Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET)
Mon, 27 Jul 1998 14:00:20 -0400
It concerns me as a long-time adult leader that there is so much concern
about the fragility of boys. In all of my experience I have worked with
thousands of different Scouts, all very different individuals. I agree that
each boy's ability to handle public embarrassment (I use the term
embarrassment to distinguish it from humiliation) is different. I have met
many Scouts who rather enjoyed making fools of themselves in public. I have
also met just as many Scouts who would be reduced to tears is asked to sing
in front of a group. Neither Scout would be considered fragile in my book.
Yes, they must be treated differently. My philosophy has always been that
solo singing should be voluntary. The problem we have is that there is too
much concentration on psychological and emotional fragility. One of Jim
Browns points in his recent postings was that ANYTHING can be taken to an
extreme. I would submit that concern over what is hazing and what isn't has
caused us to see hazing in everything.
I am not proposing that being forced to sing in front of a group in order to
get personal possessions back is not a form of hazing. The word "forced" in
the original question answers the question. Forcing someone to do something
humiliating, or painful, against their will fits my definition of hazing.
Allowing him to decline removes the force and moves the incident away from
hazing. Asking everyone (including adults) who has lost something to sing as
a group removes the inclination to single out an individual. Scouting is an
organization that has some very important goals for each boy involved in it.
Part of building one's character is dealing with your limitations, but you
can't do that if everyone around you is falling over themselves to avoid
exposing you to those limitations.
One of the things I love most about Scouting is the opportunity to learn
one's capabilities and limitations. When I started out on the road through
Scouting I was a timid, skinny little kid. I was the type of kid many of you
would consider "fragile." Many of the things we have been discussing on this
list would have brought tears to my eyes when asked to do them. Scouting
gave me the opportunity to grow, to overcome the anxiety I experienced doing
anything in front of a group. It taught me what my limitations were and gave
me a chance to overcome them.
After seventeen years as an adult leader, I can safely say I have worked
with enough different kinds of boys to know that they are not as fragile as
some would have us believe. I have been told several times by parents that
"Johnny can't do that..." only to find out that, given the chance, Johnny
could. My job as a Scouter is to alleviate the fears of parents, and give
the Scout the opportunity to discover his capabilities on his own. If I were
to limit each Scout's activities to only what his parents believe he is
capable of, Scouting would be pretty boring.
To be honest, I'm for giving each Scout a chance to experience things for
himself. If I show the Scout compassion and confidence in his abilities,
that will rub off on him. He will begin to have confidence in himself.
Eventually, he'll start challenging himself. Eventually, he'll try to
overcome whatever limitations he has. Some have said we Scouters should put
ourselves in a Scout's shoes (and his personality) before asking him to do
something. That's not a bad idea, but I have to wonder why we should need
reminded of this. I look at each Scout as an individual. I spend a lot of
time trying to figure out who they are and what they are capable of. Often,
I have a better idea of what they can do than they do. My job, then, is to
expand their confidence.
One of the things that concerns me about all this talk about how fragile our
Scouts are is the fact that there will always be failures. There will always
be an experience that is not particularly joyful; a moment when we suddenly
realize we don't like what's going on. Without these moments though, Scouts
would never learn how to make things better. They'll never learn the lessons
we want them to learn.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City