Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letting Boys Fail

I think part of the genius of Scouting is that boys can make mistakes that feel serious but have no real-life consequences.  Take the example of the young man that forgets to do the food shopping for his patrol going on a camp-out. No dinner, or making do with some borrowed food from another patrol seems like a pretty real consequence, but the long-term impact is zero - except for the young man that forgets the food - he learns a lifelong lesson that can't be replicated by a hundred great camp dinners.
The problem in making this system work is the adults. We don't want boys to have no dinner. We don't like it when things go wrong. We think that the overall camp experience reflects on our abilities as adults. We worry that parents will think less of us if  meetings and camps are messy, disorganized affairs, but in a very real way, the level of disorganization reflects the amount of real learning being done!
Consider this excerpt from the Orientation for New Scout Parents (BSA, 2006):
"Our goal is not to get things done, but to create a safe and healthy environment with the training
and resources that the Scouts need, and then let them do it. It can be a very messy business, and painful to watch. Meetings where the boy leaders are in charge can be very chaotic. And it can be very tempting for adults to jump in and sort things out, because that is what adults do. But we have to remember that that is the process of Scouting. That is how they learn—even from disorganization and failure. We just have to remember that our business as adults is not the same as the business of the boys. It is up to them to get things done. It is up to us to make sure they have what they need, but (within the bounds of health and safety) not what they do with it."
So, what's your plan for backing off and letting boys fail?

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