What is Scout Spirit?

A reader asks:

I would like to get your thoughts on how you evaluate Scout Spirit. Is it standard practice for a scoutmaster to ask a scout to write out what the scout’s interpretation of Scout Spirit is?

Each rank in Scouting requires that a scout “Demonstrate scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and
Scout Law in your everyday life.”

Evaluating this is usually the simplest part of a Scoutmaster’s conference (that’s where I usually check the requirement). I’ve never felt that this takes extensive examination. I simply ask the scout to give me a couple of examples of how he has fulfilled the requirement.

I’ve done this hundreds of times in the past twenty five years and have never had a scout fail to answer this question at least adequately and very often eloquently. The Scout Oath and Law are easily comprehended and I think scouts have no problem internalizing the concepts they represent.

Theoretically a scout’s behavior could call his scout spirit into question. In this case I’d want to know that he understood where he went wrong, made amends and committed to doing better. I’d never try to leverage good behavior by threatening a scout with withholding my approval of this requirement.

The Scout Oath and Law are based in potential rather than prohibition. Each point speaks of what one should aspire to rather than avoid. I recall that Baden-Powell considered including “A scout is not a fool” in the original oath but decided to emphasize positive virtues.

I can’t see any reason to write out an understanding of scout spirit. The requirement  clearly says demonstrate rather than write. I can think of very few scouts who would find this inspiring or exciting. A good any of them would probably view it as a punishment so I’d advise against it.