Monday, April 26, 2010

When Scout Leaders Lose Their Compass

This post is about how some scout leaders lose their compass or sense of scouting direction and hopefully this article will help re-focus what is suppose to be the ultimate goal in scouting: to make sure that the scouting program is both fun and safe.
Take this fictitious letter for example:

Dear Mom and Dad,

Our Scoutmaster told us to write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and were worried. We are OK. Only one of our tents and two sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up the mountain looking for Chad when it happened. Oh yes, please call Chad's mother and tell her he is OK. He can't write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search and rescue jeeps. It was neat. We never would have found him in the dark if it wasn't for the lightning. Scoutmaster Walt got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn't hear him.
Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas can will blowup? The wet wood didn't burn, but one of the tents did. Also some of our clothes. John is going to look weird until his hair grows back.
We will be home on Saturday if Scoutmaster Walt gets the car fixed. It wasn't his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked OK when we left. Scoutmaster Walt said that with a car that old, you have to expect something to break down; that's probably why he can't get insurance. We think it's a neat car.
He doesn't care if we get it dirty, and if it's hot, sometimes he lets us ride on the fenders. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us.
Scoutmaster Walt is a neat guy. Don't worry, he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Terry how to drive on the mountain roads where there isn't any traffic. All we ever see up here is logging trucks.
This morning, all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out in the lake. Scoutmaster Walt wouldn't let me because I can't swim, and Chad was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe across the lake. It was great. You can still see some of the trees under the water from the flood. Scoutmaster Walt isn't crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn't even get mad about the life jackets. He has to spend a lot of the time working on the car so we are trying not to cause him any trouble.
Guess what? We have all passed our first aid merit badges. When Dave dove in the lake and cut his arm, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Wade and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Walt said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken.

I have to go now. We are going to town to mail our letters and buy bullets. Don't worry about anything. We are fine.

We all are familiar with leaders like this in varying degrees and most of the problems our leaders face can be overcome with the proper training.
I have seen some leaders comment,"I don't need the training; I am an Eagle Scout," to "We take our scouts paint balling but we do it as a family get together and not as a scout unit so we do not need to comply with the BSA rules on safety," or "We want to tie a scout event in with the Young Eagles program but we are not going to comply with the 2 deep leadership rule and assume that the Young Eagles program will take on those issues with child safety." And my favorite, "...for our crossover, we are going to have a live fire inside the church because the fake fires aren't good will be a small fire so it will be OK."
Scary thoughts.
I wouldn't allow my son or daughter take part in any scout activity with leaders that allow things like that to happen.
So what's the solution?
  1. Make certain that you are up to date on any and all training available.
  2. Keep the Guide to Safe Scouting close at hand. Better yet. Make the Guide to Safe Scouting your Bible for any and all scouting activities.
  3. Keep at least 2 adults, child protection certified, on hand at all times.
  4. Ask questions. If the answer is no then find out why and then learn why or why not.
Use common sense and keep your compass pointing in the right direction.
Your scouts depend upon it.

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