Alan Houser (troop24@EMF.NET)
Thu, 6 Nov 1997 09:44:33 -0800
After I went to Cub Scout Leader Basic Training, I came back to
my position as Committee Chair and told the Den Leaders that they
should hold Denner elections. I heard many of the same complaints
from the DLs: they're too young to understand, they'll vote for
themselves, or play favorites, or on and on.
Nevertheless, I insisted, and the dens voted for their Denners.
Sure enough, my sons' den had a seven-way split on the first
ballot. On the second ballot, someone saw the wisdom of electing
on merit, and one candidate received two votes. But everyone
seemed satisfied with the results. In the future, they decided
among themselves that one could not stand for re-election (to
spread the experience around). They also learned about runoff
My den leaders came back the next month and reported it had been
a great success in their dens.
Among the Denners, there was a tremendous amount of pride. They
had been chosen, not by the adult leader (teacher's pet), not by
a random drawing, but by their peers. That yellow cord had a
special meaning, regardless of whether they wore it the first
month or the eighth. At the pack meetings, we made sure to involve
the Denner whenever we needed a representative from the den or
needed someone to lead the den in a flag ceremony or song or skit.
Fast forward now to Boy Scouts: during the 4 years that these
former Cub Scouts have been Boy Scouts and have had to exercise
their right to vote for Patrol Leaders, Senior Patrol Leaders,
Order of the Arrow, and Wolfeboro Pioneers (a local honor camping
society for our council camp), they have consistently voted for
the persons whom they (and I) felt were best qualified.
In some cases, such as OA elections where I was uncertain that the
candidate was worthy of recognition, despite meeting the camping
and rank requirements, the Scouts themselves made the choice that
no, this person was not ready. Even this last year, with the new
OA election rules, we had 15 Scouts eligible, and I had some
misgivings about putting all of the names down on the ballot.
Nevertheless, I had always maintained a confidence in their wisdom
in casting their ballots. All 15 names went on the list, but only
3 Scouts were elected to be candidates for the Order, the same 3
that I would have chosen.
At summer camp this year, they could have elected two Scouts to the
Pioneers, and only two Scouts were eligible. One was elected, the
other not. I was concerned about the impact on the second Scout,
but he recognized that he had not been as active in the troop and
had not been playing a leadership role. He decided he would work
harder this year to earn the respect of his peers. The year before
one Scout was elected who never thought that something like that
would happen to him, but his peers saw something in him. His
self-confidence has exploded this year and he is an active and
effective leader in the troop.
Is there a connection? I would argue yes. Because they learned
from an early age that their vote was their voice. And think
about it: how much say does a 7- or 8-year-old have in the things
that go on in his life beyond what clothes to wear to school (if
he doesn't have to wear a uniform) or what to put on his sandwich?
So what if the election is a popularity contest. They will have to
learn the cost of a ballot at some point in their lives. If
Scouting is teaching citizenship, what more powerful lesson can we
teach than the power of the ballot box or the responsibility of the
elected to the electors?
Alan R. Houser ** email@example.com
** Scoutmaster, Troop 24, Berkeley, California **
** WWW page ** http://www.emf.net/~troop24/t24.html **
Scoutmaster, Mt. Diablo Silverado Council Jamboree Troop #637
** http://www.geocities.com/Yosemite/Trails/9637/ **
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City