Recently I received an e-mail with numerous questions regarding camp operations, programs, etc from a troop that is from out of council. One of the questions asked was how many adults they could bring up. Apparently they have many "engaged" parents who want to see Camp Parsons and the troop was inquiring about the ability to add them to their current number and how that would work with the dining hall and their campsite. The question was worded as "what would you recommend as the maximum number of adults" and I had to chuckle as the first thing that came to mind was "Two".
We are very happy that we have so many engaged adult leaders and parents and of course we are always proud to show off our facility and program, particular to those troops who travel from far distances to attend summer camp. However there is a fine line between "engagement" and "interference". During our back and forth e-mails, this particular adult leader was quite sensitive to our concerns about the number of adults (pretty much at parity with the number of scouts) and assured me that the parents from their troop will be way in the background. I have no doubt that would be their intention, but much like young scouts, adults can be categorized into the saying....."Idle hands are the Devil's workshop." This usually manifests itself by adults being overly critical about certain merit badges or programs.
All adult leaders and parents want the best for their charges and that is expected. They want their children or their scouts to have the best possible experience they can as well as participate with their son or scouts in that experience. However what is lost sight of is the fact that is a Boy Scout program is run by older Boy Scouts; not educators with teaching certificates (although the vast majority of our staff go to college). Teaching plans and programs are built around the fact that the scout has an attention span of about 3 seconds. The point behind most of our activities is trying to keep the scouts engaged and moving....somewhat difficult when there is some "lecture" aspects as part of the teaching plan or safety instructions. There is another rule to my expanding theory of scout physics; the number of "constructive" comments I receive from adults is directly proportional to the number of adults present. We do our best to provide an outstanding experience for scouts and yes, occasionally we will have a bad instructor or something will not "gel" right with a class and we do our best to fix those deficiencies. However, the scouts always seem to have a good time regardless of the concerns of their parents. I had one parent who followed his son around to every merit badge class he took and that parent told me he was concerned that his son was getting the merit badge without completing all of the requirements. I was glad he told me that as then we could take a look and see if something was amiss (which it really wasn't. What the issue was is that the parent wanted to add more to the requirements so that the parent could feel that his son really knew his stuff....that is not the way it works). However as I told that parent, as I have many Scoutmasters, if you don't think a scout completed the requirements, you don't have to give him the merit badge until it meets those requirements to your satisfaction. At the end of the week we give you the blue cards, we do not give them to the scouts. So you always have the final say.
Finally, the food........jeez, if I could go one summer without the usual comments. There are many good suggestions that Scoutmasters and parents have given us and many of those constructive suggestions have been implemented............but c'mon folks; can we do without the sarcastic, derogatory, back-handed comments? Again, the amount of complaints we receive is directly proportional to the number of adults we have attending. Yes, we serve a lot of processed foods; Yes, the food could be hotter; Yes, we could have more selections for vegetarians; Yes, the dining hall is cramped/tight/warm........benches that seat four scouts can seat only two adults, but four are there regardless. Yes.....we have heard this over and over and over again. This is the reason for the new dining hall which would be built now if I received $5 for each complaint I had to listen to over the past five years. You may be surprised to hear this; not one scout has ever....ever died of starvation or malnutrition during their week at Camp Parsons. You would be surprised how many fruits and vegetables we throw away each day. Bottom line, most adults are complaining because the food is not what they would want and I understand.......but the camp is designed for Boy Scouts, not adult leaders. That being said, salad bars are planned in the new dining hall as are more meals from scratch and we always have fruit available at each meal if you want to encourage your scouts to eat them. We want the kids to have nutritious meals (and that is a big definition), be happy and full without having to jack up the cost of camp fees only to find that most of it heads towards the dumpsters.
I don't mean to be too harsh as we depend on adult volunteers to power this program. If adult leaders did not take vacation time to be with their troops then there would be no Camp Parsons.....just a bunch of us old cynical folks sitting on the shores of Jackson Cove (hey, wait a minute....). However, when I am asked how many adults should a troop come with.....it will always be "two" as my first thought.