I’ve spent some time reviewing the new Outdoor Ethics materials published by the BSA.
Outdoor ethics have always been a part of Scouting. While the basic ethical imperatives have remained constant, our application and interpretation of them has changed and evolved over time.
One constant is the outdoor code:
As an American, I will do my best to—
Be clean in my outdoor manners.
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.
Leave no Trace is also a familiar part of our program but one fairly new partnership is the Tread lightly program. Tread lightly is aimed at ethical use of motorized vehicles, boating and cycling in wilderness areas.
The Land Ethic is based on the writings of Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac. The basic ideas of the Land Ethic are:
- That land is not merely soil;
- That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may or may not;
- That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than intended or foreseen. These ideas, collectively, raise two issues: Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?
In introducing this idea we are encouraging our Scouts, and challenging ourselves, to reconsider our relationship to the natural world on a very basic level. Leopold described the Land Ethic this way:
“A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.”
Scouting can do a great deal to promote strong outdoor ethics with simple practices that emphasize our place in and relationship to the natural world. I think this new approach to outdoor ethics is a great way to incorporate these ideas into the fabric of the Scouting experience.
Awards, training, and educational opportunities are described in this PDF brochure.
How can a 12 year old be a leader if he has no guidance for leading? If the 12 year old is senior patrol shouldn’t an adult be their to monitor how he is leading the unit? Not interfering, just monitoring and then afterwords offering advice about his leadership. How would a 12 year old know how to lead without the adults setting the example? If the unit is a small and very young unit, with no Eagle Scouts, how can Boy Lead Boy ran be effective if their are no role models to guide them to be an effective leader? My son was in a very young unit, leaders did not monitor just boy lead boy ran. No advice was offered to the boys about how to lead the meetings. They just put them in a room and basically said lead. Their was mostly fighting between all the scouts in all meetings, if not fighting goofing off. Very little was accomplished and eventually most of the scouts in his patrol quit because they were bored or was tired of being yelled at by the senior patrol. Yet the Scoutmaster said Boy Lead Boy Ran. How is this effective in showing the younger scouts how to become the leader BSA strives to accomplish in boys? My son eventually quit because he was tired of being bullied and no adults stepped in just they will solve their problems. How can a 12 year old solve his problems if he is two immature to figure out their is a problem or he is the problem with no adults their to point them the right direction? In regards to younger scouts (11-13) I am concerned that one day boy lead boy ran will bite BSA on the but. Someone could get seriously hurt or lost at camp outs (this does happen) because some leaders will not steep in to stop the incident or monitor boys that have an attention disorder. I am basing this off my sons experience.
Clarke Green says
Sorry that your son had a bad experience.
The adults involved apparently did not understand what they were doing, they thought they could just declare that things would be led by the Scouts and that’s it.
It should be clear that I don’t practice, recommend or endorse that approach.
You don’t achieve youth leadership by throwing a switch and saying that’s the way things will be. It takes a lot of coaching, encouraging, cajoling and training (something that I have written 10-20 thousand words about elsewhere on the blog).
Problem is most adult leaders will not stick with it, and they eventually take over, or they misunderstand how this works and the Scouts leave because they have no order or direction to their activities.
I have had many, many eleven and twelve-year-olds who were very capable leaders, they were monitored and mentored by older Scouts and by adults, and they did fine. They grew into more senior responsibilities and many became Eagle Scouts.
The problem is sometimes a group of Scouts, it’s pretty rare but I have seen it happen. Two or three years back we had one group of Webelos join who didn’t last very long because they were a particularly difficult group, their behavior was horrible, they wouldn’t listen to anyone and within a few months they were gone.
Sometimes I can turn a group like this around, sometimes not.
Bill Connolly says
Someone once said that “Scouting is a game with a purpose.” Games are fun which appleal to Boy Scouts. Someone also once said that “Never do what a Boy can do.” Cub Scouts is lead and run by adults. In Boy Scouts its should be Boy Lead an Boy Run or sometimes aka “Organized Choas”. Trained the Scouts, and get out of the way! Just my 2 cents.I just got back from a week of Summer Camp with Troop 203 and I was the acting SM with 2 ASM who were 18. I usually tried to keep out of there way unless there was a safety issue. Keep learning and good luck!
David G. Krause says
My Troop has been using the patrol method for almost a year. Our group of boys start with a senior patrol leader who is barley 15. We have boys who are in the ages between 11 and 14. Our scoutmaster does not want any of the assistant scoutmasters to interfere with the patrol meetings. We have 3 patrols of 8 each. One patrol leader is 12, one is 13, and maybe 1 is 14. I say although we like to patrol method, the boys are to young to be let on their own. Our Scoutmaster does not want us to interfere at all. Why should I wear the uniform? What am I there for? I have stopped some games when they became too ruff, only to be told I was in the wrong for interfering. I’ve pointed out things that I saw that were not right, only to be rebuffed by our Scoutmaster. I have been a den leader, Cubmaster, and now an assistant Scout master, and also I have started a new Cubscout unit. I have been thru the BSA’s training in almost every aspect. I could see leaving the boys in our troop alone, if there were more of them that were llder, 15, or 16. But these boys are not much more past Cubscouting. What do I do?
Clarke Green says
Good for the Scoutmaster! What you describe is applying the patrol method as it should be applied, leave the Scouts alone and follow the Scoutmaster’s lead.
You and I wear a uniform to do one thing and one thing only; to make it possible for Scouts to do the real work of Scouting, in a Scout troop that means doing things with adult oversight but independent of adult interference.
If you don’t agree with the Scoutmaster’s assessment of the Scout’s abilities you can either choose to accept that you may be wrong and see if you may be able to learn something, or you can find another troop that more closely reflects that way you want to do things.
Training is an important source of knowledge, but being trained does not mean you possess experience or skill. Volunteering as a Cub leader is a wonderful service, but Cubs do things appropriate to their age level, and Scouts do things appropriate to their age level – experience at one level does not mean you know or understand anything about what happens at another level.
David G. Krause says
I was a Little shocked by your answer. What do you mean by oversight? Watching the boys play for 45 mins.? I do not think that our Scoutmaster is doing a bad job, but on the other hand I do think that at the age of the boys in our Troop, a little more than over sight is needed. I do like the patrol method, and remember my years a Boy Scout, our Scoutmaster did not allow a lot of “play time.” We worked on advancement. We also did a lot of public service events. D. Krause.
Clarke Green says
I’ll repeat – “If you don’t agree with the Scoutmaster’s assessment of the Scout’s abilities you can either choose to accept that you may be wrong and see if you may be able to learn something, or you can find another troop that more closely reflects that way you want to do things.”
I have been out in the backcountry, where I have seen unsupervised scouts from another Troop (I was backpacking with my son) who had climbed to the top of a 150 foot tall waterfall and were throwing large rocks from the top within inches of the edge and watching them shatter once they hit the bottom. Do you trust in the Scout’s abilities for this instance or should a Scoutmaster should have intervened or have been present?
I am kind of with David, I think an Adult leader should intervene if you see Scouts doing activities that might lead to someone getting hurt.
Clarke Green says
Absolutely adults should intervene when Scouts are endangering themselves or others or behaving inappropriately. I’ve never suggested anything else.
I’ll say again, for the thousandth time, youth led is not purposeless anarchy, excusing or permitting bad or destructive behavior.
Getting the whole youth-led concept right is an immense challenge, as David’s comment shows.