scouts-l Mail Archive for February of 2000: Active Participation - Very Important Question
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@BELLATLANTIC.NET
Sat Feb 05 2000 - 12:48:44 CST
In this discussion we've seen the rules quoted with multiple interpretations
advanced by Scouters. Interesting - it is because the rules are purposely
vague and not explicit as to what kind of meeting attendance is required.
Now why would that be? It is because BSA units are organized in a wide
variety of situations, where no single standard would work. Consider a Pack
that services a three county area in a very sparsely populated area. A rule
that would seem reasonable in suburbia requiring 75% meeting attendance
might be impossible to meet when each meeting requires a 30 mile drive by a
parent. There are dozens of reasons why in a particular situation it might
be easier or more difficult for meetings to be attended. Instead of
creating an arbitrary rule, BSA has simply required that the Scout be
"Active" -- no more and no less. There is no definition of what this means
within BSA, because BSA has elected not to define the term. In the absence
of a defininition of "Active" within BSA, it comes down to what is the
practice that BSA honors? The simple fact is that as long as a Scout is
registered as Active, BSA will treat the Scout as being active in membership
and give the benefit of the doubt to the boy. Any appeal of any advancement
being denied on the basis of not attending x% of activities or meetings will
most likely be successful. In the past BSA has almost universally
determined that a Scout is active enough to meet advancement requirements by
being registered as Active.
Why is this?
Well let's step back a second. What are the purposes of Scouting? In BSA
the stated purposes are character, citizenship and personal fitness
development. Those are the things we are supposed to be trying to do with
the program - the whole reason for the program. We use several methods to
help achieve those goals. One method is advancement (ADVANCEMENT IS NOT A
GOAL OR AN END IN ITSELF -- IT IS A TOOL).
This tool only works when Scouts get immediately rewarded for taking steps
that result in personal growth and development via the advancement program.
Advancement works because it is behavior modification - you get rewards for
doing good things and so want to do more good things to get more rewards --
in this case ranks and other recognitions. It is real simple, ranks are
rewards -- they are carrots and not sticks.
If advancement is withheld for some arbitrary reason, then the reward
doesn't happen and this method of Scouting fails. When this method fails,
it makes it harder to achieve the real goals of Scouting.
When a unit tries to supply a definition that BSA purposely has not
included; e.g., attend so many meetings and activities a month to be
considered active, this is adding to the requirements and is prohibited
because it causes the program to fail.
If the boy doesn't get any rewards for his best efforts, what incentive is
there for him to continue? From a boy's perspective this has got to be
absolutely frustrating. He's done his best and he has completed the
requirements that are stated in the book to the best of his ability. And no
their is an arbitrary and capricious adult saying well you just aren't good
enough because I think you should have attended more meetings - you are
doomed as a failure. This leaves the boy without any chance to correct
things and may be punishing him because his parents would not let him attend
or because he was sick, or any number of other reasons.
This is also a reason why BSA has never attempted to define active in any
arbitrary terms. The whole idea is to promote personal growth in the boy
and use advancement as a method to encourage this growth -- not to use it as
a club or to label a kid as a failure.
Advancement is not meant to be a goal. Let me repeat - advancement is not
meant to be a goal. It is a method -- a tool. The tool is meant to be used
to build and not to be used as a weapon to destroy.
If the Webelos Scout in question has completed all of his Arrow of Light
Requirements including being active (registered as active), then he has
earned the Arrow of Light and it should be presented to him without further
delay. If the Webelos Den Leader cannot understand that advancement is only
a method and refuses to cooperate, it is not necessary to let matters stand
there. The Webelos Den Leader does not sign the unit advancement report and
cannot prevent other Pack leaders from submitting a unit advancement report
that includes this boy's Arrow of Light.
If this Webelos Den Leader is likely to make a scene at the Pack Meeting
where the Arrow of Light is to be presented, then the Committee Chair ought
to disinvite the WDL and make it clear that disparaging remarks or behavior
are not to be tolerated.
We should be in this for the boys. If we are, then we should be looking at
what is best for the boys -- what helps them to grow and develop in
character, citizenship, and fitness. Any action that creates arbitrary
roadblocks to the goals we have ought not to be tolerated.
Mike Bowman, Vice President
U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.