Our first post in this series establishes the patrol method as the character school of Scouting, that real self-government makes the Scout Oath and law more relevant than a bunch of concepts preached by adults. That Scouts find meaning in the life of the patrol and troop where individual responsibilities become group responsibilities. The second post outlines the adult role as more responsive than directive and suggests that this would be a pretty dramatic change for a lot of us, that change is usually resisted and there will be a number of objections.
These objections to the patrol method come from adults and Scouts. Discussing them helps us understand the patrol method a little better:
1. If they are given the choice Scouts will not form balanced patrols.
An ideal patrol has around eight Scouts but there’s no rule that says a patrol can’t be five or twelve, it really depends on how the Scouts want to set this up. If a Scout isn’t in a patrol with his friends he’ll find a way to be with his friends; he’ll gravitate towards them during meetings and outings anyway. A ‘balanced’ patrol is another administrative decoration that seems to matter a lot to adults. Scouts are not so interested in a ‘balanced’ patrol as they are in patrols that works for them.
2. If we don’t have a say Scouts won’t elect qualified leaders.
Their choice is their choice, we will work with their choices. If they choose someone we think is unqualified it’s up to the patrol leader’s council and the Scoutmaster to get them up to speed.
3. Without our direct oversight Scouts will not do their jobs.
Scouts will do the job as they understand it and our work is helping them understand. If adults are clearly in control regardless of what Scouts do, or adults will do the work for for them Scouts won’t do much. When adults leave Scouts alone and let them get things done, when adults stop interfering, fixing and taking over Scouts will make things happen.
4. Scouts don’t plan as well or present things as well as adults, our program will suffer.
If your goal is a quality program of activities and earning badges then put the adults in charge, they do a much better job. Naturally the adults end up leading rather than the Scouts, but you get a good program and lots of advancement.
But our goal is not a the decorative quality of the program, or the number of badges we present, it is providing the opportunity for Scouts to learn about planning and presenting things and to derive all the other benefits of the patrol system. Our goal isn’t building something for our Scouts, it’s providing them the opportunity to build it for themselves.
Every parent has some treasured object like a drawing or lopsided clay statue created by their child. It will never be written about by art critics or displayed in a national museum but a parent thinks it’s a priceless work of art.We ought to use this perspective when we view what are Scouts do. Comparing their meeting program or plans to an idealized program or plan made by adults is like holding the artwork our child gave us up to the Mona Lisa.
If we value a Scout’s effort above our own we’ll begin to see the true value of the patrol system at work. If we concentrate on making the patrol method a reality our Scouts will get more than memorable trips and badges out of Scouting.
5. Given the choice Scouts will not do things that result in advancement.
Scouts advance when they do the things that Scouts do. The patrol leaders council is focused on doing what Scouts do, so Scouts will advance. They may advance a little slower or a little faster than they do now, but advancement is only one indication of success.
We need to value the other indications of success at least equally – did the Scouts plan and present their own meeting? Did the plan and carry out their own camping trip? Have they grown more competent and skilled as leaders? Are they gaining an appreciation for responsibility? These are all important indicators too.
6. Our Older Scouts don’t want to work with younger Scouts.
Football players aren’t particularly fond of wind sprints and drills, but eventually they see the value of them. Older Scouts aren’t always excited about leading and instructing younger Scouts, but they reap the same the same benefits of service that we adults experience.
7.We aren’t comfortable with giving Scouts this much power.
Are coaches afraid to give their players too much power? When the team takes to the basketball court the coach stays on the sidelines while the players play the game. The coach isn’t worried that the players are going to start playing soccer or lacrosse on the basketball court because he has taken the time to train the players in the rules and the skills of the game.
We guide our Scouts to lead themselves in the context of Scouting, there are rules and goals to the game that we help them learn and understand. The rules are the Scout oath and law, the goals are forming character-driven, contributing members of our community.
What are the practical, logistic, considerations to putting the patrol method into practice? How does it actually work? In the next post in this series we’ll discuss some ways to apply the patrol system in the 21st century.