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Eamonn

Why did we fail ?

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I don't know that much about who it is that decides who fits into which or what group.

I'm thinking about the generation groups.

I supposedly am a "Baby Boomer".

Being that I'm very much on the tail end of the Baby Boomers, I'm not sure that I really fit in?

 

Up until about ten years or so, maybe a little more? I never really gave much thought or never mind to these groups.

Today there seems to be so many of them that I'm having a hard time keeping up and remembering who fits in where and what the characteristics are.

While maybe I'm happy to disregard a lot of this stuff as just being gobbledygook and not that very important.

I do however feel that those in the know, who very well might be a lot wiser and better informed then me, can and do know what trends are happening and sometimes what will happen.

Of course it's easy to look back and say that such and such a group did this and had such and such traits and characteristics.

It is a lot harder and maybe even not possible to come up with what the next group will do.

 

Kids today have a lot more going on then I had.

Old timers like myself can often be heard going on and on about how everything from TV to after school activities and high-tech has had an effect on why boys are not willing to spend time in Scouts and Scouting.

How true this is or isn't? Is a debate that will go on for a very long time.

 

I whole heartedly believe that given the opportunity most boys (And girls.) Do want to have fun, do want to try new and exciting challenges and sometimes like to be recognized for their achievements.

Along with this they also like the idea of being somewhat independent.

I also believe that Scouts and Scouting can provide all of this.

Sad to say what gets in the way is adults.

 

The media and the speed of the media has scared and frightened the living daylights out of many parents.

Parents are uneasy about ever leaving their kid.

I have seen Den Meetings where parents fill the room waiting till the meeting is over so as to take their kid back home.

Summer Camp, where there as many "ASM's" As there are Scouts , because Dads are uncomfortable about leaving their kid for a week!

 

For a while I have to admit I seen this as not being all bad.

More adult / parent support was great when it came time to recharter.

More adults meant more people selling pop-corn.

More adults made reaching FOS goals a lot easier.

Involved parents made transportation a lot easier.

Sales of uniforms and fees to National? I'm almost sure were seen as not being a bad thing.

National even made recruiting a whole lot of adults part of the long term plan a few years back.

 

Sadly, it seems to me that we got it wrong.

A good many of these parents were not volunteering to help the Troop or be of benefit to Scouting.

They were there for their kid and their kid only.

 

We as an organization were happy allowing them to tag along.

The training's we offered never really gave them the tools or the skills that would benefit the day to day workings of a Troop.

These parents were not by any means bad people, but they were happy to just hang around and do what was needed to protect their son and if possible have him race to Eagle Scout rank ASAP.

 

While I can't back it up. In my opinion, we hurt the Scouts by allowing this.

We didn't allow the Scouts the independence that boys of that age crave.

We allowed people who didn't understand the big picture to make advancement the be all and end all of their sons Scouting experience.

We allowed these parents to waste their time and very often the skills that they could have used if they had taken on / volunteered for something that they were good at or could have done well.

 

It's hard to say or know what toll this took on families?

I know of families where the mother became more and more upset about having her husband go off, waste family vacation time that she made it very uncomfortable for her spouse.

The big idea of Scouting bringing families closer together was anything but true.

 

What I fail to understand is how we and the people who have their fingers on what's happening missed this?

 

In the area where I live Scouting is dying.

A slow and miserable death.

There are a few old timers who still serve Troops that in their hay day, these served 30 or 40 youth members. Today? Maybe half of that.

Packs and Troops are so small that any sort of delivery of the program as it is laid out to be delivered, just doesn't work. and new recruits soon get bored and quit.

 

We keep trying to recruit adults the way we always have.

We expect them to take on the task just like we did and do things very much the same way.

But this just isn't working.

Many of the ex-scouts, now in their late twenties and early thirties lack the basic skills to help a young Scout work his way to First Class.

We failed them.

Worse still is that we are not doing anything new to find out what it is that they might be willing to do.

We just keep on hoping that what we know isn't working will somehow fit the bill.

 

Without adults who can master the basics and pass them on, we are very much lost.

I just don't understand how we failed to see this coming.

 

Eamonn

   

 

 

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By "this" I assume you mean the lack of boy led, boy focused, boy centric activities with as few adults as possible involved?

 

Out west we do that. We require adults to register if they want to tag along. We require adults to volunteer a minimum of time if they want to be around. We require adults to get trained and take a position if they want to go anywhere. We have STRICT rules about what adults do during events. We literally sit around and cook, camp, etc. Our boys have learned to treat us as a patrol. When it's time to hike or canoe, they tell us.

 

I lament the same things you do. I think many of the younger parents really are more self absorbed than we were at that age. I think they've become more narcissistic because of how they were raised. They'd rather play golf or have girls night out then put in 5 hours on a service project.

 

I don't think WE let that happen. I think parents let that happen by being bad role models. My parents were always volunteering. I do that now. I hope my kids will follow my example.

 

The parents and kids who don't seem to care were taught that. We can try to fix a lot of things but we can't parent everyone.

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Scouting is an idea. It will never die. BSA might. But scouting will live on as long as someone remembers or reads about it and just imagines......

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Back in the day, quality control of the BSA program was policed by councils. Their territorial marshalls were called Neighborhood Commissioners who dropped in on units. They looked at the program, troop finances, held uniform inspection, etc. If the unit failed to meet standards, he gave guidance and  returned in a a couple of months to repeat the process. Those NC's had the power to dismiss volunteers and revoke charters. Scouting did not need a large number of adults as it had great, experienced adults ("The Greatest Generation"). Council was responsible for the BSA program in its geographic area. But as you know that changed, responsibility for the BSA program was surrendered to CO's. There were other gross mistakes which contributed - change in Wood Badge, Improved Scouting Program, National Leadership... a perfect storm.

 

What I find hard to take are the former scouts who gave up on scouting, who discouraged their sons from joining and otherwise would not help, not even as MBC's. Yeah I wish my sons could experience the scouting of 50's and 60's. Recall a few years ago, NESA sent out postcards to old Eagle Scouts and only got about a 30% return. Bummer. 

Edited by RememberSchiff

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People today are individuals who gather in groups.  Belonging is not necessarily a requirement.  After a while it doesn't make much difference who one hangs out with as long as one has the opportunity to hang out.

 

The rise of neighborhood gangs is a result of this sense of loss in belonging to something.  BSA hasn't figured it out, but as BP would say, they simply form naturally and BSA no longer has it's finger on the pulse of how to tap into that process.  They have chosen the option to impose on the boys rather than letting it evolve from within them.  The boy-led, patrol-method would do that but we have pretty much given up on that and are running a competitive program of personal success along with every other youth group out there.  And unfortunately we aren't doing a very good job of it.

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Contradictions suggest we need to check our assumptions. Maybe the problem is that we expect children and adults to sign up to a movement for life.  Maybe the problem is we put too much emphasis on boy-led and patrol method.  Maybe the problem is we're trying to dictate too much structure onto a diverse population.  Maybe the problem is we have too many old guys trying to push an old program onto new kids.  Once our assumptions are properly aligned to reality, and only then, can we make rational decisions on how to make the program work.  The tricky part is trying to figure out how to do that nationally.  What works in NY and Chicago will be different than what works in Montana and rural Texas.       

 

We are the stewards of a children's program; that stewardship shouldn't come with a life sentence.   If the people coming through the program don't value it enough to keep it alive, and if Scouting truly is an idea, maybe it's time to let it be reborn. 

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I'm less concerned about where we failed, and more about how we can succeed. Since we've all bought into management speak, one way or another, I start with vision. Most of you have heard mine, but I repeat for newbies:

 

Every American youth should envision the pinnacle scouting experience as hiking and camping independently with your mates. All other activities including meetings, cubs, troop camp-outs, summer camp, Jambo, high adventure bases, advancement, service, STEM, patriotism, etc ...are stepping stones to building that vision.

 

Our success hinges on youth and adults actually thinking that's when you know you've arrived as scout. If you actually get there by your 18th birthday is another issue. But *the varsity letter* is not a badge or whatever, it's when your fellow citizens actually trust you (when the responsible adults are not there) to be good stewards of their land for a weekend.

 

The next question becomes, what do we need to change to inculcate that vision?

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:)  

 

@@walk in the woods

 

"Maybe the problem is we put too much emphasis on boy-led and patrol method.  Maybe the problem is we're trying to dictate too much structure onto a diverse population.  Maybe the problem is we have too many old guys trying to push an old program onto new kids."

 

Maybe if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Scouting ran very nicely for 50 years and then it was decide that new and improved was the route to go.  So they tinkered it down to where it is today.  Some of those old farts who are still hanging around are maybe hanging around hoping some day what they had as a great experience in Scouting can come back and be for their grandchildren......

 

http://www.outsideonline.com/2010526/we-wish-more-doctors-prescribed

 

http://www.outsideonline.com/1803601/doctors-prescribing-time-outside

 

It wasn't broken, it didn't need fixing.  There's nothing wrong with the old, worn out, passe, out-dated version of BSA.  :)

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 Maybe the problem is we put too much emphasis on boy-led and patrol method. 

 

Actually i think the societal norm of "they are children until 26 years of age" and the rise of helicopter parents is the reason WHY we need to emphasize the patrol method. I'm tired of dealing with High schoolers parents, and especially the college students' parents, trying todo things for their "children" when they "child" is perfectly capable of doing it themselves.

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I'm with @@Eagle94-A1 on this one.  in most cultures adulthood starts around 12 or 13 years of age, i.e. confirmation, bar mitzvah, etc. and in America we extend childhood well into the lives of our children when they should be out in the world doing their own thing.  Instead they live in their parents' basement until they are well into their 30's.  This is a rather new phenomena in our culture and BSA has gone and drunk the koolaid.

 

I wonder what the legal eagles would say if a 12 or 13 year old boy marched off to war like they used to.  Oh, in Africa they still have "child soldiers"?  My mistake, sorry

 

Yes, the Baby Boomer generation started it with the whole idea that everyone needed to go on to college,  With the boom in the economy that was now possible for a lot of families.  Up until that time, getting a HS education was paramount to going on to college and one could now teach.  Then there were the teachers colleges and the nursing colleges and other specialty schools added on until now, one can go to school well into their 40's and not have to work, or at least think about it.

 

Remember, change isn't always a good thing and it usually isn't universal, and the caveat to remember is just because it seems likes a long standing tradition, it could be that it hasn't been around as long as you have walked the earth.   Remember, we did not build this country into what it is today with entitlement attitudes and government expectations.  If I don't have to lift a finger to help myself in this culture of America today, I surely don't need to lift a finger to help others.  

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The next question becomes, what do we need to change to inculcate that vision?

This is the challenge and it's where tradition (we've always done it this way) bumps into reality (to paraphrase, We have to operate in the world as it is, not as we'd like it to be).  Like it or not we're dealing with helicopter parents, kids who aren't used to being outdoors, middle-schoolers who aren't used to independence.  We can either adapt to that reality or as our current membership numbers show, continue sliding into oblivion.  Ultimately, we have to train both the boys and the parents in independence and I think our CS/BS transition is just too abrupt.  Imagine if we had a specific program to develop Q's definition of First Class Scouts.  More parental involvement accepted at the beginning, easier transition, less shock.  Instead of asking parents and boys to adapt overnight, the program develops parents who are willing to let go as they build trust in the leaders and boys who are ready to be first class scouts.  No merit badges in the middle-school program, just scout skills and fun.  Hiking and camping with our buds, learning to be independent and parents learning to let go.  I mean, this is the school model we're currently working with, no?  Grade school kids have a single teacher (a mother surrogate), Middle Schoolers have multiple teachers, but no real input into their schedule or classes, more exposure to organized sports and clubs.  HS kids get to exercise even more independence on courses, clubs, etc. 

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Maybe the problem is that we expect children and adults to sign up to a movement for life.  Maybe the problem is we put too much emphasis on boy-led and patrol method.  Maybe the problem is we're trying to dictate too much structure onto a diverse population.

 

Our school systems expect a whole lot more independence of our children now then they did when we were kids. I didn't need to have a binder for each subject, take copious notes and practice every night for band or choir or sports. Soccer and baseball were in the spring, football in the fall. Band, choir and orchestra were electives with a modest amount of time required. Now everyone works year around, makes things mandatory and some even tie grades to attendance.

 

Society has amped up what is expected of these kids. One could argue that Boy Scouts -- and it's pressure to be boy-led -- is EXACTLY the type of program that would help these kids gain independence and think as a group. 

 

Actually i think the societal norm of "they are children until 26 years of age" and the rise of helicopter parents is the reason WHY we need to emphasize the patrol method. I'm tired of dealing with High schoolers parents, and especially the college students' parents, trying todo things for their "children" when they "child" is perfectly capable of doing it themselves.

 

Here, here.

 

Like it or not we're dealing with helicopter parents, kids who aren't used to being outdoors, middle-schoolers who aren't used to independence.  We can either adapt to that reality or as our current membership numbers show, continue sliding into oblivion. 

 

If we stay the course (thanks G. Bush) who is to say we slip into oblivion? Maybe we find our equilibrium at a much lower number, BUT those who stay scribe to the ideal on which Scouting was founded. We get those truly interested in an independent, boy-led outdoor program like B-P wanted.

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What people don't understand is there are plenty of other programs out there that see the benefit of Scouting and design programs for that reason.

 

YMCA has a lot of outdoor programming.

 

Schools are developing outdoor curriculum.

 

AHG and TLUSA have cropped up.

 

4-H is still going strong.

 

K.A.M.O. was just started up in our neck of the woods in 2008 and is growing. (Kids And Mentors Outdoors).

 

Why is it that BSA in it's infinite wisdom changed everything away from what everyone wants?

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I don't think we can point to any one, or even two, big things.  I suspect it's more a death by a thousand cuts going on here.  Go through the many diverse threads on this board and you can get a feeling for all of the things that has had some effect on the BSA.  While there are some things that were in the BSA's control - the insularity (as we've read, the BSA rarely appoints upper management staff from other orgnizations - when all you do is promote from within, you limit your ability to grow), the ham-handed dealing with certain social issues (that in turn gave many people the idea that the BSA was unwelcoming, religious and political, and caused the loss of major sponsorship opportunities within government entities), the miserable attempts to either stay ahead of trends (like the 1970's "urbanization" of Scouting because of the increasing urbanization of society) or the miserable attempts to attract minorities (can anyone honestly say that the whole Soccer Scouts for Hispanics stuff wasn't a huge insult to the Hispanic community?).

 

There is a lot of external stuff that the BSA just never responded well to such as the slow death march of rural communities (which one time was a big contributor of Scouts - most small towns large enough to support a Pack and a Troop did), the blurring of suburban boundaries as suburban spawl continues on, which affectively negates a sense of community for many of us (what makes up a neighborhood these days when your primary school may be a mile bus ride in one direction to a different town and your high school may be a 2 mile bus ride in the other direction to yet another town and the nearest fire station doesn't respond to your 911 call because they aren't in your town?), the increasingly mobile work force (your insurance agent, or banker, or doctor may commute to their offices instead of living in town), the increasing paranoia of parents (heaven forbid your ten year old ride his bike on his own to the swimming pool down the street) and helicoptering of parents (an 18 year old filling out a college application on his own with mommy and daddy sitting at his elbow?  Never!), and the increasing competition to get in to college (in the late 70's, as long as you got reasonable grades, and did ok on the SAT or ACT, you could get into college - nowadays, got to fill up that resume of after school activities to even have a chance (or so the conventional thinking goes).

 

There is also somewhat of an unwillingness on the part of the people in Scouting to embrace change and adaptation.  The number of people complaining about STEM is staggering - the BSA has a lot they can already offer to advancing STEM (and let's face it, the concept is not going away) - why shouldn't the BSA start using what exists to reach out to boys that aren't interested in camping and hiking but would be interested in those nice STEM related merit badges (and if they learn to like to camp and hike because of their exposure to the Scouts, all the better).

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- why shouldn't the BSA start using what exists to reach out to boys that aren't interested in camping and hiking but would be interested in those nice STEM related merit badges (and if they learn to like to camp and hike because of their exposure to the Scouts, all the better).

 

Well, in short, because the main program is hemorrhaging and in desperate need of attention. BSA has proven they can't effectively juggle more than one ball at a time. Introducing STEM at this point is a severe risk to the health of BSA. 

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