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Is SPL Merely a Popularity /Funniest Person Contest

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  • Is SPL Merely a Popularity /Funniest Person Contest

    Every 6 months my troop does their SPL elections. It seems like a normal thing that every troop would do. However the reason that the SPL is elected gets more absurd each year.First off, usually the scouts who have the most friends or are the most well known in the troop is elected. It's like the scouts voting already know their decision before the candidates come up to speak. One can easily tell this just by the way that these scouts act during the speeches. For the "popular" candidates, those scouts sit quietly and listen with the up most respect. Then afterwards they cheer for a long time(once even a minute). Now you have the less "popular" candidates. During the election, those same scouts sitting in the audience will talk nonstop, not caring about anything the person has to say. Afterwards they try to get the candidate off topic or derailed. Worst of all, it doesn't matter how well or how much effort someones speech has.

    Next you have the more absurd ways someone gets elected. For example, the most recent election we had, the SPL won because he began throwing paper plates into the crowd. No speech. No presentation. No nothing. Another instance is were the candidate won with the words:"Don't vote for me".

    As a result of this chaos, the quality of the Senior Patrol Leaders in the troop has drastically decreased over the past couple of years. To make matters worse, whenever a scout who has the potential to whip things back into shape comes along, he is usually pushed aside for the more favorite candidate.

    So, how do you fix something like this. I know that adults can't influence the vote, but things are only going to get worse.

    Please help!

  • #2
    Welcome to the boards astrospartian. What you can do will depend on your position in scouting. IF SM, there are things you can do.. If the SM is concerned, at least you can take suggestions to him. If the SM is not concerned, there is little you can do.

    Anyway, the question is this, is your troop really being boy-led? Or due to the weak leadership are the adults picking up the slack? If the SPL is just a figure head, and the troop is really adult run, it will make no difference to these boys who they pick.. If choosing a poor SPL means they will have 6 months of bad program, they will start caring about there choices..

    If you are not the SM, and the SM is not concerned, then chances are he is happy to have an adult led troop.


    • #3
      "If choosing a poor SPL means they will have 6 months of bad program, they will start caring about there choices"
      Maybe, or the program will be so bad that the scouts will quit.
      Boy run does not mean boy run into the ground.

      When the boys are serious about having a good program they will make good choices. Case in point, my current SPL is 17+ years old, and does a fairly good job in my opinion. However when our Philmont crew met for the first time and chose officers he was not selected as crew leader even though he assumed he would be. Why? Because he was late for the meeting. The boys saw that they needed someone dependable.


      • #4
        Incompetent people are picked for a role, based on popularity, causing the whole system to suffer?

        Heck, sounds like Washington DC to me.

        But I think the answer is to make sure the boys understand clearly how much of their fun over the next 6 months depends on who they elect. And then you as SM can't clean up after a bad SPL. It may take a bad term or two for them, but that's the only way I can think of to make them take it seriously.


        • #5
          I'm from Wisconsin, ... ever think that a poorly functioning SPL can be ousted in a recall election?

          Why would a troop want to suffer under poor leadership for 6 months just to prove a point? If the SPL is elected on popularity, then there should be a mechanism to remove him if he isn't doing the job.

          How many of the SPL candidates are actually vetted in these sham elections? Does the person making the nomination ever give reasons why they are being nominated or does just a name get tossed out there and the wink, wink process starts to roll?

          I have never had an SPL in a troop I was a SM of, don't see the relevance of the position until the troop gets up to 3+ patrols. In my former troop where I was ASM, the SPL was established by the SM having decided after talking with the other adult leaders. It was definitely an adult run program. Basically the boys wore the patch, got the credit, and did what they were told.

          Most of the time I find SPL to be a rather useless position for the troops I have visited in on. Election by popularity would make no difference. A troop of 8 boys doesn't need an SPL, yet there they are.

          Somehow the rumor out there says there has to be an SPL, yet in a vast majority of cases, I see no functionality to that rumor, but I do see, as in the case of this tread, counter-indicative reasons for such folly.



          • #6
            Treat your existing SPL like the leader you expect him to be.

            Where he's not living up to expectations, confront him in a civil manner.

            When you hear a PL wishing the troop would do something or other, tell him to talk to the SPL and see if they can come up with a plan to make it happen.

            And that capable boy who didn't get elected? Help him learn a little servant leadership.

            Meanwhile if the boys are having fun and an growing in the process, count it a success.

            In my opinion, SPL should not be seen as the highest youth POR. It is merely one of coordinator. PL is the "linchpin" position (maby followed by QM), and you need to do your best to make sure those boys are first class scouts in the truest sense of the word.


            • #7
              The SPL, ideally, he's a graduated PL with a successful track record. He's the one who guides the PLs in planning and executing troop meetings, skills instruction, campouts, the whole bit. The SPL, trained and utilized properly, does what many ASMs and SMs do in a troop.

              Clowns, office holders, and dictators get a elected (or appointed) to SPL because many adults don't know what to expect from an SPL. So the scouts never get an idea what to expect either. Then the troop suffers for six months.

              I'd recommend the scouts be briefed well before election on what the responsibilities are for each elected position. (A little citizenship training about decorum and respect for elections of any kind is probably appropriate too.) Once they get an idea that the biggest goofball in the troop isn't the guy they want for that position, you'll see some PLs think "hey, maybe I'd like to compete for SPL after I'm done with my PL gig." A new challenge.


              • #8
                Its a challenge to develop and continue a program where every position has some kind of accountability. Its hard to always identify reasonable and challenging responsibilities (expectations) for each position. And its especially challenging to how to apply reasonable accountability for each position. I think those are some of the most difficult challenges of the adult part of the program.

                What I have observed is the positions that are held accountable are the ones most respected. And while there are a million ways to hold scouts accountable, the best accountability that is clearly measure by the expectation of the group. If the Grub Master didnt bring the food for the campout, that is a clear measure of performance. If the campout didnt go well because a scout decided not to plan it, that performance, or lack of, is a measureable by everyone.

                Without knowing your troop, we cant say what you should do. I can guess however with some confidence that the SPL is not really respected as a position of serving for the good of the program. There is clearly something missing.



                • #9
                  I should have included in my first post is that all troops go through this because its part of learning the limitations of the program. What the adults need to learn from it is that something needs to change.



                  • #10
                    Maybe it's been so long since your troop had a good SPL, they don't see the need for a good one. If the job has become a joke, a jokester may be a logical choice.

                    I was fortunate to have a three-year string of really good SPLs. So when the troop elected the class clown, it showed. The jokes wore thin and it was apparent the kid wasn't willing to do the hard work of making things happen. The coolest thing which happened was that two older kids who had been headed off to Eagle and retirement, decided the troop needed them and ran last time so we had three strong candidated on the ballot.

                    I agree with E732 that boy lead doesn't mean boy run off in a ditch. Time for the adults to engage a little more and steer the SPL selection process a bit. That may mean counseling the candidates to understand what the job really entails (a lot of work!) and that perhaps to take a second look at running. Or perhaps the SM needs to exert his option to approve candidates.

                    Some of the best advice I was given when starting as SM was that my job is to assess the abilities of the youth leaders and to engage them more and less depending on their needs.


                    • #11
                      some random thoughts...

                      Spend some time talking to the scouts that you think would most likely do a good job. If they are not running, ask them why not. Ask probing questions and listen. The conversation may reveal why the position is not respected.

                      For those scouts that are being disrespectful of less "popular" candidates, schedule SM conferences with them. Ask each to reflect on how his actions are compatible with the scout law. I know that some will disagree, but you may want/need to explain that due to the scout's actions, you will not be ready to sign off on the scout spirit requirement for his next advancement until a change is observed.

                      Make this an agenda item at the next PLC. Help them see that this is a problem, and challenge them to solve it.

                      You don't give an age range. I've seen this mostly with 1st year scouts that are at a stage where they just want to goof off. A conversation with the PL's (individually) asking them why they are letting their patrol members behave in such a rude way when candidates are talking. This can be effective if you have mixed age patrols. If you have same age patrols, the boys are less likely to listen to their patrol leader, particularly in patrols of younger scouts.

                      The SPL issue may be a symptom of a lack of effective patrols and patrol leaders. It takes a lot of work to teach PL's these skills, and often troops fall in to a mode where there are not real, effective patrols, especially with same age patrols, because the PL doesn't know any more than the rest of the patrol, and is not respected as a leader. If patrol members don't listen to and follow their patrol leader, the PL will have a hard time learning leadership skills. And patrol members wont respect the SPL position either.


                      • #12
                        We have two requirements for running for SPL; First Class, and have attended NYLT. The other requirements, verbal but unwritten, I give before the election. The person running must be WILLING and ABLE to give the time to the task. A WILLING scout that has commitments to a crazy band director isn't ABLE, and needs to excuse himself from the slate that is running.

                        On the other hand, a qualified but uninterested scout is just like the first, except perhaps worse so.

                        Don't let them give speaches. The boys know who they want doing the job. (if it's a real job, that is).

                        Ask the scouts that aren't WILLING and ABLE to remove themselves from the running. They will.

                        As for the scouts that continue to talk during the speached; they need to have some training in manners. Call them out by name.


                        • #13
                          Unless your troop is huge (5+ patrols), why do you need an SPL? Try going without one for a while. Put the PLs at the head of things, where they should be. See how it works.


                          • #14
                            >>Unless your troop is huge (5+ patrols), why do you need an SPL? Try going without one for a while. Put the PLs at the head of things, where they should be. See how it works.


                            • #15
                              I know that adults can't influence the vote

                              Ha. Everything that adults do is something that influences the vote.

                              If the adults treat the SPL with respect, and expectations, and give him authority, and let the troop see that their choice matters, that influences the vote.

                              If the SM sits down with each candidate for a ten-minute discussion of the seriousness of the role for which he is running, and going over the expectations for that role, and indicating how frequently he'll be in contact with the SPL, that influences the election.

                              If the adults make all the decisions and just use the SPL as the figurehead leader who gets to announce what the adults have decided, that influences the election.

                              We do have the candidates give speeches. I don't know that it matters much one way or another. I think that most of the kids have made up their minds prior to the speeches. But it does provide some of the trappings of an important election. I do think it's reasonable that you can make your existing structure work. You could always sit down with the existing PLC and decide whether the speeches have become a distraction, and decide to not have them next time.