Category Archives: Leadership

It Would Be So Much Easier…

Here I am again, less than a week after speaking my mind about the perplexity of giving scouts the room they need to succeed (or fail). This time the frustration is hitting me in the pocket book.

My son got word from his patrol leader to provide about $45 bucks worth of food items for their cooking exploits for an upcoming encampment. I don’t need to tell you I can get a lot of mileage out for $45 bucks when it comes to cooking for a family of five or six. When I heard the shopping list I thought these scouts have a LOT to learn about thrift.

As I write these lines I am reminded of an event a while back when I was the pastor of a church in Georgia. A destitute young couple with a baby came to the church for help. Their food stamps had run out and they had no food. Not willing to just “hand out” some coupons and hide from the potential ugly truth, I visited their home. Their  cupboard where they kept dry goods was void of food and their refrigerator was perilously empty.  So, off to the grocery store we went. Immediately they headed for the TV dinners. What! I didn’t yell but I excitedly asked them what they were doing.

I learned very quickly they didn’t know how to shop and, much less, how to cook. That night I introduced them to the world of potatoes boiled, potatoes baked, and potatoes mashed. I showed them how, on a food stamp sized budget, they could feed themselves and their infant well provided they were careful with the shopping. We made up several weekly grocery lists and menus. I wish I knew if they really benefited but I know this, without practicing thrift, they were doomed.

That brings me back to scouts. Somewhere it seems scouts, and their families, have lost sight of thrift. Why wouldn’t a teenager prefer to warm up frozen meatballs in lieu of making his own? Why not purchase orange juice as a filling substitute for water at breakfast? Why not? Because cost isn’t a major concern.

Scouts are supposed to learn to budget, prepare a menu, and cook. Whether it’s for front country, backpacking, or a Friday night while Mom and Dad are out scouts should know how to care for themselves (and others). I wonder if this is what’s happening instead; Mom or Dad head to the store and fill the basket with whatever is on the list “to get it done”. It only happens once a month or so; what’s the big deal?

The big deal is it robs a scout of being responsible, learning thrift, becoming self reliant.

Meanwhile, I have sent my daughter to the store to fill the basket and send “the boy” off on his encampment. Why? I just don’t have time to deal with it right now. I guess we’ll have to learn self-reliance and thrift next time!

Rainbow at NH Jamboree

A Typical-Not-So-Typical Troop Meeting

Rainbow at NH Jamboree

There is a pot at the end of the troop meeting rainbow… but it isn’t always gold.

Getting a handle on how to help a group of scouts lead themselves is perplexing. When I started as Scoutmaster, I did not know the history or culture of this troop and how we got where we are. Additionally, their personalities were a mystery to me; I did not have a prior history with these scouts or more than a couple of their parents.  With so much ignorance on my part I was bound to be baffled. The fact is, I still do not know the factors that shaped the culture of this troop. My familiarity with the parents remains largely unchanged. And, to a large degree, I remain baffled.

Maybe one quality of a adult “scouters” is an ability to work for good in the midst of perplexity? Think of it, the scout who starts a term as Senior Patrol Leader scarcely knows himself much less has the experience and skill of a proven leader. Indeed, the whole point of being an SPL, in my view, is to gain the skills and the experience. He, and the troop, are a work in progress; a writhing mass of physical and emotional contradictions carried out in the larger context of teen age. Yikes! How, then, can a scoutmaster have a firm grasp on what to do?

At times I envy professional educators.  Besides the depth of training they have received they possess many concrete resources of which a curriculum is key. Think about it, a well defined curriculum serves as a road map to learning with a clearly defined destination. To be fair that is an overly simplified understanding of a curriculum. Indeed, most educators I know are engaged in something called “differentiated instruction”. That’s the term applied to the idea that students are persons and tend to have unique learning needs. In other words a curriculum cannot be a mold into which every student is squeezed (or crushed). As I understand it, curriculum is descriptive not prescriptive.

Right now, and strangely, I find myself thinking of the “Pirate Code”.  “… code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl…” When it comes to teaching, guiding scouts, working with “persons” it may be best to accept that some measure of perplexity is inevitable.