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The Patrol Method

Lessons and questions of Scout leadership and operating troop program

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  1. "The Icing On the Cake!"

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  2. 300 feet

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  3. 5% ?

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    • Sort of.  The COR is not typically part of the approval process for unit activities.  But, should the COR feel a need to act and make a decision, the COR has that right.  The COR has whatever authority the COR feels he/she needs to have.  They supervise the unit on behalf of the CO.  If the COR feels that they need to micromanage the unit, then that is their decision and well within their authority. I think these arguments often confuse intent with authority.  It is not the intent of the BSA system that the COR overule the unit. Similarly, it is not the intent of the BSA system that the CC overrule the Scoutmaster and/or SPL.  The defined Troop structure creates a framework where a group of responsible volunteers can work together to implement a well balanced system.  In that Troop structure, decision making ability is delegated to the right people in the organization to make good decisions.  But that same system provides for a clearly defined oversight structure so that if bad decisions are made, reasonable people can correct those mistakes. Of course, this all assumes that everyone involved is working with the best of intentions in a professional way.  This forum sees lots of cases where the structure breaks down.
    • "4.. Getting Troop Committee support             SPL presents written Annual Plan to Troop Committee and asks them to support plan.             SM attends same meeting and asks the Committee to support the Plan.             Because the youth leaders are to plan, the Troop Committee gives them the benefit of the doubt."
    • Yeah, that stuck out to me as well.  Along with the fact that the skid loading work was done by his parents and scoutmaster.  Plus, while I'll grant kudos to the kid for being eager, I've never like the idea of glorifying the "Speedy Eagle".
    • Let's be clear though, the COR does not officially (as in, per BSA policies) have the "authority" to a veto right over any and all troop activities at his or her whim.  If that were supposed to be a part of the official process for determining the annual schedule, then it would be a part of the trainings on the Scouting website.  The fact that the CO "owns the unit" doesn't mean they have the authority to do whatever they want, it just means they have the power to.  There are still proper and improper ways to do things. But there's no arguing that if the CO insists that the troop give the COR that power, there's not really anything anyone can do about it.  The local district exec might agree to have a chat with the COR about "the right way to do things", but the only method the district has to stop a CO from doing this would be to pull their charter, and that's not going to happen over a tin god COR.  They'll just tell you to find another troop. The idea of "breaking rules" really isn't very relevant since BSA doesn't actually issue "rules", they just offer "guidelines" and "best practices".
    • Don't judge the troop leaders harshly; they were probably never trained in what the Patrol Method actually is and how it works.  That is perfectly understandable, because BSA is totally oriented to the troop as the basic operational unit of ScoutsBSA, and has been for decades.  Patrols in ScoutsBSA are for administration (collecting and distributing information and resources) and a nod to tradition, but not for operations -- by which I mean planning, preparing for, and carrying out campouts, hikes, service projects, etc.  In particular, the smaller the troop, the less need to subdivide the troop for administrative purposes.  A big factor contributing to the near abandonment of the patrol as the basic operational unit in ScoutsBSA is the widely variable attendance by patrol members at meetings, outings, and events, as in SSScout's example.  When I was growing up in a small town in the 60s and 70s, the only organized youth activities besides school were baseball in the summer and Boy Scouts.  Electronic entertainment was radio and three channels on television.  Things are very different these days.  The Patrol Method is based on shared responsibility.  It only really works when most of the patrol members are in attendance at most activities.  It just doesn't make sense for five Scouts in a patrol to plan and prepare for an activity when only two members of the patrol will be attending.  It is much more practical to plan and prepare at the troop level, where there will be a higher degree of attendance predictability based on historical data.  Many troops that are trying to use the Patrol Method try to adapt to this problem by having artificially large patrols (10 to 15 youth), so that they are likely to have a minimum number of patrol members in attendance at any particular troop activity.  But that's not really the Patrol Method either, because the responsibility for execution isn't distributed among all of the patrol members.    The fact is that BSA has replaced true Patrols -- intended to teach teamwork and citizenship (living together peacefully and productively in a defined community) -- with Positions of Responsibility -- intended to teach leadership.  As a practical matter, that is more in tune with what parents and Scouts want these days anyway.  The modern Scout troop (including its token administrative patrol structure) offers many Positions of Responsibility and thus many leadership positions with opportunities for progressively greater responsibilities.  And for many, many troops that works great.  Whether you are talking about a troop that emphasizes patrol organization or a troop that pays lip service to patrols but emphasizes Scouts holding leadership positions, the real concern is whether the troop is actually adult-run rather than youth-run.  Both the Patrol Method and the Leadership Method are based on youth exercising responsibility, which is hard to do when the adults keep a tight grip on what the troop does and when and how they do it.
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