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dkurtenbach

Changing BSA's Image

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So a number of random thoughts, most of them pessimistic.....

One might argue that the BSA was most relevant when communities were most relevant.  By community I mean small groups of people living, working, and serving together (and actually knowing each others names) within a geographic region.  Could be a small town, neighborhoods in larger towns, etc.  It made sense for the local parish, church, Legion, Moose, Rotary Club to sponsor a youth program for the boys in their town or neighborhood.  It helped keep the boys out of trouble, and, provided guidance for the next generation of leaders in that community.  As community has become less relevant to American life, the organizations that were tied to community (all of those mentioned above and more) have become more and more irrelevant.  Not because their mission isn't right and good, but, because there is no target beneficiary.  I'd hold out 4H and FFA as organizations that have figured out how to keep connected to communities, particularly rural communities, and those programs continued success, but, they are more close tied to community and government (i.e. extension services and schools).

At the same time as the decline of communities, we have the irrational rise in bubble-wrapped children.  Whether that's due to people having fewer children, sensationalized TV news coverage, or whatever else doesn't matter.  The program the BSA offered for decades (with @qwazse permission, boys hiking and camping independently with their mates) became totally out-of-date and dangerously irresponsible.  Kids simply don't spend time outside like they used to, further making the program irrelevant. We live in a society today that at least some folks consider adolescence extending until 24 years of age (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/01/19/adulthood-now-begins-24-say-scientists-young-people-delay-work/).  A program designed to breed personal leadership, independence, and responsibility in teenagers is hopelessly out-of-date.  

I think the BSA has also forgotten a simple truth about large organizations, that is, Simple Rules for Complex Societies.  By attempting to nationalize everything, they've create a bureaucracy that nobody can love.  The G2SS is seen as laughably restrictive in some places in America (squirt gun fights, really?  How's that playing in Peoria?) and way too permissive in other corners of society.  Advancement has been turned into paperwork drudgery that serves nobody but the bureaucrats.

So to the question, how do you make the program relevant without changing it more?  The short answer is you can't.  The foundations that used to make the program relevant are gone or disintegrating, and new structures are growing up in their places.  The program skills, well many, are viewed as irrelevant.  We've heard people say society has changed and the BSA has to keep up.  That may be true.  But, it also means the BSA has to change, and it will be far beyond just membership changes.  The departure of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints will be the vanguard of the migration of the BSA into a suburban/urban program, more so that it is already today.  I've mentioned in other posts that beyond the remaining membership fights there will be battles about the BSA's relationship with the NRA, and guns in general, and the terror of boys carrying pen knives in open society, etc.  The BSA will continue, but, it will be different, I suspect very different.  Whether that's good or bad will depend on your perspective. 

I think for the OP the better question is, "what image do we want to project in 10 years?"

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22 hours ago, walk in the woods said:

So a number of random thoughts, most of them pessimistic.....

One might argue that the BSA was most relevant when communities were most relevant.  By community I mean small groups of people living, working, and serving together (and actually knowing each others names) within a geographic region. . . . As community has become less relevant to American life, the organizations that were tied to community (all of those mentioned above and more) have become more and more irrelevant.  Not because their mission isn't right and good, but, because there is no target beneficiary. 

At the same time as the decline of communities, we have the irrational rise in bubble-wrapped children. . . . The program the BSA offered for decades (with @qwazse permission, boys hiking and camping independently with their mates) became totally out-of-date and dangerously irresponsible. . . . We live in a society today that at least some folks consider adolescence extending until 24 years of age (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/01/19/adulthood-now-begins-24-say-scientists-young-people-delay-work/).  A program designed to breed personal leadership, independence, and responsibility in teenagers is hopelessly out-of-date.  

I think the BSA has also forgotten a simple truth about large organizations, that is, Simple Rules for Complex Societies.  By attempting to nationalize everything, they've create a bureaucracy that nobody can love.  The G2SS is seen as laughably restrictive in some places in America (squirt gun fights, really?  How's that playing in Peoria?) and way too permissive in other corners of society.  Advancement has been turned into paperwork drudgery that serves nobody but the bureaucrats.

So to the question, how do you make the program relevant without changing it more?  The short answer is you can't. . . . 

And that's the catch, isn't it?  Program changes only come from National, and given their track record, any changes are likely to be poorly conceived, poorly received, and poorly implemented.  Our best hope for moving forward may be if National puts a moratorium on any program changes for the next ten years or so.  In any case, they may be too busy with survival to worry about something like youth program.

So let me offer some optimistic thoughts.  

I agree that the decline of "everybody knows everybody" residential communities has hurt Scouting by breaking the connection between Scout units and the supportive community that the Scouts came from, and which felt as though the Scout unit belonged to them.  Many Scout units don't have a community that they know and they can feel loyal to and obligated to.  But that is easily fixable, at least on the unit side of the equation.  Instead of random, disconnected, scatter-shot service projects, the unit can select a neighborhood, local organization, park or institution where they can focus their service efforts.  It just has to be large enough to offer a variety of projects over a long period of time.  As the Scouts repeatedly put out effort for that beneficiary, they can begin to see how they are changing their little part of the world -- that they are relevant and a force for concrete improvements.  

BSA has largely adapted to the "bubble-wrapped children" phenomenon both through adult supervision policies and actual practice.  Many folks believe that the inability to let Scouts do things out of the sight and hearing of adults has hurt the effectiveness of the program.  Sure.  But even without physical distance between Scouts and adults,  there is plenty of room for the development of personal leadership, independence, and responsibility in teenagers.  But is a program with those goals no longer relevent, hopelessly out of date?  Of course not, as long as there is a quid pro quo:  As long as being a Scout comes with measurable accomplishments that parents value -- that will look good on college applications. 

As for the Scouting bureaucracy, well, that is the most contemporary feature of the organization, perfectly in step with our times.

Scouting has not lost its way because of the program, but because BSA and the country have forgotten why the Scouting program exists.  Consider two statements:

  • PURPOSES (from the BSA's "Congressional Charter," United States Code Title 36, Section 30902)
    The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others, to train them in scoutcraft, and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods that were in common use by boy scouts on June 15, 1916.
  • MISSION STATEMENT (from the official Boy Scouts of America website)
    The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is 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.

The 1916 statement of purposes charges the BSA with turning out skilled, capable, courageous citizens; the country has an immediate and continuing need for that.  The current mission statement says that BSA is about turning out ethical, moral adults; but so does my church, so why do we need BSA?  We have to remember who we are and why we exist.  BSA doesn't have to worry about relevance if everyone understands that Scouts change the world.

 

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6 hours ago, MattR said:

 Fifteen years ago all the liberals I knew viewed the BSA as a youth military development organization, Jr Jr ROTC, if you will. And while they still do, now the conservatives see us as morally bankrupt. Who wants to put their kids in that mess? And before anyone says "that's not my troop!" it's the image we have. And yes, this image is compounded by the fiscal incompetence of national. People with little or no experience with scouts are who the message needs to be focused on.

I do not buy the narrative your describe for the scouts themselves.  I believe that there is crisis in faith of the leaders, down to the local level, based on actions of leaders in the past.  Even the homosexual and female fight is only used who have an axe to grind - and the fact that they hate that it has been overall successful.  But I want to use a horrible experience to illustrate that Boy Scouts still means something positive when used in reference to actual scouts.  When adults and neighbors described the boy who shot and killed some other students at his high school in California, the description was of surprise that he did it, and one of the reason was BECAUSE he was a Boy Scout.   His horrible actions are considered antithetical to the image of the Boy Scout. 

So I argue that the image is less that of the actual scout, but the leadership, and so long as more sex abuse cases surface, that is the image the leaders have to fight to change.  But I believe the image of the actual scout and what they are learning remains positive and strong.  And that is where BSA needs to be focusing its PR campaign.  

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1 hour ago, Navybone said:

 I believe the image of the actual scout and what they are learning remains positive and strong.  And that is where BSA needs to be focusing its PR campaign.  

Concur.  The image of Scouts themselves may be the only thing untarnished by the issues and controversies of the last several years.  That is why the message we put out to the world should not mention the Boy Scouts of America or the institution of "Scouting."  Scouts, Scouts, Scouts . . . young men and young women . . . future leaders, future heroes.

Scouts change the world.

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9 hours ago, MattR said:

As for the adult method, the adults don't understand the program. The program is how the methods lead to the aims and we know how well that's taught. So teach it. Next, it's easy for a troop to get in a rut. I have never seen any training from the BSA that describes typical problems and how to solve them. They only teach skills that you have to do. So there are no case studies in how to fix a failing troop. Many people here say there are plenty of good units and I agree, but there are a lot more mediocre units. JTE was supposed to help those units. It hasn't and it won't. Giving people metrics won't teach them how to solve their problems. 

Lots of great stuff in this post by @MattR.  I picked this one because supplemental training, Roundtable sessions, campfire discussions, district newsletter articles, parking lot conversations, etc. are things that we can do right now without altering official training syllabi or training schedules or making program changes.  All we have to do is just take the initiative and start talking to other Scouters about typical problems with leader training and program quality, and how to solve them.

Scouts change the world.

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36 minutes ago, dkurtenbach said:

Lots of great stuff in this post by @MattR.  I picked this one because supplemental training, Roundtable sessions, campfire discussions, district newsletter articles, parking lot conversations, etc. are things that we can do right now without altering official training syllabi or training schedules or making program changes.  All we have to do is just take the initiative and start talking to other Scouters about typical problems with leader training and program quality, and how to solve them.

Scouts change the world.

I LOVE the idea!  So, if you're a roundtable commissioner, any thoughts on interesting programs in this area?

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@MattR can expand on what he's thinking.  I'd suggest putting heads together with the district training chair, district commissioner, and unit commissioners.  Commissioner publications have some great material on unit difficulties and how to approach them.  Then a survey of unit leaders about specific issues and problems they would like more information and suggestions on.  And a review of topics discussed in forums likes this.  From that collection of information, work with the training chair and commissioner corps on a series of, say, ten 20-minute sessions on "hard discussions for unit Scouters."  Repeat and supplement them on different dates and different forums -- Saturday morning hikes, campfire discussions at camporees, discussions in conjunction with service projects.  Maybe even put them on YouTube or podcasts.

Scouts change the world.

 

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THis has been an interesting discussion.  There are some well-articulated thoughts on the challenges and ideas on how to overcome them.

On 11/24/2019 at 4:35 AM, dkurtenbach said:

@MattR can expand on what he's thinking.  I'd suggest putting heads together with the district training chair, district commissioner, and unit commissioners.  Commissioner publications have some great material on unit difficulties and how to approach them.  Then a survey of unit leaders about specific issues and problems they would like more information and suggestions on.  And a review of topics discussed in forums likes this.  From that collection of information, work with the training chair and commissioner corps on a series of, say, ten 20-minute sessions on "hard discussions for unit Scouters."  Repeat and supplement them on different dates and different forums -- Saturday morning hikes, campfire discussions at camporees, discussions in conjunction with service projects.  Maybe even put them on YouTube or podcasts.

Scouts change the world.

 

What dkurtenbach suggests is a very local approach - brainstorming with district folks, surveying unit leaders, working with training chairs.  I would take the idea and make it more crowdsourced....Part of creating a movement is gathering like-minded people and creating momentum.  I suggest that we already have like-minded people and the start of momentum.  We, in this forum, are already thinking about these things.  We have already identified challenges that are quite universal.  And we certainly have the depth and breadth of experience to tackle the issues as well as any district team.

So - my proposal is that we brainstorm to pick an issue or two, and create some training or an awareness presentation or whatever, that we can all take home and use.  We wont need to recruit local folks to help us make progress - no matter how important the issue is nobody wants to take on another project.  Instead, if we approach them with a solution - or better yet with a success (because you already gave the presentation and it was well received) it doesnt cost them any time/effort to support us.

There are many venues where a short session on a scouting-relevant topic can be presented.  Our roundtable commissioners are always looking for "other people" to present at the break out sessions.  We have several annual Merit Badge Workshops in my area that offer sessions for adults - they are always looking for people to present. As council training chair, I work with our summer camp director to offer adult training sessions during resident camp.  

Lets actually do something rather than just talk about it....

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On 11/28/2019 at 10:24 AM, jjlash said:

Part of creating a movement is gathering like-minded people and creating momentum.  I suggest that we already have like-minded people and the start of momentum.  We, in this forum, are already thinking about these things.  We have already identified challenges that are quite universal.  And we certainly have the depth and breadth of experience to tackle the issues as well as any district team.

So - my proposal is that we brainstorm to pick an issue or two, and create some training or an awareness presentation or whatever, that we can all take home and use. 

I suggest the following topics:  

  • Showing Your Community That They Need Scouts
  • What Every New Scouts BSA Member Has A Right To Expect From The Troop
  • What To Do If Your Unit Is Failing

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Ahhh, now that I'm over the turkey coma...

I think what you're all saying is do what you can and don't even look at things that, well, we have no control over. And you're right, but deleting all the describe and discuss requirements is just ... something stuck in my bonnet.

But, back to reality. What can a half dozen people do? Something to remember is that it's highly unlikely we could fix the BSA, and yet if we could help a few troops here and there it would be worth it.

I think the idea of 20 to 30 minute discussions is a great format. Round table, any scout event where the adults should be out of sight, it's easy.

I always thought a wiki would be a good idea.

20 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

I suggest the following topics:  

  • Showing Your Community That They Need Scouts 

Wow, this is really coming up with a message, the message, that national hasn't figured out. You have 5 seconds with a parent that's trying to find an activity for their kid, what are you going to say? It's like that video above, but you only have a few words. It could be backed up with a youtube video, or maybe the equivalent TedYoutube video but that initial hook is required first.

20 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

 

  • What Every New Scouts BSA Member Has A Right To Expect From The Troop

I can read this too many ways. What problem is this going to help with? Scouts that go along with anything, get bored and drop out? Scouts and parents that think scouts is webelos 3? Adult led troops? As an aside, the phrase Right to Expect sounds a bit confrontational. I mean, there are expectations of the scout as well.

How about a 20 minute quiz to measure how much the scouts are responsible for vs how much the adults are responsible for? Sort of a Patrol Method metric.

21 hours ago, dkurtenbach said:

What To Do If Your Unit Is Failing 

This could be very wide and deep and bring up things like getting more volunteers to step up, finding more ideas, balancing the program for everyone, getting more scouts. Maybe it starts with the patrol method metric?

 

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On 11/28/2019 at 6:06 AM, Rick_in_CA said:

As for PR, I know many of the people on this board has seen it, but perhaps many of you haven't. This is from Scout South Africa, and this is that kind of advertising that the BSA needs.

 

Thank you Rick_in_CA for this video. I am fairly new to the site and had not seen it before now.  This clip is GREAT!  After I started it, I thought it was just another safety video and I almost clicked it off but the last few seconds of the video changing from past to present made it very powerful.  It sums up all of how I view my training as a youth in Scouting.  Not all lessons I learned were as powerful as this video but as I continue through life there are constant reminders that my trail to eagle was a series of life skills/lessons that I could use along the way to make the road of life easier.  It was not just a check box list of accomplishments.  I felt that I became a more productive citizen due to these lessons.  Each time I see another lesson already learned from my past, I say a small prayer of thanks to my scout leaders who spent the time to guide me to the future.  

I agree with Rick on using this video as PR for Scouting.  I am sure many scenarios just like this situation can be made to explain to the community how scouting can be an asset to youth of today.  What parent doesn't want their son or daughter prepared for the future? 

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While I appreciate the video from Scouts, the final logo could just as easily been for the Red Cross or the YMCA.  It doesn't differentiate Scouting.  One doesn't need scouting to learn those skills.

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