In several of my previous blogs I have discussed ways we can teach our eleven-year-old (EYO) Scouts moral decision making through communicating to them ways to be. In Scouting we use the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan to correct behavior, but do it in a way that is unobtrusive. Most notably, we tell them to be helpful or courteous or obedient when we note that their behavior is less than what it ought to be in those areas just mentioned. Many scenarios occur when EYO Scouts are at the chapel or on a Scout outing and the EYO Scout needs reminders of ways to be. In teaching these—ways to be—we are encouraging the boy to go through a moral and ethical decision-making process.
When we challenge a boy with “Are you doing your best?” we are asking the boy to evaluate in his mind 1) what he is doing, and then 2) how well he is doing it. If HE decides that he is not doing his best and that he CAN and WILL do better, then we have been powerful teachers.
How have we been powerful teachers? Because the boy made the decision, not the adult. The boy went through the decision-making process to evaluate what he knows to be right against the behavior he was currently displaying. Allowing and teaching boys to choose the right by reminding them of the principles, values, and ethics contained in the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan is Scouting’s method of controlling the group. By repeating this method over and over again in each Scouting activity, choosing the right becomes a natural part of their behavior and thus we help them achieve the mission and vision of the Boy Scouts of America “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.’
There are other important opportunities for the EYO Scout leader to truly bring home the values of Scouting. Teaching this method of leadership—controlling the group—to the patrol leader and assistant patrol leader gives those in leadership positions another opportunity to express the values of the Scout Oath and Law to the Scouts they lead, but this time it comes through the boy leadership versus the adult leadership.
One of the key jobs for the EYO Scout leader is to train the EYO patrol leadership. Teaching the EYO leaders to use this approach with their peers such as, “Patrol, I need you to be kind to each other!” versus saying, “Chuck, quit picking on Ralph.” is readily received by the other Scouts. Using this positive approach shows trust and is an effective demonstration of the boy leader’s trustworthiness toward the individual Scouts. It strongly says, “I believe in you, and I can see that you understand what is right and will choose to change what you are doing and how you are doing it.” Correctly and repeatedly done, youth are strengthened and build their character through small corrections and improved awareness.
Another way to teach moral decision making is during the EYO leader’s Scoutmaster conference. Here part of every review should be a discussion that that leads the Scout into talking about a facet of the Scout Oath, Law, motto, or slogan. The idea is to get the Scout to talk about Scouting’s values and through the discussion solidify in his mind the values of good conduct, respect for others, and honesty. This is just as valuable as letting the EYO Scout talk about his experiences learning outdoor skills, first aid, citizenship skills, or leadership skills. If you have been observant during his tenure as an EYO Scout, you may have written down specific instances where they or another EYO Scout was involved in a Scout activity that presented that teachable moment. If the EYO Scout leader records in a notebook for future use these teachable moments, he or she can relate them a second time with the Scouts and bring home the values.
Additionally, the board of review offers an ideal opportunity in the cycle for congealing the values of ethical living and decision making. A board of review looms large in an EYO Scout’s life. Adrenalin runs high and boys remember their board of review experience long after the event. If the board of review ensures that it discusses Scout spirit as exemplified in living the principles and values of Scouting, the event will reinforce the value of living according to the codes of Scouting.
If the Scoutmaster’s interview brought out great discussions with the EYO Scout, then sharing this with the board of review how the Scout feels or individual experiences in ethical decision making, can gives the board an opportunity to bring about the discussion one more time. As an EYO Scout leader and as a Scoutmaster, I always spent five minutes with the members of the board of review to tell them about the Scout, prior to his meeting with the board. If the Scout leader has truly gotten to know the Scouts, then he can use the board of review to strengthen in a positive manner the value of making correct choices in their lives.
This is the power of Scouting. Changing the lives of young men because we, as the EYO Scout leaders, know how to use the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan to steer young men in their day-to-day lives. We have them for only a short period of time each week, but we can accomplish a great work through our own personal vision and correctly implementing those small reminders of ways to be.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.