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Everything posted by JMHawkins

  1. Ha. Yes, good point. Just like BSA prohibiting laser tag. Nothing to stop a bunch of guys - who happen to also be members of Troop 123 - from playing laser tag on their own, so long as their parents agree. Shoot, after laser tag, they might even go camping with sheath knives and home-made alcohol stoves. Or maybe help out around the house by using a cordless drill or wheelbarrow. The sad thing is, BSA could have fought against the overlawyering that's at the heart of the risk-aversion in society. "How are kids ever supposed to learn to do anything if people get sued for letting them use a wheelbarrow?"
  2. JMHawkins

    Response to Stosh

    I'm pretty much with Stosh on this. The whole point of the program is to give the scouts experience being responsible for themselves and their fellow "citizens." Adults carry so much inherent authority in a boy's routine world, our very presence can cause them to go passive and wait for an adult to tell them what to do. By the time a boy joins a troop, he's had five years of Elementary School to learn how to do what he's told in a group setting, and another 7 years of Middle+High School if he needs extra practice. He doesn't need Scouts to learn how to follow someone else's rules. He needs to start learning how to make decisions on his own. We are experiencing a variation of this in our Troop. We started it 3 years ago, and had no older scouts. All our guys had to start learning from scratch as 10 1/2 or 11 year olds. Three years later on, the core leaders of that initial batch have emerged, put on some maturity and gained some experience, and are doing really well. The problem is, those guys tend to like to hang out together - they are a natural patrol at this point, and they now wield that same sort of authority shadow - the other guys wait for one of them to make a decision. Well, great, but it's slowly morphing us into a Troop Method troop where it's the older scouts that are stunting the patrols instead of the adults. Funny thing is, the older guys are showing some of the same frustrations with younger scouts that adults often do. They're sort of extra-junior JASMs. None of this is a complaint, just an observation. We all struggle to make the program work right and none of us pull it off perfectly. But if we remember that our goal should be to help the scouts practice for adulthood, we're more likely to get closer to the mark.
  3. ~~Or does your statement assume adults are around and just in the background?/b> Or possibly it assumes BSA could change some of its rules?
  4. JMHawkins

    Backpack Wood Badge?

    Kudu, is this course for the Adults or for the Scou...er, ha, Trailmen?
  5. JMHawkins

    Soda on camping trips

    The SPL should run the PLC. The PLC "runs the troop" and "running the troop" should mostly consist of coordinating between Patrols. Which are run by the PLs. I'm partial to the idea of an ASPL being the PLs primary "coach" for helping them learn their job. That's the ideal anyway. Usually it falls short, maybe by a little, maybe by a lot, depending. But the more we can push things in that direction, the better the results. As to "Rules", I'm not partial to them. Sure, there need to be some, but the fewer arbitrary "Adults said..." rules, the better. We struggle with this of course, as our well-intentioned parents want rules. (Funny thing about rules though, they never solve the problem. Possibly someone following the rules can solve a problem, but the rules never solve anything by merely existing.. but that's another subject). Especially with Scout-aged young men, it's kind of important for them to understand "why" more than "what." If we're going to "prepare them to make good ethical and moral choices" in their lifetimes, we're going to need to let them practice actually making choices. How are we helping them to make good choices if we're not only making the choices for them, but making choices they don't actually like?
  6. Iron Chef is one of our troop's favorite outings. We use an off-season council camp and get a building with some table space - something like a craft lodge. Friday night, Scouts arrive, set up camp, have a campfire, etc. Saturday we have volunteers from the families show up to teach various culinary skills. It's one of the few adult-led instruction activities we have. Patrols rotate through three stations in the morning (about a half hour to 45 minutes each), learning things like proper knife skills, preparing a whole chicken, mixing sauces, making stocks, spices, baking, etc. (all the cooking is with dutch ovens, backpacking or camping stoves). Then the scouts usually go off for a couple hours at a local pool. Afternoon there are three more instruction sessions, then it's Iron Chef time! We unveil the mystery ingredient and the "pantry table" where we've got a collection of food available for them to use. They have 40 minutes to come up with their menus, then it's the Draft. Each patrol in turn gets to "draft" one item from the pantry, so they sometimes have to contend with another patrol picking something they planned to use. 90 minutes to cook three to five dishes, then the adults judge. Saturday night they do whatever, and Sunday we pack up, clean up, and head home. They're pretty creative and actually do a really good job putting together decent meals. The most amazing thing to me is how energetic the Scouts are about it. Even the guys who are usually slackers bust their behinds.
  7. Well guys, it's been fun. Thanks for all the advice I've gotten over the years. Keep doing your best to do your duty, all of you are making a difference in young men's lives.
  8. JMHawkins

    Decision delayed

  9. JMHawkins

    Changing horses midstream

    Oh dear. Not that I should be complaining about the free ice cream, but I am not a fan of the new website.
  10. JMHawkins

    Help me understand your point of view

    I'm just thinking that A Scout is Courteous has taken it's hits over the past 20 years and probably will continue to do so for a few more. Toleration is based heavily on respecting others, their beliefs, their choices, and their privacy. I give that courtesy and expect it in return from others. This is one of th most worthy comment made on this thread, or perhaps any recent thread. Thank you. Courteous is underappreciated today.
  11. JMHawkins

    No Patch- No SMC and No BOR

    Does anybody think its units like this that drive kids out of scouting less than anything that comes out of Irving? Scoutdaddy21- Its really your sons battle, you should talk to the scoutmaster about advancement, on a troop level, not just about your son. You should be ready to take over as Advancement Chair as the reason the jerk is such a jerk is because he doesnt think anyone else would do what he does Surprise him I agree with this, though Standard Disclaimer #1 applies, namely: parents should give unit leaders the benefit of doubt and not leap to conclusions about motivations and personalities. Take the time to make a thorough and fair evaluation of the Advancement Chair before reaching any conclusions about his residency in jerkdom. But if you do conclude he is in fact a jerk and presenting a poor example of authority to the scouts, then volunteer for the committee, make yourself a thoroughly useful and valuable member, then chuck the jerk out of his position of authority. That is also a good lesson for the scouts, that when someone has power who doesn't really deserve it, that it takes more than just complaining to solve the problem. But that fight is separate from your son dealing with his setback. Things operate on two levels -he had to own dealing with the current situation, and it will be a valuable lesson for him. This won't be the last jerk with authority he ever meets in his life. But you own dealing behind the scenes to improve the unit as best you can. Do everything you can to keep those to fights separate, don't step on your son's opportunity to grow and learn, and don't let there be a problem with the AC be just because your son had an issue. If it's not a widespread problem with the troop, then let it go. As far as uniforms go, our Troop does require full uniform and book for a BOR, but considering that several scouts have borrowed shirts and neckerchiefs from other scouts for the BOR, missing a patch would hardly be a problem. I'm actually quite impressed with the lenghts our Scouts will go to sometimes to make sure their fellow scouts don't miss out on an advancement opportunity.
  12. JMHawkins

    Help me understand your point of view

    I think the local option will not be satisfactory. Parties on both sides want the BSA to be a conduit for disseminating their practice of morality qwazse is absolutely right about this. Now, on the one hand, there's an argument to be made that's exactly what you should be doing if you have a the proper morailty, since BSA is in the business of disseminating proper morality. But I disagree a bit there. I think BSA technically isn't in the business of disseminating morality. It's in the business of "preparing youth to make good ethical and moral choices." It's hard to prepare someone to make a choice if you tell them what all the "right" answers are ahead of time. I think we need to focus on the "making good choices" part, not on the "right answers" part. To that end, whichever side of this debate you are on, if you have to argue your case, explain why you believe your answer is right, that's going to do more to prepare youth to make choices than if you can point to a rule made two thousand miles away and say "them's the rules."
  13. JMHawkins

    Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    Because he's not confident, he's also apt to avoid da task. Not good at firebuilding? Fall back and let another boy do it. Not good at compass work? Follow along with a patrol mate and fake it. Yeh never can be retested, eh? So yeh aren't likely to be put in a spot where yeh individually have to perform da skill on your own. I see this all the time. The same handful of truly proficient scouts build the fire, cook the meal, etc., for the guys who don't have the skills. I mean, after all, we teach them to be helpful, right? Now, as SMs, we hold up those proficient scouts as great guys, but ultimately, even though we have a very active outdoor program, that by itself isn't a guarantee that each individual scout will learn these skills. We need something to prod them into learning. Advancement is one of the individual things in the program - seems like a waste not to use it. I'm amazed when our goal is to teach character and citizenship and fitness, yet scouters won't follow the words as written Y'know fred, if us folks who you think shouldn't be Scouters were willing to just ignore what BSA put out when we didn't like it, we wouldn't be having this discussion. We'd just be ignoring it instead of making the case for changing it. Remember, there's a second part to the full definition of "A Scout is Obedient." It doesn't end with "he follows the rules" and it doesn't say "he follows the rules without questioning the wisdom of the people who made them."
  14. I can hardly complain if National does with membership decisions exactly what I think they should do with Advancement and Saftey, namely leave it up to the units. They've done a terrible job centralizing everything else, so I say let the COs make the call.
  15. For these near misses, can we just send in a photo and general description of each boy in the troop? Proactive reporting would save so much time! Just mention you drove to the trailhead on a public road. The near miss there probably dwarfs anything that (almost) happened on the trail. Seriously though, I think structured interviews of a stratified random simple of unit's across the nation will be more effective and accurate. If the objective is getting information out to other unit leaders about things that can go wrong, this would be great. My insurance company sends me a quarterly newsletter/magazine with lots of stories about claims. The highlight is always on what could've been done to prevent the damage or injury. I've learned more about safety from those articles than I ever have from restrictions coming from on-high. Most leaders have a good idea of the troubles they had last year, and your more likely to get them to rattle off that info than to report every incident pig or small. We have a strict policy of hushing up pig incidents around here. It's only common sense - the last pig incident in the Pacific Northwest nearly led to war between the US and Great Britain.
  16. There is one clear message coming from Merlin, and that is, when making decisions like this, make them based on what you think is right, not based on what you think will please other people, because other people will always find something to complain about.
  17. JMHawkins

    Firearms proposal from da Basement

    Attitude to government. It seems there is a massive difference here between USA and Europe. You seem to see government as something imposed upon you to be kept as small as possible and not as something useful. In Europe government is generally seen as the servant of the population... Well, yes. America was largely populated by people who weren't happy with the, ah, "service" provided by European governments. They figured they could do better on their own.
  18. JMHawkins

    Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    You can shour all you want, if you end up with an Eagle that can't tie knots, its a program thing In part the shouting is out of frustration that nobody seems to be listening. Here, I will walk you through it: Step 1 - Yes, if you have Eagle Scouts who can't tie basic knots, it is indeed the result of a poorly run program. Step 2 - The program will ultimately be run according to what the local adult volunteers in the unit this is right. Step 3 - Many local volunteers have very little previous Scouting experience. Many other have only experience with poorly run units. Step 4 - Adults without previous experience of a well-run program will tend to run the sort of program advocated by the program and training material created by National. Step 5 - Even in units with Scouters experienced and knowlegable about a good program, there will be other volunteers -Commitee members or ASMs - without such experience who will tend to think the program should be run according to the "offiical rules" from National instead of the ideas of some "abusive gatekeeper" Scoutmaster. So yes, it's all about program, we don't disagree. But bad training leads to bad program.
  19. JMHawkins

    Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    At least I don't understand a scout not knowing his knots because of something National does BECAUSE NATIONAL TELLS THE UNIT LEADERS NOT TO BE VERY STRICT ABOUT TESTING THE SKILLS! I'm shouting in case maybe the loud voice will get through the wall of denial that seems to exist around this point. Not every unit has a SM with twenty years of old-school scouting under his belt. Not every unit has a commissioner who can steer them towards a good program. A lot of units have a handful of well-intentioned volunteers who were never Scouts as a youth, and who's only understanding of the program will be what they pick up from National's published materials and training courses. When those materials set a "one and done" standard for skills, when the IOLS course re-inforces that standard by using to to sign off the adults as "trained" by virtue of walking from station to station watching knots get tied and fires sort of built, when every guidance from Texas says don't ever retest, always err on the side of handing out the candy... Well, what sort of program do you think those units are going to run? And then to compound it, the poorly run units that end up as advancement mills because that's what National teaches them to be start creating problems for the traditional units because parents start complaining the traditional unit is "abusive" and the SM there is on some sort of power trip. And the folks at National echo and validate those accusations.
  20. JMHawkins

    Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    We talk abour the horrors of an Eagle who can't tie a square knot like its his fault. He learns the knot and then its the duty of the unit's program to give him oppturnities to tie knots and teach and use them No, you misunderstand. We talk about the horrors of a program that encourages everyone to sign off on every step with the least possible level of skill demonstrated by the Scout. It is exactly this sort of sub-par program that leads to Eagle Scouts who can't tie a square knot, and we're not blaming the Scout, we're blaming the program encouraged by National and the "don't add to the requirements" crowd. If the level of skill required to get the signature is one and done, then the "lose it" happens far, far more quickly than if the Scout had to meet a higher standard. Perhaps even before the end of the meeting. Since the Scouts themselves need to be driving the Program, how likely is it they will include knot tying in the program if the adults setting the tone trivialize the skill in the first place? OTOH, if the adults make it clear they respect the skill by expecting some degree of mastery from the Scouts they are mentoring, then you've got a better chance the Scouts themselves will want to include it in their program.
  21. JMHawkins

    The All-Scoutcraft Eagle

    For the "homework" merit badges, something we should realize is that kids do a lot more homework in school these days. I think the biggest problem with the homework MBs is they are a departure from the highly effective spirt of Scouting that produces learning as a byproduct of Scouts doing things they are interested in doing. The most effective Citizenship MB is "Citizenship in the Patrol" where they learn all about leadership, followership, elections, due process, etc., all while they think they're just having fun with their friends. PS: wasn't the First Aid MB a requirement for First Class back in the late 70's/early 80's?
  22. JMHawkins

    Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    I think we've discussed this before but the trouble with the word "mastery" is that it is very subjective and has led to "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" in the past. Oh fer cryin' out loud, not the dreaded "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" boogeyman. I would suggest that 99.9% of all allegations of "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" fall into one of two categories: 1 - clueless parent unhappy that their precious little one was actually held to a standard and asked to accomplish something instead of being recognized just for showing up and breathing. 2 - a poor choice for a Scoutmaster who's mishandling of the advancement method is almost certainly not the worst thing he or she is doing wrong, and should be replaced. Seriously, a SM who is actually abusing the advancement method beyond the perfectly reasonable level of expecting Scouts to know the skill is most likely setting a poor example in other, more important, ways. This is the guy who is supposed to be mentoring the youth about character and citizenship. If he can't be trusted to be a fair and reasonable judge of the offical recognition the Scouts recieve, he is the wrong man for the job. Beavah's comment about least common denominators applies to adults too. BSA appears to be creating a National Standard for SMs around the least common denominator of being able to scribble your intials and a date on an advancement form.
  23. JMHawkins

    Sense of community

    I think this is the most fundamental of all philosophical questions - where do we draw the line between our own selves and our community. And I don't think there can be one answer, because all of us different when it comes to our need for community and our need for space. So I think a decent society needs to find a way to accomodate, and not force everyone into one bucket. There are people who are profoundly miserable if they are not allowed to stretch, the strive, to take risks and seek rewards. These people are okay with the risks and with accepting high degrees of personal responsibility. There are other people though who are profoundly miserable if they are forced to take those sorts of risks, forced to take more responsibility that they want. Uncertainty is far more painful for this second group than for the first. Forcing either type to live totally in the other's world is frankly cruel. It's inflicting emotional torture on them. So we need a society that can accomodate both. The challenge is that each type tends to hate or resent the other. People who desire less risk and more certainty tend to look at the adventursome ones with fear. They worry their crazy neighbors will do something bad. "Why does he have to have that scary gun?" for instance, is a typical worry. Further, they are prone to the human vice of envy when the entrepreneur takes risks and reaps the rewards. "Why should he have so much money?" For their part, the adventursome ones can be dismissive of their society-minded peers as, well, cowards. Unmanly. "Sheeple" is a common term. And they can also resent what the risk-averse take from society, thinking they haven't earned it, aren't pulling their weight. Both groups think the other is broken or wrong. But they're not. They're just people with different levels of comfort for taking risks, different levels of need for community. Everybody needs some community, but some people need much more of it to be happy. Everybody needs some freedom, some need far more to be happy. Personally I say to each his own, let each of seek the level of comunity we desire, and be accepting of the differences.
  24. JMHawkins

    The All-Scoutcraft Eagle

    I said long ago that anyone who earns the NOA is a very well rounded scout and has sampled, in a very complete manner, what scouting has to offer. I presented it to the troop maybe a year ago and they are working on it. Right now they are a pioneering merit badge away from camping and hiking merit badge away from the camping and hiking segment. a couple are a mile swim away from the aquatics one. We have one guy with the Camping segment (1 gold device and closing in on his second), and two more guys who are a group first aid kit (last Firat Aid MB requirement) away from joining him. Another guy is a Lifesaving MB away from the Aquatic segment. Several more guys are excited about and pursuing the NOA. I think few people earn it because it is challenging. It's hard. And that's not a bad thing. The value of an award isn't based on how many people earn it. BSA has made a mistake emphasizing the number of Eagle Scouts. Earning the NOA requires a great deal of outdoor adventure, which implies a higher standard for skills and self-reliance than is required for Eagle. And for leadership, the NOA does require the Scout to plan and lead an extended wilderness trip, which is a bigger leadership challenge than many Eagle Projects.
  25. JMHawkins

    Firearms proposal from da Basement

    Of course Beavah, Tyrants always argue they are protecting the greater public from the menace of a select few. So do reasonable public officials. That's the path to power for the tyrant, the illusion that they're nothing more than reasonable public officials. There's no difference in kind between the actions of a decent governmetn and a tyranny, it's only a matter of degree. Decent governments imprison people (criminals). Decent governments demand money from the citizens (taxes). Decent government place restrictions on people (laws and regulations). Tyrannies do nothing different, they just do more of it and with fewer inhibitions. Every government is an incipient tyranny. They're like campfires, good if they're small and controlled, but they require watching lest you burn the forest down. George Washington said government was like fire, a useful servant but a fearsome master. Our campfire is getting pretty hot Beavah, which is why I'm not in favor of throwing another gasoline soaked yule log onto it.