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Lisabob

Just go join Spiral Scouts

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<i>In the meantime, I'd like to ask Kadiera to tell us more about SpiralScouts. For example, I'm curious about the nature of the program for your older members (SpiralScouts and Pathfinders). Is this an outdoor/camping oriented program, similar to what people likely think of when they think of Boy Scouts? I'm also curious about membership. About how many members do you think you have? And while I notice that your website says that members of all different faiths are welcome, I'm curious to know whether that includes atheists (which is, sorry to say, often the context Spiral Scouts are brought up in on this board). </i>

 

Working somewhat backwards:

 

I specifically know of one atheist family involved in SpiralScouts - but since we generally don't ask people about their religion, there might be more. Given the number of troops that are officially or unofficially tied to UU churches, I'd bet on there being some percentage of secular humanist families involved.

 

I suspect that atheists would not be comfortable in all of our troops; we encourage local units to make decisions about their program that are appropriate to their membership, so when it comes to religion, some take a more secular approach, some take a "expose the group to each other's beliefs" approach, and some take a very specific religious approach.

 

Last spring, we had about 500 scouts; I know there are more now given some of the things that have come up in recent board meetings.

 

In theory, the program was intended to be an outdoors program at all levels. In practice (as with many things in SpiralScouts), the program has taken on a life of its own, due to some interesting dynamics that I don't think anyone could have predicted.

 

First, most of our troops only meet twice a month - because a lot of them have members who drive an hour or more one way to attend. It makes camping every month a challenge, but a lot of troops have taken an alternating meeting and outing (camping/hiking/museum/field trip) approach.

 

Second, most of our troops are multi-age troops that span more than one age division, and we average about 10 kids per troop. There's a handful of "lone scout" type troops, and a couple of troops with 20-30 kids, but the mid range is pretty typical. So a lot of troops operate more on the scale of a single patrol troop, even if that patrol involves kids from age 5-15.

 

Third, we stress from the very earliest ages that the troop does what the kids decide to do. For the youngest scouts, that may mean that older scouts and/or adults create a list to choose from, but all the kids work out what things the troop will do.

 

If that means the kids don't want to go camping, they don't. I know of one troop that had 4 older girls who decided that they were using their year to create a new award. They planned out activities to learn about their subject, created activities appropriate for the younger kids in their troop to learn the subject, tested the activities on the others in the troop, modified what didn't work, and planned a "capstone" trip to Chicago (including fundraising to cover expenses) to visit several museums related to the award. The girls went camping once that year, which was the state-wide multi-troop anual campout. One of the parents later told me she suspected the award was a cover for just wanting to spend a weekend in Chicago, but that if the girls did the work, they did the work, and the trip was their reward.

 

Last is the overall age dynamic we deal with. Between half and 2/3 our scouts are in the youngest age group (FireFlies, ages 3-8). More than half of the remaining are SpiralScouts (ages 9-12). That leaves a very small number of PathFinders. Further, we're only now getting to the point that some of the first FireFlies and SpiralScouts are becomming PathFinders.

 

In reading this board, it seems to me that you don't get many boys who come into BSA at 13/14/15 and stick with the program very long. There are other things taking their time, and they don't have the personal history of being in scouts. Most Boy Scout troops are full of kids who started as Cubs and worked their way up.

 

I expect that as time passes, that problem will solve itself to some extent.

 

The other thing we run into on that front is the number of teens who *want* to be in SpiralScouts because of its Pagan roots, whose parents are not so keen on the idea for the same reasons - and I suspect that's a problem that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts rarely have in the US. :-)

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Not feeling welcome and not welcome are completely different

 

A difference that makes no difference is no difference, to quote Mr. Spock.

 

At any rate, what I was originally responding to was the question of what religions BSA discriminates against, and I contend that Unitarian Universalism is one. Saying that UUs are "welcome" except for their religious emblem (or "'religious' medal," as GW put it) doesn't tell me that they are not discriminated against by BSA.

 

Scoutmomma

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kadiera,

 

Do you have online anything like a general overview model of your program (a "Methods of SpiralScouting")? For example, see:

 

http://inquiry.net/adult/methods/index.htm

 

Likewise do you have online the advancement specifics of exactly what is required to earn badges? For example, see:

 

http://inquiry.net/traditional/handbook/index.htm

 

Kudu

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They probably haven't been around long enough for a volunteer to compile a history of what the program was back in its early days.

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Unitarian Universalists are allowed to join so the "BSA is discriminating" line is a moot point.

 

As my 13-year-old Star Scout son would say: Whatever.

 

The conversation in which I explain to him why there are two UU emblems that he can earn, but BSA doesn't approve of the one sponsored by his church, and vice versa, is sure to be a classic.

 

Scoutmomma

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The conversation in which I explain to him why there are two UU emblems that he can earn, but BSA doesn't approve of the one sponsored by his church, and vice versa, is sure to be a classic.

 

So there are UU emblems he can earn! So the whole thing is moot!

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Blame BSA for what happened with the UU's if you want to, but as I see it, the UU made a conscious choice to place themselves at odds with BSA's principles. Other religions who take similarly liberal attitudes towards homosexuality still have their emblems remain in the program, but that's because they didn't try to make a political statement in their curriculum.

 

So, you can call it discrimination if you choose, but it doesn't change the fact that UU's, wiccans, and other faiths outside of the Judeo/Christian/Islam mainstream are still welcome to join Scouts.

 

Given how few Scouts actually complete the religious emblems outside the realm of the Catholic and LDS church sponsored units, I find this whole line of argument to be splitting hairs...

 

 

 

 

Slouchhat, BSA is indeed a representation of its membership. It follows a presbyterian style of democracy.

 

Individual units are represented by unit scouters on District committees.

Districts are represented by unit scouters on Council committees. Council committees are represented by unit scouters at Area committees.

Area committees are represented by unit scouters at Regional committees

Regional committees are represented by unit scouters at National committees.

 

If it were the dictatorship that you imply it is, you wouldn't have any need for that structure -- you'd simply have the professional scouters making all the decisions.

 

When you have an organization as large and diverse as BSA (yes, despite all of the handwringing, it is a tremendously culturally and religiously diverse organization), there will always be someone who feels that BSA ignores their views.

 

That's not at all unlike any form of government, I might add.

 

 

Kadiera, it sounds like a worthwhile program.... I'm probably in the minority that while I defend BSA's policies as they currently are, I also think there shoulc be parallel organizations who are better able to serve the needs of youth whose parents don't find BSA to be the right environment for their families.

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Thank you, Kadiera, for your responses, and I hope you'll stick around the forum for a bit! It is always good to learn more about other scouting programs. I wish you and your program well.

 

 

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Scoutmomma, That conversation with your son will indeed be a classic. He sounds like he's developing great skills of critical thinking. We need more like him.

As my Thanksgiving coffee cup says, "Don't Let the Turkeys Get You Down". :)

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Lisabob: Have you heard of American Heritage Girls?

 

They are an alternative to Girl Scouts. Like the folks who formed Spiral Scouts, rather than simply complain about GSUSA policy, they actually went out and did something constructive: they formed an alternative organization.

 

Now, is AHG any more or less a "viable" alternative than SS? I have no idea, but I doubt if AHG started with any significant advantage in terms of infrastructure, training, potential members, etc.

 

And if SS hasn't grown, who's fault is that? Given the interminable bickering about BSA membership policies, one would think SS would have a ready-made universe of potential members -- so why haven't the people complaining about BSA put some action behind their words and flocked to SS?

 

I have no idea -- but to claim that SS isn't big enough to have nearby units is putting the cart before the horse, in my opinion. If SS is to get big enough to have lots of local units, then people need to have the courage of their convictions and join them, thereby making it bigger and attracting even more members.

 

I wish SS all the best -- like many others, I think BSA needs an alternative.

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Slouchhat, I hope you realize that there are a number of BSA members in good standing who, while in a minority, disagree with many of the policies you have noted and support changes to them. If find your analysis sound and your questions to be thought-provoking. Thanks.

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Hello fgoodwin,

 

Yes I have heard of AHG. However, since this is a BSA forum and most people here are talking about programs for boys more often than not, the standard "don't like the BSA? Just go join AHG" doesn't come up much.

 

As to whether or not SpiralScouts is growing, or is growing fast enough, or whatever - that is not part of my point. I am not stating that they aren't growing or aren't interesting as an alternative to some people. I am not interested in judging the relative merits of their program. I am saying that, for whatever reason, they are a small organization that isn't available in many places and consequently, they may indeed not be a viable option at this point for many people who want a scouting experience for their children, but who don't have the resources to provide the structure of such an experience by themselves. And if we're being realistic, that probably includes MOST scouting families, including most in the BSA.

 

And by the way, I have no idea how widespread AHG is, but I suspect they are better known, in part, because of the very popular line of dolls (with a good marketing campaign) by the same name that came out a few years back.

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