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Thanks for playing devil's advocate - that helps to clarify policy.


And to clarify...

The reason we ask the Scout to notify if they are going to miss an event is because a Scout is Courteous. He needs to treat Scout events just like any other obligation he has committed to. If you can't make it, let them know. We use an online system, on our Troop web page, to register for outings and activities. Scouts can simply go on the web page to rsvp for those.


Our Scribe takes attendance from each Patrol during our opening. The PL lets the Scribe know who is there, who notified him they wouldn't be there, and who is in complete uniform. The Scribe gives me his report when it is completed.


Yes, the Scout "resets" the 4-meeting clock if he notifies us, and I don't have a problem with that. I have a problem with boys I don't hear anything from them for weeks on end. We haven't had the situation you describe happen, but if it does, I imagine I would contact the Scout and have a little discussion and find out what is going on.


The Patrol Method is critical to the operation of our program. When Scouts are absent, it's like trying to play baseball with 6 players vs. 9. It is important for them to be there to support their Patrol mates.


As a side note, I tell the parents and Scouts that homework is not an excuse. Who gives me the right to make that statement? The parents! If their son has a baseball game or practice on a weeknight, he will not miss it - he will find a way to go to baseball and get his homework done. But if he has Scouts and homework, suddenly he can't do both. I don't win on this one all the time, but I make parents see the dual standard they have, and make them think about the importance of Scouts vs. baseball.


In August, 2011, we went to a pay-in-advance dues plan. On August 1, Scouts will pay $80 in regular dues (covers registration, Boys Life, awards, misc.) and $175 camping fees, which cover 9 monthly trips (we exclude Feb. since it is usually some special trip over a long weekend). The camping fees are like a sports team fee - you miss a game/trip, you don't get a refund. There are two benefits to this approach - the Scout and his parents have more incentive to participate (they have already paid for it) and the PLC now has a budget they have to work with when planning trips. We offer a financial assistance plan for families that need it. Our parents love it - they like the idea of writing only one check and being done with it. It takes a huge load of our Treasurer (and me, as well).


Membership - if a Scout has a long term conflict and he notifies us with the start and end date, he is good to go with the Troop, and would not be removed from the roster during recharter. I strongly encourage the boys to participate in other activities - they bring those strengths to the Troop and make us better. We are looking for ways to help the boys succeed, not flush them out, but we also want to let them know the level of participation we expect.


We have had some leave, and when they do, I tell them the door is always open if they want to come back. We had two leave recently, both due to sports - they play on multiple baseball teams, travel teams, etc. in spring, summer and fall. They wouldn't be interested in playing on some ad hoc baseball team where players show up randomly - they are on high level teams where attendance is pretty much mandatory, or you don't play. Many of our Scouts are looking for the same high level of participation in Scouting. They want their Patrol mates to really be "in" to the program, wanting to get the most out of it. Those are the Scouts we are looking for, and we aren't shy about letting that be known. There are 4 Troops on Mt. Vernon Rd, running through Dunwoody, all with a few miles of each other. If our program is too demanding for a Scout and his family, there are 3 other Troops right down the road he can join.


We have a vision for our Troop, articulated by Green Bar Bill way back in 1936: "The Troop we organize here must be one of the finest and most active Troops ever started. It must measure up with the best Troops in the Council. Every Scout in it must be right on the job all of the time to be the best kind of Scout he can."


So far, we have been pretty successful. We are nearly 5 years old as a Troop, started in 9/07 with 6 Scouts. We are now at 57. We have 8 rising Juniors that are the backbone of the Troop. Most of them are heading out to Philmont this Saturday, and will complete their High Adventure Triple Crown on that trek. We just had 4 Scouts attend NYLT, bringing us up to 12 Scouts in the Troop who have completed that course. Those 4 Scouts are also now at Sea Base, part of two Crews we have down there right now. Five of those eight rising Juniors will be at Summer Camp for their 5th or 6th year. Of the other 3, two are missing because they were invited to attend the 4-week Governor's Honors program (really big deal) and the other will be on a mission trip to Costa Rica. We have plenty of issues, just like any other Troop, but we have a pretty clear vision and we are constantly tweaking the program to achieve that vision.


I believe you judge a Troop by the older boys in the program. Most Troops these days are middle school programs, with very few high schoolers, and even fewer active high schoolers. I think the program can still be appealing to high schoolers, but only if the adults step back give the older boys ownership of the Troop, and they take advantage of the High Adventure programs. These past 5 years have not been easy, or a bed of roses. The learning curve has been steep at points, and it still remains to be seen what happens as these older boys (my son being one) start to age out. I hope the example they have set will live on long after they have headed off to college. I remind them that they have the unique opportunity and responsibility of creating a legacy for their Troop.


(edited for spelling)(This message has been edited by BrentAllen)

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Great comments. Cool. I'm really okay with everything you wrote.




I really like the pay in advance for camp outs. It would be an interesting approach. Less work. More incentive to attend. Not sure we could do it as our events cost about $30 for a weekend.


QUESTION - If a scout does not attend an event, does not sign up and lets you know he won't be able to attend, does he get a refund or credit to his account? Or is it a pre-paid use it or lose it approach.




Anyway ... I really like your approach on things. Nice.




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Our's is a prepaid use-it or lose-it regardless of whether notification is given.


We have a few more Scouts who haven't been on a lot of trips this past year. I imagine there will be some soul searching from those parents as we approach August 1, 2012 as to whether they want to continue or not. We may well lose them, and while I regret that, I keep in mind that our program is focused on quality, not quantity. Having the Troop at this size is much harder work than when we were at 40 Scouts. I mean harder work on everyone - SPL, PLs, me, ASMs, pretty much everyone. So I have to weigh the downside of Scouts leaving vs. the quality of the program we could offer if we were smaller.

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Question Brent -- how does it work when you remove inactive Scouts from the patrols. What happens when a kid shows up the week before a campout? Or just shows up for the campout? Seems to me that if showing up for one event resets the clock (and I assume reassigns the Scout to a patrol) he's only out of the patrol when he's not there.


The reason I ask is whenever we reorganize patrols, there is usually a suggestion to put all the "inactive" scouts in one patrol. While I admit that has some appeal and I understand the feelings of the active Scouts who have to carry the dead wood, I get the image of Flounder and Pinto being shuffled off to the front room of the Omega house.

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It's not two camps at all. It's about multiple topics.


Yah, and probably more than just five of 'em. ;). Again, my comments aren't about general program. I think most of da experienced scouters includin' me and fred8033 are very much on da same page in terms of general program. We're just talkin' about ways of thinking about and using Advancement Method.


As I've said, too, I agree that "two camps" is a simplification, and is also an artifact of the actions by da national advancement group over the past 10-12 years. As those folks went to relatively (in my opinion) inane definitions of things like "active", they generated folks who were supportive or opposed. So that contributed to "two camps". But I'll still stand by that, eh? There is a bit of a split in da community between those who focus on "da requirements" (as written and often viewed minimalistically in the way the national advancement team did) and those who like BrentAllen view things more traditionally. I think my test for identifying the first group is pretty good, eh? They quote "don't add to the requirements" more often than any other advancement guidance (and always without the "subtract" clause) ;)


Anyways, as to specifics:


IMHO, they are not pre-established if they are not written down.


Yah, here's perhaps my biggest difference with fred8033 and NJCubScouter, despite my "Mr. Legalistic" name, eh? ;). I don't think everything we teach children needs to be written down, including expectations for behavior. It isn't necessary to write a policy that Scout Spirit requires doin' the dishes when it's your turn and it isn't necessary to have a bylaw that being active means actually showing up on an outing during the year. I think it's reasonable to assume that Life scouts in particular have enough intelligence and honor to know that never showing up for an outing is neither active nor supportive of their patrol. In fact, when yeh talk to boys, they often have very clear notions of what it means to be active, and in a strong troop they'll want to enforce that themselves socially.


To my mind, writing everything down and turning it into a written contract undermines character development, eh? Yeh can never write everything down. If da focus is just on complying with the letter of what's written, that's the opposite of good character in most cases. It's Enron looking for legal loopholes rather than just being responsible and honest. Character is one of those intangibles that resist written definitions.


So I think it's not only possible, but necessary to "enforce" or help boys struggle to meet intangible goals, eh? Goals like character, fitness, and citizenship, and other precious intangibles like Loyalty and Duty. :)


What do you do when a troop messes up?


I think yeh acknowledge the screw up and yeh fix it. Here I also disagree with fred8033 because I think "fix it" does not mean yeh give him a patch. That to my mind is cheap and lazy on the adults' part. I think it means yeh get the boy the thing that he missed.


So if summer camp gave the lad a pencil-whipped badge for First Aid, what yeh do is that you help him to understand that he was shortchanged, and an honorable person doesn't accept an unearned award (nor does an honorable scouter award it), and then yeh do the work to hook him up with a better First Aid MB counselor so that he can really develop proficiency in first aid and earn the badge.


Da same applies to SpencerCheatham's case, eh? If da previous adult leaders screwed up for 3 years, then yeh acknowledge that and yeh fix it. Yeh sit down with the lad, explain the expectations, and help him develop an understanding of commitment to a group and real active participation. Yeh do that with a year left, so he has plenty of time to learn and grow and demonstrate that growth in Scout Spirit to everybody. Yeh meet with him several times along the way to give additional feedback. And then yeh evaluate him on whether those important lessons were learned. SpencerCheatham seemed to do all or most of that, eh?


So in fred8033's example about swearing, yep, yeh should have talked to the lad about swearing for 3 years. But having talked to him and given him a full year to improve, yeh also don't sign off on Eagle. Da message that sends to all of your other boys and to your community is that swearing is OK and that you don't care.


What do you do when you don't think a scout deserves advancement?


That's spelled out in da program materials, eh? If you're the SM, yeh sit with the lad at a SM conference and yeh mentor him on what he needs to do to improve, but yeh don't sign off. If you're a BOR member, yeh vote "no" and yeh explain to the boy why and what he needs to do to improve. Why wouldn't yeh use the mechanisms provided by the scouting program for exactly this purpose? Our job is to help boys learn and grow, and saying "no" is often an important part of that learning and growing.




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I'm not so sure that the adult leaders should be considered to have messed up for the previous 3 years.


Advancement is not required, and not all scouts are interested in advancement. If the troop is fine with a scout that is interested in learing topics through the merit badge program, while not expressing interest in advancement, that could very well be fine and consistent with the vision of the troop. Not pushing, pressuring, prodding or cajoling scouts to advance is consistent with BSA's position that a scout is responsible for his own advancement.


When a scout expresses interest in advancing to the next rank (Hi, SM, I'ld like to review a potential Eagle project with you), then is a perfect time to sit down with him and review (or re-review) expectations for scout spirit expected for Eagle rank.


Best practice is for a SM conference and BOR to be held annually with each scout whether advancing or not. There are many troops that do not have sufficient volunteer hours available to implement all of scoutings best practices. I agree with you that troops can learn from these types of situations, and make changes/fixes to the program; to decide where best to spend limited time available.


I also agree with you that when the scout is interested, then the scouters then work with him, provide him with coaching and assistance, and provide him with opportunities for HIM to reach HIS goal. (capitals for emphasis, not shouting)

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Once a Scout becomes inactive (missed 4 consecutive meetings/outings with no notification), he is no longer assigned to a Patrol. To regain Active status, he has to meet with me (SM) to discuss why he became inactive, and what he is going to do to prevent that from happening in the future. He can't just show up and be active again. He will have to be assigned to a Patrol again (SPL & SM make that decision) - he could go back in his old Patrol, or they may now be full. Hopefully the Scouts like their Patrol and want to stay in it - more incentive to stay active.


Once he is active, he can sign up for trips and activities again.

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Maybe I have been assigned to the wrong "camp", because I have no problem at all with BrentAllen's approach. We do not do that in "my" troop, and I noticed one specific difference because our SM tells parents and Scouts that school (including homework) DOES come first. (I think either approach to homework is acceptable, although I think at least some flexibility is in order, and I am sure that Brent's troop would have some flexibility on that in an extreme case.) I also think that the activity level (including "giving notice") of almost all the Scouts in our troop meets Brent's standards anyway; at most there may have been a couple of Scouts over the past few years that would have ended up on the "inactive" list (not counting those who were actually quitting the troop and were removed from the roster at the next recharter anyway.)


It should also be noted that we don't actually know whether the Scout discussed in this thread has missed four activities/meetings in a row or not, and whether he "gave notice" before missing them. All Spencer said was that he attends "less than 30 percent" of troop meetings and doesn't go on outings. If you assume "less than 30 percent" means he averaged one meeting a month, and there was one outing a month and he missed that, it would depend where in the month he attended the meeting as to whether he missed four in a row. We also don't know what he said to who, if anything, before missing any specific outing or meeting. If I had to guess, based on what we do know and general "tone" of Spencer's posts, my guess is that this Scout probably would have fallen off the "active list" under Brent's system on more than occasion. But again, that's a guess. We should also remember that in this particular case the Scout had already passed the 6-month "active" requirement.


Beavah, based on Spencer's posts, it does not seem to me that, even after more than three years, they did what they should have done -- or even what you believe they should have done. What Spencer says the SM tried to do is to impose additional, specific requirements, namely organizing outings. I cannot help but believe that some effective counseling of this Scout would have prompted him to step up his participation in the troop to at least an acceptable level, even apart from any advancement considerations. That's just speculation, of course, but nobody will ever know because it wasn't attempted in this case. Spencer admits that the troop leadership missed several opportunities for positive interaction with this Scout, not to mention the three years in which the troop seems to have let him drop off the radar entirely. I find it mildly amusing that Spencer is being objectively critical of his own troop, to a much greater degree than you are.

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Yeah, I don't have trouble with BrentAllen's approach either. Documented expectations. An honest effort to work in the boundaries of the printed BSA program.


My issue is when leaders acknowledge the printed requirements but willingly go rogue to refuse to acknowledge when the scout has earned advancement. IMHO, it's not about quality of the program. It's about power control and disempowering the scout.

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Yeah, I don't have trouble with BrentAllen's approach either. Documented expectations. An honest effort to work in the boundaries of the printed BSA program.


My issue is when leaders acknowledge the printed requirements but willingly go rogue to refuse to acknowledge when the scout has earned advancement. IMHO, it's not about quality of the program. It's about power control and disempowering the scout.

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I think my test for identifying the first group is pretty good, eh? They quote "don't add to the requirements" more often than any other advancement guidance (and always without the "subtract" clause)


I think a perfect example of this was the recent canoeing MB discussion where some commenters mentioned adding to the requirements before even addressing the question of safety. Im not saying those folks dont care about the safety of scouts or that they would be neglectful of appropriate safety measures. But it is illustrative of the camp that not adding to the requirements gets a higher priority in the discussion than swimming ability for a water related MB where poor swimmers could be at great risk. Its not limited to Scouting either, BTW. In the real world its called Credentialism and its having a large (and I think negative) impact on our society. Too many people are more concerned with qualifications than with abilities. At first glance, maybe it seems like the two are the same thing, but theyre not. Ability is something you the hiring manager, voter, etc. must decide about the person. Qualifications i.e. credentials - are what someone else has previously decided about the person, but you dont know how effective, honest, and diligent that someone else was in their evaluation. Did they have high standards? Or did they just wave them on through? Credentials are a lot easier to fake than ability. Relying on them is dangerous. Teaching our kids to value them above ability is dangerous.


To my mind, writing everything down and turning it into a written contract undermines character development, eh? Yeh can never write everything down.


Agreed. It is the perhaps well-intentioned, but doomed desire of bureaucrats to write everything down. Every question must have a written policy, with well-defined criteria for decision making, and personal judgment is to be avoided.


This doesnt work.


I program computers for a living. Ive done it for many years. Computers have no judgment, they must have explicit instructions for every possibility. They need to have everything written down.


Its very, very hard to do. Its incredibly easy to forget a detail, miss a possibility, or to have a small error in one sub-step that causes the entire program to crash. There are so many times when I have wished the machine could do what made sense instead of literally what I told it to do because clearly what I had written down was a mistake. But the computer doesnt know that cant tell the difference. People who want to do this to human beings who have the ability to develop and use judgment simply have no idea how hard the task really is.


Further, the techniques we use in software development to find and fix programming flaws could never be used for real-world policy development. I can subject the silicon chips of my computer to a million random iterations through what Ive written to find a flaw. Then I can fix that flaw and run another million iterations to verify I didnt create another problem. I (or better yet, a dedicated test engineer working as my partner) can create elaborate test suites that subject my policy to various scenarios and evaluate the results. We can (and often do) spend weeks or even months iterating over changes until were finally convinced it works well enough to let other people use it for real.


BSA could never do that with advancement policies (or any other sort of policy). Subject a thousand Eagle candidates to the new policy? Then subject thousand more to the revised policy after they discovered the (first) problem? Nah, wouldnt work. Wouldnt be fair, just, or kind.


People have the ability to use judgment. Its a powerful gift. We should encourage development of it. Trying to replace it with policy is a very bad idea.


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I find it mildly amusing that Spencer is being objectively critical of his own troop, to a much greater degree than you are.


Well, I reckon that lots of other folks had already completely covered the being critical of da adult leaders part of the conversation. ;) And I agree with that, to a point. Whether it's BrentAllen's approach or non-advancement BORs or the pressure of peers or gentle words of a wise Scoutmaster, there's always room for us as adults to do better for each and every lad. SpencerCheatham's self-reflection is somethin' I reckon every good Scoutmaster does.


But the responsibility doesn't end there, eh? There are also boys involved. Boys who are makin' choices and learning. Regardless of any failures of SpencerCheatham or his troop, the boy also failed in his obligations. Told that his participation and Scout Spirit needed improvement, offered suggestions for how to do that, he chose not to follow through for a full year.


Now, if yeh were an employer, and yeh sat with someone and told 'em that their work needed to improve, and yeh attempted to offer remediation, and for a full year yeh saw and documented no improvement, and the person wanted a promotion, what do yeh suppose the outcome of that is going to be? Forget da promotion, the person wouldn't have a job.


So how does it help the boy in our little miniaturized version of the real world to not only keep him on, but promote him to our highest award?


Advancement is a teaching method, eh? Nothing more. If we're teachin' somethin' that just doesn't make sense, we aren't doin' it right, no matter what "da requirements" say.





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I wish I would have known about these BSA published articles earlier. Read the one on active. http://www.scouting.org/filestore/advancement_news/512-075_March.pdf


SpencerCheatham wrote: "I still do not think this young man should advance to Eagle. It is not a reflection of his character. He is a polite, intelligent, reverent, hard working young man who lives the Scout spirit outside of Scouting. My issue is just that. He made choices which did not make Scouts a priority. These choices meant he was not there as a role model to inspire other Scouts; not there to be a PL or SPL; not there when other Scouts needed him for their service projects; and not there to congratulate or encourage his fellow Scouts when they met or failed a challenge. "


"He lives the scout spirit outside of scouting." ... Isn't that exactly the BSA mission.


SpencerCheatham wrote: "Instead he chose to be more active in other extracurricular activities. There is nothing wrong with this choice, however there are consequences to choices and I feel the consequences for non-participation in scouts should be the inability to receive the prestigious rank of Eagle. The opposite demeans the rank. "


So he met the explicit requirements. And he currently lives scout oath outside of scouting. I think at this point, reading BSA's "Guardian of the gate" really applies. http://www.scouting.org/filestore/advancement_news/512-075_Feb.pdf




At some point we all need to ask ourselves if your promoting what BSA's program or what you want BSA's program to be.(This message has been edited by fred8033)

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