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I will bite.


I do not follow the speed limit all of the time. I do follow it when I don't want to worry about getting stopped or when I have started early for an appointment or when Scouting.


I went to court once for getting out of a traffic line that had signage three miles prior to a construction zone. I didn't see any barriers nor any construction. Since I had used the road before, I knew that the exit was around the next curve in the road. I put on my blinker and pulled over into the empty lane to exit. What I didn't know was that around that next curve were several policemen waiting for just such an incident. Even though I put my blinker on and safely reentered the line, I was spotted and fined. Just before I was to appeal to the heartstrings of the judge, I listened to a similar story told by another perpetrator. He and I were both astonished to hear his judgment which was that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and deserved the $200. fine, no options allowed. I turned on my heal and went out and paid the fine.


What did I learn from this? Even if a person makes an honest attempt at following the rules and believes that he is doing things correctly that he can still be judged to have done it wrong so be careful to follow the rules and do not approximate them.


Should people follow common sense and not follow the rules in Scouting? My advice is that a judge will be more prone to listen to a person that was following the rules when an incident occurred than his common sense. I also have it on good advice from an insider that the B.S.A. will be more prone to back a leader that was following the rules when an accident occurred than otherwise.


My question regarding accidents is when will they most likely occur? Murphy has it that accidents will happen when you are least prepared and least expect it. Common sense generally has those two elements as a common denominator. I know. It has already cost me $200.




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This is a philosophical topic that comes up here periodically, and I always find it interesting. In the hopes of providing some food for thought, consider the following two lists (inclusion and order don't necessarily mean I agree with the point myself):

Potential reasons for obeying rules:

1. Obeying rules set by legitimate authorities is a moral imperative in itself.

2. Rules are set by persons with greater knowledge and experience and thus should be followed.

3. It's important to show respect for rules in order to set a good example for others.

4. Breaking small rules will lead to less respect for more important rules.

5. If you agreed to follow the rules, you are obligated to follow them.

6. If everybody picked and chose what rules to follow, there would be chaos, and dumb people would ignore the wrong rules.

7. If you violate the rule, you may be punished.

Potential reasons for disobeying rules (with examples):

1. The rule is unjust. (I think this can justify even secretly disobeying a rule--such as failing to turn over Jews to the Nazis and lying aboout it).

2. The purpose for the rule clearly does not apply to the particular situation. (This may be the case with Kahuna's visit to the waterfront. Another simple one might be the requirement to "take a number" when there is nobody else waiting.)

3. The rule is routinely violated and rarely enforced. (This is probably the true reason most people speed a few mph over the limit.)

4. The rule is silly. (Perhaps the fact that although it is shaped like a pocket flap, a Tot'n Chip is not supposed to be worn on the pocket flap of the uniform.)

5. The rule is inconsequential, and the consequences of violating it are too small to matter. (This is in the eye of the beholder, of course--perhaps wearing green socks that are identical to Scout socks, but without the red stripe, under long pants.)

6. The rule is inconvenient. (Ignoring two-deep leadership because a second adult wasn't available would be an example.)

7. You just think you know better than the people who make the rules. (Taking scouts to play laser tag or paintball, maybe.)

Are there other reasons for either?

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6. If everybody picked and chose what rules to follow, there would be chaos, and dumb people would ignore the wrong rules.

Too true. One of my dear friends puts forth the following idea. He's not a true libertarian, but has his moments :-)

The I'VE GOT A CLUE card.

Whenever you encounter a rule that really needn't apply to you, simply flash* your IGAC card.

*The bearer of this card, by the action of presenting it, waves all expectations of rescue and/or sympathy for the resulting consequences oftheir actions.(This message has been edited by Cheerful Eagle)

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I will admit that you should have the experience and knowledge to know when a rule applies and when it doesn't. Blindly appling a rule improperly for the sake of following the rules is "rulesmongering".


But for those who don't have the knowlegde if a rule applies or not, and apply it anyway to err on the side of caution, I say they are doing nothing wrong.


And, as for dumb people ingoring the wrong rules, I think that is the greatest risk to scouting. Only because nobody sees themselves as being dumb.

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7. You just think you know better than the people who make the rules.


These are the guys who bug me. They usually don't care why a rule exists. They simply dislike any form of authority and challenge rules just for the sake of challenging rules. It is usually driven out of selfishness, immaturity and arrogance.

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I like your list. It reminds me of the old joke about the group who numbered their jokes.


Every time this topic comes up, I could just say "Disobey 2 and 3". And FScouter could say "Obey 5" (it might be more convenient if you had given the two lists unique numbers). And the new guy could say "Disobey 7", and we could say "That's not a very strong argument the way you type it."


I think your lists cover most of the reasons people bring up, or the arguments are some combination of the reasons you list. But I'll list a couple other potential reasons for the disobey list.

#8 - Following the rule will cause one person to be singled out/embarrassed (I've seen this happen, in a case where #5 (inconsequential) also applied, in my judgement) This might be similar to #1 (unjust), although it's not that the rule itself is unjust, it's just that the penalty for breaking the rule is unjustly out of proportion.

#9 - Other substantial negative consequences to following the rule (maybe, in Cub Scouts, one family's tent collapses during a rainstorm in the middle of the night, and they move in with another family who has a large tent.) This might be a version of #6 (inconvenient), but just calling it "inconvenient" may not capture the effort/consequences of following the rule. When I hear "inconvenient", I think that someone is just trying to avoid some work, but the effect of following the rule might be more than that. Another example might be when a pack is going camping, but their one BALOO trained individual gets sick on the day of the trip. Following the rule may require cancelling the trip, affecting the plans of dozens of families. That would be more than inconvenient. And if there is another capable leader ready, the consequences of violating the rule may be too small to matter (a version of #5).

#10 - it's the spirit of the rule that matters, not the letter of the rule (maybe allowing a couple who has been together for 15 years, but isn't technically married, to share the same tent)

#11 - there is an overriding reason of a health or safety emergency (often comes up in these discussions, but is non-controversial in reality, as everyone tends to agree it's ok to break a rule to save a life). Possibly a subset of your #2.

#12 - the rules suck all the fun out of the activity. (maybe the rule is you have to listen to a one-hour safety lecture before firing a bb-gun. Or, at a local camp-o-ree, here are the local rules, which were thought up by someone who seemed to have no experience with actual Scouts)

#13 - the rules, as written, appear to be bizarrely complex (say, doing a flight plan with all its details, for a program run by Young Eagles). This is also the effect that the local "Camp Nazi" had on some of the parents in my pack when she came by at the camp-o-ree and ran down her checklist of all the rules we were supposedly violating.


That's all for now.


Even though I'm clearly on Beavah's side of this argument, I do agree with AvidSM that the best default option is to follow the rule.


Oak Tree

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Let me also suggest that some of these reasons might help in evaluating how to react to another person who is violating a rule. For example, when it comes to patch placement, I would obey silly rules, and urge my son to do so--thus, I would tell him not to put Tot'n Chip on the pocket flap. But when I see another scout who has committed that indiscretion, I'm not going to say anything.

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#7a : The person really does know better than the rulemaker, because of unique personal expertise, or insufficient time/attention paid by the rulemaker.


#14 : The rulemaker exceeded his authority in making the rule.



I like CE's "I've got a clue" card, eh? It ustah be that rules were written to govern everyone. Nowadays, it seems that rules are written to try to contain the stupid. Problem is that stupid is like bacteria. As soon as you try to stop it, it mutates into a resistant strain of more stupid.

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#7a : The person really does know better than the rulemaker, because of unique personal expertise, or insufficient time/attention paid by the rulemaker.


Beavah, I'm a fairly intelligent, perceptive and talented man. Infortunately, I've yet to master the art of mind reading though. How am I, who might be in charge of an area at camp and therefore the person responsible for enforcing a rule supposed to know of your unique personal expertise when you chose to break the rule in front of me? Wouldn't it be better for you to first follow the rule (lead by example for those boys observing), introduce yourself to me and explain to me why you think you individually want to be treated as an exception to the rule?

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Lisabob wrote:


But there do have to be some basic rules that everybody agrees to follow. Like the G2SS or not, those ARE the rules and we shouldn't be picking and choosing which of them suits us on a given day. My beef is that when people start saying, oh these rules are merely advisory suggestions that can be bent, twisted, applied or not, as people think is appropriate, then they lose any solid meaning.

I don't mean to pick on you, Lisabob, but my beef is that people sometimes take the advisory recommendations and treat them as hard rules. The Age Appropriate Guidelines (AAG) are one of the biggest sources of this. I also see LOTS of legend get passed around word-of-mouth because it is easy to hear and remember that something is "forbidden." It is harder to look it up and see if it really is forbidden.

Yes, the G2SS is a very useful resource, but are you aware that only the BOLD text denotes actual BSA policy? The Preface describes the G2SS as "policy and guidelines" and points out that


Bold type throughout the Guide to Safe Scouting denotes BSA rules and policies.

These are the parts that truly are inflexible. Check out the "unauthorized and restricted activities" list in the "sports and activities" section of G2SS. All BOLD. That's the hard-line policy stuff. The non-bold remainder is there as a guideline. The AAG is an appendix to the G2SS and is CLEARLY written as a guideline. It includes the following language in its introductory paragraphs:


The BSA recognizes that youth in various parts of the country develop at different rates. These guidelines are designed to demonstrate the mainstream of youth capabilities.

For instance, Cub Scouts may be involved in winter camping in Alaska, where cold-weather activities are part of the culture. On the West Coast and Gulf Coast, surfing may be appropriate for Boy Scouts. In the Northeast, youth begin playing street and ice hockey at an early age.

Because of the varying development rates among youth, these activity guidelines are flexible and should not be perceived as requirements or rules. They address the mainstream of youth abilities while allowing for exceptions for Scouting units and groups based on the consideration and judgment of unit, district, and council committees and boards.

I just don't know how it gets any clearer than this. The Guidelines allow for exceptions based on the consideration and judgement of the unit. There is no need to call another scouter's honor into question when he/she reads the BSA material as written, as sometimes happens on this board and in our districts.

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The bottom line is that the boys like rules. Rules are the foundation that makes the Scouting environment possible. Rules are what make your troop meetings a comfortable place for the boys to be. Rules are what allow the parents to let their sons spend the weekends with you. Rules are needed.

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fotoscout, I'd suggest instead:


"The bottom line is that the boys like structure. Ideals like the Oath and Law are the foundation that makes the Scouting environment possible. Shared expectations and values are what make your troop meetings a comfortable place for the boys to be. Trust in your capabilities and judgment are what allow the parents to let their sons spend the weekends with you."


Rules are a tool for helping us achieve some of these things, eh? But just a tool. And like any tool, they can be used badly.



SR540, not sure how 7a would apply to camp. I do remember an attorney "correcting" a camp director on a matter of the state camp licensing law and regulations once. Yah, I agree with you; even in providing such a correction, yeh still have to be kind and courteous, eh?


Da case I had in mind was of a set of U.S. olympic kayakers who were trying to put on a high-water river that they knew well. Unfortunately, they were harassed and abused by the local sheriff. You might remember the footage a few years ago. Very embarrassing for the "authority."


Guess they needed the "I Have a Clue" card.



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