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The Question That Reveals the Heart of the "BSA" Culture Wars

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(I have to do a lot of visioning and community meetings over the years) People often do not do what they say they want to do. So going back to see what worked or what is working is a good start. Incorporating outside conflicts and scheduling is important. Respecting what they DON'T want is important.

Working with the newbies and younger guys "to start them out right" is a good strategy. That has worked for us several times in turning around the Troop. I will let you know how to sustain any of this beyond two or three years if I ever figure any of it out.

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I agree that these are the things we do today.  My bigger point though is that I think the movement needs to regroup a bit.  We're I in charge of things, I'd do three things:

- clarify the program.  There needs to be much clearer guidance on how to implement much of this stuff.  There should not be arguments on wherther the scouts or the adults should buy tents.  This kind of thing ought to be more clearly spec'd out.

- improve the mechanics.  Just about every troop has boring troop meetings.  It's great that some troop has this figured out. It needs to get captured, distilled, and rolled out.  Not the hokey program notes kinds stuff.  But a real, simple recipe that even I cannot mess us.

- improve training for volunteers.  I'm not talking about the "so you're a new ASM class".  There needs to be a real continuing education program for leaders.

 

 

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On 1/30/2018 at 10:30 AM, Back Pack said:

Perhaps the discussions would focus on those things more if the issues and politics forum went away. And any mention of such topics were moderated away. 

There are plenty of scouting forums that ban discussion of the 3G's and politics and general.

I don't mind that there's a mix of both. I'm trying to get my head around lots of things. Only some days is it the patrol method or scoutcraft.

This week I'm dealing with a couple of young relatives (an their dad) who are about done with scouting because the SM vetoes the boys requests to camp every month, freaked out when the one 14 y/o boy wanted to spend the night sleeping out in 30 degree weather (south Floridians) , and avoids back-country like the plague.:blink: On top of it, the dad and I got skunked fishing this morning, so we had nothing to distract us from our little worlds of trouble! :unsure: On weeks like this I don't enjoy hearing that someone like @Eagle94-A1 also has adults who refuse to deliver on the promise of scouting, so it's nice to have a forum that I can look to for a decent current I&P back-and-forth where I can simply up- or down- vote.:wub:

Edited by qwazse
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I'm still struggling with the "masculinity" part of the equation. For starters, I never felt like cultivating masculinity was ever a keystone of Scouting. The whole "turning boys into men" thing, I know that's the ultimate goal of Scouting for some folks here, but officially it's leadership training and character development, as it has been for ages. Two things that are gender-neutral and not dependent on masculinity to achieve. 

Masculinity isn't under attack as the author of the article in the original post suggests. It is being redefined, and I think rightfully so. The writer longs for the continuation of depictions of masculinity being portrayed by men, when that's just not reality anymore. Women are soldiers, firefighters, etc., and some of them are as tough as they come. So what if masculinity now extends beyond the image of the physically strong man covered in mud and scars? And are we really supposed to just keep pretending that only men can be masculine? Bear Grylls can send a woman survivalist ahead to scout locations for his show, taking more risks than him, but God forbid we put her on camera doing it. 

I guess I just don't understand what people expect to happen. Are we supposed to just go back to men only doing manly jobs and tell our daughters to just be teachers and nurses again? The genie isn't going back in the bottle on this one. 

Masculinity, to me, is in what we do, and not in who does it. What made the program ever seem manly, the adventure and the intense activities, the camping, the dirt and mud, the military-style aspects of the uniform, the ceremonies, etc., there is nothing happening that asks any of us to stop doing that stuff. Girls in the BSA aren't the problem, they're not even here yet. Although I'm sure in 10 years if things seem even less "manly" in Scouting, the girls will get all of the blame anyway. 

I'm hoping maybe some girls will come around to Scouting and show these boys how to be tough again. :D

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1 hour ago, EmberMike said:

I'm hoping maybe some girls will come around to Scouting and show these boys how to be tough again. :D

Amen to that.  As some doubt that girls will meet requirements, I hope girls show how easy the requirements  actually are and the bar will be restored  to past heights. :)

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2 hours ago, EmberMike said:

I'm still struggling with the "masculinity" part of the equation. For starters, I never felt like cultivating masculinity was ever a keystone of Scouting. The whole "turning boys into men" thing, I know that's the ultimate goal of Scouting for some folks here, but officially it's leadership training and character development, as it has been for ages. Two things that are gender-neutral and not dependent on masculinity to achieve. 

Masculinity isn't under attack as the author of the article in the original post suggests. It is being redefined, and I think rightfully so. The writer longs for the continuation of depictions of masculinity being portrayed by men, when that's just not reality anymore. Women are soldiers, firefighters, etc., and some of them are as tough as they come. So what if masculinity now extends beyond the image of the physically strong man covered in mud and scars? And are we really supposed to just keep pretending that only men can be masculine? Bear Grylls can send a woman survivalist ahead to scout locations for his show, taking more risks than him, but God forbid we put her on camera doing it. 

I guess I just don't understand what people expect to happen. Are we supposed to just go back to men only doing manly jobs and tell our daughters to just be teachers and nurses again? The genie isn't going back in the bottle on this one. 

Masculinity, to me, is in what we do, and not in who does it. What made the program ever seem manly, the adventure and the intense activities, the camping, the dirt and mud, the military-style aspects of the uniform, the ceremonies, etc., there is nothing happening that asks any of us to stop doing that stuff. Girls in the BSA aren't the problem, they're not even here yet. Although I'm sure in 10 years if things seem even less "manly" in Scouting, the girls will get all of the blame anyway. 

I'm hoping maybe some girls will come around to Scouting and show these boys how to be tough again. :D

I don't understand why you have two downvotes. You are speaking the truth. 

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1 hour ago, The Latin Scot said:

the very idea of Scouting, the core of its foundation and the center of all its facets, was the idea that boys are different from girls, with a greater need for active, adventurous learning, and that society lacks, indeed, desperately needs, a channel through which restless boys could learn the skills and knowledge they need to become strong, intelligent, honorable men. 

Perhaps it really is that what BSA offers, "the skills and knowledge [kids] need to become strong, intelligent, honorable [adults], is also greatly desired by girls (and their parents) in this modern age and they don't think they can get the same experience from Girl Scouts. I think of the so-called "masculine skills" as things that adults of both genders need in our society. One hundred years ago, those skills were neither needed nor really desired by girls. Now with girls/women being active in all aspects of our society and economy, they are looking for the same (or very similar) experience.

*shrug*

1 hour ago, The Latin Scot said:

You cannot take that idea of "making boys into better men" out of Scouting unless you completely and utterly ignore its very raison d'etre. It is meant to help develop positive masculine virtues in boys to create better men, who then become better leaders, citizens, and family members.

Just spit-balling again but is it making them better "men" or simply making them better adults and citizens? Is there something inherently masculine about BSA skills? I don't think so. Maybe 100 years ago but not today. Every kid wants to become a better leader, citizen, and family member. BSA offers something that apparently both genders crave. That IS A GOOD THING. Doesn't mean it can't get better but I would think BSA is at least doing something correctly if girls and parents of girls are fighting so hard to be a part of it. 

*Shrug*

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13 minutes ago, Hawkwin said:

Perhaps it really is that what BSA offers, "the skills and knowledge [kids] need to become strong, intelligent, honorable [adults], is also greatly desired by girls (and their parents) in this modern age and they don't think they can get the same experience from Girl Scouts. I think of the so-called "masculine skills" as things that adults of both genders need in our society. One hundred years ago, those skills were neither needed nor really desired by girls. Now with girls/women being active in all aspects of our society and economy, they are looking for the same (or very similar) experience.

*shrug*

Just spit-balling again but is it making them better "men" or simply making them better adults and citizens? Is there something inherently masculine about BSA skills? I don't think so. Maybe 100 years ago but not today. Every kid wants to become a better leader, citizen, and family member. BSA offers something that apparently both genders crave. That IS A GOOD THING. Doesn't mean it can't get better but I would think BSA is at least doing something correctly if girls and parents of girls are fighting so hard to be a part of it. 

*Shrug*

Nailed it. Thank you for this well-worded response. 

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2 hours ago, The Latin Scot said:

As for the idea of Scouting focusing on "leadership training and character development," and those being "gender-neutral" (never one of my favorite terms) -you will find after reading through Scouting's published materials over the years that those have been pushed and emphasized far more now in the past two decades than they ever were before. Yes, they were always a part of it, but you are failing to recognize that the very idea of Scouting, the core of its foundation and the center of all its facets, was the idea that boys are different from girls, with a greater need for active, adventurous learning, and that society lacks, indeed, desperately needs, a channel through which restless boys could learn the skills and knowledge they need to become strong, intelligent, honorable men... 

...If you do not understand the central place masculine development has in Scouting, and the massive importance it had to Baden-Powell, Daniel Carter Beard, William Hillcourt, Earnest Thompson Seaton, and all the early founders of Scouting, then you do not understand what Scouting was meant to accomplish...

If character development wasn't so important back then, why was it one of BP's four aims of Scouting? In his own words from his published works (I own most of them, or reprints at least), those four aims were "... Character and Intelligence, Handcraft and Skill, Health and Strength, Service for others and Citizenship."

I've read those books and your assertion that developing boys into honorable men was such a prominent feature of his philosophy seems like your own unique interpretation of his writings. He did reference knights and gentlemanly behaviors, so one could argue that he wanted his scouts to develop attributes of knights and live similarly chivalrous lives, but that was secondary to his primary aims. 

I fully understand what Scouting was meant to accomplish. Do you? 

Edited by EmberMike

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Yes I do. Just as much as you do in fact, and your question, while rhetorical I assume, brings out an important point that must be made.

It is a bit condescending to imply that, if one really knew BP's writings (as you do), he would come to different conclusions than the ones I have drawn. You imply that you must have a broader knowledge of his works than I do. However, I have also read nearly all his writings available in the US, and a few still found only in Britain, so I'm afraid your attempt to undermine my comments by labeling them as "unique interpretations" cannot be based on a greater familiarity with his writings, nor on any other evident advantage of intellect or literacy - so it can only be based on the fact that you disagree, and so you want to dismantle the conclusions of my post by trying to show a superior understanding of the Scouting program than mine, made through a suggestion that what I got out of his works really wasn't important - it's really just knights and such, nothing important. Unfortunately that is not so. 

I have also read every edition of the Scouting Handbook (all of which I own), all of William Hillcourts writings, decades of manuals and fieldbooks and magazines and articles - yes, I understand what Scouting was meant to accomplish every bit as much as you do. 

And we disagree. And - that's okay, There will always be differences of opinion. But before we can find a place of accord where we can more forward, we have to find where we agree.

You did not, for example, seem to have read my post very carefully. I never said character was not important in the early days. I said that it has been emphasized far more now than it was before - and that has always been a changing feature of the program. For a few early decades the push was all about the outdoors and woodcraft (a term we never hear in Scouting anymore). Then there was a period where it seemed citizenship was the holy center of all things Scouting (oh those heady WWII years), and in the 70's there was that odd attempt to focus on skills of Scouting instead of the aims of Scouting. During all periods, the same things are taught and the same virtues are extolled, but with each new generation different aspects of Scouting seemed to capture the wants and needs of families.These days it's leadership and character development. But in the earliest days, frankly, much of it was "making boys into better men."

I see I received my first downvote ever for my last post. In a way, that makes me feel like I must have said something right. Nowadays, to claim that any activity, character trait, or quality of character is inherently masculine or feminine is anathema, and considered a dated concept. But I hold to the essential idea that men and women are different in fundamental ways, and that neither can reach its full potential without the other, because each is distinct from the other. Our complementary natures make us more than the sum of our parts.

Nowadays, that's going to be looked down upon as we gender-wash our programs. But the early leaders and founders would have taken those differences for granted. It's amazing that in these times, they have to be defended. Fortunately, I don't mind being unpopular for doing so. 

:happy:

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Character building has been central (emphasized) from day one. Often BP when talking to scouts asked if they had done their good deed for today.

 

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My issue with the "masculinity" mantra is that, having met scouts from other countries who are no more or no less paragons of their respective sexes, I found men who are no less masculine nor women who are no less feminine than our own citizens. My impression is that boys become masculine with or without the presence of girls in their troop.

The cultural influences that foster gender dysphoria (or identity discovery, as a progressive may call it) may overwhelm notions of male or female mystique. This may be especially true in (BSA or GS/USA) troops who value ideals to the near exclusion of the promise of scouting in the outdoors.

In contrast, the pioneer spirit of men and women working together to settle in a strange land side-by-side may be what youth need to rekindle the notion that we humans were created uniquely to complement one another. But, that would require any set of boys and girls to be tasked with monthly challenges of hiking and camping independently with their mates.

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When discussing Baden-Powell, the Boy Scouts and Masculinity, we can't forget to consider the time period where his ideas were formed.  Baden Powell was very much a Victorian - as such, his ideas on masculinity were heavily influenced by the Victorian attitudes toward masculinity which were mostly formed within the religious and spirituality sphere of Victorian life.  Masculinity wasn't about being a hero or a protector - it was about being pure, about having the proper sexuality (indeed, masculinity was never really a concept that was discussed until the Victorians started trying to figure out how homosexuals fit into the normal gender roles of society).  Masculinity was ultimately about getting married and having children - being "normal".

 

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8 hours ago, The Latin Scot said:

...you want to dismantle the conclusions of my post by trying to show a superior understanding of the Scouting program than mine...

 

Isn't that exactly what you did? You suggested that I did not understand the founding intent scouting, as a means to dismantle any argument against masculinity being the core of the program. 

8 hours ago, The Latin Scot said:

Nowadays, that's going to be looked down upon as we gender-wash our programs. But the early leaders and founders would have taken those differences for granted. It's amazing that in these times, they have to be defended. Fortunately, I don't mind being unpopular for doing so. 

 

Actually I tend to feel like I'm with the minority opinion on this forum most of the time. If you've only gotten one downvote so far, you're more popular than I am around here. :)

Why is it so amazing that you have to defend ideals that are over a century old? There were many things BP believed that would need considerable defense in today's society. His belief that footwear choice was an indicator of character or "don't bother about your own safety" when attempting a water rescue (or many other aspects of his first-aid training) would be tough to defend now. So even if you do believe that making boys into men was the founding pillar of scouting, that doesn't mean the idea should still hold the same weight it did back then. 

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