When is it OK for a youth to question an adult’s actions?
ROBERT BADEN-POWELL said a lot about the examples Scouters set. In Rovering to Success, he wrote, “It fills one with awe when one thinks what harm or what good one might be doing to the boys in the examples we set for them.”
Usually those examples are good. But sometimes Scouters set bad — or at least ambiguous — examples, and in doing so put their Scouts in a difficult position. This story explores how a leader’s seemingly innocuous action could create an ethical dilemma for youth as they wrestle with the concept of obedience.
Crew 125 is beginning a three-day drive to Florida Sea Base. As Crew President Jocelyn Allen climbs into the lead van, she notices the driver, Associate Advisor Frank Grosvenor, plugging in a radar detector. When they cross into Virginia, highway signs clearly state radar detectors are illegal.
Jocelyn summons the courage to talk to Mr. Grosvenor. His response: “There’s illegal, and then there’s illegal. I don’t drive more than 10 over the speed limit, and this keeps me honest.”
The logic seems pretty shaky, and Jocelyn isn’t sure what, if anything, she should do. But she keeps thinking about the seventh point of the Scout Law: “A Scout is obedient.”
Many Venturers and Scouts already drive, so they might have a special interest in Jocelyn’s dilemma. Also, reflecting on this situation might improve the way they drive.
Begin by discussing speed limits and radar detectors. Then ask:
- Do you see a conflict between using a radar detector and “A Scout is obedient”? Why or why not?
- Do you accept Mr. Grosvenor’s explanation that he uses the radar detector to keep himself honest? Why or why not?
- Radar detectors are outlawed only in a few jurisdictions. Should they be? Why or why not?
- Is there a moral difference between using a radar detector and alerting other drivers (by driving apps, for example) of police presence?
- Mr. Grosvenor says he drives only a little over the speed limit. Is that OK? Why or why not? If a little over is OK, how much is too much?
- Should drivers behave differently with Scouts or Venturers in their cars? Why or why not?
- Brainstorm possible actions Jocelyn could take (including doing nothing). Then ask:
- What is good or bad about this action?
- What do you think this action would accomplish?
- How would this approach be respectful of Mr. Grosvenor’s authority as an adult leader?
- How might it undermine his authority?
Close by noting that the points of the Scout Law might be clear but their application can be tricky. In this case, for example, Jocelyn must balance obedience to the law with loyalty to one of her leaders.
FIND MORE ETHICS DISCUSSIONS TO USE WITH YOUR TROOP OR CREW AT SCOUTINGMAGAZINE.ORG/ETHICS