August 16th, 2013

junior woodchuck guidebook

You still gotta prove it

At our Troop Committee meeting last night, we wrestled again with a certain training issue. In order to be fully trained for their positions, Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters need to have certain Outdoor Skills, for which there is a training course offered by the Council every year. BSA says, however, that if they possess the skills, they don't need to take the course. The question becomes, How does one certify their skills in the absence of taking the course so as to qualify as a 100% trained Troop?

I said that the Committee Chair (who is also a former Scoutmaster) and I (who have taught the course several times) could write a letter to the Council Training Committee stating our opinion that A and B, two of our Assistant Scoutmasters, possessed the necessary Outdoor Skills. I doubted that anybody at the Council would question that. Our new Scoutmaster then said, "Well, what about C and D" (two 18-year-olds who are registered as Assistant Scoutmasters)? "They're both Eagle Scouts, so they'd automatically qualify, wouldn't they?" Knowing the two young men as I do, I replied that I wouldn't go bail for their Outdoor Skills on a bet. Which rather shocked the Committee, I think.

Now C and D are both fine young men, don't get me wrong. But I've seen them in action, and No, they do not possess the skills you would expect. They did everything they were required to do to pass through the ranks and earn the Eagle, but in many cases they forgot what they learned as soon as they'd passed the requirement. Now, as they are teaching the younger boys, they are forced to re-learn what they whizzed through (I've always said that you don't really know something until you've had to teach it); in time, they will be able to do all that they should. But merely possessing the credential is no proof of proficiency, I'm afraid.

That's the world we live in. A diploma does not guarantee that the recipient actually learned (or retained) anything of value, despite having passed all one's classes. The Eagle rank signifies great achievement, but not possession of any current skills. In many cases, a professional license merely shows that one paid the appropriate fee to the government, not that one's work will be up to the standard the customer expects. Ordination conveys the authority of the Church, but says nothing about one's orthodoxy or leadership or pastoral skills.

Meanwhile, there are those who do possess important skills who do not have the credentials one might expect. Case in point, our two Assistant Scoutmasters who know their stuff, but just haven't done the course. Likewise, all over the world, there are scads of people who speak multiple languages who have never taken a foreign language class in school.

We are a society that is obsessed with credentials. But society is maintained by people who have actual skills.