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I think both Bob White and Yaworski have valid points. Bob makes the point that times change and we have to keep up with current technology. Yaworski makes the contrasting point that, just because times and technology change, doesn't necessarily make older skills useless, especially for fulfilling the aims of scouting.


Let's look at ax and saw work. I just had a tree fall in my back yard and I needed to cut some of the limbs. I used my ax and pack saw and skills I learned in scouts. I didn't have to pay money to someone to do it for me. I was self-reliant. Ax and saw skills are still useful, even in the middle of a city. People will always own property with trees on it, and the ax and saw will always be useful in tree maintenace, professional or do-it-yourself.


Baden-Powell put a lot of emphasis on tracking skills, not primarily for tracking, but for the observation and deduction skills that are honed by it. It was a major program point. Does BSA require tracking for anything anymore? Does BSA really teach it anywhere anymore? Coverage on one page in the handbook can not teach tracking skills. It takes a lot more than that. It's little more than a nod to scouting history. Tracking can be quite a useful skill though, even in the city. It's not about tracking animals to hunt them. It's finding old people with Alzhimers who've wandered away from the nursing home. It's finding lost children. It's finding a gas leak. B-P even gave lots of games for learning to track in the city.


There are still plenty of good reasons to teach Morse code and semaphore. They do still have some utility in the modern world. So I don't have semaphore flags with me, I'll use handfulls of tall weeds. Scouts should know how to improvise in a pinch.


Most of all, Scouting is a game. When B-P started the movement, many of these skills were already on the wane. Even then ax use and Morse code weren't really necessary life skills. Scouting is a game with a purpose, bait to catch boys and teach them to be better people. The game was going out and playing at being a pioneer sort of woodsman.


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You raise an excelent point in that the items we are dicusssing are tools to hold the scouts attention while they learn the real aims of the program.

Today there are some better tools than in the past. In the future there will be better tools than there are today. Baden-Powell said "a good fisherman uses the bait the fish like to eat not the food the fisherman likes to eat". When using semaphore became bad bait for today's fish, it was dropped.


Scouting needs to speak to todays youth not to the childhood of the leader.


Bob White

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"Scouting needs to speak to todays youth not to the childhood of the leader."


If that's the case, we should permit Gameboys and cell phones on campouts. Possibly, camping could become a virtual activity with no need to leave the house. The boys could have avitars pitch their tents in in cyberscpace and use their internet capable ovens to cook their food. International events would become a breeze.

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I was a scout when during the period when they tried to take the outing out of scouting. Doing knots in the basement of the church and the like. It was not as fun as what we did just last month.

Conoeing on a near by lake, sleeping under the stars, Biking 20 miles, hiking to a waterfall, and swimming in a near by pool.


The outdoors is a great teacher. It doesn't care if you are cold or not. It treats everyone the same.

I have found that the KISS principle is more motivating. Other that haveing a foam pad and a good sleeping bag. I try to teach the scouts that you don't have to buy the latest gaget (ie $100 GPS or Back packing stove) A compas and a buddy burner for less than 10 dollars is all you need. You don't need a camp trailer to go camping just a tarp. With the Ax vs Hatchet both effective, tools. I have just found that I have to watch the boys with a Hatchet much more closely.

My Goal is to get them into the influence of that great teacher and friend the Great outdoors, the wonder of God's Creations.

The thrill of learning a new skill and being recognized for it.


End of rant.



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Bravo James!!!


You have hit some points that none of us have brought to the discussion. The only thing I would change would be KISS to KISMIF.


KISMIF = Keep It Simple, Make It Fun!!!


To paraphrase BP - Scouting is FUN with a purpose. My troop loves to work with woodworking tools. They learn responsibility to take care of the tool, watch who and what is around them, careful handling of the tool, and first aid. All are useful and neccesary today.


As for other "unused" skills, even though semaphore is no longer part of the program, we intend to teach it. It is the only way to communicate ACCURATELY over distance without electronics.


As for tracking, the person who mentioned its current uses in the city is correct. I have been teaching my sons tracking since they could understand. They love finding tracks, learning what made them, and what ever else tracks can teach us. All hunters, now and future, need to understand how to track.


As for where it is in the program, check out nature (plaster casts of animals), the fieldbook, and any other meritbadge booklets discussing wildlife. A lot of things that have been taken out of the handbook are in the fieldbook.




Paul Johnson

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