and it appears there's a real push for a holistic approach toward building youth into strong individuals and MP-holders.  It looks like there is a real effort to meet today's kids on their own turf, speak their language, and really connect with them. Putting all this together should result in a system that prepares them with the skills to confront the challenges of the rest of their lives. You see this in the young men profiled in the video clips.

For example: in the new curriculum, lessons, rather than being read out of a book, are discussions by design.  In a discussion, two-way communication happens, and kids can't help but think about what's going on, and be inspired to understand, rather than shut down for a lecture/lesson.  From what I hear, there's also less emphasis on "back on the farm" stories in favor of examples that today's kids can actually relate to.  (I remember teaching primary lessons to my class in Tampa, and having to take 6+ minutes to explain the story, just so the example would make sense.) DTG online allows Young Men to explore the materials in their natural habitat - it recognizes that kids are much more likely to do something online than on paper, and you can't lose the book.  (Watch this clip about getting all your YM up and running with this great resource.)  Scouting, as the activity program, can pull it all together in an engaging way, especially under the guidance of an adult who has been trained to effectively use all the tools at his disposal.  (Curriculum, DtG, Scouting - Hey, that's three, and we like three-legged stool imagery, right?)

Now, I'm just waiting for a similar training about integrating Scouting and Primary (eliminating the separate Sunday teacher/Wednesday teacher model would go a long way - I'm just sayin'...).  In the meantime, adapt and overcome!

Prepared. | For Life.™
 

The important clips are 4-7 and 9-12, the rest is either hymns or duplicated content. All together it will take about 1.5 hours to watch. Take good notes. And, for good measure, here's the 2012 Spring Training for Primary Folks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The age was lowered, not the bar

©Intellectual Reserve
Pres. Monson’s announcement on Saturday about the age for missionary service being lowered to age 18 for males (who demonstrate the maturity necessary) gave me a lot to think about. The bar is still raised high, though. My thoughts:

We can't succumb to the temptation to reinvent wheel – the Missionary Training Centers are very effective at what they do. Let them. They take kids (yes, 18- and 19-year-olds are still kids, even with the moniker “Elder”) and teach them how to teach. It is simply not necessary to duplicate the effort by turning their preparatory years into six years of MTC lessons. Instead, we ought to double down in practical preparation. Kids need meaningful opportunities to learn:

  • A work ethic, doing hard things and seeing them through the end
  • Money and time management skills
  • To function independently of mom and dad (especially the kids who are helicoptered from trophy to trophy)
  • Decision-making skills, including making plans and executing them - and dealing with and learning from the results, both good and bad
  • Develop Testimony; learn to recognize the spiritual in their surroundings, to draw their own conclusions from their own experiences
  • To act, and not be acted upon

Scouting – when properly carried out – performs these functions admirably. The problem lies in running a program content with going through the motions, administered by individuals who would rather be doing something else (and so they do) which results in boys who learn that going through the motions is perfectly acceptable. They see more than we think, and that carries over into their general behavior. They become missionaries who say the right things, perform the right actions, and check the right boxes, just like they were trained to do for six years. But it's form without substance.  In short, they become as I was am.

Think of it this way: we're all told we ought to read the Book of Mormon. For how many, though, does that just mean get to the end as quickly as you can? (Guilty as charged - Read it? OK, done.) What is lost though, if the objective is simply to get to the last page? And here's the kicker: kids will usually do exactly what they're told, and not much more if they're not trained to think beyond the basic instruction.

If Scouting (or indeed, anything we begin) is seen as a race to a finish line (for example, get your eagle before a certain age, or before a certain milestone, say, a driver’s license), it’s counter-productive. It’s like preparing a Thanksgiving feast whose only purpose is to finish eating it, not take pleasure in the meal, nor in the company and conversation of family and friends, nor even in being grateful at all, because a satisfied burp is the only thing that matters; certainly thanking those who took the time to prepare it is relegated to an aftertastethought.

©Disney/Pixar
Maybe it’s our 75mph freeway mentality. In the movie “Cars,” Sally the Porsche laments that with the advent of the freeway,
“Well, the road didn't cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn't drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”
Is our approach to Scouting like a freeway, get done as fast as possible so we can move on to more important things to finish? Is there no joy in the journey, no stopping at points of interest along the way to learn more about the area you’re visiting? And when the boys see that that is indeed the case – and they will – what’s to stop them from carrying that attitude forward?  Many of them already do. (Think, "hurry and finish DtG so we can play ball.")

Granted, I live in the pre-AP world with 11YO Scouts, but I do try to prepare each boy with the skills which are taken for granted that he possesses upon turning 12.  Likewise with the MTC - it is assumed that each individual meets a certain baseline.  So again, let the MTC do its job when it’s time. We should concentrate on using the tools we've been provided to give these kids the best practical preparation possible.  This adolescence is the time to prepare kids with the personal skills to be mature enough that at 18 (or 19, or 20, 23 or 25) a man or woman is actually ready to serve. In large part that is happening, but there is always room for improvement.

Prepared. | For Life.™


I also think this change in policy (not a doctrine, a policy!) is a direct result of "Raising the bar."

Friday, October 5, 2012

Prepared. | For What?

Have you ever had a conversation with a parent along these lines:

"Why hasn't Johnny got everything marked off in his book?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, he want camping three times, why isn't this passed off?"

"I"m glad you asked.  Let's take a look:
'First Class Requirement 4a: Help plan a patrol menu for one camp-out that includes at least one breakfast, one lunch, and one dinner, and that requires cooking at least two of the meals. Tell how the menu includes the foods from the food pyramid and meets nutritional needs.'
"So, yes, Johnny went on the camp-out, but he didn't participate in the menu planning, nor in acquiring the food and other supplies (4b,c). He didn't participate in the discussion of how to take care of, and prepare the food, either (4d). When it was time to cook the meals, and clean up (4e), he was off harassing ground squirrels.  Really, all he did on this camp-out was sleep in a tent."

"And Requirement three is go camping three times."

"Yes, in part.  Requirement three actually states:
'Since joining, have participated in 10 separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight. Demonstrate the principles of Leave No Trace on these outings.'
"See?  Three camp-outs. He's done that."

"Harassing squirrels and leaving candy wrappers everywhere are not principles of Leave No Trace. Johnny and I have had a couple of discussions about what he can do better. I believe I forwarded you the details of those talks."

"That doesn't matter. He went camping three times, so he did the requirement. You should sign him off."

"Why do you think these requirements are written the way they are?

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, I often find that parents haven't read the requirements to understand their purpose, they've simply given them a cursory glance on the race to 'git-r-dun.'  Why are these the requirements?  What's the purpose of demonstrating Leave No Trace?"  Why all the emphasis on planning and execution in the cooking requirements? What about the boys who do follow all the rules?  Is it fair to give one boy the same award for doing less than half the work everyone else did?

"If we just let him get by for showing up, if we 'just pass him' without his actually completing what's written, what does that teach him?  Doesn't it teach him that the rules don't apply to him, that rules are for other kids?  That the Scout Law, 'Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Obedient, Reverent...' is all just a load of crap that he has to put up with until he outgrows it?  That earning Eagle is just about going through the motions, and that his parents will support him in his quest for mediocrity and unwillingness to play by the rules?  Even worse, does cutting corners say that we don't believe that he can do it?

"And since we're dealing with a group of LDS boys, whom we expect will serve as missionaries, what are the implications for his being a missionary, where the companionship of the Spirit is directly related to his willingness to bend himself to the mission rules, rather than bend those rules around his own preferences? What about after his mission, when he's expected to be a responsible adult who can take care of a family and hold down a career?"

"I never thought of it like that.*"

"You're not the only one.  It seems to be a common problem that Scouting in LDS circles (but we're not the only ones) is seen as just a play date, with the value being in mere badges, and everyone gets a trophy.  Not at all.  This is the time to prepare.  We tend to forget one thing that Scouting's founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell said when asked, 'be prepared for what?'

"'Why for any old thing,' he said."

Prepared. | For Life.™


*Yes, I know that I've set up a one-dimensional straw man and knocked him down convincingly. And that the discussion really should be with Johnny. But, Scouting's purpose is not to check items off a list, any more than it is designed to produce expert craftsmen. It is intended to build character, increase fitness and make good citizens. All three of those are what we want Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthood holders to be.

Friday, September 28, 2012

And now for something completely different

Recently, a new family moved into my ward. Not so exceptional an event, as we get a list of new folks every week. It's not even unique that this family is not LDS. What is unique is that this family has a son who will soon turn eleven, and who wants to be involved in Scouting. The boy's mother has stated that she's hesitant about Church being pushed at them, but that he wants to be involved in a Troop. So now I get to (not have to, GET TO!) present Scouting as it's intended, without all the well-intentioned but ultimately misplaced "this-is-a-church-meeting" stuff we see so often. No, I'll simply show that the built-in spiritual component to Scouting is just as valid as any heavy-handed DTG-heavy program, if not more so. It will put the lie to the misconception that Scouting's only value lies in priesthood/mission preparation. The choice to me is simple:  either present this young man with the program he expects - Scouting uncorrupted - or chase him away with a Scouting-as-a-backdoor-to-the-font. Which I will not do.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RTFM

I enjoy photography a lot. In fact, Scouting has proved to be a great excuse to go out and photograph things that I wouldn't otherwise get to, like eagles wintering on the Great Salt Lake. Today's cameras, whether iPhones, PHDs (push here, dummy), or sophisticated D-SLRs are complex computers with a light sensor built in, and are capable of amazing results when coupled with someone who knows what they're doing. How do you get to the point to know what you’re doing, then?

Every camera comes with a manual. There are also third-party handbooks that build on the basics of the manufacturer's manual and point out capabilities that aren't necessarily obvious. But, you don't really need any of that, do you. A camera is easy enough to use, right? Turn it on, push the button, and wham! you've got a 'picher'. Well, if all you want is a picher, (yes, I know how to spell picture and pitcher, and what the difference is) fine. In my case though, I have a vision that I want to make a reality, specific images I’d like to create, challenging techniques I’d to master. But you have to know what's possible, and not settle for what merely is.

RTFM. Read The Freakin' Manual. It tells you how the machine works, which buttons do what, and how to fix problems. Learn the basics in the manual in order to be able to use the tools in new and creative ways. The camera itself is really just a big, dumb, black box that only does what you tell it to. The more you understand about how it works, the better to maximize results. Different tools will yield different results. Software is the same thing. I used to use a wet darkroom with paper, chemicals, filters and all that stuff and it was a blast. Now it all happens with software, and it's even better (though I miss the smell of D-76). The software has a manual, too, for the exact same reason - to maximize results, and make your vision a reality.

Scouting has all kinds of handbooks and manuals. They’re written by experts, through experience; some are even written in blood. Some give you the basics, others offer more advanced techniques.  All are designed to maximize results – to build young men who can, and are willing to be responsible for themselves, and to serve others. RTFM so you know what your tools are capable of, and how to use them effectively. Without the manual though, you'll only get what the big, dumb box thinks is good enough.

IMGP5643
Sunset from my front yard.
This is the image I wanted, so I told my camera to give it to me.
From my Flickr feed

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Making Choices

Kids have all kinds of ways to spend their time. Some of these are good, some better, some best. It's up to each boy, with the counsel of his parents, teachers and leaders to learn how to distinguish which is which.

Scouting, in large part, is about making choices. Where do we want to go camping? What will we eat? Which bandage is best for this sucking chest wound? Do I support my team at the game, or support my patrol on the hike this Saturday? In making these choices, boys learn that you can't have it all. You have to pick and choose, and live with the consequences. Parents, especially, need to understand this fundamental aspect of the program. I sometimes feel that we over-schedule our kids, pack their days full of stuff, and make all the decisions for them, leaving them no opportunity to really exercise agency.

In preparing for an upcoming activity, I had the opportunity to help a parent understand that there are choices that boys have to make. Our patrol has an activity on Saturday. Sports are played on Saturdays, too.  Both have mutually exclusive time constraints - you can't do both, nor can you do either part-way. It's one or the other.  (Not unless we leave for a hike at O-dark-thirty, and besides being stupidly unsafe, I don't even get up at that time to go to work.)

I try to provide the opportunities that boys need to succeed in Scouting, and they're always welcome to attend.  If they decide that it's not an option at this time, that's OK, but their schedules are not my problem, and I'm not interested in competing with every single other time demand. Either I'm providing something that they (and their parents) feel is worthwhile, or it isn't. For those to whom Scouting is just another Church meeting (with no time- or monetary commitment laid out), it's probably not; for those to whom Scouting is a life-development program, it is. Everyone makes their own bed.

On the other hand, I thought we'd do a conservation service project next month, but lamentably I've decided against it. Not because it's not worthwhile, but I will not commit to an organization when I can't guarantee that I can provide bodies to do the work. That's a choice to preserve my sanity and integrity.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I noticed you because...

My wife and I were in Washington DC this last weekend, and toured the Capital building. There was a Scout troop taking the tour as well. I only know that because they were wearing uniforms - matching t-shirts AND pants - and that's what I noticed. I saw that several senior citizens appreciatively took notice as well. Without uniforms, I wouldn't have given them a second look.

The uniform, like rank advancement, is one of the methods that Scouting uses to accomplish the aims of fostering citizenship, building character and establishing good fitness habits. Remind your parents to encourage their sons to properly wear their uniform to all Scouting events. It gets noticed!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The source of self esteem

"...self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise."
-- Condoleeza Rice, 2012 RNC address.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

...because I could

I got my beads!

Something right is going on here.

While on vacation with my family this past week, we attended the Second Ward in Jackson, WY.  They announced - in Sacrament meeting, from the pulpit - that Scout Committee meeting was that afternoon, and that it was a meeting for the parents of all Scouts (I'm assuming they lumped all three groups under "Scouts" as an umbrella term). No better way to emphasize that it's a group effort, and not the Scoutmaster's "job" to handle everything.

I'm thinking of ways to present the idea (it's been percolating in my head for some time now, anyway) to my bishopric, now that I've seen it done.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A little whimsy

Last week, we took a family vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Part of the time we stayed in Jackson, WY, where I saw these shirts in shop windows. In the right light, they have a Scouting bent to them, so I'm putting them here just because. These are all phoney-cam images. Later, I'll post my real images at my Picasa and Flikr sites.

CONFIDENCE is the feeling you have
before you fully understand the situation


DETERMINATION:
The Feeling you get right before you
try to do something incredibly stupid.
(through a window, so there's a lot of glare)

MOTIVATION
Nothing unlocks your true potential
like an 800lb killing machine.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Go Camping

No, really, go camping.  Pack your pack, hit the trail, find a nice spot on your chosen path, and enjoy nature.  Learn about the stars, or local history and lore.  Whatever you do, get out of the jump-in-the-car, race-to-the-campground, sleep-in-a-tent and race-home-again-by-ten-the-next-morning rut. The only thing you really did there was sleep in a tent.

So What?

Scout camping should accomplish something. Climb a mountain, clean up an area, perform trail maintenance, do some wetlands restoration.  Learn something new.  Explore.  The typical 4-to-10 outing only accomplishes eating, farting and sleeping. So take 36+ hours and actually do something.  The office will still be there when you get back on Monday.

My two 11YO Scouts are going backpacking tomorrow (I'm going too, of course).  It's a short trail, only 3.6 miles of a gradual, 1,000' ascent to a meadow, but it's something they haven't done.  It's a challenge to finish.  It's a place to explore.  It's an exercise in planning and execution.  It's a chance to learn how to do it better next time.  It's a reason for there to be a next time.  Checking a requirement item off of a checklist is not a reason for any teenager to do anything.

Reasons I went camping as a Scout (from ages 10-18):
  • It was fun
  • To see new, exotic (to me) places
  • To climb tall peaks
  • To rappel down them again
  • To explore a cave
  • To do things I couldn't do at home
  • To do something new
  • To sit around a campfire
  • To be with my friends
  • To ride a mountain bike
  • To face down a challenge
  • To get away from parents, brothers and sisters
  • To eat good food
  • To go fishing
  • Because I could
  • To pass off requirements

Things that happened along the way:
  • I learned new skills that I still use today
  • I overcame those challenges
  • I built life-long friendships
  • I became a better person
  • I built a collection of treasured memories
  • Advancement
  • My testimony grew

"Many people are in a rut,
and a rut is nothing but a grave -
with both ends kicked out."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doing what Scouts Do

This has been one of the most important things I have read about guiding boys on the Scouting trail (to include Varsity, Venturing, & DtG):

Scoutmaster CG - Stop doing Rank Requirements.

Scout Camp is a really good example: requirements and merit badges follow as a result of doing fun stuff, as opposed to sitting in "Scout School."  What Clarke Green says could also go a long way toward recapturing the interest of those older boys who "don't do Scouting anymore."

Another thing said on this site is that the job description of a Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Scribe, Historian, or any of the boy leaders is simply to lead, train and inspire others to become First Class Scouts (ppt file).  Coupled to an Aaronic Priesthood context, I think it gives a good direction for a young AP quorum presidency:  lead, train and inspire the quorum in being worthy and active AP-bearers.  In this way, the "priesthood arm" and the "activity arm" reinforce each other and support each boy equally while preparing them for the grown-up world of MP service and responsibility.

I think these two concepts can free the adults up to focus on simply training the leaders to teach their peers. Thanks, Fishgutts, for the reminder.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Yankee Wisdom

From time to time I like to watch Norm Abram build cool stuff on the New Yankee Workshop on PBS.  Norm Abram really is a master craftsman - he knows his medium, he knows his tools and he knows what he can do with them. There's something he always says when introducing a new project: "Be sure to read, understand and follow the safety rules that come with your power tools.  Knowing how to use your power tools properly will greatly reduce the risk of personal injury."

I think that the Lord has provided some powerful tools, including Scouting, Duty to God, For the Strength of Youth, Faith in God, and Personal Progress, for guiding our Youth reach their potential.  By reading, understanding and following the rules that come with those tools, Church-written and otherwise, the likelihood of success is greatly increased, and the risk of physical or spiritual injury goes down, too.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Milestone

I sent my oldest off to camp for the first time at Camp Steiner in Utah's Uinta mountains this morning.  For me, there was never a question of whether I'd go with him, Scout Camp is a time to get away from Mom and Dad.  He needs this time away from home.  He still needs help packing, though (not that I could tell him anything he doesn't already know, what with his 12 years of experience and all that).  Yes, you need clean socks!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sharing the Trail

Last weekend, I took the boys to Camp Tracy up Mill Creek Canyon east of Salt Lake City. One of the events on our agenda was a five mile hike. This is a pretty tough trail, climbing 2,500 feet in 2.5 miles, it's one, long switchback to a great overlook of the Salt Lake Valley. We were in a group of about 50 other Scouts, and it being a weekend, we got to share the trail with plenty of other hikers and their dogs.

We were about 2/3 of the way back down the mountain, when someone ahead of us called out "snake!" Curiosity being a huge part of Scouting, we all tried to spot the slithering serpent.  A little movement along the ground revealed this Crotalus oreganus lotusus, or Great Basin rattlesnake slithering past.

Crotalus oreganus lotusus, the Great Basin rattlesnake

This two-and-a-half footer was on a leisurely, er, stroll, paralleling the trail about 4-5 feet from the edge of the trail. The image above was taken with a 18-55mm lens, at the 55mm end (which approximates the field of view of a human eye), so you can tell we were pretty close.  One of the boys asked, "Can I make it rattle?" and of course the answer was, NO.  Stretched out like this, the snake is not dangerous - he doesn't feel threatened; he wasn't even racing to get away from us.  Coiled and rattling though, he's angry and a potential threat.

And that's the thing.  You can often neutralize a threat by maintaining a safe distance, by staying out of range of its effects.  We were standing several feet away from a 2.5 foot pit viper. Venomous, yes; dangerous, no.  He wasn't threatened by our presence, and we were content to just watch him pass.  And this encounter is a great illustration of staying safe by staying away.  Whether it's heroin, porn, lying, or what-have-you, keeping a safe distance (which is different for each threat, for each person) will go a long way toward eliminating that threat.

This is more than "Just Say No,"  It's Keep Away.  In general, you can control how close you are, and that will in large part determine how much of a threat it is. It's as true for Surface-to-Air missiles as it is for rattlesnakes.  Know what the threat is, what it's capable of, what it looks like, and how it works. Know what constitutes a safe area, and stay there. Either let the threat pass, or walk away, but keep your distance and stay safe.

ADDED:  The harmless, common gopher snake (Pituophis catenifer), or bull snake, is a close mimic of (and is easily mistaken for) the Great Basin rattlesnake, and will even shake its tail to scare off threats.  It has very similar markings, shares a black tongue, and can grow up to five or six feet in length. Both species exhibit a great variety in coloration and markings, too.

Pituophis catenifer, the gopher snake,
which I photographed in someone's front yard in Ogden, UT.
(shot with a Nokia phone, edited with Picasa).

For comparison, here's a shot of the more surley Texas Western Diamondback (Crotalus atrox), that I took at the County Fair last year. With a piece of glass between me and her four feet of angry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Time for Camp

Tomorrow I'll be at camp with my two Scouts.  We go to Camp Tracy each year for instruction and  practice with most of the early rank skills, so there's knots, compass, safe swim, edge tools and other "book stuff," but there's also climbing, .22 shooting, archery, geocaching and team-building exercises.  The first day ends with us going home to pack for the overnighter the next day. All in all, it's three days of Scouting through the fire hose.

I was nervous about having to cancel the whole thing, because of a lack of two-deep leadership - the other 11YO leader was released, and no replacement had been called.  But, things fell into place at the last minute.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hit the trail

Just a few hiking resources:

Monday, July 9, 2012

Down time

Last week I took my family camping and hiking up Big Cottonwood Canyon east of Salt Lake City.  After spending the Fourth watching parades, relaxing at the water park, treating my sunburned feet (oops), chowing fried chicken and (safely) lighting off ground-based fireworks in my driveway, we spent the next four days dodging downpours, eating from Dutch ovens and otherwise enjoying the woods.  The kids took a fancy to one corpulent ground squirrel they affectionately named Fatty McSquirrelface (the Diabetic).  We were also fortunate enough to have good friends with us, Nick el Cartoonista and his family.  No work, no Church, no Scouts for five glorious days - I even turned off my phone the whole time.

Cyber CHIP

This article about kids and their internet use underscores the need for the new Cyber Chip.  I think I'll make it a part or the Tenderfoot-to-First-Class trail for my boys.  (Read that, I'll make sure that it's covered and earned, along with Totin' Chip and Firem'n Chit, within the first year, not as a condition of earning a rank, but an aid to it.)


Monday, July 2, 2012

GSLC fire ban and 2012 safety incidents

I just got an email stating that the Great Salt Lake Council will prohibit fires on any of its properties - to include charcoal.  In light of a letter read over the pulpit yesterday, I'd say we ought to pray that everyone is prudent in their celebrating and recreating for the balance of the summer. Fires and boys with sticks is just a bad idea right now. 

Here's from the email I received from my WB Scoutmaster:
"I would take it one step further, and advise you as a matter of common sense, not to allow any open fires during any of your camps or scouting activities, whether they be on Council property or not. It seems very difficult for some folks to maturely deal with this concept/challenge. I understand that a camp fire is a big part of camping, and it is a challenge to change our mind-set, however; the consequences are staggering! Our Governor stated that all firefighting and related expenses will be paid by those responsible for starting the fire, whether it be intentional or accidental. While some may disagree, I am not in a position to argue. I would love not to see any more bad press related to our BSA program.

"Please stand with me and accept the challenge of eliminating this awful risk for the balance of the fire season."
I would also like to take a moment to mention safety.  In the last month alone, there have been several fatal accidents involving Scouts/Aaronic Priesthood groups:
  • In Colorado, one boy drowned and two nearly didn't make it back to shore when their canoe capsized. None were wearing PFDs.  The info I got (from the LDS Scouts Yahoo group) said it was a "CJCLDS High Adventure Camp" but the original source was not cited or linked;
  • Last weekend, three Woodland Park CO Scouts, one adult Scout leader and a toddler died in a head-on collision on their way home from Camp in Wyoming;
  • a 16yo Scout from St. George drowned at the Havasupai falls area near the Grand Canyon.
It's been stated, (though it's tough to find published stats) that LDS make up ~20% of registered units (Boy Scout Troops, Varsity Scout Teams and Venturing Crews), but account for ~60%-70% of fatalities.  Brad Harris (author of Trails to Testimony) said that in 2008, 5 of 8 fatalities were LDS. We're very over-represented in these statistics.  We have to ask ourselves, why?

Reading and following the Guide to Safe Scouting will go a long way toward mitigating risks, whether Camping or Trekking.  A cursory analysis of the above incidents shows clear violations of the Guide, especially concerning water activities. Safety is everyone's responsibility, but lawsuits go after individuals and organizations.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Evaluating your Boys' program

Twelfth and final in a series of monthly Ward Scouter Training Topics.

Every once in a while, it's a good idea to take a step back and make an assessment of your work. In our professional lives, we get evaluated based on goals and expected outcomes. Naturally, we expect to be recognized and, hopefully, compensated for our improvement and contribution.  New goals are established, and the cycle begins again (if the boss is happy, that is). This assessment process encourages one to strive to be better than before, and to be an active contributor to the group's success.

A few years ago, BSA had a program called Quality Unit that measured particular metrics to assess the effectiveness of individual units.  That program has been replaced by Scouting's Journey to Excellence. The objective is the same: to encourage excellence in providing a quality youth program, and provide Committees with the tools to assess their programs' effectiveness in the lives of the youth they serve. Amongst the evaluated criteria are such diverse elements as:
  • Advancement
  • Retention
  • Trained Leadership
  • Patrol Method
  • Service Projects
  • Camping program
There's a score card for each Family of Scouting (see last month's training topic for information on Scouting families), and each provides three levels of recognition, based on meeting established benchmarks. In breaking with BSA tradition, Gold is the highest achievement level (instead of silver). Decide which one to shoot for, and then go out and do it.

And now for something completely different.

In the last year, I have attempted to provide my Unit committee with information and training to help improve our boys' Scouting experience. However, I recently realized that we never really asked the Youth what they thought of their program. Since LDS boys and their leaders are automatically assigned to their troops, et. al. (hey, that solves the JTE retention problem, right?), rather than joining an organization that interests them, we have boys at all kinds of commitment levels. In an effort to analyze why they do or do not participate, I developed a survey to assess their attitudes toward Scouting in general. It's intended to be used by the adult Troop/Team/Crew leadership (or a ward/stake Young Men Presidency) and asks boys to honestly assess their experience. Based on an analysis of their responses, it should tell you where your unit's strengths and weaknesses are, thereby providing a road map for improvement.

One last idea regarding unit evaluation is for your Committee to identify which awards the adult leaders qualify for, like the Trained ribbon, On My Honor for Adults, or the Scouter's Training Award (green square knot), among others. A leader who meets the various qualifications and is publicly recognized for his commitment likely already has a "quality unit." Youth who see their leaders recognized will hopefully see it as emblematic of a personal commitment to individual improvement, but not as grown-up badge-chasing.

(Bonus Arrow Points if you can identify the TWO Monty Python allusions in this post.)

Tools for assessing your Troop/Team/Crew:

Friday, June 29, 2012

What Manner of Men?

"It's not the award. It's not the patch, it's not the badge. It's action. And when you find Scouts who do a thing, it doesn't much matter what their medal says, or doesn't say. It's their mettle - not their medals." (at 19:21)
--Mike Rowe, speaking at the National Annual Meeting


it gets really good at about 7:15

Case in Point:
NJ Scouts Intimidate Would-be Thief in Key West, Recover Stolen Wallet and iPhone.


All they did was follow the assailant on their bikes and keep their distance, which made him nervous and confused. He just couldn't shake these good-deed-doers.

"The guy was denying it and saying he didn't steal anything and the cop says, 'Well, I've got 17 Boy Scouts here who are willing to swear an oath and tell a judge they saw you. Who do you think the judge will believe?'"

True to form, though, the Scouts said the best part of the trip was playing volleyball with some Houston girls.


"Therefore, what manner of men ought ye to be?" (3 Nephi 27:27)

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, June 28, 2012

To be, or not to be

Some years ago, I heard a little ditty on the Dr. Demento Show called “Be Prepared” by mathematician and satirist Tom Lehrer. His description of Scouting in that little tune was less than complimentary, to put it mildly (but probably more realistic than we’d like to admit), and it’s definitely not a song you’d have your boys sing around the campfire.

What does it mean to Be Prepared, anyway? Sir Robert Baden-Powell said to be prepared “for any old thing.” I’d like to emphasize the word “be.” Webster’s defines it, in part, as:

  • 1d – to have a specified qualification or characterization [the leaves are green]; and
  • 2a – to have an objective existence : have reality or actuality [I think, therefore I am].

To Be is often called a “helping verb” in English. It conjugates as, “I am,” “you are,” “she is,” “we are.” The Spanish equivalent, ser is defined as, “to have an intrinsic or natural quality, or to have it permanently.” (In Spanish, it’s also a verb in its own right, and doesn’t “help” anything.)