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gblotter

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Posts posted by gblotter


  1. 21 hours ago, packsaddle said:

    Gblotter, I am aware that 'overall membership' is and has been a concern for 'top brass' in this organization for quite a while. But at the unit level, I am not sure why overall membership should be a great concern. It seems like at that level, the well-being of the unit and its members and families should be the top priority. Sort of an 'all Scouting is local' approach.

    No disagreement at all that the well-being troop members and their families should be the top priority for unit leaders. Absolutely true.

    However, lower overall BSA membership is (or should be) a concern for folks at all levels of Scouting (including individual units). When money is tight, facilities are not maintained, staffing is cut, training is shortchanged, and money pressures start forcing decisions to be made for the wrong motivations (i.e. not for the good of the boys and the program, but for the survival of BSA the corporation).

    In our little corner of BSA, I'm seeing this everywhere I go. Our heroic district staff is stretched so ridiculously thin that I keep wondering how long they can continue in this mode. Our council owns three camp properties but one sits almost completely idle (even during the busy summer camping season). Enough council funds exist to maintain only one camp property so all three are all in a state of slow decay. Paid, trained, professional camp directors have been eliminated, with their jobs now filled by seasonal volunteer replacements. The resulting lack of continuity in camp leadership leads to all sorts of cascading problems with camp staff recruitment and retention. And camp staff problems naturally result in declining camp program quality. When troops notice the poor condition of our camps and programs, they quite logically start looking elsewhere at summer camp options which only worsens the revenue problem for our council. Many more examples could be cited.

    Such problems do not remain hidden indefinitely. If quality drops enough, people take notice (and not just us Scouting enthusiasts who hang out on Scouter.com). Once the stink of a failure takes hold, people flee to other higher-quality alternatives. After that happens, it is nearly impossible to ever get them back. Without being too dramatic, I worry that Scouting is getting close to that tipping point (the LDS exit is what initially spawned such thoughts in my head). Our troop was strong in tradition and attended the same in-council camp every year for 30+ years. Then we started noticing a different camp director each year. We started overhearing grumbling and dissatisfaction from camp staff. Each year there was a "new and improved" camp program that was in reality getting worse with fewer offerings. Each year, we noticed fewer troops and Scouts in attendance at that camp. Finally things got bad enough for our troop to start investigating other summer camp options and we discovered a whole new world of possibilities. We never looked back and there is little chance we will ever return to our old council camp. A loyal customer has been permanently lost. I apply the same analogy to the loyal multi-generational Scouting families who are being alienated by BSA's recent decisions. Once lost, these Scouting loyalists will be gone forever as they move on and devote their time and energy to other worthy pursuits. I very seriously doubt the number of new girls joining BSA will come close to replacing the membership losses resulting from this alienation. Thus, the original problem of declining BSA membership will be compounded rather than fixed, hastening even more desperate decisions. It's all so very sad for me to watch.

    I hope you can see how declining overall BSA membership creates problems for all levels of Scouting (even at the unit level). Declining membership results in less money which results in constrained resources which results in degraded quality of the Scouting experience for everyone (even if an individual troop happens to be large in numbers and well-funded). Not to be insulting, but the phrase "All Scouting is Local" is frequently deployed to dismiss hard problems and bad decisions that folks just don't want to think about or deal with.

    • Upvote 2

  2. 2 hours ago, shortridge said:

    - Boys are more important than you

    - Boys have the power to exclude you

    - You have to take the leftovers and castoffs

    Are those Scoutlike values and messages?

    So I'll just assume you also ascribe those negative traits to GSUSA which excludes boys at every level. How very unScoutlike of them, right? Or does your door of condemnation swing only one way (against boys)?

    • Upvote 1

  3. 29 minutes ago, shortridge said:

    Do you mind pointing out where?

    I was anticipating your question. The camp I had in mind is Camp Baldwin in the Cascade Pacific Council. However, I just revisited their website so I could send you a screenshot and discovered that they have reversed course. No girl-only weeks at Camp Baldwin after all, so I retract my claim.


  4. 1 hour ago, shortridge said:

    Does such a thing exist, or are you stuffing a man full of straw?

    Yes, there are girl-only weeks currently on the 2019 calendar at some BSA camps. What bigots those people must be.


  5. 1 hour ago, shortridge said:

    Because girls aren’t second-class citizens, and boys don’t get priority.

    So if a girl-only troop gravitates to a girl-only week at a BSA camp, I supposed that means those girls consider boys to be second class citizens, right?


  6. 4 hours ago, shortridge said:

    Was there a significant demand from your existing troops to segregate summer camp like that?

    Our troop is engaged in summer camp planning right now. During the discussions, I alerted the boys that next summer they will be joined by girls at summer camp. Several boys then asked that we organize our own summer camp instead and completely avoid BSA summer camps. Those discussions are still ongoing. The concept of co-ed summer camp is proving to be a big deal for both boys and parents.

     

    4 hours ago, shortridge said:

    For summer 2019, my council has set aside a quarter of the total camp weeks for only boys’ troops. Is anyone else seeing or doing this?

    With so few girl troops anticipated, perhaps the real question should be why so many summer camp weeks are being designated as co-ed.


  7. The boys who are ok with BSA's girl decision will stick around.

    The boys who are not ok with BSA's girl decision will leave the movement.

    Either way, BSA will end up with a membership pool who is happy with this new model of co-ed Scouting.

    Whether the enrollment of new girls will outpace the drain of disaffected boys is a complete unknown at this early date.

    I'd let about five years elapse so the dust can settle on the LDS exit before declaring girls in BSA to be a success.

    Even though I am quite ignorant about the Cub program in general, I don't doubt that girls in Cub Scouting will yield a net increase in overall membership. My comments about relate specifically to Boy Scouting.


  8. 2 minutes ago, Oldscout448 said:

    But I'm not going to help him use cheat codes.

    Attending a council-sponsored event to earn merit badges is somehow cheating? Interesting interpretation. Are merit badge classes at BSA Scout camps also cheating?


  9. 3 hours ago, LVAllen said:

    I think what Barry is hinting at is did you shortchange your youth leadership of teaching opportunities and character development in favor of learning from "true experts"?

    These are the AdvanceCamp examples I had in my head.

    Second Class requirement #4: Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of wild animals (such as birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, or mollusks) found in your local area or camping location.

    AdvanceCamp had recruited someone from a local natural history museum who brought with him museum display cases of taxidermied animals which are present in the local environment. It was super impressive - no way our troop could come close to reproducing that.

    First Class requirement #5a: Identify or show evidence of at least 10 kinds of native plants found in your local area or campsite location.

    AdvanceCamp had recruited a botanist who provided samples and detailed descriptions of local plant life. It is hard to match the expertise of a trained botanist.

    Their presentations were fascinating, and I don't consider our boys shortchanged in any way because they learned from true experts.


  10. 1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

    Our troop never sent a group, we gave the information to the Scouts and left it up to them.

    That is how our troop typically approaches merit badge colleges - we'll advertise the event and let Scouts sign up individually if they want.

    However, for AdvanceCamp they require troops to sign up as a group. Individual registrations are not allowed. Because we had a group of 15 interested in attending, it morphed into a troop activity even though that wasn't our original intention.


  11. 2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

    Many of us have led programs of around 30 Scouts without having to “wing it”, as you say.

    Congratulations on being superior.

    2 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

    What I asked and was really leading to is, did your troop learn anything to improve your troop program.

    Sure - I always take away tips and tricks whenever I can.


  12. 7 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

    That being said, what can camp provide that your troop can’t?

    We are a small troop of just 30 Scouts. I think we do a great job with the limited resources available to us, but our talent pool reflects the size of our troop. Taking advantage of a much larger talent pool at AdvanceCamp gave us exposure to some expertise we simply don't have in-house.

    Sure - we can always "wing it" if needed, but it's inspiring to learn from true experts in the subject matter.


  13. On 9/6/2018 at 10:18 AM, gblotter said:

    This is the first year our troop will be attending AdvanceCamp, so it’s entirely possible our boys will discover that it’s not for us, either. Particularly because of the event’s size (3000 Scouts), I’m approaching this as an experiment.

    AdvanceCamp was yesterday, so I'm reporting back on the experience.

    The quality of merit badge classes varied widely. Some were very well-organized. For example, the Emergency Preparedness merit badge had boys moving between different stations to learn and demonstrate skills. The Trail-to-First-Class program was excellent, too, with many stations staffed by skilled volunteers (including older Scouts instructing younger Scouts). Those experiences were better than anything we could generate at the troop level - raves and praise all around.

    By contrast, Citizenship in the World merit badge felt like a merit badge mill of the worst kind with six separate classes running in parallel. The classroom setting was a huge hall - so noisy that it was difficult to share and hear comments. I can't endorse that kind of learning environment at all.


  14. No doubt there will be many more mergers/consolidations after the LDS exit next year. My own council is at risk with just three districts (already too small by some estimations). After the LDS exit, that will likely drop to two districts.

    But size isn't everything - somehow, the tiny Piedmont California Council manages to survive and thrive.

     


  15. 16 hours ago, Ranman328 said:

    Had a Scout email me this past Saturday night that he completed his 5 mile hike.  Included pictures of map and compass used as well as the route taken.  It was the last thing he needed before his SMC and BOR.  He requested a SMC and BOR.  I emailed him back "Be in Class A and have your handbook and Eagle Binder at Tuesday's meeting"  Sent an email to the Troop Committee and within minutes, had five Committee Members respond that would be there to conduct a BOR.  Proud to say the Scout earned rank last night.  Our Troop has cut off dates for our COH and September 30 is the cut off date for our COH in October.  It gives our Advancement Chair time to get everything together, go to scout store to purchase all awards etc.  We have a campout this weekend and this scout is attending and yes, I could have said we would do it then.  I might not have been able to get Committee Members to complete his BOR and September 30 comes and goes and he has to wait until January to receive his award.  In the end, the scout would get punished.  As I have said before, I will do everything in my power to get these Scouts to rank up.

    This is basically how our troop operates. I conduct the SMC and then signal the CC to schedule the BOR as soon possible. The SMC and BOR will frequently happen back-to-back on the same day, and they always happen withing a week of the Scout making the request. Our troop holds a COH three times a year. We set and publicize a cutoff date before each COH. It has proven to be an effective incentive for the boys to finish off lingering rank requirements and partial merit badges. We automatically assume that a few SMCs and BORs will be held on the cutoff day for that reason.

    @Hawkwin I don't remember you mentioning the size of your troop. We have a smaller troop of 30 Scouts which makes flexible scheduling easier. I know of several mega troops (130+ Scouts) in our area. I have no doubt they run high-quality Scouting programs, but I can't imagine operating in that kind of environment. So much personal attention would be lost, and you end up with subcommittees generating long, legalistic policy documents like the one you describe. Different strokes for different folks, but I'd be finding a new - and possibly smaller - troop (as I've said before).

     

    16 hours ago, Ranman328 said:

    If they put in the work, so will I.  I try to teach the Scouts that hard work does pay off.

    I love that quote. What a contrast to the SM for @Hawkwin


  16. 1 hour ago, LVAllen said:

    The problem is that claims of "leftward lurches" doesn't explain the abandonment of Personal Progress or Activity Days, which are also falling by the wayside.

    I have no knowledge about what may or may not be happening with Personal Progress or Activity Days.

    It does seem that the Church is generally moving away from awards as a motivation and more towards personal development. The key phrase I remember is that activity programs will be focused on meeting needs, not satisfying requirements.

    • Upvote 1

  17. On 9/20/2018 at 1:03 PM, gblotter said:

    For crying out loud, this is a 15-minute Scoutmaster Conference - not a SCOTUS confirmation hearing!

    After reading through the proposed policies, I literally groaned. I never realized that some troops are run like this with such a heavy hand. I was wrong to compare things to a SCOTUS confirmation hearing - instead it sounds more like an IRS audit. If that policy doc is reflective of how your troop operates, I would spend no further efforts at reform. I’d be moving my BSA membership to a different troop immediately.

    Rigid governance docs like this are just so foreign to my Scouting experience. Where is the fun? Where is the adventure? Are the boys involved in any of this? The problems of this troop obviously extend far beyond just a SM conference. Ugh times 3.

    • Thanks 1

  18. Ours is a multi-generational LDS Scouting family with three generations of Eagle Scouts and two generations of Scoutmasters. In spite of my dedication to Scouting, I have felt increasing discord each time BSA takes a left turn. My uneasiness grows with each new announcement from Irving. Our missions are diverging: The BSA program is changing to seek greater approval and acceptance from the world; the church youth program is changing to seek greater approval and acceptance from God. So be it - each organization should have control over its own destiny.

    The more details I learn about the replacement LDS youth activity program, the more confidence I have that separating from BSA is the right decision. There will be better alignment with church standards. There will greater consistency in the experience of all youth (boys and girls, US and non-US). There will be better utilization of limited resources (Scouting has always been very resource intensive). There will be less focus on badges and awards, more focus on personal development (spiritual, social, physical, intellectual).

    As a reference point, this is the LDS youth program that replaced Varsity Scouts and Venturing:  https://www.lds.org/youth/ymactivities?lang=eng  (you will notice many activity components familiar to Scouting).

    I would expect something similar to replace the Boy Scout program. The future is bright.

    • Upvote 1

  19. I'm sorry - a situation like this is certainly ego-bruising. Hopefully, it can be viewed as a learning experience too.

    Regarding the screaming episode with the other parent, we can all lose our cool (particularly when defensive instincts about our own children kick in). Sometimes loud shouting becomes more than just an expression of frustration and disagreement - sometimes it can create real fear and intimidation. I'd guessing the committee is reacting to the latter.

    I'm embarrassed whenever I lose control of my temper. I instantly regret it and quickly find a way to apologize. Even if I consider myself mostly blameless, fence-mending gestures help me feel better about my involvement in the matter. In my personal interactions, I tend to be a pleaser and a peacemaker - that's just how I roll (curious how that doesn't always translate to my online interactions, however - haha).

    I don't see how an appeal can force a SM to work with an ASM. Perhaps it is just bad chemistry between you two, or perhaps there are more concrete issues behind it. Either way, I don't think it changes the outcome - you must step aside. I'd send a note to the CC and the SM expressing appreciation for your experiences working with the troop and be gracious as you exit. You don't want a poisoned environment if your son intends to remain in the troop (assuming that's the plan).


  20. The common misconception is that BSA is an altruistic organization composed of selfless volunteers with the mission of building boys into men of character.

    The reality is that BSA is a corporation driven by corporate motives. Money - not altruism - drives BSA, just like any corporation. While many BSA volunteers may indeed be selfless, BSA corporate leaders largely ignore and dismiss the opinions of front-line volunteers in decision-making.

    • Downvote 3

  21. 2 hours ago, qwazse said:
    • Increase the youth's comfort and skill talking eye-to-eye with adults.
    • Help the youth reflect on his scouting career and make plans going forward.
    • Help adults discover what is inspiring or discouraging a youth ... in hopes of finding ways to encourage or exhort him/her.
    • Help adults discover what the youth would like from their unit, but really never thought to ask.

    My Scoutmaster Conferences have mostly focused on point #2. These other points are great - thanks for the ideas.

    • Like 1

  22. 6 hours ago, Hawkwin said:

    Even if the committee adopts my recommendation at the next meeting, it will still be late October or even November before a SMC is granted.

    @Hawkwin  I am so sorry.

    In many forum threads, we talk about the game of Scouting and how Scouting dies when the fun is lost. Is there any more effective way to drain fun from the experience than what you and your son are going through? Waiting another 1-2 months to adopt recommendations from a subcommittee - really?!? For crying out loud, this is a 15-minute Scoutmaster Conference - not a SCOTUS confirmation hearing!

    • Upvote 1
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