Posts Tagged ‘Boy Scouts of America’

Nothing More American Than Scouting?

July 4, 2013
Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouti...

Three early 20th century leaders of the Scouting movement (l-to-r): Ernest Thompson Seton, Robert Baden-Powell, and Dan Beard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elsewhere on social media, an innocent Independence Day missive provoked a flurry of comments:

“There’s nothing more all-American than Scouting! So it’s a great day to thank you for supporting BSA… Happy 4th of July!”

To which the most relevant responder pointed out that Scouting was in fact founded by an Englishman, and that Independence Day celebrates our (US) separation from the Brits.  Others (sarcastically or not) accused the Boy Scouts of America organization of either continued prejudice or abandonment of first principles, etc and so on.  You can guess where I stand on principles, but I’ve often wondered about America’s love-hate relationship with our Colonial overlords back in the United Kingdom.  America was first settled by people of British origin (setting aside the Native Americans who had migrated to the continent a millennium or more before).  To rebel against Britain was in many ways to rebel against our own family.  Yet there it was, in the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another…

I will let historians debate our shared Special Relationship.  Here I am interested in Scouting, as a movement not a bureaucracy.

Robert Baden-Powell, the Englishman did, of course, found the game of Scouting based on his military experience in Africa and India.  He also had a lot of help.

We all know the story of the Unknown Scout who helped Chicago publisher William D. Boyce through the London fog, and to a lesser extent James West who took the helm of the new Boy Scouts of America a century ago.  But sometimes we forget Boyce & West didn’t just import a British idea—they brought a Scouting idea home that had many fathers.

Ernest Thompson Seton was the first Chief Scout in the BSA, and is fairly well known as a founder of Scouting in America.  He is in the new Handbook, page 60 in fact.  An Englishman of Scottish descent, he emigrated to Canada with his family when he was a small boy.  Later settling in the New York area, Seton founded Woodcraft Indians in 1902 to give local hoodlums something to do.  It is well known that B-P was influenced by The Birch Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians, which Seton published in 1906, and the Woodcraft Indians merged into the BSA when that organization was founded in 1910.

“Uncle Dan” Beard is also on page 60, fairly well known as an American founder of Scouting, at least as far as Scouting Heritage is followed these days.  Daniel Carter Beard was an engineer and surveyor, and a friend of Ernest Thompson Seton.  In 1882, he published the American Boy’s Handy Book, filled with illustrations and practical stuff for American Boys to do.  In 1905, he founded the Sons of Daniel Boon, (aka Boy Pioneers) in celebration of American Frontiersmen such as their illustrious namesake, Kit Carson, Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed, James Audubon, and George Catlin.  Beard became National Commissioner in the new BSA, and helped found Campfire Girls as an outdoor-oriented sister organization to the BSA.

Less well known in the US are others who contributed to B-P’s Scouting Movement.  Minnesotan Frederick Russell Burnham, for example, grew up among the Sioux Indians and was an Old West scout in the Apache Wars.  He went on to serve in the British Army in Africa, where he taught woodcraft to Baden-Powell.  You can blame Burnham for B-P adapting the American cowboy’s bandana as the Scout Neckerchief.

Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a Dakota Sioux, was also from Minnesota and graduated from Dartmouth College and Boston University.  He wrote about growing up in an Indian tribe on the changing frontier, including Indian Scout Craft and Lore.  He worked with Seton to implement programs through the YMCA and other groups, then in establishing the BSA.  It was one thing for East Coast anglo-americans to tout Indian skills, but Eastman lived them and was proud of his Native American heritage.

These are just a few of the Americans who influenced Baden-Powell in establishing the Scouting movement, and who later implemented B-P’s ideas in the USA.  There may, in fact, be nothing more American than Scouting.  In many ways, in reaching out in partnership between the old family in England and the the new family here in the United States to bring to life the ideals in the Declaration of Independence, Scouting as a movement is more American than America herself.

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Scouting is the Idea

June 1, 2013

English: Front cover of the second installment...

What would B-P do?

Robert Baden-Powell founded Scouting over 100 years ago to fill a void.  He took what he had learned in service to his country and adapted it for boys who clamored for an outdoor life—a Boy’s Life.

Over the years, B-P’s Scouting idea was filtered and further adapted and bureaucratized by men, most with good intentions, as the Scouting Movement became institutionalized in 100s of nations across the world.  As they say, an idea is the raw grain of a movement, and as any other ingredient in man’s diet it is seldom recognizable by the time it becomes a “movement”.

We can argue if the Scout Association of the UK or the Boy Scouts of America (current or “improved”) or the Girls Scouts of America or any member of the World Organization of the Scouting Movement (WOSM) has remained faithful to B-P’s spirit and intent.  How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

There is no arguing that modern bureaucracies have changed essential elements of B-P’s Scouting for Boys.  That fact is printed in plain black and white.  The BSA has wandered far from the basics of the Game of Scouting, with warm fuzzys and merit badge factories and full-time institutional inertia.  We can (and will) argue whether this is a good thing or not.  And in the United States, this time of trouble regarding such a bureaucratic travesty as membership standards may be the perfect impetus to revisit the whole reason we became Scouts.

Why do you play the Game of Scouting?

As a youth, I never thought much about the difference between “Scouting” and the BSA.  I knew B-P started Scouting in England a long time ago, and communist nations outlawed Scouting.  When I returned to the BSA as an adult leader, I read up on the meaning of that purple fleur-de-lis on my uniform, and the fact that there are many different Scouting organizations, both within the WOSM and without.

The Traditional Scouting movement refers to a back to basics effort that returns Scouting to a style based on Robert Baden-Powell‘s model of Scouting; rejecting the trend of modernizing Scouting to appeal to more youths… In America, the term Traditional Scouting can also refer to “old-fashioned” Scouting in some form, as opposed to the Traditional Scouting movement. –Wikipedia

The BSA is only one player in the Scouting movement.  Some alternate groups are more or less organized, more or less conservative or liberal, more or less “Traditional”.  As a Scouter, this may be a time to stick with the BSA and work to bring the movement back closer to B-P’s ideas and ideals.  As a Scouter, it may be time to plant your flag in another camp.

Either way remember:  Scouting is a Game, and it is for the Boys.

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Morally Straight… No More.

May 23, 2013
"Boy Scouts of America" march (sheet...

“Boy Scouts of America” march (sheet music) Page 1 of 6 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is a sad day in the history of Scouting.  Please indulge me one last time… for now.  I expect if you’re involved, or even interested, in Scouting you’ve heard the results of the BSA’s change in membership policy.  You may agree, or not, and I do not.  But at the end of the day, many—hopefully most–of us will cowboy up and muddle along.

I am disappointed that our organization that bills itself as having “timeless values” folded so easily to outside pressure.  And Yes, I do see this as an assault from outside Progressives bent on tearing down any institution of traditional values.  This is not the end.  They smell blood in the water and will circle the BSA like sharks.  The attacks on adult membership standards continues, and they will double down on atheism.  Moral relativism is alive and well as men of principle shirk their duty.

As a practical matter, this issue remains one more element of Character.  While the statement reaffirms that “sexual conduct” is contrary to the virtues of Scouting, have we ever withheld rank from a boy who was sexually active?  Have we withheld leadership from adults known to engage in extra-marital affairs?  Should we?  How about youth caught drinking?  Drinking and driving?  Bullying?

We say one thing, we do another, and society in general convicts us of moral hypocrisy.

And today they are right.

The Boy Scouts of America Statement (23 May 2013):

“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”

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Myself, I am troubled by the change, and how it was accomplished.  I’m not interested in telling other people how to live their lives, but there are many different things I can do with my time… things which align with traditional values.  I think after Summer Camp, I may take a break from the BSA and re-visit those values.

Yours in Scouting,

John S.

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Scoutmaster Minute—Pride and Goodbyes

October 2, 2012
Longs Peak Council

Longs Peak Council (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SM Minute—Pride and Goodbyes

“I’m proud of you guys.”

That’s all I could squeak out Sunday night in my final Scoutmaster Minute for Troop 25, Sioux Council, BSA.

See, I found a new job, back in Longs Peak Council of Colorado and Wyoming.  I like what I do professionally, but this is a great opportunity.  Frankly, it’s harder to leave behind my Troop after 5 years as Scoutmaster than my job of 8 years.  Maybe that’s because I’m satisfied my work is done at my job, but there is so much I still wanted to accomplish with the boys in my troop.

I am proud of my guys.  The boys my wife & I started into Tiger Cubs 8 years ago are filling out the Patrol Leaders Council now.  Brodie and Nathan and Matt have grown through Wolves and Bears and Webelos, and are all First Class or Star Scouts now.  Zach and Dylan are close behind, and my younger son earned his Tenderfoot at Summer Camp this year.

I was planning to talk about all the fun and adventures we’ve had the past 5 years—summer camp at Lewis & Clark and Camp Wilderness and winter camps at Lake Shetek.  Klondike Derby and Ice Fishing Derby, hikes at state parks and swamping canoes among the leeches.  All I could squeak out was, “I’m proud of you guys”

It’s easier knowing I’ve got—we’ve got—great Assistant Scoutmasters and Troop Committee members ready to step up.  I kept my Troop Committee Chair in the loop when I applied for a new position (he agreed to be a reference), and we talked it out ahead of time.  Our new Scoutmaster is ready for a seamless transition, and I will be eternally grateful for that.

So yes, Scouts and Scouters, I am proud of you.  I’ll be scouting campsites up in the Big Horn mountains.  Keep your Tour Permits up to date and we’ll see you Back at Gilwell.

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Change is the Only Constant in Scouting… and Life

June 6, 2012

The Sioux Council got a good fluff piece on the local tv news today. Their angle is the tired old trope that the world is passing us by. Oh, poor Boy Scouts:

Now some changes are in store to keep the organization relevant.

In an effort to get more boys interested in being scouts again, the Boy Scouts of America are introducing a number of new things to entice all types of kids.

While I’m all for keeping up to date, I’m not sold on the idea that we have to change Scouting. The reason I, myself, am involved in Scouting is because of our unchanging ideals. What we change is how we deliver Scouting. It’s the process, not the principles.

Change is the only constant in the world.  That’s true in life, and in Scouting.  Yet we must be careful that we don’t confuse why we are Scouts, with how we do Scouting.

And as always, Do Your Best.

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p.s. I thought our Council Exec did a great job in the interview.

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Ripley Rendezvous 2011

June 20, 2011

The Ripley Rendezvous is held every four years at Camp Ripley, Minnesota.  Several thousand Scouts gather from across the Upper Midwest and Canada for a weekend of camping, shooting sports, Scout-o-Rama-type midway displays and an awesome Arena show.  This is about as close as many of us will get to a Jamboree.  Kudos to the Minnesota National Guard and Central Minnesota Council for putting on this great event.  Looking forward to the next one!

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SM Minute—The X Words

May 1, 2011

Scoutmaster Minute—The X Words

There are two X words the we use frequently in Boy Scouting—eXperience and eXample.

You learn Scout skills by eXperience.  We know that the way to learn is by doing.  When we go on camping trips, you get the eXperience you need to master your skills.

When you start to teach other Scouts what you know, you set the eXample.  But much more important than teaching Scout skills is the eXample you set in your life.  Do you always wear a clean uniform at Scout meetings? Are you careful with the language you use?  Do you always finish your work before playing?

Remember to think about the two X words every day.

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(from Troop Program Resources, p.18)
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SM Minute—Losing Your Temper

April 17, 2011

Scoutmaster Minute—Losing Your Temper

Scouts, I have in my hand a tool that helped the pioneers blaze a trail across our country. Many lives depended upon this instrument to protect, shelter, and feed them. The care and handling of the ax, of course, was given only to a very responsible individual, one who was certain to keep it sharp and clean, one who would know that placing the ax too close to a fire would heat up the metal and cause it to lose its temper, thus rendering it useless.

Just as the group of pioneers depended upon the ax, so do the people in your life depend on you as a Scout. When you joined Scouting, it was you who promised to be an individual sharp of mind and clean of body, someone who could be entrusted with many responsibilities, including fire.

During your time in Scouting, you will undoubtedly be involved in an argument or some fiery discussion while at a meeting or on a campout. When things get out of hand, always try to remain calm and in control of yourself. If you become overheated in those situations and lose your temper, you’ll find yourself rendered as useless as that ax.
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(adapted from Troop Program Resources, p.18)
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BSA One-Stop Forms Shop

September 27, 2010
BSA National Office in Irving, Texas

Image via Wikipedia

If you wear a Scouter’s hat, you probably use Scouting forms.  My Council has a section on their website, but it’s certainly not complete and what’s there isn’t always kept quite up-to-date.  Other forms are scattered if you can find them at all.  We are a volunteer organization and it’s hard to keep up.

I recently stumbled across a single page on the BSA website that has most all of the official forms we need in one place: http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Media/forms.aspx

They’ve got Application forms, den meeting forms, advancement report forms, individual Scout record forms, First Class Tracking Sheet forms, training knot nomination forms, and much more.  They also have links to Eagle project and rank forms on the NESA website, too.

It’s great to see BSA using their website much more this Centennial year.

Enjoy!

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