scouts-l Mail Archive for February of 2000: Individual vs. Group [was: Important Update (Why)]
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Tue Feb 08 2000 - 10:38:52 CST
<Ken Faris wrote>
Should we continue to be an organization that promotes the abilities or
accomplishments of the sole individual as always more important, than the
concept of the individual working for the greater good of the whole (den or
Scouting is not a team sport. Scouting is an individual sport accomplished
as part of a team. I know it sounds contradictory, but it's the truth. The
stated goals of Scouting are individual - develop character, foster
citizenship, and promote fitness. Our success at attaining that goal is
determined individually - success with one Scout does not necessarily
translate into success with all Scouts.
In Scouting, we use eight methods to achieve our aims. Some of these methods
(advancement, adult association, personal growth, and the ideals of
Scouting) are individualistic. They work on the individual level to guide
the individual. The other methods (uniform, outdoors, patrols, and
leadership development) are team-oriented. They work by placing the
individual within a team where he has to weigh his individual needs against
the group needs.
Individual achievement is an important motivator. In Scouting, we expect
Scouts to set goals, plan ways to achieve those goals, and then do it. We
also expect Scouts to consider the goals of others when they are developing
their plan. We want them to ask "How can I earn this badge and help my
patrol at the same time?" We would like each patrol to advance at the same
rate since it makes our lives easier, but we know it won't happen. Why?
Because the patrol's goals are determined by the combined goals of the
individual Scouts. Patrols rarely set advancement goals beyond individual
requirements or a single merit badge.
It seems to me that this young Webelos by his work ethic has proven that he
is worthy of the AOL in all respects under current guidelines. Yet, what do
his actions show by dropping attendance, etc... just because he (the
individual) has reached his goal; while his team (den) is still working to
accomplish theirs. I seem to feel most times that we (BSA & Volunteer
Leaders) send a mixed message to these young, impressionable minds. Our
programs seem to be set up for individual accomplishments but we seem to
talk and teach group responsibility. I am glad that most fourteen and
fifteen year old Eagle Scouts, don't approach Scouting with the same mindset
as this young Webelos Scout.
I think you are assuming too much. We're talking about a Webelos. The phase
of Scouting he has just finished isn't the same as the phase he is just
beginning. In Cub Scouting, advancement is accomplished individually, but
requirements are worked on in a group. The den isn't meant to work the same
way as a patrol. It's a convenient sized group under the direction of an
adult. The youth members of a den don't determine everything the den does,
nor are they responsible for setting den goals and accomplishing them.
Each stage of Cub Scouting is a step up the ladder to Boy Scouting. By the
time a boy is a Webelos, he is just starting to learn self-motivation. He's
beginning to set his sights on the bigger adventure ahead of him. Sure, he
has to figure out how to get there, but a lot of the planning and
goal-setting is still being done for him. In some cases, the boy might be
extremely motivated and burn through the requirements as quickly as he can.
In other cases, the boy might be completely unmotivated and has to be
dragged kicking and screaming through the requirements by his Den Leader and
parents. It's just another stage in his development.
In Webelos, the concept of teamwork and functioning as part of a group is
just beginning to develop. It doesn't surprise me that his attendance
dropped once he had completed the requirements for AOL. There probably
wasn't much for him to do, so why go? He had no responsibilities in the
group other than to be a member. Consider what would have happened if he HAD
kept up his attendance and tried to help his fellow Scouts. Would the Den
Leader have actually let him assist the other Scouts? Probably not. Most
likely he would have become bored at the meetings because there was nothing
left for him to do. Eventually, he would have reached the point where
Scouting was no longer fun or exciting, and even the big adventure of Boy
Scouting would have lost its luster for him.
Teamwork is an important concept, one that this Scout will discover and
learn to deal with in his new patrol and troop. That's where the patrol
method becomes very important. That does not, however, diminish what he has
already learned about self-motivation. Individual achievement will keep him
reaching for the stars. Patrol spirit will keep him taking his friends along
for the ride. It won't be long, if the aims and methods of Scouting are
properly used, before he will be helping other members of his patrol
Finally, I'd like to point out that kids learn what we adults teach them. If
we teach them that individual achievement is "always more important" than
the greater good of the group, that's what they will learn. We'll end up
with a selfish individual who has no idea how to work with other people for
a common goal. Other people's goals will be little more than obstacles for
him to overcome. Group goals will be seen as attempts by others to make him
If we teach then that the group is always more important than the
individual, they'll learn that they really don't matter. We'll end up with
someone who sees himself as a warm body providing muscle for the group to
use. His motivation will be external rather than internal. He won't know how
to set a goal for himself, or how to achieve it on his own. In short, he'll
always be a follower, instead of a leader.
If, however, we teach them that individual achievements can help the group,
and that it's important to balance your individual goals with the goals of
the entire group, they will learn that. We'll end up with an individual who
takes pride in his own accomplishments, and those of his group. He'll weigh
his personal goals against the group goals and find ways to accomplish both.
He'll always be concerned with the other members of the group, and work to
help them accomplish their goals. He'll do this because he knows it will
ultimately help the group.
Whatever we teach, at about the age of 14 or 15, we'll have a pretty good
idea what they've learned. Those that have learned how to balance individual
and group goals will have taken the reins of leadership and either be Eagle
Scouts, or well on their way to earning it. Those that haven't learned it
will either be gone (unable to function as a member of a group, or bored
with always being told what to do); or stagnantly following along waiting
for someone to push them in the proper direction. The one's that have earned
Eagle will either be ready to take on a new challenge (Venturing or
Varsity), or highly motivated to help the group (Troop) grow depending on
his individual goals.
A. J. Mako, firstname.lastname@example.org, SM Troop 381 http://www.Scouts381.org/
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council, BSA
Home of the Win95 & Win98 Boy Scout Desktop Themes
"I used to be an Eagle (C-7-97), but I'll always be an Eagle (1981)"