The question came up recently on one of the forums about how different troops handle registration for monthly campouts, and I was intrigued to read the replies.
Many respondents had well thought-out procedures, ranging from e-mailed permission forms to Google documents and the BSA’s new Scoutbook. These systems aim to add some level of reliability and dependability to the process of parents signing their sons up to go camping and to make things easier for them.
It’s great to have a consistent way to reach the parents, to get word back on who is going, and to be able to assign drivers to take Scouts to and from camp. This certainly helps the troop committee members and the Scoutmaster responsible for overseeing the campout.
Most of them, however, miss the point.
It’s one thing to have a unified system of registration and a master list of attendees that we administer. And certainly this is valuable for keeping track of comings and goings as well as filing the tour plan.
But it’s not our troop – it’s the boys’ troop.
In an ideal world, each patrol leader would know who is coming on the campout so he’d know how many the Grubmaster needs to shop for, and he’d tell the senior patrol leader and the troop Scribe how many Rattlesnakes were coming. If there was payment involved, it would go to the patrol Scribe, who would handle it in the manner that the patrol leaders’ council had decided – turn in all or part of the money, possibly retaining enough to go shopping. The troop Scribe could manage the balance sheet and give the patrol leader money for groceries, and the Quartermaster (or the patrol quartermaster) would know how many tents to bring.
Each patrol would need to arrange a way to get themselves to and from camp as well. Scouts would find out from their parents who is able to drive, and obtain commitments for enough seats.
The backstop, for adult supervision and youth protection, would still be some sort of tally or permission slip from the parents, which the Scout would present to them for signature and return it to the troop by a week or two prior to the outing. This would also force the Scout to actually talk to his parents and inform them about the campout sooner than 5:59 pm on Friday afternoon.
But how do we make sure the parents know to plan for their son to be away for the weekend? There does need to be a backchannel of communication for outings, troop meetings, and other troop news because, after all, the parents are still responsible for getting their sons to and from events (and we know the sometimes slim likelihood of effective son-to-parent communication). This can be by e-mail, newsletter, text messaging, phone tree or any other method that works. The backchannel, however, should not take the place of the Scouts’ responsibility to themselves and to the program that they are conducting.
Realistically, I doubt there are many troops where the Scouts are completely responsible for the entire process. It is a goal to be aimed for, and while it’s not necessarily realized fully, the process of working toward it is important.
If we’re not giving the Scouts the responsibility of managing at least as much of their own involvement in their program as they can handle, we’re shortchanging them of a life-skill-building experience that only Scouting can offer. It’s certainly beyond our authority and good common sense for the adults to do what the Scouts should be doing for themselves.