Jump to content
skeptic

Leadership article

Recommended Posts

I have listened for years as various and sundry here blamed the decline of Scouting on the change in Wood Badge from its original (pre-1971) emphasis on First Class Scoutcraft.  (I witnessed version 1 as "junior staff" and have the syllabus.)  Some of those blamed the changes in Wood Badge for the loss of things that never were,

 

No one explains precisely what was the cause for each alleged effect.

 

Meanwhile, we have the disaster of the New Scouting Program with everything that was wrong about it, Merit Badge Mill summer camps and the ilk, a decline in the quality of BSA publications, the virtual disappearance of the Patrol Method from basic training for Scoutmasters, the general social decline in willingness of adults to join any group, schools becoming seven-day-a-week/twelve-month programs, loss of support in the community (Out of those schools!), and a steady drum-fire of political/cultural attacks that BSA has handled --- let's see --- not very well.

 

Blaming every bad thing on the two changes in Wood Badge seems just a tad simplistic.  At best.

 

And Bill attended dozens of Wood Badge reunions in the last years of his life, including those here, at which he urged those present to attend the second version of Wood Badge if they had not done so.

 

So I know what Bill was do to try and make things better,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tahawk, I see your points.  

 

Two posts ago in this thread, I took a swipe at WB but made a slight qualifier that White Stag WB was not the sole reason for the decline of the BSA.   Nonetheless, in my last post, I knocked WB again, outright.

 

Please take a look the timing.   Was it any accident that "old" WB died in 71 and the ill-fated NSP started in 72?   I don't think so, based on reading the links that Kudu posted yesteryear.   There seemed to be a concerted effort at that time by the BSA to move away from the outdoors to whatever we have now.   Across the board.

 

I concur with your observations about the other reasons that plague the BSA today--particularly the disappearance of the patrol method in scouter training, MB mills, etc.   But I respectfully offer this:   did these changes happen in a vacuum?   Did the shift begin at the grass roots level?   I rather doubt it.   If WB is the end-all-be-all of strategic leadership training for the BSA, those that guided the BSA away from its heritage were either influenced by WB theory, or had a firmer hand in the shift because of their WB background.   Those with the beads speak and the other bead wearers listen.

 

The non-scouting factors you mentioned--decline in support, adult willingness to support scouting--true, hard to pin those on WB.   But I'll offer this.   I've been in councils and districts where WB was used as a wedge rather than an organizational rallying point.   The attitude turned alot of people off.   Not true everywhere (like the council I'm in now) but it's out there.  

Edited by desertrat77

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Please take a look the timing.   Was it any accident that "old" WB died in 71 and the ill-fated NSP started in 72?   I don't think so, based on reading the links that Kudu posted yesteryear.   It seemed to be a concerted effort at that time by the BSA to move away from the outdoors to whatever we have now.   Across the board.

 

Version 1 of Wood Badge did not go away by accident.  It went away as the result of a process that started in 1965 and ended in 1971 by replacing T-F first class skills  with eleven "leadership skills" plus less Scoutcraft.  If BSA wanted to use Wood Badge to downplay outdoor skills, they did a poor job as version 2  was still by invitation only to experienced Scouters.  I had six years as an SM and three as an SA and I was very junior when I took the course in 1984.  For eight days we tented in tents we erected with tent stakes we made and with proper knots and hitches we tied.  We showered in showers we lashed together in our respective patrol sites and ate food we cooked over open fires - even for the course "feast."

 

I have utterly failed to find statements of why BSA did what it did in 1972, beyond vague references to decreasing dropouts by offering more choice in advancement. Nor can I find when the process that lead to 1972 started, much less a single connection to training.  Perhaps you can do better.   

 

Can't address "Across the Board."

 

 

I concur with your observations about the other reasons that plague the BSA today--particularly the disappearance of the patrol method, MB mills, etc.   But I respectfully offer this:   did these changes happen in a vacuum?   Did the shift begin at the grass roots level?   I rather doubt it.   If WB is the end-all-be-all of strategic leadership training for the BSA, those that guided the BSA away from its heritage were either influenced by WB, or had a firmer hand in the shift because of their WB background.   Those with the beads speak and the other bead wearers listen.

 

The non-scouting factors you mentioned--decline in support, adult willingness to support scouting--true, hard to pin those on WB.   But I'll offer this.   I've been in councils and districts where WB was used as a wedge rather instead of an organizational rallying point.   The attitude turned alot of people off.   Not true everywhere (like the council I'm in now) but it's out there.  

 

No vacuum and hardly grass roots.  The Patrol Method ceased being taught in an coherent or complete way in Scoutmaster training in 2000, not 1971.  From 2000 until September, 2014, the information about the Patrol Method in Scoutmaster training was in bits and drabs and  by reference to other publications.  Now, part of the Patrol Method is once again in Scoutmaster training, although all of it is still in BSA publications, scattered here and there for those that recognize it for what it is.  (Funny it's all still there if the goal is to eliminate it.  E.G.: “(d) The membership of a troop shall be organized on the patrol system.† Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America (2016); e.g. : “[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.†  B.S.A., website (2016)

 

A coherent and express description of the Patrol Method was never in Wood Badge.  For versions 1 and 2, experienced Scouters by invitation, it was assumed that you knew about Scouting's most important method if you were accepted.  Indeed, for version 1, the prospective learner had to write an essay demonstrating knowledge of Scouting and its methods and have that essay accepted before taking the course.

 

In version 3 of Wood Badge, I am told that the Patrol Method is "taught by example."  Given that the goal is to have everyone take Wood Badge and that many "participants" are very new to Scouting and never had a shot at a proper explanation of the Patrol Method, that approach seems like poor pedagogy to me.  But a poor job of teaching Tuckman's "Situational Leadership" is also part of the course after BSA's internal editing of the original Blanchard syllabus.  These are clues for a conclusion of DABJ (doing a bad job) -- EDGE without the first "E."  If some are more satisfied with conspiracy that incompetence, I'm not one of those persons. I have seen too much evidence supporting Hanlon's Razor. 

 

If you refer to the prohibition of camping without adults "present," I suggest that you look to "risk management" in this Age of Lawsuits to find the reasons.  If, as was in my experience in the 1950s, the adults are taught to stay away until time to ask, "Are you guys about ready to go home?" all is not lost.  (The bigger problem is the notion that the boy-lead troop" is all there is to the Patrol Method and the rejection of even that little part of the method.)

 

Wood Badge is not the end-all-be-all of strategic leadership training.  It is about leading small groups.  Indeed, version 2 (AKA "THE BEGINNING OF THE END")  was very heavily about small group leadership tactics.  E.g.: how to counsel a Scout.  There is a little strategy training in version 3, but not much. 

 

Nor have I found Wood Badge to be something in the nature of a Secret Illuminatii that governs Scouting.  Wood Badge, for those in real power, is merely an item on a punch list.  The real enthusiasts are volunteers and, thus, without much power to influence even council direction, much less large national moves or strategy.

 

And were Wood Badge some sort of secret virus to destroy "traditional Scouting" (even the traditional Scouting that is merely imagined), why was version 2 not opened to all - especially the clueless newbies -- the quicker to achieve the eeeeevil result?  Instead, it remained by invitation only for experienced Scouters and offered, in my large council, every three or four years.

 

As for arrogance by training, there are always those who seem to feel "taller" only when "standing" on others.  If they are not made to feel more wonderful by beads, then knots,  medals one can purchase, being mentioned in the newsletter, a better car or house, or some stuff will serve.  Perhaps the goal of universal Wood Badge will scuttle their flagship where it is allowed to sail.

 

Bill guided BSA away from its heritage of twenty years when he led us to his version of the Patrol Method.  We are free to use and advocate the Patrol Method and to teach Scoutcraft to volunteers.  Will we?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I too take the occasional swipe at WB, not because of WB, but because of where it has gone over the years.  I don't think it was a great leadership training program for me, but maybe it is for others. 

 

For me the seriousness of scouting seems to have been replace not with adventure, but with fun and games.  Whereas BP said scouting should be a game with a purpose, and it should be fun, we have taken that to the extreme and unfortunately the fun game part has remained by the purpose has been lost.

 

Sure, tying knots is good scsoutcraft, but I use those knots more often NOT camping than when I do go camping.  The tenting and cooking on a wood fire is fun, but it is also survival training for when the electricity goes out.  The confidence to take care of oneself is important, but where leadership comes into play is whether or not the scout has the wherewithal and and confidence to take care of others, too.

 

The me-generation has taken it's toll over the past few decades and getting MY Eagle and MY scouting career and MY prestigious college plans has replaced any need for leadership.  We talk the talk about helping OTHER PEOPLE AT ALL TIMES, but focus in on getting YOUR Eagle and insuring YOU have fun and adventure.  This is not the leadership path clearly outlined in the Oath and Laws.  I don't like using the term Paper Eagles and Parlor Scouts, but if one were to look closely at Scouting today, one would have a difficult time arguing the point.  Sure, there are Real Eagles out there, I have seen them and I have had the honor to FOLLOW their leadership.  With all the dialog on the forum about # of Eagles being generated each year, it would be far more interesting to know how many Real Eagles are among those numbers.

 

Leadership is lacking in today's society.  the parent drama, the committee conflicts, the discipline problems, the Eagle Mills, and the scouting politics are all obvious indicators of the lack of real leadership.  One can continue to deny that, or they can start doing something about it and it's going to take a lot more effort to fix it than sit on one's hands and ignore it. 

 

One of the reasons why at age 65 I haven't burned out is because I still have a lot of work yet to do in this area.  It's not a mission, it's not a passion, it's the Oath and Law.  It applies to the adults as much as it does the boys.  Lead by example and I take care of my boys.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tahawk, Stosh, thanks for the additional discussion and insights.  

 

I have no smoking gun, no preponderance of evidence, to support my screeds.   But I was a scout, '74 - '81, and lived the NSP.   Several of my scout leaders were very traditional, and stayed with the program for the benefit of us scouts.   These were no malcontents, but great men who shared with their perspectives with me, as an SPL.   As a scouter, I've observed the shift in the BSA over the years.

 

Here is a link that Kudu provided several years ago.  

 

http://www.whitestag.org/history/wood_badge_origins.html

 

A few paras:

 

"Dr. John W. Larson, Director of Boy Scout Leader Training for the National Council, worked with Béla H. Bánáthy and Bob Perin, Assistant National Director, Volunteer Training Service, to write the new Wood Badge syllabus. Shifting from teaching primarily Scoutcraft skills to leadership competencies was a paradigm shift. It required rethinking the underlying assumptions, concepts, practices, and values guiding adults were trained as Scout leaders." (italics mine)

 

Context indicates this was circa '65.   It seems to me that National was already contemplating a different approach to scouting.   It may not have turned on a dime, but the shift was beginning.

 

Another quote that will seem familiar:

 

"Some individuals on the national staff resisted the idea of changing the focus of Wood Badge from training leaders in Scout craft to leadership skills. Among them was Bill Hillcourt, who had been the first United States Wood Badge Course Director in 1948. Although he had officially retired on August 1, 1965, his opinion was still sought after and respected.

Larson later reported, "He fought us all the way... He had a vested interest in what had been and resisted every change. I just told him to settle down, everything was going to be all right." Hillcourt presented an alternative to Larson's plan to incorporate leadership into Wood Badge. Chief Scout Brunton asked Larson to look at Hilcourt's plan, and Larson reported back that it was the same stuff, just reordered and rewritten. Larson's plan for Wood Badge was approved and he moved ahead to begin testing the proposed changes."

 

While GB Bill may have reconciled with scouting and WB toward the end of his life, it was not always smooth sailing.     To my knowledge, GB Bill still has no place of honor in the National Museum at Irving.

 

It seems to me that National cast its lot with a group of scouters that wanted a more intellectual approach v. traditional scouting.   One more interesting note:

 

"Baden-Powell also envisioned that Scouting would teach skills of the hands, the head and the heart. As Bánáthy sized up the first fifty years, he was clearly dissatisfied that Scouting had mainly succeeded in teaching hand skills."

http://www.whitestag.org/history/founders/white-stag-founders.htm

 

Did the BSA need to improve its training?   Perhaps.   Always room for improvement.   Nonetheless, when National decided to join forces with folks like Banathy and his proponents,  they were ready to remold scouting.    Despite the BSA's overwhelming popularity and success over the previous 50 years, Banathy was "dissatisfied."    Why?   

 

From my ragged NSP 8th edition scout handbook, Feb 73, page 10:

 

"You'll do alot of things on camping trips.  But camping is only one part of Scouting.  Another is learning and trying new things back in town.  There are over 100 different merit badge subjects...."  (italics mine)

 

What follows?   A para on the Atomic Energy MB.  Another on science.  Then fingerprinting.

 

Ah yes, "back in town."  That's where they wanted to take scouting.  Out of the woods.   To the church basement.   To listen to lectures.

 

When they took camping MB off the Eagle required list, that sealed the deal (hence my across the board comment).

 

The "back in town" scouters now have the dominate voice in scouting. 

Edited by desertrat77

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Bill gets enough credit.  

 
However, B.S.A., through Scouting, did say this about Bill in 1985:   "the foremost influence on development of the Boy Scouting program."
 
 
Who since 1985 has approach Bills' statute?  I think he remains "the foremost influence on development of the Boy Scouting program" by a large margin.
 
BSA also awarded Bill the Silver Buffalo after his second "life" in Scouting, and it was clearly not for writing a big check.
 
 
Most of us know about the quote from the White Stag site. Consider who is writing and what motive they might have.  Where is the citation from any BSA source?  Why MUST this be true in the absence of primary source evidence?  
 
Further, what do White Stag's claims prove about the change in Wood Badge being in service of the New Scouting Program?  Have you read the syllabus?  Camping for eight days-- especially cooking all meals over open fires -  does not seem especially "urban centered." Did I mention that we had to build our own toilet before we could use the camp's toilets?  I did mention the shower we had to build is we wished to shower.  Pioneering; map and compass; axe work; wide games; first aid.   As I had seen the first course as "junior staff," I saw differences but not that difference.  Not very urban-centered.  
 
The NSP came at a time when membership growth had flattened and, according to BSA, retention was pretty bad - 50% dropout before Tenderfoot.  Clearly BSA did not do the right thing, but there was obviously an urge to move somewhere different.  They "noticed" that most Scouts came from urban areas and off they went.  (They missed the fact that most Scouts had always come from urban areas.  Knowledge of the past is not big at B.S.A.  If it were, Bill would be a choice for the Scouting Heritage essay and his statue would greet you at HQ.)

 

Thankfully, Bill rewrote Scouting in 1978.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

"Wood Badge is not the end-all-be-all of strategic leadership training.  It is about leading small groups.  Indeed, version 2 (AKA "THE BEGINNING OF THE END")  was very heavily about small group leadership tactics.  E.g.: how to counsel a Scout.  There is a little strategy training in version 3, but not much."

 

Tahawk, my melodramatic phrasing is a bit over the top, but it's a pretty good summary of several WB sales pitches that I've heard in 4 different councils/districts in the last several years.   The WB salespersons informed us that the training is the pinnacle of scout leader training.   A life changing experience.   All of the cool leaders attend.    If you truly care about scouting, you'll attend.   And when WB21 was introduced, it was sold as something so grand, so revolutionary, that grads from previous WB courses should re-attend.   And in some circumstances, they had to re-attend to qualify for certain jobs.   That must be some doggone good training!  

 

To clarify my original thought, the training itself isn't necessarily strategic.   But attending it, finishing the ticket, wearing the beads--that is the line of demarcation between tactical and strategic level scouters.   Or at least scouters that get to join strategic level conversations.  That's the impression that I've received over the years.  

 

The me-generation has taken it's toll over the past few decades and getting MY Eagle and MY scouting career and MY prestigious college plans has replaced any need for leadership.  We talk the talk about helping OTHER PEOPLE AT ALL TIMES, but focus in on getting YOUR Eagle and insuring YOU have fun and adventure.  This is not the leadership path clearly outlined in the Oath and Laws. 

Stosh, well said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Bill gets enough credit.  

 
However, B.S.A., through Scouting, did say this about Bill in 1985:   "the foremost influence on development of the Boy Scouting program."
 
 
Who since 1985 has approach Bills' statute?  I think he remains "the foremost influence on development of the Boy Scouting program" by a large margin.
 
BSA also awarded Bill the Silver Buffalo after his second "life" in Scouting, and it was clearly not for writing a big check.
 
 
Most of us know about the quote from the White Stag site. Consider who is writing and what motive they might have.  Where is the citation from any BSA source?  Why MUST this be true in the absence of primary source evidence?  
 
Further, what do White Stag's claims prove about the change in Wood Badge being in service of the New Scouting Program?  Have you read the syllabus?  Camping for eight days-- especially cooking all meals over open fires -  does not seem especially "urban centered." Did I mention that we had to build our own toilet before we could use the camp's toilets?  I did mention the shower we had to build is we wished to shower.  Pioneering; map and compass; axe work; wide games; first aid.   As I had seen the first course as "junior staff," I saw differences but not that difference.  Not very urban-centered.  
 
The NSP came at a time when membership growth had flattened and, according to BSA, retention was pretty bad - 50% dropout before Tenderfoot.  Clearly BSA did not do the right thing, but there was obviously an urge to move somewhere different.  They "noticed" that most Scouts came from urban areas and off they went.  (They missed the fact that most Scouts had always come from urban areas.  Knowledge of the past is not big at B.S.A.  If it were, Bill would be a choice for the Scouting Heritage essay and his statue would greet you at HQ.)

 

Thankfully, Bill rewrote Scouting in 1978.

 

Tahawk, you mentioned the outdoor elements.   But is it the same way now?   They have been slowly eroded over time.   Talking to recent WB grads, I don't sense they did anything on the scale of your experience.   I wonder how could an outdoor organization allow that to happen to its top-line leader training?

 

The change didn't happen overnight, but once the door was open, more "back in town" folks came in to an organization that was successful because of outdoor adventure.   I may be wrong, and often am, but I think that BSA's willful partnership with the White Stag folks indicated a desire to move away from the outdoors.   Proponents have had a larger and more influential voice since.

 

You raise excellent points re the sources and motivations thereof.    I take the White Stag info at face value.   I'm not sure why they'd post information that put them or the BSA in a less than favorable light.   The lack of BSA sources--I attribute that to inefficiency and willful omission.   Indeed, GB Bill came out of retirement and wrote the wonderful 9th edition of the HB.   I still recall, as a scout, getting a copy and reading it till the wee hours.   It was superb!   Once the '80s ended, however, we don't hear much of Bill from official BSA channels.   Shameful.

Edited by desertrat77

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You must Scout in a different "world" than the rest of us.

 

Practically speaking, and regardless of theory, all the strategic-level Scouters are paid Scouters.  We volunteers can come up with strategically-significant ideas, but we will not have input into strategic decisions.  We are neither strategic leaders nor members of the core constituency for BSA..  If we were, things would look different.  

 

Under two years ago, I encountered a paid Scouter at Corporate who was a real Scouter,  and he had great hopes to fix things, esp. in the realm of training.  He saw many areas where improvement was needed. He no longer has that job. So even he could not have strategic impact.

 

I do what I can when I can to brighten the corner where I am.  I do not delude myself that I have any great impact on the machine - just hope to impact some kids - directly and through training other Scouters.

__________________________

The patrol is the team in Scouting.  The troop is merely the league in which the patrols play the game of Scouting.  Scoutmaster, how are your teams doing?.  

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tahawk, you mentioned the outdoor elements.   But is it the same way now?   They have been slowly eroded over time.   Talking to recent WB grads, I don't sense they did anything on the scale of your experience.   I wonder how could an outdoor organization allow that to happen to its top-line leader training?

 

The change didn't happen overnight, but once the door was open, more "back in town" folks came in to an organization that was successful because of outdoor adventure.   I may be wrong, and often am, but I think that BSA's willful partnership with the White Stag folks indicated a desire to move away from the outdoors.   Proponents have had a larger and more influential voice since.

 

You raise excellent points re the sources and motivations thereof.    I take the White Stag info at face value.   I'm not sure why they'd post information that put them or the BSA in a less than favorable light.   The lack of BSA sources--I attribute that to inefficiency and willful omission.   Indeed, GB Bill came out of retirement and wrote the wonderful 9th edition of the HB.   I still recall, as a scout, getting a copy and reading it till the wee hours.   It was superb!   Once the '80s ended, however, we don't hear much of Bill from official BSA channels.   Shameful.

 

I spoke of version 2 - Wood Badge that some allege marked the  beginning in 1971 of the conspiracy to destroy "traditional Scouting."

 

The current version has virtually no Scoutcraft. It is all leadership methods training.  Supposedly, IOLS covers the same material as the original Wood Badge in 1/8th of the time.  What are we doing about that in our districts?

 

Some White Stag folks influenced adult and youth training in BSA.  In their confidence, they do not feel the quoted language puts them in a bad light.  As they(believe they) were right and Bill was wrong, the quotes show how poor, obsolete Bill had to be disregarded.

 

But BSA has left White Stag behind.  They preach the disregarded notions of "leadership skills " Yet they go on doing what they can to advance the ideas that they think are best.  What are we doing about promoting the ides we think are right?

 

There ought to be a required ratio of doing something to complaining about what others are doing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LOL Tahawk, I'm in the same world as you.

 

Let me put it this way.  

 

Yes, there are strategic level scouters, as indicated by their duty title and position on the org chart.

 

Then there are scouters, at all levels, that through their attitude and actions, influence the organization.   For good or ill. 

 

For example, an anti-outdoor district/council/unit level scouter, in good standing, in what is supposed to be an outdoor-oriented organization, is not operating solo.   They may not have a strategic spot on the org chart, but they certainly reflect the strategic vision of the organization.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do what I can when I can to brighten the corner where I am.  I do not delude myself that I have any great impact on the machine - just hope to impact some kids - directly and through training other Scouters.

Spot on.   We do what we can, where ever we might be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You've heard my hypothesis elsewhere, that one blind spot in all these timelines is the national ban in the late 1960s on anyone over 18 (barring severe disability) from participating in rank advancement. The only published language I found on this from the time was from Boy's Life saying the requirements would be too easy for adults. Perhaps it was inconceivable at the time that adults might be incompetent at timber hitches, or the mechanics of citizenship.

 

But, maybe it was deeper than that. Maybe there was an evolving perception that adults were needed to "lead" at a more conceptual level. Tying knots and knowing birds well just wasn't "good" enough. A pity, because some of these heated environmental debates could be communicated more readily give by a common grasp of ornithology.

 

Clearly the prevailing notion is that boys can't learn leadership from a conceptual level. (Actually, I think it's more that they won't sit for hours straight being lectured at, bless them.) Therefore to some scoutcraft is a necessary evil, a means to and end. Not necessarily an end itself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×