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Is BSA Sustainable?

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2 hours ago, fred johnson said:

It's probably why baseball and other programs may be able to successfully recruit younger.  Same with Violin programs.  The program does not change year to year.  It just gets more challenging.  Bigger bats and violins.  The five year old program very much resembles what the 17 year old program will be, just at a much lower level.  

The scouting program changes drastically from Lions & Tigers until Eagle scout.  Parent involvement changes.  Whole types of challenge changes.  Types of activities change.  It's just a much much different program.  Lions & Tigers is a baby sitting program.   Go see things.  No real skills development or focus at all.  Higher cub scout levels add knives and fire.  Boy scouts adds independence and separation.  Higher years adds high adventure.  

 

I see the same thing, but draw a different conclusion.

My daughter is a ballet dancer.  Every year gets more and more challenging.  She loves it and thrives off it.  She dances four afternoons a week now.

Scouting morphs over the years, but I don't see the challenge grow.  I suppose if you really like running meetings it does.  But, for most boy scouts - it doesn't change a whole lot over time. 

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4 hours ago, ParkMan said:

I see the same thing, but draw a different conclusion.

My daughter is a ballet dancer.  Every year gets more and more challenging.  She loves it and thrives off it.  She dances four afternoons a week now.

Scouting morphs over the years, but I don't see the challenge grow.  I suppose if you really like running meetings it does.  But, for most boy scouts - it doesn't change a whole lot over time. 

So, your daughter dances every year, how can that be more challenging? Dancing is dancing.

Before you rip my throat please hear me out. I'm just using the same assumption you've made about scouting in the context of ballet. Scouting can get more challenging if it's done right, just like ballet. I'm waiting for Eagledad to chime in here but as long as there is opportunity to do more then there's challenge. If the scouts are treated like 12 year olds when they're 16 then sure, there's no more challenge. I have a 14 year old troop guide that has plenty of challenge right now trying to figure out how to teach some new scouts about teamwork. He has to be prepared in ways he's never thought of before. Scouting is more than advancement. Other than the eagle project the advancement method tends to plateau (and I think it would be nice to have harder levels within each merit badge)  but scouting is a lot more than the advancement method.

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1 hour ago, MattR said:

So, your daughter dances every year, how can that be more challenging? Dancing is dancing.

Before you rip my throat please hear me out. I'm just using the same assumption you've made about scouting in the context of ballet. Scouting can get more challenging if it's done right, just like ballet. I'm waiting for Eagledad to chime in here but as long as there is opportunity to do more then there's challenge. If the scouts are treated like 12 year olds when they're 16 then sure, there's no more challenge. I have a 14 year old troop guide that has plenty of challenge right now trying to figure out how to teach some new scouts about teamwork. He has to be prepared in ways he's never thought of before. Scouting is more than advancement. Other than the eagle project the advancement method tends to plateau (and I think it would be nice to have harder levels within each merit badge)  but scouting is a lot more than the advancement method.

I see your point.

The difficulty I see though is the challenge in Scouting is elusive.  If I think through some areas:
- camping & the outdoors - What we tend to do in Boy Scouts & Venturing peaks at around 1st class. After that the challenge turns into refining one's skills. 
- high adventure - There are the occasional high adventure trips, but they are not that frequent
- advancement/scouting skills - Again, you learn most things by first class.

 Yes - I think there is ongoing challenge on the leadership side - but I'm wondering - is that really enough to keep kids interested?

 

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I think that BSA will continue as a organization, but that it will have to either change greatly or retrench and rebuild over a log period of time.

Unfortunately, many organizations for boys have come and gone, so it is possible (but unlikely) that BSA could be unsustainable.  However, its size and brand name value, make it more resilient than most other organizations. 

For some perspective, attached is a link to a site documenting kids organizations of the past.  The link opens up to the page for "Open Road Pioneers Club" that was a Boy Scout like organization that existed from 1920's to 1950's, and the ended when the magazine that sponsored it went out of business.

http://vintagekidstuff.com/open/open.html

 

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Looking around the world I don't think there is any worry that BSA will collapse altogether.

Kids these days aren't really all that different to what they were 20, 50 or 100 years ago. They have more opportunities and live in a different social environment but what hasn't changed is that put them outdoors and get a fire going and they are as keen for adventure as they ever were. What also hasn't changed is a very hman desire, whichis particularly strong among the young, to belong to something.

BSA and scouting more widely provides that.

There will be changes, it may not end up looking exactly like it did 10 years ago, but it will still be around.

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There's been an undercurrent over the years that even if National fails, the Councils and Units can keep the BSA alive.  It's a good thought, and a pleasant dream, that comes against the hard realty that if National does fail, that certain things go away - no more Eagle Scout.  No more ranks as we know them, no more merit badges.   

The BSA can survive - but yeah, maybe it needs to restructure - and lets face it, if they do restructure to "save" the organization, there are going to be a lot of people who don't like that either.

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In one sense there's no structure that needs to be maintained. Somewhere, some boys and girls are going to pick up a manual or see a few videos that inspire them to hike out and spend the night under stars or canvas.

Either those of us who've done this sort of thing before will support them, or we wont. Either BSA will up us, or get in the way.

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23 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

The first camp out for our new class of crossovers was on a very dark and very rainy March evening. After we reached camp, the new SPL was just repeating the routine that he had observed and assisted over the years of him and the Patrol Leaders taking a hike to locate all the patrol camp sites. Each patrol tries to get as far from each other as they can, so it can take a few minutes. Mean while all the patrol QMs start to instruct the rest of the scouts in unloading the gear from the cars and trailer.

It's raining pretty hard as I watched the troop in action. The new scouts are disoriented, it's dark, it's raining and they have never done anything like this before in their life. The SPL walks back with the patrol leaders and feels very temped to help the new scouts just standing there watching, but steps back as the TGs gets their attention leads the new scouts to their new camp site. They look lost, but they are smiling as they walk into thru the rain into the dark. Thank goodness they brought rain gear.

I always like to watch new SPLs on their first camp out. First thing I teach the SPL after election is delegation. It is such a hard skill to practice because up to this point, their previous responsibilities have been more of doing in their climb to the SPL position. This SPL, like those before him, finds a place where can stand and watch. This is what the SM does, waiting to serve is the goal of the SPL. But he is temped to help the scout who is searching for the missing tent poles. He throws out a suggestion and the scout waves a thanks.

The new scouts are following the TGs around like baby ducks following their mother as they set up tents. The SPL walks over to show one newby how to drive a tent stake. However at the same time, a PL approaches with a problem. I don't hear the problem, but the SPL starts to follow and is just as quickly stopped by another PL with a question. The SPL looks up at the dark sky and says, "is the rain coming down harder". Not really a question, but more of a pause in the beginnings of the chaos.

I take a few steps out of the trees and quietly throw out "delegate". The SPL looks at me, then the area around him. I watch his gears turn, he turns and walks over to the ASPL helping the TGs and ask him to assist the PL with the problem. Then he listens to the second PL and gives a satisfying answer. I smile a well done to the SPL, turn and go to the car to get my gear. It is never planned this way, but SPL and SM are always last to find their tent spot.

The SPL approached me with a big smile the next morning as I'm drinking my coffee to say that he has never been more challenged, more scared, and more exhilarated in his scouting experience. He can't wait for the day to start. I asked him how the new scouts are doing, he laughed and said he could hear them giggling in their tents all night long. It's always that way and I'm thankful that the adult camp is so far away. I asked him if anybody got soaked. Nope, all is well in the beginings of a beautiful sunning morning.

We try to make each scout's scouting experience more challenging than the day before so that he not only continues to grow, but continues to be excited. This SPL is only 15. How can he be challenged more. Well, the SM has to step back some more from some of his responsibilities. The SM has to grow as well so that the SPL and the troop to grow. 

If your 15 year olds aren't getting these kinds of experiences, then I think you are doing it wrong. The measure of a quality for a troop should be the experiences of the oldest scout. Not the youngest.

Barry

 

Thank you.  I think someone ought to capture more stories that for SM training.  Our troop is a fair bit off from that.  But - that's a topic for another day.

What you describe here is a very good example of how Scouting develops the character and leadership qualities of youth. My son could have benefited from that.  Goodness - I could have benefited as a Scout.  

Though he would have grown from that, I doubt that leading other scouts would have kept his interest.  My son never showed any interest in leading within the troop.  He liked the camping & camaraderie.  The rest all seemed like work to him.

So, for those kids who are like my son - didn't want to be the SPL, Quartermaster, whatever, what keeps them challenged and engaged after they turn14?  Our troop is good, but far from perfect - so I may just be missing it.

This is my wonder for the BSA's program.  I don't doubt that Scouting will continue.  But, as the BSA works to compete in an ever more competitive youth activity space - how does it distinguish itself?

 

 

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23 minutes ago, ParkMan said:

Though he would have grown from that, I doubt that leading other scouts would have kept his interest.  My son never showed any interest in leading within the troop.  He liked the camping & camaraderie.  The rest all seemed like work to him.

 

 

My older son got the Eagle, my younger son was much like yours that he didn't want the leadership so much.

But let me tell a story about my younger son. He and a bunch of his friends organized a Boundary Waters canoeing trip for their Senior graduation. He grew up with these guys, play soccer with them, church and scouts until crossover where my son went to his dads troop. It was their Sunday school teacher who organized the trip. He was a scout leader in a troop that six of the seven friends got their Eagle. He also did the Boundary Waters when he was a young scout many years ago. My son was the only other person of the group that had experienced a Boundary Waters trek.

The trip didn't go so well because it rained the whole time and most of the scouts didn't prepare for it. My son was amazed that several of the boys only brought flip/flops for foot wear. The adult with the experience hadn't been in a canoe in 30 years, so he really didn't remember how to portage. My son questioned why they weren't preparing better in the days before the trip, but he is a bit introverted and didn't respond when the adult said everything would be fine.

The first couple days were really hard because the group struggled with carrying, loading, unloading, and just plain paddling. The adult with experience realize because it had been so long, he had forgotten most everything and it was over his head. That is when my introverted son, who doesn't like leadership responsibility, stepped up to teach everyone how to do portages and move equipment. He taught them how to paddle and how to find their camps on a map. He eventually turned into the go to guy, FOR EVERYTHING. You have to remember that it's raining most of the time. So even starting fires was struggle.

When the group got back, they were pretty excited. I think because they were life time close friends, it was still a positive experience. The only comments from my son was he couldn't understand how all these Eagles were so inept out in the wilderness. That was all he said and hasn't mentioned the experience 12 years ago much since. It was the adult Sundays school teacher who told me that my quiet introverted son save the trip, and my have saved their lives. Then he told me all the stories of how my son, while never being called the leader, turned into the trek teacher and leader. He said there was even a point the group was lost and trying to figure out how to get back to base. The situation was pretty intense, but he said the reason nobody panicked was because my son kept his composure while they discussed options.

I tell this story to say that even though we talk a lot about developing leaders, what scouting really does best is prepare all young men to deal with the unexpected. My son will tell you he is not the adventurous type. He likes to think everything through before he attempts anything out of his comfort zone. His older Eagle brother is just the opposite. He jumps into situations without a plan and finds himself having to get himself out of trouble. It was his patrol that showed up to a campout without any food. My introverted son hates surprises and trouble. But God put him in a place where if someone didn't take some kind of control, people might have gotten hurt really bad. The Boundary Waters is not a forgivng wilderness.

My son learned by the years of adventure from the program. He had the confidence to step up because he watched so many others step up during his experiences. And quite frankly, even though he would say he wasn't a leader, he made many hundreds of responsible decisions over those years in the troop. He worked with new scouts and taught skills. By the nature of just participating in an outdoor adventure youth program, my son turned into an expert outdoorsman with enough confidence to takeover when conditions required this shy introverted young man to become and extrovert and push other people to step forward. 

We like to motivate scouts by telling them to be prepared. But how much does anybody really think about those words. The program works. The program works if we just trust it. Just do the program the way it is presented, no more and no less, and even the scouts who think they are not leaders will develop the skills and confidence for the unexpected. I can't find it now, but this is why I get a little emotional with the video of the South Africa Scouting commercial. That father was my son.

As long as your son is being challenged to grow while doing scouting stuff, he is becoming a leader. Don't tell him that, he will laugh. But I have a story.

Barry

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29 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

We like to motivate scouts by telling them to be prepared. But how much does anybody really think about those words. The program works. The program works if we just trust it.

This is one of the aspects I like the most as a parent. BSA helps me reinforce this more than I could do alone as a parent. The first time my son camped (I think as a Web2 at the time), I had him take the packing list and hand the items to me as I packed his backpack for him. The second time I read the list and had him pack. The third time I had him read the list and pack himself while I watched. The fourth time I simply reminded him that he needed to pack. Now I don't even do that. Occasionally, I will remind him of the weather forecast but I leave it up to him as to whether or not to pack rain gear or warmer clothing. He has learned that lesson the hard way a few times and it isn't a lesson he would likely have learned from me.

Your signature quote says it best. "Experience is the hardest teacher. It gives the test first, then the lesson." It is also often the best teacher. The lack of recent experience for the other members of that canoe trip certainly illustrates that fact.

 

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18 hours ago, MattR said:

I'm waiting for Eagledad to chime in here

Told ya so.

4 hours ago, ParkMan said:

This is my wonder for the BSA's program.  I don't doubt that Scouting will continue.  But, as the BSA works to compete in an ever more competitive youth activity space - how does it distinguish itself?

I think this is a really good point to delve into. @Eagledad talked about his son stepping up on the canoe trip. I hear stories like this over and over again. Even I had a similar experience. My son told me, after he was in college and went camping with some friends, "how clueless they were." He's a bit shy as well but when he went to Nicaragua to help build a bridge he was the guy that stepped up. He was also the only one that spoke Spanish and could drive a manual transmission. :) The point is that scouting teaches kids to be responsible and make things happen. The scouts really do learn a lot. The problem is they don't even recognize it until after they leave the program. So one issue is getting the scouts to see it. It would certainly help to have a better road map for the scouts to see as to where they can grow. Whether it be merit badges with different levels, different levels of leadership, or different levels of adventure, some way for a scout to see that progress would help. It doesn't even have to be related to Eagle. Just let them see the challenge.

The other is getting the adults to see it. I'm sorry Eagledad, but it's not enough  to say trust the program. Nobody knows what the program is or how it applies to the day to day issues. Sure there are lots of descriptions of the aims and methods but it doesn't help. The BSA can't elucidate what the purpose, or aims of the program are without it sounding like 15 committees had a hand in writing it. The adults read that and their eyes cloud over. The program is having fun while learning to be responsible. That's it. Parents know what responsibility is. So when I had to physically pull an ASM out of our trailer on the last campout so the QM could do his job I told him the only way this scout is going to learn to be responsible is for us to let him be responsible. That resonated with him. On the other hand, the BSA describes the program on their website like this:

HELPING YOUTH IS A KEY TO BUILDING A MORE CONSCIENTIOUS, RESPONSIBLE, AND PRODUCTIVE SOCIETY

The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations, providing programs for young people that build character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.

Blah blah blah. I'm sorry but nothing here really applies to why the ASM should get out of the trailer. This is what the adults need. Just get to the point. Don't muddy it up with conscientious participating citizenship for a productive society. it's buzz word hell. We develop responsibility. Period. Keep it simple so the adults know what to focus on. To illustrate this single idea it would be great to have all the stories. But keep the focus tight.

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2 minutes ago, MattR said:

 

The other is getting the adults to see it. I'm sorry Eagledad, but it's not enough  to say trust the program. Nobody knows what the program is or how it applies to the day to day issues. Sure there are lots of descriptions of the aims and methods but it doesn't help. The BSA can't elucidate what the purpose, or aims of the program are without it sounding like 15 committees had a hand in writing it. The adults read that and their eyes cloud over. The program is having fun while learning to be responsible. That's it. Parents know what responsibility is. So when I had to physically pull an ASM out of our trailer on the last campout so the QM could do his job I told him the only way this scout is going to learn to be responsible is for us to let him be responsible. That resonated with him. On the other hand, the BSA describes the program on their website like this:

 

Yep, I guess you are right.

At least we have a forum to help a little.

Good post.

Barry

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On 3/15/2018 at 4:13 PM, ParkMan said:

I see the same thing, but draw a different conclusion.

My daughter is a ballet dancer.  Every year gets more and more challenging.  She loves it and thrives off it.  She dances four afternoons a week now.

Scouting morphs over the years, but I don't see the challenge grow.  I suppose if you really like running meetings it does.  But, for most boy scouts - it doesn't change a whole lot over time. 

I was trying to state that parents and families enter the program and then over time the program changes on them.  Some enter for the fellowship and to take their young kids out somewhere.  But then camping begins to be emphasized in a few years.  Well at that point, many parents have grown accustomed to scouting as a GO SEE IT activity and they did not sign up for the new objective of camping.  Or the scouts go CAR CAMPING and the program grows to high adventure.  Some families will be viewing it as something they did not sign up for.  Or the program grows to BOYS LEADING, some families did not sign up for it. 

When you do baseball, violin or ballet, the program is pretty much the program.  More challenging over time depending on stronger skills, but the program has really not changed drastically.  I'd argue scouts does change.  It changes enough that it can break the contract with the parents on why they joined or what they perceive scouting to be.

IMHO, let's start scouts out when they can do the outdoor program and let's focus on what other programs are not focusing on.  Fire.  Knives.  Bow and arrow.  Long hikes and outdoors.  Then, we keep growing those skills.  It's through the doing that we can help scouts focus on leadership, organization and responsibility.  

This started because I'm arguing starting cubs at K & 1st grade is causing trouble.  It misrepresents what scouts is about.  It burns out families and is a major cause of troops being weaker.  Cubs should start in 2nd grade (or 3rd).  Let them try baseball and the other activities.  When they are ready for fire and knives and camping, try scouting.  

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@MattR, you just explained why I could never remember BSA's mission statement. I no longer feel inadequate!

I like bringing up youth to be responsible for the well-being of our nation's families, communities, and resources.:happy:

On that note, car-camping could teach a load of responsibility if scouts

  • worked with their driver check the lights, fuel, oil, breaks, and tire treads and pressure,
  • they got out and cleaned windows and mirrors at refueling stops,
  • pick up litter and shake out the mats,
  • on freezing nights, raise the wipers before bed checks,
  • inspected each car's roadside emergency kit and first aid kit.

 

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