It's been far too long since I wrote an article. Since Conclave, I've been thinking about the significance of Scouting in the world and the impact it has, and I've been drawing comparisons to the two other major leadership events in my life: Doane College and teaching.
I have seen boys in Scouting (including myself) do some amazing things that the average boy would not have the opportunity or chance to do, and the development in these youth as they transition into young adults is very pronounced. We hear the statistics all the time. I cannot count the number of times I have seen or heard the following or similar in Scoutmaster Minutes, Eagle Court of Honors, Boy Scout camps, etc.:
Scout StatisticsFor every 100 boys that enter scouts:30 will drop out the first year.Only rarely will one appear before a juvenile court judge.12 will be from families that belong to no church, 6 of these will bebrought into contact with a church and continue.3 will become pastors,4 scouts will reach the rank of Eagle Scout.45 will serve in the Military.1 person will use scout skills to save somebody else’s live.2 will report that they used scout skills to save their own lives.17 will later serve as adult volunteers8 will find their future life vocations from scouting5 will receive church emblems.….Only 4 out of 100 boys in the USA will become scouts but of theleaders of this nation in business, religion and politics, 3 out of 4 werescouts. Only 4 percent of our nation’s youth were scouts, yet 65% ofall college and university graduates were scouts.26 of 29 of the first Astronauts in NASA’s program were Eagle scouts,and 133 of the 233 Astronauts were scouts at one time.A Nationwide survey showed that:Of Senior Class Presidents 89% were scouts.Of Junior Class Presidents 80% were scouts.Student Council Presidents 85% were scouts.School newspaper editors 88% were scouts.Football Captains 71% were scouts.Basketball captains 64% were scouts.64% of Air Force Academy graduates were scouts58% West Point Graduates were scouts.70% of Annapolis graduates were scouts.72% Rhodes Scholars were scouts.85% of FBI Agents were scouts at one time.
So, 4 out of 100, make Eagle Scout.So what about the other 94 or 92 scouts who didn’t make it to Eagle.Is it just wasted time? The scouts have “Aims and Methods”. Thingsfound in the Scout Oath and Law, the Patrol Method, Outdoorstraining, Personal growth, Leadership and So on. Advancement iscertainly one of these, but only one. Just being part of the programgives the opportunity to “better and belong”.Sure we know some famous Eagle Scouts like Sam Walton, JamesLovell, Hank Aaron, Gerald Ford, John Glenn Ross Perot and StevenSpeilberg.But how about some “Not-Quite-Eagles” like John F. Kennedy, JimmyStewart, Harrison Ford, Merlin Olson, Richard Gere, Nolan Ryan, JimMorrison, Joe Theisman, Bill Gates and not-quite British Scout’sQueen’s Scout – Paul McCartney. The list goes on and on.Scouting makes a difference ! ~http://therealtroop555.com/ScoutmasterMinutes/Scouting%20Statistics.pdf
However, to me it was just more statistics. I never really felt their impact when I heard or read them. I received my Eagle Scout on December 18, 2003, at the age of 14. My parents had given me a lot of support and Scouting was already playing a major role in my life. While I knew it was a big accomplishment at the time, I could not comprehend its true significance at that age. I doubt if there are many 14 year olds that can. I joined camp staff the following summer (having already served on Fun With Son/Mom and Me staff previously), where I joined the ranks of several Eagle Scouts and future Eagle Scouts; the significance of the award feels diminished when surrounded with people of the same status. Looking back, I can see the encouragement of those of us having earned our Eagle being a positive encouragement to those on staff who had no yet obtained it, and there are very few staff members who have served more than one summer that did not earn their Eagle. Of those, often it was because they got involved in high adventure, greater leadership opportunities, etc., and wound up too busy. I also worked at the OEC during the schoolyear my senior year as a store clerk (along with other assorted jobs, as is typical in Scouting). Again, I was interacting with high achievers, so I still was not seeing clearly the dramatic effect Scouting has on people. Scouting also gave me amazing experiences, and while I have yet to attend a high adventure base and it was not until 2009 that I attended a national event, I did explore many different places in Nebraska and traveled farther for Conclaves in Kansas, camping by the Red Feather Lakes (during the fires of '02...ugh), and canoeing in the Ozarks.
I essentially finished up my overactive role in Scouting during my freshman year of college. After being the Shows Chairman for the 2007 C5A Conclave and completing my Vigil, I turned my focus more towards Doane, partly because I was starting to feel the effect of being in between a youth and adult, which I found a little awkward, and partly because being at Doane meant that I had to drive further to attend events (and that got EXPENSIVE!). I remained active in the Order of the Arrow and occasionally with my troop, and of course summers still consisted of working and eventually running the Ecology area (barring the short 2007 summer where I worked in the camp office; not the best fit for me!). Doane also offered exciting opportunities as well; I traveled to Minnesota every year to attend the National Association of Campus Activities Northern Plains conference, and my last trip I served on the stage crew working with all of the performers showcasing. I had the study abroad opportunity in Wales, which I will talk about later. I also got to attend conferences, such as an exceptional leadership conference at Camp Carol Joy Holling and many speakers at Doane through the Hansen Leadership and Education programs. And of course there was the excellent education I received at Doane; talking to teachers from other schools really makes it apparent how strong Doane's education program is. And of course, being me I naturally dove into several leadership opportunities, whether on purpose or by accident (Student Activities Council being one such accident; I thought the first meeting pizza party was one of the required events for our "passport"; I probably wouldn't have gone otherwise). I noticed one thing immediately, however. I had more freedom of leadership through Scouting than I did at Doane. While I had seen this in high school, it caught me off guard in college. I had assumed that college would allow me to expand my leadership abilities, but I felt that it was much more faculty-run than Scouting is adult-run. Some of my best leadership skills gained in my early years at Doane were more due to certain faculty's incompetence (said faculty not being at Doane any more) than intended Doane programs. The Hansen Advisory Board was one prime example; I joined up (or rather, I was leaned on very heavily until I signed up), being told it didn't really do much but looked good on a resume (imagine my pleasant surprise when Carrie took over and we actually had stuff to DO!). The honors organizations are another prime example: Tri-Beta was very clearly just a token organization at Doane (partly due to the time of induction), and I never even knew when the Alpha Lambda Delta initiation was, let alone having leadership opportunities in the organization.My time on the Student Activities Council presented interesting situations. For the first two years, support from faculty was limited at best, which while frustrating at times, it also meant many of us learned what we were doing very quickly and developed strong leadership skills in order to get through the year's programs. I definitely felt the impact of Scouting's training through these two years. At the end of my sophomore year, we ran into a conundrum. Recruitment had been low my freshman year and the year previous, and of the four eligible Presidents, two were leaving to study abroad. That left Dusty and I as the only eligible candidates, and he was more than happy to stay in his role as booking chairman (which he is very skilled at). While I had planned on running for vice-president (and somewhat doubting if I would get it), I found myself as the SAC President, not entirely by choice (thank goodness I did not become Lodge Chief!). I then was thrown into what was probably one of the biggest shake-ups of staff at Doane in recent years, as well as having an entirely new board of officers, excluding Dusty. SAC went through three advisers during the summer months, and by the time school started I still wasn't sure who the adviser was going to be. Orientation Week and Homecoming proved to be one of my biggest tests (and successes!) to my leadership skills, and again it was due to a less-than-ideal situation from Doane (although this one was inexperience, not incompetence, and therefore excusable and remedied). As my junior and senior year wore on however, I noticed a campuswide trend. Student leadership was being challenged, and it appeared that the administration was not very supportive of students being able to run programs. "Student-led, not student-ran" was a phrase I heard several times, and the RA program (which I thankfully had the good sense not to get into) was the most prominent drop in trust in student leaders. My question I pose to Doane is this: What is to be gained by having a faculty member tell a student leader "this is how things are going to happen and your job is just to tell your organization"? This is how I felt Doane operated several times through my latter college career, and this is when I first began to truly notice the difference between Scouting's development of leaders and the "traditional" development. It became clear to me how strong the Scouting program is, and I believe that part of this is the idea of a mistake. In Scouting, when working with youth it is expected that they will make mistakes. While adult advisers have the role of avoiding the serious ones, it is these mistakes that allow the Scouts to learn and become better leaders. This is what I believe Doane is afraid to do. Doane is so wrapped up in its image of itself (which is a very promient and positive image) that it has become afraid of mistakes. The administration tries to control as much as they can to have the perfect program, but the education of leadership takes a blow as a result. This is not something that is reflected by test scores, but it can become apparent as soon as the student leaves college and is faced with a situation where there isn't an administration telling them exactly what to do and say.
That being said, while certain aspects of Doane's ability to build and support strong leaders may have slipped (the new Hansen Advisory Board, or re-HAB as I jokingly called it, being an excellent exception that I hope continues to grow), the education I received was the finest. I've already mentioned the education program, but another fine example is the biology program, and a large part of that is due to one man. Brad Elder is moreorless the sole reason I switched from a physical science major to a natural science. I HATED biology, yet his teaching style, knowledge, and skills convinced me otherwise, and now my two biology classes are the ones I enjoy to teach the most. What I find most remarkable about his teaching is that while he did not take education courses in college (like many professors, some more evident than others), he has been active in furthering his own education in regard to teaching methods and encouraging other professors to do the same. Science and education; any wonder why he clicked with me? Not only that, but his teaching style was very much based around inquiry. Inquiry and leadership have very similar techniques involved; both involve building on past experiences and more self-initiative. I also served for a very breif time in the Roots and Shoots club, which he sponsored, and from what I saw he had a very hands-off approach, letting students run the club.
When looking back at my other classes at Doane that I enjoyed, the first one that came to mind--before I even thought about writing this article--was Media Productions. Lots of leadership skills were built here in organizing the movies we produced, and lots of self-initiative in learning the equipment and taking on ambitious projects (if you haven't watched my music video, SHAME ON YOU). Another similarity, one which I did not fully realize until writing this article: Both Brad Elder and Erik Andersen were Scouts. Brad worked at a Boy Scout camp in his youth (I don't know if he got his Eagle or not), and Erik was one of the first Eagle Scouts from my troop (which I did not know until a couple weeks into his class; small world). Coincidence? Possibly, but I doubt it.
One constant throughout college was that people knew me as "that Scout guy". Somehow, my camp nickname of "Stretch", which I had originally planned to fade out in college, became spread around the school (I still do not know how it was started; it was not me originally), and people whom I had never met already knew that I had been very active in Scouts. I had my fair share of being the butt of a few jokes due to this, mostly the typical "goody two-shoes" type, but underneath a lot of it was respect, along with curiosity about how my experiences had shaped me. It also come with an expectation that I would fulfill the stereotypical role of a Scout. If I was prepared for something, I'd often hear someone comment about it being the Scout in me. I was always the go-to person if something needed cut, because people assumed I would have a knife handy (which I usually did). This was especially prominent in my outdoors classes and my study abroad in Wales. I don't think it's coincidence that two of the three guys on that trip, labeled Outdoor Encounters and consisting of more high adventure than even Philmont can claim, were Eagle Scouts. My Scouting skills and leadership were put to the test, and if I was not showing expertise in a certain area I was very much informed that I was not living up to the high expectations that people have of Scouts (canoes and knots being two that come to mind; the latter especially having been one of my areas of lacking).
The past few months have been especially eye-opening for me in regards to the dramatic effect Scouting has on young adults. As a 7-12 teacher, I see virtually every Scout-age child in the district every day, and as a result I get a good sampling of the "normal" youth population. When I attended this year's Section C5A Conclave, it was the first time I had attended an event where I felt more like an adult than a youth (Nick made the comment that I was using "teacher-talk" at one point). As a result, I was looking at the youth leaders from the perspective I have as a teacher, and I noticed something that had never really sunk in before. Comparing a "normal" sample of youth to the group of boys running that event shows a large difference. I went into the Conclave planning as the Shows Adviser feeling quite unprepared; I did not have the time I felt I needed to help prepare for the event. However, Evan and the other Scouts on the Shows committee stepped up and showed the leadership expected of them and then some, putting every skill they had to use. Evan wrote the script himself, the Scouts were the ones doing most of the set building and concept design with limited guidance, and they are the ones who took responsibility to make sure everything got done. Yes, adults were necessary to make the event happen, as they had the experience and resources needed (I don't know what we would have done without Ed's help with the show!), but it was the Scouts who made the event happen. While I myself did not see much of what went on across the lake, I kept hearing the same thing: the Scouts were the ones putting it together and doing a fantastic job of it. I look at the group of youth running this event and I have a hard time remembering that they are the same age as my students. While I do have some exemplary students (and I am not meaning to put down my students, only offer a comparison), the percentage of strong leaders and responsible young adults is significantly higher for the boys in Scouting. I went back to Johnson-Brock wishing that all of my students could experience programs like what Scouting offers.