Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where's the Conflict?

What part of “On My Honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law (A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent); to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight” is in conflict with Aaronic Priesthood objectives and purposes?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cookies and Platters

My awesome wife serves on the local PTA.  Once, there was some cookie consternation at a student event.  Some grown-ups were dumbfounded that there were no serving platters or tablecloths for the refreshments. (My very wise wife is an adherent of function before form.)  The plastic cookie containers from the grocery store just wouldn't do.  Something had to be done to prettify the situation.  They got as far as cutting the tops off the packaging to make it more "presentable."

All the kids wanted was the cookies.  Who were the platters for, and who were the cookies for?  In our interactions with our youth, or even with the other adults involved, are we more concerned with platters, or with cookies?

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Blind Men and the Elephant

It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach'd the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -"Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"

The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"

The Fourth reached out his eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he,
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!


So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887)

For a Scoutmaster's Minute, you can probably skip the moral.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Online Tour Plan

I learned at Roundtable last week that BSA, at the National level, is moving to an online Tour Plan format. This new tool will be live on May 1, so to help us out, they've provided a FAQ and orientation video (13 mins). It does a good job of showcasing how easy they've made the process, and of the safeguards that are in place.   

The new format means there's no longer any need to go to the Scout Office for their stamp of approval for Scout Camp, or Varsity/Venture High Adventure camps. It also remembers things like auto insurance information and contact info, so you don't have to track it all down each time you create one.

You can find the policy on whether you need a Tour Plan here. I think it's a good practice to build one for each activity purely from a CYA standpoint.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WB Ticket #3, Diversity

Below is the first slide of a presentation I gave at Roundtable on recognizing and respecting the religious beliefs and traditions of others. The premise is to help LDS Scouters teach boys how to understand and respect, rather than dismiss and denigrate, the deeply-held and cherished traditions of those outside their own faith. (Kind of important, if our goal is to build young men who can touch hearts and minds upon graduating from the program.)  In a way, this is a mea culpa, as I was one of those dismissive individuals; after all, we pray The Right Way, not The Same Way Every Time. I've since learned that, the man who fell among thieves just wanted someone to help him. This is intended for an LDS audience, with a disclaimer and apology up front for anyone in attendance not of that persuasion.

Click the image to see the presentation.
Be sure to read the notes for each slide.
There is also an accompanying Responsive Reading.

This makes me three-for-five for my beads.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


There will be an annular solar eclipse (ring-around-the-moon-type) visible from the western US on Sunday, May 20, 2012.  In my area, the partial eclipse begins around 5:15PM and lasts until sunset. Times are listed in Universal (UTC) Coordinated Time; convert to local times as follows:
  • CDT = UTC - 5 hours
  • MDT = UTC - 6 hours
  • PDT = UTC - 7 hours
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, as another annular eclipse won't occur in this location in this century. It's perfect for anyone working on the Astronomy merit badge, or anyone else who enjoys the magnificence of the universe.

The next similar event visible across the US will be a total solar eclipse in August, 2017:

BTW, annular refers not to the calendar, but to the ring effect, coming from the same Latin root - annulus - as the Spanish anillo which, being interpreted, is a ring.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Red Skelton - The Pledge of Allegiance

From the Red Skelton Hour, January 14, 1969

"Getting back to school, I remember a teacher that I had. Now I only went, I went through the seventh grade. I left home when I was 10 years old because I was hungry. (laughter) And .. this is true. I worked in the summer and went to school in the winter. But, I had this one teacher, he was the principal of the Harrison school, in Vincennes, Indiana. To me, this was the greatest teacher, a real sage of my time, anyhow.

"He had such wisdom. We were all reciting the Pledge of Allegiance one day, and he walked over. This little old teacher ... Mr. Lasswell was his name. He said:

"'I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?

Ime, an individual, a committee of one
Pledgededicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity
Allegiancemy love and my devotion
To the Flagour standard, Old Glory, a symbol of freedom. Wherever she waves, there's respect because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts freedom is everybody's job
of the Unitedthat means that we have all come together
Statesindividual communities that have united into 48 great states. 48 individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose, all divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that's love for country
of America, and to the RepublicRepublic ... a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people
For Which It Stands: One NationOne Nation ... meaning, so blessed by God
Indivisibleincapable of being divided
With Libertywhich is freedom, the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation
And Justicethe principle or qualities of dealing fairly with others
For AllFor all ... which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.'

"And now boys and girls let me hear you recite, the "Pledge of Allegiance."

By the way, why do we recite this as if we're still in first grade, three or four words at a time?

Try it like this:
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
And to the Republic for which it stands:
One nation under God,
With liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Reflection and Scoutmaster Minutes

Ninth of twelve ward Scouter Training modules.

Conducting reflections can make the difference between simply sleeping in a tent overnight and making it a meaningful experience, between burning the Dutch oven stew and creating an environment of success from what looked like failure.
"We can make our experiences more meaningful and effective if we reflect upon them. In Scouting, reflection is simply the process of the Scouts talking about their experiences immediately after an exercise or activity with a little bit of wise moderating...

"Reflection provides an opportunity for everyone in the group to have input into what happened. Reflection is best accomplished by asking open-ended questions such as 'What,' 'How,' 'When,' and 'Where.' In reflection, there are no right or wrong answers, just ideas, opinions, and insights.

"You can use reflections to evaluate troop activities, and it will result in improved engagement by your Scouts in future planning and execution of activities. Leading reflections is a simple process that can greatly enhance the learning process."

Rather than rack my brain to say what's already been said, I'll refer you to a Venture Adviser in Vernal, UT who wrote a great piece on his experience with conducting reflections. Two key points from his write-up:
" requires the [adult, but more importantly, youth] leader to be on the look-out for meaningful experiences."

"...[End] reflection with a prayer. (This also has the added benefit of a sense of finality to the activity, keeping everyone together until the end, instead of slowly migrating to the gym sometime along the way [for a session of Duty to Spalding].)"
I would add that a Scoutmaster Minute (or equivalent, depending on your group)  can really punctuate the reflection and bring the activity to a poignant close.

At the end of a recent hike with my 11YO patrol, we reflected about how reaching our destination required continual effort until you arrive. Sometimes the trail is hard, or not what you expected it to be, sometimes you may think you're too tired to go on, but stopping or turning back early means never reaching the goal. The spiritual implications were obvious even to eleven-year-old boys.  Here's a pdf of procedures and techniques for conducting reflections.

Conducting Reflections PDF
Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops, pp.9/10
Brad Harris, Trails to Testimony, ch. 9
Adventures and Accidents Blog, "Reflection"
"Help Scouts Weigh Right From Wrong," Scouting Magazine, Nov/Dec 2011

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Coming American

Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose,
And new eras in their brains.
Bring me men to match my prairies,
Men to match my inland seas,
Men whose thoughts shall pave a highway
Up to ampler destinies,
Pioneers to cleanse thought’s marshlands,
   And to cleanse old error’s fen;
Bring me men to match my mountains –
   Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my forests,
Strong to fight the storm and beast,
Branching toward the skyey future,
Rooted on the futile past.
Bring me men to match my valleys,
   Tolerant of rain and snow,
Men within whose fruitful purpose
   Time’s consummate blooms shall grow,
Men to tame the tigerish instincts
Of the lair and cave and den,
Cleanse the dragon slime of nature –
   Bring me men!

Bring me men to match my rivers,
   Continent cleansers, flowing free,
Drawn by eternal madness,
   To be mingled with the sea –
Men of oceanic impulse,
   Men whose moral currents sweep
Toward the wide, unfolding ocean
   Of an undiscovered deep –
Men who feel the strong pulsation
   Of the central sea, and then
Time their currents by its earth throbs –
   Bring me Men.

-- Samuel Walter Foss

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."

-- Douglas Adams, The Hittchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Tuesday, April 3, 2012