Order in the troop! Order in the troop!

You’ve heard the sayings.

Order is Heaven’s first law. (Alexander Pope)

Good order is the foundation of all things. (Edmund Burke)

Order is power. (Henri Frederic Amiel)

Henry Miller also had something to say about order:

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.

Clarke Green recently posted an article on his blog ScoutmasterCG titled The Jedi Scoutmaster in which he discusses the issue of boy behavior, our perception of it, and how to handle it in our troops.The sentence that jumped off the page for me is “Order is a relative thing that is likely to be undervalued by boys and over-valued by adults.” Even though Clarke is talking about the different ways boys behave when interacting with one another, such as during troop meetings, and a good way to recognize bad behavior from age-appropriate normal, “order” can have another context.

A troop where the adults feel that everything must be orderly and completed promptly and on schedule is on the road to being an adult-led troop. Unless the adults realize that 100% orderliness is likely an unattainable goal, and their own goal should be to inspire the BOYS to set some attainable standards for themselves, it’s far too easy to slip into a situation where the adults take charge.

One example that comes to mind is trailer organization. The adult role should be to train the quartermaster about the gear and proper storage, and then let the QM handle it. I really don’t like to see adults climbing around inside the trailer, organizing things, while the QM sits on a rock and watches his job being taken away from him.

Likewise, adults who fret that the patrols aren’t getting breakfast, dinner or a hike going “on schedule” on a campout need to realize that the goal isn’t to be a slave to the clock, but that the boys are learning to do things for themselves, encountering difficulties, and making decisions on the fly.

Another way adults get in the middle of things the boys should be doing is in skills instruction. Do your adults routinely teach skills to the younger Scouts? If you have older boys, they should be the ones teaching knots, lashings, first aid, physical fitness, and those many other things required for the early ranks. I cringe when I see adults standing in the middle of a group of boys demonstrating knot tying, because they are taking away an important job from the older boys (and making them think “what’s the use? I’m not needed here any more”). It’s as if the adults don’t trust the boys to teach knot tying correctly, when in fact teaching something is one of the best ways to learn it!

Scouting’s aims are being short-circuited by the act of adults doing what the boys should be doing. Our goal isn’t to make sure they know how to tie knots or put everything back where we would put it – it’s for the boys to experience it, and learn to figure things out, for themselves. Clarke and veteran Scoutmaster Larry Geiger have put their thoughts on the subject in another post, Lighting the Fire.

This, of course, is not intended to say that order is not a good thing. Rather, we must evaluate it in the context of the situation at hand and recognize order when and where we see it. Even nature has an order to it that isn’t immediately apparent on first inspection.

So, the next time you have the urge to take a process away from the boys just because your way is more orderly, remember Henry Miller’s quote above, and Baden-Powell’s advice:

The object of the patrol method is not so much saving the Scoutmaster trouble as to give responsibility to the boy.

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post first appeared on Bobwhite Blather.
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