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gshafer

Scout Spirit

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I know this is another common problem - peer pressure regarding scouts. I have a few scouts that are "embarrased" if other kids know they are in scouts. And on the other hand, the majority of my troop has never had a problem with their friends knowing they were scouts, all the way thru high school.

 

I have over the past couple years started marching the troop in our local Memorial Day and Veterans day parades. I have the usual scouts that I can count on show up usually about 1/3 of the troop, an additional 1/3 is in our two local high school marching bands and then I have the last third that doesn't want their friends to see they are scouts.

 

I have been mulling the idea of requiring any scout that is up for Star, Life or Eagle to be in the parade as a sign of "Scout Spirit" or I won't sign of on that portion of their advancement. This could cause a stir in the troop, but it wouldn't be the first time!

 

I think this is the least they could do to thank our veterans and show duty to country.

 

I'm interested in any thoughts in regard to this!

 

Y.I.S.

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I am not sure requiring them to march is the answer. There will always be the scout whose family is away, so they cant be in the parade and then you will have a lot of shy scouts whose families are suddenly always away on parade day.

 

Scout spirit can be shown in many ways, attittude, behavior, personal committments. Upon being told some one is a scout, a teacher or other person shouldnt be surprised, but should "have suspected as much".

 

Now, this comes from a guy who grew up in the Chicago suburbs during the late 60's and beleive me in the summer of 68 and through all of 1969, wearing any thing Boy Scouts was not the safest thing to do.

 

We still had our meetings, we still went camping, but just not in uniforms, and I may add we had plenty of spirit. Mandating a march in uniform may not be the best approach, but expecting to see the boys live the oath and law is. Scout Spirit is more than a willingness to wear the uniform.

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Although I must quickly add, being proud of the uniform is on of the best expressions of scout spirit, I meant to say there are other ways as well

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As a bona fide veteran I applaud your willingness to have your troop participate in these events. As a scout leader, I think it is a mistake to make rank advancement contingent upon participating in a single activity or event that determines everything else as far as scout spirit is concerned. "Showing scout spirit" is an often overlooked, ignored, and difficult to measure element of rank advancement. I think some flexibility is in order. You run the risk of turning these kids off on scouting altogether.

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Instead of participating in a parade, I'd like to suggest a "back to the good old days" Memorial Day activity for your scouts. The veterans groups who have always placed flags on the graves of veterans are having trouble doing it anymore. We helped them at one cemetary and saw first hand the struggles these men were having doing what they feel is a honor duty. We watched vets who could no longer bend over to push the flags into the ground hold bundles of flags while someone else pushed them down for them. There were some scouts there, but they really could have used more. Contact your local veterans groups (American Legion, VFW, Amvets) and ask if they need help. Another service project that needs volunteers is picking up the flags after Memorial Day and bundling up the flags for use the next year. These tasks really need workers. And suggest to your scouts that they take the time to just talk to the veterans while they are doing the task. My son worked with a very frail old man and was fascinated to learn he'd been a Lieutenant in the Rangers in WWII and Korea. When they were ready to leave, they exchanged a salute straight out of a Norman Rockwell picture.

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KL, you do have a point. In fact replacing the flags from Veterans Graves of several cemetaries is my son's Eagle project. Later this month he will retire these flags in a solemn ceremony.

 

The American Legion we worked with were very appreciative of our efforts and we plan to help them next year, maybe not as an Eagle Project, but just as a service project

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I have to agree with those that nix the idea of mandating the march for rank advancement. I've never done that, and our situation is pretty much like yours. We have a troop of about 60 boys. About a third to half show up for parade duty. About a quarter to a third are in the high school band. The rest are either busy with family or just don't want to participate.

 

What I do tell the scouts, though, is that I do not want to see them standing on the roadside, or riding their bikes along the parade route, or doing anything that makes me wonder why they have time to goof off, but not be with us in the parade. That all started years ago when a group of the boys didn't show for the parade, but were found to be riding their bikes along the route talking with their friends in the troop marching in the parade. So, I told them, either I see you in uniform in the parade, or in band uniform in the band, or not at all.

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Boy this is a tough one. My boy loves Scouts and the activities; however, he only wants to wear as much of the uniform as the rest of the boys. I insist on full uniform for Conference, Boards, and Courts but the rest of the time he will only wear the shirt and neckerchief. I think this is less of a case of embarassment to be part of scouting and more a case of not wanting to stick out. Witness how many of the boys want to have their clothes and hair the same in school. If the marching group were large enough then the boys would have "protection" in aninimity and wouldn't stick out. Our 5th-6th grade classes, the middle school and the high school combined have about 2000 boys. The scout troops in the area enroll near 200 boys, about one percent, mostly younger scouts where the wearing of a uniform is less of a problem. Sports teams of all kinds probably include 80% of these boys. Quite frankly if the percentage of boys in school who were scouts was as high as that of those in sports they would most likely feel more comfortable. Notice most boys are not embarassed to be seen in a football uniform.

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As a 42-year-old man, it's easy for me to pass judgment on these boys. After all, I have the benefit of growing old and learning what's really important in life. Unfortunately, we cannot transplant our life-lessons into our children over night. Many of us, if given the chance to go back to middle school or high school, would like to change things. I like to think that I would put my faith and principles above my popularity. Truth be told though, even knowing what I know now, I'm not sure I would be brave enough to make the right choices. We all need to have a sense of belonging. Consequently, when I see boys making the right choice (particularly boys in high school), I feel compelled to tell that "boy" that his decision reflects the character of a man, not a boy. Our best hope is to uplift these brave individuals and honor them within the Troop. Make them the example to follow.

 

Several years ago, we had two brothers (twins) in the Troop that were very popular (athletic, liked by the girls, etc.). I kept praying that they would lead the way for the other scouts to follow. As much as I wanted it to happen, it was not meant to be. They weren't horrible kids. They just fell victim to those influences in high school that so many others do. They were more concerned about what others thought of them. Imagine what could have happened if they chose to follow a different path. If they had embraced their scouting values unashamedly, those boys would have paid a price. However, they also would have gained something that few of us can stake claim toA sense of honor that only comes with true sacrifice. This cannot be mandated. It must be a voluntarily action or there is no honor in it.

 

In short, we need to spend much more time honoring those boys who make the sacrificeAnd perhaps less focus on those who don't.

 

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Rooster,

 

The boys you speak of are, unfortunately, more the rule than the exception. But that's life, and we deal with what we get. Instilling the Scouting Spirit is not always going to bear fruit with a Scout that has true Scout Spirit. But, we go on, and are glad for the opportunities we've been given to help those boys along the way. My experience has been that even those who lacked bundles of Scout Spirit gained something. I've had many of my former Scouts come back to visit, and say thanks for the experience, the time, and the interest invested in them by the adult leaders. And that brings a smile to me.

 

It's the truely extraordinary boy, that we meet every so often, that raises our eyebrows, and our hopes. Those are the boys who are adored by the girls, emmensely good in High School Sports (all of them, it seems), and proud to wear their Scout Uniform and display what they're part of. They love to learn. They love to lead. And they're not embarrased by the knowledge that they're Boy Scouts. That, in my mind, is really extraordinary Scout Spirit...so much beyond what I view as the norm, that I place it is a category all by itself.

 

I've always expected a certain sense of Scout Spirit from each boy. And I've rarely found a boy whom I'm truly disappointed in for his utter lack of it. Most kids have enough that it will someday make a difference. And in 20 years, I've only run into 3 of those really remarkable young men. I'll always remember them fondly. But then again, I try to remember them all, and the spirit and fun they had.

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Thank you all for your thoughts and input. I knew I was approaching a subject that would have many reactions.

 

I appreciate your time and the alternative ideas you have offered.

 

YIS

 

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Just to clarify one point...

 

When I stated "...we need to spend much more time honoring those boys who make the sacrificeAnd perhaps less focus on those who don't..."

 

I didn't mean we should abandon those boys who don't make the sacrifice. I meant, perhaps we are better served if we make examples of those boys who are the exception as opposed to penalizing the boys who are not.

 

Regardless, jmcquillan I appreciate your words. If we could somehow cultivate all scouts to have the same attitude as "those really remarkable young men" you spoke of, that would be something. I suppose I should be more of a realist. Still, I can dream...

 

Thanks.

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