Since today is Groundhog Day, let’s watch Bill Murray and think about the meaning of life.
About two weeks ago, I ran across some blog posts lauding the interview on British Channel 4 of Professor Jordan Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. Throughout the entire interview (beginning with the first question), the lady doing the interview was picking at him and developed into a nasty onslaught. Despite it, Professor Peterson was the epitomy of Canadian courteous.
I became fascinated with this gentleman. I found his YouTube page and began devouring his lectures. I started on his 2015 lectures on personality.
In lecture number 14 of that series, he is discussing the meaning of life and its impact on the choices that people make (1:01 mark). In previous lectures, he questions whether the Existentialists like Dostoyevsky, Kirkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus were right that the meaning of life is to suffer. If life is suffering, the Existentialists thought that the only solution was to live a truthful and moral life, thereby limiting the spread of suffering. Some were atheists, some were Christians (Kirkegaard and Dostoyevky). So Peterson picks up on this idea of suffering as part of the key component of living.
Peterson points that a resentful person is mad at the world. He is likely seeking to punish the source of the suffering, the person or group of people. The resentful person in suffering wishes to spread suffering as his revenge. Peterson uses this process of vengence as a strong rationale for good and moral behavior. Peterson suggests that each person makes contact with easily 1000 other people over the course of his life (since this is a scouting blog with a primarily male membership for the next few months, we will stick with “he”). Those 1000 people touch a 1000 people. Those 1000 touch another 1000. If each of these contacts is unique persons, that is over 1 billion people that are only 3 touches away. If we use more conservative mathematics, it is still easy to see that tens of millions of people are only 3 touches away; hundreds of millions are 4 touches away.
Peterson suggests that spreading suffering through vengence-seeking behavior has the ability to spread ill feelings and will quickly. It is the effort of the individual to spread friendliness, curtesy, kindness, and cheerfulness that can help break this spread of suffering.
How do we teach a scout to spread friendliness, curtesy, kindness, and cheerfulness? What about putting them in the woods in less than ideal weather? What will happen? Inexperienced scouts will be cranky, angry, and difficult. Yet if they go out in these conditions and experience friendship, comraderie, joy, silliness, and adventure, they learn that hard conditions do not necessarily make a hard person. They learn to see the glass as half-full when the rest of the world wants to ignore the glass exists.
A couple of years ago, we took our troop to the requisite Pokegon State Park tobogan run. We camped out at the edge of the park. The weather was cold that February, and the wind blew over the snow. The scouts were having so much fun sledding, making snow forts, having snowball fights, cooking in the cold, and all the other aspects of troop campout. They didn’t see the cold as a cause of suffering. The cold created the opportunity to enjoy the snow. Cold created the cheerfulness and joy.
Another several campouts all had the same experience. We arrive. The heavens open with a downpour. We spend much of the rest of the campout under shelters playing card games and telling stories. The weather created the chance for patience and mutual interaction.
This is where scouting shines through as the best means of developing character and citizenship in our scouts. They don’t learn to seek joy; they learn to experience joy.
Compare this to the many teenagers who spend most of their time bored and seeking out stimulation and excitement. They don’t have joy so they believe that they need to seek excitement or connection. They seek out dangerous activities or risky behaviors to have an experience of joy. Their daredevil behavior or chemical abuse provides a short buzz, then boredom returns. What stories do they have to share? Daredevils always have the “you’ll never believe what we did” story. Chemical abusers only have “we were so wasted” stories.
Scouts have stories like, “On our fifth day in the Boundary Waters, the rain set in, so we heard thunder. We quickly paddle for shore. As we sat on shore in raingear, we told stupid stories and laughed the hardest we had the whole trip.” (Ask my son about it. It is amazing how waiting on shore can lead to such involved stories.) At the end of the stories, though is an accomplishment: they paddle 50 miles for a week under some rough weather. That lesson is more than a momentary daredevil fix. It is a lesson in finding joy where suffering is possible.
On another canoeing trip, I saw an adult upset that the group was not doing what he wanted. He became resentful. He spent the next day pouting, complaining, and seeking to make everyone else suffer. The rest of the group ignored his antics and kept laughing.
That is Peterson’s lesson on suffering. Spreading suffering is an individual choice that has a significant impact on the individuals around you. A scout learns in the wilderness how to cope with rough situations or dramatic personalities that have the potential to spread suffering. If he can cope with suffering, he is more likely to find joy.
You don’t have to see the world like Kirkegaard in finding God through the suffering and mysteries of life to see the value of using a campout to find joy amidst the suffering of inclement weather.
Don’t treat bad weather as an excuse not to camp. Use bad weather as opportunity to accelerate the citizenship and character building opportunities that are unique to scouting. Your scouts will grow. Your unit will grow.
Just a quick reminder that we will hold the first Roundtable of the year on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 7:00 pm at Luke’s Lodge, the outbuilding on the campus of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 W 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260.
The Scout Roundtable will focus on different advancement softwares including Scoutbook.com, TroopWebHost, and TroopMaster (PackMaster). These three will have specific presentations and opportunities to see the software live. Others will be discussed. If your unit uses a different software that you like, please contact Jeff Heck to provide more information for presentation purposes. This open to all packs, troops, and crews. Please suggest that your unit chair and advancement chair attend.
The Cub Scout Roundtable, led by Roundtable Commissioner Bill Buchalter, will focus on Blue and Gold Banquet planning and preparation for use in the next 30-90 days. Come learn how to make this memorable and valuable to your Cubs and Webelos!
Correction h/t on date to Mark Pishon.
In scouting, we spend an inordinate time dealing with the unknown:
- Will it rain?
- Are the boys ready for the backpacking trip?
- Is the Senior Patrol Leader-elect ready for his job?
- Am I ready to be the Cubmaster, when everyone else tells me I would be great?
One of the best reasons that scouting works is that it teaches scouts (and adults) humility in the face of the natural elements and adversity in scout meetings. Why is humility important?
Humility is the personal characteristic that a psychologically balanced person has. Humility is not self-deprecation nor self-doubt. Humility is the desire to self-critique that leads to a more thorough and thoughtful response.
To get a sense about how important a dose of humility is, consider the impact of a lack of humility in introducing problems. This is the Dunning Kruger Effect.
So from this video we see that lacking humility to question preparation and understanding leads to hubris and Greek tragedies (and miserable camping trips).
Estimation error is a huge problem in self-assessment. A scout filled with hubris and self-confidence with not a trace of humility estimates that all of his plans are perfect. “I know it won’t rain, so we don’t need the dining flies.”
The estimation error of a humble scout is smaller. “I don’t think it will rain, but, if I am wrong, we will pack dining flies. Maybe we will just take two rather than three.”
One of the best lessons a scoutmaster or cubmaster can teach a scout is how his decision fits in larger patterns of human nature and behavior. Since scouting is learning through experience, it is important to allow safe failures. But it is even better to reflect on how those failures occurred and how to “fail more successfully” next time. To me a more successful failure is one that avoids the errors made last time. “I am not error free, but I work to only make an error once. The next time, I will inadvertently find a new error, hopefully of a smaller magnitude.”
Does your troop or pack take the time to reflect on its successes and failures before going to bed or departing a meeting, when the reflections and lessons are more profound? A scoutmaster or cubmaster suggesting the power of humility during these timely reflections is one of the greatest character building lessons we can offer, that are hard to duplicate anywhere else.
For the most part, at the unit level, there are few changes. On line 10, the consistent change is from requiring the minimum adult leadership for rechartering plus an assistant unit leader (i.e., assistant Cubmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, or Associate Venturing Advisor). Now the requirement for Bronze on line 10 is simply to have an assistant unit leader. This makes sense, since the others are required to recharter. Even units that do not qualify for bronze need a unit leader and committee members. This is less of a change than a simplification of the scoring method.
I have omitted other wording changes that do not change the underlying scoring mechanism for the criterion.
The significant changes are at the District level. While most unit leaders have little interest in what district qualifies for, it does impact units. The impact is on what commissioners and committee members do to support the units. In their efforts, they need the cooperation of unit leaders to be able to meet BSA JTE requirements.
On line 4, membership growth, the focus is shifting from the district-at-large to Cub Scouts. So lower overall growth is sought but actual growth in Cub Scouts is the minimum level. The logic is that if we grow Cub Scout membership, we will grow overall membership. With co-ed taking effect in 2018 for Cub Scouts, ideally this is an easy requirement to meet.
On line 7, the target percentage of scouts with advancement is reduced between 2-3% on all levels.
On line 9, the target percentage of Cub Scouts camping is increased 2-3 % on all levels.
On line 12, unit retention is increased for bronze but reduced for silver and gold. All now seek 90% retention.
On line 13, unit commissioners are expected to have more detailed and more frequent information about the health of the units in their charge. That means the unit commissioners are expected to ask better questions so that they better understand the units. They are then accountable for summarizing that information in the reporting system.
Line 15 requires one less committee member to qualify for gold.
So for planning purposes, very little is shocking to units. The amount of requests for assistance from district may go up. It seems the goal is to have better overall scouting experiences available to boys and girls without putting more pressure on any one unit to fulfill that goal.
Please look at the scorecards for 2018 and build improving into your monthly unit committee meetingsto insure a great 2018.
I have been working to make sure the unit listings on this site are up to date.
Each unit chair should assign someone to provide me udpated information or contact me directly to confirm the accuracy of the information posted.
Many Cub Packs and Venturing Crews do not have websites. This is very damaging to your ability to look credible and inviting. Please seriously investigate having a website hosted on a service like WordPress (which I use for this website), a FaceBook page with multiple administratiors, or using a built-in web service for advancement like TroopWebHost.
For Roundtable we will have two excellent programs.
We will kick things off at 6:30 pm with a short Youth Protection Training (Y01), open to all scouters. This is all you need for Cub Scouts and Boy Sccouts. It does not qualify for Venturing Youth Protection.
At 7:00 pm, we will open with our normal General Session. We will try to keep this brief (under 15 minutes).
After General Session, the Cub Scout Roundtable will focus on Den Leader Training. This is designed to qualify the Cub Scout Den Leader as fully trained for Lion through Bear years. (Webelos Den Leaders should also take Outdoor Webelos Leadership Skills (“OWLS”).) Den Leaders should have received emailed invitations from Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner Bill Buchalter. Pack Chairs should call their Den Leaders to encourage attendance. Remember this training is mandatory for rechartering for all currently enrolled Den Leaders. The class will be taught by Bill and District Chair John Wiebke.
After General Session, the Boy Scout Roundtable will have a guest presentation on the new-ish Nova Program from Troop 56 Committee Chair and Wood Badge Candidate (Eagle Patrol) Sandy McNutt and his fellow Eagle, Hou-Koda Committee Member and Troop 307 Committee Member Kelli Brooks. This presentation is relevant to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturing. So if Cub Leaders don’t need training, this might be the session for them.
Please help us have a big turn out for Roundtable.
Here is a report on the successes of the Inaugural Venturing Round Up. Some great pictures, thanks to Sugar Creek Unit Commissioner Howard Griffith.
Since Venturers are expected to handle many of the logistical issues that adults handle in Boy Scout Troops, the question arises about district information for Venturers.
Should Venturers keep themselves aprised of district newsletter and blog updates?
Not every Venturer may be interested or have a need to keep current on District affairs. It may be highly worthwhile to have Crew Presidents and Vice-Presidents subscribe to the newsletter.
They will get one email per week about news in the district. They can find Cub Scout and Boy Scout events that the Crew may wish to volunteer to staff. This can help the Venturers progress on advancement from Venturing Award to Discovery Award to Pathfinder Award to the Summit Award (Venturing’s highest award). Each award has substantial service hour requirements.
Service hours are not strictly defined on who can benefit. This is from an FAQ on Venturing (2015):
Q: What is the scope and definition of service hours? Does service to the crew count as service hours, or does the service have to be outside the crew, or outside of scouting and does the crew member have to have advisor approval (for personal service)?
A: The Handbook for Venturers offers this definition of service:
A service is a valuable action, deed, or effort carried out to meet a need of an individual, a group of people, or an organization. An act must be both valuable and address a need of the recipient to qualify as an act of service. The variety of service project ideas is boundless. And, with your capabilities as a young adult it becomes your responsibility to choose those opportunities which best fit with your personal and crew values and to to bring about significant positive change for the individual or organization that you serve. Service is a great place to stretch your leadership muscles.
In counting service hours, service provided as a member of the crew and as an individual are both expected. There is no expectation of Advisor approval for service provided on an individual basis. The “how and why” of the service provided by the individual is a great topic for discussion during an Advisor conference.
Service to the crew (such as for Pathfinder Award Requirement 5) is a separate service requirement for the benefit of the crew and its members and does not “count” toward accumulating service project hours as described in the handbook extract above.
Within this definition, a crew can choose to serve a Cub Scout Pack or Boy Scout Troop or District Activity. The only requirement for crew service is that the crew has to decide to define and plan its participation in advance.
Many scoutmasters express concern in having a Venturing Crew associated with the Troop. The fear is that older boys will leave the troop in favor of the crew. By offering service back to the troop as part of the crew program, not only is this fear not realized, but additional troop staff is suddenly available.
Having crew officers aware of what is going on in the district, neighboring packs and troops allows the crew to choose service hour opportunities back to those units. So does Pack 358 want Venturers to help with the hayride or other offerings? Posting the request through the district website can help.
Let your venturing officers know that they can subscribe here.
Our District’s highest performing units put a heavy emphasis on the senior members of the Patrol Leaders Council having complete National Youth Leadership Training.
This course is open to Venturers, too. The Spring 2018 NYLT Course Director Brian Spellman of Del-Mi Troop 199 told me last week that he will be putting a heavy emphasis on recruiting Venturers. Put a bug in their ear for Spring, if they can’t go in the fall.
For future planning, remember that NYLT students are highly encouraged to complete Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troop or for Crews.
Scout Troops have had Camporees since the dawn of the BSA.
Venturers need their own event. To that end, Council is holding its Inaugural camping event for Venturers called, “Venturing Round Up,” this weekend Friday, August 18, 2017 to Sunday, August 20, 2017 at Camp Krietenstein.
If your crew is able to attend, see you there. See the Round Up webpage for schedule and reservation information (initial headcount due Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 10:00 pm).
If your crew is not able to attend, but you can have a representative at camp on Sunday morning, the crew officers will be getting together at that time to discuss if they want to have future inter-crew events and what that might look like.