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MattR

Important Ideas About The Patrol Method

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The norm in my district when I was a Scout (1954-1961) was that the patrol normally met on its own every week and most of the "troop meeting" was spent in what today is called "Patrol Corners."   We knew about, and pitied, the two troops that did not work that way.  Every "voice" in Scouting at that time sent a consistent message about the centrality of the patrol and the patrol experience.  The classic 1950 Handbook for Patrol Leaders was current.

 

What I recall doing was planning activities, working on Scoutcraft (cooking disproportionately in my first patrol) and advancement, and preparing for competition in the troop, district and council. We almost always had a game, and there was, inevitably, some "messing around."

 

1970 seems like a key date for me, not because of VN and anti-war feelings but becasue that is about the date (really 1972) of The Improved Scouting Program.  Masses of experienced volunteers voted on the drastic de-emphasis on the outdoors by quitting, and many of them seem to have stayed away when BSA had a regime change, retracted the NSP, and brought Bill back.

Tahawk, thanks for sharing this, it really struck a cord.

 

With your permission, I'd like to add a couple thoughts as a scout who came up in the ISP era....

 

When I crossed over from Webelos to Boy Scouts in '74 (a very hot humid evening at Howard AFB, Panama...no AC in that particular building), I saw both influences--the old outdoor program and the new indoor one.   

 

My first handbook was the 8th edition, 1972.   Compared to the Fieldbook, the scout handbook struck me as kind of weak.  Anemic.  Then one day I got ahold of a handbook from the early '60s, and even as a young scout, I was shocked at the difference.   I thought "I want to be in THAT BSA!"

 

Well, you play the cards you are dealt.   Fortunately, as I moved with my family, I was in four different scout troops.   To varying degrees, I still received the benefit of the old program, with the emphasis on patrols being outdoors.   Sure, we wore those funky berets, and earned Camping MB with the not-required-for-Eagle-colored edging, etc.   But we still hiked, camped and cooked as patrols, all months, in all weather.   There was adult, but not nearby.   Unless it was one particular SM who ran the troop like a reform school, but that is another story.

 

True, many of the old timers voted with their feet and left the program.   I was lucky enough that a few of them stayed, and kept real scouting alive, while the BSA floundered thru the '70s.  

 

So the ISP was discarded, and Green Bar Bill rewrote the handbook (a superb one at that).   However, many of those old timers that stayed the course thru the '70s eventually retired.   We have people of like spirit in the BSA, who stepped up and filled their shoes, to carry on in the traditional outdoor manner.   But not enough to overcome the inflow of many sedentary, indoor minded scouters who influence the program away from the outdoors.   They like paperwork, metrics, long meetings, MB fairs, top down direction, zero risk tolerance--everything that runs contrary to a successful, memorable scouting program.

 

There have always been scouters that didn't like the outdoors.   In the past, they respected the program enough to let the troops do their thing, and they themselves took care of managerial tasks that didn't require camping.   That's quite alright, and bless them.  However, over the last decades, this dynamic has changed.   The indoor types actually wanted to call the shots and move the program from the woods to the briefing room.   Ironic that this was allowed to happened in an outdoor organization.

Edited by desertrat77

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So the ISP was discarded, and Green Bar Bill rewrote the handbook (a superb one at that).   

 

@@desertrat77, I love my 9th edition!!!  In fact, I take it with me to SM/IOLS training and read from it when I want to stress keys points about the job of the SM as it relates to the PLs.  (Yes, I add to the training syllabus; sue me!  :D )

 

I hope that, by spreading the message that GBB worked so hard to put together/fix in 1979, I can make a little dent in the indoors-centric attitudes we see these days.

Edited by LeCastor

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@@desertrat77, I love my 9th edition!!!  In fact, I take it with me to SM/IOLS training and read from it when I want to stress keys points about the job of the SM as it relates to the PLs.  (Yes, I add to the training syllabus; sue me!  :D )

 

I hope that, by spreading the message that GBB worked so hard to put together/fix in 1979, I can make a little dent in the indoors-centric attitudes we see these days.

LeCastor, this is the best news I've heard today--thanks!

Edited by LeCastor
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@@qwazse

 

I didn't re-write early BSA history, I collect it and read it.   :)  ...

 

So if there be any idealism portrayed in today's world by me, it's not a re-write, it's just a good read to understand what Scouting was initially set up to be. 

 

@@Stosh Not disagreeing with you. Just sayin' that the troop was not completly invisible. As @@TAHAWK says:

 

....

What I recall doing was planning activities, working on Scoutcraft (cooking disproportionately in my first patrol) and advancement, and preparing for competition in the troop, district and council. We almost always had a game, and there was, inevitably, some "messing around."

...

 

The patrol's primary interaction was with other patrols in the troop.

 

Our troop was blessed with an committee who allocated us the basement of an old church manse, so patrols had rooms ... not just corners ... which we renovated. One patrol had a 4' x 8' home-made air hockey table. Another a pool table. One was newly opened for the young Wolves assigned for me to PL ... which I kept bare because none of the Pee Wee comics or Scouts in Action that I saw had backdrops of scouts indoors! :unsure:

 

Like @@desertrat77, I came to look on other troops with pity. They had nicer quarters, but seemed to be clueless about how to raid Mom's pantry and get exactly what was needed for 8 boys and two nights. Plus in the dead of winter, they were crammed in these cabins while we were pitching tents under open sky. :mellow:

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@@Stosh Not disagreeing with you. Just sayin' that the troop was not completly invisible. As @@TAHAWK says:

 

 

The patrol's primary interaction was with other patrols in the troop.

 

They made multiple references to Troop 1, Boonsboro, NJ many times, but the closest thing they had with any connection between patrols was Pee Wee from the Ravens patrol hung out with his buddy Roy from the Silver Fox patrol.  All the boys in the Silver Fox Patrol were identified, but none other than Pee Wee from the Ravens were known.  Even at summer camp the patrol hung out with only the members of the patrol for any and all activities.  Even I was surprised at the lack of connection to the troop and in light of modern fear thinking, no adults were around much.  Mostly just to test out and pass on the advancement and run the summer camp.  A lot of times the boys just went off into the woods of New York State and hung out for a week and called that summer camp.

 

The closest thing to a meeting place was the boys tied into an old railroad passenger car they managed to have hauled home and they made that their PATROL meeting place.  Otherwise about 95% of the time they were out doing something outdoors.

 

I assumed that the troop structure of the BSA at this time was spelled out in other publications, but it was not part of any of PFH's novels or novels of other writers of the era.

 

Our troop was blessed with an committee who allocated us the basement of an old church manse, so patrols had rooms ... not just corners ... which we renovated. One patrol had a 4' x 8' home-made air hockey table. Another a pool table. One was newly opened for the young Wolves assigned for me to PL ... which I kept bare because none of the Pee Wee comics or Scouts in Action that I saw had backdrops of scouts indoors! :unsure:

 

My 4 years in scouting as a youth was a joke.  (After 4 years I rose to the rank of second class)   Most of the time we played games and hung out in the scout room.  I have no idea what patrol I was ever assigned to if any.  Adults did it all.  I got so bored with the whole thing that about a half dozen of us quit together and went into the Civil Air Patrol program where we could at least fly in airplanes.  I so totally understand the frustration of the older scouts and why they drop out.  It had nothing to do with girls, sports or cars.

 

Like @@desertrat77, I came to look on other troops with pity. They had nicer quarters, but seemed to be clueless about how to raid Mom's pantry and get exactly what was needed for 8 boys and two nights. Plus in the dead of winter, they were crammed in these cabins while we were pitching tents under open sky. :mellow:

Edited by Stosh

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@@Stosh I thank you for introducing me the Along the Mohawk Trail  by Fitzhugh.   :D I keep two books of matches in my campaign hat (like the Scout in the story) to remind me of the true adventures of Scouting.

 

Book available on Google Play here.

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That book was not commissioned by the  BSA, but it was selected for the BSA's Every Boy's Library series.  It was the book that caught the attention of BSA and resulted in Fitzhugh's commission to write for the BSA.

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I didn't interpret the article that way.  :unsure:

Tell me what I am missing.  I just read the article again.

 

 

Troop runs adult-led troop method for some period, apparently years.

 

Adults allow experiment with  just the youth-led part of patrol method.  Things are, as Bill and BSA predict, chaotic.

 

Adults determine troop is not "ready" for Boy Scouting.  Boy Scouting is cancelled for another year.

 

Adults decide to try again after more preparation.  Things run more smoothly.  

 

 

Article concludes that youth leadership is a range of possibilities to be determined not by the Scouts or by BSA but by the adults in change.

 

 

To quote the Commish, "Bull Puckey."  This behavior by adults is directly contrary to statements by BSA over the last eighty-five years about what is to happen.

 

BSA: "nless the patrol method is in operation, you don’t really have a Boy Scout troop.â€

 

I am not saying it is not a nice adult-run camping club, just not Boy Scouting.

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I'm back. Thanks for the ideas. What I noticed is the missing part is the challenges that each component in the patrol method is missing. It's one thing to say the boys are in charge but what's missing is explaining how hard that is when the scouts want to step back and the adults want to make things more efficient.
 
It's still open for changes. I am going someplace with this. I asked my DE, who I really like, how many troops do this right and his response was more like a grimace. So, he'd like me to do something with this. That will be a different topic.
 
Here's what I have. Play nice.
 
The Patrol Method/Boy Led Troop consists of Patrols, each led by a Patrol Leader, the Senior Patrol Leader, and the adults. Each of these people have responsibilities and challenges.
 
A Patrol. A patrol is a gang of friends. It consists of 6-8 scouts that self select who is in the patrol. Most events are done at the patrol level.

  • Responsibility: Deliver the promise of scouting to the members of the patrol. This means planning and implementing the events that scouting is about: fun, friendships, adventure, skills, and service. Each member of the patrol shares the responsibility for this. This means they help their patrol and each member in their patrol.
  • Challenges: Stepping forward and handling their responsibility. Boys this age have rarely had the freedom to plan their own events and will tend to wait until someone else does this for them. Encouraging them to handle this responsibility is key. Another challenge is keeping their independence from other patrols and the adults. Staying away from each other helps develop cohesion and spirit. This includes camping, at meetings, and events. The final challenge is developing patrol spirit. This takes time and success.

Patrol Leader. The patrol leader is the most important position in a troop. Each patrol elects its own patrol leader.

  • Responsibility: Take care of his patrol by ensuring it is fulfilling what the scouts want out of scouting. Communicate with the scouts in both directions. Stay ahead of the calendar and know what's coming. Make sure everyone in the patrol has a job to do (delegate) and that they are trained to do it. Develop future leadership for the patrol. Set the example for the Scout Oath and Law.
  • Challenges: Everything he is responsible for is a challenge for scouts that have never done this before. Keeping adults, other patrols and patrol leaders, and the SPL away from making decisions for his patrol. Having never led before he will likely sit back and let someone else do it. Stepping back and allowing the scouts in his patrol to do their jobs.

Senior Patrol Leader: For troops of only 1 or 2 patrols, this position is not needed.

  • Responsibility: Make the Patrol Leaders successful. Lead troop wide activities. Lead scouts in Positions of Responsibility that are not related to patrols.
  • Challenges: Stepping back and allowing Patrol Leaders to do their jobs. Stepping up and not letting the adults do his job.

Adults: This includes the Scoutmaster, his assistants, and all other adults and parents.

  • Responsibility: Ensure a safe environment. Set boundaries that confine the scouts to the scout methods yet also gives them enough freedom to learn and grow. Develop trust between the scouts and adults. Without trust nothing will work.
  • Challenges: Patience. A boy led troop is messy and chaotic. It takes time. Scouts fail and that's okay as that's how they learn. Too much failure can also be discouraging. The challenge is in knowing when to encourage, help, or stand back. Too often adults want to make the process more efficient and that's a mistake. “The role of the adults is not the destination, but the journey. That is, our responsibility as adults is to promote the 'process' of Scouting.†Keep the boundaries between scouts and adults very clear and simple. Without clear boundaries the scouts will tend to step back and the adults will tend to step forward. Do not solve any problems that the scouts can solve on their own.
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Not often I agree with those people in this thread. ... "a gang of good friends" 

 

 

It's clear that the BSA can't describe very well what the Patrol Method is. Considering it's the most important part of a troop they need some help. So let's see if we can help them.

 

What are the most important ideas for a SM to know that cut to the core of the Patrol Method? All the introductions talk about 6-8 scouts, safe environment, types of patrols, etc, but they make lots of assumptions that aren't showing up in any descriptions. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling. What can you add? What would you change?

  • Independence of the patrol (300', do their own thing at meetings).
  • Respecting the PLs authority and not stepping over it (both SPL and adults).
  • The PLs responsibility to his patrol. Stosh would call this "take care of your people."
  • Teamwork: Helping your patrol & giving everyone a job
  • Boundaries for adults.
  • The chaos of learning or why it takes them so long.
  • Trust between the adults and scouts.
  • Working through people problems - this is probably the one thing that ILST talks about.

 

 

IMHO, it's wrong and self-defeating to over define it.  You are listing characteristics and good characteristics, but with too much detail.

 

IMHO, it's also wrong for the adults to try to judge our patrols against the perfect patrols or try to push down changes / attitudes to create the perfect patrols.

 

I really like the definition that a patrol is "a gang of good friends".  Then through encouraging that patrol to do things (camp, cook, play games, socialize, etc), it becomes a mechanism through which the scoutmaster can naturally teach lessons about life, leadership and skills.  And through those lessons and those activities, the scouts will build their bonds of brotherhood.  

 

As a unit leader (not SM or ASM), one of my highest priorities is to get the extraneous adults away from scouts.  

Edited by fred johnson

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@@MattR (and others) spot-on in terms of defning the noun for adults, maybe. If the adult has some mental white-board with an organizational chart. The boys won't give you that many words.

However, I'm convinced that we scouters need to define the verb.

 

The verb gives us vision. So allow me to hack at one thing ...

 

...A Patrol. ...

  • Responsibility: Deliver the promise of scouting to the members of the patrol. ..

Patrol Leader. ...

  • Responsibility: ...fulfilling what the scouts want out of scouting....

 

 

This isn't make-a-wish foundation. That's not what we're really about. Boys have heard enough marketing hype that they instantly tune out everything after "what you want". I think we are better served with something like:
 

"There is this astounding country at your doorstep. Go out into it. Observe. Report back with what you found. That's your mission. And we have just the method for you to accomplish it!"

 

If you fit that in there and toss out some of the hyperbole, add the phrase "first class scout (the concept, not just the patch)" somewhere, and I think you'll be on to something.

Edited by qwazse

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@@qwazse, I'm game. I think you've mentioned the noun/verb distinction before. Unfortunately I didn't quite see what you were getting at. I'd say what we are is what we do, so there's not much difference. But that's not what you're trying to get at. So please explain further.

 

Here's a guess. If I were to define the verb to scout I'd say there are two parts, adventure in the outdoors and service to our community. Are you saying "to scouter" is to encourage scouting? That I could fit in easily.

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The Patrol Method/Boy Led Troop consists of Patrols, each led by a Patrol Leader, the Senior Patrol Leader, and the adults. Each of these people have responsibilities and challenges.

 

A Patrol. A patrol is a gang of friends. It consists of 6-8 scouts that self select who is in the patrol. Most events are done at the patrol level.

  • Responsibility: Deliver the promise of scouting to the members of the patrol. This means planning and implementing the events that scouting is about: fun, friendships, adventure, skills, and service. Each member of the patrol shares the responsibility for this. This means they help their patrol and each member in their patrol.
  • Challenges: Stepping forward and handling their responsibility. Boys this age have rarely had the freedom to plan their own events and will tend to wait until someone else does this for them. Encouraging them to handle this responsibility is key. Another challenge is keeping their independence from other patrols and the adults. Staying away from each other helps develop cohesion and spirit. This includes camping, at meetings, and events. The final challenge is developing patrol spirit. This takes time and success.

Patrol Leader. The patrol leader is the most important position in a troop. Each patrol elects its own patrol leader.

  • Responsibility: Take care of his patrol by ensuring it is fulfilling what the scouts want out of scouting. Communicate with the scouts in both directions. Stay ahead of the calendar and know what's coming. Make sure everyone in the patrol has a job to do (delegate) and that they are trained to do it. Develop future leadership for the patrol. Set the example for the Scout Oath and Law.
  • Challenges: Everything he is responsible for is a challenge for scouts that have never done this before. Keeping adults, other patrols and patrol leaders, and the SPL away from making decisions for his patrol. Having never led before he will likely sit back and let someone else do it. Stepping back and allowing the scouts in his patrol to do their jobs.

Senior Patrol Leader: For troops of only 1 or 2 patrols, this position is not needed.

  • Responsibility: Make the Patrol Leaders successful. Lead troop wide activities. Lead scouts in Positions of Responsibility that are not related to patrols.
  • Challenges: Stepping back and allowing Patrol Leaders to do their jobs. Stepping up and not letting the adults do his job.

Adults: This includes the Scoutmaster, his assistants, and all other adults and parents.

  • Responsibility: Ensure a safe environment. Set boundaries that confine the scouts to the scout methods yet also gives them enough freedom to learn and grow. Develop trust between the scouts and adults. Without trust nothing will work.
  • Challenges: Patience. A boy led troop is messy and chaotic. It takes time. Scouts fail and that's okay as that's how they learn. Too much failure can also be discouraging. The challenge is in knowing when to encourage, help, or stand back. Too often adults want to make the process more efficient and that's a mistake. “The role of the adults is not the destination, but the journey. That is, our responsibility as adults is to promote the 'process' of Scouting.†Keep the boundaries between scouts and adults very clear and simple. Without clear boundaries the scouts will tend to step back and the adults will tend to step forward. Do not solve any problems that the scouts can solve on their own.

 

 

The Patrol Method includes boy-leadership and boy-leadership is just one part of the method.  If one understands that the Patrol Method is merely "boy-led" - or if one thinks it is a separate goal --  you don't get the method. Many adults, not having much of a clue, think there is a  method called "the boy-led troop," put the SPL in charge (often as a defacto Platoon Sgt.), and pat themselves on the back.  "One down.  We have a boy-led troop."

 

The eight "methods" of the BSA are supposed to be, collectively, the primary means by which the promise of Scouting is delivered.  The Patrol Method has been said over and over to be the most important of the eight.  It would be good to get that one method squared away before going on to Scouting as a whole.  We're not doing super on the other seven, either.

 

Primarily, the patrol is responsible for planning its program and carrying it out as a team (A nice label, "team." Like "group of friends" it has implications that Scout-aged boys can easily understand - at least as a concept.)  

 

The patrol is also responsible to do it's share of troop activities as those activities are planned by the PLC. (If the league [troop] scheduling committee [PLC]  schedules your team  to play the Rockets on Saturday at 10:00 AM, you show up and play. Not hard to grasp.) 

 

If you put eight boys in a field with a Frisbee, they are highly unlikely to wait for adults. It's adults who introduce complexity too soon.  Start at the top of the mountain and it's intimidating.    If they can't do "it" themselves, they have been presented with the wrong "it."   Start simple and it's not hard at all.

 

The PL's job is adequately defined in existing literature that no one seems to bother to read. He is the leading member of a team, and the team has it's own "season" to play.  Say, "The Patrol Leader acts as the chairman of his patrol and leads them in selecting and planning separate patrol activities.  Scouts are to spend the vast majority of their time functioning as a patrol.  Participating in a troop activity is to be the exception."   Watch the reaction of the typical adult.  Shock.  Disbelief.  No one is telling them that.  Yet it is in current BSA literature.

 

“[The patrol members] interact in a small group outside the larger troop context, working together as a team and sharing the responsibility of making their patrol a success.â€

 

“It’s the place where boys learn skills together, take on leadership responsibilities, perhaps for the first time . . . . “

 

"Patrols will sometimes join with other patrols to learn skills and complete advancement requirements. â€

 

“At other times they will compete against those same patrols in Scout skills and athletic competitions.†[emphasis added]

 

 

You statement of the SPL's responsibility is extremely helpful.  

 

Don't need an SPL sometimes?  When do you really need a troop?   Not at the start or at the restart.

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Interesting ideals, but kinda flawed in certain areas.

 

Patrols are empowered to run their own program, EXCEPT when others tell them differently.  How often is EXCEPT acceptable?  Older boy patrol wants to do HA for the summer, PLC says they have to go to summer camp>  

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