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fred8033

BSA patrol method is lost in the fog

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Posted (edited)

BSA "Troop Leader Guidbook" has replaced the "Scoutmaster Handbook".  The previous scoutmaster handbook talked of regular, new-scout and venture patrols.  The new guidebook has changed tone with "mixed age" or "same age".   I've always viewed "same age" as a slight and I prefer it to be called "same interest" or "same experience".  The new guidebook says "historically patrols were made up of scouts of all ages and ranks".  But I think that was not necessarily inferring "mixed age" in what mixed age patrols infers today.  

From what I read more and more ... my interpretation is current BSA doesn't suggest a best answer and doesn't have a best idea to use.  Rather, BSA is suggesting rough ideas about how to justify organizing patrols.  Beyond that, BSA just says it's important and wishes you luck figuring out their mess.  

So my questions ....

What is the guiding reason to have patrols ?

  1. Make life easier for SM and SPL ? ... by dividing large group into smaller groups ?
  2. To train ?  To distribute experience ?  
  3. To be active together ?  

Obviously I'm strong on #3.  If we fail, it's because we communicate "same age"  patrols .... inferring they have to stick together or that same age has same interests.  My thought is start them together as they will have strong similar interests when they join.  (aka becoming a capable scout / first class)    But let the scouts know they can switch at any time.  My ideal is that scouts settle into their long term patrol fairly quickly and that's their patrol ideally for six plus years.   But they switch patrols at any time at their choice.  

I choose #3 as I want to see that patrol going to the beach to compete against the camp counselors.  I want to see that patrol organizing a unique special campout.  Or see that patrol texting each other to go to the movies.  Or .... IMHO, if you don't naturally socialize and hang with your patrol, it's not a workable structure.  It's just their for training and then it's just a busy-work type of structure.  

So what do you think?  Why patrols ?  IMHO, BSA has lost sight of what they are trying to teach and no longer share a consistent idea beyond saying patrols are critical.  

Edited by fred8033
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A patrol is a means to efficiently rove the land, spy it out, and report what's observed.

The concept is as old as the book of Exodus, at least. Moses was quite explicit as to the guiding reason for the Israilite's patrol of 12, of which Joshua and Caleb were distinguished members.

The guiding reason for youth patrols is to fulfill the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.

The point of multiple patrols is to enhance skill and enjoy the fellowship of reporting to one another and your SM, adult leaders and parents.

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A patrol is a good size for a scout to work with. Smaller and there aren't enough to get all the work done. Larger and it's too many personalities to work with. Also, try cooking for more than 8.

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3 hours ago, MattR said:

A patrol is a good size for a scout to work with. Smaller and there aren't enough to get all the work done. Larger and it's too many personalities to work with. Also, try cooking for more than 8.

So I'm rephrasing yours to say it's more like #1.  To make SM / SPL job easier.  No bigger concept beyond that. 

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No, this has nothing to do with the spl or SM. It has to do with developing teamwork and getting things done. Ideally, the patrol is self sufficient and needs very little from the spl or SM. 

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, fred8033 said:

From what I read more and more ... my interpretation is current BSA doesn't suggest a best answer and doesn't have a best idea to use.  Rather, BSA is suggesting rough ideas about how to justify organizing patrols.  Beyond that, BSA just says it's important and wishes you luck figuring out their mess.  

I agree. Actually I'm a little surprised National even mentioned Mixed age and Same age. There were no such definitions until they started their New Scout, Regular Scout and Venture Scout experiment. I believe they are reverting back because the new scout (same age patrol) experiment failed. And here we are asking what is the guiding reason for having patrols?

Sadly, we appear to be starting over. Only it's worse, now the majority of adults having to lead troops of patrols don't even have a scouting experience to base the program goals for their scouts. Maybe it's time to start answering questions with the Kudu style of quoting from Badon Powell. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I agree. Actually I'm a little surprised National even mentioned Mixed age and Same age. There were no such definitions until they started their New Scout, Regular Scout and Venture Scout experiment. I believe they are reverting back because the new scout (same age patrol) experiment failed. And here we are asking what is the guiding reason for having patrols?

Sadly, we appear to be starting over. Only it's worse, now the majority of adults having to lead troops of patrols don't even have a scouting experience to base the program goals for their scouts. Maybe it's time to start answering questions with the Kudu style of quoting from Badon Powell. 

Barry

I fear we read different things into the quotes of Baden Powell and Hillcourt and others.  I fear BSA's definition of patrol has been mucked up by poor wording choices. 

I prefer the 1950s boy scout handbook (page 88):  "The Scout patrol is the finest boys' gang in all the world.  The patrol is the unit that makes Scouting go.  It is a group of boys, usually six to eight, who pal together because they like to do the same things." ... I thought Hillcourt (or another author quoted with Hillcourt) wrote as a gang of friends who wanted to hang together and do things together.  

Where you say "new scout (same age patrol) experiment failed", I don't see it ... but I won't argue.  Troops fail with it often, but it often seems a reflection of the unit vision than the idea.  My issue is with troop positions such as troop guide and instructor and ASPLs there to help coach the PLs.  It seems like BSA's documentation just does not line up.  If suggesting mixed age, then troop guide and instructors have little work.  If new scout patrol, then there is a strong need for troop guides, instructors and mentoring of new scout patrol PLs.  

I just don't see a vision promoted from BSA on how to make all of this work and I think it's to the detriment of the scouts. 

Edited by fred8033
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46 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

 

Where you say "new scout (same age patrol) experiment failed", I don't see it ... but I won't argue.  Troops fail with it often, but it often seems a reflection of the unit vision than the idea.  My issue is with troop positions such as troop guide and instructor and ASPLs there to help coach the PLs.  It seems like BSA's documentation just does not line up.  If suggesting mixed age, then troop guide and instructors have little work.  If new scout patrol, then there is a strong need for troop guides, instructors and mentoring of new scout patrol PLs.  

I just don't see a vision promoted from BSA on how to make all of this work and I think it's to the detriment of the scouts. 

I think you just pointed out the failure. Same age patrols are a contradiction of patrol method because continued scout growth requires outside intervention from an experienced resources. 

Not that mixed age is the only method, it’s just preferred for growth relying on the patrol members. Many SMs used a same age patrol style because it fit their leadership style and goals best. But the troop structure requires some considerations to have success with same age patrols.

i think it’s easier for a same age SM to work within the older traditional SM handbook than a mixed age SM working with the same age program. I’m speaking from the experience of working both sides.

Barry

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

I think you just pointed out the failure. Same age patrols are a contradiction of patrol method because continued scout growth requires outside intervention from an experienced resources. 

Maybe.  My interpretation is they learn faster, they learn better and create more memories.  Too many leaders jump on mixed age patrols as an excuse for not trusting the scouts after failed mentoring.  

You can embed the older scout expertise into the patrol, but it comes at horrible consequences.

  • Leadership of peers is not earned or learned.  Real patrol elections are subverted (will go to the oldest boy 16 years old versus 11 years old).  Decisions often can be done by intimidation or bowling over the younger scouts.  
  • Patrol pride is subverted as patrols change over time.  IMHO, my a scout can change patrols at any time but my "ideal" is a scout's patrol works well together, wanting to do similar things and stays together for 6/7+ years.  
  • Patrol identify is subverted as patrols are not doing similar things.  Yes, they may cook together or plan together.  But ...
    • Few can share a tent together.  IMHO, tent sharing across patrols is one of the biggest ways to subvert the patrol method. 
    • Individual scouts are constantly breaking off.  To go hang with their buddies.  To do basic learning at summer camp.  To go on higher activities.  
  • Bad habits and bad behavior is past on.  Conversational topics of 15/16/17 year olds is very different than 11/12 year olds.  Pals can often call each other on bad behavior or know how to ignore it.  11/12 year olds will mimic to get on the good side of the older scout.  

I think we can easily and justifiably debate this back and forth.  My issue is less the debate.  My issue is BSA had a fairly consistent story over time.  The latest leader guide reflects that BSA is giving up on teaching patrol method.  Instead, BSA is saying patrol method is critical and we should go figure it out.

Edited by fred8033

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58 minutes ago, fred8033 said:

Maybe.  My interpretation is they learn faster, they learn better and create more memories.  Too many leaders jump on mixed age patrols as an excuse for not trusting the scouts after failed mentoring.  

You can embed the older scout expertise into the patrol, but it comes at horrible consequences.

  • Leadership of peers is not earned or learned.  Real patrol elections are subverted (will go to the oldest boy 16 years old versus 11 years old).  Decisions often can be done by intimidation or bowling over the younger scouts.  
  • Patrol pride is subverted as patrols change over time.  IMHO, my a scout can change patrols at any time but my "ideal" is a scout's patrol works well together, wanting to do similar things and stays together for 6/7+ years.  
  • Patrol identify is subverted as patrols are not doing similar things.  Yes, they may cook together or plan together.  But ...
    • Few can share a tent together.  IMHO, tent sharing across patrols is one of the biggest ways to subvert the patrol method. 
    • Individual scouts are constantly breaking off.  To go hang with their buddies.  To do basic learning at summer camp.  To go on higher activities.  
  • Bad habits and bad behavior is past on.  Conversational topics of 15/16/17 year olds is very different than 11/12 year olds.  Pals can often call each other on bad behavior or know how to ignore it.  11/12 year olds will mimic to get on the good side of the older scout.  

I think we can easily and justifiably debate this back and forth.  My issue is less the debate.  My issue is BSA had a fairly consistent story over time.  The latest leader guide reflects that BSA is giving up on teaching patrol method.  Instead, BSA is saying patrol method is critical and we should go figure it out.

Well, I'm with you, this isn't the subject thread to debate. All I'll say is my experience is the opposite of your bullet points. Sadly, your bullets suggest scouts don't mature past juvenile self-servingness.

As for giving up on teaching, well I guess, but again you are defining the two different mentalities for mixed age and same age patrols. Mixed age relies on the role modeling to foster growth. Same age relies on outside instruction support for growth. Mixed age from its conception was intended for self-contained independent patrols. Same age patrols require an outside support structure. They are giving up on teaching because their experiment failed. Patrol method is designed for independent growth and teaching doesn't allow that kind of independence. 

The fears behind  your bullets say you don't trust (or even believe) role modeling has power for developing character. I have worked and counseled many adult leaders with the same thoughts about role modeling. The same age patrol approach to youth development simply doesn't lend itself to the original design of Patrol Method, and your frustration is reflected in your original post asking "What is the guiding reason for having patrols?". Watching those adults, you either have to change your expectations of scout growth, or just take what you get and know it's the best you can do.

Barry

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Eagledad said:

Same age relies on outside instruction support for growth. Mixed age from its conception was intended for self-contained independent patrols.

I don't accept your premise and I believe mixed age requires similar mentoring from outside.  Just now you are mentoring an older PL on being a leader ... because he's the older scout and he's usually the leader because older scouts can can intimidate younger scouts ... and the patrol that is designed to teach rank requirements internally still has scouts going to brown sea programs and splitting off to learn knots and first aid with scouts from other patrols.  ... But now also add a power imbalance that naturally occurs when you put a 16/17 year old in the same social group as a 11/12 year old.  Add that not every scout wants to mentor younger scouts but is now in that forced structure.  

It's why I do NOT like the new leader guide.  Our debate here is also now represented briefly in the BSA troop leader guide with no offered solution or recommendation.  BSA split from the long held recommendation into this misplaced argument and has wrongly started using the term "same age."  I don't remember that in the old Scoutmaster Handbook.  If a term should be used, it should be the "same interest patrol" or "friends patrol".  Patrols should exist because they want to spend time together and want to do similar things.  

8 hours ago, Eagledad said:

... and your frustration is reflected in your original post asking "What is the guiding reason for having patrols?"...

My frustration is with the new leader guidebook.  The Scoutmaster Handbook seemed to promote a direction / concept.  That concept seemed consistent with my experience and what I've read from Baden-Powell, Hillcourt and previous publications like the 1950s Boy Scout handbook.  

I ask the question because I think it's the real issue.  We've lost vision on why we have patrols.  Do patrols exist primarily to teach and the scouts get the side benefit of activities?    Or do patrols exist to be active and do things and. thru the doing as a side benefit. the scouts learn and grow.  I really think the later is what scouts is about.  Focus on activities and through activities scouts learn many things.  

Do patrols exist to TEACH or to DO ?  You say the first.  I say the second.  ... In my view this is the key issue.  This is important because it shapes how we view and interact with our patrols.  

 

I read this Scouting magazine article many years ago and I still think it's very well written on the topic.  How Scout's friendships strength patrols.  https://scoutingmagazine.org/2012/04/how-scouts-friendships-strengthen-patrols/   I strongly recommend this reading.  

Edited by fred8033

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Posted (edited)

I keep reading because I keep thinking I'm missing something.  Especially as I see people say BSA has long done mixed age patrols.  I just don't see that.  

  • Baden Powell ... "The Patrol is the unit of Scouting always, whether for work or for play, for discipline or for duty."  
  • Bill Hillcourt ... One of the main driving influenced and respected BSA leaders Bill HillCourt wrote a series of essays ... in addition to writing much of hte BSA program  ... http://www.inquiry.net/patrol/hillcourt/method.htm .... "This gang, this natural unit of boys for boy activities, is the all-important unit in Scouting. It changes it name, it is true, from gang to Patrol, but it is a "gang" just the same, a small, permanent group of boys allied by similar interests, working together under the responsible leadership of one of its number—the Patrol Leader."
  • 1950s Boy Scout Handbook (page 88):  "The Scout patrol is the finest boys' gang in all the world.  The patrol is the unit that makes Scouting go.  It is a group of boys, usually six to eight, who pal together because they like to do the same things." 
  • Scouting Magazine ... How Scout's friendships strength patrols. ... https://scoutingmagazine.org/2012/04/how-scouts-friendships-strengthen-patrols/
  • Woodbadge ...  Meant to mimic a scout's experience in scouts.  The new scouts (class attendees) are put into patrols where everyone is brand new.  No existing leaders in the patrol.  Patrol members have to figure it out.  TGs regularly reach in and mentor the patrol.  Lots of mentoring as the patrol gets started.  Less later on.  The patrol does not start with a certain percent of the patrol coming from a previous Wood badge course or part of the leaders of the course.  Instead, everyone in the patrol starts the same.  

Though people argue about the past, it seemed fairly consistent.  

My issue is I just don't really know what BSA recommends anymore.  BSA has lost it's vision of why patrols beyond the shallow statement they are important.  

Edited by fred8033

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, fred8033 said:

I don't accept your premise and I believe mixed age requires similar mentoring from outside. 

That my experience, it's not a theory for starting a discussion.

Quote

Just now you are mentoring an older PL on being a leader ... because he's the older scout and he's usually the leader because older scouts can can intimidate younger scouts ...

Where did I say that? Often the older scouts encourage the younger scout to take on responsibility so the older scout has an opportunity to mentor. In fact, I often watch our SPL choose the ASPL and Troop Quarter Master for that very reason. Can a leader be anymore serving than that?

Quote

and the patrol that is designed to teach rank requirements internally still has scouts going to brown sea programs and splitting off to learn knots and first aid with scouts from other patrols.

Not in our council. Brown Sea (or whatever it was called)  taught advanced leader skills beyond the handbooks in planning, meetings and working the group. District and councils teaching scout skills at advanced leadership courses makes no sense and are doing it wrong. 

Quote

  ... But now also add a power imbalance that naturally occurs when you put a 16/17 year old in the same social group as a 11/12 year old.  Add that not every scout wants to mentor younger scouts but is now in that forced structure.

There is not a power imbalance in a servant driven program. And successful programs are open for different ideas, dreams and ambitions. A program that forces scouts to different than who they want to be, it will find itself loosing scouts. This is the number one problem of programs that loose their scouts at age 14. But, ironically, you could observe several programs at once, you will  find that the same age patrol type of troops struggle with keeping older scouts because the mature responsibility of role modeling and mentoring is encouraged.

In general when scouts are brought up in a serving environment, older scouts will instinctively mentor. Again, that is my experience. This is where I saw a big problem with same age patrol. The scouts in same age patrol did not see a vision of mentoring younger scout growth. They saw a duty to do their stint, then move on. And that was it. As I said, that is why same age patrol troop struggle to get past age 14 in troops. Troops with mixed age patrol are far more likely to keep the older scouts because there is still challenges in the program for the  maturing young adults.

Quote

  

It's why I do NOT like the new leader guide.  Our debate here is also now represented briefly in the BSA troop leader guide with no offered solution or recommendation.  BSA split from the long held recommendation into this misplaced argument and has wrongly started using the term "same age."  I don't remember that in the old Scoutmaster Handbook.  If a term should be used, it should be the "same interest patrol" or "friends patrol".  Patrols should exist because they want to spend time together and want to do similar things.

Call it what you want, it doesn't mater. What matters are role models are internal to the patrol to provide experienced knowledge and that doesn't exist in patrols where everyone has the same experience.

Quote

My frustration is with the new leader guidebook.  The Scoutmaster Handbook seemed to promote a direction / concept.  That concept seemed consistent with my experience and what I've read from Baden-Powell, Hillcourt and previous publications like the 1950s Boy Scout handbook.  

OK, I'm not sure what you are picturing here, but I trust your are correct.

Quote

I ask the question because I think it's the real issue.  We've lost vision on why we have patrols.  Do patrols exist primarily to teach and the scouts get the side benefit of activities?    Or do patrols exist to be active and do things and. thru the doing as a side benefit. the scouts learn and grow.  I really think the later is what scouts is about.  Focus on activities and through activities scouts learn many things.  

Do patrols exist to TEACH or to DO ?  You say the first.  I say the second.  ... In my view this is the key issue.  This is important because it shapes how we view and interact with our patrols. 

We had another Scoutmaster not to long ago on this forum who liked to split hairs to be divisive. I don't see "teaching" and "doing" as two separate actions in the patrol. Like a neighborhood sandlot baseball team that practices the fun sport of baseball, a healthy patrol requires both.  

If there is a difference between you and I, it's where the definition of "good decisions" come from. Scouts have to be guided from a baseline of behavior to know the difference from good decisions and bad decisions. The SMs role is the gatekeeper of that behavior. In a program that uses role models to develop growth, the SM guides through the older scouts because, they are the role models to the younger scouts. The discipline of making good decisions has to start at the top and work its way down to be consistent through the whole program. You have seen me often say that the quality of a troop program is measured from the oldest scouts, not the youngest scouts.

To me your struggle appears to be mixing older and younger scouts. You aren't alone. You might even be in the majority in this day and age. But, when adults start throwing out stuff like 16 year olds don't like to mentor 12 years olds and 12 year olds are intimidated by 16 years olds, I discard it along with older scouts need more adventure and only the popular scouts get elected. None of those fears work on me because I have the experience that debunks it. I have to stand up and bring balance to such ideas.

You may not be a mixed age patrol kind of leader. It's just not in you to trust how the complexities of younger scouts learning and building confidence simply by watching older scouts. And even more perplexing may be the idea of serving others is one of the most important skills a scout can learn to be a great leader. Serving and role modeling go hand in hand. And, role modeling is instinctive behavior for post pubescent males. The biological phenomenon is a mystery to me, but I've seen the wonder so many times, I have have full faith in it. Personal leadership experience has very little growth value for boys 14 and younger. But get them to age 15 and  Scouting is one of the best programs where adult scouts can actually express adult traits... if we let them.

I'm not trying to convience  you to change. I've been in enough of these discussions to know better. Your a fine leader and I have no doubt your scouts are getting a great experience. But I will be here to balance these discussions for sake of those who want to understand the whole picture. Those of us who present our opinions based from actual experiences are becoming fewer and fewer. I want to keep my experience alive for as long as I can.

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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The thing that's missing here is a description of the program. We have aims and methods but no description of how the methods lead to the aims. It almost sounds like it's multiple choice.  It seems to me that @Eagledad is saying the program has a large component in which older scouts teach, work with, and lead the younger scouts to eventually take the place of the older scouts. Although I like this it isn't explicitly explained anywhere. @fred8033 seems to be saying it's less about that and more about adventure. Of course, that isn't described anywhere either. Maybe I'm putting words in people's mouths but my only point is there's no guidance as to what the program is. This is causing confusion.

For a contrast, and I've mentioned this before, I met some Israeli scouts and their program is almost entirely about the older scouts guiding the younger scouts. A scout troop goes from Kindergarten to 21-ish. There are no den leaders and very few adults (2-3 in a troop of 100). The older scouts are responsible for everyone and everything. We talked about ranks and they just didn't see how ranks could help them with their responsibilities. Eagle was just an odd idea to them. If you're going to be an older scout then you will be running a troop. From the day you join as a 6 year old you know what you'll be responsible for as you get older. Whether you like this model or not, there's no question what the program is. Everyone knows what it is. I'd rather see more outdoors but their sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and community is impressive. The scouts I met, while admittedly a select group, were above and beyond what I've seen in any similar group in the BSA. Leadership, confidence, responsibility. They were an impressive group. They also have over 90% of eligible youth in their scouting program.

 

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20 hours ago, MattR said:

Maybe I'm putting words in people's mouths but my only point is there's no guidance as to what the program is. This is causing confusion.

Exactly.  That's my point.  And it got worse with the latest leader guide description of patrols.  Now we have stronger contradictions within BSA's publications.  From what I've seen, BSA would be better off re-organizing how it does publications.  IMHO, the 2011 GTA re-write was outstanding.  Done very professionally.  Many people brought in.  Specific words were precisely chosen and the structure was well laid out.  In addition, BSA created a follow-on infrastructure to provide further details and provide a feedback loop for updates.  

From what I see of the BSA leader guides ... at least the section I saw ... someone was told to put words on paper.  Depending "who", the program takes a different tone.  I'm just not sure what the program is anymore.  I question whether the new books are worth buying.  Boy Scout Handbook v12 never mentioned a differentiation between mixed and same age, but the new leader guide does.  What does the 14th edition of the scout handbook say?  I'm just not sure I want to spend more money to answer a question.

This stuff should be readily available such that I don't have to buy a library of books that contradict each other. 

I was talking with a scout parent that I highly respect.  His kids have loved scouts, but he shared the frustration that the program delivery is just too inconsistent and it's hard to tell what the program is.  

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