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SPL - Necessity, luxury or something else?

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  • #31
    Of course the Scoutmaster talks to the other Scouts. Just like the principal in an elementary schools converses with students. But, a principal should not step into a classroom and overshadow the teacher and begin teaching subject matter. Same goes for a Scoutmaster, he should be concentrating on training, advising, etc. the SPL.

    Now, one thing I noticed on troop outings is the dynamics and sleep habits of high school (i.e. SPL types) and middle school age boys. One of the biggest dilemmas I witnessed was the older boys, usually in leadership positions, liked to stay up late and get up late. They younger ones, went to bed earlier and awoke earlier.

    My style was to let the boys select the "lights out" time and set the agenda for the outing. However, I did expect them to follow whatever agenda they set. Many times, I'd witness two thirds of the troop up in the morning and the ones who were still asleep were the SPL, ASPL, PLs, etc. It was then that I would sort of overstep my bounds and do some one on one cooking tutoring (if needed).


    • #32

      Should the analogy be Principal = SM or should it be Principal = SPL with PL's as the teachers of a class (patrol).

      If the second holds true, the person who is actually doing the work in the school is the teacher (PL) and that the principal (SPL) is there to offer support.

      Too often I see the "chain of command" being SM -> SPL -> PL -> patrol. There's a lot of directive and following going on, but no leadership needed because the SM really runs the program. Turn it around PL is on top running his patrol, the SPL supports him in his efforts and the SM supports the SPL. All directives come from the PL's At least this way one has multiple leaders being developed and experienced leaders supporting the new ones in training.

      To often I see the SPL being commander in chief (if not the SM) and everyone has to do what they are told. Tyranny at it's worst. Thus one gets the popularity votes for SPL and other politically run troops rather than a incubator for developing leadership in the small groups of the patrols which Boy Scouts was originally founded as.



      • #33
        Hear, hear, Stosh!


        • #34
          Yes, that sounds gay to me too, johnponz, but then so does your use of bowel movements to discredit the Patrol System.

          Eagledad writes:

          "You would step in mine and flounder because you don't know the difference between the process to the vision and process of a single plan."

          Speaking of bowel movements, what a steaming pile of "leadership skills" ad hominem!

          Eagledad writes:

          "You will never understand that a good leader can step into any program and achieve the same goals."

          Actually we agree, don't we?

          In a nutshell, leadership development is the belief that if we take position-specific training away from our Patrol Leaders, take away their right to pick their own coordinating Patrol Leader, and invent POR requirements to encourage their replacement every six months, then any boy who understands "the difference between the process to the vision and process of a single plan, can step into any Patrol and achieve the same goal" of overnight outings in the backwoods without adult association.

          Yours at 300 feet,



          • #35
            >>To often I see the SPL being commander in chief (if not the SM) and everyone has to do what they are told. Tyranny at it's worst. Thus one gets the popularity votes for SPL and other politically run troops rather than a incubator for developing leadership in the small groups of the patrols which Boy Scouts was originally founded as.


            • #36
              Here's my input on the entire BP issue.

              BP is the FOUNDATION of Scouting. If we forget the important parts of BP's vision, we are in serious trouble like we were in the 1970s. Boys still want adventure and the outdoors, and IMHO Scouting better prepares them for adulthood than any other program that I know about because we give them responsiblities, we do "train them, Trust them, let them lead." ( Ok that's not a BP quote, but it's relevent) AND BP WAS THE ONE TO START THAT!

              IMHO, Green Bar Bill perfected BP's vision, with both his and Lady B-P's blessing. If we forget Green Bar Bill's legacy, and unfortunately it seems as if National is trying to do just that, then we are still in trouble, especially since Green Bar Bill has "Gone Home" and I do not think ANY SINGLE individual, not KUDU, not STOSH, and sure as heck not me, can do what he did in 1978-79 and save the BSA. BSA might be having the problems that Campfire and GSUSA are having if Bill had not gotten out of retirement to bring back the "Outing in Scouting."

              Now is everything still relevent in BP's original handbook today? No as technology, education, and society changes. The messaging is one example of society's changes ( although I have given my own legs and arms a good message a time or two and it does work). the number of "movements" is an example of increased awareness of health issues. Tents, backpacks, footwear etc would be examples to technological changes.

              But if you dismiss BP's foundation, and GBB's improvements, you do so to your dismay. Look at the 1970s to see that, and to a lesser degree you can see it starting today.

              National HAS lost the outdoor emphasis. Look at equipment lists form previous BSHBs. Look at outdoor skills sections of the previous BSHBs, and compare them to the modern one. And look at the misquotes; Outing IS NOT two-thirds of Scouting, rather "OUTING is THREE-FOURTHS of ScOUTING!" Just do the math on that one ( 6/8 simplified is 3/4, my 3rd grade son can even do that math).


              • #37
                I was trying to have a little fun with my quotes, but alas the meaning was lost. I agree with the patrol method and with putting adventure back into Scouting, and looking at the direction of the upcoming jamboree and the improvements being made at the Summit High Adventure base, I would say that National sees that need as well.

                Now to my meaning,I do not believe having an SPL or not having one is a detriment to the patrol method. You can have a good patrol method with or without an SPL.

                Whether or not BP mentioned the SPL is not relevent to the discussion. Times change and details such as the SPL concept come and go. To me the SPL position provides the Scout with a chance to manage at the next higher level and direct and mentor the leaders of the troop, the PLs. This can be a great opportunity for a youth who has already served as PL to move to the next level of leadership, and I do not care one iota if BP envisioned the position or not.

                I like what I know of "Greenbar" Bill and agree with much that I have read regarding his vision of Scouting. Nowhere can I find where he tried to eliminate the SPL position. The position lived on with his rewrite of the Scout Hsandbook and even the PL Guide that he wrote. I cannot find anything that says that he was against using this position.

                The SPL position has its place. It is up to the SM to coach the Scout in the position so that he (the Scout) is performing the duties of the position correctly. Is this a challenge, YES!!!, but we as Scouters should be up to that challenge.


                • #38

                  I'm not as much of a Scouting Historian as KUDU and others are, so folks if i make a mistake please tell me, but it's my understanding that GBB is the one that came up with the Term SPL based upon his Scouting experiences in Denmark. When he talked to BP about the concept and other things, BP heartily approved. I believe their friendship started in the 1920s after oen of the WSJs that GBB was a leader and journalist for.

                  So you won't find the term Senior Patrol Leader in BP's early writings, and you won't find Green Bar Bill dissing the SPL concept.


                  • #39
                    Much better background information than what I have...but that was exactly my point.

                    Just because BP didn't mention it does not mean it is not good Scouting, and some things that he mentioned are no longer good Scouting.


                    • #40
                      If one goes back to the subject of the thread, we have addressed a number of differing opinions on the SPL some saying it's bad, some saying it's good, etc.

                      However, it varies considerably. If one has a small troop, 1 maybe 2 patrols, having an SPL for the purpose of giving POR credit when no work is necessary makes SPL a luxury and kind of circumventing the purposes of the POR requirement.

                      However if one has 4-5 patrols in a larger troop, an SPL may in fact be a necessity, keeping the PL's supported in their developing roles. I have always always supported the concept of a older boy patrol made up of the troop officers that was PL'd by an ASPL or two. Those "troop leader" patrols, then support the various patrols depending on their POR assignment.

                      Keep it in mind, with the responsibility of supporting others from a leadership position, one cannot have more than 6-8 others to support or the task becomes overwhelming for even the most experienced boy. Professionally trained school teachers like to keep their class enrollment numbers around 20. One would think it within the realm of sanity to keep the numbers for fledgling leaders to handle well less than half that, i.e. 6-8

                      To have one patrol with an extra SPL and the PL is rather superfluous. There's nothing in the book that says an experienced older boy APL can't mentor the PL's leadership development from within the same patrol. After all every drivers' education instructor does sit in the passenger seat.



                      • #41

                        Baden-Powell invented the position of Senior Patrol Leader, which he calls the "Troop Leader."

                        If you follow the URL I posted on Monday, 2/27/2012: 12:25:40 PM, you will see that Baden-Powell's rules make the position OPTIONAL, meaning that B-P agrees with johnponz, that you can have a good Patrol System with or without an SPL.

                        As for Green Bar Bill's Patrol Method: As in B-P's Patrol System, the Patrol Leaders are the Troop's top leaders, so these Patrol Leaders pick their own "senior" Patrol Leader, rather having a leadership skills "mentor" imposed on them by Troop Method popularity contests.

                        In a perfect world our adult office "leadership" enthusiasts would take that particular 1972 "innovation" back to the workplace, and get fired for trying to organize the mailroom and secretarial pool into demanding six month elections for CEO.

                        Yours at 300 feet,



                        • #42
                          Too often I see the "chain of command" being SM -> SPL -> PL -> patrol.

                          I don't see it so much as a chain of command as a communication path.


                          • #43

                            If you read Patrol System materials for the rest of the world, you will find that the "Communication Path" for important things like rank advancement is the same as the "Chain of Command" in a system actually run by the Patrol Leaders:

                            PL --> SPL, SM

                            See for instance John Thurman's model PLC meeting (chaired by an SPL ["TL"], btw):



                            • #44
                              I think the SPL can be useful in certain cases. In my old troop, it was essentially just a puppet for the SM to run the troop while pretending it was boy led, all the way up to rigging the elections to avoid scouts who could actually lead. Now in my new troop, it's much better. We are in a situation where we have two older scouts, and then 10 scouts 13 and younger. Me and my friend are the SPL and JASM. As SPL, I work directly with the two patrol leaders. I guide them and try to teach them leadership skills as best I can. The SM is great. He watches and listens, then gives me and the JASM ideas for how to better teach the Plc. I think that the SPL is not really do much a leadership position, as it is a teaching one. The patrol leaders lead. The SPL just gives them the tools to do it.


                              • #45
                                Well said, P96, great perspective.