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gblotter

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Everything posted by gblotter

  1. gblotter

    Questions about "Boy Led" Troop

    I will take the time to listen to the podcast after work. I'm sure it must be interesting material. Yep - I get what you are saying about subtle steering. Often that is the most effective method, and most times I am not very good at it. I picture myself more like a benevolent drill sergeant. With our group of sprinters, I realized we needed to regroup when converging on the intersection of five trails. I had no idea which of the five trails the lead group had taken. A flashback to backpacking terror made it an easy decision to request a regroup. As it turned out, they did take the right trail in the first place. Their decision to sprint was not premeditated or preapproved. With excess energy, they just took off without a word and without even a map. Under other circumstances, perhaps I would have been more open to their discovery.
  2. I read so many threads with very experienced Scouters speaking quite negatively about merit badges and rank advancement. There is so much disparaging talk about Eagle mills and merit badge factories. Focusing on merit badges and the trail to Eagle means you are missing the point of Scouting and not having a quality experience. You are only a true Scout if you are in it for the fun. Some have even advocated for eliminating merit badges classes entirely from troop meetings and summer camp schedules. In the minds of some, advancement seems to be at the root of all that is wrong with Scouting because it introduces a corrupt motivation and becomes a distraction from having fun. This talk never ends here on Scouter.com which leads to me ask ... How many folks think that eliminating merit badges and rank advancement from the Scouting program would be a good thing? I'm actually not trolling - I'm asking a serious question.
  3. gblotter

    Questions about "Boy Led" Troop

    We will have to agree to disagree. When it comes to safety, I draw the line in armchair philosophizing about boy leadership. Informing a parent that their son is dead because I didn't want to interfere with boy leadership ... no, I'm not willing to go there. From personal experience, I tell you that these situations can spiral out of control very quickly. Disasters can be averted by modest adjustments (like requesting the SPL to regroup). This is not helicopter parenting - this is the difference between life and death. Sorry for jumping to the nuclear option with examples of dead Scouts, but I have personally lived the terror of a Scout who was lost for multiple days. Fortunately nobody died in our backpacking mishap, but the outcome easily could have tipped against us. I'm just glad our backpacking situation did not end up like Garrett Bardsley. http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=2921219&itype=NGPSID "Garrett disappeared Aug. 20, 2004, on a trip with his father and some Boy Scouts. The group was near Cuberant Lake. Garrett's shoes became wet and his father sent him back to camp, but the boy never made it there. A search began within 40 minutes after he was last seen. Summit County Search and Rescue joined, and after a few days the mission changed from a rescue operation to a recovery. The search was discontinued Aug. 29 without finding a sign of Garrett. The Bardsley family continued searching until winter weather forced them to stop. They kept Garrett's name circulating through the public by founding an organization in his name and starting the Web site http://www.findgarrett.org. They prepared months for the second search. In the second search, the mission was to find remains or some other sign of Garrett the family could use to bring closure. "I think everyone was out here hoping they'd be the ones to find something," said Virginia Roundy, a 54-year-old volunteer from Orem, shortly after her search team returned. Bardsley family members have said the search that concluded Saturday would be the last, large-scale effort to find Garrett's remains, though Kevin Bardsley has left open the possibility he might return here to look."
  4. gblotter

    Questions about "Boy Led" Troop

    Yes - getting lost is definitely a safety issue. Unfortunately many Scouts have died over the years as a result of getting lost in such situations. Years ago, I was on a Scout backpacking trip where part of our group got separated and lost because we were too spread out on the trail. It took multiple days and the help of professional search and rescue experts to reunite everyone. Helicopters and Park Rangers on horseback were enlisted. The story was featured in newspapers and on evening new broadcasts. Believe me - that is not good publicity for Boys Scouts. We were relieved that no lives were lost. Many lessons were learned by all involved (both boys and adults).
  5. gblotter

    Questions about "Boy Led" Troop

    This very well describes how our troop operates. Our troop has an annual planning/calendaring meeting led by the SPL. We are a small troop, so everyone gets to vote. The boys choose our camping destinations with the understanding that dates may shift around based on the availability of campsite reservations. Adult leaders are the ones who take that information and go make the actual campsite reservations. If changes are needed, the boys vote again on a new plan (example: this year the boys voted for snow camping but unfortunately there was no snow). For campouts, the boys always do their own meal planning, equipment assignments, tent assignments, etc. Adult leaders on the campout cook, eat, and tent separately. Under direction of the PL or SPL, the boys also vote on the activities for weekly meetings. Sometimes the agenda is preset (i.e. we will always hold a campout planning meeting right before a weekend campout). Sometimes the boys have voted to work on rank advancement, sometimes to have a merit badge class, sometimes to help with a service project, sometimes to have a game night - there is a lot of variety. Boy leadership should have its limits. On a recent troop hike, our SPL was leading a group of boys in front who were sprinting to the finish. We were getting spread out too far apart on the trail, so I asked him to return and rejoin the rest of the group. It was a safety issue of potentially getting separated and lost. The SPL became indignant, saying "so much for boy leadership". Sometimes adults know best - such is life. I give our troop a "B" grade for boy leadership. We are somewhat hobbled because our troop leadership is quite young (13 year old SPL). Our older Scouts rarely show up or put any real effort into leadership assignments, so it falls to the younger Scouts who have the enthusiasm and commitment. We are doing ok, but I recognize there are definitely things we could do better. It is an evolution, and I can see improvements in our boy leadership over time.
  6. So much wisdom in this statement. During my time as SM, I have worked with two outstanding CCs who understand their responsibilities and take the job seriously. They are invaluable to me and the success of our troop. They lighten my administrative load and back me up when needed. In addition, I will rely on a good CC as a sounding board and honest observer to tell me if I need to shift my approach as SM. My CC is not a rubber stamp for everything I might want to do. With enough mutual trust and respect, the relationship functions a bit like a marriage where they aren’t afraid to tell me both the good and the bad. So important.
  7. I see this too, but mainly in our older Scouts. I'd love to use them as mentors for the younger Scouts, but they never show up for anything. These older boys are distracted with sports/girls/cars/homework and rarely participate in campouts or other Scouting activities. And when they do show up, it is under pressure from parents. They give minimal effort to troop leadership assignments - just lip service, really. In our troop, that is where I see the quality problems surfacing.
  8. I did the same this year. Our merit badge signups for camp are happening right now. There are four merit badge class periods during the day. I suggested each Scout do three merit badges and leave the fourth open as free time. So far everyone (including my own son) has ignored me and signed up for four merit badges. Part of it is that these boys all want to be together in the same classes. Their friendships are tight which is certainly not a bad thing.
  9. I agree that summer camp is a terrible place to offer book study merit badges (Eagle required or otherwise). When I see camp schedules listing Citizenship in the World MB and Communications MB, I think what a waste. Perhaps one exception might be Environmental Science. That merit badge is rather bookish, but earning it at camp seems to be most effective because of ready access to so many resources. I'd hate trying to earn that one at home.
  10. gblotter

    Helping scouts with social anxiety

    Oh, yes - lots of professionals are involved.
  11. gblotter

    Helping scouts with social anxiety

    We have a similar Scout in our troop. He came on one campout last year, but he arrived late and kept to himself most of the time. He declined opportunities to share a tent with others - preferred going solo. He stayed in his tent while everyone else was cooking, eating, having fun. We finally got him out of his tent by telling him we needed his help for a service project. That campout was the last time we saw him at any kind of Scouting function. His parents say they are struggling just to keep him in school, so we shouldn't worry about his Scouting involvement for now. I'm aware of several similar situations of other teens who struggle with debilitating levels of anxiety. The problem is surprisingly pervasive, but many parents stay private about it because they don't want to compound the problems for their child. A very tough situation.
  12. gblotter

    Guide to Advancement

    Our district MBC list is quite long, too. I know some names have been on the MBC list for literally decades, so who knows how involved these folks are at the present time. Many parents sign up as a MBC to help out when their son first joins a troop. I'll bet many would be surprised to learn their name is still on the list so many years later. This happens A LOT in our district/council. I have made exceptions, but I confess to being "that guy" who prefers to work only with my own troop.
  13. Yep - my son has a good buddy who fits this description. They were tent-mates during their first year at summer camp, and they remain good friends now. His friend will never reach Eagle and that is just fine with everyone - nobody is bothered that advancement is not his priority. He still enjoys the campouts and friendships as much as anyone. This friend helped quite a bit with my son's Eagle project and was asked to be a presenter at my son's ECOH. From everything I can tell, both boys are having quality Scouting experiences (although obviously very different in some aspects).
  14. gblotter

    Guide to Advancement

    It's really interesting that the online MBC training does not get advertised at all by our council - only the in-person training. I can only assume they want to introduce a gatekeeper function with the in-person training. I know from other situations that our council is generally focused on trying to improve the quality of merit badge counseling, so perhaps their emphasis on in-person training is part of that.
  15. gblotter

    Guide to Advancement

    Our council is quite lacking in online training opportunities (so ironic given that we live in the heart of Silicon Valley). I only see the monthly in-person MBC training offered in the regular council advertisements. Regardless, the MBC listing for our council is extensive (more than 100 pages long).
  16. Analyzing external vs internal motivations is interesting (and complex). I get what you are saying, but I try to reconcile that with my son's experience earning the Railroading merit badge. He took that class only because it was offered at a Merit Badge Midway. It was definitely externally driven. He had no prior interest in trains, but he gained an interest because of the excellent merit badge instructor. He's glad he didn't miss out on that experience, even though he never would have gone down that path from a purely internal motivation. Yes - he has had plenty of externally driven merit badge classes that bored him beyond belief (Chemistry, Digital Technology, Energy, Electricity, Geology, Nuclear Science, Traffic Safety). He stays involved in these classroom merit badges partly because he keeps hoping for more diamonds like Railroading. I let him know when merit badge opportunities surface, but it is entirely his decision to enroll (sometimes he does not). This weekend my son completed two new merit badges (Medicine and Photography) at yet another Merit Badge Midway. He spent 3 hours in pre-reqs for the Medicine MB helping with a blood drive last month. He spent 8 hours in pre-reqs for the Photography MB preparing a portfolio of various photos. No pencil whipping involved. The Medicine MB was extremely boring (as expected), the Photography MB was not too bad. It was his choice to pursue both and he did the required work for both. His horizons were broadened and he doesn't regret the experience, so where is the foul? The bad-mouthing here on Scouter.com about Eagle mills and merit badge factories and pencil whipping gets extreme. I do sincerely wonder if some would rather have advancement eliminated from Scouting altogether. Sure - there are bad apples, but it is certainly not the rule for the Scouting experience of my son. He is now an Eagle Scout with 53 merit badges. Even at this stage, he chooses to keep pursuing more merit badges because advancement still matters to him (and it always has from the beginning). Remove the motivation of advancement, and his longevity in Scouting would probably wane (something like the example of Venturing's dwindling numbers where there is little focus on advancement). I find it annoying as heck that some here would characterize my son as not having a quality Scouting experience because of his focus on advancement. In addition to all his merit badges, he also has 52 nights of camping and 93 miles of hiking/backpacking (thanks Scoutbook for these stats). This spring he will participate in OA Ordeal. He has attended five BSA summer camps plus National Jamboree. This summer he will attend two more BSA summer camps. For 2019, and he is looking at attending a BSA High Adventure Base or maybe working on staff at a BSA summer camp. This boy drinks Scouting from a fire hose. Just because he has a lot of advancement under his belt does not mean my son is missing out on the fun of Scouting. He would laugh at that idea. I started this thread to solicit feedback, but also to make a point. Quite frankly, the endless negativity on Scouter.com over the topic of advancement gets really tiring. Painting with such a broad brush rarely captures individual experiences with any accuracy. That is my point. @blw2 Your comments are reasoned and thoughtful. There are other negative nellies in other threads who triggered my rant above - nothing personal directed at you.
  17. gblotter

    Guide to Advancement

    In our council, a monthly in-person training class is offered to become a new merit badge counselor. At the conclusion of that class, attendees are given the paperwork to be added to the MB counselor list. That seems to work as a gatekeeper process. Unless you are transferring in as an experienced Scouter, I don’t know how else you would get added to the list (in our council).
  18. Perhaps not surprisingly, my son's favorite merit badges have been ... Horsemanship, Small Boat Sailing, Motorboating. And surprisingly ... Railroading. His instructor for Railroading was a train buff who sets up a huge train display in his front year every Christmas season. My son has no particular interest in trains, but the instructor's expertise and enthusiasm made the merit badge interesting.
  19. Sadly, there are some Scouting leaders who just don’t get it. They shirk training opportunities and just wing it. They take shortcuts and follow the path of least resistance. Why do they behave this way? Maybe they were assigned a job they never really wanted in the first place. Maybe they are inexperienced and operating in ignorance. Maybe they are following the bad example of others and assume this is how it works. Or maybe they are overburdened, lazy, or just don’t care. After these bad leaders are installed and bad patterns are established, making changes can be slow and difficult. Sometimes you just need to wait out the clock until they are released and move along. It can be especially maddening to watch from the sidelines if you really care about Scouting. @SummerFun - I feel your frustration, and I have been there. When I took over as Scoutmaster, it was to rescue a troop in rapid decline under just such a Scout leader. His last official act was to sign off his own son on three rank advancements that were never actually earned. Then he continued to sign off his son on merit badges until I put a stop to that. The best advice I can give is to make changes from the inside as a helpful supporter and involved parent rather than an outside critic. Volunteer for assignments when you see a need. By making yourself a vital component of the program, you also position yourself to effect change. Gentle persuasion and humor usually work better than a full frontal assault. Don’t adopt the image of a rigid Scouting fanatic because then you’ll just be pushed aside and ignored. Ultimately, none of your efforts may succeed. In a worst-case scenario, perhaps explore joining another troop (but I understand all the complexities of going that route). We live in an imperfect world - have courage.
  20. Many BSA summer camps (ours included) have a high adventure program specifically targeted at older scouts who are not interested in earning merit badges. Very tempting activities like climbing, mountain biking, sailing, water skiing, etc. Minimum age 14 to participate.
  21. Camp Meriwether seems to be operating under the assumption that LDS troops are the only ones who care about a single-gender camping experience. Make a few accommodations for the LDS units, and everyone else will be fine with co-ed camping. It will be interesting to see how that assumption plays out in their summer camp enrollments.
  22. Same here. The older boys are too distracted with other pursuits (sports, cars, girls, homework). If they are too busy for Scouting, then I am too busy for them. I’d rather spend my time working with the younger boys who have a real desire and enthusiasm for Scouting.
  23. gblotter

    2017 Report to the Nation-Membership

    I don't know. Are there statistics on this? Not in our council, at least. Our council has three camp properties, and one sits mostly unused (even during the summer months). But nothing has gone up for sale (yet).
  24. Camp Meriwether in Oregon has already published their plan for the 2019 camping season. See https://www.cpcbsa.org/meriwether Out of 8 weeks, only two will be set aside as "Boys Only". It seems to me they have it backwards - perhaps only two weeks should be open to girls. The tail is wagging the dog.
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