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Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

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  • #16
    If you notice your 16 year old Life Scout can't help the newbies put up a dining fly with appropriate knots, by all means sit down with him and the newbies and practice knots. Every camp out you have a chance to reassess every active Scout's outdoor skills as well as every troop meeting. A lot of those skills are use-it-or-lose-it.

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    • #17
      Regarding weak merit badge clinics, why not go back to the boy? They're supposed to be the ones in charge of their advancement and achievements after all.

      I usually ask my son about badges he has done. Some of them he will say "I really learned a lot" and then go over some of his favorite parts. Others I will ask him, do you think you completed all the requirements fully? And there have been instances where he has said no and gone on to redo them despite already having a signed blue card.

      Every merit badge counselor is a volunteer and you will have great ones, good ones, not so good ones, and awful ones. But it is the scout who is supposed to be Trustworthy, and do things on his Honor.

      Will that work with all boys? No, but it's worth a try. Some will understand that without integrity a badge is just a piece of cloth.

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      • #18
        So Joebob

        Exactly what, from your perspective, skills make a boy scout?

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        • #19
          I am actually all for a national standard. As mentioned, people do move around.

          There are several problems as I see it.

          #1 is the "One and Done" mentality that is pervasive. Heck you even get that one and done attitude from reading training syllabi from national.

          Instead we need to get back to basics and focus on MASTERY of the skills. Unfortuantely that word is not in the BSHB, and the closest to that is the sentence, which I need to paraphrase, ' The badge represents what the Scout can do, not what he has done" which is not even in the book or any trainging literature, but in the G2A,

          #2 We really need to do a better job of getting parents, and leaders as well, out of the Cub Scout ideal of "doing your best" to earn something.

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          • #20
            Eagle92,

            I think we've discussed this before but the trouble with the word "mastery" is that it is very subjective and has led to "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" in the past. That is why words like "demonstrate", "explain", "plan", "participate" and "show" are used.

            Just a note on the Guide to Advancement and it's place in the literature of Scouting. There are two advancement definitive sources for Boy Scout advancement, all other books and internet pages are supplemental as far as Boy Scout advancement is concerned.

            Guide to Advancement - BSA definitive source for advancement policies and procedures for all programs (publication cycle is about every 2-3 years)

            Boy Scout Requirements Book - BSA definitive source for Boy Scout requirements (comes out annually)

            Which is why every troop should have a current copy of both of these.

            You said: "We really need to do a better job of getting parents, and leaders as well, out of the Cub Scout ideal of "doing your best" to earn something. "

            I agree with that.(This message has been edited by bnelon44)

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            • #21
              JoeBob,

              You said, "But the physical skills that make a Boy Scout a Boy Scout, I am going to retest, re-teach, and reinforce. If national thinks that is bad, I look forward to being fired!"

              Rest assured that national doesn't think it is bad. Retesting is just not part of advancement. Remember, advancement should not be the entire program of any one troop. I think people feel that if it isn't part of advancement it isn't part of the program. Remember advancement is only one of eight methods in Boy Scouting.

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              • #22
                Bravo, TwoCubDad!

                Yah, there is no need whatsoever for an imposed federal/national regulatory system. We're talkin' about mentoring kids here, not makin' hamburgers. Kids are different. They need different approaches and different programs. Adult volunteers and COs are different. They, too, need different approaches and different programs to meet their goals and needs and styles. Let's celebrate freedom, diversity, and federalism!

                There's a basic rule which is exemplified by BSA advancement. Standardization of human outputs will almost always trend toward least-common-denominator mediocrity. The only way to make it easy for kids to transfer hither and yon between troops is to set the standard to the lowest possible. That way no matter where yeh come from or where yeh go you'll never be "behind." Standardization of human outputs has da exact opposite effect as engineering standards or hamburger standards, eh? It's da worst form of union work-rules. Every worker has to do the same, and do the minimum, for da same reward.

                So rather than havin' da BSA national Department of Education wastin' time and money, I see nuthin' at all wrong with trusting the local folks. We're trusting them to take our children into the wilderness, surely we can trust 'em to handle badges.

                Yah, yah, folks will point out that some will set standards so low as to be ridiculous. Like they're not now? Remember "active=registered"? That's fine, then. Set some minimum national expectations. No subtracting from da requirements or yeh lose accreditation. But let the local folks then set any requirements for advancement above that that they wish, the same way local school boards can set higher expectations than the state. Publish those requirements broadly, and let parents and boys choose where it's best to spend their time. Let college admissions officers and military recruiters and employers look up whether Eagle was earned in a de minimis program or one that set higher standards locally.

                Yah, I know, that's all old-school conservative notions. But yeh didn't expect anything else from me, right?

                Beavah

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                • #23
                  I think we've discussed this before but the trouble with the word "mastery" is that it is very subjective and has led to "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" in the past.

                  Oh fer cryin' out loud, not the dreaded "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" boogeyman. I would suggest that 99.9% of all allegations of "Scoutmaster gatekeeper abuse" fall into one of two categories:

                  1 - clueless parent unhappy that their precious little one was actually held to a standard and asked to accomplish something instead of being recognized just for showing up and breathing.

                  2 - a poor choice for a Scoutmaster who's mishandling of the advancement method is almost certainly not the worst thing he or she is doing wrong, and should be replaced.

                  Seriously, a SM who is actually abusing the advancement method beyond the perfectly reasonable level of expecting Scouts to know the skill is most likely setting a poor example in other, more important, ways. This is the guy who is supposed to be mentoring the youth about character and citizenship. If he can't be trusted to be a fair and reasonable judge of the offical recognition the Scouts recieve, he is the wrong man for the job.

                  Beavah's comment about least common denominators applies to adults too. BSA appears to be creating a National Standard for SMs around the least common denominator of being able to scribble your intials and a date on an advancement form.

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                  • #24
                    Let's see how STEM works out, it is suppose to add a layer of proficiency and retention over and above merit badges.

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                    • #25
                      How about this as a standard:

                      Would you feel comfortable with the scout using the skills learned in an emergency situation where your life is on the line?

                      That was the standard for sign off in my old troop. And one of the scouts from my troop saved my life probably when I got hypothermia.

                      Now a story I heard a part of, but got a fuller story recently. A Scout troop was backpacking on the AT when their SM had a heart attack. The SM had no history of heart disease prior to the trip. Troop stabilized him using basic FA MB skills to stabilize him and transport him to an evac point. Knew the SM had a heart attack at a scout function, didn't realize it was on the AT.

                      Kinda sad that national doesn't trust the material it uses to teach folks stuff for their program requirements, i.e. Wilderness FA being required from an outside agency,

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                      • #26
                        Advancement is not certification. It never was intended as such. Certifications are obtained and have to then be renewed on a regular basis. Renew or you lose it. That has never been required for ranks or merit badges. People assume the ranks and merit badges mean a lot more than they actually do or were ever intended on meaning.

                        If you want your Scouts certified in something, then get them certified and have them renew their certifications when they expire, but don't try to cram it in the advancement program where it doesn't belong.

                        And yes, ideally, everyone going on a backpack should have taken Wilderness First Aid and CPR. But with Wilderness First Aid costing $289+ for each participant, they aren't.

                        Some councils have partnered with the Red Cross (and so has national) to get Scouters trained as instructors in WFA. There is even an approved BSA syllabus for the course. But it isn't that common yet, so you end up going outside where people are trying to make money off of it.(This message has been edited by bnelon44)

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                        • #27
                          While the MBs and advancement are not certifications in the legal sense, they are in a realistic sense. As mentioned previously mastery of skills was the expectation, and if a scout had First Class, it was expected that he had the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to lead a patrol on their own on an overnite expereince. Even the G2A states that the badge being worn should represent what a Scout is capable of doing and not what he has done.

                          EDITED: Best examples of this are the SCOUTS IN ACTION cartoons in Boys' Life, and Whitey doing the rescue on the patrol hike in FOLLOW ME BOYS.

                          If a scout had FA MB, Lifesaving MB, etc it was expected that he had the KSA to be able to rescue someone. Heck I remember when ARC and YMCA watered down the Lifeguard certification in the early 1990s, and I would rather trust my life with someone who earned Lifesaving MB under the requirements of the 80s and early 90s than someone I certified as a YMCA Lifeguard as the the MB required more skills and covered more situations than the certification program. Heck I would trust my life with 2 Scouts who FAILED Lifesaving MB because they did not have the upper body strength to get me on the deck than one lifeguard I worked with. Other than getting me out of the pool, they could do all the escapes, releases, and holds with no problem.

                          And to be honest, I think a FA MB course, if done in a hands on, high expectation environment like my FA MB class, is 100 times better than the current first aid portion of AHA Heartsaver First Aid, CPR, AED course that is mostly watching a video for the first aid stuff.

                          Now the CPR stuff AHA does in the course is spot on, but the First Aid is boring.(This message has been edited by Eagle92)

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                          • #28
                            If a scout has the sand to make Eagle, he'll do whatever it takes to make the grade.

                            Additional requirements, be they arbitrary or useful or otherwise, will not discourage him in the least.

                            He'll put in the extra work to succeed. And when mom pins that medal on at the court of honor, it'll really mean something.

                            After all, "extra requirements" are a part of life. College, jobs, family, religious practice, citizenship--none are reduced to a checklist of mandated minimum standards. Life requires "extra requirements."

                            Definition of Eagle vary. I'd submit that "firmness of purpose" should be near the very top of the list of Eagle attributes.

                            (This message has been edited by desertrat77)

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                            • #29
                              If a Scout has earned a rank and or merit badge but as the Scoutmaster (who is in charge of the advancement program on the troop) you feel the Scout is rusty or worse with that skill - simply assign him to teach that skill to younger Scouts in the troop. That will be a big motivation for him to get proficient real quick. Of course, offer him all the adult support he may need to obtain that proficiency too.

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                              • #30
                                If a Scout has earned a rank and or merit badge but as the Scoutmaster (who is in charge of the advancement program on the troop) you feel the Scout is rusty or worse with that skill - simply assign him to teach that skill to younger Scouts in the troop. That will be a big motivation for him to get proficient real quick.

                                Or, alternately, yeh will end up with a whole bunch of younger scouts who have been signed off but don't know da skill either. :P Most true proficiency doesn't come "real quick". I reckon that's the more likely outcome, eh? Being as it is da path of least resistance. Yeh see it in a lot of troops, and in a lot of youthful instructors at many scout camps. And, to be honest, yeh see it in a lot of adults who aren't themselves proficient and so who sign off on rank for the lads to mask their own lack of confidence.

                                Somewhere along da way there has to be a hard check. That can happen in many ways.

                                The lad can be told that even though he has Swimming and Canoeing MB, he doesn't have da skills to come on the Boundary Waters canoe trip, based on the skill check / "retest" before da trip. He wants to be part of a higher skill set group that gets to do more.

                                The lad can be put in front of adults or peers in other situations where he has to perform da skill on demand, and (potentially) be embarrassed. He wants to be recognized for his skills.

                                The lad can be put in situations where the skill is needed, and his failure to do the skill (potentially) results in discomfort or fear. He wants to feel confident and secure.

                                Yah, all those and more will work, eh?

                                But da whole point of da Advancement Method is to get a lad to that place without that sort of higher-stakes approach! Advancement creates an artificial system that taps into the fact that boys want to be part of a higher-skill group (rank!) that gets to do more. Advancement provides an artificial system to tap into the need for boys to be recognized for their skills in a positive way, rather than riskin' embarrassment for failure. Advancement provides an artificial means to help boys work toward confidence and security in skills before they are needed, thus avoidin' that discomfort and fear.

                                In other words, da point of Advancement is to help the lad get to the point where he will be a proficient, confident performer, eh? And after a bit of experience performing, where he'll be ready to be trusted as an instructor and want to step up.

                                "Here kid, instruct this because you don't know it!" to my mind is just a cruel thing that sets the boy up for embarrassment and failure. Better to fix your advancement program so da badge means proficiency, and so being asked to be an instructor is a High Compliment, not a punishment.

                                Beavah

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