Are you motivated and inspired by the Scout requirements?
What about your Scouts?
Are your fellow Scouters inspired to administer them by adopting an encouraging, inspiring tone themselves?
Can you smell the wood smoke and feel the warming glow of a campfire against the cold sting of a winter campout when you read them?
Ask your Scouts to sit down and read a couple of rank or merit badge requirements and ask them what they mean. Do exactly the same thing this with a couple of your fellow Scouters too.
My guess is that by the time you are done you will have found way to untangle a couple of tortured ideas or phrases that makes the requirement easier to follow and understand.
I understand the challenge of writing something like a requirement that is going to be used by millions of Scouts and dissected by millions of Scouters. What I have to ask of the authors, though, is if they actually have Scouts read their drafts and discuss how they see and understand them. I can’t help but think if they had the resulting wording would be clearer and more compelling. Without this sort of process going on the requirements sound lifeless and tone deaf, they have no particular voice. Scouting should be exciting and engaging, and a lot of that excitement and engagement begins with an inspirational, inviting tone – the voice of an older brother or trusted guide.
In general most of the writing we see from the BSA has a faceless, organizational, tone – a machine like quality lacking warmth or an indication of a human voice. This is completely understandable in policy statements, rules, and regulations – but the requirements are the intersection of officialdom and our youth members, an opportunity to communicate with each of them individually.
The requirements also set the tone for Scouters to follow. That they’re written and presented so perfunctorily encourages Scouters to adopt the same tone with Scouts when discussing them.
The requirements are the one bit of organizational writing that must actually be read, interpreted and carried out by every single Scout and Scouter.
Long sentences are both difficult to understand and apply in contrast with a breakdown of each requirement into discrete actions or tasks. This is both a matter of tone and a matter of practicality. Scouts are almost never ready to complete an entire complex requirement in one sitting.
A numbered requirement that has several discrete tasks or actions embedded in one long sentence implies that when a Scout is being tested they complete all the elements at once. There’s no provision graphically for noting the completion of one element, or any visual breakup of the elements; who could fault a Scouter for implying from the way the requirement is structured that a Scout must complete it in this way, and not passing the Scout until he can do so. Achievement in Scouting is “a lot of littles”, a step by step quest following an allegorical trail. Rather than proportional steps the requirements imply great leaps, and this is discouraging and disheartening to a Scout.
I believe we’d see our Scouts more motivated and engaged by advancement if the elements are broken down graphically, and provision is made for testing and passing the smaller steps. To demonstrate how I would do this with the new requirements for Scout rank I created a PDF properly sized to fit in the Scout Handbook.