Jump to content
Jameson76

What are the BSA priorities??

Recommended Posts

There are different priorities at every level of the BSA and every constituency of the BSA.  At the National level currently, I would say that its priority is corporate survival.  (Not survival of the Scouting program, which can exist at the local level without a national corporate existence.)  Corporate survival on a national level is largely a financial issue, but is also a reputational issue:  BSA must have a significant, loyal constituency that will not abandon it despite the publication of lurid details of past wrongs committed by Scout leaders.  But beyond that, to rebuild, BSA also needs significant public sentiment that it is an American institution worth having -- not because of the good things in its past, not because of what current Scouts will be later in life, but because of what Scouting can contribute right now.  Because as a practical matter, making a "we develop character" argument is not particularly effective when you are being publicly flogged for the sexual abuse of youth members.

And on the question of public sentiment for keeping BSA around, I think BSA has several hurdles:  the notion that Scouting is old-fashioned, saw its best days when Leave it to Beaver was on television, and is out of touch with 21st Century society; negative publicity over many years, with the worst ongoing now; the departure of the LDS church; a vague, aspirational sales pitch ("to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law") that is unlikely to impress a "what have you done for me lately" society; a multi-faceted program that is hard to describe in one sentence (What do Cub Scouts do?); and activities that are often not visible to the public because they take place indoors or out in the woods somewhere.

So I would suggest to BSA National that it should be a top priority to show the country that yes, Scouting is not only relevant, but ordinary Scouts are making a difference that people can see now and every day.  Not Eagle Scouts walking on the moon in the 1960s.  Not business executives and actors and professional athletes who were Scouts.  Your neighbor's kid.  Your granddaughter.  Your son's friend.  The kid at the Wendy's drive-thru window.  Show the important, concrete contributions that Scouts everywhere are making for the community, the country, and the world.  Issues that a lot of people wring their hands over, but that Scouts are working on right now.  Things like cleaning up the environment, fighting obesity, collecting food for local food banks, reversing Nature Deficit Syndrome, and being prepared for emergencies like injuries and natural disasters and technology failures.

  • Upvote 4

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, walk in the woods said:

Another way to think about this is how unfortunate it is that in 1948 the Boy Scouts had to codify camping as a requirement rather than just operating under the assumption that camping was happening by default.  Being at the peak of camping requirements isn't necessarily a good thing.  I came up during the ISP, we camped all the time, requirements and practice are two different things.

Well said.  I too came up during the ISP era and the annual camping format was:

- 1 weekend camp out every month, Friday - Sunday, including December (always tents)

- Spring and fall camporees; sometimes in addition to the monthly troop camp out

- In my Alaska troop, an extra trek (3 or 4 days over December break) for senior scouts in mountains, tents, above the snow line (crampons, ice axe country)

- Summer camp

- 50 miler (most summers)

Add in OA, training camp weekends for PLC, and you've got a full outdoor agenda.

It hardly mattered that camping skill award and camping MB weren't required.  Almost every troop camped, and camped a lot.

Edited by desertrat77

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, desertrat77 said:

Well said.  I too came up during the ISP era and the annual camping format was:

- 1 weekend camp out every month, Friday - Sunday, including December (always tents)

- Spring and fall camporees; sometimes in addition to the monthly troop camp out

- In my Alaska troop, an extra trek (3 or 4 days over December break) for senior scouts in mountains, tents, above the snow line (crampons, ice axe country)

- Summer camp

- 50 miler (most summers)

Add in OA, training camp weekends for PLC, and you've got a full outdoor agenda.

It hardly mattered that camping skill award and camping MB weren't required.  Almost every troop camped, and camped a lot.

 

Very similar experience for me except we often had Leadership Corps outings which were usually an all day canoe trip, 10 or 20 mile hike somewhere, a one-off fundraiser so we could then pay for some other outing of some kind, etc.

Our long-time SM was a Marine Corps vet and an Eagle Scout, and our chief ASM was a long-time Scouter who had been on WB staff a couple times. They knew woodcraft and Scout-skills forwards and backwards. Scouting has changed a lot since then and I often wonder if they would have put up with the bureaucracy of Scouting today. They probably would have while their sons were active but I doubt they would have continued another 10+ years. I would pay a lot of money to see the withering look either would have given a helicopter/bulldozer parent of today who tried to campaign for their son 

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I still maintain that an outdoor program is mostly a Unit level issue.  There are still good units that have good outdoor programs.  Looking back at the calendars for my units, all three had 7-8 outdoor outings  this year plus summer camp.  Two also sent contingents to a high adventure base.  They also had other things going on in addition including service projects outside of the Eagle planned ones.  A common theme around here is to go less but go bigger.  The only car camping any of them did were camporees. 

 

I know there isn't a lot of push or guidance from national on an outdoor program but most of the units in our district seem to have it under control without it.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, mds3d said:

I did find that Q&A as well.  I missed it before.  I do think there is a difference between what they describe (scouting activities) vs what you did, "playing video games."  I have never had a unit use something like you describe to satisfy JTE requirements.  

Our experiences obviously differ.  Troop 102, Greater Western Reserve Council, received 'Gold" for five consecutive years with one "weekend campout" being a lock-in to play video games at a large local Catholic church,.  The relevant "difference' is between being outside and being  in a building.  It is, after all,  "Outdoor Programs" that BSA seeks to turn into indoor programs.  in theory, there is no "indoor Program" method any more than there is a "youth-led troop method,"

Quote

This seems to be wrong.  The farthest that usscouts goes is the 2002-2003 rank requirements (as far as I can tell). First Class requirement #3 reads as follows :"Since joining, have participated in ten separate troop/patrol activities (other than troop/patrol meetings), three of which included camping overnight."

That seems really similar to the current requirement.  

My statements were absolutely correct.  Try looking at the sources that I cited.  You looked at the wrong years at an unofficial source.  i looked at BSA literature from the years that i stated.  As I expressly said, the requirement was a trivial three before.  In 1972, at the height of the effort to "improve" Scouting by urbanizing it, you could Eagle with no overnight camping, no hiking and no swimming.  it was a disaster.  It was six as I said, and was reduced to three in 2017 as anyone can easily confirm.  

Quote

I'm glad for context of "my time" vs "your time" as a scout.  I thought my scouting experience in the 90's and early 2000's was pretty great.  I have no reference for scouts was like back then.  That version of scouting has been gone for a while, but it wasn't perfect then either. 

 

BTW, I think our troop ran the patrol method pretty well, as do my troops today (as much as they can within the current YPT guidelines).  

I don't think perfection is a realistic goal.  The patrol method expressly assumes mistakes and learning from failures.  I do think we are declining now without  even trying what worked when Boy Scouting was the prototypical adolescent experience - the patrol method and outdoor program.  We almost hit 4,000,000  youth members out of a significantly smaller population.  Then we decided to try "urbanization" and "relevance." Now, disaster, we are trying more doses of those failed policies.  More than that, the leadership does not even know what Scouting was when it was far more successful - cannot explain it.  But they are still sure it would not work, so it is not explained, demonstrated, or encouraged.  You can try it, even so, if you only understood what the giants in the movement had in mind.  

Edited by TAHAWK
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 minutes ago, TAHAWK said:

More than that, the leadership does not even know what Scouting was when it was far more successful - cannot explain it.  But they are still sure it would not work, so it is not explained, demonstrated, or encouraged.  You can try it, even so, if you only understood what the giants in the movement had in mind.  

I think they know, I think they fear the liability lawyers will pummel us out of existence. The sad irony is that the organizational failures of the 60's,70's, 80s regarding program mirror the institutional failures to protect youth. I duly hope we aren't the ones who will be the last ones out the door, and turn out the lights on American Scouting.  

Edited by Sentinel947

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, mds3d said:

Thanks for this!  This is really interesting. 

I was just about to do this same thing.  I find it really interesting that it took until 1948 to even have overnight camping as a requirement and that we are actually (with the exception of 2016) at the peak of camping requirements.  

He neglected to add that the requirements dropped back down to 3 immediately after in 2017.  2016 was the peak of camping requirements.  

 

 

I also find it interesting the contrast between the nostalgia for the "good old days" in threads like this, and the assertion that YPT has made abuse a problem of the past.  Scouting wasn't perfect then and it isn't perfect now.  The important things to me are - Are scouts learning and growing as people as a result of the program?  Are they safe while doing so?  I think that we are doing a pretty good job of both in many circumstances.  

It was not required, because it  WAS, largely THE program.  "Scouting is Outing" was the motto.  Boy Scouting was camping and hiking. Requiring camping is a valid effort to try and get adults to do what they should be doing voluntarily.  That effort peaked, then crashed in 2017.  

Scouts are growing less as people because we reach so few of them  The "bait' as B-P out it was the outdoor program in the patrol context - so different from school and all the other adult-run activities.  They can get to computers anywhere.  

"Sales" are WAY down over the previous "models," but the advocates of what worked are old fogies nostalgic for the good old days.  Darn right.  It worked, and we will never know if it would still work because our lords and masters don't even know what it was that worked, and "risk management" trumps sales.

  • Thanks 2
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 minutes ago, TAHAWK said:

It was not required, because it  WAS, largely THE program.  "Scouting is Outing" was the motto.  Boy Scouting was camping and hiking. Requiring camping is a valid effort to try and get adults to do what they should be doing voluntarily.  That effort peaked, then crashed in 2017.  

Scouts are growing less as people because we reach so few of them  The "bait' as B-P out it was the outdoor program in the patrol context - so different from school and all the other adult-run activities.  They can get to computers anywhere.  

"Sales" are WAY down over the previous "models," but the advocates of what worked are old fogies nostalgic for the good old days.  Darn right.  It worked, and we will never know if it would still work because our lords and masters don't even know what it was that worked, and "risk management" trumps sales.

I am going to try to answer both posts without quoting both.

I am glad our experiences differ and I am sorry yours has been frustrating.  None of the troops I work with have had a lock-in used on JTE (two did have one last year that was part of a service project for their CO). I do think "indoor" scouting experiences are valid.  Many merit badges are indoor focused and I don't think there is anything wrong with having a variety of experiences available to scouts. 

I acknowledged my mistake about the 2016 requirements when correct by another poster.  I still don't think that a single year of requiring 6 outings is indicative of a crash (return to 2015 requirements) in 2017. 

I think you are wrong about what is causing scouts to struggle.  I think first scouts started to be very uncool.  Then it was no longer aligned with the average morals of the nation (right or wrong, and it still really isn't). We now sit in this place where we are too conservative for some and too liberal/inclusive for others.  Many CO's in our area dropped scouts for being too restrictive (back during the full restriction on the 3 G's). Now many others have dropped scouts for "abandoning their moral compass" without us having picked up any of the ones we lost before.  Now we struggle with the abuse scandals that (again, right or wrong) are really coming to light today.   I talk with so many potential CO's that are just worried about the "risk" of having a scout troop because of what they see on the news.  They aren't anti-BSA (many are Eagles or Alumni) they just think it would be better if someone else took care of supporting scouts.  

 

I'll ask a positive question.  As a UC, what can I help my troops do that will improve scouting given what I have to work with today? As far as I can tell, they practice the patrol method and have a good outdoor program (8ish activities outside of camp).  I understand that national has to focus on YPT and G2SS issues right now, and I can't change that. So, what do you suggest that Unit focused leaders do?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We to love to proscribe blame here for the decline in membership.  The country has changed since the 50's, 60's, 70's, etc.  I don't know why we would believe that if only we did things like the "olden days" that the situation would be better.  All kinds of organizations that continue to do things "the old way" struggle for membership - Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, YMCA, membership groups like the Lions, organized religion, the list goes on.  The reality is that we stopped doing things like the "olden days" for good reason.  The trick is to find the right "olden things" that are important to continue while trying new things to be relevant for today.

Our problem isn't a program one.  Our program is largely fine.  The BSA keeps thinking it's a program issue and that offering some "new thing" will solve the problem.  STEM Scouts is a good example of this  I think this is misguided.

Our problem is an engagement and quality one.  You've got to work harder today to reach families.  You've got to run a higher quality program because there are so many more choices out there.  We've got a challenge in that many of our volunteers have less knowledge about Scoutcraft than they once did.  So, the expectations on the average unit are a lot higher than before.

In my humble opinion, this is the struggle.  Strong packs & troops with well defined programs are doing fine.  Weak packs & troops with poorly defined programs, insufficient leadership, and untrained adults are having problems.

Would I love such a resurgence in interest in Scouting that membership would go up 15% a year.  Maybe if Marvel would create a Scouting superhero or Harry Potter became a Scout.  But, otherwise I don't see anything on the horizon that is going to generate a swell of interest in Scouting.  So, I think we have to improve our membership the old fashioned way - by word of mouth, solid program, and hard work from units.

Where I'd love to see national focus is on really encouraging hands on volunteering in Scouting again.  Really focusing on supporting tools & methods for council & district Scouters to get out and engage with new volunteers to help them in strengthening their unit programs.  Creating decent local training, teaching local leaders how to run a modern roundtable, how to really build a local membership program, etc.  National could do a lot to recognize that basic leader training, IOLS, and Wood Badge are not enough to really prepare a local team to run a Scouting program in a city or several small towns.

  • Thanks 1
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Strong packs & troops with well defined programs are doing fine.  Weak packs & troops with poorly defined programs, insufficient leadership, and untrained adults are having problems.

. . .  I think we have to improve our membership the old fashioned way - by word of mouth, solid program, and hard work from units.

@ParkMan makes a great, fundamental point here.  All Scout recruiting is local.  Good units do well, poor ones do not.  I have long believed that the two biggest threats to a strong BSA are purely internal: 

  • Program quality that varies wildly from unit to unit.  A family that finds itself in a weak unit is likely to leave Scouting altogether, not just that unit.  And if that happens, Scouting has lost them (and possibly some of their friends and relatives) for at least two generations.
  • Because most Boy Scouting / Scouts BSA members come from Cub Scouting, troop membership recruitment has been and continues to be largely dependent upon the recruiting abilities of Cub Scout leaders from five or six years earlier.  
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On ‎10‎/‎22‎/‎2019 at 10:51 AM, Jameson76 said:

Getting the push to be 100% trained in the district, which is an admirable goal, so took the Merit Badge Counselor on-line training.  more just fluff, very little nuts and bolts.  That's the same comment most of our leaders made with the "NEW" YPT, it was more theory and convincing us that endangering children was bad and less about how to be compliant and "DO" YPT.  The old training was really applicable, DO this DON'T do this etc etc.  

When we do training for the Troop Leaders our emphasis is on them having the Scouts DO stuff.  When doing fire building we do not need Scouts to understand combustion, ignition points of materials, etc.  Maybe later, but let them strike some matches and see that logs do not in fact make kindling.

Focus on DOING, Focus on getting out in the woods and letting the Scouts be Scouts.

 

Had to laugh at this, particularly since our Venture crew girls were giving me the stink eye as I had them collect more and more dry grasses.  They were using a striker, and still barely managed to get the twigs going before the grass ran out.

As leaders, just like scouts, we learn best from watching others who are more experienced. Anything I might manage to do well is something I picked up from other scouters.  That makes it tough for those who don't have the advantage of having a strong unit with experienced leaders or those who weren't scouts themselves.  For units that aren't getting outside or who aren't as youth-led as they could be, it would be great if they could learn from watching others. 

I would love to see some combined outings, similar to having different troops at summer camp, but not huge gatherings like jamborees.  That's something unit leaders might be able to accomplish.  National isn't going to pay us any attention, but our DE's should, and they could help make that happen. 

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, swilliams said:

Had to laugh at this, particularly since our Venture crew girls were giving me the stink eye as I had them collect more and more dry grasses.  They were using a striker, and still barely managed to get the twigs going before the grass ran out.

As leaders, just like scouts, we learn best from watching others who are more experienced. Anything I might manage to do well is something I picked up from other scouters.  That makes it tough for those who don't have the advantage of having a strong unit with experienced leaders or those who weren't scouts themselves.  For units that aren't getting outside or who aren't as youth-led as they could be, it would be great if they could learn from watching others. 

I would love to see some combined outings, similar to having different troops at summer camp, but not huge gatherings like jamborees.  That's something unit leaders might be able to accomplish.  National isn't going to pay us any attention, but our DE's should, and they could help make that happen. 

These words are very profound. I used to teach that observing the oldest scouts in the troop is the best way to measure overall troop quality. If they aren't meeting the goals, then changes have to be made with the whole troop.

I have been struggling with the increase of adults without a youth scouting experience for over 25 years. The effects of bringing in female leaders in 1990 was almost immediate and eye opening of how much experience plays in overall program quality. And I give credit to National for responding with new training courses in 2000. But, looking back, training doesn't match a youth scouting experience. In the game of life, youth want adventure, while the adults want measured performance. Adults with a youth scouting experience typically do a better job of balancing measured performance with adventure.

I've told the story many times of walking around with a new ASM after he had a few camp outs under his belt. I asked him what he thought of our troop and he said, "I'm surprised to see that even though the adult's camp is almost out of view from the scouts, the scouts' behavior models the adults."  swilliams combined troop outings suggestion might be worth a try.

Barry

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, mds3d said:

I think you are wrong about what is causing scouts to struggle.  I think first scouts started to be very uncool.  Then it was no longer aligned with the average morals of the nation (right or wrong, and it still really isn't). We now sit in this place where we are too conservative for some and too liberal/inclusive for others.  Many CO's in our area dropped scouts for being too restrictive (back during the full restriction on the 3 G's). Now many others have dropped scouts for "abandoning their moral compass" without us having picked up any of the ones we lost before.  Now we struggle with the abuse scandals that (again, right or wrong) are really coming to light today.   I talk with so many potential CO's that are just worried about the "risk" of having a scout troop because of what they see on the news.  They aren't anti-BSA (many are Eagles or Alumni) they just think it would be better if someone else took care of supporting scouts.  

... What causes scouting to struggle ... I think you have nailed it very well.  Extremely well.  BUT you also need to add in technology, competition and chasing resumes.  People aren't hunting and fishing.  People aren't gathering as families every weekend like they used to do.  Technologies (phones, computers, cable, etc) are keeping people "inside".  When people do venture out, all the other options have geared way up.  All season sports starting at very young ages.  "Traveling" sports. (what ever that really means).  New leagues (Robotics and lego leagues).  Finally, people are chasing line items for their resumes.  I think all three of these have been big big factors.  Gone is all the unstructured free time that could be leveraged for a scouting program.  

... personal experience ... My oldest had 300+ nights of camping by the time he aged out.  My youngest will have near 125+ nights camping even as a diabetic (and parents scout camping with a type 1 diabetic is stressful).  But I've noticed in the 20 years that life has drastically changed.  Gone are the days when the basement would fill with kids friends so they could "hang out".  Now they all hang out together from their own homes.  Troops that easily had 10+ camp outs a year now struggle to fully run seven.  People are busier and often busier without adding to experiences.   ... The biggest change (a good one) is my wife rarely goes out to shop anymore.  Most things other than milk / bread / cheese are ordered online and delivered.  

Scouting has little value without strong "outings".  Other outside opportunities easily replace MBs and meetings.  IMHO, most of the scouting could be dropped with little notice ... except outing.  

  • Like 1
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

@ParkMan makes a great, fundamental point here.  All Scout recruiting is local.  Good units do well, poor ones do not.  I have long believed that the two biggest threats to a strong BSA are purely internal: 

  • Program quality that varies wildly from unit to unit.  A family that finds itself in a weak unit is likely to leave Scouting altogether, not just that unit.  And if that happens, Scouting has lost them (and possibly some of their friends and relatives) for at least two generations.
  • Because most Boy Scouting / Scouts BSA members come from Cub Scouting, troop membership recruitment has been and continues to be largely dependent upon the recruiting abilities of Cub Scout leaders from five or six years earlier.  

I found that unit quality at a district level is very dependent on district expectations, or really lack of it. The best district of consistent unit quality have a great training program with activities that mimic expected unit volunteers performance. For example, our district found that units weren't following the recommended BSA advancement procedures because they were using MB University and Summer Camp for the major part of their advancement.  Those two programs were even close in following BSA advancement guidelines. So, we changed the way we were doing the MB University and emphasized the BSA advancement guide policies in training. The problem here is that the District expectations change with district chairman changes. So, program quality expectations aren't consistent at the district level either. 

2 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

@ParkMan makes a great, fundamental point here.  All Scout recruiting is local.  Good units do well, poor ones do not.  I have long believed that the two biggest threats to a strong BSA are purely internal: 

  • Program quality that varies wildly from unit to unit.  A family that finds itself in a weak unit is likely to leave Scouting altogether, not just that unit.  And if that happens, Scouting has lost them (and possibly some of their friends and relatives) for at least two generations.
  • Because most Boy Scouting / Scouts BSA members come from Cub Scouting, troop membership recruitment has been and continues to be largely dependent upon the recruiting abilities of Cub Scout leaders from five or six years earlier.  

 True, and this can be helped with some training. I managed to prove that by creating a program that trained both Troops and Packs unit leaders in recruiting. However, I believe the elephant in the room is adult burnout. Adult burnout at the cub level causes well over 70 percent of youth from even getting to the Troop program. The Cub program is too complicated for the resources of the average pack. The average parent willingly gives two years of their time. The top heavy cub program demands 5 years from its volunteers. Smaller packs are at a big disadvantage and usually have to reduce their program just to survive. 

Barry

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

4 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

I found that unit quality at a district level is very dependent on district expectations, or really lack of it. The best district of consistent unit quality have a great training program with activities that mimic expected unit volunteers performance. For example, our district found that units weren't following the recommended BSA advancement procedures because they were using MB University and Summer Camp for the major part of their advancement.  Those two programs were even close in following BSA advancement guidelines. So, we changed the way we were doing the MB University and emphasized the BSA advancement guide policies in training. The problem here is that the District expectations change with district chairman changes. So, program quality expectations aren't consistent at the district level either. 

 

@Eagledad - can you talk about this a little more please? 

To give you some context.  Our district is largely staffed with an "old guard" of volunteers who have weathered many district chairs.  This has had the net effect of creating a pretty consistent district experience. 

The problem though is that our district program is "just good enough" but it's not great.  We have some training courses, have a camporee, hold a merit badge event, do some membership work.  Not to diminish our volunteer's efforts - but our expectations are just too low.  We've had several district chairs come through who have tried to impact this, but get burned out by status quo.  We've had some district chairs even quit part way through their term. 

If you said this to our district volunteers I'm sure they'd be offended as they all think they're working hard.  But, when you look at camporees with small turnout, most units with 50-60% trained leaders, round tables with just a few participants, declining membership year or year, you can clearly see a pattern.  I liken it to a struggling unit.  They think that they are doing the right things but can sense there is a problem.

What have you seen in your travels that make high functioning districts successful?  Any advice on how to break the cycle of mediocrity?

Mods: If you want to spin this off into another topic feel free.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×