Monday, August 30, 2010

I've Been Trained

As part of my current work with the 14 - 16 year old boys I was registered as the Varsity Scout Coach. In order to be an effective scout leader one has to be trained. There are several courses online that can be taken, but the one that cannot is Leader Specific Training.

This training involves a day of "classroom" instruction and an overnight event. The "classroom" instruction started at 7AM on a Saturday morning and ended at 3PM. There was a "gathering" activity to start the day. It was tennis ball dodge ball. Anyone who hasn't played this version should try it. Getting hit with a tennis ball leaves marks and catching them is nigh impossible. Now imagine you have 50 guys between their late 20s and early 50s. Yes it was a riot.

Classroom instruction can get boring, however the staff did a good job of not letting it get too tedious. The instruction was basically about how the program is organized and how to get the boys to run it. You see in scouting the adult leaders should really be advisers and the boys should really run the show.

The overnight event was better than the classroom instruction. We arrived at the camp site and set up our tents (yes we slept in the great outdoors). There was a camp fire program where the squads (which were formed in the classroom instruction) were to announce their name, give a yell and then perform a skit. My squad was the "Barely Theres". Our yell:

Barely Theres are everywhere,
But wherever we are
we're barely there

Our skit involved four suckers, I mean volunteers. These were led away from the camp and told that the audience would be guessing what they acted out. The men acted out a World War II fighter pilot, a man in an earthquake, a contestant in a hot dog eating contest, and someone with ants in his pants. We led the volunteers away to give them their assignment. In the meantime the last of our squad was informing the audience that we all know how uncomfortable it is to do one's business in the woods. That the volunteers would be demonstrating how they cope with this when they come up. With that each volunteer came up and sat in a chair and acted out their part. It was hilarious to see them act. Of course at the end of the skit we informed the volunteers what was actually going on.

After the camp fire program we headed to bed as the morning was going to start at 5:30. At 5:30 the director of the program came around with a rendition of "Have I done any good in the world today?" off key and definitely woke the world. At 6:00 AM we had a flag ceremony and a small morning devotional where we learned a little bit more about the Star Bangled Banner. Breakfast was muffins, bagels, croissants, fruit and yogurt.

After breakfast we started our stations. The first one for my squad was Backpacking. We learned about what equipment was needed and how to pack them appropriately. We recently had gone backpacking with the boys so this was old hat.

Next was Geo Caching. For those of you unfamiliar with it, basically it's using GPS to locate specific coordinates where items have been placed. Yes it's a treasure hunt and something that can be done with the whole family. I brought our family's hand held GPS unit and learned a trick or two.

Third up was a review of the Mountain Man Rendezvous. This is a gathering where scouts get into period costumes and make artifacts from that period that can be traded with others. We saw things that were made such as knives, powder horns, pouches, coats, etc.

Lunch was then served. Each squad had a Dutch Oven recipe to make. Our squad made Hawaiian chicken and rice. A good recipe for sure. Lunch also included stews, cheesy potatoes, and desserts. All made in the Dutch Oven. All of it was tasty so each group did a good job (and believe me there was some worries about some of the squads).

Our last station was rappelling. I had never done rappelling before and it was only a 30 foot cliff so it wasn't that bad. Now, I have an initial fear of heights. Meaning I have to get over the first fear of the height and then I'm fine. So after I was clicked in and given the basics I started out. The others in the group gave me suggestions. About 1/2 way down the instructor had me bounce off the rocks and get moving a little bit. I have to admit it was a lot of fun and I look forward to being able to do larger rappels in the future.

The last part of training was a recap of what happened. It was a time to reflect on the training and how it will benefit the boys we are to advise. Our certificates were handed out and we were all proclaimed "trained".

All in all it was well worth the time. Now the tricky part is to get the training implemented with my boys. Probably not an easy task, but something that will happen. I mean after all, I've been trained.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What is Truth?

Today word came out that Fox News' parent corporation made large donations to the Republican Governor's association. The story also noted that pretty much all news media (CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, etc) have made political donations (mostly to Democrats by the way). It begs the question, do any of them report the truth or is it all slanted?

In church there is a hymn we sing called Oh Say, What is Truth? The last verse goes:

Then say, what is truth? 'Tis the last and the first,
For the limits of time it steps o'er.
Tho the heavens depart and the earth's fountains burst,
Truth, the sum of existence, will weather the worst,
Eternal, unchanged evermore.

Unfortunately in this era of ratings and advertising the truth seems to be something of little importance to the "news" media. There is always a slant that misconstrues the truth and leans either to the right or left politically. It is a huge issue for those who are young and impressionable as they are easily swayed and can mistake the slant for the truth. For others it leaves a feeling of distrust and dislike leading to misconceptions and over exaggerations about the source.

So in this world of slanted news how does one know the truth? How can the truth be deciphered from the pieces that are given to us by those who are supposed to report the actualities of what is going on?

My answer? Read/view as much as you can and let your instinct (gut, spirit, whatever you want to call it) guide you. If it feels right, then it probably is. If it feels wrong, it almost definitely is. Don't be afraid to challenge premises and assumptions. Take off any colored glasses you may have on (which is very difficult to do sometimes) and look at things as objectively as possible.

So what can be done to make the news media report things without bias? The last thing I want is for them to be regulated and forced to do things. They should be doing things because it is the right thing to do. However, doing the right thing seldom makes money and let's face it, it's hard to do the right thing without cash.

So where does that leave us? Well it means that we have to be smart enough to see the slant to the story and look for the things that will lead us to more truth. That is not an easy thing to do. Also it takes time. Of course the truth is probably worth it in order to ensure that we don't get duped by those on either side of the political aisle.