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Still no Lasers Around Here
I got word back from the Council Shooting Sports Committee advisor and Activities Director about my question regarding laser tag. Since the Guide to Safe Scouting verbage was changed and the specific term 'lasers' was dropped but 'paintball' and 'dye' were kept, I wondered how that should be interpreted. Should we get the idea that lasertag is now ok to participate in as a scout unit?

The response from council is that the laser tag reference was dropped due to "the lack of facilities and interest in the sport around the country", but it still is not allowed as an activity.

The council advisor pointed out that the overriding phrase here is that "pointing any type of firearm at any individual is unauthorized".

So, there you go. Still no laser tag for our troop, even though quite a few other units in the area participate in that activity on an annual basis.

Scout On
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Posted: 18:07 01-28-2008 303
To Laser or Not To Laser
Is it ok for Boy Scout units to participate in laser tag events?

The answer for the past few years has been an easy, "NO!" because you could point right to the "Unauthorized and Retriced Activities" section of Chapter IX - Sports and Activities in the Guide to Safe Scouting and read the exact wording from the Boy Scouts of America. Every scout leader should have the latest version of this document. It is available at local scout shops and online.

It used to read:
But, the latest version of that section on now reads:

So, how should the new wording be interpreted?
Was the word "lasers" purposefully deleted to imply that they are ok to use? If someone reads the old version and then the new version, that would be an easy implication to make. But, someone just reading the new version could include lasers as firearms.
Are laser tag guns "firearms" or not? They don't discharge a projectile. They don't cause injury. There's a valid argument that they should not be included in the category of "firearm".

The other activities listed in the Unauthorized and Restricted list are activities in which physical injury is a higher than normal risk. Laser tag has no more risk of physical injury than a run-of-the-mill scouting game like Grab the Bacon, Capture the Flag, or the dozens of others scouts play.
If laser tag was included in the list because of the fear it promotes shooting humans, then it doesn't match the reasoning for the rest of the list. That doesn't mean it should be an authorized scouting activity, but it does mean the BSA should specifically, obviously, and decidedly state if laser tag is aurhotized or not.

By the way, it's interesting to notice the last activity added to the list of unauthorized and restricted activities:

See Current Version or Previous Version (takes awhile to load).

Scout On
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Posted: 15:56 01-27-2008 302
2008 Boy Scout Rank Requirements
Now that the new requirements are in place for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class, folks are trying to figure out the right answers for the requirements. Until the new version of the Scout Handbook comes out, that can be a bit tricky. The new books should be available in local scout shops soon and they will have the information for the new requirement changes in them.

For a quick fix, BSA has published helpful information for scoutmasters, instructors, and troop guides to use in presentations.

Here are the highlights:

Be sure to check out the BSA's page.

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Posted: 21:58 01-24-2008 301
Fire Pistons for Scouts
Scouts like fire. Scouts like to burn stuff. Trying to make water flow uphill would be easier than changing that fact. At summer camp, scouts I know have had a tradition for the past 5 years of tying a small stuffed animal to a post and burning it at the stake. This started with those little beanie babies that were available at McDonalds. Every year someone has pulled one out of a pack - I just hope they aren't part of a little sister's collection.

Since scouts enjoy fire so much, ensuring they respect it and can manage it should be our goal. I encourage fires all the time and there's never a lack of volunteers to give it a go. Usually, a scout starting a fire has a gallery of advisors, whether he wants them or not. Once scouts are able to lay, light, tend, and extinguish fires properly, I challenge them to start a fire in more interesting ways.

There are dozens of aids to make a fire light faster, such as candles, dryer lint, potato chips, and purell. See Fire Helpers for a list. But, all of these need a spark, flame, or ember to get going. That is the challenge - how do you generate the heat source?

The different ways I've used to create the initial heat for a fire are Sparks, Friction, Sunlight, and Electricity. Electricity stored in a battery heats a filament such as fine steel wool until it burns. Sunlight is concentrated to a point with a magnifying glass until it ignites the tinder. Using a bow drill or hand drill to "rub two sticks together" causes friction which creates a smoldering ember. Flint & Steel creates a spark which is caught in fine tinder to produce an ember. These are all fun ways to create fire and some work better than others, depending on the weather and environment. Most of them take lots of patience, time, and physical effort.

I was just introduced to an extremely interesting, and fairly easy, way to create an ember without matches. In a diesel engine, air is compressed to produce heat. Did you know that by compressing the air around you into a small enough space, it will become hot enough to ignite tinder? There are now fire starters called Fire Pistons which do this exact thing, almost like magic.

I received a fire piston from Jeff at Wilderness Solutions so I could try it out. On my second attempt, I made an ember! It took all of about 20 seconds. Of course, I just had to show off my great new skill to the troop! At our troop meeting, I passed the fire piston around to see who could guess what it was. No scout knew - it was a brand new piece of gear! When I demonstrated it, you should have heard all the oohs, aaahs, and "How did you do that?" questions flying around. :-)

Jeff sells finished fire pistons as well as kits so you can make and carve your own. I've got two kits. My plan is to whittle them with our troop number and give them as Eagle Scout gifts. Jeff has a new Scout Fire Piston Kit with special prices for Boy Scouts. They aren't cheap, but the actual product is not cheap either. The solid coco bolo wood feels great and polishes up just beautifully. They are very solid with nothing to break if it gets dropped or even thrown across a campsite. The kits are simple to assemble and then scouts can whittle, sand, or carve however they like. They are a terrific activity for a patrol or the whole troop, especially in late winter getting ready for spring camping. There is a special bonus deal for scouts that order 20 kits that you should check out.

Here's a short video showing a fire piston in action. There are many other videos on Wilderness Solutions site.

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Posted: 12:17 01-23-2008 300
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property."

Of the twelve points in the Scout Law, I imagine that Thrifty is the one most difficult to quantify. A Scout in an affluent community may consider himself thrifty by saving his $25 allowance for two weeks to buy a video game while a few Scouts in a less wealthy neighborhood might pool the change they collected from turning in soda bottles to buy a bag of candy. Being rich or poor does not define the ability to be thrifty or not. A rich person can be thrifty without being a Scrooge and a poor person can be thrifty while still sharing what he has.

The boy with parents dishing out money for any and all scouting events he cares to participate in is a boy with no opportunity to understand thrift and the value of things. He begins to feel entitled to whatever he desires with no regard towards the necessity of the thing. Being required to do without is the best way to build a sense of thrift and value. Desiring something enough to be willing to work for it, and forego other things for it, gives that thing value and provides an understanding of thrift.

Someone with very little learns from early on that it takes effort, perseverance, and work to acquire those things that are desired. When you can't have everything, you prioritize and acquire first what you need the most, then work down the list acquiring the more important things. This is often food, heat, rent or mortgage, transportation to work, and clothing. When enough money is saved, then less important expenditures can be made occasionally.

A Scout should be given as many opportunities as possible to practice being thrifty within scouting. He can earn his camping gear by doing extra work around home or at a real job. He should have a budget for purchasing food for his patrol on campouts so he stretches the money as much as he can. Scouts should also work together to raise funds for patrol or troop gear, such as tents, cooking gear, stoves, and the like. Paying his way is an important part of a Scout's overall scouting experience. If a Scout joins a patrol and is given everything he needs, he sees no value in it and has no ownership of it.

Thriftiness is most often discussed in terms of money since we exchange work for money and money for those things we need and want. But, a Scout should be thrifty in all areas of life. Turning off unused lights, closing doors and window shades, recycling, and even planning driving routes around town are all ways to be thrifty with energy. Using things he has until they wear out or he outgrows them rather than wanting to be part of every fad that comes along is being thrifty with what he already has. Promoting conservation and natural environment restoration is being thrifty with nature. Using his time to accomplish goals rather than wasting it on idleness is being thrifty with his time on Earth.

The use and care of scout gear is a great example of being thrifty. A new tent assigned to a Scout should last seven years until he becomes 18 years old. By taking care of the tent, the Scout ensures his own needs are met, is conserving resources, and is helping the troop save for the future when new tents will some day be needed. Caring for gear also reduces the amount of repair needed. But, by repairing instead of replacing when feasible, the Scout further demonstrates his thriftiness and shows he can make do.

As Scouts and citizens in the most wasteful country in the world, we have a real challenge to raise our level of thrift. We are much like the child that is given everything and comes to expect everything. We consume more, conserve less, and expect better than we have. We know we should change, but few of us do.

Even worse, we have come to accept debt as a way of life in this country. A thrifty Scout should expect nothing and work for everything he desires. He should save the money for something before buying it, rather than buying on credit and sinking into debt. There are some large purchases for which going into debt makes sense, such as a home, but the debt needs to be managed with a reasonable payment plan that can actually be accomplished. And, the Scout should, on his honor, make the repaying of the debt of highest priority.

Whether relatively rich or poor, a Scout that is thrifty will be ready and able to help others. He may share food, money, or labor with others in need since he has kept his own needs met.

A Scout is thrifty.
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Posted: 23:26 01-22-2008 299
When do we Cancel?
Running with a troop of around 45 scouts, there are some interesting logistic problems that crop up. Things such as having enough cars, enough parking, enough seats in McDonalds, and ceremony lengths in courts of honor all become larger puzzles to solve. After becoming used to the larger numbers of participants, it can be a shock to have an event scheduled that gets little participation. And, then the question of cancelling or going ahead with the event comes up.

This past weekend, the scouts had scheduled an indoor climbing day trip across town. With Christmas break and a few other promotional challenges, the event did not receive as much exposure as normal and only 7 scouts signed up. The patrol leader in charge of organizing the event figured that was not enough and said at the Patrol Leader Council that we should probably cancel it. With 45 scouts, we're used to at least 20 or more on most outings.

As the Scoutmaster, I listened to the discussion, but then when the next agenda item began, I interrupted the SPL. I said I hadn't actually heard a resolution as to the climbing being held or cancelled and I needed to know in order to inform drivers. This started another round of discussion with the disappointment that only a few signed up being the main reason to cancel.

When the SPL asked me what I thought, I said that my mini-van can hold another adult and 5 scouts so that's all I need to go. We have two drivers signed up so we can take 10 scouts that want to go. The PLC decided to go ahead with it.

When the SPL gave me my minute to talk at the end of the meeting, I said that I felt the number of scouts going on an adventure should never be a reason to cancel. Whether we're a troop of 5 or 50 or 500, as long as the scouts schedule an event and there are any scouts that want to do that event, then it should happen. I suggested we might cancel due to dangerous weather, national emergency, fewer than 2 adults available, or fewer than 2 scouts signed up. I also mentioned that before our next planning session in March all the patrols might want to get ideas together that they would actually participate in and get those scheduled.

As it turned out, the patrols rangled another 3 scouts to go and the 10 of them had a great 3.5 hours of climbing. They went to Vertical Endeavors and had a blast!

Scout On

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Posted: 12:11 01-21-2008 298
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy."

Who couldn't be cheerful on a warm spring day in the hills, resting under a tree in a lush meadow with blue skies overhead, a snow-fed stream trickling by, and birds twittering above? I'll bet you have a trace of a smile just thinking of it. That is "the bright side of life" and we need to look for it in whatever situation we find ourselves.

Whistling while taking out the garbage, telling jokes while scrubbing the crusty cookpots, and sharing a story while carrying water back from the creek are all examples of a cheerful Scout. We don't often have time to sit under a tree, but it seems we have plenty of opportunities to do uninteresting tasks. A Scout is asked to approach those tasks with cheer.

Being cheerful is not the same as being happy. I'm certainly not happy about cleaning the latrine and I don't enjoy the job, but I can be cheerful while doing it. I can choose to grumble and complain and wallow in self-pity, or I can tackle the task with vigor.

The same choice is put before us for every challenge. Do I slog through the task, feeling sorry for myself, doing the minimum I can, being miserable, and most likely taking longer than required? Or, do I attack the task, doing it better than expected, and finishing quickly? Either way, I'm in the same situation, doing the same work. One way, the work drags on and I lose part of my life. The other way, I accomplish something and prove myself stronger.

A spirit of cheerfulness requires strong character and an understanding of life. When a Scout realizes that it is completely up to him to be depressed or cheerful, discouraged or resolved, cowardly or brave, then he can make the choice. Until that happens, boys will blame the world around them for their feelings. The amount of hardship required to adversely effect a person's demeanor is a solid test of that person's depth of character.

Sad occasions, such as a friend moving away, failing a test, or losing a pet for example, will understandably dishearten a person. Feelings of loss and sadness are normal and even a sign of respect. But, after an appropriate time, it is necessary to carry on with life and find goodness and cheer in other people and healthy activities.

Some people that lose their cheerful nature look for happiness in terrible ways, including alcohol and drug use. Those kinds of activities don't bring cheerfulness and purpose back to a life. They just obscure the world and temporarily dull the pain, causing more harm in the long run. Instead, addressing the cause of pain and sadness and overcoming the cause is a viable solution.

When situations are very difficult, many people are not able find happiness. They need support or counseling. A Scout is challenged to try and make others happy. When his patrol loses a competition, he can let them know he's proud of their efforts. When another scout must miss an activity to finish a chore, he can stay and help. There are many small ways in which a Scout can cheer up others. A Scout that goes into a career field of counseling can extend his influence and abilities in this area tremendously.

At the end of a day of Scouting, there is often a campfire program. At troop meetings, there may be songs, skits, or stories. I notice that the large majority of scouts sit back and are entertained by a few of the more charismatic scouts. A Scout's duty to the Scout Law should prompt him to contribute his own stories occasionally. Not only does this put him in a small leadership position for a few minutes and give good experience, it also lets him spread cheer to his other scouts and gives them a chance to enjoy the show instead of doing all the work.

In Scouting, the Order of the Arrow takes to heart this point of the Scout Law. The group's motto of "Brotherhood of Cheerful Service" shows that cheer in the face of work is their goal. I personally love the time I've spent doing OA service projects. It gives me time to refocus on this point of the Scout Law doing irksome labor while keeping a cheerful spirit. It also helps when I focus on the fact that my labor is helping other people and not myself.

We all have a threshold where the work we are doing becomes too much to remain cheerful. The trick is to push our personal threshold further every day. Having a buddy with a higher threshold doing the work with you is the best way to do this. A wise leader will understand this and pair up scouts for disagreeable tasks. That wise leader may even counsel the "more cheerful" one beforehand that his real goal is to be a role model of cheerfulness to the other scout.

I often hear youth (and adults) pray to God asking Him to keep problems away and to keep them safe. When I was 14, I realized that the only way I could grow was through problems and challenges. Since then, I have not asked God to remove challenges. I've asked only for the strength to cheerfully overcome all the challenges that I encounter. So far, so good.

A Scout is cheerful.
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Posted: 12:01 01-18-2008 297
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying them."

Obedience and discipline go hand in hand. An obedient Scout is not someone that blindly does what he is told, but he does have the discipline to carry out tasks assigned to him, even if he does not agree with the assignment. Once he has completed his duty, doing his very best, he can then discuss the fairness or appropriateness of the assignment with his leader. Obedience is necessary for a group, such as a patrol, to be effective. The leader should have a picture in his mind of what he wants accomplished and how each task fulfilled will bring that picture together. A scout in the patrol needs to do his duty to support the overall goal, whether he completely understands that goal or not.

Many Scouts are at an age where they are experimenting with independence and that can make being obedient more of a challenge for them. They see being obedient as being weak and subordinate. When directed to do something, they may expend more energy arguing about the task than it would take to just do it. For example, "Why me?", "Why not have Charlie do it?", "Why do you need that done?", "Right now?", and so on. Boys would rather be independent, even if they are not yet mature enough, and they often interpret independent as meaning free of commitment or responsibility which is an immature interpretation. An independent person still has responsibilities, but he is able to take care of himself as well as make correct choices to honor his commitments.

Actually, an independent person has self-discipline enough to be obedient to his conscience. He obeys his moral and ethical honor and does what he knows is right, not because it is the easiest or most beneficial thing to do, but because his honor insists it be done. A Scout with a strong character, able to put the needs of others before his own and obey his conscience, can usually obey directions from leaders well because of his self-discipline.

As Scouts get used to the troop structure, they notice that the Senior Patrol Leader always seems to be handing out the orders and the Patrol Leaders in turn pass the orders down to the Scouts. They want to be on the top where they can give out orders instead of always taking them and that is often a motivation to hold a position. They don't yet realize that there is even more responsibility higher up the ladder of command and the leader needs to rely on those under him to accomplish a larger goal. Teamwork relies heavily on obedience, discipline, and trust.

The Scout leader also has the responsibility to arrange for the training of those on his team so they are able to perform assigned tasks. Within a patrol, scouts can teach each other, passing on knowledge to less experienced ones. In this way, a leader will also pass on the understanding of what is expected of the leader so all understand that he requires their help and is actually as dependent on them for support as they are on him for direction. The good leader also spends some time discussing the performance of the team in an effort to improve. The entire team should have input about how they might do better next time. This gives ownership of the success and failure of the patrol to the patrol rather than the patrol leader. Everyone has more of an interest in succeeding and obeying directions becomes easier.

In a Scout's family, obedience is a vital trait to develop. In many families, blind obedience is expected of children. Children are told to clean their room, perform household chores, stop fighting, use nice manners, comb their hair, wash their hands, and on and on. A child, learning life skills, needs these directions and reminders and is often too young to understand their significance. A boy of Scout age typically knows how to perform these dozens of daily activities and understands the need to perform them. He should be doing them out of habit without continual direction, which takes responsibility away from him and keeps him a slave of his parents' control. A Scout should be doing these kinds of tasks, as well as following other family rules, not only when he is told to but at all times to make life more pleasant at home.

As a Scout matures, the family rules should change along with his maturity. Some parents may hold on to control longer than is appropriate. In those cases, a Scout should work to change the rules rather than go against them. Examples such as curfew time, allowance amounts, when to do homework, driving privileges, or videogame limits are areas in which boys may request more freedom before parents are ready. Open discussions about the rules, expectations, and requested changes should demonstrate the Scout's increasing maturity, independence, and desire to be obedient which, in turn, would hopefully influence the parents' ability to allow more freedom.

By developing obedience in the family and in Scouting, the Scout is better able to handle the similar requirements of the workplace where orders are routinely given and expected to be completed. In all circumstances, whether family, school, work, or social, the obedient Scout must make sure that obeying a direction is not against his honor. If a boss tells him to cheat a client or a friend tells him to steal, he must compare the order to what he knows is right and wrong and first obey that inner compass.

A Scout is obedient.
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Posted: 10:07 01-17-2008 296
Shaming Us All
The latest news of an assistant scoutmaster being accused of molesting scouts made my stomach lurch, yet again. Considering the thousands of people involved in scouting, I guess the number of these miscreants that show up is very low, but one is one too many. It embarrasses me every time it hits the news, and makes me feel just awful for the family that put their trust in the BSA.

With each new case that hits the wire, I find myself stopping and doing three things that are probably good things to do occasionally anyway.
  1. Is there any way I could get mixed up in something like this or be accused of anything like it? By following the No one-on-one interaction of the BSA and using Two-Deep Leadership all the time, there's no way anything weird will happen. I think of all the situations I've been in with scouts and look for times when I might have pushed the youth protection guidelines.
  2. Are all our adult volunteers acting well and following the BSA rules? I go down the list in my head and try to think if there have been any strange behaviors or opportunities to break or bend the rules. This isn't not trusting the guys I volunteer with, it is just doing a check to make sure we aren't getting slack.
  3. Have we covered this with the scouts recently? I check when the last time was that we covered youth protection with the troop and make sure we have it on the schedule.

Every time a BSA volunteer screws up enough to get bad press, it hurts the entire organization, including me. I hear that scouts are embarrassed to be seen in their uniforms, but not me - I kind of like being associated with an organization with a good reputation. But, when an individual does something dirty, it soils the organization's reputation and then I feel like washing my shirt real good and starting over.

I hope this is the last one for a long, long time.

Scout On
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Posted: 0:25 01-16-2008 295
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is kind. A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing."

Of all the points in the Scout Law, if the world at large experienced an overall increase in the level of Kindness it would have the most impact. The majority of news stories come about from a lack of kindness. People take advantage of the weak rather than assist them. Fanatics attack and kill rather than have compassion and a desire for resolution. On and on it goes as we make excuses and rationalize our aggression and hate.

Kindness should be first practiced by a Scout in his own home. It can be a difficult challenge to show kindness to those in your family. Whether it be irritating siblings or misunderstanding parents, making constant efforts to be kind to those people with whom you have a conflict is hard work. Each of us is bound to fail some times, especially when we are in such close quarters for such a large part of our time. At those times of failing to be kind, kindness can still make a comeback through sincere apologies and forgiveness. The point of 'Forgiveness' is not in the Scout Law, but it is a real demonstration of kindness.

It's much easier to be kind to friends, teammates, other scouts, and family acquaintenances that are seen occasionally. There is less personal commitment and less intimacy so it is less work to overlook their shortcomings and differences in beliefs and behaviors. Still, a Scout needs to demonstrate kindness to these people in order to build friendships and strengthen his character. Typically, showing kindness to these people results in a response of similar kindness in return.

A Scout should understand that kindness towards animals and the natural world in general will most likely result in no direct personal response, but will have lasting impact for others. By considering how actions today will effect the resources available to generations later on, we are being kind to those people that have yet to be born. Reducing waste, becoming more 'green', practicing good low-impact camping skills, and helping others understand the needs of our planet are great demonstrations of kindness to the world.

An enemy can also be shown kindness. Maintaining a gentle demeanor when provoked and refusing to lower your honor to fight or exchange insults takes a strong person. Seeing that another person has a different view from your own and trying to understand it through empathy and compassion can minimize or defuse many confrontations. That is not to say that one should never fight; defending someone that needs your help may require extreme measures.

I'm sure you've heard of doing random acts of kindness. That is a great thought to keep active in your mind. If we're continually looking for ways to practice kindness, opportunities will continually show up. Another thing to remember is that being kind with no expectation of getting something in return is the best way to ensure you will get more back than you could imagine.

A Scout is Kind.
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Posted: 23:44 01-13-2008 294
Good Deeds and Good Samaritans
If, heaven forbid, you find yourself in a situation where you are able to provide quick assistance to someone, I hope you can ignore what is going on in California and just go ahead and provide the care.

A couple years ago, a woman pulled her friend from a car wreck and the legal battle is still going on about whether or not she should be liable for the disabilities suffered by the victim.

We often tell people that helping someone in an emergency is the right thing to do, as long as the assistance you provide is within your training, you act in good faith, and are not negligent. But, as it turns out, there may be conflicting laws in certain states and it may not be obvious how 'covered' you are in your actions.

Now, in this particular instance, I think there's more to the story than what can be read in articles such as Sierra Sun. The victim and 'rescuer' had been smoking dope and were returning from a bar, so I'm not convinced the rescuer used clear judgment in her decision to pull the victim from a car she thought might blow up. I don't imagine cars really blow up that often and the normal procedure is to not move a victim unless absolutely necessary to deliver care or if the current situation becomes unsafe. Leaving her sitting in the car would have been the easiest, sanest choice unless there was flame or maybe gas odor.

So, how does this effect Scouts and the rest of us? Well, I see it as just another reason to remain calm and cool in situations so clear, logical decisions can be made. As long as you keep your head and are providing assistance within your training, doing a Good Deed of any magnitude is the right thing to do. Letting the possibility of repercussions inhibit us from offering aid is the worst outcome of these sorts of events.

Scout On
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Posted: 23:31 01-12-2008 293
New UK Scout Badges
The UK Scouts have a bunch of new activity badge updates this year - 40 of them. This is an effort to revamp the program to reflect activities of today's youth.

The BSA has been updating some merit badge requirements every year, with Composite Materials being a recent new addition. Friends of mine in Idaho just made skateboards for that badge this winter. Hopefully, we'll soon find some more new badges available on this side of the puddle.

You can see the list of UK badges at the UK Scouting site and a few interesting looking ones are:
Street Sports

Scout On
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Posted: 23:23 01-11-2008 292
Christmas Tree Robbers
Boy Scout blog

So, you didn't recognize the Maldives boy scout earlier this week? What about these three guys? Well, hopefully you won't be seeing them for 50 years if they are actually found guilty as charged.

David (19), Kenneth (19), and Nashon (20) are indicted in the robbery last month of Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees. The thiefs had a shotgun and punched a 13 year old scout to get away with $350. So, that's about $117 each which will work out to about $2.34/year if they get the full prison term - what a deal.

These three thugs have prior records including rape and burglary charges, and the evidence against them is supposedly "overwhelming". Here's to a fair trial and Happy New Year with the streets starting out a bit cleaner.

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Posted: 16:25 01-11-2008 291
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along."

When someone sees a Scout in uniform, they visualize him helping a little old lady across a busy street. That is the essence of being courteous as well as helpful, cheerful, friendly, and kind. They are all tied together and that image is exactly what scouts should work towards.

Being courteous is being a gentleman. It is opening doors and holding them open for the next person. It is noticing that the bus you are on is filling up and you have a seat while a woman is standing. It is saying "Pardon me" when you bump into someone in a crowd. It is giving a firm handshake when you make the acquaintance of someone.

Courtesy often seems to be a thing of the past; something for old people or something out of old black and white movies. In our age of email, instant messaging, and online chats, courtesy becomes a more difficult behavior to learn and practice. And, make no mistake, it takes practice to become good at it. Courtesy requires personal interaction where the value of the other person can be demonstrated. After all, courtesy occurs out of respect for other people.

When we have respect for the other person, we show that respect through courtesy. We shake hands with men. We remover our hats to women. We stand and converse when someone approachs us and begins talking. We say Please and Thank you. All of these are ways in which we show that we respect the other person. All together, these are known as 'etiquette' - the proper way of behaving politely. Etiquette is how Scouts should manage their behaviors.

It is important that Scouts show courtesy to all people. Whether it is a cute, young girl or an old, stooped woman, a Scout treats her courteously. Whether a rich businessman or school janitor, the Scout greets him cheefully and sincerely.

And, that can be the challenge. Courtesy without an underlying respect and thoughtfulness is a lie. To be courteous requires us to first be caring; to be concerned with the people around us and on the lookout for their wellbeing. Many people, hoping to get ahead, will be very courteous and friendly to people above them in social standing, while at the same time treat lesser ranked people with disdain. We see this often in business where a salesman will be outgoing until he realizes there is no sale to be made and then turns his attention elsewhere. But, the same occurs daily in all social circles. A Scout needs to overcome this temptation and be sure he treats all people with equal respect and courtesy.

The next time you go to a restaurant with a group of friends, make an effort to listen to how many of them say a simple Please or Thank You to the waitress when she takes the order or brings food or water. My experience has been that I am often the only one, and I sincerely make an effort to do it. The first thing I do is read their nametag if they have one and then use their name from then on. I also look at their face and eyes while they are taking the other diners' orders just to get a feel for what they are like. I do this not in the hopes of better service, but so I remind myself that the person waiting on me is just as important as I am and deserving of my respect, courtesy, and appreciation.

One other courtesy exercise that might be enlightening is to have a patrol dinner. At summer camp last year, our troop ate in the dining hall rather than cooking our own meals for the first time in at least six years. Each patrol sat at a different table. I was appalled at how the scouts behaved at the tables! This summer, the month before camp, I will be hosting a series of patrol dinners. Scouts will be invited to eat and will be instructed on proper table manners and courtesy in general. Is that the Scoutmaster's job? Sure, my job is to train and let them lead - besides, it will be fun. At least the pudding might make all the way around the table this year. :-)

The Daily Good Turn is founded partially on courtesy. Helping the little old lady across the street is the epitome of Good Turns, but countless other opportunities are available when a Scout keeps his eyes open and his thoughts on helping others.

Finally, I want to point out that true courtesy is done cheerfully and sincerely. Someone may be trained to do all the correct actions, but without a heart that cares for others, they are hollow actions. Sincere courtesy raises the social level and rubs off on those around a courteous person. And, courtesy should begin at home where it may be the most difficult to demonstrate. Remembering to be polite to parents, brothers, and sisters can be a true challenge for a Scout, but one which he needs to overcome to become a man of strong character.
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Posted: 22:54 01-10-2008 290
Scouts in Action - Maldives Edition
Maldives Boy Scouts Rock

Do you know Mohamed Jaisham Ibrahim? Yeah, me neither, but that's him in the photo. He's a hero today after putting himself in the way of an assassination attempt on the president of the Maldives. He is also a 15-year old Boy Scout that now has a knife injury to his hand for a badge of bravery. His quick actions and being in the opportune location make for a great story and promotion of scouting. I expect we'll be hearing a bit more about the details over the next few days.

Maldives Boy Scouts Rock
Those guys in the picture are just some Maldives Boy Scouts in uniform - don't mess with them!

Take a look at all the stories showing up in Google News for details.

Scout On
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Posted: 19:58 01-08-2008 289
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own."

Friendship is a strong relationship between two people. Sometimes it grows over years while other times it springs up in a short time. In my life, I've had few close friends, though I've had many acquaintances and been friendly to many more people. Friends are people you cherish and care for and enjoy being around. You know them and they know you.

A Scout should be friendly to everyone he meets, giving them the benefit of the doubt and believing them to be worthy of friendship first until their character becomes known. If a Scout pre-judges someone on their skin color, language, clothes, looks, family name, or other superficial aspect, then he is not following the Scout Law. Offering his friendship to be taken, rejected, or lost to all people is expected of a Scout. It is going out on a limb and knowing that some people will reject you.

Being friendly is demonstrated in many ways, depending on the situation in which a new person is met. Being friendly to a new boy in school struggling to find his next class might require escorting him there. If he were seen sitting alone at lunch, it might just mean asking to join him. If a gang of boys were laughing at his strange accent, a Scout might step in and deflect the abuse.

It is easier to relate to people of our own race, beliefs, and social standing. It can be more of a challenge to befriend someone poorer or wealthier, either because of our snobbery or jealousy. Looking past social standing to see the value of the person is required of a Scout. Scouts come from all ranks of life and they accept others based on their character and actions.

Finding common ground with those people having beliefs and customs that vary from our own is more challenging, but also more interesting. Imagine how your knowledge and understanding expands as more is learned from a friend from a foreign land. We also learn that we have far more in common than we have differences. We can ask for explanation of behaviors that seem odd due to no understanding of the norms of a foreign society, but make sense when explained. If we ignore the possibility of friendships like these, we remain ignorant and close-minded.

Once a Scout shows his friendliness, it is up to the other person to follow through. A person's actions and behaviors will demonstrate his character and we can determine if it is wise to continue building on the relationship or discontinue it. Observing how the person works, plays, treats others, talks about others, and generally behaves, shows us what sort of friend he is. When someone is clearly of poor character, a Scout should continue to be friendly to him in the hope of turning him around. But, a Scout should not have a friendship with such a person, since doing so would associate him with the same character.

The law says that a Scout is friend to all. Sometimes the best way to be a friend is to demonstrate high values and refuse to join in those activities and behaviors that are of low character. A friendship will not grow in such a relationship, but the low character may rise when faced with the choice of continuing inappropriate actions or relating with a Scout of high character. And, later on, a real friendship may slowly grow.

A Scout is friendly.
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Posted: 0:07 01-08-2008 288
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward."

From a baby's first cry of hunger, he continually looks out for himself with a self-centered view of things. Human nature is to preserve oneself. A Scout is challenged to put others first, possibly at odds with his own needs. This being helpful is an outward demonstration of the inner honor being developed in a Scout. Doing a Daily Good Turn takes real effort to search for need and then a commitment to fulfill that need. A Scout that has not learned to care about other people and be willing to sacrifice some of his time can not live this part of the Scout Law. Guidance, explanation, continual modeling, and planned service opportunities in the troop give a Scout the learning moments to understand the importance of this law.

In order to be helpful, a Scout must be ready, able, and willing to help. Many things can be done to aid others, such as mowing a neighbor's yard, shoveling a sidewalk, or cleaning windows, by untrained boys. But, in order to help in many ways, a Scout needs special knowledge, skills, and abilities. To walk a dog, he needs to understand animals. To drive an elderly neighbor to the store, he needs a license. To prepare a meal for a family in grief, he needs cooking skills.

Many a Scout might use the excuse of "I don't know how" when faced with an opportunity to provide aid. He must be trained and confident so his attitude changes to "I'll give it a try". Without First Aid skills, how can he properly bandage a serious cut? Without Swimming and Lifesaving skills, how can he rescue a drowning swimmer? How can a Scout prevent panic? How can he direct traffic, extinguish fire, carry an unconscious person, or any of the dozens of tasks that may be required in an emergency? By participating in Scouting activities, that's how. Advancement through the ranks shows a Scout is participating and building skills. Merit badges give him reason to learn more skills. Leadership roles allow him to practice taking control in different situations.

Having skill and confidence is necessary for specific aid, but at least as important is the skill of being observant. In our society, making eye contact, especially in larger cities, can be dangerous. We are more and more becoming indrawn with minimal contact with strangers and that causes more and more people to become strangers. But, a Scout needs to be constantly observing what occurs around him so he is Ready and Prepared to act if needed. Knowing where fire exits, alarms, and phones are in school and other buildings he enters will make it easier for him to help in case of trouble. A person walking down the street having difficulty carrying groceries, or some kids worried to cross the busy street, or a person sitting on a park bench having problems breathing can only be recognized by an open-eyed, observant person. If a Scout walks down the street, head down, eyes ahead, like so many of the people around him, he misses life and misses opportunities to lend a hand.

To broaden the scope of being Helpful, a Scout is also helpful when he supports the leaders of his troop. It is a difficult position to be in when leading a group of peers. By obeying directions and supporting decisions, a Scout helps his Senior Patrol Leader or Patrol Leader. Being respectful of and caring for those leaders, a Scout strives to help them at all times.

I believe that Scouts today have a huge responsibility to emphasize being Helpful in their communities. Ask the average person what they envision when you say "Boy Scout" and they will still say something along the lines of a boy in uniform helping a little old lady. But, that is not what they actually see in their mind when they see a real, physical Scout at their door. They see someone wanting to sell them something - popcorn, wreaths, spaghetti dinner tickets, mulch, nuts, flower bulbs, or some such thing. That is not the image of Scouts that I want people to have.

A patrol of 8 scouts in our troop just spent a couple hours this weekend clearing snow from fire hydrants in the neighborhood. They knocked on the door of the house on whose property the hydrant sat and asked if it would be alright for them to clear the snow so the fire department could access it in case of an emergency. Of the 20 houses, every single one asked about giving a donation - every one! No one thought, "Oh, the scouts are being helpful again." They all figured the Scouts were trying to raise funds in a new way. Now, after the next snow, when they do it again, these people will hopefully not expect to give a donation - they will just think, "Oh, the scouts are being helpful again", and that's how it should be.

A Scout is Helpful.
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Posted: 16:06 01-06-2008 287
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation."

Loyalty means to be faithful. When we say a Scout is Loyal, it means he remains steadfast in his adherence to what is right. Being loyal is a character trait that can be often tested, and often misdirected.

When a friend of a Scout steals and then asks the Scout to keep it a secret to prove his loyalty, what should the Scout do? Is he being disloyal if he lets authorities know who stole? Similar dilemmas can occur when a Scout wants to be loyal to family or leaders.

If someone lies to protect another through a sense of loyalty, he smudges his own honor and he only prolongs the time until that other person gets into worse trouble. By being truthful, he may lose a friend, may lose love, and may lose popularity, but with his honor intact, he can live the Scout Law and know that, in the long run, he has done the right thing.

A Scout, as any other boy, wants to be part of something important, something great, something that is 'the best'. As young boys might argue that "My Dad can beat up your Dad", so older boys might debate about whose school football team is better. That kind of loyalty is more of a self-promoting exercise rather than being firmly supportive of the person or organization. True loyalty happens when nothing is personally gained.

A Scout, when he hears some boys putting down a friend, should step up and defend that friend's name. He should never join in laughing at slanderous jokes and should let the jokers know when he feels they are being unfairly harsh or malicious. This can be one of the most difficult demonstrations of a loyal friend - sticking up for an absent friend against other friends or popular people.

When a Scout is asked to be loyal to his leaders, he needs to support them and their decisions. When the leaders decide to have a fishing outing and a Scout lobbied for a waterski outing, he may be tempted to undermine the plans by staying home or even inviting other scouts to a party that same weekend. A loyal Scout will support and promote the plans of the troop, even when they are not his favorite choice. He will continue to follow the lead until he earns the position of leadership that allows his plans to take fruition.

Scouts need to be loyal to the laws of our country and the people that represent those laws. Whether or not a Scout agrees with the way a mayor, governor, or president governs, he must demonstrate respect to that position. Debating the merits and effectiveness of policies put in place by the current administration is a healthy, useful way to bring about change, but degrading the person currently holding an office demonstrates a lack of respect to the country.

By being loyal to the Scout Law, and holding its points dear, a Scout is naturally loyal to those around him in a right and good manner. Blind loyalty is not loyalty at all, but loyalty founded on truth, compassion, and honor is truly loyal.

A Scout is Loyal.
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Posted: 23:40 01-04-2008 286
From the Scout Handbook - "A Scout is trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him."

The first of the twelve points of the Scout Law sets a high bar for scouts. Being helpful, friendly, or courteous are simple, easily described behaviors compared to being trustworthy. Being "Worthy of Trust" means a promise made is a promise fulfilled. It means a scout will do what he says he will do. It means the scout will see things through to the end.

It is easy to trust someone, even strangers. We do it every day. I trust that drivers will stop at red lights. I trust the cashier will not steal my credit card invormation. I trust the garbage man will collect the trash every Tuesday. This trust is in place because I've experienced the correct behaviors over and over. Drivers ALWAYS stop at red lights, so I trust they will continue to do so. But, the behavior is forced by laws, not by some belief held by all drivers that stopping at red lights is the right thing to do. All trust that we have of strangers is forced, either by laws, contracts, or some similar regulations.

That is where a Scout is different. He is trustworthy not because he is forced to be that way, but because he chooses to be. His honor is the only regulation that enforces his trustworthiness. That is why the words, "On My Honor", are so important to a Scout - his honor is the only collateral he has to offer to ensure that he can be trusted. If a Scout has no sense of honor, then the Scout Law and the Scout Oath lose their meaning and strength. For that reason, it is a critical task for leaders to explain and demonstate honor and then nurture and strengthen it in Scouts. By establishing a strong sense of honor, all the other aims and goals of scouting can take place.

When a boy is asked what honor means, the general reply will include doing what is right in difficult situations or making the right choice because it is known to be right. Honor tends to be associated with challenges of moral crisis, such as being tempted to cheat, steal, or betray. Many men, when confronted with obviously immoral opportunities, will choose what is right. The choice is clear and the possible repercussions of being discovered are great. But, personal honor comes into play in everyday decisions as well. In every choice, promise, and action taken, personal honor plays a role.

A trustworthy person arrives on time, commits to tasks he can handle, and completes both boring and difficult tasks on time. He is punctual, prompt, and perseverent. He realizes that fulfilling simple, basic commitments and expectations every day lays the foundation of trust that extends to more challenging situations. When others see that he completes tasks, they trust him with more and more responsibilities because he has earned that trust.

Building the basic sense of honor in everyday situations is a key part of a scout-run troop. The youth leaders should be encouraged to start and conclude meetings on time, not to demonstrate their power of being in a leadership position, but to be honorable. The expectations of a start and stop time are in place and it is our honorable duty to adhere to those expectations. We made a commitment to the scouts that are there on time and to the parents that expect to take their son home at a certain time.

When a scout takes on a task, specific expectations should be set, such as milestones, completion time, and costs. A leader, either adult or experienced scout, should check on progress at pre-defined times to ensure the scout's success. As a scout builds his trustworthiness by demonstrating his ability, he is given more responsibility and is checked on less often. He does what he said he will do - he is trustworthy.

Once honor is understood and a scout can be trusted, the usefulness of honor can be expanded. Rather than just fulfilling assigned tasks, a scout with honor will begin to look for ways in which he can be of use. His honor requires him to not just complete a task, but improve on what was expected; not just lead a meeting, but make it exciting; not just finish a hike, but encourage others on the hike. As his honor grows and tempers, he develops initiative and becomes a leader.

Of course, not all people have the charisma and desire to lead a group. That is not required to be trustworthy. Whether a president or a plumber, a king or a cook, a senator or a scout, every man can fulfill his role in life with honor and be worthy of trust. When a boy makes a habit of being honest, doing his best, and helping others, he is setting a solid foundation on which he will build his life. Whatever career he takes and whatever challenges life sends at him, his dignity and character can remain solid if his inner sense of honor has deep roots. Those roots should be formed in scouting every day, on every campout, at every meeting, and in every interaction with his leaders.

A Scout is Trustworthy.
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Posted: 11:03 01-03-2008 285
I just reviewed my list of 2007 resolutions that I've had pinned to the wall here by my desk. Of the 13 resolutions, I successfully completed 10 and 2 were outside of my control. Not bad!
For 2008, I resolve to:

I sincerely hope that 2008 is a terrific year for all the scouts, scouters, and others that happen to occasionally take a peek at - and even for all those hundreds of thousands that don't even know this site exists. :-)

Happy New Year!
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Posted: 11:15 01-01-2008 284
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