Re: Disability? Or not?
Anthony J. Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET)
Tue, 9 Jun 1998 22:55:09 -0400
Basically, he was dragged out after trying to complete a swimming test at
summer camp, which requires you to jump feet first into water over your
head. The difference here is that the Scout in question has demonstrated he
can swim in shallow water. The present First Class requirement does not
require the Scout to swim in deep water so he could complete the requirement
without too much trouble.
<QUOTE>Note also the other part of the exclusion clause, that of safety ...
use the safety argument, and avoid the need for any discussion about "
disability ". </QUOTE>
Personally, I think they were wrong to keep asking him to try the swimmer
test. Interestingly enough, I had a similar problem when I was a Scout.
Thanks to a very compassionate staff member I managed to at least feel more
comfortable in the water. As it was, it took four years for me to finally
pass the beginner's test. I didn't pass anything remotely close to the
swimmer test until I joined the Navy. I was lucky enough to have already
earned First Class when a swimming requirement was added in the late 1970's.
If that requirement had existed when I was a Scout, I might never have
motivated myself to pass it.
<QUOTE>A few months ago ... I doubt that, by definition, many swimming
instructors know what it is really like to have an acute, irrational but
very real fear of water. I also doubt that many Scoutmasters have the
training to " treat " such a problem ... at what point does " helping a kid
to overcome his lack
of confidence " become the province of a trained and licensed psychologist
or behavioural therapist ? The point at which he breaks down in tears ?
You're right that most swimming instructors don't really know what it's like
to have a fear of water (or deep water in the case in question). That's one
reason why we, as Scouters and adults, have a responsibility to guide Scouts
but ultimately let them decide what they will do and what they won't. It's
not my place as an SM to decide whether or not a Scout needs counceling. My
job is to be concerned for the youth and help him work through any problems
When I talk to my Scouts about advancement requirements I can usually get an
idea about what particular skills concern them. If a Scout says he is afraid
of water I'm not going to force him to complete a swimmer's test. We might
come to some sort of agreement that he at least tries to get in the water
(in the shallows). When we get to the pool or lake and he decides not to get
in the water, that's his decision. He's in control of what he does and what
he doesn't do.
<QUOTE>Remember the thing they teach in SMF about " safe haven " and not
allowing hazing or bullying ? How much psychological stress is " acceptable
" in the interests of advancent and " building self confidence " , and who
decides when the threshold is reached ?</QUOTE>
Observation is the key. If you know your Scouts well enough you know when to
push and when not to. If you're not sure, my experience tells me it is
better not to push. Once again, the Scout decides when he's had enough of a
<QUOTE>I think that before we dismiss " lack of self confidence " as
something that can be overcome by repeated exposure to stress ... is it
reasonable to expect a kid to learn to overcome what is for him a very real
Once again, my post suggested starting out by talking to the Scout about how
he felt about the requirement in question. Then talk to the parents. Since
the Scout has not problem swimming in shallow water, and only experiences
stress when the water is over his head, my initial guess was that this was a
confidence problem. I wouldn't act on that guess until I was sure it wasn't
something else. That's why it's important to talk to the Scout.
There were several other clues in the original post that lead me to conclude
the Scout had a confidence problem. Particularly the fact the he was shy and
hadn't advanced because he never asked. While these are good clues to a
confidence problem, they can also suggest other problems. My point is that I
wouldn't know for sure without talking to the Scout.
<QUOTE>Most of us have at least one irrational fear ... I would say he
needs to do his best, and then if it really is a problem <for him> then the
Committee ought to use the discretion they have. And I personally would opt
for the " safety " clause rather that " disability " </QUOTE>
I can agree with you here 100% Ian. It seems to me that is the reason the
Committee has that option in the first place. The BSA's advancement
requirements have always been about setting goals, doing your best, and
building confidence. There's no reason any of that has to cause any stress
in a Scout.
Anthony J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org
Scoutmaster, Troop 381
"Home of the Unofficial Boy Scout Desktop Theme!"
Great Trail Council - Akron, Ohio
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City