@Sentinel947 I think that's a very good collection of the frustrations that I am reading about Wood Badge. I fully agree - feedback is a gift. I can't say that I see the same things, but I'm certainly fine in accepting everyone's word that they happen. I think that our national Wood Badge leaders should be thinking about and learning from this perception. I think Wood Badge should take the high road here.
I think a big part of being a leader is in modeling the behavior you'd hope to see in others. So, as a Wood Badge community, lets listen, learn, and change. These things are currently all in the spirit of the Wood Badge material. Let's leverage them and grow. I keep coming back to the idea that it would serve Wood Badge well if the course focused some time and energy on the idea of being an Ambassador for Scouting. Underscore that often it's not what you do, but how you do it that is remembered.
While I understand the frustration, it still feels off to me that as Scouters we justify these sorts of generalizations and criticisms of Wood Badgers as a whole. Why is it okay for the Scouter community to treat an entire community with disdain like this? I guess I don't understand how in an organization that is so modeled on values and leadership, it's considered OK simply because "they've earned it."
Thankfully, PowerPoint did not exist when I went to Wood Badge (kinda cause personal computers did not exist yet either) and there were a lot of outdoor skills in the course. We were in a primitive section of the council camp for a full week, and any comforts we had in our patrol site we had because we made them.
As for the lengthy beading ceremonies we see at occasional Roundtables, they did not exist either. When I completed my ticket, I met with my mentor who gave me the beads, woggle, neckerchief, and certificate. I still have an old black & white photo of the very brief (only about 1 minute) presentation by that same mentor a year later of my third bead.
Thanks! I really enjoyed Wood Badge, but I try to be open minded about where it can be better. I had "type 1" and "type 2" adults in my unit when I was a scout growing up. I jumped into Wood Badge at 22 mostly as a way to encourage our Scoutmaster to go. He needed it. It made him a better Scoutmaster, but it wasn't some enlightening experience for either of us. Good training, fun, I still keep in touch with many staff and participants from my course, but not anything the way some folks rave about Wood Badge. Still, I have a pretty positive impression of it.
I don't even know if I was a Scout when that happened. I do know with the updates they are making to WB21, they won't require folks to retake WB to be "current."
My expanded thoughts are more based around NYLT than Wood Badge, because I haven't staffed Wood Badge, but I think they apply to both.
Selling the course
I think folks sell Wood Badge pretty poorly. "It's a mountain top experience." "It's my Eagle", that sorta stuff. It sets folks up to be underwhelmed by Wood Badge. Hopefully it's good training. It should be fun. It should challenge us to improve our units and give us some ideas on how to accomplish that. It's not the pinnacle Scouting experience. Wood Badge is a means to an end, not an end unto on it's own. It's equipping us to help our youth have those great Scouting experiences. My "greatest accomplishments" as a Scouter were working with and coaching my Scouts. Seeing them grow, develop, learn and overcome challenges. That's both true for Scouts in my unit, and some of the youth I staffed with last summer at NYLT. Working with those youth has changed my life, more than participating in Wood Badge ever could have. There's some threads on this website about "Scouting Wins", "Scoutmaster paychecks." Those are the real "Mountaintop experiences" for a Scouter. We've all had those, Wood Badger or not.
NYLT is a bit more of a pinnacle experience for Scouts because it's something really fresh to them. Most troops do not run the patrol method, as we all know. Scouts haven't likely experienced something like NYLT. I know when I was a Scout it really changed my perception of leadership from that of a boss or a taskmaster to that of somebody who is a servant leader who puts others first and helps them achieve their (and our) goals. If their troop is really adult ran, then it's also a fresh opportunity for them to see what Scouting is really supposed to be like. NYLT changed my perception of what Scouting was about, and kept me fully engaged when I was 16-17 and finishing up my Eagle. It motivated me to keep active and provide service to my troop vs just hunker down and work on my Eagle.
I've caught my own Scouts doing the NYLT click thing. My troop has a Court of Honor in August. We sent 5 Scouts to NYLT this summer. We have our Scouts come up, be recognized for what summer camps, high adventure, NYLT things they did over the summer. My NYLT scouts talked about how much fun the course was, but they also decided to sing a particularly annoying song they learned at NYLT, that nobody else in my Troop knows. It wasn't quite the Critter song level of pain (because it was brief) but it definitely is a similar situation. Thankfully, my Scouts "walk the walk" from what they learned at NYLT, and it's made a strong difference in my unit. My unit has 4 scouts who have applied to be on staff, and two scouters from my unit going back to staff for 2019.
I sell Wood Badge to Scouters through NYLT. I encourage them to send their Scouts to NYLT. I think the best place for this is at training events. Our NYLT youth staff are awesome, and help scouters teach many of our courses like UOS classes, IOLS, SM Specific, and even some skills training at Wood Badge. They staff many of our council and district events like camporees. Hopefully seeing these Scouts in action encourages leaders to offer NYLT to their Scouts, who often don't know much about NYLT unless a leader, parent or older Scout tells them. Then the sales pitch for Wood Badge is less about joining the WB cult and more of "If you're not sure how you can support and reinforce what your Scout has learned at NYLT, come to Wood Badge." I do think there is a place for silly inside jokes like the Critter song and other Wood Badge jokes, but they need to be used in their proper places and times, and should not be used to sell the program. Scouting about the youth, and Wood Badge and NYLT should also be about how we serve youth. They are for no other purpose in my opinion.
Selling Wood Badge feels similar to me as religious evangelism. If I "walk the walk", if I'm friendly, helpful, courteous and kind, then selling the course to others around me should be pretty easy. No hard sales pitch needed. Without that personal connection, I might as well be selling cutco knives, or cable tv to people.
How do you fix it?
I honestly think it comes down to the pros shaping the Wood Badge/NYLT culture in their councils. They need to have folks who care about the participants more than themselves, who teach the material as it is in the syllabus (AKA give people what they paid for), but also get experienced and knowledgeable folks who can tie the material and simulations of Wood Badge to the actual thing in a unit. Then there's having the logistics aspects (FOOD) on point, and a trained staff that doesn't kill braincells via powerpoint. There is room in each course syllabus to add little local flavors to things, if those are things that further the goals of the course. I wish there was more skills training at Wood Badge, but that's beyond my scope of control, so I won't hold that against the current course.
This is all predicated on a WB or NYLT staff having the right intentions. I helped my staff do interviews for our upcoming NYLT course. We had one Scout who interviewed, and much of the time he talked about how being on staff would benefit him, not how he'd help others by being on staff. Very similar to some adults who want to staff WB/NYLT staff so they can get their 3rd bead. The SPL for our course will pick his staff with his ASPLS, but I'll strongly encourage him to avoid folks like that. Yes being on staff will help the staffers, but that's a secondary effect, not a primary reason. The participants are the primary reason.
If our course staffs have the right intentions, much of the rudeness, the lack of "walking the walk", and the special club nature of things should lessen. As I said in my earlier post. Humility, friendliness, helpfulness, knowledge are what we need out of WB or NYLT staff. By and large most of the staff I've worked with are those kind of people, but I also know a few staffers who were not. They were caught up in Wood Badge as an end, not WB as a means to an end. All of us as Scouters are ambassadors for Scouting, whether we realize it or not. When other people know we are Scouters, that colors their perception of Scouting. The same is true of Wood Badge. We are ambassadors for the course, and other people's perceptions of that are based of how we act and treat others.
My council NYLT and WB leadership has the right idea. They know that the courses exist to serve the units. Particularly NYLT has gone through a culture shift over the last 5 years as the folks who'd made it a good ole boys club have been put out to pasture. We've done quite a bit to break up stale cultures. Scouters can only be a Scoutmaster/Course director twice. Youth can only be SPL once. SPL's can only choose one staffer to be ASPL that they staffed with the previous year. We don't have as formal a rule on the adult side, but due to a shortage of adults volunteering for NYLT, we don't exactly need one. This has gone a long way to break up clics in our NYLT program. I'm not sure whats in place for our WB program, but I think it's similar. My council also doesn't allow a Scouter to staff Wood Badge and NYLT in the same year, in order to keep a handful of folks from controlling both programs. We're definitely not perfect, but I know things have improved quite a bit from where they were a few years ago culture wise.
Another thing that helps in my council is we have an annual Wood Badge dinner. We pair it with a dinner at a NYLT development weekend. It serves a few purposes. It helps us advertise NYLT to troop leadership. It helps us recruit adults to NYLT staff (since most folks at the dinner are Wood Badgers.) It's also an opportunity to do a mass beading ceremony in front of people who won't be bored and it won't hijack another event. I got my beads there, because I knew my Scouts from my Troop wouldn't really care, and my Wood Badge Scoutmaster had a habit for being long-winded. We also do some silent auctioning of Scouting and WB items, the money goes to scholarships for NYLT and Wood Badge.
Again, just my opinions and experiences, Feel free to agree or disagree. I like the feedback. As an ASM of program for an NYLT course this year, it gives me things to be on the lookout for in how we sell WB/NYLT and how we train the staff.