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Scouter Matt

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About Scouter Matt

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    Male
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    Scouting
  • Biography
    25 years total as a youth and adult in Scouting. Arrow of Light and Eagle earned as a youth. Received just about every honor and award an OA Lodge or BSA Council can give.
  1. Scouter Matt

    Sad Day At Philmont

    I wonder to what degree part of the issue is lack of familiarity with the local terrain and weather, and thus with the likely hazards? The only time in my life I have ever given any thought to flash flood risk while setting camp was at Philmont, I have never once camped anywhere else that I had to give the matter any significant thought. In the types of terrain I otherwise camped in, and the weather patterns of those areas, it simply wasn't ever an issue anywhere else. I suspect quite a few troops and crews at Philmont are similarly unfamiliar with selecting campsites in topography with high risk of flash floods. I would be careful of placing too much emphasis on high water marks. I know I have camped in places well below the high water marks (including on an island), and yet was quite safe because it was the entirely wrong time of year for a flood on that body of water. I know of people that camped near bodies of water with no record of dangerous floods that were lucky to escape with their lives.
  2. Probably equally important is a plan to maintain and care for what you acquire, and part of that is buying equipment that is sustainable in a boy operated environment. Also, keep in mind that the fundamental unit of scouting is the PATROL. Plan your equipment on the basis of patrol sized groups camping, cooking, hiking, etc. together. If I were equipping a new troop, I would at least want to explore the options for patrol size tent-age for heavy camping, but that would require different tents for packing. There was a troop here locally that bought great new gear on the basis of what the Scoutmaster, a long distance backpacker, was fond of. None of that equipment held up well to boy use, and the troop degenerated into bringing a grab bag or random personal equipment and old hand me down heavy weight gear from other troops. It now travels heavier than almost any troop I have ever seen, it would be lucky to be able to pack in a hundred yards from a parking area. The other downside is, it killed the patrol method. Now fathers and sons tent together in the family tent. The entire troop mostly cooks as one group with mostly adults manning the kitchen. At the other end of the spectrum, another local troop gained the use of a very large tent of the type used for outdoor receptions or church tent revivals, and they got it for about the cost of one high end backpacking tent. Now they have a tent the entire troop can camp under, or they can set up a consecion stand for a fundraiser, or any number of uses. My own personal experience was with a troop that used Eureka Timberline Outfitter 4's, tough tents that lasted about 20 years. We slept two persons to a tent for plop camping. For backpacking we usually split the tent between three people. 4 man tents are often in something of a middle ground such that they are just light enough to pack if you split the load and just big enough to be comfortable plop camping with fewer occupants. Our older Scouts if they took an interest in backpacking sometimes invested in better light tents personally. Also, if at all possible, don't buy one of those stupid carport canopies to use as a dining fly. Either get a real dining fly, or get a tarp and improvise a light set of poles and guy lines. The carports are nuisance and it is a tragedy the things ever became ubiquitous in Scouting.
  3. Scouter Matt

    Colonial Va Council troubles

    Unless something has changed, national isn't very up to speed on the health of its councils. Why? Well, it is at least in part because failing council's always want to paint a rosy picture in the hopes they can turn thing around without being merged. In one case I am very familiar with, a council had gotten itself into very serious financial trouble, and region was blissfully unaware until the IRS informed the council that immediate payment on back due taxes (the council's finances had been so dire it had been taking out social security and payroll taxes and then not sending them to the goverment for a period of years) was required or the council's assets would be seized publicly in 24 hours. Under threat of IRS agents with TV crews in tow seizing assets of a council, region, once informed, dipped into its own emergency fund to hold off the IRS for a little longer. Shortly after that the council's charter was revoked and Scouting operations in the impacted area were the direct responsibility of the region director for a period of months (no other council was willing to take on the territory in question), though eventually the council got its charter back once it came up with a viable looking plan for paying its many debts. (That plan proved unsound after a few more years and a merger was forced, the council receiving the territory was nearly as unhappy with the arrangement as the one dissolved.) I will say that while being chopped up into pieces and given to multiple councils is frequently talked about in merger situations, it very rarely happens. Usually the entire territory is absorbed by one other council, even if being broken up would have made more sense. I think the being carved up thing is something a scare tactic.
  4. Scouter Matt

    Funds held and managed exclusively by CO

    This is going to become increasingly common because the IRS is becoming increasingly tight with how it looks at non-profit organization finances. The IRS has finally realized that the taxpayer ID numbers of non-profit organizations were being grossly abused to avoid payment of taxes on all sorts of unrelated matters. If your unit funds are not subject to the same financial controls, oversight, and procedures as those of the chartering organiation, then you may be entering into "danger Will Robinson" territory should the IRS ever decide to come looking. The potential consequences for the Chartering Organization are massive, amounting to crippling fines, prison terms, and permanent loss of non-profit status. Those at the unit level, if they were found to have improperly used the tax exempt status of the chartering organization, would potentially be subject to similar. In the eyes of the IRS when the financial controls are separate and distinct that starts to look like a separate and distinct organization that should be responsible for its own taxes. One of the things that has happened around here, is that all of the organizations that claim to be part of or affiliated with various churches have started to have to change their official address to be that of the church. The mail, including bank statements, now must go through the church office and be opened and read by the pastor or his designee, copies kept as necessary for church records, and copies forwarded to the treasurers and other officers of the organizations as appropriate. In another part of the state, the Catholic diocese in that area is in the process of merging the finances of groups like scouts and men's clubs, etc. into the financial systems of its parishes and schools. Those organizations will put in check requests to the parish or school book-keeper who will then need to get the pastor's approval before writing a check. Their view is, that if they are fully legally and morally responsible for those funds, then they had better be able to account for every penny. It is for similar reasons that Scout councils can not allow OA lodges to have separate finances.
  5. Krampus: That is a heck of a lot of nice electronics. I suspect if I added up the value of all of my personal electronics plus all of my camping gear it would be less than the cost for all of that. There are some of us out here that our cars are only worth a bit more than that (perhaps less if it really came down to finding a buyer). A good multi-band two-way radio and the correct training and licenses would probably be my next backcountry safety investment, if I were going to make one, though it would have been more useful before the rise of encrypted digital radios in emergency service networks.
  6. Scouter Matt

    Harbor Freight Magnesium Firestarter

    Those might make both nice training kits, and also nice prizes for competitions. I have always had remarkably poor success with dryer lint. The stuff seems to suck up moisture from the air incredibly quickly. Also, synthetic or wool fibers in the mix don't start well at all it seems. Note the final episode of the last season of "Survivor" for examples of how NOT to start a fire with flint and steel (while a million dollar prize is on the line). I still suspect that scene was scripted, but in any case it shows remarkably poor technique. Another thing to note, if you teach people how to do a task with sub-optimal equipment they should be able to accomplish it with high quality gear. On the other hand if they learn with the ideal kit, they may not be as readily able to perform with substandard kit. Yet, when packing into the wilderness, or making a "go bag" or anything like that, certainly get the best stuff you can reasonably afford. Likewise, never pack anything you don't know how to use proficiently.
  7. Scouter Matt

    What if the Boy Scouts went coed?

    On the physical side, girls tend to hit the major growth spurts around 11, boys around 13, so that has some serious implications about age appropriate activities regarding physical aspects. The cognitive side of adolescent development is quite a bit more complex, but again the girls tend to be a couple years ahead of the boys in certain aspects. The emotional/psychological/social development however is the side that gets the least attention and actually probably makes the most difference. Here again the girls are out ahead of the boys, and in fact are ahead even as early as the toddler stage. Whereas BP noticed boys tend to form groups of friends roughly the size of a patrol, the female version of that is the high school and middle school clique. I have zero concerns about the potential of girls to handle the various tasks of Scouting. I do, however, have some real concerns as to if the program as presently designed makes the most sense to meet the needs of girls who are about two years more mature on average. I am also concerned about the ability of the boys to keep up in a co-ed program at the ages/stages where the girls have the largest leads. The boys will probably come out OK physically, but will likely lose in all other areas because their brains are running a couple of years behind until they catch up (which doesn't happen until later teens). I would be in favor of there being a BSA run program for girls, but I think it needs to be a parallel program so the different rates of development can more easily be taken into consideration. Also, I think there is some real value in having at least some small aspect of life be single sex (other than competitive sports). As an aside, I happened to witness a council run Venturing camp program this summer, and while it was expected that the young women would be mature and capable, there was a key miscalculation. It turned out they were mature, but they were critically inexperienced. They were still first-year campers, and make all the same mistakes, and need to learn all the same lessons, that first year campers learn. However, their age and maturity made the traditional first-year camper program completely out of the question. No one really knew how to deal with 15 year old female first year campers (particularly when things like homesickness started cropping up). Plus, Venturing doesn't have the level of structured indoctrination into the basics of Scouting as Boy Scouts does, so there were some elements missing. All this was made more difficult by some adult "advisers" who neither understood nor were sympathetic to the standard BSA ways of operating a camp. The modern school classroom is terribly ill suited for boys, in part because the boys are expected to be equally mature as the girls, which is, as a matter of neurological development, an absurdity. Likewise it is expected that boys will adapt to learning via the same modes and methods as girls, which on average also doesn't work out ideally. At the end of the day if the program goes co-ed it must adapt to meet the needs of the girls. If it adapts to meet the needs of the girls it becomes less optimized for meeting the needs of the boys. Thus parallel programs that lead to a co-ed program for older youth has a great deal of merit to presenting a more carefully optimized experience. We can still be one big, happy Scouting family, sharing corporate structure, supply divisions, camping properties, leadership training (to a degree). If we want to develop both girls and boys to their full potential at least a part of the journey must be separate, otherwise you will be short changing the girls in one stage and shortchanging the boys in another.
  8. Scouter Matt

    STEM Scouting

    There is huge diversity in STEM, that is for certain. Even the science inclined tend to have particular fields they like, and others they despise (I abhorred biology).
  9. Scouter Matt

    STEM Scouting

    Sorry, not intending to swerve into an Issues and Politics debate, just making an observation. Now, all that being said, since it looks like STEM Scouts is going to be a thing: How best to make such a program work? What elements of the traditional program can be adapted? What needs to be created from scratch? What can be borrowed from other organizations? How is such a program staffed? I suppose those questions are part of what the pilot programs are trying to sort out, but so far there isn't a terrible lot of information since it is still largely an experimental program. Having some experience with implementing another BSA pilot program on an experimental basis, I can tell you there are some real challenges, things like basic books/materials we usually expect not being available. (Example: The application to operate the pilot program says in the fine print it must be operated according to the such and such publication. Then you discover that the publication referenced was distributed as a draft in hard copy, the copies have all been misplaced, and new copies aren't available any more from BSA, and what was published doesn't meet current industry safety standards and so would need to be withdrawn in any case. New updated guidelines are being written, but won't be published until the program becomes a standard rather than a pilot program.) Good luck to the volunteers trying to make this new program work out in the field. They will need it. Hopefully it is good for the youth involved. [Personally, I think something vaguely like STEM Scouts is probably a good idea generally (there is a place for more STEM related activities for youth), but I am not sure if it makes any sense for BSA to be the one doing it (I fear it will produce a sub-optimal program for STEM and will also be a diversion of resources within the organization). The connection between the core distinctive elements of scouting (patrol method, outdoors, oath/law) and STEM is somewhat tenuous. It seems to me to be a large enough field that it really needs its own dedicated movement/organization. The average BSA council/district already has too many different things on its plate to do all of them well, adding in a distinctive STEM program will just be another program not well supported/integrated in the organization (see Varsity Scouts/Venturing/Sea Scouts/Exploring for current examples in most councils). In the corporate world there is a constant battle between those wanting to achieve success through focus and specialization on core business (where an organization should have competitive advantages) and those wishing to diversify by branching out into other areas of business to decrease exposure to risk in the core business.]
  10. Scouter Matt

    STEM Scouting

    We really don't have to worry about this going very far. Why? Equipment and facilities. Most schools are not going to be interested in turning over their lab facilities for an outside group to use. That equipment is expensive and easy to break. It is also potentially dangerous (even lethal) in untrained hands. From the point of view of the school there is nothing gained by opening the door to STEM Scouts. You are better off forming a science club of your own, which will require zero membership fees and zero additional insurance, and to which you can assign a faculty member as the adviser/coach. No school with any sense is going to let some outsider supervise use of lab equipment, too much risk. If BSA actually wants to push for STEM Scouts through public schools, it inevitably means creating a form of Scouting that drops Duty to God from the Oath and Reverence from the Law along with the related membership requirements. Even still it will not sell because you are charging membership fees for something where the school must still provide all the facilities, equipment, and leadership/supervision. However, you will have compromised the idea that to be a Scout includes acknowledging a personal religious duty, which means that the atheists win the next round of lawsuits against BSA over membership, because BSA will have admitted you can be a perfectly good Scout without doing a duty to God. So, STEM Scouts is the back-door for dropping both of the remaining controversial "G's".
  11. Scouter Matt

    Training Experience Is A Negative?

    Which came first, the Trainer or the Train the Trainer class? If you have to be a Trained Trainer to teach Train the Trainer, how did anyone ever get Trained? If you don't have to be a Trained Trainer to teach Train the Trainer, why do you need it to teach anything else?
  12. Scouter Matt

    Official announcement regarding LDS boy scouting

    Unless they had another option ready to deploy, they more or less had to stick with BSA for at least another year or so. There is tremendous amount of instutiional inertia and investment behind the BSA/LDS arrangement. To overcome that momentum and change directions really wasn't an option on a few months notice. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years there is some global LDS youth program, with BSA program being an optional extra program here in the US. That would put the LDS more in line with most other chartering organizations, and also ensure that if BSA makes some future change they can't stomach they have an option that doesn't involve torpedoing their entire youth ministry (for boys) program. Already quite a few LDS families opt not to participate in Scouting, and many local stakes/wards have unofficially started creating programs for the youth not active in Scouting. Glad they are staying for now, I would miss my LDS scouting acquaintances (or at least some of them).
  13. Scouter Matt

    Path To Save Bsa?

    The pay scale does seem to be unreasonably top heavy. Compare that to the highest ranking generals/admirals in the military whose pay tops out around $250k and may be responsible for organizations with employees numbering into the hundreds of thousands, serving 300 million "customers". Also, the BSA personnel and professional advancement system is completely insulated from outside competition other than at the entry-level. Internal politics is the main driver over who reaches those highest levels, it is very often difficult to quantify the impact of any executive in the organization, lots of correlations, not much causal demonstration. The BSA professional system also basically guarantees that BSA's professional side is unable to learn from any outside organizations. Since the system is such a closed loop, there is no good way of injecting the best practices and lessons learned from comparable or competitive organizations (most businesses do so by having at least a portion of their upper positions open to competitive outside hires). Also, by that same token, our executives are only graded relative to each other, they are never graded relative to any sort of industry wide performance metric. It seems one of the BSA problems is the professional system is too isolated from both internal and external feedback and correction. Similarly, just about everything BSA does is rather insular, we try to reinvent the wheel on far too many things rather than adopting common standards or practices. As an example of that last, take the model for camp management. Almost every other operator of camps has a "camp director" type person in residence at the camp year round, who is in charge of both facilities and programming, marketing, staffing, and essentially coordinates everything. The BSA model is that you have a "ranger" who is a glorified maintenance man year round on site. You then have a Director of Camping Service (six figure expense on payroll/benefits) located at the Council Service Center that is supposed to oversee all camping operations (assisted by a camping secretary that does all the scheduling and reservations and such, but may have never even set foot on the camps). Then you may also have a Director of Program (another six figures) at the Service Center that is responsible for some aspects of program at camp, often with unclear boundaries relative to the Camping Director. Then you have a seasonal Camp Director (usually a junior DE, often a random business/non-profit leadership major with no scouting background) who actually tries run the summer camp program (but has to split time with their district responsibilities, and try to keep their family/personal life functional). Then you very often have a seasonal Program Director, very often a volunteer the rest of the year, like a college student, who together with the the Commissioner (if you are lucky a long serving volunteer), actually has to run the show, and try to manage a working relationship with the ranger, and with the scoutmasters. Oh, and most council's typically expect our camps to charge fees roughly half what our competitors, do, while making a 50% profit for the council, and insisting that junior staff should only be payed $75 per week, I suppose the money for the Camping Department at the Service Center has to come from somewhere...
  14. Scouter Matt

    ANNUAL YPT Training

    Were I to be in charge... I would have some sort of short training required of every volunteer every year. Focus on the things like two-deep leadership, no one on one contact, all the basic provisions, available in person or online. Have a youth protection management training be required, with more in depth detail, more background and theory, more on what to do if an incident occurs. This training could also be a train the trainer for the simpler training. Require this of the primary unit leader and all YPT trainers. Maybe require one person per outing to have it. Require it of camp staff, council employees, etc. Face to face only, very detailed syllabus. Probably on a multi-year basis.
  15. Scouter Matt

    Neckerchief Other Than With The Uniform

    I am in favor of this. I don't know how popular it will be with the boys, but it is still a good idea. Maybe we can finally end the schizophrenia about the "field uniform" being both an outdoor/active wear item and also a dress/formal item. Comfortable active wear "activity uniforms" with neckerchief for most uses. Full uniform for flag ceremonies, courts of honor, boards of review, and more formal usages. Now, I just need to find some neckerchiefs suitable for wear on the trail or out in the sun, while still looking scout like.
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