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LeCastor

Boy Scout Handbook, 13th Edition, Lacks Depth in Patrol Method

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As I plan ways to encourage more effective use of the Patrol Method on a local level, I have been thinking a lot about how Scouts are introduced to the idea of a Patrol. Naturally, new Scouts learn quite a bit from other Scouts and the Scouters in their Troop, but the Boy Scout Handbook is also a handy go-to resource. Scouts and Scouters, both, should read the Handbook to learn as much as they can about the program and the game of Scouting. 

Though, the depth with which the newest Handbook, the 13th edition, dives into the Patrol concept is very shallow when compared to, say, the 9th edition from 1979. Green Bar Bill, not surprisingly, commits seven pages to the Patrol structure with the following sub-topics:

  • Patrol Name
  • Patrol Flag and Emblem
  • Patrol Call
  • Patrol Leader
  • Patrol Doings
  • Patrol Meetings
  • Patrol Hikes and Camps

Reading the text is tantalizing:

"A patrol is a team. All the members play the game of Scouting. All of you work toward the same goal. All of you have a wonderful time. In the patrol, you learn what fun it is to plan exciting things to do with some of your best friends...to hike and camp together...to sing and laugh together homeward bound from a strenuous hike or around a flickering campfire...to work together to meet the tests that will carry all of you onward and upward in Scouting." (pg. 12)

Now, the 13th edition commits a mere two pages and spends a significant portion discussing the different breakdowns of the "kinds of Patrols." Whereas the Patrol to Green Bar Bill is a group of "best friends," the newest description is about segregating by classification. 

In essence, Bill makes you feel like you're already on the camp or hike around a fire with your buddies. The 13th edition simply ticks off a box about the Parol and moves on. Is this the effect of the short attention span culture we are cultivating? Boys' Life and Scouting skimp on much depth these days, too. 

 

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12 minutes ago, LeCastor said:

... Reading the text is tantalizing:

"A patrol is a team. All the members play the game of Scouting. All of you work toward the same goal. All of you have a wonderful time. In the patrol, you learn what fun it is to plan exciting things to do with some of your best friends...to hike and camp together...to sing and laugh together homeward bound from a strenuous hike or around a flickering campfire...to work together to meet the tests that will carry all of you onward and upward in Scouting." (pg. 12)  ...

One of my better memories with my crew was of a couple of the girl scouts cross-legged around the campfire at a freshwater beach singing all of they camp songs they ever knew. The first thought in my head was, "They make a tight patrol."

Why did BSA take the "emotion work" out of their patrol description? I think it's because postmodern nomadic youth who try to stick together on the basis of sheer friendship face the turbulence of diverse activities and interests that leave only very narrow windows of time for just the 8 of them.

I call it the "stadium light effect". My high school football field did not have lights. Football games started at 2 and ended by 5 or 6. (Yes, the band, cheerleaders, and the football team left class early, promising to make up homework on Monday.) That meant you could stash your stuff and be at the back of Rick or Dave's farm by 8pm for a two night camp out. The trade-off was missing the occasional school dance. (A sacrifice my parents were relieved to see me make ... after years of my older siblings' shenanigans. :ph34r:) Or, muster bright and early Saturday morning at 7 or 8 to caravan to camp.

Five years later, the lights got installed ... and there went that patrol's extra day/night during the week. Football (and sometimes soccer) games might end at 10 PM, and getting scout to a gathering point before 9AM the next day is a hardship.

So, instead, we are asked to train youth to be administrative units. Either they are parts of the Friday Night Lights menagerie or they are convenient ways to be divided and conquered by adults. The vision of hiking and camping independently with your mates is summarily suppressed.

I would love to hear if any of you succeed in having your scouts take up the challenge of stowing their packs in their locker/band room, grabbing them after the game and night-hiking a mile or two into some back-nine camp spot for the evening, so that they are on-site and ready to go the next day. That is how patrols become best buddies.

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I'm really impressed with GBB's writing. On the one hand he wrote a 300 page long PL's book that just drips with enthusiasm and on the other he wrote a four word synopsis of scouts that does a better job of describing the program than anything else I've read.

But getting back to getting the scouts to get this. The "administrative unit" view of the patrol is so far from the goal. My view is the PL needs to own the decisions that make scouting what it is. They decide what fun is, they look out for their patrol members, they have to care. So my question has always been how do we get their heads wrapped around this idea. I'm not even suggesting they need to succeed, just that they know what the goal is. They all see the administrative view. I ask because I think this is an important part of the patrol method weekend training and I really have no good answer.

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54 minutes ago, qwazse said:

So, instead, we are asked to train youth to be administrative units. Either they are parts of the Friday Night Lights menagerie or they are convenient ways to be divided and conquered by adults. The vision of hiking and camping independently with your mates is summarily suppressed.

I think this is the problem. We tend to spend too much time trying to divide and sub-divide the Scouts into convenient categories--new Scouts, old Scouts, intermediate Scouts--and don't encourage friends to form a group they want to spend time with. 

You know, I still camp and hike with members of my childhood Patrol. :D 

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31 minutes ago, MattR said:

But getting back to getting the scouts to get this. The "administrative unit" view of the patrol is so far from the goal. My view is the PL needs to own the decisions that make scouting what it is. They decide what fun is, they look out for their patrol members, they have to care. So my question has always been how do we get their heads wrapped around this idea. I'm not even suggesting they need to succeed, just that they know what the goal is. They all see the administrative view. I ask because I think this is an important part of the patrol method weekend training and I really have no good answer.

We might be able to solve two problems at one time here. By encouraging our Scouts to invite their non-Scout friends to visit, and then join, the Troop, we could 1) grow Scouting and 2) show Scouts they are leading their own buddies and doing fun things with the people the know they already like and mesh with.

1 hour ago, qwazse said:

I would love to hear if any of you succeed in having your scouts take up the challenge of stowing their packs in their locker/band room, grabbing them after the game and night-hiking a mile or two into some back-nine camp spot for the evening, so that they are on-site and ready to go the next day. That is how patrols become best buddies.

Encouraging Scouts of the sports ball team/band to join the same Patrol might just get them out on Friday night after the game. Peer-to-peer encouragement is a powerful incentive: eg. If Travis is going then I should go, too!

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I think the best GBB  Patrol stuff (outside the PL Handbook) is in the first Fieldbook. It is basically a "how to" manual from start to finish on how to be a patrol and do patrol things. A patrol could even just go in order, page by page.

 

Edited by DuctTape

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14 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

I think the best GBB  Patrol stuff (outside the PL Handbook) is in the first Fieldbook. It is basically a "how to" manual from start to finish on how to be a patrol and do patrol things. A patrol could even just go in order, page by page.

 

I agree, DuctTape. 

So why don't we have that same level of depth anymore? Why is the Patrol Method only touched on for two pages in the 13th edition? Do you think this is why neither Scoutmasters nor Scouts know how to effectively implement and use the Patrol Method? 

I guess we could buy all remaining copies of GBB's books and distribute to our Scouts. Or maybe we could petition the BSA to reprint them in bulk for today's Scouts to use??!! 

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1 hour ago, LeCastor said:

We might be able to solve two problems at one time here. By encouraging our Scouts to invite their non-Scout friends to visit, and then join, the Troop, we could 1) grow Scouting and 2) show Scouts they are leading their own buddies and doing fun things with the people the know they already like and mesh with.

Encouraging Scouts of the sports ball team/band to join the same Patrol might just get them out on Friday night after the game. Peer-to-peer encouragement is a powerful incentive: eg. If Travis is going then I should go, too!

The reverse happened to Son #1. His buddies were in different patrols, and they convinced him to join the Volleyball team one year and the Football team the next.

The only way this problem is solved is if adults believe in tight personal relationships and encourage boys to form gangs along those lines.  The cultural reality: parents dread such gangs.

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@LeCastor, you raise excellent points. 

Not too long ago, I was looking at the Patrol Leaders Handbook, 1967 edition (the ISP '70's era edition is utterly worthless).  Though I came up through scouting during the ISP/'70's era, my scoutmasters ran the various troops I was in by the old style of scouting, focusing on the patrol method.

I was amazed as I thumbed through the '67 edition.  I had forgotten many of the things I was expected to do as a patrol leader.  Collect dues.  Sit on the monthly troop leaders council as well as the yearly TLC planning meeting.  Train my patrol on the skills required for the next camporee.  Organize the purchase of my patrol's food for camp outs.  Etc.

Alas, I rarely see the patrol method used today.  Scouting has largely been reduced to parents and scout leaders running everything.  The scout's sole responsibility, most of the time, is to get into the van and just amble through an event.  Campouts?  Patrols?  When many troops actually go camping, everyone is huddled around one dining fly, with the adult leaders calling all of the shots.  (Yes, I'm painting with a broad brush.)

The BSA got a reprieve when Green Bar Bill came out of retirement in '79 and re-wrote the handbook.  The anti-outdoor and anti-patrol method crowd, the pro-ISP folks of '72 - '80, failed in their initial effort to "revolutionize" the BSA.  But they were patient.  Their desire to reduce the outdoor element, and diminish the independent patrol/gang (well said, @qwazse), worked in the long run.

Why any anti-outdoor/anti-patrol method adult would join the BSA is beyond me.  But join they did.  Indeed, they were cordially invited.  And were subsequently promoted to the highest levels, pro and volunteer. 

Edited by desertrat77
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When Scoutson (who is now a strapping young man of 24)  joined my old Troop, I was very pleased. I I had not had any contact with it for many years. I became an ASM.   
First time I sat in on a PLCouncil, I listened while the newly named SPL and PLs sat and listened...  they were waiting for the SM to TELL them what to do/say. As a sub teacher in the PSchools, I recognized this as the way our kids were required to act.   Do not speak out, do not make waves, wait for the teacher to tell them to pick up the pencil, etc.  

The SM (an astro physicist by trade !) tried to get them to consider their plans for the coming year. Ideas for hike sites?  Visit where?   Finally, the nascent SPL spoke up and said (quote) "you mean I can make that decision ?"  The SM master said (quote) "DUH !!"  and the discussion took off from there.... 

 

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The patrol method is covered in considerable detail in the Troop Leader Guidebook Vol. I.  Unfortunately, very few adult leaders read the Troop Leader Guidebook.

The Troop I currently participate in recently has recently experienced a succession.  The former SM valued the youth led concept, but failed to facilitate the fruition of a youth led Troop because of the following processes were not practiced.

  • No ILST training for 6 years
  • No annual or semi annual planning conference with the PLC ever.
  • No ASMs assigned as patrol advisors to hold youth leadership accountable, e.g., making sure DRs and menu plans are made, executed properly, and notes taken as to who ducked assigned tasks.  This causes headaches on the advancement side.

The new SM seems to be intent on spoon feeding the youth content and completely dismantling any meaningful youth leadership opportunities.  This is partly due to the fact he has a scout son that is TF rank.  Parents/adult leaders of younger scouts tend to care very little about the needs of Scouts Star rank and up, and seem to be more fixated on their own child's advancement and experience over the needs of the unit, or the overarching goal, personal growth.

 

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@Onslow, your job is to assist the SM (it's on the patch). Telling him everything that he's missing is likely going to cause him to tune you out. So, any progress that you make on that front will be in little nudges. Pick one of those things to work on. Offer to provide it for the SM. Recently, I focused on 1) giving the SPL his leaders handbook and sharing with him some useful web links  and 2) sitting in on weekly PLC meetings. (These are short meetings, mostly after action review.) Mostly, I'm a fly on the wall.

BTW, I've found the ASM patrol advisor scheme to be a next to useless division of labor. It's better to train the SPL, APL, guides, and instructors on what to look for.

When you have your own crew that can help, as VLSC overlaps with ILSC quite well.

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34 minutes ago, qwazse said:

BTW, I've found the ASM patrol advisor scheme to be a next to useless division of labor. It's better to train the SPL, APL, guides, and instructors on what to look for.

110% agree. My troop growing up never had "patrol advisers," or "patrol counselors." Instead  we had the ASPL, Leadership Corps (older Scouts who had served in leadership positions previously) and the SPL. When PL's had issues or needed advice, we went to them. When a Scout was given an assignment to do and he had questions, we went to them. We weren't perfect, but we had a heck of a good troop. Bill Hillcourt would have been proud.

I've served in troops that assigned patrol counselors, and in troops that did not. I do not like the concept as it takes away growth opportunities from the older Scouts. Whereas in troop that utilize their older Scouts have better retention and involvement,  because they are not used to guide and mentor the younger Scouts, they tend to not be as active, be involved in the troop, and not really care about anything. Sadly I saw this especially in my last troop. Also the Scouts tend to rely on the adults to solve their problems instead of figuring it out for themselves. Best example of this was  a patrol making a menu. The patrol could not figure out a menu everyone could agree upon, and as time was running out, the patrol counselor ended up making the menu and duty roster for them. Further I have seen too many patrol counselors end up acting like den leaders and treating their Scouts as Webelos 3s. The last example does just that. Another example is the patrol counselor jumping in and taking over from the Patrol Leader instruction on KP to new Scouts.

Whenever I had to be a patrol counselor, I stayed out of the way as much as possible, and asked leading questions on what they were doing and whether it was efficient or not. Sometimes they got it. Sometimes they didn't, and sometimes their was was actually better than mine.

 

I first encountered the patrol counselor or patrol adviser concept when I went through Brownsea 22, which has morphed over the years to NYLT today. My understanding is that the concept is more of a training position than an actual unit position. When you get Scouts and Scouters from multiple units, and use to doing things multiple ways, you sometimes need an outside source to resolve matters in the limited time of training. Even then, our Troop Guides, which at BA22 were youth who had already gone through the course, were the ones to guide and mentor. Only twice did a patrol counselor get involved with patrol matters, one behavioral and one first aid related.

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Posted (edited)

ASM patrol advisors...a horrible concept.  For both scout and scouter.

As I look back, I value my patrol leader experience (Stampeding Antelopes) because the adults gave me plenty of leeway to succeed or fail.  And I failed quite a bit early on, sometimes in a blaze of glory.  When I needed anything, the SPL was the one who chatted with me.  This made me a better patrol leader and then a more squared away SPL down the road.

ASMs?  They were mysterious adults who camped with us and took care of stuff like driving, things we scouts couldn't do.  They kept their distance, and on rare occasions, providing a joke, an encouraging word, or a kick in the pants as appropriate.

The SPL and PLs taught scout skills, signed off requirements up to First Class, conducted boards of review up to FC (with no adult in the room), planned/ran meetings, etc.

The scouts will never learn leadership with an adult hovering around.  And no disrespect to NYLT et al, leadership can't be fully developed in a training course.  It can only happen on that rainy weekend when everything goes wrong.  And the 13 year old PL has to figure out how to salvage a burnt dinner, fix the leaking tents, settle a dispute between PL members, and keep morale high.  The PL won't learn a darn thing with an ASM advisor hovering about.

 

Edited by desertrat77
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Everything SA  has published about the Patrol Method in the last 49 years has lacked depth, or worse, was incorrect, although all the bits and pieces were here and there until very recently.  Now even the scattered piece-parts are mostly gone.  This is an understandable situation because few - if any - at National Counsel know what the Patrol Method is - or was.  It was, for example, never BP'S "Patrol System," in which the "Patrol Leader" was always appointed by the "Officer" - the Scoutmaster.  Bill was two generations younger and lacked BP's background as a Victorian Lieutenant General. Bill built our "Patrol Method" with elected leaders - a school for representative democracy.

The only "win" for Scouting  in the 13th ed. was the statement that a troop is formed of patrols ( rather than from Scouts ).  How that was slipped in by the real Scouters is a mystery, since BSA has been troop, troop, troop since the "Improved Scouting Program" cost BSA millions of members in the awful early 1970s.  Then, too, they knew better than the mere volunteers - or Bill.  Given decades of failure to train adults about Scouting, few of them understand the significance of that fragment of wisdom.  

"One, two, three, four or five Patrols may form a Troop, but the Patrols are the working unit whenever practical and the Troop organization is designed to provide supervision, coordination, institutional loyalty and service."

 B.S.A., The Patrol Method, 1938 ed. at p. 3.

Look at the odious BSA model Troop Meeting Plan for the last couple of generations - 5 or ten minutes for the patrol - to be spent, we care told, on business.  That's backwards under the Patrol Method., where a Scout is to primarily experience Scouting, if not BSA, in a patrol context.  

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