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.

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