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Subtracting from the requirements

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Reading all da constant blah-blah about not adding to requirements, Im surprised at how little folks comment on the other half of that (one, isolated, out-of-context) policy statement not subtracting from requirements. How many of us take to heart that BSA badges are awarded for what a young man is able to do, not as a reward for what he has done skill and ability, not sign-offs? How many of us hold our summer camps accountable for making each individual boy actually demonstrate the requirements that say demonstrate, and do it without help? And without someone doing it for them and them just parroting it immediately afterward? Write a real, coherent, 500-word essay without copying it out of a MB book?


Do your boys tie a bandage once and get signed off, or do they tie bandages on different people in different conditions until they get good at it, making decisions about further treatment and care on their own? Da first subtracts from da requirements, and gives a kid a piece of cloth. Da second gives them an ability which really merits recognition.


I'd think if we cared about da kids, we'd take ourselves to task at least as often for shortchangin' em as for being too strict.


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You mean we should be more rigorous than what the schools are? I have actually had scouts ask me "what's the minimum I need to do to get this signed off?" Scoutwork and school work are just annoyances that take time away from video games and instant messaging. And the parents are just as bad...they just want the check mark so they can move on to the next activity. They just want the Eagle so junior can put it on his college resume. After all, they're really busy.

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I feel you pain, man. I've been filling in for the 1st year Webelos Den Leader for my pack here and there, and we've been trying to get them working on Readyman. To say it's a chore getting them to pay attention is an understatement. They seem to get into it when I have them doing activities, but they can't remember the verbal information at all half the time.


Case in point: I taught the boys how to tie splints one week. The next week we were trying some cases to see how well their judgement worked, and to teach them to look for other problems that might exist as well (especially since requirements such as being able to treat hurry cases usually can be strung together: Someone who's stopped breathing may have had their heart stop as well, so teach them to check for a pulse, while they're checking for air and treat as appropriate).


Well, one such case I created for the boys was them running across the street and one of them breaks his leg because he hit a pothole while he was running across. The boy's solution? Drop everything and splint it. You see someone with a broken leg, what do you do? Splint it and carry him. Is there an effective way to teach them that in some cases there is more to treat than is obvious at first glance, and that sometimes it's better to just get a person out of the immediate danger before treating things? Or am I just overloading the boys here (they're Webelos, after all)? One of the boys I already know would be prone to try to do this stuff if the opportunity arose, so I'm trying to make sure that if they're going to do it, they at least do it properly and don't just do one part which may or may not put the victim at further risk based on the boy's ability level...

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For the most part I agree with you.

Subtracting from the requirements is every bit as bad as adding to them.

I might add that I'm no great lover of one day merit badge fairs and Scouts doing all the merit badge work in house. I also don't think that Troop meetings are the place for merit badge work.

However I can't help but think you are wrong when you post:

"How many of us hold our summer camps accountable" You go on to talk about individual Scouts demonstrating requirements. I'm not sure what requirements you mean?

Merit Badge Counselors are approved by the District and Council Advancement Committees. It makes no difference if they are on the Merit Badge List or are employed at summer camp.

It is the job of the advancement committee to ensure that Merit Badge Counselors are doing the job right.

When it comes to signing things off, I found the best way was to have someone who knows the skill teach the Scout and do his or her best to make sure he gets it. Then have the Scout come to the person who is doing signing off and ask if he can demonstrate the skill to him. Then it becomes a very simple he does it successfully and the birds sing in the trees or he doesn't get it right and it is shown to him again maybe using different techniques or different ways. Then it is up to the Scout to come back and ask if he can demonstrate it again.

Of course a well balanced Scout program will allow Scouts to put the skills they have used to use and build upon them.

Some Sea Scouting material does suggest that the best way to ensure that a skill has been mastered is to teach it to someone else. I kind of think this would be adding a requirement.

By far the best method of getting requirements done correctly is "Stealth Learning" This is where a Scout discovers skills and masters them without knowing that he is meeting the requirements. It does at times require good record keeping by someone.


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As a former Summer Camp Program Director, let me tell you, the Advancement Committe in our council, while they do "sign off" on summer camp councilors as MB councilors, they do not do ANYTHING in regards to quality control. In fact, when we wrote the letter for the Council Advancement chair to sign, authorizing our staff to be councilors (only the 18+ year olds mind you, since of course the under 18 year olds CANNOT be councilors, yet they are doing the majority of the supposed "teaching") he signed it no problem. Then I noticed names missing from the list, went back through, added them, said "oh here, mistake, sign this letter please" he just looked at me, smiled and signed away.


There is no quality control at summer camps. Most summer camps are merit badge factories, there is absolutely NO denying that. I get disgusted when we have ratios of scouts and staff that is above 20:1, 30:1 or even 40:1 in some of our merit badge sessions. I had made it my goal to try and elimnate that from our camp by offering multiple sessions of all badges to spread the load around, and it helped. But still, where there used to be 40:1, there would now be 10:1 in 1 session, and 30:1 in another, still way too many. The main reason for this: council's are unwiling to spend the money necessary to support the summer camp's the way they are suppose to.


According to my NCS training, we should not care if we charge 300 a week (we don't, we charge under 200) if that will give the scouts a superb quality program, by hiring and paying (key poing being PAYING) high quality staff. 18 year olds should make at least 3000 dollars according to national in the ideal scouting setting, for their 7-8 weeks of 16 hour days, 6 days a week. At most camps, you're lucky to get 4-5 people in total paid over 3000. This is of course a very general number and not taking into account volunteer run camps (which there are some of these). Council's will not put out the money for high number of staff and the money to pay them well, to retain and entice them to work.


My camp earned 100K+ in revenue the last summer I worked there as PD, and this year, they are in budget deficit somehow, and are CUTTING staff, i pity the units (including my own unfortunately) who will be attending camp there this summer. I would go into this more, but this is not the summer camp thread and i diverge.


If scouts were held to do what the requirement states for most badges at summer camps then most scouts would come away with 4 partials rather than 4 completed badges every year. While I have no problem with this, partials are not evil, they are just incomplete and can be completed at their leisure, it is unfortunately the parents and the scoutmasters who have an issue with this. The general philosphy of many leaders is that scouts go to camp, to earn badges and to come away with advancement and awards, instead of memories and good times. This is definetly stereotypical, but an all to common occurance for summer camps.


I wish to god that leaders would start holding summer camp's, council exec's and camp director's accountable for completing requiermetns, it would drastically improve the quality of what scouts learn and can do, DRASTICALLY.


I was on the inside, i saw the problems, I tried to make change, I succeed to a degree, but failed miserably in most respects do to the nature of the beast of the BSA, the corporate mentatily. As has been expressed on other forums here the bsa is a corporation, but they should worry less about money and income and # of scouts, and improve what they have for the scouts here now, and those to come, then try to turn a profit in this non-for-profit organization.


Sorry for the rant a little off topic, but i have strong feelings on this issue.

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It is of course sad when for one reason or another the system isn't allowed to work.

First I think in this thread as I see it??

We have to take a signed blue card for what it is.

It would be very unfair to blame the Scout for something that the adults have failed to do.

As for camps, I don't know what goes on at other camps. I do however know that every year in our council the Advancement Committee does send a group up to camp to try and make sure that the staff are knowledgeable and have some idea of how to get the subject across.

Sure it's only half a day, but along with talking with the staff they report to the Program Director.

I'm happy that your council has found a way of keeping the cost of camp low and making money. Sadly we lost a lot of money last year at camp.

I do agree that summer camp does seem to be all about nothing but badge work.

I somehow think that changing the mindset of some Scoutmasters and a lot of parents is a lost cause. It really saddens me when I hear the parents of little Lads about ready to cross over shop for Troops that have really high Eagle Scout percentages. Maybe we need to do a better job of explaining that there are other important methods in Scouting along with Advancement.

I have in the past posted my feelings about not paying camp staff enough. So I'm not going to go over it again.



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I agree with most of what you said, and most of your intentions. Just remember, for the Cubs, the standard is "Do Your Best". For one 4th grader, thinking "broken leg >> splint" is his best, for another "broken leg >> get out of road >> splint" is his best. The trick is to set the bar high enough that each boy can accomplish his best -- you just have to have an adjustable bar!!


Though I commend challenging the boys, perhaps your bar starts a bit high -- splinting broken bones isn't exactly Webelos-level first-aid. Similarly, combining the "hurry " first aid situations and asking for judgement calls is a high bar.


Remember, their first-aid to date might well have been limited to band-aids and "tell what to do in the case of ..."


For many (most?!?) 10 year old boys - a good learning level of first-aid is to identify the pothole and suggest not running into it because they might break their leg!! ;)




(This message has been edited by johndaigler)

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I have to say that I see this as much, if not more of an issue, as adding to the requirements.

From what I have seen the biggest "subtracting from the requirements is the POR.

Scouts are given a POR, do nothing and in 6 months they have the required time and are advanced to the next rank.


We have been with this new troop almost a year and my son has yet to recieve a phone call or e-mail from his PL informing him about something, Yet, his PL will recieve his next rank advancement.


My son is currently the Chaplin Aide however the Troop has no Chaplin, but he does have an Assistant Chaplin Aide. He was given this POR in September. Not a single Leader in the Troop has told him what was expected of him in this position and the only thing he has done is to read a prayer at a COH. And next month he will have enough time in to get his Life rank


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I would recommend,if you haven't already, raise your concern witht the CC and SM, and ask that it be a topic at a troop comittee meeting. To be effective, everyone involved with the program needs to be on the same page. And without communication between adults on what expectations are for the troop, it would not be unusual to end up with the situation you describe, where holding a position without fulfilling the responsibilities is acceptable. Assumptions get made that no one else supports having reasonable standards (and I am sure you will find some parents who do not), or that there is insufficient support from other adults to implement a program that does so.


In the meantime, I would recommend that you counsel your son as to YOUR expectations. As a SM, I never accepted an excuse from a scout that "I didn't know because [name] never called me." When my son didn't get a weekly call from his PL, I made him call the PL to ask what this weeks meeting plans were.


Similarly, you can advise your son that YOUR expectation is that he will not wait to be told what to do as Chaplaines Aide, but rather, that he demonstrate responsibility by being proactive in serving in his position. BSA Jr Leader Handbook has a job description that he can reference. He can write up his own goals for the POR - and you can help teach him how to do so, and then keep asking him about how he is progressing. Possible goals for him would be to ask for time on a troop meeting agenda to describe the requirements for the various religous awards; earn the award himself, and invite others of his faith to do so; provide a scouts own religous service at each weekend camp out (the troop program guide/resource guide has one or two scripts for a service, and many more can be easily found on the web). Your son can than take this to the SPL or PLC and get buy-in if need be. Sure, given his troop's culture, he may be able to be advanced without doing that, but since you know that he will benefit by doing it, you as a parent can help him by giving him this guidance.


Yes, in an ideal world, the PL would call his patrol members without being reminded weekly by an adult, and the ASPL would sit down with the Chaplaines Aide and other POR holders to teach them what they are to do, and have periodic follow ups. And each troop would have so many dedicated parents looking to help all boys grow that the position of Chaplain would not only be filled, but the holder is actively mentoring; that there is an adult willingly mentoring every POR holder. My experience as SM was that the pool of willing volunteers that will not only hold a position, but proactively mentor the scouts ebbs and flows. When the troop doesn't have a sufficient number of adults to cover everything, you, as a parent with vested interest in seeing your son get more out of the program than a medal for breathing, can help him do so.



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Here is a novel idea for certifying the "youth" MB counselor/camp staff guys. As part of the job application process, they have to staff a council offered MB fair in the spring. The council can have adults who have taught the MB's sit in and critique the job the boy does. If he handles the boys and class material well, he gets the summer camp staff job.


My son's first summer camp, he took Fly Fishing along with several boys in the troop. It was not until Wednesday afternoon that they informed us that the counselor played cards with the participants and would simply point at the fishing poles and tell them to help themselves if they wanted. Obviously we complained. Obviously there was not time to make up what they had missed. It was good money wasted. When we got the list of requirements completed, each boy only "lacked" one requirement to complete the badge. The SM told the boys that it was up to them if they wanted to "complete" the badge or consider what "trustworthy" meant to a scout. Not a single boy hesitated to get his card from the SM and tear it in half.


Perhaps a job test MB fair would eleminate this kind of counselor being hired. Would it require some effort? Yes. Would it help to give a better program to the boys at camp? Yes. Isn't that what we are about?

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I don't know about Merit Badge Fairs??

Sadly it all comes down to money.

If we were to expand "Staff Week" to maybe two weeks and spend one week on Staff development.

Of course we would be adding to the cost of summer camp.


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Staff week is too late if you have a stinker in the group. It would take a little advance planning, but here is the idea. Months before summer camp, boys are sending in their applications to work staff. You go thru your interviews and selection process. For those who will be teaching an MB, they have an additional step, they have to staff a council wide MB Fair. It can be done over two Saturdays. The first Saturday, they are paired with an experienced adult MBC and assist. The second weekend, they teach the MB with the adult assisting and evaluating. If it appears they know their stuff and can do a quality job, they are hired. That way, there should be few surprises when boys get to camp and find out they have a dud and wasted their money getting a bad experience.


Another plus to this is the council can make $10 per scout for attending the MB Fair and apply the profits to supplement summer camp needs.

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OK, I wasn't telling the truth!!

I do know about these Merit Badge Fairs.

I plain just don't like them.

Many of the reasons given for do doing merit badge work at Troop meetings are also true for these things.


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