Mike Walton (blackeagle)

I Really Can't Swim

By: Posted On: 2020-09-10

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Image provided and used by permission of Elizabeth Reid


Here's a good illustration of why *meeting the requirements as written* and not shortcutting them for any reason is important.  This is a good example also to those of you NOT in Scouting as to why you need to assess your team members periodically and ensure not only that they *say* they have the skill sets you need but ask them or review their *application* of that knowledge.

A friend of mine is the Committee Chair of a Troop in a nearby town.  She contacted me and asked for some advice. One of their Scouts saved the life of a fellow Scout while participating in a non-Scouting swim in the reservoir nearby on Labor Day.  The fellow Scout is the Life Scout (one rank below Eagle Scout) son of the Scoutmaster (the senior-most adult mentor in a Boy Scout Troop and among their many roles, recommends youth for various Boy Scout advancements).

Here's how this went down; and why I commented the way I did.

Three boys, all Scouts in the same Troop, decided to go out to the reservoir to go swimming. They decided to go into the five-feet area where there was a group of girls their age hanging out. They splashed water and teased and goofed off, not paying attention to the space separating the ten-foot area of the swimming area from the five/six-foot area.

The Scoutmaster's son started flailing and losing control of his body, and at first, everyone else in their party thought he was clowning around. One of the other boys, a newly minted Eagle Scout, however, saw that he was in true need and swam out to the ten-foot area, drug the kid back to the shallow area and checked to make sure that the kid indeed was okay. An adult witnessing this called the rescue squad and they came and reviewed the Scout before releasing him back to his friends to go home.

HERE is the "rest of the story." Scoutmaster's son later revealed to his two friends that "I really can't swim...I can tread water a little, but that's it."

"How did you make to Life -- you have to pass the swimming test, right?" one of the boys asked him.

The Scoutmaster's son did a motion with his hand to cover his left shoulder and said, "Dude -- my dad's the Scoutmaster..."

The BSA says that "ties go to the runner" (a fellow Scouter named Walter Underwood corrected me and said, "It isn't "ties go the runner." It is "Scouts do not pay for adult mistakes." But we don't just let it go. Our responsibility is to make up for our mistakes.")  He's right.  Mike Walton says that the Scoutmaster parent of this Life Scout has placed his son in danger -- possibly killing him on that day due to his "signing off" his child, who cannot swim, on the Second and First Class swimming requirements.

He needs to take his son to a swimming pool and either teach him or have someone else (that Eagle Scout friend of his who really saved his life!) to teach him how to swim more than just "treading water."

As far as the fact that his Scoutmaster (his dad) "passed him off" on the requirements for Second and First Class, neither the local Council nor the BSA can "remove his rank" until he does pass the swimming requirement. As I stated several times here and elsewhere, the BSA has a rule which I call "ties go to the runner."  Here is what the Guide to Advancement states about stupidity like this:

"Once a Scout has been tested and signed off by someone approved to do so, the requirement has been met. The unit leader is accountable for ensuring proper advancement procedures are followed. A part of this responsibility includes the careful selection and training of those who approve advancement. If a unit leader believes a boy has not learned the subject matter for a requirement, he or she should see that opportunities are made available for the Scout to practice or teach the requirement, so in this way, he may complete his learning and further develop his skills."

So, we may be hearing about this kid...drowning somewhere because he "thought" that he knew how to swim...in reality, his advancement was pencil-whipped by his Scoutmaster Dad.  Sad.

When you entrust your child in our Scouting programs, you are also asking us to have due diligence in their progress as they advance the three steps toward becoming a First Class Scout, and the last three steps from First Class to Eagle.  We want them to learn and master the skills needed in order to become not only a good outdoorsman but also those required in order to be a strong and healthy good citizen, family and community contributor.  "Signing off" pages in manuals does not do this unless it is preceded by some vetting to ensure that the Scout does, in this case, know the basics in swimming.  



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