scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: BSA Rules and Policies
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Sun May 07 2000 - 15:44:32 CDT
<Bob Lazell wrote>
For any rule to work, it has to be based on logic that those whom you wish
to follow it can understand, accept and agree on. (in Scouting, because of
the wide diversity of those involved, we are already in trouble with this
one). The consequences for ignoring a rule, you correctly point out, is next
in importance. Finally, and I think most important, is the amount of bend in
a rule so that it can be made work in the widest range of situations.
Laws and rules need only be logical to those who make them. A law or rule
need not make any sence to those who enforce it, even though the level at
which the law or rule is actually enforced is often dependent on whether it
makes sence or not. A law or rule need not, likewise, make sence to those
who must follow them. Again, the more sence a rule makes, the easier it is
for us to follow it, but we aren't required to understand the rules or laws
to follow them.
The consequences of ignoring a rule aren't important to our ability to
follow the laws or rules; or the enforceability of those laws or rules. A
case may be made that heavy penalties discourage criminal behavior, but they
rarely discourage those who feel justified in breaking the law or who
realize some sort of profit for breaking the law. In any case, heavy
penalties can only discourage criminal behavior if they are known (included
in the law, or actively communicated along with the law).
The amount of "bend" in a rule or law is essencially a function of the
language of the law. The language of the rule is determined by those who
create the law, and it's primarily based on trying to cover as many
situations as possible with as few words as possible. "Bend" in legal terms
is also based on how the language of the rule or law is interpreted by the
Having said all that, it's difficult to provide a comprehensive description
of BSA rules and regulations like your post - at least one that makes sense
for everyone (which is why we have the G2SS in the first place - and an
included disclaimer that your local regulations may supercede those of the
> about mixed sex leadership on mixed sex campouts.
No bend here, and I think we can all agree on that. This rule is common
sense and one that everyone understands the resons for. The consequences are
great for not following it (In my council a Venture adult who violated this
rule, made a female Ventured uncomfortable and was promply asked to step
away from all his BSA activities)
Unfortunately, I could probably find plenty of people who would tell you
that the BSA rules concerning mixed-gender campouts make no sence. Many
would say that the BSA's rule puts a lot of strain on a unit's resources by
requiring seperate facilities. You are correct, though, that there is no
bend here. Not everyone understands the reason for seperate facilities and
redundant leadership - but the concept isn't hard to explain. You can't
claim that the consequences are great, however, because they aren't part of
the rule. The consequences may be dire in your council, but in other
councils they may amount to little more than a slap on the wrist.
> "The activity commonly referred to as "War Game"-in which individuals
Yes, you point out that this is a BSA black and bold (does this sound like
Mike W?) rule, but, you will find the whole range of opinions on this
activity. AND the reasons behind the rule are poorly explained by national
(if at all)
As I said, it doesn't have to make sence to us. Claiming that a law makes no
sence, in fact, is not a very good defence for ignoring the law. The reason
for the rule doesn't need to be explained or understood in order for us to
follow the rule.
Many question whether this rule is a safety issue or a philosphical issue,
or even a P.R. issue (yes even those in favor of strong gun control like
myself, wonder this also.) So, you have "unoffical trips to engage in this
avtivity. I think that unless some sweeping from on high declaration of
consequences such as expulsion from the BSA this will continue to occur.
It simply doesn't matter what reason the BSA has for prohibiting certain
activities. In the case of paintball, however, I would think it was obvious
why it has been prohibited. We're talking about an activity that involves
using a modified weapon to fire a projectile of substance at another human
being. Gun safety is simply an obscurance. You can claim that the "weapons"
used in paintball aren't real, but the fact is they still fire a projectile.
You can claim that that projectile is nothing more than a ball of harmless
paint or dye, but the fact is that that little ball travels at high speeds
and the target is still another living, breathing human being.
The fact that the activity is exciting, fun, and something boys of Scout age
would fall all over themselves to participate in does not excuse those who
continue to condone an activity that is clearly prohibited. Those who turn a
blind eye to "unofficial trips" by Scout units to participate in a paintball
activity are just as guilty as those who organize those trips.
In reality, Scout leaders to activily promote or allow their units to
"unofficially" participate in prohibited activities (not just paintball, but
personal watercraft, and others) are already teetering on the edge of being
removed from Scouting. The consequences of their actions are considerably
harsher at the hands of the parents of an injured boy, and a CO facing a
lawsuit, than anything the BSA can do.
> and they intend to wear synthetic BDUs or cammo because "cotton kills" or
some other justification.
Well this one is just about a bendable as you get. I personally try to "set
the example" and wear a "proper" uniform whenever possible. But, let's apply
the common sense we try to teach our boys and say that if it isn't practical
to wear a perfect uniform then, by all means do your best. This is not a
military organization; yes, we wear a uniform for SOME of the same reasons
of pride and group dynamics, but, we are NOT an organization whose main goal
The "bendability" of this is questionable. The BSA has rules concerning
modification of the uniform. There are mostly known consequences for
actively condoning the breaking of BSA rules and regulations. Just because
you don't agree with those rules is not justification enough to advocate
"bending" the rules.
When we encounter a rule or law that is difficult to agree with, how we
approach that law sets an example for others. If we pay lip service to the
law, and "bend" it by coming up with justifications for not following the
law, we're simply telling others that we believe it's okay to break laws we
don't agree with. If we actively work to follow the law, and find ways to
make life easier while following the law, we tell others that laws should be
followed regardless of our feelings about them.
The BSA regulations are very specific about modifications to the official
uniform. That's a law. As members of the organization we can choose to
either follow the law, or break the law. There is no "bending." By actively
condoning substitutions to the uniform parts, we are actively condoning the
breaking of a rule. This speaks volumes to our Scouts - it's okay to break a
rule you don't agree with. If we instead try to find a way to help our
Scouts acquire a complete official uniform, and actively enforce uniform
regulations even when we don't agree with them, we're sending the right
message to our Scouts - rules are rules and must be followed regardless of
our personal feelings.
One of our primary perposes is to help Scouts develop character, which
includes a good dose of personal responsibility. Personal responsibility
also involves personal discipline - learning to live within the rules. Yes,
we're not in the business of turning out clones who follow all rules without
questioning them. The concept of Civil Disobedience requires that everything
possible must be done WITHIN the law to change a law BEFORE actively seeking
to break the law to advertise its faults. If we want to change the uniform
rules, we must first do everything in our power to change the rules without
breaking them. A token letter to the supply division you know will be
round-filed is not enough. Mentioning your feelings to your DE without
following up is not enough.
Now, just to stir the pot, I'll add that I personally would like to see the
uniform in it's present form disappear entirely. I would go for some high
tech hiking/camping/ climbing duds. Patches and badges of rank (and even
those beloved cute little knots) can be attached as always. My guess is you
would have no trouble keeping boys in such a uniform and the practicality
for all the activities Scouts are supposed to be doing is obvious.
While I personally believe that the uniform as it is presently looks good
when worn correctly, I'm not 13 years old. I'd also agree that no matter how
good the uniform looks when properly worn, it certainly isn't the best
choice for participation in an exciting activity. The uniform I wore as a
Scout (the khaki green one) was only slightly more durable, but still
inappropriate for hiking in the mountains or canoeing down a river.
I agree with those who believe we need a new uniform more suitable for wear
during activities. I do not agree with those who believe we are somehow
justified in modifying the current uniform to match our personal tasts
simply because we don't like the current uniform. I also cannot agree that
all rules are mystically endowed with a "bendability" quality that allows us
to justify following them.
A. J. Mako, SM, Troop 381
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council