Re: OA Elections
Branden Morris (bmorris@LYNX.DAC.NEU.EDU)
Tue, 30 May 1995 20:28:53 -0400
I've read with obvious interest the recent thread about OA elections,
and as a youth officer approaching adulthood, I'd like to make some
1) We *all* will have stories of some "deserving" Scouts who failed to
be elected, and I know many of these Scouts myself -- it isn't just a
local problem, sad to say, but I don't necessarily think that the
problem is as serious as it is perceived to be. I'm about as active in
the OA as one can possibly be, but I will be the first to admit that
Scouting is so much more. A boy may be disapointed to not be elected,
but if he thinks that is the end of life he is dead wrong. These days
Scouts have so many opportunities available to them without the OA that
such a loss cannot be too large of one.
2) Remember always the purposes of the OA -- not necessarily to
recognize every Scout that lives up to the Scout Law and Oath (if that
was the case, we should strive to have 100% OA membership) but rather,
provide the means to inspire and encourage Scouts to live their laws.
Not every Scout need be a member to accomplish this, as well as the
other OA roles of encourageing cheerful service and promoting camping.
3) Also remember that the OA is unique in many ways, and the important
lessons that the OA teaches are only learned if it is kept the way it
is. The concepts of total youth leadership and election primarily by
non-peers are crucial to an OA experience. While kids are kids, and can
form cliques and exclude others, this is by no means a solely Scouting
problem. By having Scoutmasters add weight to the election, or limiting
the number of Scouts eligible, you detract from these principles.
4) Eight years of practical experience in participating in and
conducting unit elections for hundreds of troops shows that while some
13-14 year old Scouts may be missed the first or second election, when
they are 15-17 and they as well as their peers are older, they are
elected. Very rarely have I seen a Scout enter Scouts and then leave
Scouting a few years later, who wasn't elected who deserved to be (I can
think of only one case). Also, I've seen Scouts quit when they weren't
elected the first time around -- and in hindsight, is that kind of Scout
the kind who should have worn the Arrow to begin with? IMHO no.
While my experience isn't global, I've seen just about every situation
possible in unit election -- and while there were momentary
disapointments, overall the system works the way it is.
5) As for adults -- remember adults aren't nominated to the OA as an
"honor" -- only if they in some way will serve the youth, in providing a
role model, offering some kind of skill, or able to serve as an official
or unofficial advisor. One per unit, along with Council and District
appointments, are usually plenty.
So there still exists a problem, and one we cannot ignore. I have two
ideas to solve it, one that is up to the lodge/council, and one up to
1) The Lodge and Council need to set the proper image of the Order. Not
the bunch of cool guys who work at summer camp and who are the role
models for the younger Scouts, but those who truly live up to the Scout
Oath and Law and fully carry out the mission of the OA. Fully-uniformed
and professional unit election and camping promotion teams that visit
every unit faithfully. Those who labor at the council camp year round
and who truly make a noticeable difference. Making sure that it's not a
popularity club, but an organization of hard-working servants. Maybe
these sound high-minded and abstract, but I have seen these qualities in
not only my lodge but other lodges that I'm associated with. Instead of
getting down on the OA, talk to the Lodge Chief and Lodge Advisor and
let them know how the units percieve the OA. When the lodge does what it
is supposed to do, and offers a great program of cheerful service to the
council, everyone will know what kind of Scouts should be elected.
That idea takes time, obviously. This next one is one I see *rarely*
used, and while I'd suggest using it sparingly, it does work as well,
and lessens the chance of a "popularity contest.":
2) A Scoutmaster has to approve all candidates for election; he/she has
the right to deny a Scout his eligibility. If a Scout is fairly
inactive, or doesn't wear the uniform, advance, go camping, etc etc, the
SM can not approve him, and he won't be eligible. I urge anyone to use
this rule sparingly, but I know of one troop that uses it with complete
success. Not every Scout who is First Class goes up for election each
year, and they elect quality, active Scouts each year who are a blessing
to both the troop and the Lodge. IN NO WAY should a Scoutmaster deny
someone just because he is popular -- only if he doesn't show Scout
Spirit. I think if we were a little more selective, it would go better.
Also, a Scout who is turned down one year just might be the "shoe-in"
the next year around.
I owe so much of who I am and what I am to the experiences and
associations I've had in Scouting, and especially the Order of the
Arrow. It hurts me beyond all belief when I hear people who are
disgusted with it or who can't sing it's praises like I can. If you were
to cross-post this to Arrow-L, you'd meet a good 30 other National
Officers, Sectional offciers, and local lodge officers who would feel
the same way, and would hope that our brethern in your areas would
strive a little harder and stand a little taller. The OA has done and
can do so much to augument Scouting; it is a tremendous resource if used
properly, and I'd hope you'd be able to resolve your concerns with your
local lodge officers.
Sorry for the long post; this just hit a sensitive spot :)
Yours in Brotherhood,
* Branden C. Morris -- Northeastern University -- Boston, Mass. *
* firstname.lastname@example.org *
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City