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Eamonn

Why did we fail ?

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It is hard for me to belive that the program is failing.  Our Troop is over 50 boys.  We are boy-led and that is the main selling point for both the boys who join our Troop and their parents.  The parents recognize that this is the safest environment to let go and give the boys independence and the boys love being responsible.

 

I'm going on a six day 50 mile backpacking trek with 5 boys and one other adult next week. The boys are aged 12, 13, 13,15 and 17.  Although I suggested the trail, the boys maped out the how far we are going each day, where we are camping and got directions for the adults to drive to the trail.  They are each cooking for themselves -- the only exception being that my son and his best friend are going to cook together for themselves and me.  There are three maps, none of which are being carried by the adults.  

 

I spent time with around 30 of our boys at Scout Camp this summer.  I saw our older guys taking care of the younger guys.  I saw them all interacting, playing cards and chess with each other.  I've seen our guys kick up the cooking a notch using cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens on campouts.  I've seen them canoe, hike, backpack and cycle -- going on adventures that they will remember for a lifetime.  Seriously how cool is it to bike 25 miles to a campout,  hike to a mansion that was abandoned in the 60s, canoe 20 miles and then backpack another 10, hike a trail with more than 20 waterfalls or go sea kayaking?

 

All scouting is local.  If a Troop is failing, then look at how it is implementing the program.  

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Location.  Location.  Location.

 

When I was a boy, we could have a very nice hike or camping trip just 5 miles from my home.  No suburban sprawl.  No highway noise.  It was cheap and convenient fun.

 

Today, the Scouts in my home town have to travel 50 miles or more to get away from all the congestion and noise.  The trips  are over-supervised, over-organized, and over-priced.

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Today, the Scouts in my home town have to travel 50 miles or more to get away from all the congestion and noise.  The trips  are over-supervised, over-organized, and over-priced.

 

We can always find something to complain about.  Our troop is in suburbia in the middle of the most densly populated state in the country, but we find a way to do it.

 

Cost of 5 day backpacking trip = $30 ($25 to cover gas for driving 300 miles and $5 to cover maps and guidebooks) plus your own food (but heck, you have to eat anyway).  The drive is 6 hours but the experience is priceless.

 

Cost of weekend sea kayaking trip = $40 ($10 for state park campsite for two nights $15 for 2 hour kayak rental; $15 for food).  The drive is 2 hours but the fun lasts all weekend.  Adults make the reservations, boys do the rest.

 

Cost of 3 day backpacking trip - $0.00 plus your own food.  Drive is one to two hours to get to the AT in NY, NJ or PA.

 

Cost of typical weekend campout with hike - $25 ($10 campsite plus $15 food).  We drive 1 to 3 hours to get to campsites and the boys plan the Saturday activitiy including service projects, hikes, boating, fishing, wilderness survival, etc.

 

Compare that to what you would pay doing those trips with REI or Backroads.  Heck, REI charges $50 just to teach map and compass skills.  How about the costs of sports program or summer camp?  

 

Help the boys understand the options that are out there and then tell them you will support them in whatever they decide to do.  Once they start doing adventurous things in the outdoor program they want to do more.  If you think there are problems with the outdoor program for your troop, then get involved.

 

If the Troop follows the program and is boy-led you eliminate the possibliity of being over organized and over supervised.  As our SPL says, "Mr. Hedgehog, that is just how we roll."

 

It isn't THEIR (meaning a bunch of guys in Texas) program, it is OUR program (meaning we facilitate the program for the boys who run the troop).

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@@Hedgehog sounds like your unit does not recover gas and other expenses as part of your camp costs. $25 for food and campsite? Where is gas, propane, and other incidentals recovered.

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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.   :)

love it!  That first link was great!

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... 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. 

 

Actually, I'm kinda thinking the reverse. We've revamped the CS program so many times over, I think one more modest change would be just fine. What if the next position after SPL or Crew President, would be (wait for it)  ...

 

....    Cubmaster?

 

Really, why does that have to be an adult position? The best ones I know act like big kids anyway. ;) He/she would be a mature 16-20 year old (yes they are out there) and would draw on fellow scouts/venturers to be Den Chiefs. They report to the SM or committee chair (perhaps now unified across both units) and would work with moms and dads to line up program for the boys. This would get parents more comfortable with the idea of youth leadership.

 

What would adults who would-be Cubmasters do instead? Well, how about they start working on earning 1st class rank? That would get them comfortable with the skills needed to be a scout, and put them in a position to better assist the SM! Plus it would give them a leg up in earning Eagle (if they haven't already). Maybe getting a few adults to go through the advancement process again would lead to shedding off those required pencil-whipping badges y'all gripe about.

 

But what about unintended consequences, like moms getting that bird bling? Don't worry, if O/A can play their smoke and mirrors to deny first-class female youth an honor, I'm sure the rest of us can keep up that charade as well. :sleep:

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It always struck me as strange, that when I was a kid, I was confirmed around the end of 8th grade.  At that point the church dealt with me as an adult.  We had one more year of Sunday School where we learned how to teach, set up a 16 mm projector and show a film, slide show projector instruction, do flannel boards, build curriculum, tell stories, etc.  It was taught by a local public school teacher.   We were a ready supply of fill in SS teachers and looked forward to the opportunity to actually teach a class.  At the end of the year, the entire class staffed all the teaching positions in Vacation Bible School summer program and from that point on attended the adult Sunday School activities and Bible studies.  The church recognized us as adults even though the rest of the world didn't.  But then again, they did teach us the way.

 

I have often thought Scouting could have benefited from such an approach.  But then that was 50 years ago and in today's world, the kids just aren't "mature" enough to pull it off.  At least that's what the adults say.

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I have to agree, many adults don't think the kids can handle it. And they are dead wrong

Heck I'm just as guilty since I didn't think my son had what it takes to be SPL when he was elected. Surprised the hack outta everyone at the job he did. Does he have room for improvement, yes indeed. But he did a great job

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Actually, I'm kinda thinking the reverse. We've revamped the CS program so many times over, I think one more modest change would be just fine. What if the next position after SPL or Crew President, would be (wait for it)  ...

 

....    Cubmaster?

 

Really, why does that have to be an adult position? The best ones I know act like big kids anyway. ;) He/she would be a mature 16-20 year old (yes they are out there) and would draw on fellow scouts/venturers to be Den Chiefs. They report to the SM or committee chair (perhaps now unified across both units) and would work with moms and dads to line up program for the boys. This would get parents more comfortable with the idea of youth leadership.

 

What would adults who would-be Cubmasters do instead? Well, how about they start working on earning 1st class rank? That would get them comfortable with the skills needed to be a scout, and put them in a position to better assist the SM! Plus it would give them a leg up in earning Eagle (if they haven't already). Maybe getting a few adults to go through the advancement process again would lead to shedding off those required pencil-whipping badges y'all gripe about.

 

But what about unintended consequences, like moms getting that bird bling? Don't worry, if O/A can play their smoke and mirrors to deny first-class female youth an honor, I'm sure the rest of us can keep up that charade as well. :sleep:

Yes!  Whether I agree or not this is exactly the kind of assumption challenging we need to do to reverse 20 years of declining membership!

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@Eammon, I'm not going to use past tense, my troop is finally getting close to where it should be and the results are good. But there are certainly challenges.

 

In the "good ol' days" the Boy Scouts had a monopoly on time and everyone's attention. Nobody had to sell this program so nobody did. That's not the case anymore. I have plenty of stories of boys that have grown immensely but some parents don't see it. I just did a SM minute on how I don't want to waste a problem by solving it for a scout. The parents think that's fine until they realize that it can get messy for the newer scouts when other scouts are learning to lead. I've been hearing a lot of "boy led is fine, but [when my son is impacted by some older scout that's learning, it's not fine at all]." It's not easy. Maybe in the old days people would just tell their kids to suck it up. But, and this is important, there are still plenty of parents that like what they see and plenty of scouts that like a challenge.

 

One more important point. The real challenge is with cub scouts. The boy scout model is you get adults that like it and stick around. They learn and pass that knowledge on. The cub scout model is more like girl scouts - you stay as a den leader with your son until he moves on to boy scouts. It's the cub scout packs that are hurting.

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Actually, I'm kinda thinking the reverse. We've revamped the CS program so many times over, I think one more modest change would be just fine. What if the next position after SPL or Crew President, would be (wait for it)  ...

 

....    Cubmaster?

 

Really, why does that have to be an adult position? The best ones I know act like big kids anyway. ;) He/she would be a mature 16-20 year old (yes they are out there) and would draw on fellow scouts/venturers to be Den Chiefs. They report to the SM or committee chair (perhaps now unified across both units) and would work with moms and dads to line up program for the boys. This would get parents more comfortable with the idea of youth leadership.

......

actually a very intriguing idea I think!

 

I think it could work very nicely, assuming you have a good engaged adult as Committee chair and a well functioning committee.

I don't see it happening well in our pack currently, because we lack that, and despite my efforts for the last couple years, our business model is that the cubmaster also functions as Committee Chair, secretary, and many other roles....

 

Still, I like your idea in theory, for several reasons!

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...  Still, I like your idea in theory, for several reasons!

Credit the college boys I know who came up through scouting in the Czech Republic. The youngest might join our troop as an ASM if he can spare the time.

 

They have no cubmaster or crew advisor or GS leader... just one "scoutmaster" for all 80-100 of them. His top rovers serve as den leaders (not the same term, but similar function) under his mentor-ship. By the time those rovers move on, their charges are at our boys' cross-over age.

 

The down side, from talking to the boys' parents, is Eastern block folks had the whole adult association thing beaten out of them until the Wall came down. So, still 30 years later, the SM has hardly any committee, and a lot of drop-off parents.

 

All those discussions have me thinking of how the grass can be made a little greener on either side of the old iron curtain.

Edited by qwazse

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@@Hedgehog sounds like your unit does not recover gas and other expenses as part of your camp costs. $25 for food and campsite? Where is gas, propane, and other incidentals recovered.

 

Campsites come out to $10 a scout (around $250 for a group of 25).  Breakfast is $3, Lunch is $3, Dinner is $5 and Breakfast is $3.  That totals $14.  The additional $1 per scout -- or $25 per campout goes to propane and paper towels (the majority of the consumables we use).

 

We also ask the adults to pay the same amount as the boys for the site and food.  We don't get any complaints because the adults eat better for that $25 than they would at a restaurant spending four times that amount (we've had strip steaks, baby back ribs, chili for dinner, eggs with canadian bacon on croissants or blueberry pancakes for breakfast, brats on rolls  or italian sausages for lunch).  Who wouldn't pay $25 to get away from it all for a weekend (another advantage to boy-led is you actually do get to relax)?

 

The rest of the costs (gear and other consumables) come out of dues and fundraising.  We don't pay for gas for the cars unless it is a really long trip (e.g. more than 300 miles round trip). 

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The rest of the costs (gear and other consumables) come out of dues and fundraising.  We don't pay for gas for the cars unless it is a really long trip (e.g. more than 300 miles round trip). 

 

Interesting approach. Our unit had a whole bunch of former tax or CPA types so every event was made to pay for itself. This process was done a long time ago as part of the PMMB and just extended out from there. Our camp out costs are slightly higher than yours, but it includes gas reimbursement. Fund raising goes totally to summer camp or high adventure. The budget is reconciled at the end of the year to see how the boys did. They are usually pretty close.

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In the midst of the storms that surround the BSA (many created by the BSA itself), here is my one nugget of hopefulness:

 

Any time a scout experiences traditional, historic, adventure-driven, outdoor scouting, they are hooked.

 

The appeal of traditional scouting transcends the differences of generations and demographics.

 

Though times and tastes change, traditional scouting appeals to the kid of 2015 the same way it did for a kid from 1915.   However, our society has rationalized, minimized and otherwise rejected much of our past in the name of "progress" and "sophistication" and other such self-congratulatory rubbish.

 

The scouts don't need more lectures on "leadership" and "self worth."   They need to organize into a patrol, pick a leader, make some sandwiches, fill canteens, and go hiking.  

Edited by desertrat77
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