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
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


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

Scouting Supports the Priesthood -

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.

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.