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MattR

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Everything posted by MattR

  1. Over in the politics forum there's a thread about the future of Boy Scouts. One issue I thought of is getting volunteers. I found an interesting paper about volunteering in 1974, 1989, and 2002-2006 (http://www2.illinois.gov/serve/Documents/Volunteering_America_Full_Report.pdf ). It was done using data from the census bureau. The big surprise for me is that the amount of volunteering is considerably higher now than in the 70's and 80's. At the same time it seems like scout units are having a harder time finding volunteers. If I tie this in with the fact that it seems like nobody outside of scouts has any idea what goes on inside of scouts, it seems to me that the BSA's problem is more a case of education than anything else. ​To me, there's a certain magic that scouting has that no other activity has. It's not sports and it's not school, but it's a mix of outdoors, adventure, service, leadership, and civics that just works. If it's hard to describe then it makes sense that many adults don't get involved because they don't understand it. There is the Methods of Scouting but that's very cursory. Does anyone dive into the methods any more than the usual?
  2. MattR

    Jewish Scouting and the Reform Movement

    I can't quite see that. I got to the point where I am at least partially because of a lot of people before me. The prayers, the stories, and the ceremonies are all things I never would have figured out on my own. So, the organized part of my religious beliefs are a necessary part of my personal beliefs. Sufficient? No, I'll give you that.
  3. MattR

    Growing Troop - how to change the culture?

    Maybe that's why it took so long, I was waiting for the older scouts to age out. Sounds better than me being slow. But I agree, there is some truth to changing the culture with the younger scouts.
  4. MattR

    Jewish Scouting and the Reform Movement

    KDD, here's one cliffnotes version, presumably written around the 4th century. It's well known and, naturally, comes with a story: "Hillel, when asked by a prospective convert to Judaism to teach him the whole Torah while he stood on one leg, replied: 'That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.'" So, start with the Golden Rule and once you have that figured out go study the Bible to learn more. And never stop. i.e., it's a journey. What can I say, people are complex. Pack, I hear you. Organized religion has a bad side. There's also a good part that I find incredibly wonderful. To me, it gets down to the Golden Rule, which is really about love. But love is hard to define. It's kind of like gravity, we know it when we see it, but we can't define it or reason about it. Anyway, it would be nice if everyone lived this ideal. It will never happen but maybe we can get closer. So, like anything in scouts, you can't talk about love, you have to do it. Gotta feel the love. When I pray, I do feel the love. I have no idea why it works. It just does, much like gravity. We just need to work on the bad side. It's improving, just slowly.
  5. MattR

    Jewish Scouting and the Reform Movement

    I think I have all of the Jewish (and Chinese American!) scouts from my city in my troop. Chinese moms are easier to deal with only because they struggle so much with English they give up before giving me an earful. I'm in a small congregation (50 families). They claim to be reform but it seems to be a fuzzy distinction. It's a mix of a lot and everyone likes it. We have a range of political views from middle of the road Republican to hard core Democrat. Then there's the mom that teaches the youth, will step in for the rabbi if needed, will sing for the cantor if needed, and she's also a girl scout troop leader. If she had sons, she'd be a den leader. As for boy scouts, people in my congregation think that what I do as SM is a mtizvah. When they find out all the service and adventure we do, they really like it. They would like all kids, before bar and bat mitzvah, to do a "tikkun olam project." So they asked me if I'd help organize that. They'd sign me up for helping run a youth program if they thought they could squeeze the time out of me. I'm the one that makes sure the U.S. flag is on the correct side. So in my congregation being a SM is accepted, but we do have a very warm congregation. That said, a few members have come up to me and said something along the lines of "I really like what you do for the children, but ... ." One of them came up to me and started talking about it and when she started she just had this view that all we did was make gay pinatas and beat them and she wanted to know how I could possibly be part of it. I told her what we really did and by the end her tone was much more accepting. Qwazse's point that the BSA is also viewed as Christian doesn't help either. Again, people have preconceived ideas. The problem comes from those that have no idea what scouting is about. I see the Boy Scout ideas of service and adventure compare to yetzer tov (selfless) and yetzer ra (selfish). I think it's a great match. The fact that reform Jews might not like scouts baffles me.
  6. MattR

    Tools for Youth Leadership Training

    Eagle92, PMs don't seem to work. Any chance you can attach it to a post?
  7. MattR

    Reconciliation Issue

    My opinion is that there are multiple opinions, different things work for different people, and they should all be accepted. If it didn't come across that way then my apologies.
  8. MattR

    Growing Troop - how to change the culture?

    LHS, that's very close to the position I came into and I was frustrated with it. This is my experience, take from it what you want. Since you have such a young troop, it might not be so easy (e.g., scouts under the age of about 13 don't have the maturity to be a PL. It's not a hard rule, just an observation.) A few years ago: I told the adults I wanted the older scouts to teach the skills so they'd learn them and I got blow back. A patrol leader was a glorified secretary. I wanted patrols camping separately and nobody had the faintest idea why. The older scouts tolerated the younger scouts, but that's about it. Now, patrols want to camp as far away from each other as possible. At camp I now see patrol leaders teaching the younger scouts. At summer camp I had to ask the adults that wanted to go on the 5 mile hike, to make sure nothing would go wrong, to let the scouts handle it on their own, as that's what they wanted. It took a long time (probably too long but I'm a slow learner). Change is slow and requires a constant message. It's amazing how the attitude of "well, that's how we've always done it" takes forever to change. I try and change just a few things at a time. It took us about a year to convince the scouts that clean means no grease. We sounded like a broken record. I finally figured out that I needed all the ASMs on the same page. Without their help the scouts were getting one new message from me and several old messages from the ASMs. I was trying to change too much at a time. Now when I come up with an idea I have a SM meeting to get their input and work out how we are going to make it happen. Some things get delayed, modified, or dropped in the process. The bigger issue, however, was getting the boys to buy in. In the past year things have really changed for the better and it seems to do with patrol method and that in turn means scout leadership. I thought I had a boy led troop until one day I noticed that the adult leader monthly meeting would go on for 2 or 3 hours and the scout leader meeting would take 15 to 20 minutes. My definition of boy led is now: Who solves the problems. That's who is leading the troop. That's not to say the scouts don't need guidance in solving problems, but that's a different thread. There are plenty of threads about teaching leadership. I've found a lot of useful information and none of it really seems wrong. Given the culture change I wanted to make the straight NYLT, ISLT, Woodbadge was lacking. Here are some critical parts: Being a PL in my troop is now a Big Deal whereas it used to be a vote along the lines of "whose turn is it?" Now, patrol leaders need to be nominated, much like OA, before they can even run for office. It's not a popularity contest. The result of all this is that PLs now believe they're doing something important. I asked some older scouts a year or so ago about leadership and they were blunt, they know a bs job when they see it. They want real responsibility. I trust my PLs (and most of the older scouts for that matter) and they know it. When there's a problem I'll take it to the SPL and ask him to bring it up at a PLC meeting and they'll work on it. What I described above about the older scouts taking the younger scouts on a hike without adults was a good example. At one point, with both the scouts and adults standing there, I turned to the older scouts and asked them if they could handle it alone, they said yes, and so I turned to the adults and said they didn't need to go. I intentionally did that in front of the scouts so they knew I trusted them and would stand up for them in front of the adults. That buys me respect. The scouts know if they screw up they not only embarrass themselves but they embarrass me, the adult that's treating them like an adult. We respect each other and that's what the scouts want. I trust their judgement and that has somehow raised their judgement. There are times where they propose a better solution than I would have thought of. I have expectations for PLs and patrol members when it comes to participation. Scouts are expected to go to at least half the campouts and half the service projects. The PL or APL must be at every patrol event, including campouts. That seems to give kids in sports and other stuff plenty of opportunity to do scouts and other stuff. I do make exceptions for acts of God (medical, family situation) but not scout choices (homework, other activities). When parents complain I tell them scouting is a team based sport. I'm no longer the bad guy. I inherited a troop where the SM was judge, jury, and executioner and all the other adults, and scouts, didn't deal with any of that. It makes it easy to take care of problems but it's hard to develop a trusting relationship with the scouts. I told adults I no longer want to be the sole disciplinarian and I will no longer test the scouts for skills before a SM conference. Now they do it. Another way I got out of being a bad guy is having the scouts nominate who can be a PL. If a scout isn't nominated and he needs a POR all I have to ask is "why do you think the scouts didn't nominate you?" I'm not giving them the bad news. It's much easier for me to have a talk with a scout about helping out, scout spirit, and things like that. We just started some fun events exclusively for the older scouts that help out. They chose things like a lock in and rock climbing. It's just a fun afternoon where the older scouts can create some comaradarie. It also lets everyone else in the troop know that these guys are good. Kind of long and blathering. Sorry about that. When other adults complain I can only say it works for me and this is by no means the only way to do it. I am interested in what others do as this can be better. Of course, when I feel like it's workable, and it has become culture in my troop, I will step down.
  9. MattR

    Reconciliation Issue

    Pack, that's the wrong question for me. What I'd like to know is how can the fundamentalist Christian and the atheist find a spot for each other within the BSA? If we can answer that then the BSA would drop off the culture war radar and be seen for what it is. My approach is failing. I'm open for suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to buy some fishing gear.
  10. MattR

    Is Cub Scouts too long?

    BD, it's not that every web in few packs always come to my troop. It sort of shifts around. Sometimes it's one troop, sometimes a couple. It's a process that starts about now. Historically we've taken webs from 7 or 8 packs, but usually they mostly come from 1 or 2 a year. Different people want different things. When we tell people that 95% of our scouts get Eagle after it's too late to wear the patch, many go elsewhere. So I think keeping the Web dens autonomous so they can try out a few different troops is a good thing. We try and get the webelos to join us on two campouts.
  11. MattR

    Reconciliation Issue

    TJ, you're just looking for a fight. I'm looking for consensus. That's incompatible. So let's end it. I've now started a fight with both extremes in this forum. Is there a knot for that? Maybe it should be black and blue.
  12. MattR

    Reconciliation Issue

    TJ, Science is infinitely deep and always changing. What is true today will not be true tomorrow. But science has little guidance on how people should interact. One of the most important holidays in my religion deals with atonement and forgiveness. Spread throughout my bible is the concept of human dignity and how it can trump all of the harsh rules you complain about. Science does not give any hint on how to balance our selfish and selfless nature (high adventure and service?), my religion does. My religion encourages prayer and that creates calmness and other healthy benefits (scientifically proven, by the way). My religion also recognizes that character is a skill and it requires constant practice (Scout Slogan?). Science doesn't talk much about these things. That's not to say that any religion doesn't have its problems. Where it falls down, and it appears to me that this is where you're unhappy with it, is when the religious take it upon themselves to, let's say, encourage others to follow them. This can be extreme, such as at gun point, or passive aggressive, as in complaining that you don't pray correctly, or even among the Boy Scouts that require you to have some faith. I stay away from the guns and ignore the rest. What's left is a vast collection of wonderful ideas and stories that I can learn from. I don't read them as history or science. Just one example: The number 7 in the Bible means something is good. So, the universe was not created in 7 days, but it was a good thing. One thing about my religion that I am absolutely, positively clear about, is that I will never have all the answers. To be honest, TJ, you've insulted the vast majority of the population with what you wrote. I doubt that was your intent. As you said, you quietly suck it up and maybe you're tired of doing that. I suck it up every time someone asks me to remove my hat to pray, I don't, and they glare at me like I'm some sort of hideous atheist (just joking). Someone on this forum once said that religion and spiritual insight is a journey and it's different for a lot of people. Wise words. I wish you the best in your journey. At the same time, I hope you can respect mine.
  13. MattR

    Is Cub Scouts too long?

    Pack18Alex, I like your ideas of creating some more distinct levels. Pairing the pack and troop wouldn't work so well in my area. We bring in Webelos from a couple of different packs. We roughly have a pack per elementary school and not as many troops. Another option might be splitting off Webelos from cubs. I think that was the original intent. Part of the time they could be a den and part of the time they could be a patrol in a troop (when the weather is nice and mom or dad want to camp). That would be a better transition. The webs could join the troop for day events and a couple of campouts a year when the weather is nice and still do pinewood derby and crafts. The adults would have much less to organize (hopefully) as web den leaders. The troops would have PORs set to be automatic den chiefs.
  14. Skeptic and TJ and packsaddle all have good points. Discussion and disagreement is good, but we also have to agree to disagree and move on. I went and looked at the onmyhonor website as they had a "major" announcement today. Well, the announcement was a bust but I did look at their forums. Besides arguing over dumb stuff like what to call the equivalent to Eagle, there is a thread on membership requirements. Turns out I wouldn't be allowed to be a scoutmaster there, even though they do want to make it non-denominational. I guess we have different definitions. But I did notice an argument as to who would be allowed. One guy said Jews and Christians should be allowed but not Muslims or Buddhists. That started a fight. They've just shifted the line but they sound just the same. The point being, there will always be people that disagree and we should learn to be civil. We're all volunteers and we're all trying.
  15. MattR

    Encouraging Volunteers

    perdidochas, you have a great point that the online version will be just as troublesome, but it will be less of a fire hazard. If you're going to lose the information, you can do it much more efficiently with a computer. I agree about the heavy lifting part. My council does a good job with respect to that. My DE is always thanking me and the other units.
  16. MattR

    Encouraging Volunteers

    MB apps are one of those things that should be done online. We fill them out, hand them in, and then ignore them because they end up in a pile on some desk at Council. They don't have enough help to wade through the paperwork so I don't blame them. All they're waiting for is for someone to type all the fields on the paper into the computer. JoeBob, you should hear what some of the staff say about the scoutmasters. Plenty of analness to spread around.
  17. MattR

    The Future of the BSA?

    I've had a number of scouts tell me they started boy scouts with the intent of getting Eagle and moving on, but recently they've decided it's way too much fun and now they want to stay till they age out. It warms my heart. I hope I can keep the excitement for them.
  18. MattR

    Encouraging Volunteers

    My troop is doing ok. We tell all the families they have to help out somehow. We have signup parties. Most do. We have more than enough adults working on COH stuff, not quite enough that want to work with kids. Maybe hammering nails is easier than working with kids. My district is struggling. I was also thinking of the packs, as those are the units losing the most kids. It seems like the ratio of families that help out to those that don't is roughly 1 in 3-4. If you have a troop with 14 scouts (the average size), that means 2 or 3 adults are going on every campout. That's stressful. With 8 scouts in a den, that means 2 adults are doing everything. After several years it's complete burn out. This is compounded by the fact that your average den leader is clueless. I certainly was. Then there's the problem that Webelos want to do something besides crafts, which places more burden on the adults. Some dens can get half the adults involved and they do great. But that's the exception and not normal. How much greater would it be if half the adults were regularly involved, jazzed, and enthusiastic? I like Eagledads idea of teaching the parents. I might get more adults to work with scouts.
  19. MattR

    Encouraging Volunteers

    I agree that the Boy Scout volunteers have a harder time getting involved. So the Habitat people have an entry level volunteer position that involves a hammer, 3 hours of time, and no learning curve to speak of. The new person, after having done that, can take some pride in saying they did something. Maybe they'll come back for more and eventually be responsible for building a house, which is no small responsibility. What are the entry level, no skill required jobs for the Boy Scouts? Honestly, changing the toilet paper roll is not going to feel like much progress for the volunteer. What are other tasks for the new parent that we should be pushing them towards?
  20. duplicate message
  21. Merlyn, AZMike, it's Miller Time. You know you won't change the mind of the other. You completely disagree with the other. You're arguing to win, not find common ground. Not very scout like. Thus, not very ethical
  22. MattR

    Is today's scouting too prissy?

    I'm getting ready to take 50 scouts away from the internet (read summer camp), so I'll throw in my 1 cent. TJ, I agree that things with video screens are a form of entertainment to kids these days. I also know they are shallow and addictive. I also see a lot of people, scouts or not, that want to give back, are looking for something more meaningful to do with their time, or just want something deeper than facebook. I tell people that I'm a SM and talk about some of the things we do and they're all "that is so cool." The service young people are doing today is much better than what I saw as a kid. This isn't just scouts, it's college kids and high school kids. At the same time, to your point, there are plenty of slugs out there as well. I guess my point is that the human spirit is still there. Some people want to Live and some just want to exist. That hasn't changed. I had an Eagle scout in my troop that did everything, knew his stuff, and was really great. I talked to his dad recently and this kid is struggling. He was addicted to video games. He's flailing. At the same time, another Eagle scout just called me in a panic the other day because he doesn't know what to do after he graduates from college. The long story short is he wants to do the Peace Corps but all his friends told him that was a waste as he wouldn't make any money. I told him to follow his heart and ignore the money. You could hear the smile through the phone. I'm having my plc review their campouts because they're, to be honest, boring. It started a good discussion. I won't get them to sweat on every campout but they will be memorable. I don't know where that leaves us with the BSA. There are still good people out there that need and want what we have to offer. I think the problem isn't the boy scouts so much as the cub scouts. The numbers are dropping much faster there than in the boy scouts.
  23. MattR

    Is today's scouting too prissy?

    Fred and Eagledad, what you're describing is well written in the book The Last Child in the Woods. This is more a society thing than the Boy Scouts. I can't do anything about society but I can work with my patrol leaders. I'm always happy for a PL to ask if he can take his patrol on a 5 mile hike without adults. I've suggested it with only a little luck. Next week is summer camp and maybe I'll have the PLs plan their own 5 mile hike for the new scouts in their patrol. One magical thing about boys is they will find the fun in a new situation. Maybe they don't know how to create their own new situation. When my son was little he'd be sitting inside and I'd tell him to go outside and he'd complain and moan but finally go outside. About 4 hours later I'm wondering around looking for him. He had a blast. Maybe I just need to tell my patrols to get out of camp.
  24. MattR

    Is today's scouting too prissy?

    I don't know if it's about prissy vs manly so much as adventure. And there are lots of ways to have an adventure. (I would be in on the bucket of snakes) I like the phrase "here there be dragons" supposedly written on the edge of maps indicating the unknown. Combine that with Be Prepared and that, to me, is how a calendar should be figured out. But it's hard to find scouts that will go for it. Adventure is about challenging yourself, and that implies a possibility of failure. I don't know, maybe a lot of kids don't know how to fail gracefully, so they stay away from any challenge. Seems to me society doesn't like young winners and losers (although winning is everything for adults, but that's another thread). We just did a biking based high adventure trip and everyone was challenged and the range of abilities was all over the map. We had different ability groups so everyone got pushed, everyone struggled, and we had a ton of fun. If I could do that troop wide, it would be great. Maybe we need to emphasize to scouts how to fail gracefully and also win gracefully by helping those that are struggling.
  25. MattR

    Is today's scouting too prissy?

    He lives in a flat state?
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