Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Leave 'em be.

I really like the Free-Range Kids blog by Lenore Skenazy. Today she had a really good guest post called "Take Your Eyes off Your Kids." One of the comments summed it up perfectly: Don't prepare the path for your child, prepare your child for the path." Fits perfectly with what Scouting is all about:  building confident, independent, responsible, well-adjusted adults. Do that by training them, (actually, they should train one another), then let 'em have at it.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, March 22, 2013

How far is 200 miles?

Not long ago, I learned that the Area Presidency, and then the Stake Presidency have asked that wards limit their Scouting excursions (no word on if that extends to Trek excursions) to 200 miles.  Naturally, this led me to some questions? 200 crow-miles, or 200 car-miles? What's within that limitation? So, I decided to take a look at what a 200-mile radius from my chapel looks like.  I had to do a little googling to find out how to plot a circle in Google Earth, but found a way to do it (described below).  The bottom line, to me, is that the roads go where they go, and not one of them goes directly to any destination.

I don't care for the notion that mileage is limited to highways meandering through the mountains. So, for my part, I'd operate under the assumption that it's 200 crow-miles, and not ask for further clarification.  However, I understand where this is coming from: racing home for six hours after after wearing yourself ragged hiking out of your wilderness adventure, in order to get all the Scouterellas home by the stroke of midnight on Saturday, can be (has been*) a recipe for disaster.  It's all part of prudent, thoughtful planning.

Some of the sites within a 200-mile radius of my chapel.

Happy, safe travels.  Don't forget to file (and follow) a Tour Plan! (pdf version)

Here's how to plot this yourself.
  1. Download and install Google Earth, if you don't have it already.
  2. Navigate to and stick a thumbtack over your chapel.
  3. Right click the marker, select Properties and take a look at the Lat/Long.
  4. Enter those coordinates on this FCC web site (you have to convert the Deg/Min/Sec coordinates to Deg.decimal coordinates.
  5. Copy the resulting decimal coordinates into the appropriate blocks at KML4Earth (If you're in the Western Hemisphere, make ensure to enter a "negative" longitude).
  6. Enter a radius, hit "Generate Circle" then follow the instructions. You'll have a terrain-hugging radius overlaid on the imagery.
  7. The radius overlay will show up in the Temporary Places in the navigation panel on the left.  Right-click "circle.kml" and select "Save to My Places" to keep it. Right-click again and alter the properties as needed.
  8. Plot likely sites within your circle, and show them to the boys.  What's great is that you can save a .kmz file of the circle and sites (I put a copy in my Dropbox), and show this to anyone with your smartphone or tablet.

UPDATE, June 24, 2014

When are 200 miles not 200 miles?

When they're NAUTical miles!  I added a 200nm-radius circle to the overlay , and included all the Scout camps from five councils within that area. I also added Philmont because, well, Philmont.

And don't penalize your mileage for the switchbacks.

Finally, as I was researching this, I found that almost all of these Councils/camps offer programs for LDS Activity Days girls (at dedicated Cub Day Camp facilities) and YW camps. Just in case your girls were looking for adventure, or some nonsense like that. Look at the respective Council camping web page for more information. Because girls need to be prepared, too.

Prepared. | For Life.™

*This tragic incident falls well within the 200-mile limit, car or crow, from the Wasatch Front, which demonstrates to me that risk is not distance-based, but preparation and planning based. I'm not commenting on the state of mind of the victims, only on a general mentality that drives us to do dumb things.

Nephi’s Courage

It has been said that sport doesn’t’ build character, it reveals it. If that is true, then it must be built somewhere. Nephi’s courage was forged in the crucible of the desert. Moses wasn’t sent to baseball camp, he was sent to the Wilderness of Sin. No baseball camp, football camp, lacrosse, soccer, basketball, band camp or water polo week can teach a Youth how to exercise Priesthood keys and fulfill responsibilities, accountability to others, service-mindedness, or provide the character-building moments the way an inspired outdoor Scouting program can.*

It is built one boy, one experience at a time. Going out into the wild, experiencing the Creation as Nephi may have, will go a long way to turning a boy’s mind to higher things. Nephi overcame much on his journey across the desert; a boy must overcome much on a 50-miler. Nephi had to cook his own food, confront difficult companions, backtrack a few times and more. Moses had to find his way in an unfamiliar land, persuasively communicate to and lead a reluctant troop of people to a place they didn’t want to go.

Our boys may not be asked to journey across an uncharted wasteland, or lead the faithful to a new land.  Nor were they even asked if they wanted to make the journey in the first place. But hard things will be asked of them. Harder even than going to practice every day and nursing their injuries.  Harder things even than completing 21 merit badges of various topics. Harder even than carrying everything they need on their backs. Harder even than running a meeting. Doing the hard things now will make the harder things to come more manageable. That’s what we are trying to prepare them for.

Prepared. | For Life.™

*Unless said coach is also a Scouter in his "spare" time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Camping Guidance for 11YO Scout Patrols

Excerpt from a note I sent out today:

Beginning in April, we'll start digging into camping skills that just happen to match up with the camping/cooking and outdoors requirements, so that everyone has some practice before the real deal. Please remember that for camping, Church instructions state that "Fathers are invited and encouraged [NOTE: it does not say required] to participate in the overnight camping experiences with their sons and with boys whose fathers cannot attend" (Scouting Handbook §6.2, ¶6). I will not tell a boy "no camp for you" because of circumstances outside of his control; that would be patently unfair and we'll find a way to make it work. But dads, please review the dates below and where possible, please make arrangements to help us comply with Church guidance.

This brings up another point. The Church's Scouting Handbook also has this to say about 11-year-olds and camping:
"Eleven-year-old Scouts [registered in an LDS-sponsored Troop] may participate in three one-night camps a year, which meets the camping requirements for advancement to First Class rank. As desired, these overnight camp experiences may be held with the ward’s Boy Scout troop...No other Scout-sponsored overnight camping should be planned for [LDS-sponsored] eleven-year-old Scouts." (Scouting Handbook §6.2, ¶5)
I understand that an invitation has been extended for them to go on the Uintas/Flaming Gorge outing later this summer with the rest of the Troop, and I can't say anyone can't go - that's a personal decision. However, I will not be attending, and this will not be an "11YO camp." It is still a Troop activity, per 2Class Req. 3a/1Class Req 3. I will say that this gives me a moral dilemma, as a Scout is obedient; he follows the rules. I have long felt that we can't expect a boy, just because he's turned 18, to suddenly follow all the rules (be 'flech' in the lingo from my mission) if he has not been shown, by example, (and been expected) to do so. Even the ones that suck.

A mission is full of rules, not the least of which are contained in the Missionary Handbook, the so-called "White Bible" that many of you are familiar with. Obedience is a key of missionary work and just plain living the Gospel, but it has to be taught early, and continuously reinforced, yea, even outside the walls of the chapel, school and home. Again, I can't say someone should not attend the Jul/Aug camp, but I want to make sure everyone is on the same page as far as knowing what "Big Church" has said about it. If I had my druthers, this would not be a problem, but the Church adds quite a few stipulations which I personally feel are detrimental to effective Scout Training, but which we have to comply with nonetheless. C'est la vie.

Finally, the Father/Son camp in May is NOT a Scout Camp - it's a Stake camp, and as such will not count against the 3-camp quota.

*"Flech" refers to "flecha," which is Spanish for arrow, as in, straight as an arrow.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, March 18, 2013

What to find out before accepting a Scouting calling

Another conversation with myself... I tend to do a lot of thinking about Scouts in Church. Yesterday, things transpired to the point that I developed a list of questions to ask a bishop the next time I'm asked to work with Scouts (not that I’m anticipating a change in ‘job’ right now).  I had to write them down just to stop thinking about it.  Here’s what I came up with.

Questions to ask the bishop when you are asked to serve in Scouting.

  • Why does this ward participate in Scouting?
  • LDS Boy Scouting ‘ends’ at age 14, but is rarely ever replaced by an effective, vibrant Varsity Scouting or Venturing program. Will I be busting my hump for two years (per boy), only to turn them over to an atrophied activity arm? What's the point of it now, anyway?*
  • What is Scouting for – to hand out badges and make sure we drag each boy through the ranks and Eagle, or is it a 10-year youth training program (beginning with an 8YO Cub Scout and culminating with an 18YO man)?
  • How often should the boys’ activities and meetings be preempted by well-meant adults’ preferences?
  • What does Scout Training offer the youth that weeknight scripture study, manufactured spiritual experiences, and jungle-ball (or _____ sports league, for that matter) doesn’t? 
  • What kind of committee and parental support will I be able to expect? 
  • What's more important - every boy having an Eagle badge, or every boy living up to the Scout Oath and Law? Is it the Patch or the Process? If the process, why are we content to let it end prematurely (at birthday #14)?
  • Will you (or have you) read Trails to Testimony, by Brad Harris ere I answer this call?
  • Once more, why do we participate in Scouting?
  • I've done this before, and even attended BSA's Wood Badge Training.  I've done a lot of research into Scouting and how to use its tools effectively.  I've unfortunately also learned a lot about how tradition trumps educated reform of a program that has veered off-trail.  If I accept this calling, will you support my doing things the Scouting way, trusting in my background and training, or will you insist on “the way we’ve always done it?” If I say ‘Scouting looks like this,' will you sustain such a decision?
I need an answer to each of these questions before I can accept. If you want someone to challenge the boys to do their best, to become better men and to lead one another along the Trail to Testimony (apologies to Brad Harris), I’m your man.  (Actually, one of three men; they should have a Varsity Coach and Venturing Adviser who will do the same). If however, the expectation is just to babysit them on Wednesday basketball nights and drag them through the ranks, and not really give much thought to the why of it all, please ask someone else.  Because there is nothing more frustrating than knowing what the picture looks like, only to be told to complete the puzzle based on someone else's incomplete recollection of what's on the box.

UPDATE: March 21, 2013. Fighgutts posted the other side of the coin.

*On May 11, 2017, the LDS Church announced that it will no longer participate in Varsity Scouting and Venturing. So, yes, Scouting in the Church really does, as a matter of policy, end at 14 now.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Scout Oath vs. Young Women Values

The Young Women Values
I have had several discussions with people about what to do about youth attrition recently. One of the things I realized is that there is a disparity between the expectations of Young Men and Young Women.  Here is how I described it to my Stake President:

The Young Women recite the YW values at least twice per week, from their 12th birthday to the day they enter the Relief Society. That is the expectation and they meet it. On the other hand, since upon turning 14, Young Men are "done with Scouting" they don't revisit those lofty ideals [the Oath and Law] until the increasingly unlikely Eagle Court of Honor. They will meet the expectations we have of them, low or high. At one recent Eagle COH, the 17-year-old recipient could not repeat the Oath and Law alongside his younger companions (all age 13 and under). Truly, of what value is the badge, if a young man cannot declare:
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country,
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times;
to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.
This one is low-hanging fruit. If the YW are expected to know their values, the YM ought to be held to the Ideals of Scouting, regardless of which birthday they've most recently marked: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent. These are not just words to recite, but qualities to internalize. All meetings and activities should reinforce the Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan in one way or another, just as they should all have a devotional moment. (Elder Bednar declared that all activities should answer the following two questions: How does it strengthen the family? And how does it bring the boy to Christ? – this is badly paraphrased, but is remembered from Trails to Testimony) These two ideas are not inconsistent with each other.) If that is not among our top goals with Young Men, we are failing them, and they will find something else that satisfies their desire for something which, to them, is meaningful.

Are our expectations a hindrance, or a help?

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A funny thing happened on the way to the merit badge counselor

The other day, the day before a Court of Honor, in fact, I took my son to see his Communications merit badge counselor to finish all his requirements. On several prior occasions I’d asked him if he had completed all the requirements, if he had done everything that was written. For example, had he WRITTEN a REPORT of his city council meeting? (No.) Had he interviewed a family member? (No.) Clearly, he wasn’t ready to complete his badge…