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dkurtenbach

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dkurtenbach last won the day on August 5

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  1. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    Sounds like that Council Executive has given up. Of course traditional Scouting still works -- at the unit level, if you have leaders who know what they are doing and an active program, especially an active outdoor program. Traditional Scouting isn't working nearly as well at organizational levels above the unit because the layers of bureaucracy above the unit level aren't adding much value to unit Scouting and instead are a drag on the movement.
  2. dkurtenbach

    Can private organizations like BSA discriminate?

    Yes. Religious institutions. And most of them have "in-house" youth programs of some kind. It makes perfect sense that religious institutions would want to leverage Scouting programs to expand the activity options for their youth while keeping those youth in a values-based program consistent with the values of the religious organization. And it makes perfect sense that BSA would want to partner with organizations that have a lot of youth in order to efficiently grow and maintain membership. And it made sense that once those religious organizations became major BSA constituencies, BSA had strong incentives to stay on the good side of those organizations. We have to keep in mind that Baden-Powell had a lot to say about religion being integral to Scouting. BSA's Declaration of Religious Principle was adopted early in BSA's history, and is consistent with the social norms of the early 20th Century. And discrimination against homosexuals was socially acceptable until only recently and is still the subject of legal disputes. Still, BSA's opposition on moral grounds appeared extreme because BSA was considered a patriotic community organization, not a religious organization. Further, BSA's claim that homosexuality was not "Clean" seemed particularly odd and offensive. Remember that BSA marketing tagline, "America is returning to the values that Scouting never left"? Did BSA really believe that? I think the real problem was that BSA was too slow in realizing that it didn't matter whether it had the right to discriminate, because it was actually dependent on public support, not its religious partners.
  3. dkurtenbach

    Can private organizations like BSA discriminate?

    Much as Pickett's Charge breaching the Union line on Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg (1863) is considered by some the "high-water mark of the Confederacy," the Supreme Court decision in the Dale case (2000) could be considered the high-water mark of BSA's war in defense of "traditional values." With each, there was a brief period of seeming victory, followed by retreat and disappointment. According to this article, after Dale, BSA's membership suffered a casualty rate similar to that of the Confederate forces attacking the center of the Union line that day -- approximately 50% (4.8 million as of 1998, 2.3 million as of 2016). I don't know that it is accurate to attribute all of that membership decline to public disapproval of BSA's "right to discriminate." Some of that decline was self-inflicted in 2013-2014 after BSA decided to admit gay youth and in 2015 when the ban on gay adult leaders was lifted. All part of the same war, though. There will always be debates over whether Pickett's Charge (also known as Longstreet's Assault) was a mistake -- whether Lee should have realized after the first two days of battle that his advantage had been lost and there was no knock-out blow to be had at Gettysburg. The same could be said of BSA and Dale -- after all, Ellen DeGeneres had come out as lesbian on national television in 1997 and the New Jersey state Supreme Court had ruled 7-0 against BSA in 1999 -- public sentiment concerning homosexuality was already turning.
  4. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    BSA seems to be at some kind of organizational crossroads as a result of membership standards changes, litigation over past sexual abuse, and financial difficulties. Given the uncertainty and BSA's needs -- membership, in particular -- I think it is fair to consider changing the organizational level within BSA that determines what members will be doing and how they will be doing it. That is, the level of the organization that decides on specific details of programs (such as individual rank or activity requirements), membership eligibility (age, sex, belief), and individual unit organization (for example, separate boy/girl dens and troops versus fully co-ed). In our hyper-litigious society, there have to be some nationwide standards in critical areas such as youth protection and physical safety. But Scouting as a program lives or dies at the local unit level. Maybe it is time for BSA National to restrict itself to areas that have to have nationwide uniformity, but otherwise just set some general program goals and boundaries ("must haves" and "no-nos"). Within those boundaries allow local Chartered Organizations, Scout leaders, and Scouts to adapt and experiment based on local conditions, with the approval of local Councils. Train 'em, Trust 'em, Let 'em Lead. Give units the leeway to do what works for them within the framework of the greater BSA program.
  5. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    This is a good article about the challenges faced by a council with 80% LDS membership. To me, this was the most significant statement in that article: "Braithwaite said he has even seen the new community troop in Idaho Falls created by a local businessman and a group of Scouts, including Braithwaite’s two sons, grow instead of shrink over that last year. 'We’re just trying to keep the kids going,' Braithwaite said. 'The more we do, the more kids keep coming.'” (Emphasis added.) We have to keep front and center the reality that neither BSA National nor our local councils are "Scouting." Baden-Powell's Scouting program didn't arrive in the United States with the formation of a corporation. It arrived with with copies of Scouting for Boys, a book chock-full of fun and adventure and challenge, and the resulting ad hoc formation of local Scout troops. More than a century later, that truth has not changed: All Scouting is local. It happens in dens and packs and troops and crews and ships. All Scout recruiting is local. Youth join units because of their friends and families and unit activities. Even in the midst of all of the problems of BSA National, youth continue to join -- and stay in -- active units with great outdoor programs and great leadership. They continue to leave units that don't hold their interest. The more we do [in our local units], the more kids keep coming. I am reminded of a line from the movie Follow Me Boys where plans for a troop celebration are being explained to Lem, the old Scoutmaster. When he is told that the Troop Committee is handling things, he responds, "The Troop Committee? They'll just gum everything up." I'm wondering if that applies on a vastly larger scale to the decisions made by BSA National, at least starting with the "improved" Scouting program that broke American Scouting at its height in the 1970s. Maybe BSA's priorities should be to shrink its corporate bureaucracy as much as possible, issue only policies that are absolutely necessary (such as YPT), and get out of the way of Scouting at the local level so that units, Scouts, and Scouters can improvise, innovate, and adapt their membership policies, training, and program elements to local conditions.
  6. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    I absolutely agree that our program has to be fun and interesting to kids. My experience is that kids like doing things that make a difference -- even (or especially) difficult things -- as long as the object is clear and understandable and relevant to them, the activity is scaled to the age and attention span of the youth, and the activity is planned and offered in a way that is not boring or tedious or otherwise unappealing. By their mid-teens, young people are aware of what is happening in the world, are forming opinions about those issues, and are looking for outlets where they can do something positive. That is also the time when young people are dropping out of Scouting after having done lots of camping and hiking and merit badge earning and serving in Positions of Responsibility. Scouting activities directed outward toward real-world problems (but still within the core Scouting program) could provide that outlet and keep more youth in Scouting programs. At the same time, BSA's reputation and future membership is in the control of adults. They are the people who see the bigger picture and have opinions about the value of the Boy Scouts of America. They are the people who will judge whether BSA has something worthwhile to contribute to today's world and should be supported, or is just a refuge for hobbyists and traditionalists who want to retreat from today's world.
  7. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    I would say that BSA already has all of the content of a nature/ecology/environmental program available in its handbooks, merit badge pamphlets, and Fieldbook. These can be supplemented by authoritative outside materials and, best of all, by experts directly teaching and guiding Scouts -- experts readily available in local, state, and national parks and local high schools, community colleges, and universities. But I agree that nature study is often a neglected subject matter in unit programs, perhaps because it is an area that is far more knowledge-based and far less hands-on than other standard Scouting subjects. Nevertheless, if BSA wishes to improve its image in the minds of the general public, one thing it must do (in addition to dealing with the sexual abuse and financial crises) is counteract the perception that Scouting is a "living history" program, teaching youth about things like whittling and pioneering and campfires, and wearing uniforms designed nearly fifty years ago. That is, the public perception that Scouting is out-of-touch and not relevant to the problems of today's world. One of the biggest of those problems is the environment. Another is obesity. Another -- particularly where the news is full of the devastation of severe storms, forest fires, and mass-casualty events -- is emergency preparation and response. Another is nature deprivation syndrome and too much electronic screen time. These are four areas that are directly addressed by existing BSA program content and that can all make a difference now as well as in the future. BSA must show America that it is relevant to the world today by publicly, visibly, and powerfully engaging in issues that matter today.
  8. dkurtenbach

    ...Still Relevant and Worthwhile...?

    We have to separate the concept of "relevance" from the concept of being "worthwhile." Character education and skills training for youth today are certainly important -- worthwhile -- for the future, whether 5 or 10 or 30 years from now. But relevance is defined as related to or connected to the matter at hand. The matter at hand is the condition of youth and society today, now. To be relevant, Scouting has to be seen as a program that benefits participants almost immediately upon joining; those benefits to youth must be observable and understandable to the public; the program must be perceived as understanding and being engaged in today's world (not looking back to the past); and the program must not be perceived as being for a narrow or select audience or as having views or practices considered exclusive or offensive.
  9. dkurtenbach

    Fee increase - observations

    As an administrative subdivision of the Council, the most pressure on a district and its leadership comes from its responsibility for two functions: (1) raise its share of the Council operating budget each year, through Friends of Scouting, special fundraising events (a golf tournament or awards dinner), and participation of units in the Council-approved fundraisers (such as popcorn sales); and (2) recruit (largely through units) its share of new members. Those are areas of need where the Council is heavily dependent on existing units: units and unit members are the source of a lot of the funds raised, and recruitment largely happens in units and through unit efforts. The flip side of that are other district functions designed to support and serve units, such as leader training, Roundtable, Unit Commissioners, and district-wide program activities such as camporees. Units do have a need for many different kinds of support and resources that typically are not readily available within the unit or chartered organization. For example: meeting space (if not available from CO); uniforms, equipment, publications, supplies; camping and activity locations; summer camps, high adventure opportunities, and other program experiences beyond the standard unit campout or other recurring unit activity; adult leader training; advanced youth leader training; registration, advancement, and award administration, instruction, and guidance; and people to talk to about unit operations to get answers, tips, experiences, and different perspectives. In many cases, the units and the district need the same things, such as rechartering (units need to be official, and the district needs as many units as it can legitimately get), or correct advancement records, or good membership recruitment. But my observation is that with other needs, there is a net imbalance, whether real or perceived: The district needs what the units can provide (such as money, unit assessments, Journey to Excellence score sheets, attendance at training and Roundtable and events) more than the units need what the district can provide. The value of what units provide to the district is greater than the value of the services that the district provides to units. And that gap would be there even if the district had outstanding training, Roundtables, administrative support, activities, and Unit Commissioners. And regardless of how the district was organized or who the people are, as long as its functions remain the same. Yet, there is supposed to be a gap -- but in the other direction. Units are where Scouting happens. Units should expect to get much more direct help and value from the greater Scouting organization than they are directly giving to that organization.
  10. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    @ParkMan makes a great, fundamental point here. All Scout recruiting is local. Good units do well, poor ones do not. I have long believed that the two biggest threats to a strong BSA are purely internal: Program quality that varies wildly from unit to unit. A family that finds itself in a weak unit is likely to leave Scouting altogether, not just that unit. And if that happens, Scouting has lost them (and possibly some of their friends and relatives) for at least two generations. Because most Boy Scouting / Scouts BSA members come from Cub Scouting, troop membership recruitment has been and continues to be largely dependent upon the recruiting abilities of Cub Scout leaders from five or six years earlier.
  11. dkurtenbach

    What are the BSA priorities??

    There are different priorities at every level of the BSA and every constituency of the BSA. At the National level currently, I would say that its priority is corporate survival. (Not survival of the Scouting program, which can exist at the local level without a national corporate existence.) Corporate survival on a national level is largely a financial issue, but is also a reputational issue: BSA must have a significant, loyal constituency that will not abandon it despite the publication of lurid details of past wrongs committed by Scout leaders. But beyond that, to rebuild, BSA also needs significant public sentiment that it is an American institution worth having -- not because of the good things in its past, not because of what current Scouts will be later in life, but because of what Scouting can contribute right now. Because as a practical matter, making a "we develop character" argument is not particularly effective when you are being publicly flogged for the sexual abuse of youth members. And on the question of public sentiment for keeping BSA around, I think BSA has several hurdles: the notion that Scouting is old-fashioned, saw its best days when Leave it to Beaver was on television, and is out of touch with 21st Century society; negative publicity over many years, with the worst ongoing now; the departure of the LDS church; a vague, aspirational sales pitch ("to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law") that is unlikely to impress a "what have you done for me lately" society; a multi-faceted program that is hard to describe in one sentence (What do Cub Scouts do?); and activities that are often not visible to the public because they take place indoors or out in the woods somewhere. So I would suggest to BSA National that it should be a top priority to show the country that yes, Scouting is not only relevant, but ordinary Scouts are making a difference that people can see now and every day. Not Eagle Scouts walking on the moon in the 1960s. Not business executives and actors and professional athletes who were Scouts. Your neighbor's kid. Your granddaughter. Your son's friend. The kid at the Wendy's drive-thru window. Show the important, concrete contributions that Scouts everywhere are making for the community, the country, and the world. Issues that a lot of people wring their hands over, but that Scouts are working on right now. Things like cleaning up the environment, fighting obesity, collecting food for local food banks, reversing Nature Deficit Syndrome, and being prepared for emergencies like injuries and natural disasters and technology failures.
  12. dkurtenbach

    Patrol Method not so much

    Following @Eagledad's framework, we adults need to understand the issue we are seeing in terms of the Aims, then explain it to the youth leadership in those terms. So, for example: "The adults are concerned that our troop is not doing a particularly good job with the Citizenship Aim. We're not talking about the patriotic aspects of Citizenship, but about people with different backgrounds, different needs, and different skill levels learning how to live together, work together, play together, support each other, and share equally in the work and the responsibility -- to be good citizens. That's originally what patrols were designed for: to be miniature communities where each Scout in the patrol had a job and a stake in the success of their patrol. They learned how to be good members of the patrol -- that is, good citizens; how to make decisions together and support decisions even if they didn't all agree; and how to work together for the good of that little community. "But what we are seeing in our troop is that a few Scouts make the decisions and tell the rest of the Scouts what is going to happen. The rest of the Scouts may not have any real responsibilities; all they have to do is show up in order to get the benefit of the work that the others are doing. They only have to take care of themselves or themselves and a couple of friends, and not worry about anyone else. They aren't being given anything to do that really contributes to the success of the group and the group activity. They aren't being treated as equal citizens with duties and responsibilities. "So we'd like you to come up with some ways that will help every Scout feel that they are part of a community along with other Scouts, that each one of them has an obligation to the other Scouts in that community, and that each of them is responsible for the success of what their community is doing."
  13. dkurtenbach

    Building a Stronger Patrol

    Oh, I don't think it is a matter of trust. Adults value efficiency. Allowing Scouts to try, fail, try again, fail, try again, succeed is inefficient. It is much more efficient to show them how to do it right the first time, and if they don't get it, take over and show them again how to do it right. And another example I saw often at summer camp: It is inefficient for Scouts to just hang out around the campfire talking and joking and whittling when they could be working on merit badges (which is really the point of summer camp to many adult leaders and parents). And patrols are inefficient: they are an additional bureaucratic layer between the Troop youth leaders (SPL, ASPL, QM, etc.) and the Scouts; they make organizing activities more complicated; they require having more trained adults to support/supervise patrol meetings and activities; and they encourage groups of Scouts to do different things at different times instead of everyone sticking to the same agenda. So the more that the function of patrols can be minimized, the more efficient the troop will be.
  14. dkurtenbach

    "Unofficial uniform"

    I certainly think that the Uniform Method would benefit greatly from a statement of clear, concrete reasons for wearing the Scout uniform. As noted previously, this is what we have now: Personally, I think that numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 10 are too vague and aspirational to be useful in explaining to Scouts and parents why we want them to wear uniforms. Number 5 is sometimes useful, but not for most of the occasions (unit meetings) where the uniform will be worn. Number 6 is good, but only on those occasions when Scouts are out in the community in uniform. I would keep number 9, and suggest two restatements so that there are three clear, concrete, and easily explainable reasons. The Scout uniform -- Shows the wearer's activity, responsibility, and achievement. Badges and other insignia remind the Scout -- and show others -- his or her progress in developing skills, developing leadership, and overcoming challenges. (Character, Fitness, Leadership) Shows that the wearer is a member of a team. Regardless of their backgrounds, all Scouts are equal members of a team, with equal responsibility for helping each other and the unit to succeed in their goals and activities, and to grow. (Citizenship, Character) Shows that the wearer is ready and willing to serve the community and the country. Every member of an organization committed to directly helping others puts on some type of uniform: fire fighters, clergy, military, law enforcement, medical professionals, and many others. For more than a hundred years, Scouts have been recognized as people with special skills, and have been called upon time after time to help others. (Citizenship, Character, Fitness, Leadership)
  15. dkurtenbach

    "Unofficial uniform"

    Well stated. Yes, we should avoid saying or doing things in front of Scouts and parents that detract from BSA's program and policies, including uniform guidelines, even if we personally have reservations about or criticisms of program elements and policies.
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