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Summer Camp MB mill - as usual

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Scouting above all should be fun.


Scouting was fun when I was a Scout. I was able to participate in many activities that I could not have gotten anywhere else. Summer camp was great. The camp was up kept. I learned leadership. I I had opportunities to learn many things.


When a Scout goes to summer camp now, he should have fun. The Scout is paying over $250 for a week of fun and opportunities.


Council promises a quality program for the fees paid. Councils advertise on their websites how fun their camp is. Council's send out summer camp manuals to troops highlighting what their camps offer.


Councils are obligated to live up to their promises. They are supposed to deliver the goods when non-refundable fees are paid. Council professionals are supposed to follow the policies and procedures of the BSA, no more and no less.


Since the professional corps have decided to list themselves on the council tax returns as "program", by golly they better do their jobs and serve the Scouts. (I disagree with the concept that professionals are program. On the contrary, it is the volunteer who provides the program. Volunteers are unit leaders. Volunteer leaders are the trainers. Volunteer leaders manage district activities like camporees, not the professionals.)


But in my council and others, the pros do not. They are only interested in making their criticals so they can be promoted. Service to the youth and volunteer leaders does not seem to be part of their job description.


When Scouts at summer camp sign up for a merit badge (in this case, wilderness survival), there should be an adequate staff in place to run the program. There is supposed to be a merit badge counselor experienced in his field to counsel the Scouts, not 15 year old youths. Having one adult who is in charge of an area like Scoutcraft being the sole merit badge counselor for all Scoutcraft badges is unacceptable. There is no way that one person can "counsel" all the Scouts in all the merit badges. Councils using 15 year olds to do the actual counseling is unacceptable. It is not BSA policy. It is not quality.


The Scouts do not get the promised program.


TAHAWK's initial post is a good example of how councils fail the Scouts. They also fail the volunteer leaders when kids quit the troop because parents feel that summer camp was a waste of money after they hear that their Scouts did not get a chance to do the things council promised.


So does a Scout deserve a refund? Absolutely! Council did not deliver. Thirty merit badges handed out and signed by a young adult area director who never interacted with any Scouts during the merit badge session is not getting the promised program. Thirty merit badges counseled by two youth who have little experience in the merit badge is not delivering the promise program.


There is no excuse why our highly paid "program" professionals did not do their jobs. But then again who evaluates the professionals? Why the executive board does. But in my council, the executive board is made up of business folks who know nothing about Scouting. They do not visit the camp; they don't visit individual units to see the program in action. For the most part they are simply names on paper who lend their support financially.


When I found out a few years back that the three Scouts who took cooking mb paid $8 for food and only made a single pancake, I complained to the DSS. He was in charge of managing summer camp. He offered a $4 refund for my Scouts. He did not make that offer to any other Scouts. He was willing to refund $12.


So in essence, my three Scouts earned the cooking mb by making the single most expensive $4 silver dollar size pancake in the whole world.


My troop after many years of loyalty to our council camp has joined the ranks of 75% of our council's troops by voting with our feet. We no longer attend our council's summer camp. All our efforts to address the issues of summer camp have been futile. We took our concerns to the council commissioner, the camping committee, the advancement committee, the executive board. Our professional corps are in control. They surround themselves with good old boys who will support them.


TAHAWK, those Scouts deserve a refund by council. It was not their fault that council dropped the ball and did not hire an adequate staff; it was not their fault that the council advancement committee approved the professional's methods of using 15 year olds to do the counseling.


Scouts depend on us adults to deliver. Volunteer leaders depend on the professionals managing the camp to deliver.


When failure starts at those managing the camp, everybody loses.




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Last week I had an introductory meeting for Scouts -- and their parents -- who will be taking the Hiking merit badge that I am counseling. We talked about each of the requirements in some depth, and about the amount of work that these boys would have to do. I didn't hear any complaints from the boys; rather, the more we talked, the more excited the Scouts got. Nor did I hear any complaints from the parents; rather, the more we talked, the more they looked forward to seeing their sons take on these challenges.


They weren't excited about simply earning a merit badge. Since almost all of them had already earned the Swimming merit badge, that Eagle requirement was already satisfied and Hiking would "count" no more than Fingerprinting or Reading.


I would agree with the notion that BSA over the years has watered down Advancement requirements. Did you know that an Eagle Scout need only hike six miles in his Boy Scouting career? Five miles for the Second Class hike, and one mile for the First Class orienteering requirement. That's it.


At the same time, I think BSA over the last several years has been putting more emphasis on outdoor adventure. I've seen more encouragement of Cub Scout camping; more non-Advancement adventure programs for older youth at summer camp; and development of The Summit in West Virginia -- a huge investment when BSA is shrinking and really did not need a fourth national high adventure base.


But I'm also seeing that the outdoor program is being more and more pushed away from other "core" Scouting elements such as Advancement and Ideals. Some examples are CSE Mazzuca's statements about developing Scouts by having them sit side by side at the computer with adults of character (Kudu has a complete catalog). I have a set of the DVDs of the first two seasons of the Scout outdoor adventure show that ran on the Outdoor channel. Despite the sweaty, dirty adventure presented in the actual shows, the cover shows a Boy Scout in full uniform and regalia holding an American flag. Huh?


So what seems to me to be happening is that outdoors and preparedness skill, knowledge, and experience is being separated from Advancement. More and more it is up to the unit to provide program above and beyond what is called for by the Advancement requirements to promote retention of skills (such as those suggested by Oak Tree and Horizon) and provide adventure.


I agree to a certain extent with the issues discussed by Tahawk and Abel Magwich -- some (not all) summer camps handle some (not all) merit badges and Advancement requirements in a rather slipshod fashion, as do some district merit badge clinics, some Eagle Mill troops, and some troop "New Scout" campouts designed to knock out as many T-2-1 Advancement requirements as possible. Over-emphasis on Advancement, to the detriment of real skills, is far more widespread than summer camps. But while yes, summer camps should know better, there is also this: If you know anything about how Advancement is supposed to work according to the book, and if you know anything about merit badge-based summer camps work, then you take Scouts to such a camp with eyes wide open, aware of the "risks." As Twocubdad wrote: "we 'nutritional advocates' tend to be the wholesale buyers of the Big Macs."


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA


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how about make your own shelter using each of the lashings and knots and sleep under it for a campout?


Sure, that would be fine, too.


When we hand out athletic letters to Varsity basketball players, we don't hear about how the player doesn't know how to dribble, or doesn't know how to make a lay-up.


If BSA had regular competitions where inspectors came around and evaluated boys' shelters, and the Scouts practiced these things as the focus of the program, then the Scouts would know their lashings, just like basketball players all know how to dribble.


My point is that Scouts is not structured right now to make those skills the focus of the program, or even a pre-requisite for other parts of the program.


Sure, it sounds great to say that the Scouts are out building their own shelters. And some are. But others focus on other parts of the program. And some focus on no parts of the program. But you don't have to have any skill above the minimum in order to get Eagle.


Horizon, your boys may know their lashings. But it's not because the program requires it. Many troops just don't run the program the way you describe (and your description does sound like fun). The BSA could make deeper skill demonstration a key part of the program, but they don't, and I can't foresee that changing.


This doesn't mean we have to accept things like what Abel describes. But neither do I assume a professional level of skill development. I figure Eagle Scout is awarded to people who have at least demonstrated a passing familiarity with a variety of skills at some point in their Scouting career. Your mileage may vary.

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The problem being that Scouts are not being required to demonstrate any level of knowledge or ability for many merit badges - especially in Scoutcraft. If you never ask - and the "counselors don't ask - you have no idea what, if anything, they know.

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I am too depressed to address dkurtenbach's comments; I have gotten that response too from some parlour-types.


I think OakTree hit the nail (or one of them) on head. We are planning to hold more Scoutcraft competitions and to add more "adventure" to our outings but I agree it seems to be in addition to the other requirements and those are enough work as it is. It would be better if more of that was incorporated into the normal advancement requirements.


I see parallels between BSA's fourth high adventure base and hobbies today; that is a move to professionalize hobbies and activities away from a more frequent if more amateur approach. Don't go outdoors many times a month but have a big production once or twice a day. Kind of like the quality time vs quantity time parental argument.


I guess I am a traditionalist. I think fire-starting, rigging a tarp, cooking food, and knots and ropework are still relevant. If for nothing else giving a boy the confidence that they have tools to handle an unforeseen scenario. (We live in Hurricane country and if Tampa ever got really nailed they ain't kidding when they say you are on your own for at least 3 days. It's be worse than that--the cavalry ain't there as much as it was 5 years ago)


Most importantly in this day and age Scoutcraft skills are FUN and different enough to attract enough boys to keep BSA thriving.

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I may have been too obscure in previous posts on this matter, so this time I shall be blunt, (Ihope)


Its not the BSA's program fault that an Eagle can't light a fire, cook a meal or know lashings. It is the result of unit adults not doing their job


If scouts get Scoutcraft merit badges without knowing the skills, then its not the program or the requirements fault. Its the human being(s) who either sign off on the merit badges and administer the program who are to blame and the adult leaders of the unit who accept shoddy program


The requirements on paper never award a boy anything. Its the adults in the program who accept half-hearted attempts as completion of a requirement.


It was suggested that the requirements should be burned as very few are folowing them. So, how so we assure new requirments will be followed? How are Eagle Mills allowed to exist? Are they the brain child of the youth or the results of adults willing to game the system?


How do substandard Eagle Projects get approved? By the conniving scout or apatheic adult? How do Merit Badge Mill camps thrive? Because the kids show up there or because the adults allow the situation to continue?


There was a time when there was a great hue and cry that the adults were not the reason the program has issues. And I understand that the youth must do their part, but so do we as leaders must do our part.


If youth do not perform adequately in Position of Responsibility, they don't get credit for the time. If that means they get fired, then they get "fired". Anf yes, you do get to remove scouts from POR's if they are not doing the job. A drastic step and not one that should be commonly done, but leaving a an under performing scout in a POR does no one any good


A skill is not signed off until they know it, and then they use that skill through out the rest of their time in the program.


Being an adult means making hard decisions, even if it means a scout doesnt get a rank he wants when he wants. If quality amoung scouts, Eagles, merit badges is down, lets not blame the requirements, lets not blame the program, its time we looked at who is supposed to do quality control


We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us

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Tampa Turtle wrote: "I am too depressed to address dkurtenbach's comments; I have gotten that response too from some parlour-types."


"Parlour-types"? Hee hee hee. You might consider re-reading my comments. I believe in the fun and adventure of traditional Scouting skills, including the challenge of a thing as simple as hiking -- that the Scouts I am working with are salivating for.


I'm scratching my head over the notion that The Summit is somehow the "professionalization" of Scouting activities or that it is syptomactic of a de-emphasis on regular monthly outdoor activities. Rather, I see it as part of a general BSA RE-emphasis on Scouting outdoor adventure.


But I see that re-emphasis on outdoor adventure happening separately from, and in parallel with (1) a BSA effort to emphasize intangibles such as character and leadership as the goal and image of Scouting -- and that includes an emphasis on Eagle Scout as the image of Scout character development and leadership, and (2) a BSA effort to promote recruitment and retention through promoting things like rapid rank advancement (which supposedly assists retention), the mythos of Eagle Scout rank as the "summit" [pun intended] of leadership and character, and creation of soccer programs (to recruit Hispanic families).


In short, I think the importance of competence in and retention of outdoor skills as part of the Advancement system has been effectively replaced. It is no longer important that a Scout actually know and be good at outdoor skills or be competent in the subject of particular merit badges in order to advance in rank or receive such merit badges.


The old Advancement system has been replaced with a semi-official (if not official -- yet) approach that Advancement is about simply exposure to particular skills (including the need to do them only once) and simply participating (once, or a limited number of times) in particular activities. That is how the Advancement Requirements are written. It is only in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures -- a relatively obscure or unknown text to most Scouters -- that calls for competence in skills before a requirement is signed off or a rank awarded. You couldn't tell from the language of rank requirements themselves that competence or practice was required. Thus it is no surprise when folks read the lists in the back of the Boy Scout Handbook and think that rank requirements can be completed quickly and easily.


And so we have BSA promoting outdoor adventure for Scouts while at the same time de-emphasizing strong outdoor skills as necessary for Advancement. That is, outdoor adventure is something that Scouts _also_ do, when they have time off from leadership and character development.


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA





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I agree with you if a boy can not start a fire or tie required knots that it is the fault of the troop leadership, not National. What IS Nationals fault is what I, Kudu and many others in this forum have been harping on for a long time now, mainly the movement by National away from the traditional outdoor program of the BSA as seen in the modifications of both adult and youth training, especially Wood Badge, NYLT, and even in SM Basic where the major emphasis is on management over planning and implementing an exciting outdoor program. We have CSE Mazzucca saying over and over again that camping and the outdoors is not that important anymore and should no longer be the main emphasis for the boy scout program.


Thank goodness there are still those scout leaders out there trying to preserve these outdoor traditions with their troops before National eliminates them completely from the program. The facts are that overall troops are doing less and less camping, high adventure, backpacking, and other outdoor activities than ever before. Why? because scout leader training no longer emphasizes it, scout leaders get virtually no outdoor skills training, unless they go to a private organization. Troops have become more badge oriented classroom style meetings because this is what the new scout leaders are being taught is the "norm". And that IS Nationals fault!!!

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Is there a cite for this statement, "The facts are that overall troops are doing less and less camping, high adventure, backpacking, and other outdoor activities than ever before"?


I have not observed that personally - but the plural of anecdote is NOT data. I am curious if there is something from the tour permit database showing that units are not camping as much.


The only limitation I deal with is due to my Troop's location in Southern California. Fire bans make it hard to practice fire building and open fire cooking skills for much of the year. Camping limitations make it difficult to get Kudu's 300 feet, though we do Patrol camp and have them separate. Backpacking is fine, but requires permits with a max of 12 hikers per permit, so we have to split up the unit (usually 2 patrols per crew), and separate. 2 deep leadership means I need more Physically Strong Scouters to lead these patrols out there.


Now - back to the summer camp issue. I would really like to look at what the cost impact would be if we required every MB class at a camp to be taught by a paid adult, and we limited the class sizes to a reasonable number (max 10 in my opinion). This would also eliminate the CIT position, and the summer job for a lot of young Scouts once those jobs evaporated.

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In Scouting, including BSA, where the stated objectives since the beginning have been to develop character and citizenship, systematic fraud and cheating are Bad Things. Among other harms, they give the lie to "Trustworthy" and are a school for cynicism that is all too rampant in our society ("Everybody cheats.")


Mills also result in Scouts with merit badges but with no, or virtually no, skills in topics like first aid and wilderness survival. Even though Scouting, including BSA, has never suggested that a merit badge represents anything like expertise, the published requirements are mostly clear and typically attainable by a Scout-aged youth, if not every eleven-year-old. The knowledge and skills required to pass those requirements is beneficial to the Scout and society.


Mills also help significantly in the debasement of the Eagle rank. It is not an accident that the percentage of Eagles is said by BSA to have increased to a number representing 400% of what it was when two-thirds of all boys experienced Scouting in the U.S.(Dramatic weakening of stated requirements also contributes.)


How does "it" happen? I think we have identified several factors: 1) confusing "advancement," a method, with the goals of Scouting, including BSA. (When all you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.); 2) councils (NOT young staffers) who want to purchase "success" at the price of corruption; sloth on the part of Scouters who can't be bothered to do the necessary to avoid mills even when they know they are mills. And yes, this can be summarized as "adults."


What can be done?


Do inform anyone who seems appropriate. Be specific and factual. Be calm. ("It's all going to Hell!" is unlikely to convince anyone but Scouting Luddites who are already convinced.) Write to everyone who might be interested, pointing out the facts.


I intend to raise the question of whether MB's signed by children were earned for advancement purposes. It ought to be an uncomfortable issue.


Especially, vote with your feet (and $$). Work to convince your leaders (Scouts) to patronize better camps or work to convince them, possibly with other like-minded units, to operate your own camp. I have experience with a unit that did it's own SC every other year for decades, reserving council camps largely for waterfront and field sports MB's, which tend to be more honestly presented in council camps. The Scouts loved it. All MB's awarded were earned.


Only viewing with alarm seems patently insufficient.

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May I observe that the vast bulk of merit badge counselors are volunteers.


My Council has no program to invite MBC's to help at camp. In tact, when I volunteered, I was told I could be a "Camp Counselor" (Think in terms of a liason between units and staff.) but I not work with Merit badge candidates. That role was restricted to "camp staff who understand how summer camp advancement is run." (I would not want any Troop anywhere near that camp.)

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TAHAWK, I love the idea of inviting the MB Counselors to the campsite, maybe for a cobbler or something. Yeah a lot of 'em are just kids. Some of them are fantastic and some of need a nudge but it cannot hurt. We usually bring extra shirts and give them out to the MB counselors we think did an outstanding job.

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Now - back to the summer camp issue. I would really like to look at what the cost impact would be if we required every MB class at a camp to be taught by a paid adult, and we limited the class sizes to a reasonable number (max 10 in my opinion). This would also eliminate the CIT position, and the summer job for a lot of young Scouts once those jobs evaporated.


I don't see why it would eliminate CITs. They shouldn't be teaching MBs anyway - their role is to learn the way camp works, instructional techniques, specific subjects, rotate among program areas weekly or bi-weekly and be coached and trained along the way. Nor would it necessarily eliminate camp employees in the 15-17 age range. They can still assist with instruction, just not be the primary counselor.


My camp requires about 30 MBCs (one per badge per program period, with extra aquatics staffers for lifeguards and lookouts). With class size limits, it would realistically require about 50-60 18+ MBCs. There are only about 80 people on staff now. The math is pretty simple to me.


I've said it before and I'll say it again until my lungs give out: To attract a high quantity of qualified 18+ staff members, camps need to pay more. $250 a week gross pay is $6.25 an hour for a 40-hour week - already sub-minimum wage in my state. When you consider that most staffers work 10 or 12-hour days, six days a week, they're earning between $4.10 and $3.50 an hour. Even with room and board (a tent or tiny cabin and dining hall grub), that's sad.


To accomplish that, camp is going to cost more - a lot more. Be prepared to pay.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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That would be one solution, another would be to quit pretending that every breath you take at summer camp must result in earning a MB.


Instead of turning everything into a "Class", maybe the boys will go do a variety of fun things during the week of camp. If they have the initiative, they can then take the knowledge and experiences they gained at camp to the local counselor at home to earn the MB.

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Prior to the new professional camp director, there was plenty of open times for Scouts to have fun. We generally told our Scouts to go for no more that three merit badges during the week. The reason being was we want our Scouts to have fun at camp rather than spending all their time working on merit badges.


The new camp director came to us from one of our neighboring councils. That council had just shut down their council camp. (I do see the council merger on the horizon). This professional camp director brought with him the traditions of that camp. He in no way would keep any of our camp traditions.


He also made major changes to the camp schedule. Open times to shoot rifles, climb, swim, boat, climb etc were now all combined into a simgle time frame for 45 minutes between 3:00 and 3:45. That was the only time that Scouts would have to have fun. Scouts now have to choose where they will spend their single 45 minute open time. I wrote about this under my post, summer camp woes.


In my opinion, the council owes many Scouts refunds for a poor program. The council broke its promises to the Scouts.


For the millions the council declares on its tax returns for program, (more than a million is just professional salaries), the council in my opinion is robbing the Scouts blind.


My kids go to church camp aside from Boy Scout summer camp. The church camp is a week long and costs the same as BSA summer camp. The difference is that the program at church camp is far superior to my council's summer camp program. There is adequate staff, there is adequate food, there is adequate fun.


In my council, it is simply mismanagement. Mismanagement of funds, too many professionals on the payroll, council not being prepared for the four weeks of summer camp.


Like I have said before - in my council, there are supposed to tens of thousands of youth being served. There have been new professionals hired to manage our abundance of youth members that unfortunately are never seen.


The program stinks in my council. But those are the cards dealt. We cannot simply pick up are troop and move to another council.


Slowly the word is getting out to traditional Scouters of the shenanigans happening.

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