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MattR

Are first class skills becoming obsolete?

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I was talking to two nearly-18 Life scouts that are busting their rears to get everything done on time. As I was talking to them it hit me that a lot of requirements really don't make you a better scout. It seems to me that when I was a scout we honestly needed to know all the first class requirements in order to be good scouts. We needed axe and fire skills if we wanted to make a fire to cook our food. We used knots because we'd cut down trees and make stuff. Map and compass, absolutely. First aid, while not used every campout, was used. The tracking probably wasn't needed and while the plant and animal identification is nice, it's not really a core skill. For the most part it was all useful and we used it most campouts. That was a big part of the motivation to get things signed off. It made you a better scout. You were more useful to your patrol if you had those skills.

Now, you don't need knots or fire or an axe for most campouts. Clips and stoves have replaced them. Map and compass is useful but in many places people aren't allowed off a trail and you don't have to go for a hike other than a few requirements. First aid is still good. On the whole, it seems to be a bit obsolete. Or at least less relevant than it used to be. Rank doesn't necessarily mean more useful to your patrol. It just means you have more things signed off.

I thought back to @Kudu's comment about Free Range Kids and the pros and cons of lone patrols and "troops." The FRK idea is the parents train their kids to do something on their own and then the kids go do it, on their own. Would parents that want their kids to go off and do adventures consider First Class to be useful training?

What skills would make a scout more adventurous? Here's my random list: How to make or fix your own gear (i.e., Macgyver skills). Making a backpacking wood stove. Taking care of cast iron cookware. Cooking a meal for 8 on your own with no help and from only simple ingredients (and buying the food on your own). Moving all of Orienteering MB into First Class. Making a survival shelter. Taking your patrol on a campout with the requisite planning and approval. Making a fire in a down poring rain. Making fire starters. Make a knife blade from 1/8" steel plate. Kill and clean a chicken, part it and then cook it (I haven't done all of these last two but it sure would be fun to learn). Or even just how to part a whole chicken.

I would think that if a First Class scout could do these types of things they would have more confidence at being adventurous and trying new things. No describe and discuss, just do things that are beyond the usual plop camping and "plop cooking" (pre made meals). The goal would no longer be skills you can learn in a year. Rather, skills that would make your patrol more independent.

Granted, there's no way the requirements will change but it's just a thought. Unless someone knows how to incorporate these ideas into their troops.

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Posted (edited)

I added a little section to my SM Specific class back in 2000 called "Signing off Bungee Cord and Velcro skills". My point to the class was that while the 1st class skills seem less applicable today (even back in 2000), they are still valuable for developing the skills of setting goals and developing a plan to accomplish those skills to set new higher goals (rank).

Honestly Matt, I'm a little surprised that National in the last 19 years hasn't taken some of your suggestions for first class skills. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad

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I use most of the FC skills on every camping trip except first aid fortunately. These are the basics. Often the doo-dads or other gear replace knowledge and skill, these are more often commonplace in car-camping trips. The other skills allow one to take less gear, venture farther from the parking lot and allow for the adventure.

All of the ideas you presented are also cool, but next step types of things which are part of mBs. These are great, but should not IMO replace the basics. If anything, I would get rid of the allowing requirements to be "done at anytime while any rank". This would allow real growth in the skills, knowledge and mitigate much of the "one and done". The much maligned skill awards were better (belt loops excepted) at having scouts learn, practice and know the basics than the current one&done structure.

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Do parents today (your future leader pool) have the ability to teach these skills?    Asking for a friend.  

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On 5/22/2019 at 9:55 AM, MattR said:

What skills would make a scout more adventurous? Here's my random list: How to make or fix your own gear (i.e., Macgyver skills). Making a backpacking wood stove. Taking care of cast iron cookware. Cooking a meal for 8 on your own with no help and from only simple ingredients (and buying the food on your own). Moving all of Orienteering MB into First Class. Making a survival shelter. Taking your patrol on a campout with the requisite planning and approval. Making a fire in a down poring rain. Making fire starters. Make a knife blade from 1/8" steel plate. Kill and clean a chicken, part it and then cook it (I haven't done all of these last two but it sure would be fun to learn). Or even just how to part a whole chicken.

I would think that if a First Class scout could do these types of things they would have more confidence at being adventurous and trying new things. No describe and discuss, just do things that are beyond the usual plop camping and "plop cooking" (pre made meals). The goal would no longer be skills you can learn in a year. Rather, skills that would make your patrol more independent.

Sounds like you'd create a more relevant, challenging program.

In addition to incorporating more Orienteering and Wilderness Survival skills, I'd include the "challenging" requirements from Pioneering MB.  Using lashings to make something really COOL would be challinging and a practical demonstration of using kntos and lashings.  (Besides, who doesn't want to try out a monkey bridge??)

I also think that skills in handling watercraft are useful and relevant.  Maybe sailing, or maybe kayaking or canoeing.  

Basic river rescue skills could also be useful.  

Swimming skills at the level that they could save a life would be nice:  complete BSA Lifeguard, or complete BSA Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue (or similarly challenging course, such as Red Cross or YMCA lifeguard certifications).

I think it would also be useful to challenge scouts to master some subset of skills to the level they can teach it, for example, get a Red Cross CPR instructor certificate, or become a Leave No Trace trainer, or complete the USA Archery instructor course.  (Not just go through the motions using EDGE, but actually be able to teach a skill "for real").

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38 minutes ago, RichardB said:

Do parents today (your future leader pool) have the ability to teach these skills?    Asking for a friend.  

The basics of all these skills are taught to new adult leaders in the IOLS (Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills) course.  This is required for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters in order to be considered "trained" for their position.

Scoutmasters and the more dedicated/hardcore ASMs tend to pursue additional training as they grow into their roles. That might include Wood Badge, or it might take the form of specific skills that enable them to lead or do more within scouting (like taking Wilderness First Aid courses so that they can lead crews at high adventure bases).

Parents of new scouts generally do not know much about camping, and few could tie knots, demonstrate map and compass skills, or do the basic first aid tasks that a young scout is asked to demonstrate.  But parents can learn and have fun doing it.  Like my dad used to say, "You can always teach an old dog a new trick."

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On 5/23/2019 at 11:40 AM, RichardB said:

Do parents today (your future leader pool) have the ability to teach these skills?    Asking for a friend.  

Sadly yes. The vast majority of families in our troop are either outdoorsy or scouting heritage families. So camping, knots, and cooking are a given. Map skills, first aid, and LNT are more uneven. Pioneering and lashing  are weak.

Among our under 16 scouts everyone has at least one BSA, GS, Scout Association, or Scouts Canada parent.

 

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On May 23, 2019 at 12:40 PM, RichardB said:

Do parents today (your future leader pool) have the ability to teach these skills?    Asking for a friend.  

Odd question. My parents never had first class skills. A couple of my brothers did, but they were off starting families/careers. I learned my skills from:

  1. The handbook
  2. My PL and SPL
  3. The SM
  4. Camp Staff
  5. A WAC vet who ran the county pool as if our lives depended on knowing how to swim.

So, I don't expect parents to be able to teach my scouts 1st class skills. I have no idea why anyone would.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/22/2019 at 10:55 AM, MattR said:

I thought back to @Kudu's comment about Free Range Kids and the pros and cons of lone patrols and "troops." . . .  Would parents that want their kids to go off and do adventures consider First Class to be useful training?

 

 

Certainly Baden-Powell's First Class Award is the very definition of Free Range.  The final requirement, the First Class Journey, is a 14 mile overnight backpack or canoe trek, alone or with one peer.

No two-deep helicopters!

> The tracking probably wasn't needed and while the plant and animal identification is nice, it's not really a core skill.

> On the whole, it seems to be a bit obsolete

Despite the significant controlled risk involved in the First Class Journey, not to mention the increasing challenges of the subsequent Journey and Expedition requirements of the more advanced Awards, Baden-Powell's program has some higher outdoor aspirations.

> What skills would make a scout more adventurous?

In addition to the practical skills a Scout needs to undertake his or her Journey, B-P's requirements include Observation Skills which, for some, are the whole point of outdoor adventure:  These skills are known better in the 21st century as "mindfulness," with roots in secular Western versions of zazen and kinhin.  

"In the summer of 1898 Baden-Powell took a trip to Kashmir which convinced him that the outdoor life, enjoyed purely for its own sake without any military objective, was immensely valuable. Before setting out, he paid considerable attention to his equipment.…On this trip he adopted clothes that he would occasionally claim as the inspiration for the Boy Scout uniform; these included the Stetson he had worn in Rhodesia and a flannel shirt, but not the famous shorts. Yet in spite of all the planning, Baden-Powell viewed camping and walking in wild places as an experience which transcended practical considerations:

 'Going over these immense hills - especially when alone - and looking almost sheer down into the deep valleys between - one feels like a parasite on the shoulders of the world. There is such a bigness about it all, that opens and freshens up the mind. It's as good as a cold tub for the soul'."

http://www.inquiry.net/ideals/beads.htm

Those who roamed the woods alone as teens may recognize this experience: Baden-Powell's "Religion of the Woods."  Your mind chatter ceases, and your pupils dilate with interest in the subject of attention, causing the forest light to brighten and colors to saturate.   It is a quiet clarity of mind that can last many minutes, similar to the experience of ceasing intense work on a problem, only then, seemingly from out of nowhere, the answer presents itself full-blown.

Yours at 300 feet,

Kudu

http://www.kudu.net

Second Class:

Observation: Describe in writing, 20 out of 24 well assorted articles, following one minute of observation (Kim’s Game).

Follow a half-mile trail of at least 30 woodcraft signs, in 25 minutes.

Read the meaning of a series of simple tracks made in sandy or other suitable ground covering at least 20 feet. Follow real animal tracks or a trail made for you by someone else.

http://www.inquiry.net/traditional/index.htm

(To the above, I would add the tactile feel of rope work and the mental flow of Signalling.)

Edited by Kudu
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An interesting web site is "Art of Manliness".  They have some excellent discussions and ideas for boys to investigate on their paths to manhood.

One of my favorite articles there is 23 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do"   https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/23-dangerous-things-let-kids/   (None of 'em are  really dangerous at all...)

BTW:  I would add to the list of skills that boys should be allowed to forage for food.

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Posted (edited)
On 5/22/2019 at 9:55 AM, MattR said:

I was talking to two nearly-18 Life scouts that are busting their rears to get everything done on time. As I was talking to them it hit me that a lot of requirements really don't make you a better scout. It seems to me that when I was a scout we honestly needed to know all the first class requirements in order to be good scouts. We needed axe and fire skills if we wanted to make a fire to cook our food. We used knots because we'd cut down trees and make stuff. Map and compass, absolutely. First aid, while not used every campout, was used. The tracking probably wasn't needed and while the plant and animal identification is nice, it's not really a core skill. For the most part it was all useful and we used it most campouts. That was a big part of the motivation to get things signed off. It made you a better scout. You were more useful to your patrol if you had those skills.

Now, you don't need knots or fire or an axe for most campouts. Clips and stoves have replaced them. Map and compass is useful but in many places people aren't allowed off a trail and you don't have to go for a hike other than a few requirements. First aid is still good. On the whole, it seems to be a bit obsolete. Or at least less relevant than it used to be. Rank doesn't necessarily mean more useful to your patrol. It just means you have more things signed off.

I thought back to @Kudu's comment about Free Range Kids and the pros and cons of lone patrols and "troops." The FRK idea is the parents train their kids to do something on their own and then the kids go do it, on their own. Would parents that want their kids to go off and do adventures consider First Class to be useful training?

What skills would make a scout more adventurous? Here's my random list: How to make or fix your own gear (i.e., Macgyver skills). Making a backpacking wood stove. Taking care of cast iron cookware. Cooking a meal for 8 on your own with no help and from only simple ingredients (and buying the food on your own). Moving all of Orienteering MB into First Class. Making a survival shelter. Taking your patrol on a campout with the requisite planning and approval. Making a fire in a down poring rain. Making fire starters. Make a knife blade from 1/8" steel plate. Kill and clean a chicken, part it and then cook it (I haven't done all of these last two but it sure would be fun to learn). Or even just how to part a whole chicken.

I would think that if a First Class scout could do these types of things they would have more confidence at being adventurous and trying new things. No describe and discuss, just do things that are beyond the usual plop camping and "plop cooking" (pre made meals). The goal would no longer be skills you can learn in a year. Rather, skills that would make your patrol more independent.

Granted, there's no way the requirements will change but it's just a thought. Unless someone knows how to incorporate these ideas into their troops.

We don't need to camp, either.  This is not a matter of absolute needs for scout camping or camping, but for life.  I can see maybe getting rid of axe skills--saws are much more useful, but I can't see getting rid of the saw skills.  Most people need these in one way or another if they own a home.  Fire skills, too, are probably more important for everyday life than in scouting today.  (that said, fires are a great way to keep kids in Scouts, when weather conditions make them possible).  What tracking in the First Class skills?  There is a requirement to see evidence of animals, but not necessarily tracking.  Plant and animal identification is an important life skill for anybody that wants to be an outdoorsman. Also, honestly, the skills you have mentioned are among the most fun that the T21 scouts learn.  Knots are much more useful than clips because clips can't be used for everything.  

 

I do agree with your wanting to make scouts more adventurous, but taking away axes, fire and compasses is not going to make scouting more adventurous.  Also, your post seemed a bit strange, as in the first two paragraphs you talk about how obsolete map/compass/axe/firebuilding are, then in the 4th paragraph you include all of the above as new first class requirements. You can't learn orienteering without also learning the basic map/compass.  Also, not sure what you are talking about with "pre-made" meals, other than for backpacking?  Does your troop just buy a bunch of  Mountain-House meals for a car-camping trip? My sons' troop just bought ingredients and made the food for car camping from the ingredients (yes, they did buy just add water or milk pancake flour).    

Here's the only two  things I would add to current T21 requirements:

Sewing--require sewing on of a button, patch and repairing a hole.  This must be done in front of the tester (ASM, SM, or older scout).  Not adventurous, but would be essential for McGyvering (IMHO, knots are essential for McGyvering as well).  

"Away from the road" camping. One of the camping requirements in 1a should require the scout or group of scouts to bring all of their essential gear with them for a camp overnight for a distance of at least a mile without motorized transport.  This could include backpacking, snowshoe packing, cross country sky packing, bikepacking, or canoe/kayak camping.

Edited by perdidochas

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On 5/23/2019 at 11:40 AM, RichardB said:

Do parents today (your future leader pool) have the ability to teach these skills?    Asking for a friend.  

Well, technically speaking, the Scouts should be teaching these skills.  

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On 5/23/2019 at 12:12 PM, mrkstvns said:

Sounds like you'd create a more relevant, challenging program.

In addition to incorporating more Orienteering and Wilderness Survival skills, I'd include the "challenging" requirements from Pioneering MB.  Using lashings to make something really COOL would be challinging and a practical demonstration of using kntos and lashings.  (Besides, who doesn't want to try out a monkey bridge??)

I also think that skills in handling watercraft are useful and relevant.  Maybe sailing, or maybe kayaking or canoeing.  

Basic river rescue skills could also be useful.  

Swimming skills at the level that they could save a life would be nice:  complete BSA Lifeguard, or complete BSA Aquatics Supervision: Swimming and Water Rescue (or similarly challenging course, such as Red Cross or YMCA lifeguard certifications).

I think it would also be useful to challenge scouts to master some subset of skills to the level they can teach it, for example, get a Red Cross CPR instructor certificate, or become a Leave No Trace trainer, or complete the USA Archery instructor course.  (Not just go through the motions using EDGE, but actually be able to teach a skill "for real").

I wouldn't want BSA lifeguard, etc. to become a requirement.  I don't think that anybody but a water-loving great swimmer should become a lifeguard.  If we made it a T21 requirement, it would end up being too watered down to be effective.  

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I would revise the G2SS to eliminate as many prohibitions as possible, and may even make many of them into REQUIREMENTS.

For example, G2SS says that scouts under age 18 should not use power tools.

In today's world, we use power tools. A man won't be a competent family man and homeowner if he can't do basic work around the house. A scout should:

  • Demonstrate how to safely and appropriately use 3 different power saws: such as a jigsaw, a circular saw, and a table saw
  • Demonstrate how to safely use 3 different power tools used to maintain landscaping: such as a lawnmower, chainsaw, or hedge trimmers
  • Show how to safely and appropriately use a power drill to: a) drill a small hole, b) use a hole cutter attachment to drill a hole large enough for a door knob or deadbolt lock, c) use a screw driver bit (standard or phillips) to build a wall frame or install drywall or fence boards

 

 

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When it comes to evaluating any particular First Class skill, there's only one relevant question:

Do chicks dig it?

If the answer is yes, then it's relevant.

😎

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