Trust, But Verify

Share a personal survival experience with us and explain what you learned from it. You might help someone.

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Foolbard
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Trust, But Verify

Post by Foolbard » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:33 am

I enjoyed my time in the Boy Scouts, but I'm sorry to say I didn't learn much in the way of practical application. Boy Scout troops are autonomous, for the most part, and I've seen some that are hardcore about teaching practical skills. Mine wasn't one of them. I learned how to display flags, tie knots, and lose my privileges for lighting fires and chopping wood.

The merit badge classes were equally bad, for the most part. My instructors were mostly unsupervised teenagers who were more interested in talking amongst themselves than teaching students. My four years were basically arts and crafts, camping trips, and the occasionally useful tidbit. Much of the information I received for orienteering was flat wrong, and it took me getting lost in the woods to figure it out.

The most important lesson I learned in the Boy Scouts is to expound on what you're taught. Experiment, research, and learn. Talk to numerous sources. Just because someone has been given a position doesn't mean they've earned it. I've seen that across every aspect of my life, from the church to school to every organization I've been a part of.

Sure, humor a teacher who is wrong. Do it their way, politely, to show it doesn't work. Play nice if you can, but there's nothing wrong with pointing out wrong information for what it is.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by teotwaki » Fri Aug 25, 2017 8:06 am

I recall having a really good time in the Scouts, adults who were willing to donate time and money to lead and teach us and gradually building a foundation for life long adventure. I can share credit with the BSA for a lot of my accomplishments whether it is mountain climbing, kayaking, distance running or continually improving my skills in the outdoors. I don't find any fault with the many BSA volunteers who sacrificed their own interests for my benefit. It has always been up to me to grow and improve upon the foundation that was laid and I am grateful to all those in the BSA who taught me so much.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by Foolbard » Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:11 pm

teotwaki wrote:I recall having a really good time in the Scouts, adults who were willing to donate time and money to lead and teach us and gradually building a foundation for life long adventure. I can share credit with the BSA for a lot of my accomplishments whether it is mountain climbing, kayaking, distance running or continually improving my skills in the outdoors. I don't find any fault with the many BSA volunteers who sacrificed their own interests for my benefit. It has always been up to me to grow and improve upon the foundation that was laid and I am grateful to all those in the BSA who taught me so much.
Your troop sounds like one of the good ones. My mistake was to take what I was told at face value, to never question whether there was a better way to do something. I did have good teachers at Camp Alexander when I went there for merit badges, especially the teachers who taught first aid and shooting skills. Those are the fond memories for me.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by woodsghost » Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:15 pm

[quote="Foolbard"][quote="teotwaki"]I recall having a really good time in the Scouts, adults who were willing to donate time and money to lead and teach us and gradually building a foundation for life long adventure. I can share credit with the BSA for a lot of my accomplishments whether it is mountain climbing, kayaking, distance running or continually improving my skills in the outdoors. I don't find any fault with the many BSA volunteers who sacrificed their own interests for my benefit. It has always been up to me to grow and improve upon the foundation that was laid and I am grateful to all those in the BSA who taught me so much.[/quote]

Your troop sounds like one of the good ones. My mistake was to take what I was told at face value, to never question whether there was a better way to do something. I did have good teachers at Camp Alexander when I went there for merit badges, especially the teachers who taught first aid and shooting skills. Those are the fond memories for me.[/quote]

Good points. I too have taken a lot at face value, and got in trouble.

I've had mixed experiences with the BSA, and I still like them, on the whole. They try to stick to their values, and there is merit in that when we live in a world of popularity polls.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by teotwaki » Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:42 pm

The BSA folks that we interacted with were unpaid volunteers. It is unfair to them to complain about someone who was giving up their time for us and then bash them for not being a Navy Seal. Are any of you volunteering your time to lead Boy Scouts or at least the youth of your community? If so, are you the patient expert and perfect teacher, never making mistakes and flawlessly imparting knowledge?

As adults you can figure out how to improve yourself and your skills. You can volunteer your time and do better than the folks you interacted with in your past. I know the Scouts have been continually watered down and PC'ed but when I was in the scouts "Duty To Self" included: "You owe it to yourself to develop the brains that were given to you, by striving to increase your knowledge and by making the best possible use of your abilities. You owe it to yourself to become a man of strong character, ready to take your place in the world as a capable citizen".
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by Foolbard » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:17 pm

teotwaki wrote:The BSA folks that we interacted with were unpaid volunteers. It is unfair to them to complain about someone who was giving up their time for us and then bash them for not being a Navy Seal. Are any of you volunteering your time to lead Boy Scouts or at least the youth of your community? If so, are you the patient expert and perfect teacher, never making mistakes and flawlessly imparting knowledge?
No one said anything about expecting Navy SEALs. One of my instructors was a former Army Ranger, and I did learn a lot from him. But for the most part, my regular Scout leaders were more interested in socializing with their friends than teaching anything. I do volunteer my time to teach others what I can, though my disability hinders me quite a bit.

My first post may seem harsh, and I'll admit I've probably forgotten a lot of the "golden moments" I had in Scouting. It is unfair for me to say Scouting is all bad, and if that's what I've communicated, I apologize. My primary point is exactly what you stated:
teotwaki wrote:"You owe it to yourself to develop the brains that were given to you, by striving to increase your knowledge and by making the best possible use of your abilities. You owe it to yourself to become a man of strong character, ready to take your place in the world as a capable citizen".
You and I were not in the same troop at the same time (in Colorado Springs from '99 to '03), I'd wager. We had different experiences and leaders. My troop was troubled by bad leadership from its Scoutmaster and his assistants, who did most of the teaching outside of events like Camp Alexander. My primary Scoutmaster was often too busy to attend, and his assistants did not get along with each other (often very publicly).
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by SCBrian » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:35 pm

As a Scoutmaster, I can say I agree with *all* the above comments. Both good and bad. I'm in a unique position that I actually am part of the local area training crew. I've seen adults that have essentially stepped into the woods for their first time running a troop/pack because it fell to them for one reason or another (Last man standing, etc) and they didnt want to disapoint the boys. These adults all have good intentions, and want to learn about instructing scouts, but much like the above statements, most of the instruction is left up to them to learn. During the course of a weekend (IOLS/OWLS) we take them and put them through the steps to at least _Familiarize_ themselves with all the skills they need to instruct/help up to first class rank. so in basically 2 days, they learn:

Flag Ceremony
Interdenominational worship
Menu planning
Food safety
Cooking on a grill/fire/dutch oven/foilpacks
Square knot
2 half hitches
Bowline
Taught line hitch
Clove hitch
Round lashing
square lashing
diagonal lashing
floor lashing
Campfire programs
Acceptable actions for campfire programs
First aid
Some tree identification
some animal identification
Hiking safety
Backpacking introduction
Introduction to map reading and orienteering

And all the other small various things that pop up.

I've had the Military folks that can hit the ground running and just need to be shown "our" way to do things.
And I've had the folks who have never seen a camp stove before and need help pitching their dome tent.

It falls on all of them to practice and learn the skills before teaching the young men.


If anyone is interested, I'm pretty sure I have the links/files to the above courses, let me know.

Also - I'm happy to answer any questions you may have...
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by Foolbard » Fri Aug 25, 2017 2:52 pm

In my experience, some boys join Scouting because they're pressed into it. One kid I knew said his dad had given him the choice between Scouting and military school. One of the Assistant Scoutmasters said he was there to make sure his son didn't "turn gay." The Assistant Scoutmaster I looked up to (the former Ranger) was constantly given the Scouting equivalent of KP duty, sticking to a half-assed "curriculum," like "work with the boys on square knots for an hour." It should not take an hour for eight boys to learn how to tie square knots.

Good leadership is key. When your leaders aren't invested, the whole thing goes bad. Is all of Scouting bad? No. Not by a long shot. But if you find yourself in an organization without good leadership and you can't affect that leadership, find a different organization; a different troop, in this case. I should have talked to my parents about finding a different troop to get involved in. I should've done a lot of things differently.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by Ellywick » Sun Aug 27, 2017 12:54 am

Girl Scouts is pretty much the same mixed bag...I think it's a combination of what the troop leaders are willing/able to put into it and what you are willing to put into it. Some troops I knew just did arts, crafts, community service, and socializing during their time, which was plenty fine for most parents and kiddos.

My troop leaders were mother/daughter lifers in the Heart of MO GS who had a decent, civilian grasp of survival skills and backpacking. We did a lot of singing, crafts, and sleepovers, but I also learned from them how to start my own fires, pitch tents, forage for food (ones deemed pretty obvious what they were so safe for children to pick), take care of latrines (never my favorite), etc. They put in a lot of time and had the knowledge to teach a wide variety of useful subjects.

This being said, not every girl in the troop was interested in learning survival skills nor were they required to do so. I enjoyed it and was in GS up until partway through HS when balancing my pretty rigorous school schedule with finishing the project for my Silver Arrow (the second highest award in GS) just became too stressful. I always figured I could start up again later or that I could continue to use and grow the skills I learned without being in GS. Unfortunately, lacking association with others interested in those things, along with marrying a man, who while he has a host of other admirable qualities, hates the outdoors, kind of put a damper on that plan. I know I've forgotten a ton of what I used to know. Use it or lose it, as they say.
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Re: Trust, But Verify

Post by Laager » Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:09 am

Have to agree it does seem to be a catch as catch can thing. Especially around military bases or troops that are based on military bases with scoutmasters that are active duty.

I'm not saying that being in the military is a bad thing (everyone in my family is or was in the U.S. Military and we have fought both for and against the U.S. for well over 200 years).

I was in scouting many decades back and our scoutmaster and assistant were both PJs. So it was great right up until both were transferred out and we ended up with a guy that was a cook and a personnel guy.

They both did the best they could but the camping, repelling and outdoor stuff was pretty much DOA.

When the .22lr "shortage" was in full swing a guy I know showed up with his scoutmaster (he was the assistant scoutmaster) to talk to me. I went to school with the scoutmaster and well let us just say that he was an officious prick back then and has not changed a bit.

JC came to ask if I could sell or loan them some .22lr ammunition since they could not find any. I asked JC how many rounds he needed then I told them to meet me at the Catholic Church parking lot (in the back). JC knows I have a .22lr addiction and figured I might be able to give a little.

I showed up, gave them what they needed, told JC no charge and told the prick he was still a prick at which point he asked me why I was giving him the ammunition. I did tell them that I could use a box or two of those sinfully delicious Girl Scout Samoas, which prick did show up with and give me (I may not like him, but I do have some respect for him, plus I found out later he paid for the cookies himself).

I told him it wasn't for him, it wasn't even for JC. I gave it to the kids, prick or not at least you are doing something for the kids and that I can support.

I also told them not to mention me in any way, shape or form.
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