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SMMatthew

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Everything posted by SMMatthew

  1. SMMatthew

    Honor Guard position patch

    Do you have any Scouts who play trumpet in their school marching band? Our troop has 4, and they all help bugle when called upon (although several use a trumpet rather than an official bugle -- still sounds great).
  2. SMMatthew

    Camp outs and working towards merit badges

    Here's a somewhat related story: A few weeks ago I had a Scoutmaster Conference with a Scout going for his Life rank. In the conference, I asked him about the merit badges he earned for Life. I asked what was the "hardest" merit badge he earned and which was the "easiest." The Scout, without even stopping to think said the easiest badge he earned was Camping. I was a little taken back by this. Not only is Camping a fairly involved MB with many requirements and is a badge that is Eagle-required, but I was his councilor for it! I asked him why he thought it was so "easy" and he told me "well, because we only had to meet twice for like half-an-hour each time. We just talked about stuff and I had to write like one or two things down and then I got the badge signed off. It took me like an hour total." I laughed. "It didn't take you an hour to earn the badge," I said. "It took you 3+ years of camping, and teaching skills at troop meetings and on campouts, and being active in the troop to earn the badge. All we did in those two meetings was sit down to review and check-off what you had already done, demonstrated and learned. That took you years, not a few minutes, to do!" As Baden-Powell stated: “Advancement is like a suntan; something you get naturally whilst having fun in the outdoors.â€Â
  3. SMMatthew

    Blue card refusal?

    But to go back and address the original post and situation at hand: That right there is the problem. The Scoutmaster may believe that no one younger than a third year Scout should be able to earn the MB. He may think that an 11- or 12-year-old won't be successful at completing the badge. He may wish that Scouts with the badge will hold a particular set of skills and abilities.He may encourage, or even try to strongly persuade, a Scout to wait until they are older (more physically fit, stronger, more mature, etc). But ultimately he cannot mandate or force a Scout to wait until he is 14 or 15 to attempt or earn the badge; BSA states "any Boy Scout may earn a merit badge at any time." The bottom line is it's not up to a Scoutmaster to decide who can or can't attempt a merit badge, nor is it his job (or even within his authority) to approve or deny what "counts" for the requirements of the badge. It is the role of the registered, qualified and certified merit badge councilor to verify and approve if a Scout has completed the requirements. If the Scout worked with a qualified councilor, and that councilor says he completed the requirements, then he has completed the requirements. End of discussion. A Scoutmaster or troop committee can't veto or overturn the signature of a MB councilor. ​The purpose of the Unit Leader signature on a "blue card" is to keep the Scoutmaster in the loop and to allow the Scoutmaster to conference with the Scout. The Scout here kept the SM in the loop with his phone call (it's a shame the Scoutmaster didn't call back to offer his recommendations on the matter) but the Scoutmaster refusing to sign is not an option (he can give his opinion and recommendations, but he can't withhold the card). The signature from the unit leader on the 'blue card' states: "I have discussed this merit badge with this Scout and recommended at least one merit badge counselor." It does not say "I authorize this Scout to start work on this merit badge" or "I certify that this Scout is qualified to earn this merit badge" or even "I feel that this Scout is ready to earn this merit badge"... it simply says we "discussed" it. It doesn't matter if the Scoutmaster, or the troop committee, doesn't think the Scout should have been able to complete the requirements of the badge. Because, guess what? He was able to complete them! The signature from the certified councilor on the blue card proves it. Give the Scout the merit badge! He earned it. I would reach out to the district or council's advancement chair or committee. Tell them that the Scout completed the merit badge and was signed off by a registered MB councilor, but the troop is refusing to accept it.
  4. SMMatthew

    Blue card refusal?

    Yes, being a lifeguard takes maturity, experience, and strong physical fitness... things that come with age and things that an 11-year-old probably doesn't possess. It isn't something you can just knock-out on a Saturday. But we're talking about Lifesaving merit badge here. According to the BSA: "the main purpose of the Lifesaving merit badge is to teach Scouts the basic knowledge of water rescue techniques"... not to mention to BSA policies that "any Boy Scout may earn a merit badge at any time" and "you are expected to meet the requirements as they are statedâ€â€no more." There is no reason an 11-year-old can't earn Lifesaving merit badge. And there's no reason a Scoutmaster should arbitrarily decide to add an additional requirement and insist a Scout be "older" or "more mature" in order to earn it. Earning Lifesaving merit badge is not the same as earning BSA Lifeguard (or another lifeguard certification). Someone who has earned Lifesaving merit badge has to complete 15 requirements on the basics of lifesaving and water rescue. If the Scout did these things (explained what needed to be explained; and demonstrated the skilled required), he has earned the badge. Earning the merit badge does not give a Scout the authority (or even the implied ability) to be able to set-up an impromptu swimming hole on his own or serve as supervision and lifeguard when everyone at the family reunion wants to take a dip in the pond. He has a greater awareness and understanding of safety and water rescue for sure, but he is not an authority on the subject. The basics of Safe-Swim Defense and Safety Afloat (which are taught in the merit badge) tell a young Scout that he is not "qualified supervision" and that he isn't a certified lifeguard as a result of earning this badge (it's just an "introduction to" life saving). Just as someone who has earned Fire Safety merit badge isn't ready to start fighting fires or someone with First Aid merit badge isn't the equivalent of an EMT. Someone who has earned BSA Lifeguard has to complete 26 requirements - including an age requirement, more intense physical fitness tests, proficiency on a written test, and they must complete supervised experience as a lifeguard (showing maturity and ability). They may be able to set up a safe swim area, and serve as a lifeguard when people take a dip in the lake (with other lookouts and safety measures in place). And this is something an 11-year-old can't simply earn by tagging along to a training session with some older guys. But I see no reason for this Scoutmaster to limit who can earn Lifesaving merit badge.
  5. SMMatthew

    Blue card refusal?

    There is a difference between mentoring/guiding a Scout through the advancement program of the BSA and forcing/controlling a Scout to take a specific path. There are rules. BSA writes them. And BSA allows a Scout to earn all their MBs with the same councilor (assuming that person is registered as a councilor for all the badges they're signing-off on). And that person can even be the Scouts mom or dad. It is 100% "legal." You (and I) may not like that, but it's the way it is. BSA does discourage it, but they do not outlaw or forbid it. So, if Tommy Scout comes to you and wants to earn a 10th merit badge with his Uncle Miltie (assuming Miltie is a registered MBC for the badges), Tommy has the right to do that. The SM can't say "no, you have to use a different councilor." But his hands aren't totally tied; he doesn't have to just sit there any accept Tommy's choice without a fight. When Tommy Scout comes for that 'blue card,' you can talk with him -- encourage him to try working someone else; find out why he always goes to Uncle Miltie and no one else; recommend some new and more exciting councilors and different MB opportunities; go encourage a buddy or two from his patrol to try to get Tommy to work with them on a MB together with someone else; maybe even go talk with his parents and/or Uncle Miltie about the benefits of having Tommy work with someone else on a badge or two. But, yes, ultimately it's the Scout's decision. It is "legal" for him to earn all his merit badges from "Uncle Miltie" or "MBC daddy," and a Scoutmaster can't make a new rule that says a Scout can't. If you think these rules are wrong, then work to have them changed; don't just create your own rules (a Scout is obedient). As a Scoutmaster, if a Scout came to me and asked for a MB card, I may ask him about his grades (just as your SM did). If he's flunking all of his classes, and I feel that he'd be over-extending himself and neglecting his schoolwork in favor of taking on a 6th or 7th merit badge, I may tell him to slow down and focus on school first. We'd talk about ways to balance Scouts and school and whatever else he may have going on in his life; maybe I'd help him get back on the right track. Hopefully I could persuade him and get him to 'buy-in' on the idea. But ultimately, the decision is the Scouts. Hey, at least I had the opportunity as his SM to conference with him and discuss ways to fix the problem. Simply withholding a 'blue card' because he had D's and F's wouldn't have solved the problem (heck, it may have made it worse). And not having the opportunity to check-in with the Scout before he took on badge #7 would have been a missed opportunity.
  6. SMMatthew

    Blue card refusal?

    It is the job of the local council to approve (or deny) who is a qualified MB councilor for Scouts; it is not up to the judgment of an individual Scoutmaster to "approve" or "deny" who they think is "qualified" to be a MB councilor for a Scouts. If the individual is registered and approved by the council as a MBC, then they are a MBC. Period. End of discussion. A SM can't add extra requirements to the badge, and can't overrule the authority of a MBC. A Scoutmaster doesn't have the right or the authority to accept some MBCs and not accept others based on his own personal opinions of how he thinks a specific merit badge should or shouldn't be taught. The BSA's merit badge program does not fall under the jurisdiction of a SM, and it is not up to a SM to decide who can or can't be a MBC; that's up to the council to decide and administer. Scoutmasters can give their guidance and recommendations to Scouts on which MBs to work on and which MBCs to work with (they can share there their two-cents and steer Scouts towards who and what they think would be best for them); but ultimately they can't veto or overrule the authority of, or the judgments made by, a registered MBC. If a SM doesn't think a MBC is qualified or suspects they aren't following the rules or requirements, he should bring it up to the council to have the person removed as a MBC. But a Scoutmaster doesn't have the authority to override or undermine the authority of a registered MBC when it comes to how to teach a badge or who they can (or can't) work with. Scoutmasters don't control merit badge councilors and nor do they have the authority to decide what is acceptable or not for a specific merit badge (that's the MBC's job).
  7. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    As a former PD, I can say the "pass/fail rate" of a MB class was never important to me, as long as those "passing" deserved it; and those "failing" deserved it. And from the camps I go to today, there doesn't seem to be an emphasis from the PDs on "100% pass" either (I get numerous "partials" at the end of a week, and I'm okay with that...in fact I appreciate it). The quality of the experience is always what comes first. But again, it may be that the camps I go to are an exception, and not the "norm." So, as they say, "your mileage may vary." I'm sure there are camps that strive to crank out as many "completes" as possible (even if it means cutting corners or bending requirements to the breaking point). I can imagine that there are some camps (or councilors) out there that measure "success" based on the number of completed blue cards they sign. Those camps are missing the mark. Quality of badges given, over quantity of badges given, is what matters. As for what could be considered an "unrealistic demand" from a PD's perspective would probably be things like this (and these are all the type of things I head as a PD from well-meaning volunteers): -- "I'll need 7 or 8 'over-18' staff members to help me out an hour before each class and during the instruction." (sorry, I don't have that kind of manpower available) -- "I'll teach Monday 9:45 to 11:00 and then well can meet again on Wednesday and Thursday from 3:00 to 3:30 and we'll finish up on Friday right after dinner." (sorry, that just doesn't fit with the camp's schedules or MB system; it's more of a disruption than an asset) -- "I'll need 12-15 computers with internet access and a color printer and an LCD projector." (sorry, I don't have those kinds of resources available) -- "I like small classes, I want to cap that class at 4-8 Scouts per week." (Ok, I'll make announcement and help you find 4-8 interested Scouts to work with, but I'm not going to advertise this as a "camp program" if it is only available to small percentage of the camp). -- "I only want to offer this to Life Scout who are over 16." (Again, I'll put it out there to any interested Scouts to come find you, but I'm not going to advertise it as a "camp program" if you're adding extra requirements and it isn't open to a majority of the camp). -- "I want to add/change/drop these requirements" (Sorry, that's against the BSA policy, I can't support that). -- "I want you to give our troop a discounted rate for the week and guarantee our campsite for next year in exchange for my help with this badge" (sorry, I don't have the authority to do that) -- "I'll help teach this badge but I can't really commit or give you details until my troop arrives at camp" (I can't publicize, promote or properly support a program with just 24-hour notice of if/how it's going to happen. Most troops and boys plan out their week at camp months in advance, you need to be 100% on board and organized sooner for the program to be successful). Here's one thing that the camp that our troop frequents does (perhaps an idea to take back to your home camp)... They have their MB schedule and offerings, but they also let (and somewhat encourage) the adult leaders in camp advertise their MBC services too. For example, if you're a councilor for say, Radio MB or Communications MB or Fly-fishing MB, you could put an announcement out there for any interested Scouts to "come see Mr. So-and-so from Troop 123 in Campsite Whatever to set-up a schedule to work on the badge" or "come to the dining hall on Tuesday and Thursday evening at 7PM to work on the badge". Sometimes MBCs create their own classes or just work one-on-one (or in small groups) with Scouts. Scouts have the opportunities, volunteers can share their skills.... But, and here's the key to it's success, it's not directly tied to the camp's program, the camp's scheduling or MB system, it doesn't have to be every week of the summer, and it's not something that has to be locked-in-stone 6-months before camp to be published in a Leaders Guide or on a MB schedule. It's very clearly not a "camp program" it's a "that independent MBC working with Scouts program" (so the PD doesn't have to worry about quality control, or paperwork, or record keeping, or logistics, or 'blue card' issues, etc...that's on the individual MBC, although the camp staff is very supportive and often times will help out in any way possible with resources and even manpower, it's not an official "camp program"). That is sad, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't seen my fair share of those types of situations over the years at camps and merit badge fairs. Heck, I've also seen them from "regular" MB councilors working one-on-one with Scouts. Sometimes people just cut corners or aren't the "expert" that the material of the badge requires or exploit loop-holes in the language of the requirements. It's sad, it should be addressed. It's a shame the CD, PD and SE fail to admit there is a problem and don't want to see their program and the experience for these boys improved.. A short "war story" for you... for many years our local camp had offered Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, however a few years ago the camp published its merit badge schedule for the coming summer and Cit. in the Nation was not listed. Some upset Scoutmasters asked at the pre-camp leader's meeting why the badge was dropped. The PD said, without hesitation, "we didn't have a councilor this year who we felt could do the badge justice and so we'd rather not offer it, which I know upsets some of you, than offer a piss-poor-program that would devalue the badge, undermine the program and upset even more of you." There was some slight grumbling from the badge-hungry Eagle-mill Scoutmasters, but after the meeting about 4 or 5 SMs (myself included) went up to the PD and thanked him for picking quality over quantity. A few leaders volunteered to help work one-on-one with any Scouts who may have really needed the badge during their week at camp, but the badge just wasn't part of the camp that summer. The next year, the camp found the "perfect" councilor (a spirited 19-year-old poli/sci major) and the badge came back and was probably one of the best MB classes I've ever seen. That's how a camp should do it. Don't put the cart before the horse. Don't promise or offer a badge unless you have a person (the right person) to offer it.
  8. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    Really?!? As a former program director, I am shocked to hear that a camp would turn away a qualified volunteer who wants to help. Now if that volunteer isn't actually good or is unreliable or has lots of extra "baggage" or unrealistic "demands" attached to their helping then maybe, as well-intentioned as they may seem, they won't really be an asset to the program and so a polite "thanks, but no thanks" is in order... but to just say "no" to a ready, willing, able, and qualified person... that's just crazy! A Camp and/or Program Director who does that should be put out to pasture. Just out of curiosity, what are the complaints? Are the Scouts not actually completing the requirements of the merit badge (as stated by the BSA)? Is the camp adding or deleting or changing requirements? Or does the SM just have a higher standard or preferred method that's different than what the printed requirements actually require and what the camp delivers?
  9. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    And there's the problem! But it really has nothing to do with age. Those camps are putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. You can't just recruit/hire a bunch of bodies and then try to force them into the various positions or programs you have at camp (especially if they don't know the subjects or know how to teach it well). If you need a Swimming merit badge instructor, you need to find a good Swimming merit badge instructor (whether they be 16-, 25-, or 60-years-old, it doesn't matter). If you don't have a good person to teach Communications merit badge, then you shouldn't offer Communications merit badge. You don't just put anyone into the Handicraft area to teach Basketry just because you need someone to do that and you've got some kid with nothing else to do. Yes, getting quality 16- or 17-year-olds can be challenging (but so can getting qualified and quality 30- or 40-year olds). Proper training, mentoring, staff engagement, program development, and camp management cures these problems.... attracting older MBCs doesn't necessarily "fix" anything and having mostly young MBCs doesn't necessarily cause a poor program either. This thread shouldn't be called "Attracting Older MBCs to Camp"... it should be called "Attracting Quality MBCs to Camp."
  10. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    Well if a camp is allowing a 16-year-old to serve as a MBC and has them sign-off on 'blue cards' or blindly accepts their word on what a Scout has or hasn't done, shame on them! That should be stopped and addressed. An adult (someone over 18...even if only 19 or 20) should be serving as the qualified councilor in every case. An under-18 can serve as an instructor, facilitator, guide, bookkeeper, and/or aide for the badge or class... but an over-18 must give the final verification and sign-off on the final requirements. A 16-year-old may teach the swimming strokes, but that 18-year-old is testing and signing off that a Scout can do them. That's what the area directors or other 18-staff should be doing. If that's not happening, yes, the camp is breaking the rules.
  11. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    And that's why I (and the other Scoutmasters and Assistants) are there -- to provide "adult association" for the Scouts -- to be mentors, to be teachers, to be father-figures, to be Scoutmasters. But with a troop that is made up of Scouts (ages 11-17) and adult leaders who are mainly their parents or older (ages 35-70), it's nice to get a good healthy dose of 18-30 year old role-models into the mix. I'm not saying camp should be totally "kid-run." Having an older camp director or a camp chaplain or commissioners or specific area-directors, is appropriate (actually encouraged), but I want my boys interacting more with SPL-types than SM-types. And the boys want it too! I think it's more good fortune (but there may be some ignorance in there). In my time with as an adult leader, I've been to 13 Scout camp over 25 years. Our troop has one "home" camp that we go to every-other-year (in my opinion, it has an amazing program and an amazing staff...I've been going every even-numbered year since 1990 and it has it "right"), and I've been to 13 different camps in the odd-numbered "off" years in-between. Some are good, some are great, some are okay, and, sadly, a few have been awful. Oh, I have been exposed to such "old geezers." I know several old guys (myself included) who can keep up physically (swinging axes and rolling kayaks) and mentally (identifying mosses or birds). We can run circles around the younger guys who think they "know everything" and teach skills and give Scouts a hunger for more knowledge... but these kinds of guys really are the exception--not the norm--when it comes to older Scouters on a camp staff. For the record -- I'm not against "older" Scouters on camp staffs... if the Scouter is good. The summer camp I frequent has a 50-year-old aquatics director who has that magic spark, knows his stuff and makes the learning fun and meaningful (and he could swim circles around even the toughest Scout or leader in camp)... however the rest of the aquatics staff is a bunch of 16-25 year-olds (and they blow me out of the water even more with their teaching ability and skills). If the whole waterfront was run by a bunch of 40-60 year-olds (even if they were all "great"), the camp would not be as good or have the same atmosphere. And, from a management standpoint, it is much easier to get 50 good "twenty-somethings" together than find one "old guy" with the magic spark it takes. And even then, no 40-year-old can connect socially with a 16- or 17-year-old around the campfire the way a 19- or 20-year-old can. I guess I just don't buy into the overall premise here that "younger" staff members or instructors are a problem.
  12. The Camp Facilities Evaluation Tool looks at the physical property assets, and, yes, it can become subjective or biased and also manipulated (if you really want to see the end of particular camp for whatever reason... or if you really want to keep a stinking camp open)... but NCAP's Intent to Operate and Declaration of Readiness require much more analytical data from the council (especially in regards to financial sustainability). Overall, sure, a council could play games to make a property look better on paper than it really it and thus keep it accredited (and open) a bit longer, but they would have to be intentfullying doing that (and a Scout is trustworthy). So if a council is hanging on to a property that is a liability, they are doing so because they are choosing to be willfully delusional or negligent about the decision (whereas before they may have been doing it out of an unexamined or unknown ignorance of the bigger picture and impact). NCAP was not developed with a goal of shutting camps down or closing properties, but rather it was developed to be a tool to help councils evaluate and understand their decisions and make sure all BSA properties as assets to Scouting and not liabilities (both physically and financially).
  13. Oh, absolutely, and NCAP does look at the "big picture" (including multiple years worth of data, and the council's overall finances, size, revenue sources, etc.). The key is to make sure camps (and councils) are sustainable. There are many councils that struggle to scrape together enough money each year to cover their multiple properties (or worse, they take on debt or neglect other programs as a result of their properties). NCAP strives to make sure that council properties are not liabilities to the council (i.e. they are safe and they are financially sustainable). The money doesn't have to come from just camper fees and rental revenue; but there has to be reliable and adequate sources for financially supporting a camp. Sadly there are too many councils that have emotional connections to specific properties or feel obligated to keep a council camp (often the question is never raised because people think "well, our council can't not have a camp") or they're in denial thinking "things will turn around", and they hold onto a property at a detriment to their overall program or mission.
  14. SMMatthew

    Disappointmentphobia?

    Firstly, I think there is value in having "participation" recognitions (a patch or ribbon or certificate or something) that everyone gets just for showing up. By building a car and participating in the event, a Scout has truly "won" and should have something for him to remember the event and his participation. The purpose of the game of Scouting is not about creating cars that can cross the finish line first, it's about building character and having experiences. I have tons of meaningful patches in my collection from camporees and other events where my troop came in last place. We should commemorate events for all. But I also agree that you need to recognize actual achievements. Otherwise the competition and the awards become meaningless. When you have a competition, you need to recognize those who actually do win (it's a race - someone finishes first and that's the goal of the "game"). The kids will see that - especially if the hard-working first place winner gets a trophy just as big and with as much celebration as the last place finisher. So if you have a Pinewood Derby, everyone gets a patch, or a ribbon, or a special "drivers license" ID badge just for participating... but then the winners should get something else (a medal, a ribbon, a trophy, etc.) and recognition for their accomplishment. But keep it all in perspective - you don't want to create sore losers with resentment towards the winners, and you also don't want sore winners with heads so big and chests so puffed out that they can't fit out the door. It's just a Pinewood Derby, after all. A single "winner takes all" (especially with Cubs) doesn't work and isn't really fair. Having little awards (stickers, beads, etc.) for each individual race winner is much better than just giving out one big trophy for the car that wins some big pack-wide bracket of races. Have winners for each level or den and for the overall pack; have 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners; give awards for more than just the fastest car (such as for creative designs or Scout spirit). If you have 30 kids in your pack, you shouldn't be giving out just 1 or 2 trophies on Derby night (but giving out 30+ is also somewhat ridiculous). I'm not saying everyone needs to win something, but they should all have a reasonable chance to win. And the focus shouldn't be on winning and on the winners, it should be about having fun and on all the Scouts involved.
  15. SMMatthew

    Attracting Older MBCs to Camp

    The most important quality that I want in a camp staff is their ability to be a strong role model and connect with the Scouts. I like camps where the councilors are more like "big brothers" and "friends" to the Scouts and less like "teachers" and "fathers." Sorry, but no 45-year-old, no matter how knowledgeable in a subject and dedicated to the program, can do that as well as an enthusiastic and spirited 19-year-old. Basically, as a Scoutmaster and a parent, I want to send my Scouts to summer camp where the program is led by SPLs, not by Scoutmasters. Maybe I've just been blessed and have gone to "good" camps that actually do have well-trained, well-managed, well-groomed and well-developed staffs and merit badge programs. The camps I've attended usually are able to do it "right" and provide quality instruction despite most of the instructors only being in high school or college. I'm a teacher and a parent, and I am constantly impressed with the quality, knowledge, expertise, techniques and overall professionalism of the staff I've encountered at camp and really look up to them (despite being more than twice, if not three or four times, their age). I've even learned things from these "kids" on subjects that I thought I was a pro in (and for badges I am a councilor for). I've experienced and seen more way more "great" moments with 16-25 year olds teaching badges (even "hard" ones, like the citizenships, swimming or environmental science) than I've seen with the seasoned pros. Whereas, when it comes to summer camp merit badges, I've probably had more issues with older MBCs who make up their own rules, cut corners, are out of touch with current practices or techniques, can't connect with the kids, try to run a simple MB class like a college-level course, don't differentiate their instruction, don't make it fun, etc.
  16. SMMatthew

    Did I do or not do the right th

    I wouldn't dwell on it or beat yourself up over it. Especially if you're not 100% certain you saw what you "saw"... perhaps it was just bottles of sparkling apple or grape juice I had an assistant leader who overheard clanking glass and bottles opening and though he was about to "bust" a group of Venturers drinking beer in their tent at summer camp. It turned out it they just had a 6-pack of glass-bottled cream sodas. Boy, was his face red.
  17. SMMatthew

    A Rant

    Here’s a short story for you… within my district the common phrase used before a prayer or religious service had always been along the lines of: "I ask that unless it is against your custom, please remove your hats..." So, upon this request, pretty much everyone would remove their hats… unless they were, say, Jewish (which requires a headcover during prayers as a sign of respect toward God). Now several years ago there was Jewish Scout in the district. While this Scout would often carry and wear a yarmulke for the religious parts of the day, there were times (especially on campouts) where his headcover during prayers or meals was simply a regular-looking ball cap or knit cap. He grew tired of getting dirty looks and taps on the shoulder "reminding" him that he had a hat on, and having to explain "I'm Jewish" to people who thought he was just being disrespectful. Most people didn't know he was Jewish and thought he was just ignoring the call to remove his hat during the prayer; and even after he explained that he was Jewish, some Scout leaders from other units would roll their eyes and think he was just some kind of wisenheimer saying it to get out of having to take his hat off in the dining hall of whatnot. So one day this Scout was asked to introduce the prayer at an event. He flipped the district's common introduction of "unless it is against your custom, please remove your cover" and said "unless it is against your custom, please put on a cover..." There was a slight murmur from the crowd but he continued with the prayer. His logic was there are 3 groups when it comes to headcovers: (1) there are religions that require you remove your hat to show reverence towards God; (2) there are religions that require that you cover your head to show reverence towards God; and (3) there are religions that have no opinion one way or another on if you have a hat on or off. He felt like Group #1 was being promoted as the "default" and that Group #2 (which he was in) was treated like an asterisked exception. They were basically saying "everyone remove your hats!... well, unless you've really got to keep them on" (why not say "Keep your hat on, unless you've really got to take it off."?) The common practice of saying that Group #3 has to conform to Group #1's customs (just because Group #1 is the majority) is no less offensive than saying Group #3 to conform to Group #2's way of doing it. Well long story short... now the prayers at district events start with a simple reminder to "please adjust you headcover in accordance to your faith." Some take their hats off, and some leave their hats on. I will admit that more a few more hats stay on now from Scouts who probably have no custom one way or another on the issues, but the Jewish Scouts get a lot less hassling and odd looks for keeping their hats on and they feel more included and respected. The little things, like the wording for a call to adjust your headcover, can make a big difference to a Scout feeling accepted or like a second-class citizen.
  18. SMMatthew

    A Rant

    I enjoy when Scouts' Own services have many diverse faiths represented. That way everyone has a moment where they feel included, accepted and celebrated. It also educates other on our commonalities and the traditions and beliefs of others. Many times I feel that "Scouts' Own" services are just non-denominational Christian services that avoid using the word "Jesus." The style and overall point-of-view often mirrors that of a traditional Christian church service. Also remember that we're dealing with teenage and pre-teenage boys here, attending a Scouts' Own service should be a fun and meaningful activity for them, not some somber and boring obligation. Here's a passage written by Baden-Powell in 1928 about what a "Scouts' Own" service should (and shouldn't) be that I think is quite apt here:
  19. SMMatthew

    Venture Crews at summer camp

  20. SMMatthew

    Venture Crews at summer camp

    Oh, I'm not saying that females have never been at fault for inappropriate conduct in Scouting. I've experienced my fair share of girls that have crossed the line with comments about "cute boys", were caught ogling the "hunky" male camp staff members, or were otherwise intentionally stirring up trouble. If two female Venturers show up at the waterfront in inappropriately revealing bathing suits and starts flaunting themselves and flirting with the male lifeguards, yes, that is inappropriate and those young ladies should be talked to and dealt with. But again, the un-Scoutlike or vacuous behavior of those girls still does not make it acceptable for male Scouts to ogle them, harass them, take advantage of them, or to be disrespectful towards women in general. The boys don’t get a “free pass†just because she “started it†or she was “asking for it†or because "well, boys will be boys." Both the boys and the girls have to be responsible for their actions. However if two female Venturers show up at the waterfront in Scout-appropriate bathing suits to work on earning a lifeguard certification and all the boys just start drooling over them and making lewd comments about wanting to give them "mouth-to-mouth resuscitation" (whether the girls can hear them or not), well, that is inappropriate and those young men should be talked to and dealt with. A Scout camp shouldn't require all females to wear burkas when swimming or make the girls eat in a separate dining hall just because some boys can't seem to control themselves around members of the opposite gender.
  21. SMMatthew

    Venture Crews at summer camp

    I recommend checking out the Venturing Personal Safety Awareness training video (viewing it is one of the first requirements for any Venturer working on the new Venturing Awards). You can get it direct from the BSA here: http://www.scoutstuff.org/personal-safety-awareness-for-venturing-dvd.html#.VKFmlcBE4. The video has a module on peer sexual harassment. By the BSA's own definition, sexual harassment is any unwelcome behaviors that creates a hostile environment. The training specifically says that Scouts should avoid any behaviors that "may make another feel humiliated, degraded, or threatened." The training specifically calls out "ogling," "staring," "whistling," "lewd comments or jokes," "questions about personal life," "repeated requests for dates," and "violating personal space" as just some examples of inappropriate behavior. The way someone is dressed does or the way they act does not give someone else the permission or the right to harass them. The training materials specifically state "You should not blame yourself for the harassment. This is not something you deserve or ask for. The harasser is the one who deserves blame." The video also has a module on acquaintance rape, which also has some good material that could relate to some of the statements people have made in this thread too. Now I wasn't there for any of the specific examples or situations cited in this discussion. I don't know the boys or girls involved in these specific situations nor do I know if the girls were truly inappropriately dressed (BSA does have standards in the Youth Protection guidelines for "appropriate attire" and I have seen both females and males at Scouting events that have crossed, or at least pushed, that line) or if some of the adults present were just being overly-sensitive prudes and the girls were dressed and behaving fine... or, as I suspect, if it was somewhere in between the two. However the way a female presents herself does not give the boys (or the adults or anyone) the right to harass her. Period. Even if the girls were inappropriately dressed, making inappropriate comments towards or about them isn't okay -- two wrongs don't make a right. So as for the guys involved here... as a Scout leader, I would make sure they boys are behaving appropriately (both around the females and behind their backs). Ogling or making comments to or about the girls is 100% unacceptable. Treating girls like "tramps" (even if they are dressed like "tramps", acting like "tramps" or even legitimate "tramps") is not Scout-like and is not acceptable. Just because you may feel the girls were "asking for it" with their behavior or appearance, it does not make it okay for the boys to behave any less than proper. I was on a Scouting trip once and we stopped at a McDonalds to use the bathrooms; the boys saw a group of scantily-clad, college-aged girls (who really were not dressed Scout-appropriate) and the boys made some objectifying and crude comments about the girls when we got back in the cars. It wasn't okay and the boys had a nice Scoutmaster conference and our SPL led a talk around the campfire about respect later that evening. The notion that “boys will be boys†is hogwash; we should be aiming to turn these “boys†into upstanding men with good and strong character, values, citizenship, respect, and personal fitness. Now as for the ladies involved here... as a Venturing leader, I would make sure there were clear standards for what is appropriate dress (what length of shorts or shirts are appropriate, what can/can't be exposed, what type of bathing suits are okay, what type of images or language can be on t-shirts, etc.). Have a female leader talk with the girls about how they present themselves to the boys and the world. Just like many schools, there should be a basic dress code for the crew (and not just for the girls, but for the guys and adults too). Especially with teens, you need to establish clear guidelines for what is acceptable and what is not; the rules should not just be up to the whim or subjectivity of any random adult's mood on a given day. The girls themselves should have input and say in the rules and they should be agreed upon and clearly stated before the trip. If it’s okay for them to wear, say, a one-piece bathing suit, or a sleeveless top, or cut-off shorts with full-length leggings underneath, then they shouldn’t be penalized or looked down upon for wearing them. And, again, even if they do break the rules, it does not make it okay for the boys or anyone else to harass them. We also want the girls to develop as women of strong character, equal citizenship, and a good personal image and understanding of personal fitness – allowing harassment or shaming and blaming them for it isn’t how you do that; standing up to harassment, advocating equality, building self-respect and confidence, and empowering the girls is how you achieve that. Just remember that the boys and the girls here are both equally Scouts and both deserve respect and support. We should absolutely guide the girls in the venturing program to dress appropriately and carry themselves with esteem and respect (we should do it for the boys too), but we should never shame or blame a girl when the boys don't act appropriately. We should address the boys’ actual behaviors rather than simply blame some innocent girls who may have unintentionally stirred things up just by basically being who they are.
  22. SMMatthew

    Venture Crews at summer camp

    Well... page 118 of the current Boy Scout Handbook says: ...and page 120 states: and:
  23. SMMatthew

    Reinstatement Fees

    I have a Scout in my troop who was elected into the Order of the Arrow in 2013. He completed his ordeal that year and paid his $10 dues to the lodge for 2012, but he didn't remain active much afterward getting his sash. He didn't attend any OA events in 2014 and he didn't pay his dues to the lodge for the year. However now he's older and he has some new friends who are in the Order and so he'd decided that he wants to become active in the lodge again (maybe even go for Brotherhood). So this Scout went to pay his dues for 2015 to become re-active and the lodge told him that he has to pay a "reinstatement fee." The lodges annual dues are $10 and the reinstatement fee is an additional $20 (it's a shame he didn't just pay the $10 dues the last year even if he wasn't going to be active, he would have saved $10 in the long-run). So now this Scout has to pay $30 just to re-become a member of the lodge. I'll admit I know very little of the structure and policies of the OA beyond the very local chapter-level. I do know that lodge dues, finances, policies and practices vary from lodge-to-lodge and council-to-council... but a quick Google search showed me that many lodges have similar policies (whether $10, $15 or $20 for dues and/or reinstatement fees). Now I'm not anti-dues here, I understand the lodge needs money from it's members in order to maintain and offer a quality program. But I am curious as to why an added fee, and especially such a high fee, exists simply to rejoin? Are there actually added costs/expenses to reinstating or reactivating someone's membership in the OA? If so, what exactly are they? Or is the penalty of a reinstatement fee merely being used a intensive to get people to not let their dues lapse.
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