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John-in-KC

As we approach 1 Feb 19...

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Sad  but true.  there was a scout who I thought would be a wonderful asset to the Order, best camper and leader in the troop.  He got  elected, went thru his ordeal, and refused to have anything else to do with OA.  When asked why his reply saddened me greatly.  " I was the only one who worked all day, the only one who kept my mouth shut. Everyone else was joking and goofing off. Even the members didn't care. If a big joke is all the OA is, I have better things to do with my time."

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20 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

When the 63 ADULTS (emphasis) on the national OA committee would not listen to the overwhelming majority of it youth members voices, and stated no more Native American regalia for Arrow of Light and Cross Over Ceremonies, the soul of the OA was greatly diminished. And I predict that soon, the OA 's soul will be completely dead as the ceremonies will be changed to remove any Native American influence.

 

These 63 adults are essentially allowing, encouraging, the campfire to die....

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17 minutes ago, desertrat77 said:

I concur with you and Eagle94...it used to be a tough cut and it used to be that some deserving scouts were not elected each year because of ratios/rules etc.  But they were worth their salt, and kept striving for another year and were eventually elected.

What shocks me are the reports of scouts who decline the nomination after election.   Many of these scouts would have excelled in the old OA.  I suspect they just weren't impressed with the OA as it is today, and had better things to do with their time.  Quite a contrast to the past.

I was one of those Scouts who got elected on the third go around. First year I was eligible, I didn't even vote for myself because the three others eligible were much better choices AND I COULD ONLY PICK TWO (emphasis).

I am saddened that my Oldest, who has been eligible for 3 years now has declined to put his name on the ballot because he has no interest in the OA now. This from the kid who helped me build the chapter's drum stand before he was a Cub.  And my middle son, who became eligible this year, also declined to put his name on the ballot.

 

3 minutes ago, Oldscout448 said:

Sad  but true.  there was a scout who I thought would be a wonderful asset to the Order, best camper and leader in the troop.  He got  elected, went thru his ordeal, and refused to have anything else to do with OA.  When asked why his reply saddened me greatly.  " I was the only one who worked all day, the only one who kept my mouth shut. Everyone else was joking and goofing off. Even the members didn't care. If a big joke is all the OA is, I have better things to do with my time."

Some Arrowmen do care, and are disgusted at some of the things allowed. But I was told National has PROHIBITED lodges from ejecting anyone from the Ordeals. Notching arrows and/or ejecting folks is considered hazing, and not allowed. Once a person is a candidate, only the candidate can remove themselves from the Ordeal, not the lodge.

We had an incident where an adult candidate was talking up a storm, complaining about all the work that he was being forced to do. I was all for sending him home when the lodge adviser told me that is no longer an option because national considers it "hazing." All we could do was separate him from the rest of the candidates so his negativity would not affect them. Irony was one of the "Friends" working with the candidates was on medical restrictions, and was pushing the envelope to set a good example.

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34 minutes ago, Eagle94-A1 said:

I was one of those Scouts who got elected on the third go around. First year I was eligible, I didn't even vote for myself because the three others eligible were much better choices AND I COULD ONLY PICK TWO (emphasis).

I am saddened that my Oldest, who has been eligible for 3 years now has declined to put his name on the ballot because he has no interest in the OA now. This from the kid who helped me build the chapter's drum stand before he was a Cub.  And my middle son, who became eligible this year, also declined to put his name on the ballot.

 

Some Arrowmen do care, and are disgusted at some of the things allowed. But I was told National has PROHIBITED lodges from ejecting anyone from the Ordeals. Notching arrows and/or ejecting folks is considered hazing, and not allowed. Once a person is a candidate, only the candidate can remove themselves from the Ordeal, not the lodge.

We had an incident where an adult candidate was talking up a storm, complaining about all the work that he was being forced to do. I was all for sending him home when the lodge adviser told me that is no longer an option because national considers it "hazing." All we could do was separate him from the rest of the candidates so his negativity would not affect them. Irony was one of the "Friends" working with the candidates was on medical restrictions, and was pushing the envelope to set a good example.

Wow  just wow.  In a case like this I would " haze" him in a heartbeat.    Or perhaps separate him by a few miles,  and "forget" to pick him back up until after the ceremony was over.

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8 hours ago, desertrat77 said:

 I suspect they just weren't impressed with the OA as it is today, and had better things to do with their time.  Quite a contrast to the past.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss OA Troop Rep position with a number of Scoutmasters.  "Better things to do with their time" was a recurring theme in the discussion about sash and dash.  Many of the units in my council do not attend our council summer camp so they have no connection to the service given the camp.

I was surprised when I came back to scouting as an adult at what the Ordeal had become.  First it was being done multiple times a year instead of just at summer camp (don't want the scouts missing MB class).  Second, the Ordeal on the work weekends wrapped up mid afternoon instead of that evening so the scouts could gave social time.  The ceremonies are much better in the dark and the early wrap just gave adults the opportunity to grab their scouts and bolt Saturday after supper.  And don't get me started on how few members attended or joined the work parties.   

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13 hours ago, desertrat77 said:

Parkman, good question.  Camping was the very thing that made the OA special.  It used to be called the "National Brotherhood of Honor Campers."  Only the best scouts who excelled in the outdoors were elected.   Ordeals were tough.  Big emphasis on Native American history, heritage and respect.  Staffing camporees.  Performing the most difficult manual labor in the council. 

I can't recall when, but it was the late 80s/early 90s when it was changed to the "national honor society" of the BSA.  Among other things, the outdoor element was very much de-emphasized.  It's been a grim downward slide ever since.

Thanks @desertrat77 & @Eagle94-A1 - this helps me to understand better.

Our troop currently has some more active OA members.  I think we've got some Scouts who like Scouting, but are looking for something a little bigger than the troop experience.  They seem to like the ability to help organize the District Camporee.  Another thing I hear is that it gives them another group of older Scouts to spend time with.

Since I'm not an OA member I can't really comment on the state of the OA.  From what I see here locally some boys like being involved at that next level of Scouting - so perhaps there's a good opportunity here.  Get the OA chapters to focus around bringing together great campers and focus there.  More advanced OA trips full of older scouts.  I've got to imagine that no-one is going to stop an OA chapter from doing that.  Yeah, perhaps the books and events are all focused differently - but I've got to think you can add new elements.

Sorry if this doesn't make any sense.  I just hear the concerns and think about all the possibilities we have to do really fun things with these Scouts.  I get that if we think about it from the perspective of what we used to do, but no longer can, it's discouraging.  But, when I think about it from the perspective of all the possibilities I'm encouraged. If we really do have a society of of our strongest Scouts looking for a new purpose - what a great opportunity.

 

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Just a thought, but does part of the demise of the OA have to do with poor leadership skills of the scouts? I look at my local chapter's OA and the scouts that show up are good scouts, but they're all shy, timid, not ready to take charge. If they had confidence in how to get things done there are adults that would like to help them out. Instead they're kind of waiting for someone to tell them what to do. The result is any other scout that comes to check it out doesn't really see a reason to stick around.

Would leadership development within OA help?

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@ParkMan and @MattR, I believe your posts are directly related to a core issue:  scouts with weak leadership skills and low levels of initiative.  Not only in the OA, but in scouting in general.

When the OA was focused on selecting the best of the best, this naturally interested a bunch of self-starters.  They loved the outdoors and were the first scouts to swing an axe, start a fire in the rain when their fellow scouts were standing around miserable, etc.  This in turn translated into a collective energy level at OA events.  You couldn't hold them back. 

Today?  Not much initiative.  Little desire to get their hands dirty.   Poor leadership skills.  Sure, they'll eagerly attend something "fun" that was organized by someone else (usually adults).

Matt, leadership development would help in the OA, but I think by the time they are in the OA, it's a little late (there is a National OA leadership course).  For most, the die is cast.  Though there was less leadership training in years past, the OA used the "honor camper" status to capture the attention of scouts who were already working on their leadership and outdoors skills.  Not necessarily in a leadership course, but through the "school of hard knocks" as a patrol leader.  They came to the OA with some momentum.

 

 

 

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@desertrat77 Perhaps some of this is due to weak leadership skills.  But I think behind this is a lack of vision and purpose and perhaps challenge.

I think of other activities that youth are involved in such as sports or the arts.  In those areas, the purpose and challenge is more clear.  Win the game, win the season, win the championship.  To do that push yourself, work hard, develop more skills.  It's the promise of winning and improving that drives many youth to keep going in sports. 

It's harder to see what that purpose is in Scouting.  What drives a Scout to develop as a leader?

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1 hour ago, ParkMan said:

@desertrat77 Perhaps some of this is due to weak leadership skills.  But I think behind this is a lack of vision and purpose and perhaps challenge.

I think of other activities that youth are involved in such as sports or the arts.  In those areas, the purpose and challenge is more clear.  Win the game, win the season, win the championship.  To do that push yourself, work hard, develop more skills.  It's the promise of winning and improving that drives many youth to keep going in sports. 

It's harder to see what that purpose is in Scouting.  What drives a Scout to develop as a leader?

@ParkMan, I think what pushed a clumsy, unsure Tenderfoot Scout Desertrat to become a better leader were certain BSA-unique goals that were akin to a championship.

Being recognized as the great PL, SPL, JASM that knew how to lead scouts in the outdoors...that was the ultimate goal for me.  As a young scout, I looked up to the self-motivated, confident, skilled senior scouts and that gave me the motivation I needed to improve my outdoor and leadership skills.

As for formal leadership training, JLT and Brownsea II were offered, but not many went.  For example, our troop sent one scout per year to Brownsea.  Pretty slim cut.  I attended a 1-day "All Out For Scouting" event in '76 and the National OA Leadership course (2 days) in '78.

OA, Eagle, and camp staff selection were natural off-shoots for squared away senior scouts.  Becoming a member of these groups certainly encouraged better leadership in the outdoors.  Without that, there was no selection.

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1 hour ago, desertrat77 said:

@ParkMan, I think what pushed a clumsy, unsure Tenderfoot Scout Desertrat to become a better leader were certain BSA-unique goals that were akin to a championship.

Being recognized as the great PL, SPL, JASM that knew how to lead scouts in the outdoors...that was the ultimate goal for me.  As a young scout, I looked up to the self-motivated, confident, skilled senior scouts and that gave me the motivation I needed to improve my outdoor and leadership skills.

As for formal leadership training, JLT and Brownsea II were offered, but not many went.  For example, our troop sent one scout per year to Brownsea.  Pretty slim cut.  I attended a 1-day "All Out For Scouting" event in '76 and the National OA Leadership course (2 days) in '78.

OA, Eagle, and camp staff selection were natural off-shoots for squared away senior scouts.  Becoming a member of these groups certainly encouraged better leadership in the outdoors.  Without that, there was no selection.

Good point.  

As a Scout, I was motivated to advance quickly also to be a leader.  I recall hitting a point about 18 months in where I was Star and needed only merit badges to advance.  Find a MBC was a royal pain and I lost interest there.  I wanted to be a leader, but got stuck with stuff like Chaplain's Aide and Quartermaster.  I had no Idea how to make that into anything fun.  Between the two of those, I got very dis-enchanted.  Leaders tried to get me to come around but I lost hope.  I ended up being a den chief for the next 18 months and pretty much never going to troop meetings.  I never advanced again.  By about 15 I was done.

I don't doubt that there's lot to motivate a Scout through First class.  But, it feels like after that it's a lot less clear what the goal is.  Yeah some kids do really well at that point - perhaps the natural leaders who love Scouting stuff.  But, for many, it's not really clear what the objective is.  I think that's why we start to see lots of hanging around at troop meetings, Scouts who don't want to lead anything, and Scouts who are not interested in the OA. 

This is the question I keep coming back to when we talk program for older Scouts.  This is where I think the OA could be an answer, but not if it's simply a service & camporee prep club with a monthly meeting.  This is where I think "let's get these guys doing something really challenging."

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I am also having issues with scouts not wanting to be in OA. Last year we voted 3 in and all backed out of the ordeal a week before due to something better. What is the upside to OA? How do I sell it? I am not sure its worth our time anymore. I bring my son to the OA meeting every month and I see only 3 out the 12 troops participating.

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You folks all hit some good marks, and my observations from the past 5 years being back in Scouting with my son generally fall in line with your perceptions. I also began to really talk to “older scouts” (as well those who were 18+ that still came around the Lodge events. Personally, yes National got very skittish on “the secret society” concerns, and the directive today on Ordeal is basically if the candidate shows up, and stays through the induction ceremony, that is all that is required. You can’t make them do the challenges, and anyone who wants to know all what goes on during the weekend (parent), you can’t ignore their request.

The cub ceremonies are a loss, but in my own view, they were not doing much to actually motivate youth getting guns ho on being outdoorsman in recent years. Arguably, the new scripts are an attempt by National to get scouts interested in high adventure, though in a very cornball way that I don’t see will be impactful.

Overall, I just see less and less interest by scouts to do high adventure. Even just weekend canoe or backcountry backpacking weekends are a struggle to get them interested. Couple with the number of adult leaders that have zero interest, and it is not a good recipe. 

My honest suggestion to our Lodge/Section youth leaders has been to rethink their model. Having a “fellowship weekend” once or twice a year, where board games, Magic card games, movies and and flashlight tag at the council camp is a huge opportunity wasted. You aren’t going to get the 14+ year old Paul Bunyan type Scouts to waste their time (or money) on it. Plan a weekend that involves going out and doing something that requires using scoutcraft skills might just get the scout who is bored with his troops’ car camping, adult planned weekends to come and be with other scouts from other units that are in the same boat. Let OA be an avenue for delivering scouting in a way that many troops are lacking. It may not draw back the scouts or troops that have drawn themselves away from council camporees/Klondike derby, etc. (IMO many of those units withdrew because they didn’t see those events giving their scouts a challenge), but it gives the OA the opportunity to be special to the scouts who want to be involved in something that is more mature, without just harping the $1,000+ high adventure base opportunities or NOAC.

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@HashTagScouts, you hit the nail on the head. 

I see the same things around here.  Getting crews together for any high adventure trip is difficult, big or small.  A couple old guys and maybe handful of scouts.  Everyone sits there and looks at you like you are crazy for even suggesting a trip that involves backpacking, or a canoe portage, or anything that doesn't involve electricity and indoor plumbing.

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We've tried high adventure as bait and it didn't do what we'd hoped for.

Another thing I have noticed is scouts that don't have a couple of good scouting friends by the time they're 14 won't last. And those friendships take time to develop. I don't think the scouts are so much against the OA as they just don't see making friendships. Walking into a new group of scouts when you have friends in your troop that you're used to is a hard sell. My guess is that when the OA was highly respected a scout would just suck it up and make it work. Then the friendships had time to develop. I have no idea how to raise the level of respect for scouts in the OA. My troop is brutally honest about who they elect. The scouts that are elected do have the best character. It is not a social thing at all. But once they're elected, something is missing.

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