Saturday, June 1, 2013

Less Fun with Logic Problems

There is an old logic problem about a farmer who, for whatever reason, is transporting a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage and comes to a river. Fortunately, there is a boat to cross the river. Unfortunately, the boat is only large enough for the farmer and one other object at a time. If the farmer leaves the wolf and the goat alone, the wolf will eat the goat. If the farmer leaves the goat an the cabbage alone, the goat will eat the cabbage. How does the farmer get all three objects safely across the river?

This is considered an elementary logic problem. There are two solutions, which are variants of each other. Still, it is a useful exercise to consider how to order things so that predators are not allowed to be alone with their prey.

The Boy Scouts of America have recently proposed another logic problem, which is not elementary.

In a recent meeting the Boy Scouts of America made a change in their membership rules to allow homosexual scouts. They apparently did so without realizing or without caring about the logic problem that it creates. For purposes of this analysis, we are considering only the scoutmaster's point of view. Scoutmasters' concerns are similar to but not identical with parent's concerns.

In order to reach the lowest rank in scouting, Tenderfoot, one must go on a scout campout. Another is required for the next rank, Second Class, and a third to reach First Class. So scouts, if they are to be involved and advancing in scouts, are required to go on scout campouts. Any parent can see that that creates a problem.

Every scout on every scout activity has to have a buddy. It is for the scout's protection. If you are injured or hurt you want to have a buddy who can go for help.

Let's suppose that we have a homosexual scout, call him A(lbert). Let's call his buddy B(ob). Albert and Bob can hike together, cook together. That is wonderful and what scouts do. But Albert and Bob have to share a tent and sleep together and dress together. This is a nightmare. To see why, suppose that instead it was Alfred and Barbara. Would anyone think that Alfred and Barbara sharing a tent was a problem? Of course they would. Having boys and girls sleep and dress together is widely seen as inappropriate. If we know that Alfred is sexually attracted to girls and Barbara is a girl, then we do not want them sharing a tent on a campout. We may not want them sharing a campout even if they are not in the same tent. Likewise if we know that Albert is sexually attracted to boys and Bob is a boy, we do not want them sharing a tent on a campout. It is like leaving the wolf with the goat or the goat with the cabbage. Perhaps nothing will happen, but do you risk it?

Because Albert and Bob are "buddies", however, they have to share a tent.

Perhaps one of the scoutmasters could share the tent and act as a chaperone. Alas that is specifically forbidden by scout Youth Protection rules. Scoutmasters cannot share a tent with the scouts.

The logic problem the Boy Scouts of America have left the scoutmasters is: How do you protect Bob? The scoutmasters can be following all the guidelines, but if something happens to Bob, they are the most likely to get sued. The guidelines leave them with no options.

Scouting's Youth Protection Program is laudable and works to protect the youth because it assumes that scoutmasters cannot be trusted even though the vast majority of scoutmasters are honorable men who would not dream of harming the youth in their charge. The policies in place are designed assuming the worst and having the scoutmasters protect the youth from the other scoutmasters. No guidelines on these new scenarios, which will occur, has been forthcoming.

At the minimum, these are the conditions:
  • The youth have to go on campouts.
  • Adults may not share a tent with youth.
  • Individuals should not be sharing a tent with those to whom they are sexually attracted.
  • Every youth has to have a buddy.
  • Everyone has to share a tent with their buddy.

So the Boy Scouts of America have come up with a difficult and high-stakes logic problem and left it up to the scoutmasters to try to find a solution.

Scout executives will not even admit what they have done. Here is Cory Maloy sticking his head in the sand. Here is Jason Wright doing the same. Here is the Utah National Parks Council avoiding the issue. The unaddressed concern is not Albert's feelings but Bob's safety. In many, perhaps most, instances nothing will happen, but Youth Protection is not about the majority of cases where nothing happens but about preventing the tiny fraction of cases where something does. With an individual group of ten scouts nothing might happen, but with millions of scouts something is virtually certain to happen. After all, an estimated one percent of men in the military were sexually assaulted last year. (If you are wondering what the ancient angle is on this, then you need only read Xenophon, which until the twentieth century was required reading for admission to college.) The question is not should the youth be protected but how? Until Scout executives tackle the logic problem, however, the youth will be vulnerable.

The Church has said:
We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.
One should be curious about how BSA will solve the logical problem. They have thus far shown no interest in doing so. Michael Otterson, the head of Church public affairs ends his statement saying:
Let’s remember, it has always been – and should always be – about the boys.
Yes, it should be about the boys, and that includes protecting Bob.