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BOR: How flexible are the rules?

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I agree with just about every thing you said in your last post. Indeed, one of the strengths of the BSA is the diversity in the character and flavor of the different units, whether it be LDS, church-sponsored, or whatever.


However, it still doesn't address the issue of COs making it up as they go along. There is plenty of room to make unique, distinct, CO-pleasing, scout-pleasing, parent-pleasing units within the BSA program (as written) without the need to re-write procedures and rules that seem to work fine for all the other units out there.


That is (after all) exactly what the CO agreed to do when they signed the charter agreement.


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"Fact is, it's just a children's program, and nobody sweats the small stuff like this. Not worth any time when we could be campin' together"


So's basketball but oddly people find it heinous to cheat in that children's program. Strange isn't it?


Beaver, the more you write . . . nah, I won't finish that.

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Yah, BobWhite, da ethics thread is over in issues and politics, eh? Let's keep it there. This thread is about CO's and units flexibility in a practical sense. I expect a few units feel that they must follow most jots and tiddles of da various BSA program guides. I've never yet seen one anywhere that did everything "by the book" so to speak.


We all recognize that BSA units are different. LDS units are different than units run by a Catholic school are different than units run by PTOs. Troops run by military or ex-military folks are different than troops run by granola environmentalists are different than troops run by business management types, eh? Patrol structure varies, commitment to advancement method rigor varies, level of outdoor program varies widely from troops dat mostly do camporees and shut down in the summer to units that run an activity almost every week and two to three high adventure trips a year. Urban Scoutreach units are different still.


Dat's OK, eh? Unless we really feel that everybody should be exactly like us, eh? Dat every unit should do things exactly the same way as our unit does... presumably because each of our units is perfect. Or dat the "BSA program" (as interpreted by us who presume to speak for da BSA) is perfect... even though we're constantly modifying it.


Nah, there's a reason we encourage families to check out different troops and crews and packs. Because we know they're different. They're supposed to be different.


AlFansome, I agree with you, eh? COs shouldn't "make things up as they go along." Nobody would recommend that. A CO who has the ability to generate its own program like that doesn't need to charter a Scoutin' unit. But it's a different thing to make thoughtful choices based on goals and values. So a troop that's been around for 50 years with youth-run Boards of Review hits 1990 when da BSA shifts that practice. They like youth run BORs. It's worked well for 'em for 50 years. They try adult BORs and don't like da change in patrol dynamic and youth leader responsibility. It doesn't meet their goals. So they back off and return to includin' at least some youth on a BOR. That's not makin' things up as they go along, eh? If anything, da BSA made up the new "no youth on BOR" rule as it went along. The unit is bein' thoughtful and rational about their goals and aims and how best to get there.


Fact is, committee-only BORs really don't work fine for "all the other units out there." We've got several troops in our council that have small committees of professionals associated with da CO, but large numbers of kids. They'd never get BORs done in a timely way if they limited BORs to committee members. There's still quite a few units that use youth on BORs - and to be honest, I find da Eagle candidates in those troops to be more interesting and prepared as often as not. We've seen in posts here that some committees only are willin' to hold BORs every three months, eh? I reckon I'd encourage usin' other folks on BORs instead of settlin' for that, eh? ;)


Point is, there's just not many things yeh can point to that work fine for all the units out there. Good commish's will understand the reasons for BSA program elements... like da risk in all-youth BORs of the board becomin' personal, or too hard, or too retest-y, and share those thoughts. Then help a unit use the BSA materials to achieve their goals, eh? Not use the BSA materials perfectly - but help 'em to achieve their goals perfectly.


That's what the Charter Agreement means. To respect the aims and goals of the CO and offer the resources of Scouting to help in meeting their objectives. Offer, not force. And da CO runs the unit according to its own guidelines and policies (first and foremost, because they are the ones who have legal and moral responsibility for the unit, not the BSA), as well as those of the BSA (to preserve the BSA's interest in the reputation of its program and materials).




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I can appreciate your viewpoint on CO's and their desire to run a program to support their goals.


According to the original poster, though, it seems that this really isn't a top-down CO-driven issue:


"Actually, our CO is not very involved. In our troop any registered leader gets to vote in the troop committee and be on a BOR kinda like the troop Stosh was talking about. When I first came into the troop they tried to tell me that ASM's were supposed to do the BOR, not committee members, which totally contradicted my training. As Gold Winger says, they interpret the rules instead of just following them."


Would your viewpoint on CO's being able to tailor the program for their purposes also apply to unit leaders, as it seems in this case? I think that, if anything, I'd be inclined to give less leeway to the Unit Leaders than I would to CO's, since at least CO's do indeed "own" the unit. I guess you can make the argument that the Unit Leaders are appointed by the CO, so therefore they have room to adapt the program. That seems like a pretty big stretch to me (particularly if the CO is not engaged with the unit), and rather just a way of justifying unit leaders being able to disregard what is presented in training and documented procedures.


Clearly, there is a spectrum upon which we all fall with regard to the "rules" but at some point (as I said in a previous post), there are things that for each of us moves from the realm of "small" to "big" in the grand scheme of things. In this particular case, this is "small" for me, yet still obviously in conflict with the procedures set forth by the BSA.


Just as clearly, following the rules 100% of the time may not be desirable for a variety of reasons that we can all come up with, but I would hope that as unit leaders we would strive to do just that whenever possible. In this case, it would seem from the limited information available, that the unit leaders have their reasons for why they do what they do...it would be interesting to know what they are.

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Yah, I agree with all that, AlFansome. All things in rational moderation.


In one council I worked with, there was a grade 7-12 Catholic school. For various reasons includin' citizenship and environmental awareness and community service, they wanted to run an outdoors program, but they were trippin' over various administrative and liability concerns. So they chartered a troop and an Explorer Post, and signed kids up into that. We provided camp facilities, outdoor program trainin', insurance cover and materials. But they pretty much ran as a school outdoor club, eh? No uniforms, no advancement beyond a small group, an odd version of patrol method. Great outdoors program, great citizenship and community service, great character buildin' and values. Two hundred or more kids, eh? Made the DE's year when they signed up. IH and COR were active, brought in a few big FOS donors, let the council and other units use school facilities for free.


That's Scouting, eh? A CO gets a lot of latitude in running their program.


Now, just a unit leader actin' solo? Not as much. Depends on whether what a unit leader does serves da values of the CO, eh? And how successful they are. I reckon we can all point to some big, successful units out there who really don't use da program all that well just because some things don't fit with da unit leader's vision. Does that bother da BSA? Are we likely to meddle by criticizin' the SM or havin' a tete-a-tete with da COR? Not likely! :) But a leader who's really gone renegade, a unit that's strugglin'? Sure, we're there to help.


As a commish, I make it a point if I'm visitin' a new unit not to give a single critique or piece of advice until I've been around a while - long enough to see all the good things the unit has goin'. Those take a while to see, while we all notice da things that are different or may need work right away. Best to work off of the good things, then help 'em chip at da rest. And to get anywhere at all, I've got to be there long enough to put in some sweat equity, eh?


Thing is, when yeh do that yeh often discover that some of those bad or different things really aren't bad. They support some of the good things in ways yeh didn't notice at first. And other things that yeh thought weren't that bad are really the places yeh need to start. Yeh also learn that some of those folks yeh initially found off-putting are really the unit's hardest workers, and real gems.


Training is a great place to start, eh? Once we're done with trainin' we can start learnin'. Only after we've logged some miles do we start to move past "beginner." I reckon after that we need to log a bunch more miles before we should be givin' advice. Scouter760 sounds like he's recently crossed over from bein' a CubMaster, and should put in a few miles to understand how his new troop works, learn how the pieces fit, and most important, discover all the good things it's doin' for kids. Build a little wisdom and experience, eh? Not too long... not so long that he becomes an "old timer" himself and loses enthusiasm or freshness or his initial ideas. But long enough to make it to advanced beginner or intermediate, and earn da respect of the kids and adults in his unit through da courtesy and kindness of his approach, and the sweat of his brow.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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The argment that as a national program you cannot follow the rules because all units cannot have an identical program is a silly argument at best. I cannot imagine that anyone at anytine thought that all units could have exactly the same program. There are BSA units all over the world, do you really think that anyone expects them to do exactly the same activity in exactly the same place, all at the same time?


That would be the only way thaey caould have the identical program.


But they can all follow the same methods in similar ways and toward identical goals regardless of where they are. And that is what we are actually talking about, everyone folowing the same standards and the same rules. And there is only one reason why that cannot be done.


The only obstacles are volunteers who chosse not to follow the program for whatever clever excuse they can conjure up.


Ethics is not a separate topic, it is totally related to "flexing" rules. What you are really endorsing is how to make excuses for doing what you want rather than want the program instructs. It is at its' core a matter of personal values and the ethics, which you either bring or don't bring with you as a leader.




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It has nothing to do with "ethics." These rules are guidelines in reality. The BSA could, but does not, enforce these "rules" by revoking charters, the only enforcement tool they have. I can tell you, it will not happen.


When my little troop dipped under 5 boys one year, the "rule" is that the troop should have gone out of existence. Did the Council raise a fuss? No. Did National do anything? No.


The BSA wants to keep units chartered, and has de facto allowed for tremendous flexibility in applying the "rules" in individual units.


To me, the beauty of scouting is that there is no absolute, inflexible template. If there was, our CO would probably not be interested.


That being said, the answer to the original question is that the CC "interprets" BSA policy for the troop, and once his decision is rendered, it ought to be case closed, unless the scouter wants to raise a fuss at Council, and best of luck with that.


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When we had our long drawn out conversation on the donation thread I did the google thing and this little diddy popped up. Although its a description for tax purposes on how units are at an arms length from national it is curious on the terminology of how BSA sees itself and a unit.

"They are chartered to partner organizations of the BSA such as churches, PTAs and civic groups. Since a unit is owned by its chartering organization, each unit takes its tax status from that organization. Units are NOT subordinate organizations of the Boy Scouts of America."

Link to full document.


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