Two of the effects physicists describe apply to our work in Scouting:
The Observer Effect
Changes that the act of observation makes on the phenomenon being observed. A tire pressure gauge releases air from the tire thus changing the pressure we are testing.
The Proximity Effect
When two atoms come into proximity, the highest energy, or valence, orbitals of the atoms change substantially and the electrons on the two atoms reorganize.
When we are working with youth leaders both the observer and proximity effects are in play. because there are two immutable facts about youth leaders:
1. Youth leadership will, nearly always, defer to adults.
2. The presence of adults changes the dynamic between youth leaders and the Scouts they are working with.
Our observation of and proximity to what Scouts are doing effects what they do. These effects are not all negative or unwarranted but we ought to understand their power.
When we are camping and the patrols are set up close enough for adult to see and hear everything that they do a patrol leader really doesn’t have a fighting chance of exercising much leadership. When we sit at a table with the patrol leader’s council they haven’t much chance of talking and debating openly. When we stand at the back of the room as a Scout instructs a skill or leads an activity they have one eye on us and one eye on the work they are doing.
Please don’t mistake this advice as being an either/or choice – I am not saying that Scouts should always be on their own regardless of the activity or the level of their behavior. When safety or proprietary are in question we step in. We also have to account for age, the nature of the activity, ability and temperament of the Scouts in question. We don’t have the same expectations of a fifteen-year-old and an eleven-year-old and we want to have pretty close observation of potentially risky activities.
Once we understand these effects we can challenge ourselves to give our Scouts as much latitude as possible to do their work away from our sphere of direct influence and we’ll avoid undermining our youth leadership.