By design, the Methods of Scouting are intended to get character, citizenship and fitness into a boy’s life in ways that stick into adulthood. For example, let’s consider citizenship.
In regular recitation of the Oath and Law, citizenship is usually approached from a patriotism and a civics point of view. But in the Scoutmaster conference, the leader can explore service and stewardship, both of which are really important aspects of citizenship. Similarly, during a Scoutmaster conference elements of character and fitness can be can be used to help instill all the values of the Oath and Law into a Scout’s life.
“When you hold a Scoutmaster Conference with a boy and ask the rank advancement question about how he has ‘Show[n] Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life’ how do your Scouts respond?
I generally get a blank stare followed by a lot of typical Sunday school answers. They tell me what they think I want to hear or give some lame answer that shows me they know what the Oath and Law says but haven’t given much thought about what it really means. At that point, we begin a conversation around this set of questions:
- “Why do we say the Scout Oath and Law so often at meetings and other similar activities?
- “Have you ever read either of these Scouting principles slowly, line-by-line, thinking about them in the context of you?
- “What do we learn about in church week after week?
- How does any of this apply to you in your life?”
- “Do you think people are watching and taking note of who you are becoming as a young man?
- “What do you do every day to walk the walk and talk the talk?
“Our discussion will end on the point that if you act one way at church on Sunday and then another way at school throughout the week, what have you learned? What kind of example does that serve? How do others see your integrity? Where is the good turn done daily?”
“I understand this isn’t easy at times with all the pressure that goes on with friends, but we’re working to be long-standing leaders not faint-hearted followers…right? So be strong about who you are, don’t compromise your integrity and make a difference among those you hang around with!
He concludes with this: “I believe the need for our boys to understand these values have never been more important.”
Scoutmaster Jones, as with many other thoughtful Scouters, has discovered the recitation of the Oath and Law are not enough to “instill the values” found therein. He suggests adding more time in youth leader training. You can do this in troop, team and crew meetings too and of course, every Scoutmaster’s Minute or Advisor’s Reflection is a way to bring the values to life.
The Scouting Difference
Several years ago, Harris Interactive conducted the “Values of Americans” to study the ethics and character of Americans and how Scouting has influenced the values of adults over their lifetimes. In thier report, they stated:
“Men who were Scouts as youth, as well as those who have never been Scouts, agree that Scouting has a positive effect on American society. …Scouting has positively influenced their character development, self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and family relationships. In fact, compared with men in 1995, a larger number of men today say that Scouting activities improved their family life at the time they were Scouts, had a positive effect on their school life in later years, and positively influenced their career development and advancement as an adult.
“…Boys who are or were Scouts also agree that Scouting is a positive influence in their life. Scouting has helped them gain self-confidence, leadership skills, determination, and social interaction skills. Scouting has also impacted their academic skills. Scouting activities have helped Scouts improve their reading, science, engineering, physical fitness, and emergency preparedness skills. In addition, boys who are Scouts report earning higher grades than do boys who were never Scouts. …Scouts are also more likely to make the most ethical decisions, not the easiest.”
If you want to read the details of this survey, the full report can be found in this attached PDF.
How has knowing and living the Oath and Law affected your life?
Author: Darryl Alder | Director of Strategic Initiatives, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.