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walk in the woods

2017 Report to the Nation-Membership

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At some point we should probably have a "deep dive" posting on Venturing and Exploring given the presence of females in Scouts BSA and the bankruptcy.  The BSA will likely be looking to simplify its programs to save costs and do a better job with smaller professional and volunteer staffs -- and Venturing/Exploring are areas that can be evaluated for streamlining.  My experience with older youth programming since the early 70s is that the BSA has continuously been tinkering with this level of program and tends to change and over-correct perceived challenges.  A flexible and truly youth-led operation with simple structure is all that is needed.

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42 minutes ago, Cburkhardt said:

Finally, Exploring was spun-off exclusively because the BSA was being forced to discontinue the DADT policy for career-oriented programming in the 90s.  So, a then-influencial group with national forced the career programming entirely outside of BSA membership.  That way the rest of the program would still be subjected to DADT.  Because we discontinued DADT, there is no longer any reason to maintain an organizational divide between the career programming and the outdoor programming for young adults.

BSA's traditional programs, including Venturing, still exclude atheists.  The Exploring program's Non-Discrimination Statement reads:  "Exploring programs are designed for all age groups starting at 10 and not yet age 21. Youth participation is open to any youth in the prescribed age group for that particular program. Adults are selected by the participating organization for involvement in the program. Color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, disability, economic status or citizenship is not criteria for participation by youth or adults."

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1 hour ago, Cburkhardt said:

If Venturing is so reduced in numbers and dysfunctional in terms of its recognition program and structure, perhaps the national reorganization bankruptcy is the right time to re-examine its role in Scouting. 

Some might say the same things about ScoutsBSA membership numbers, the "one-and-done" ScoutsBSA advancement program, and the erosion of the ScoutsBSA patrol as the most important structural feature of the program.

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Dkurtenbach:  Can't agree with you on Scouts BSA.  Have 37 Scouts (all girls) of a wide variety of ages going through Scouts BSA advancement right now and that is just not my experience.  We have four patrols and never before has I seen the Patrol system work better.  Nothing is perfect, but I think Scouts BSA is calibrated very well for the age and interests of 11-17 year old girls.  The program still works.

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@dkurtenbach

Did you mean "erosion" by putting restrictions on youth, like removing the ability of patrols to do their own outing without adult (now 2 registered) supervision?  Or something else??

Back in the day, we challenged Scouts to make First Class so they could go camping on their own.  Wow, what a motivator that was!  And an extreme confidence and leadership builder as well.

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Posted (edited)

Spot on...

We challenge our patrols to camp on their own at least twice a year (and I mean different destinations, not just as patrols in the same camp).  (I'd prefer more.) Just last weekend, two patrols (out of five) went camping, at two different campgrounds, and had their own program.  Got down to around 20 degrees both nights.  (Thank the Good Lord we have enough Assistant SMs and registered adults who are willing to take this on.)  I went out for a brief visit on Saturday night to show support.

Scouts love camping on their own as a patrol.

I, too, have noticed, over the past 15 or so years, the move toward "gaggle-Scouting," which you have described to a tee.  Summer Camp is one of the worst offenders.  Program should be built toward patrols.  Heck, most camps don't even set up patrol sites any more.  20 tents in a big circle...one fire pit...yuck.

For us, patrol flags are out at every meeting, or we don't start.  Patrol yells at every meeting (they have fun with it).  Patrol instruction, patrol games, patrol gear, patrol menus, parol food shopping, camp by patrol, etc.  As you said...Patrols come together to make the Troop!

We do use the NSP construct, but do not split them up at the end of the year.  They stay together throughout the program.  I find Troop Guides work, but must be highly incentivized.  Like SPL/ASPLs, TG's get to eat with adults if they wish, and we will cook/wash their dishes to give them time to focus on spending time with the youngers teaching, guiding, mentoring.

Previously, Troop culture had new Scouts getting divided up after their first year.  We found that extremely disruptive, and asked the PLC to really think about the way we did things.  They chose to keep patrols together...no dividing them up without significant reasons and PLC approval.  It has really come together over the years...

Patrols can and do occasionally change their name, though.  I don't like it, but leave this up to them.  NSP picks their own identity after a few months experience.  It is their patrol, after all :)

Edited by InquisitiveScouter
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This elimination of the essential character of the Patrol System is just not my experience as a unit leader.  Nor do I see this occurring in my District.  Occasional changes in membership and having troop officers like webmasters and QMs do not destroy the nature of Patrols.  It’s really a matter of how unit leadership uses them.  And, small troops don’t have the same Patrol competitive opportunities as large troops.  We all come me from troops that had a variety of implementation techniques when we were kids.  My WW2 combat veteran SMs always made us go through our Patrol leaders on everything, for example.  I don’t do that, but we use them well, and so do most of the unit leaders I know. 

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2 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

This elimination of the essential character of the Patrol System is just not my experience as a unit leader.  

I don't think it's intentional. The training doesn't emphasize it so it's just fading.

It's a constant battle to get parents to accept it and it takes a critical mass of adults to both teach the scouts and pull back parents. And a parent that's eagle is not necessarily helpful. Often they don't understand the difference between being an adult and the spl when they were 17.

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Last comment I'll make on patrols is that some of this dis-use of patrols may be caused by troops being just plain small.  I was in a 75-scout troop as a kid that had 8 patrols, so the practical reality is that we had to them even if we didn't want to!  There are just two many troops that don't even have 25 Scouts, which is just barely enough to have three competitive patrols show up to something.  Big troops are better in every way and make for great patrols that love to outdo each other.  

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This circles back to vision. If you are inculcating a vision of adults managing youth for the sake of their entertainment or education, then patrolling is not necessary. In turn, BSA itself becomes superfluous. Scouting is in name only.

If you are inculcating a vision of the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates, the need for a patrol -- especially one worthy of the Green Bar -- becomes immediately manifest. Scouting becomes essential.

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16 hours ago, Cburkhardt said:

Last comment I'll make on patrols is that some of this dis-use of patrols may be caused by troops being just plain small.  I was in a 75-scout troop as a kid that had 8 patrols, so the practical reality is that we had to them even if we didn't want to!  There are just two many troops that don't even have 25 Scouts, which is just barely enough to have three competitive patrols show up to something.  Big troops are better in every way and make for great patrols that love to outdo each other.  

A troop of eight Scouts or so is a patrol without the middleman; a patrol in the purest sense:  independent, required to carry out all the various tasks and responsibilities of Scouting themselves without the support of some larger infrastructure, and required by circumstances to get along and rely upon each other for success.  Not to mention having the advantages of being highly mobile, flexible, bureaucracy-free, and having a light administrative burden.  And structured to be more environmentally-friendly than larger groups.  The biggest challenge for a small troop is having enough adults willing and able to engage in an active schedule of outdoor adventure.  Given its advantages, I have often wondered whether the trek-crew-size independent patrol/small troop -- already the only option in many rural areas -- is the ideal structure for Scouting.

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9 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

A troop of eight Scouts or so is a patrol without the middleman; ... Given its advantages, I have often wondered whether the trek-crew-size independent patrol/small troop -- already the only option in many rural areas -- is the ideal structure for Scouting.

We experienced this for a while. A single-patrol troop as it ages should be effectively a small crew. I've seen a couple of shortcomings. First, there's no being challenged by another patrol. If the youth don't attend camporees (which our boys didn't do) when they were down to one patrol, they loose outside input. It's a grind to get those boys inspired to stretch themselves. Shortly after my crew opted to not go to council/area summits, they disbanded due to an unwillingness to confront discipline issues. Throughout this time I felt I had adequate adult availability. (It could be that the discipline issues were already fomenting when scouts started to pass on planned events.)

In a troop with multiple patrols -- or a crew with multiple activity chairs generating diverse opportunities -- paragons of virtue tend to arise among the natural leaders. This generates a stability that isolated patrols lack. Furthermore, if by definition patrolling implies observing and reporting, there has to be someone the PL reports to.

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