Remember being young when the ground was constantly shifting under our feet? Remember wanting to be an adult but not wanting to be like the adults you knew? Remember how you wanted to change things? What an energizing, exciting, challenging, and sometimes confusing world we lived in!
Our growing brains and bodies were in a constant state of change, every day was full of new ideas, new experiences, new people, new challenges. In our search for some stable ground we questioned and challenged authority, changed poses and attitudes. All that uproar came from looking for something and, perhaps, someone we could count on.
Our emotions ran faster than our reason. Our conduct was variable, we tried on different personalities and poses searching for ourselves in a vast cultural landscape of choices. We were trying to belong, to win the approval of our peers. We experimented, we tested.
Scouters are trying to reconcile the shifting, unstable world of youth with the (hopefully) more stable world of adulthood.
Scouting is not about controlling the conduct of young people.
We have a much bigger challenge; to form their character as defined in the Scout oath and law.
Is the Scout oath and law just a code of conduct? Is it an ideology? Is it a religious text? No, it is none of these things.
The Scout oath and law are ideas that have defined positive, contributing, individual character throughout human history. Scouts the world over have adapted the wording of B-P’s original oath and law as Scouting spread, we’ve expanded our understanding of exactly what the ideals mean but the ideas themselves have remained constant. (See the different ways the oath and law is expressed here).
How do we tap the vast, character building potential of the oath and law? By understanding how rules differ from ideals, and how conduct differs from character.
Rules control conduct, ideals shape character.
Character is expressed in conduct, but conduct does not define character. Conduct is subject to objective definition and judgement, character is subjective.
The oath and law are not rules to control conduct, they are an expression of lively ideas that shape character.
Rules are imposed from the outside in.
We react to a list of rules much differently than we do to an expression of ideals. Rules are weak, they can be dissected and argued with. You can create excuses and lawyer your way around rules.
Character is expressed from the inside out.
You may be able to excuse your conduct, but you can’t hide from who you are inside.
When we are challenged with controlling conduct creating rules is the easy way out. Every rule of conduct we create we limits a character building opportunity.
If we invoke rules when confronted with a Scout’s questionable conduct we are limited to making a judgement.
If we invoke the idea of forming their character we have to have a conversation.