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Historical Misconceptions and Program Level Confusion

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  • Historical Misconceptions and Program Level Confusion

    It seems to me that a vast majority of the posters on the forum have not seriously studied the history of BSA, especially on the levels of camping and hiking realities. Most histories do not deal with much in the actual program areas, nor details of unit activity. This leads to a lot of misconceptions about how "macho" early scouts were compared to today. Reality is that many units, those with the broadest and strongest programs (are a lot out there in every council), would blow the average unit back then away in a contest of skills. Many troops took various levels of public transport to go camping; but many did little real camping, just a lot of hiking. Skills related to camping were often practiced in day sessions. Many scouts did not have even the basic equipment, so they made their own; but this was really heavy and often inefficient. Also, many boys had family responsibilities that did not allow them to go overnight, especially in the farming communities. None of this is to say that there were not some very good camping units. There were, but they were mostly mediocre at best even then.

    As noted in other discussions, we also are now dealing with so many out of our control rules from state, county, and even federal levels that often we are hamstrung. Of course, we also have the disappearance of much of the camping areas, or at least the free ones. Even backpacking at the most popular places requires special permits and sometimes scheduling two years in advance; that applies to Philmont as well. As recently as 1979 when I took my first trek with my unit, we were able to register easily a year out. Now there is a lottery, and we did not win it 4 times, though in 1990 we were able to go again. Also, two deep leadership, while absolutely a good thing and warranted, was not required until the 80's.

    Many of the hiking and camping impressions stated in these forums were no more common in early days than they are today. In 1910 matches existed, and the fire starting requirement was using two matches. Friction and flint and steel were even then other methods that often were used, but not mandatory for advancement. Modern technology, such as it was, was encouraged even in the teens. An interesting example was how the government turned to scouts to help train adults in early radio useage, as scouts were building them, crystal sets, all over and knew more than most adults, just like many elements today related to computers and related technology. Baden Powell said in one of his books that using new methods and techniques is an important part of scouting, as it broadened the program and made it more efficient. He noted his use of a dictaphone for his later writing, allowing his secretary to more easily decipher his intent and save a lot of rewriting due to errors in written transcripts.

    The other area of misconception that tends to skew the discussions is the misunderstanding by some that you cannot really compare most elements of the program across the various levels. Cubbing absolutely cannot be discussed in most instances in comparison to Scouting. Much of the Venturing and related older programs are almost diametrically opposite from basic Scouting, though the high adventure areas and merit badges do intertwine. An example of this I encountered last week at summer camp was a parent fresh in a troop from Cubbing. We have a Boy Scout Leader training available at camp when one local trainer is there with his unit, and that was going on for a number of days. This gentleman, who was not in the training, asked about it and was convinced it had to be Baloo. When I tried to explain Baloo was cubbing, he adamently argued; so I gave up convincing him. This lack of understanding the different levels even contributes to some extent to the media's skewed reporting. Too often they compare apples to oranges.

    We need to fall back to greater competency in some areas of our programs, that is a given. But all the hew and cry about how the "old" program was so much better is simply nonsense. And the idea we will every get back to the percentages of youth involved that occurred in the score of years after WWII is wishful thinking. Society has changed, and Scouting is now just one of the myriad things youth can do. In the post war era through the late 60's we were living with the parents and grandparents that went through the depression and two wars. Idealism and even God were more important.

    Besides being a scouting historian of sorts and having read a lot of little known books and articles on scouting in the early days at the unit level, I also am a bit spoiled in having been involved with a troop that began in 1921 and has much of its history still intact, including journal entries of camping and other things. One book I have, Thirteen Years of Scouting Adventure talks about a troop in Chicago in the first decade or two of BSA. They would go to the railyard and hop a train to the country, then hop off in the woods and farm country to find a place to camp, or picnic. There is even one tale of sending smallest, most pitiful scout to beg for food at farm houses. My own troop has photos of one its founder's farm truck loaded for camping. It had specially constructed boxes that sat over the wheel wells of the stake truck; lids dropped down on chains to the outside of the truck, once the sides were removed. One side had staple food such as flour, rice, and so on, while the other had cooking and eating equipment. There was a third cupboard that sat below the window between the sides. Once the cupboards were in place, the scouts and leaders piled gear on the floor of the truck, then climbed on top. The gate was put on, and they went to a remote farmer's field or orchard or up the mountain road until it ended near a river. They carried rifles and fishing gear most of the time as well. Even in 50's and 60's we still rode in the back of trucks to activities.

    Ultimately, we can only work on the unit level to offer the best program we can, working within the limits of BSA and all the other levels of bureacracy. Do what we CAN DO and quit the complaining and excuses. JMHO
    Last edited by skeptic; 07-20-2014, 02:22 PM.

  • #2
    So, what you're saying is, the good ol' days weren't always as good as some people think they were?

    Comment


    • #3
      NJ, I think that is what skeptic is saying and since those days are gone, move on with the now?

      If I could time transport my sons back to the mediocre scout troop that I was in in 60's, I would do it in a New York minute.

      We did not camp as much, we hiked more, but both were local. Our gear was army surplus, what we could borrow and occasionally what we could make. We never backpacked as our gear was too heavy, and we had no dutch ovens or iron skillets. Aluminum foil was KING!

      So why was the program so much better - we scouts lead the troop and that began the ADVENTURE to follow. We trained, planned, and prepared our own outings. I can only remember ONE hike where an adult accompanied us (he wanted to break in his boots). Philmont only required ONE adult accompany us in '69 and that was a disappointment. He was not needed. At 15 or so, our scouts should be ready for solo outdoor experiences as was done then. Philmont went the wrong direction regarding age requirements and adult supervision.

      The BSA compounded the problem with alternate advancement requirements. Personal Fitness was a tough merit badge for some of us, but everyone who passed met the same minimum requirements (pull-ups, push-ups, running,...) Eagles were physically strong and there was little question of their physical ability for outdoor activities. The Program had CHALLENGE with higher standards.

      Skill comparisons are skewed by differences in gear and outdoor policies. We made plenty of cathole latrines and dug drainage trenches around tents (no floors). Traditional scout skills like rope/knots, compass/map, knife/ax/WHITTLING, fire-building were stronger. We cooked over wood fire (coated the pan outside with Comet) - no charcoal, no stoves. We did have a Coleman lantern but that was the SM's gizmo.

      No idiotic adult patrols, one or two adults on campouts and they were our guests.

      More later...

      The gear has improved in some ways but now often requires adults to manage. Break a wooden tent pole, make a new one. No stoves to maintain or explosive fuel to store. We could repair our old Baker tents. We made our own waterproof matches.

      Camporees were about inter-troop patrol competitions, long gone now. but heh look at this new cool gear we got - a generator and a... keeping up with the Jones' oh and the occasional uniform police.

      Activities were more about teaching and letting scouts test themselves. Today it about entertaining scouts - fireworks, rock concerts, internet,...

      Scouts were moved along in the program. No one wanted to do the same thing each year. If scouts went to summer camp, they were 11-13, older scouts were either CIT's or counselor. Your participation in the program changed as you got older. Also the program was but a part of a boy's life, a boy learned to prioritize and balance family, school, work, community, scouts. I remember my SM checking report cards at the end of each period. If he was not happy with your grades, he assigned an older scout to tutor at that troop meeting. Troop POR's were not required for advancement. If a scout showed leadership in school, sports, community, or church that was accepted as leadership. In other words, leadership and scout advancement were separate.

      Did we think we were "roughing it"? Not so much. We were getting away from family (some sad stories there) and learning to live on our own and work together with our peers (patrol method). Mistakes and all, we were growing into men, thanks to being scouts.

      Yeah Youth Protection, but IMHO we have lost more than we have gained and I would point to the youth membership drop as proof.

      My $0.02
      Last edited by RememberSchiff; 07-21-2014, 08:51 AM.

      Comment


      • #4
        I really don't know what skeptic was trying to say. I think stories of the old days are great and fun to listen to, but I imagine my dad was listening to the same stories in 1944, when he was a 15 year old SM.

        I also have, or had, quite a bit of knowledge of the ends and outs of the program and in my opinion most folks here don’t have a clue why the BSA numbers are really declining. Oh it’s nice to validate ones biased personal opinion based on a local experience, but I think you would be surprised by the reality.

        And yes, I agree that the BSA seems to struggle to keep the program outdoors, but when you start to understand that 75 percent of new scout leaders today did not have a boy scout youth experience, then you can see why there isn’t as much demand for the back woods experience in the first place.

        And I while I admire and fully respect the efforts of women in our program, as long as they are allowed to have some input into the future of the program, it will only get worse. No disrespect to these noble hard working volunteers, but how can a program realistically maintain a consistent level of outdoor adventure and experience when the average adult proposing future changes didn’t have any experience as boy scout or outdoor experiences in the woods?

        Truth is the BSA has always changed with the times because the adult volunteers who drive the program use the skills and tools of their time. But when the culture started to detest the skills and methods of scouting, the program started losing its way toward becoming irrelevant. In the early days, the experiences of learning the skills required to survive in the woods also gave a boy freedom and confidence to work toward personal dreams. Scouting isn’t about freedom today. It is more about program because program is all the vision todays adults know. Anyone dare to let a patrol hike off for the weekend by themselves? Forget BSA policy, would anyone here encourage a patrol to camp for the weekend by themselves? Why not, don’t they have the skills? What’s the use in teaching confidence of independence if the adults lack the confidence to let the boys test their skills through independence?

        Today’s adults aren’t equipped to run the program of 25 years ago, much less 50 years ago. So to move forward, the BSA must change to fit with today’s adults. Is that what skeptic was trying to say?

        Barry
        Last edited by Eagledad; 07-21-2014, 09:54 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          When was the good ole days? 20's, 50's, 70's, 90's? Very little is the same in the world today as it was 30 or more years ago. Not just Scouting but all activities. Was it better then? Well it was different then.

          I know we used a military surplus equipment. Not because it was better, but because it was available and relatively cheap. There not were camping supply speicialty stores on every corner like today. There wasn't as much gear to buy or worry about not having. It just didn't exist.

          Instead of having a specific multi-layer jacket of an outer shell, inner jacket, and liner, we just had a coat. If it was really cold we wore a sweater or a sweat shirt. Military ponchos were the only kind of rain gear available. Heavy and about as useless as any poncho.

          We can ramble on about how the youth used to lead the program and adults run everything today. Well...it still depends on the troop culture. I am sure you could find many adult lead troops 30+ years ago.

          Were things better when I was scout in the 70's? There were what they were and my troop was what it was. Good or bad, that was my scouting experience. We were just a bunch of goofy kids who wanted to go out and have fun and see if we could find an adventure. We loaded up the station wagons and the dads drove us out to the mountains or country and we camped. We thought we were doing something fun. We didn't worry about weather we were learning leadership, or life skills or whatever other buzzword of the day. We were having fun playing with sticks, rocks and mud. We would scramble over areas that were difficult and get skinned knees. We did what all kids have done since the beginning of time. We picked on each other, we told stuipd jokes, laughed, farted, and whinned about inconsequential stuff.

          No one was writing down the stuff my son's troop does. There is no written record of how the boys felt about their leadership-team building experiences. Its just a bunch of goofy boys looking to have some fun. Along the way there are some merit badges that get down, some rank advancement gets checked off, but mostly an opportunity for young men to get away from their everyday life and have a chance to try something different.

          Scouting does not have to be as scripted, documented and analyzed as we discuss on this board. People come here to argue the finer points. We need to sometimes back off just a little and go out and play.

          Comment


          • #6
            Great thread. People look at the past with rose colored glasses. The program is supposed to change with the times. Troops are supposed to provide an engaging program that the scouts want to participate in. The focus should be on getting scouts to enjoy the outdoors. My scouts like camping so they can be on their own, goofing around. They perform scout skills because they are in the situations that requires them. A troop's activities are governed by the adults willing to drive the scout and participate with them. I met a adult who loved camping but refused to go hiking more than a few miles, because he did not believe in it. If we all want a better program it is up to the adult leaders to help the troop and district have a better program.

            Comment


            • #7
              I wasn't saying that the program is supposed to change. Some things need to updated for sure, but my point is the program changes as a result of the skills and abilities of the adult volunteers entering the program. My observation is that has not been a good thing for scouting overall. Barry
              Last edited by Eagledad; 07-21-2014, 01:29 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                I was in scouts from 71 to 77 or so near Seattle. We did a lot of camping and, backpacking. The troop didn't have a lot of gear. I remember those military half tents, cook kits, svea stoves and snow shoes. Nothing more. The tents were only used if we didn't hike far into camp. Most of the backpacking trips, each scout brought a 10'x10' sheet of 4 mil plastic. We needed to know how to tie taut lines and two-half hitches to set up camp. A rope between two trees, a pinecone on the corners of the tarp to make leantos. Curl the uphill side of the ground tarp around sticks to keep the water underneath. We were wet a lot. Most outings we cooked over a fire and coated the outside of the pots with soap. I remember eating a lot of ash covered pancakes from the coals shifting. We carried cups on our belts and dipped them in creeks for a drink as we hiked by. I think the stoves were only used when it was so darn wet that setting up a cooking fire would take half the day. I sort of remember an adult or two being on the outings but I don't remember them ever doing anything more than just being there.
                I remember working on skill awards at troop meetings but the troop didn't push advancement other than first class skills. I don't believe any scouts earned Eagle while I was a member. The only reason I earned Star was that I just happened to notice I had completed most all the requirements and let the Scoutmaster know.

                My scouting experience was completely different than my sons. We both went to summer camp and went on camp outs. My son's troop never went backpacking. I tried to get them out, but none of the adults were physically up to it and one adult no longer flies. On their outings, they have all kinds of gear. A trailer, and patrol boxes, chairs and cots. I don't think the self reliance and team work that developed with the camping I did as a scout is even possible with the type of camping of my son's troop. There were plenty of well meaning adults, but perhaps that was the problem.
                Like resqman wrote, we were just a bunch of goofy kids who wanted to go out and have fun and we did.

                Here we are taking a break from the day's hike on a 50 miler in the Olympics. I think this was August 76.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I was in scouts from 71 to 77 or so near Seattle. We did a lot of camping and, backpacking. The troop didn't have a lot of gear. I remember those military half tents, cook kits, svea stoves and snow shoes. Nothing more. The tents were only used if we didn't hike far into camp. Most of the backpacking trips, each scout brought a 10'x10' sheet of 4 mil plastic. We needed to know how to tie taut lines and two-half hitches to set up camp. A rope between two trees, a pinecone on the corners of the tarp to make leantos. Curl the uphill side of the ground tarp around sticks to keep the water underneath. We were wet a lot. Most outings we cooked over a fire and coated the outside of the pots with soap. I remember eating a lot of ash covered pancakes from the coals shifting. We carried cups on our belts and dipped them in creeks for a drink as we hiked by. I think the stoves were only used when it was so darn wet that setting up a cooking fire would take half the day. I sort of remember an adult or two being on the outings but I don't remember them ever doing anything more than just being there.

                  I remember working on skill awards at troop meetings but the troop didn't push advancement other than first class skills. I don't believe any scouts earned Eagle while I was a member. The only reason I earned Star was that I just happened to notice I had completed most all the requirements and let the Scoutmaster know.

                  My scouting experience was completely different than my sons. We both went to summer camp and went on camp outs. My son's troop never went backpacking. I tried to get them out, but none of the adults were physically up to it and one adult no longer flies. On their outings, they have all kinds of gear. A trailer, and patrol boxes, chairs and cots. I don't think the self reliance and team work that developed with the camping I did as a scout is even possible with the type of camping of my son's troop. There were plenty of well meaning adults, but perhaps that was the problem.

                  Like resqman wrote, we were just a bunch of goofy kids who wanted to go out and have fun and we did.
                  Last edited by SWScouter; 07-21-2014, 03:50 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Nature is timeless and so are parents' desire to raise kids that can be responsible for themselves. Nature is a good play ground that's a lot of fun and also presents a consistent set of problems to help develop responsibility. So the nature/boy match is still a good fit.

                    I agree with Eagledad that the adults don't understand how to use that. I'm not sure they ever did, or at least the BSA never gave them many ideas on how to do it. I think it's more a case that there were a lot of vets that could figure out how to translate what they learned in the military to scouts. And there were plenty that did a bad job of that. While I remember the fun I also remember having to march in formation before dinner at summer camp. I did not like that but that song they played while we marched still brings back memories of summer camp.

                    Rather than vets we now have parents that have more industry experience. Current parents are also very involved with their kids. That can be a good thing but it's a double edged sword. A scout from a nearby troop is looking to join ours and when I asked why I got an ear full. The boys have never run that troop and it bounces between no leadership and now it's adult crazy to the point of telling boys which meetings and campouts they must go on. They are on a tight shipping schedule.

                    Eagledad mentions that adults are reluctant to let their kids go camping alone. Way back when the definition of scarry was fighting for your life while people shot back. So sure, go camping on your own where nobody is shooting back, you'll be fine. Now, scarry is not real, it's imaginary. It's what might happen if the TSA guys don't do their job or some idiot in the Ukraine shoots down an airliner). Some people do see it up close but most don't.

                    The BSA needs to understand what it is a good scouter does and then figure out how to teach it. They have to quit assuming that it's easy to figure it out based on vague lists of phrases. It's not high tech. If someone has never swung an axe before then give them an hour and a big pile of wood to split. Realize you can't teach all first class skills in 6 hours. Have scouter ranks. Have a Scouter MB for what a good eagle project is, or how to work with a PL. Some adults won't advance very far but some will eat it all up.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I'd personally like to see the program move toward more outdoor and more backwoods focus, and I'm trying to encourage my own Troop in that direction. I have encouraged my Patrols - particularly the Leadership group that's clearly capable - to go out on their own sometime. Hikes, camping, whatever you want. Not an "official" Scout event, you understand, just a group of young friends going camping or hiking.

                      I completely agree with "Realize you can't teach all first class skills in 6 hours." I had a kid transfer to my Troop who had been on 2 campouts and attended Summer Camp and was two requirements from First Class. Totally ridiculous, and the other Troop almost ruined him as a Scout. I tell my Adults that I want these kids proficient when they get a sign-off - we'll leave the half-assed stuff to others. If I bust an ankle on a hike, I want these Scouts to know how to take care of me.

                      I don't much care "how it used to be" or how it was when I was a Scout (although I frequently refer to the campouts I went on that were Patrol Members only - no Adults at all). There's a place for outdoor adventure in the life of every boy. That's what we should be trying to deliver.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I left a troop where the adults decided all of the campouts and activities. The adults would canceled most of them if the weather was not perfect. I now recruit adults who like a little adventure. They don't have to be outdoorsman, but want to have fun for a weekend. I believe in the scouts setting up their campsite far enough that I can hear them but not make out anything they say. We as adult need to encourage our fellow adult to let the boys experience life and be out in the wilds. The hard part is to turn off the helicoptering instinct of most parents. The other big push I have started is 1st class rank in 2 years not 1. Scoutmaster conferences only at campouts. This gets the scouts camping and gives the patrol leaders time to work on skills. BSA needs to abolish the once and done mentality of skills.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          When I was A Scout...I was in several Different Troops in Different States...In California in Hacienda Heights..We did a lot of Camping. In Fontana we did Camping..In Montclair we did Camping...We of Course Drove to those Camps...We had a lot of Adults go with Us.
                          When I moved to Sherman Texas..we did Camping..And Finally when I moved to Wichita Falls Texas We did Camping....All The Camping had one thing in Common...We drove from Urban Areas to "Wilderness Areas" such as State and National Parks, sometimes Private Property at Maybe Big Bear Lake, Time Did not allow us to plan long extended "Backpacking" trips.

                          Difference I see today is all the Limitations and Rules..and Fancy Equipment
                          We use to Climb Trees, Climb Rocks, Shot Slingshots, Slept in Old Baker Tents...We were allowed to run jump and play...no one Worried that we might get a Boo Boo..Today it is so Structured towards safety..there is Hardly no Fun

                          Don't Blame the Parents only for Helicoptering. BSA Encourages it....Back in My Day...You did not need all the Training required today to have Fun.
                          BSA is turning Sissy because someone might get hurt and they May get sued because over it.
                          I was hunting alone with a .22 and a 410 at 7
                          I was Camping out in a Pasture by a Stock Tank alone at 7 also. I built a A Frame Shelter, caught my own Dinner, cleaned it and Cooked it all alone.
                          Scouting in America does not recognize the Fact that Youth want to do outdoor stuff. I had Cub Scouts quit scouting because they could not Camp more, Could not Shot Guns, Could Not Climb Rock walls, Can't ride BMX Bikes..stuff they do outside Scouting.outside of Scouting.

                          I would say if I was a Youth Today I would quit Scouting and join a Outdoor Group that Does what we use to do in Scouting.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by scoutergipper View Post
                            I have encouraged my Patrols - particularly the Leadership group that's clearly capable - to go out on their own sometime. Hikes, camping, whatever you want. Not an "official" Scout event, you understand, just a group of young friends going camping or hiking.
                            Yes, I understand. What I understand is that if you think the non-"official" part is going to protect you if something goes wrong, you may be in for a nasty surprise one day. Please know that I am not trying to pick on you. You are only trying to provide a good outdoor experience for your Scouts, which is great. But I have been hearing about these "unofficial" or "family" or "group of friends" outings for years, both in this forum and in real life - whether it's laser-tag, whitewater rafting for Cub Scouts, or whatever. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, and more importantly, it may sue you like a duck. (Ok, that line didn't really work, but I'm leaving it in anyway.)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by NJCubScouter View Post

                              Yes, I understand. What I understand is that if you think the non-"official" part is going to protect you if something goes wrong, you may be in for a nasty surprise one day. Please know that I am not trying to pick on you. You are only trying to provide a good outdoor experience for your Scouts, which is great. But I have been hearing about these "unofficial" or "family" or "group of friends" outings for years, both in this forum and in real life - whether it's laser-tag, whitewater rafting for Cub Scouts, or whatever. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck, and more importantly, it may sue you like a duck. (Ok, that line didn't really work, but I'm leaving it in anyway.)
                              I read it as: hey guys, you can do things with each other outside of scouts including outdoor stuff.

                              Comment

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