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There are a lot of places where you can find out about the OA. Looking over your previous posts, you mention that you have had a group of Lads doing something with the OA. So I'm a little puzzled by your question.

There are no secrets in the BSA.Everything we do is open to and for the parents of the Scouts we serve to observe or witness. While the ceremonies of the OA are for members, if a parent wanted to see what their son was going through they would be admitted to watch,

While it is a youth organization, the head of each Lodge is the Scout Executive who holds the title "Chief of the fire," The Lodge adviser is a appointment made by the Scout Executive.

Membership is by election, your troop should have a youth member who is the OA Rep. He working with the Lodge officers should hold annual elections in each troop. If you contact the Lodge Adviser in your Council, I feel sure that he will be able to dispel a lot of the myths and secrets.

When I look at the direction that the OA seems to be taking I am both pleased and very excited. I have long admired the work and cheerful service that OA members have performed at camp and for camp, now it seems that there is a move afoot to break into other areas or at least become more visible in areas that they were already working in. I think we will see a lot of good being done by the OA and OA members.


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I undestand what you mean PNScouter, first, as we all know, in the guide to safe scouting it says that there are no secret organizations in scouting and that all activities are open, but then again we also have the OA, a "secret organization" with passwords, rituals, etc.


As Eamonn said, the ceremonies are open to the parents of the scout, although discouraged, at least in my area. The reason, I beleive, is to foster in the scout a sense of belonging to a special organization, of feeling that he is special. You may ask why this is necessary and I dont have a real good explnation other than to refer you to The Knights of Columbus, the Freemasons and a few dozen other "secret" societies that have publicly stated missions but also non-public ceremonies. I beleive the OA rituals serve a good purpose and its secrets enhance its positon in scouting. Overall, I think the mystique enhances the organization

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All OA ceremonies are open to parents if they request it. We have had a few parents attend some of the Ordeal ceremonies.


Most parents or leaders are probably not aware that they can attend. As far as I know, they rarely are told that piece of info.


The youth like and even relish the idea of a little secrecy and mystique. There is really nothing kept totally secret in the OA. Members are requested, urged, informed, etc. to not discuss anything in the OA with a non-member. This gives the youth member a feeling that he is part of something special and unique. It also thrills non-members when they are selected.

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The last line in OGE's post says it all


"Overall, I think the mystique enhances the organization"


Why? I don't know. But it helps get members, because kids want to be in "secret" organizations, even if it isn't so secret. I remember reading in the beginning of the OA handbook about keeping the mystique by not talking about it too much to non members.


I think it's great that any registered leader or any parent can see the ceremony if they so choose. This is important for an organization such as ours. But I also hope that the leaders and especially parents choose not to view it, as I think that may take some things away from the experience in the eyes of the scout.


I have not been to a ceremony in over 20 years, just getting back into BSA after a long absence. I want to go to an upcoming ordeal just to feel the brotherhood again.

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Everyone here has the right idea. The OA is NOT a "secret organization". The reason for the secrecy is as other here have stated is to enhance the induction process, to make worth while to go thru with the Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil. As far as parents are concerned I personally dont like them around. Its there son achievement let them have son privacy and enjoy the honor that has be bestowed upon them. Our lodge had a incident at lets years Ordeal where a father cam to the Pre Ordeal Ceremony and was video taping the ceremony and he was a past Arrowman for a Lodge in the mainland (were in Hawaii) he had made commits quite loudly towards the Ceremony Team that they Werent to bad for a Hawaiian Lodge and the Ceremony Team was crushed they had put in so much hard work. Needless to say there were 3 members that we on a Conclave Ceremony Team that came 1st place. One member had on month to get the part down because a boys family had planed trip one month before the Ordeal. He pulled it off perfectly like he had done it a hundred times. Needless to say I was a little POD as the Ceremony Team Coach & Associate Lodge Adviser. I asked the Lodge Staff Adviser to take care of this problem because I didnt feel that I would have handled it properly. I would like to raise another question why do parents have to feel that they have to be evolved in every aspect of the sons scouting?



Sorry for venting





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maddog - why do parents have to feel that they have to be evolved in every aspect of the sons scouting?


I believe it is a reflection of the world we now live in. I find that our parents are much more concerned about abductions, car wrecks and abuse than mine ever were. I have a very involved group of parents in my troop. But, at times, they are almost over-involved. It's just the nature of our world today.


As for why it's secret, I agree with OGE's point, "Overall, I think the mystique enhances the organization"

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The OA has no secrets.


It does have mysteries.


Mystery is one of the methods used by the OA.


In the past, the organization was for more mysterious than it is now. At one time the group was only known to outsiders by a part of its name.


Over the years the mysteries were opened to concerned parents and a few other interested parties (such as some religous officials who had misgiving about the nature of any secret society). While someone with a genuine reason for needing to know could know seek information without becoming a member, this has never really been encouraged, because it would decrease the value of the mysteries of the order.


The history of the Order is largely a matter of public record. Many lodges have histories on their public websites. The events of the OA and the lodges is public knowledge and can be found on the national and council calendars. The honor levels are also public knowledge. The purpose of the Order can be easily found by any who seek it. The national, regional, area, section, and lodge/council organization are quite public.


If you look at the organizational chart for any of those levels of the BSA you will see exactly how the OA fits in. All lodges publicise the names of the officers and advisers, and all lodges have a contact person.


The insignia of the Order, its emblem, and the insignia of each lodge are all publicly known.


There is far more information available to the public than there is information shrowded in mystery. The things we maintain as mystery, and that we ask that others respect the mysterious nature of (unless they have a legitimate reason to know), are the ceremonies, song, obligation, admonition, sign, and handclasp.


Now, why exactly is mystery used to enhance the program and ceremonies of the Order?


That is a very difficult thing to explain to non-member, though to most members no explanation is needed.


The OA is an honor society. It is a brotherhood of honoered campers. It is a brotherhood of cheerful service.


It is not a club, a unit, or any of those other things meant to be open to anyone.


It is only open to those who meet membership requirements and who are then selected by their peers to become candidates. No one can become a member without the approval of others. No one earns their way in.


Part of what makes it an honor, is being entrusted with knowledge that is not entrusted to others. This knowledge is given only to eligible Scouts who were selected to be candidates, and who then determine that they wish to faces the challenges of teh Ordeal. To them the first pieces of the mystery are revealed. Once someone passes the Ordeal, they then become eligible to have certain parts of the mystery explained to them.


Those who continue to serve Scouting, and who determine to live by the Oath and Law, and who wish to have more of the mystery revealed may seek out the tests of the Brotherhood. Those who pass those tests are entitled to gain a greater understanding.


Then out of those who continue in service after becoming Brotherhood members, some are selected to be candidates for the Vigil Honor.


Mystery is a critical part of the OA experience. That experience has a different and very personal meaning to each Arrowman. The OA gives some knowledge to its members, other things it helps them to learn in other ways, and then there are those things each person learns on their own through their experiences. All of these are part of the mysteries of the OA.


In Scouting, there are ranks. The ranks generally don't carry any special privlidges, rather, they serve to show the Scouts progress in learning the skill of Scouting, and in learning the skills of leadership and citizenship.


In the OA, the honor levels indicate the level of knowledge they are entitled to know.


Arrowmen can only be admitted into the next level by earning the right to have revealed to them the knowledge of the next degree.


In a more practical sense, the mystery helps to build a since of anticipation in a Scout as their Ordeal approaches. They can wonder what it holds in store for them next. Also, if they do not know what it is they are going to see and hear, they are far more likely to pay close attention to the ceremonies, and to the entire Ordeal process. Since the ceremonies are vitally important parts of the experience, and since the memories of the Ordeal are of value to so many, it should be desired that Scouts pay close attention and remember as much of these things as possible.


A Scout that has been told everything about the OA and the Ordeal will not recieve the benefits of the mysteries. They will not have such a sense of anticipation when the Ordeal approaches. They will not eagerly seek out knowledge that another has already improperly revealed to them.


Finally, to reveal the mysteries to those who do not need to know them, diminishes the value of the OA experience for all of those who have earned the privilidge of having those mysteries revealed to them.


The entire OA experience is rich in mystery, symbolism, hidden knowledge, and full of inspirational memories and character developing tests, all built upon the ideals of Scouting.


There is much more to the OA experience and being an Arrowmen than I ever could express in a post. However, even if a could explain it all properly, I would not do so.


I value those things too greatly to cheepen them by giving them away to others that have not earned them without cause.


I also respect my fellow Scouts and Scouters who are not yet members too much to go around giving away the "secrets" of the Order. If I give away all the "secrets" then I have greatly and irreparably diminished the experience those Scouts and Scouters may one day have if they are selecte to be candidates.(This message has been edited by Proud Eagle)

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Easy Proud Eagle, this humble non member was not asking you to reveal secrets. I just wanted to know what the function of the secrecy was. With your post and the others I now have a better understanding of that function.





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I use this analogy to explain the "mystery" of the OA, and the lack of specifics concerning Wood Badge training before the fact:


If you were waiting in line to see a new movie that you were really looking forward to, a suspense-filled epic with a cliffhanger and a surprise ending, would you want someone coming out of the previous showing stopping at the line and telling you how the movie ended? Of course not, it would ruin the experience for you.


Same reason parts of OA and Wood Badge knowledge are withheld until the right times, as you're experiencing them. Looking back on both, I can say with certainty that if I found a "kiss-and-tell" internet site that gave everything away, I wouldn't have enjoyed or gained from either experience as much as I did.


My son received his Brotherhood the same weekend I completed my Ordeal. I didn't see his ceremony, naturally, but he participated in mine. He hasn't told me what he went through, and I haven't asked. When you think about it, isn't that another method of character development? Don't we expect adults to be discreet at times...for people with security clearances to be able to keep their mouths shut, and so on? I'd wager these lads will be better at it than those without the imperative to do so as teenagers.


BTW, the "parents may watch" clause should come as no surprise to any mom or dad who read the "Information for Parents" section on the Boy Scout Application. It says right there that parents are welcome at any activity.



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We had an incident a few years ago where a Dad was "called out" and showed up for the first night of his Ordeal. His son was also among the Ordeal candidates. Along about bedtime on the first night when he realized what was happening, he declared loudly, "I ain't puttin up with this BS!" and went home. The next day, he showed up as a parent to exercise his right to observe. It was an awkward and embarrassing situation, but in the end, he was allowed to stay.

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