A lesson in compromise for your Scouts

COMPROMISE CREATED AMERICA. If the founding fathers hadn’t bargained on topics such as state representation, presidential elections, or slavery, the Constitution (sometimes called a “bundle of compromises”) might never have been ratified.

These days, though, compromise has become something of an ugly word in national affairs. Politicians of all stripes say compromise is the same thing as appeasement.

This tension between compromise and appeasement crops up far from the statehouse and the halls of Congress. Even Scout leaders and Scouts must learn how to get what they want without giving up what they value.

One way Scouts can learn this lesson is through ethical dilemmas. Share the following dilemma with your Scouts, and then lead them through a discussion of possible outcomes.

The Dilemma

Here’s the situation. It’s Day 5 of what has been Troop 93’s worst week of summer camp. Torrential rains have turned Camp Tall Pines into a giant mud puddle and forced many activities to be canceled or moved into the dining hall.

The experience has been a baptism by fire for 14-year-old Ben McIntosh, who’s serving as acting senior patrol leader because the permanent SPL is at Boys State.

At the evening patrol leaders’ council meeting, Ben reviews the morning campsite inspection form. The troop earned a low rating, mostly because the latrine is a muddy mess and clotheslines are strung up in every available dry area in camp.

Ben turns to Patrol Leader Carlos Stabler, and says, “You guys had site cleanup today, and things didn’t go too well. I want you to take it again tomorrow morning, and I’ll give flag-raising to another patrol. Is that OK?”

It’s not OK with Carlos, who erupts in anger. “We’re planning to go to free shoot so we can qualify for Rifle Shooting merit badge. We can’t do both. Let somebody else do it.”

“Free shoot’s been postponed again,” Ben says. “So you don’t have a conflict.”

“I don’t care,” Carlos shouts. “We’re not cleaning the campsite!”

Ben looks around at the other PLC members as he tries to come up with the right response. Finally, he says, “OK. Here’s what we’ll do.”

For Discussion

What does Ben say next? Challenge your Scouts to imagine Ben’s solution to the impasse. Ideas could include giving in to Carlos’s demands and putting another patrol in charge of site cleanup, forcing Carlos to do the job, drawing straws, or involving the Scoutmaster in the argument. Write their ideas on a whiteboard or easel pad. Then, explore these questions together:

  • What does Ben need to gain?
  • What can he afford to give up?
  • Which two or three solutions seem to best meet Ben’s needs? Why?

Next, take the top two solutions and have the Scouts imagine Carlos’s response. Explore the same questions listed above.

Then, discuss these questions:

  • Was your selection of the best solution affected by the fact that the troop’s week at camp has been so miserable?
  • Was your chosen solution affected by the fact that the week is almost over?
  • Was your chosen solution affected by the fact that Ben is acting SPL and won’t be in that role when the troop gets home?
  • What has this discussion taught you about being a leader? About being a follower?

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