It is often said that boys join (and stay in )Scouts because of the "program". If the Pack/Troop has a good "program", it will attract and keep boys.
The "program" is more often described as the outdoors, fun, exciting stuff. Yeah, Cubs get the toned down, less dangerous stuff, but there it is: hiking, camping, canoeing, learning to use sharp pointy things. You go places and do things and learn about things in Scouts that other kids don't have the opportunity to, at least that's the ideal I hear about.
So what do we ask them to "pay " for all this pazzazz? I don't mean the money. That's what the PARENTS pay, at least nowaday. I mean what do we ask the BOY to pay? What is the BOY expected to do or pay in exchange?
I see the boy being asked to make a promise, or maybe make a series of promises, and then we ask him to KEEP those promises thruout his life. We try to show him that these promises are good things to model a life after, to keep in front of one as an ideal.
As Scouters, if we are doing our (highly paid) job, the boy gets an example to follow, some practice at being a citizen in a small community, some practice in being a community leader, some practice in developing projects small and larger, some practice in cooperating with others in accomplishing those projects, and along the way gets some feedback or counseling in how to do it better the next time. He gets a chance to make mistakes and own up to being responsible for those mistakes. Along the way, he builds strength and stamina, does some mildly challeging stuff and has some fun with his buddies. Along the way, he might learn to overcome his fear of the untried and finds out that even if he gets dirty or bruised, he can get clean , pick himself up and be well again.
It is the making and keeping of those promises that I see as the price of admission to the show of Scouting. If the boy cannot see the value of his Scout unit's program as equalling or exceeding the effort to keep those promises, he will not stay.
Bad language, manipulative behavior, bullying, all argue against keeping those promises. Choosing the football team over Scouts may be in keeping with the promises, depending on the coach's vision, but ultimately the boy must see the promise as being sufficient price to pay for the program offered. The program will not keep him, if he cannot see the worth of keeping the promises.
If our efforts in role modeling, in encouraging participation, in reminding the Scout of the promises' meanings, in "being there" are not sufficient to his need, then no matter how fantastic a program there is, the Scout may not stay.
On the other hand, if the program is wonderfully challenging and fun, if the Scouts are given full participation and ownership of the program, the promises they make MAY begin to make sense to them and seem like a good thing to remember.
But first we REQUIRE that they memorize them. That is the price we require for admission to the program.
Is the show worth the price of admission?