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There are certain themes on this forum that keep coming up and recently there has been a group that stands out to me. There's the AOL thread, the OA thread and a discussion about commissioners. And they all have a pattern to them. Some aspect of the BSA program is broken. It can be advancement and bored AOL scouts, how the OA is a "self licking cone" or how commissioners don't do any good. These are the recent examples but others include the merit badge program, rank advancement or patrol method, to pick a few.

We talk about what's wrong and eventually it gets to the fact that this part of the program is not being run correctly. The adults don't understand the purpose of that program and just look at getting scouts signed off or cheap labor for summer camp. The goal shouldn't be FCFY, it should be enough fun and scout led that the requirements just get signed off anyway, or the OA really is a group of stellar scouts that are helping their units improve, or the commissioners are good mentors that know how to work with SM's (and the SM's know how to accept constructive criticism). The patrol method is how leadership is really developed. These discussions are really good. There is information here that I don't see anywhere else.

That eventually leads to a discussion on fixing it. Sometimes people mention rule changes but those eventually get shot down because, after a lot of discussion, there's nothing inherently wrong with the rules. The issue is the adults not understanding how that program part should be used to fulfill the aims of scouting. And for the most part, that's where the thread sits. The thread dies off and we move on until someone else brings up a problem with, say, an old SM swearing at a new SM. Sometimes @Eagledad brings up the fact that it takes a leader with vision to make this work. :)

Neither of these "solutions", which both amount to saying "just do it the right way," are at all satisfying to me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about anyone here or any of these discussions. But after watching these threads for years all I can think of is that if it were that easy then it would have already been done and we wouldn't be talking about MB mill summer camps, Eagle mill troops/parents or adult led troops. When a thread came up with one of these problems the first person would say "here's the root of your problem, go read/do this" and a month later they'd come back and say "wow, you guys are brilliant. My whole troop has transformed." But that never happens. There's a problem when the fundamentals of the program are so poorly done and the resulting answer is to take the training or just go read BP's or Hillcourt's work. I don't want to pick on Eagledad, because he's really contributed a lot to these discussions, but it shouldn't take a visionary to do the basics well. (my apologies to EagleDad if I'm misinterpreting his ideas.)

A while ago I suggested that the BSA needed to simplify the program. My reasoning was that there are so many parts to the BSA and if they aren't helping then they should be removed. Now I'm thinking differently. There's a simple aspect, common to the many parts of the BSA, that needs to be better understood by everyone. And by everyone I mean all the scouts, parents, volunteers, and professionals. I think it has to do with understanding the aim of scouting but writing a couple dozen words on a power point slide is not conveying it. It's not enough to say this program is about making ethical decisions. If it were enough then we could point to those words when someone says their cub scouts are bored at First Year Camper programs and someone would know what to do. Clearly national doesn't know either because, well, there would be no need for this forum, otherwise ;).

So, what is the common thread among all the "adults aren't doing it right" threads? And, how do we teach, train, coach, wedge into the brains of all those volunteers that want to do right, but are clueless, the answer that will get them progress? Is it a class, a series of classes, a video, a bunch of stories, a volunteer progressive program (with patches at each level/rank, of course) that slowly builds understanding, or what? Let's just say it can't include a mentor. I have no problems with mentors but we don't have enough of them.

The reason I'm asking stems from a comment from @ThenNow, who asked if people were heartened (I think that was the word) about the supposed agreement on the bankruptcy case. My first thought was it doesn't matter, the BSA has been on this slow slide and whether the bankruptcy speeds it up or not, it doesn't matter. There's a core idea to scouting that both makes it unique and, I believe, will make it stronger. I'm just trying to better understand it and how to convey it to others.

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I think part of the answer can be found in some of the older BSA literature. What I mean is the descriptions of what things were supposed to look like. For example th  older PL handbooks used stories to show a young PL how to deal with situations. And the fieldbook had sample activities for patrols. Heck the entire scouting program for a patrol could be done by following the fieldbook page by page.

And here I go describing a problem... the issue at present with the books is everything seems to be theory without examples of theory into practice. We do it here too. We try to explain the solution in theoretical terms but rarely do we give a "how to script". I have tried on occassion, but it really is time consuming to do more than just a simple "for instance".

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14 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

without examples of theory into practice. We do it here too. We try to explain the solution in theoretical terms but rarely do we give a "how to script".

I read a blog about management and becoming a better manager. She does a great job with advice as she almost always provides advice and then often a script. She said she includes words to say as it is a hard jump for many from advice and then “how do I DO that”. 

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I’ll tell you this - the troop leader handbook, wood badge, IOLS, BALOO, online trainings galore, and round table haven’t thought me much. I got back in 2.5 years ago with my girls. I draw some of the most upon my experience on camp staff nearly 30 years ago and my troop growing up nearly 35 years ago. Ask Andy is pretty darn good too. 

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5 hours ago, David CO said:

I totally disagree.  The problem is the rules.  Stupid rules.

As long as National is on the hook for every deviation from policy and perversion of the program, expect more rules.

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20 hours ago, mrjohns2 said:

I’ll tell you this - the troop leader handbook, wood badge, IOLS, BALOO, online trainings galore, and round table haven’t thought me much. I got back in 2.5 years ago with my girls. I draw some of the most upon my experience on camp staff nearly 30 years ago and my troop growing up nearly 35 years ago. Ask Andy is pretty darn good too. 

I absolutely love Ask Andy.  Learned a huge amont from those columns.  

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21 hours ago, MattR said:

... it gets to the fact that this part of the program is not being run correctly.  ...  That eventually leads to a discussion on fixing it. ... The issue is the adults not understanding how that program part should be used to fulfill the aims of scouting. ...  :) ...  "just do it the right way," are at all satisfying to me.....

A while ago I suggested that the BSA needed to simplify the program.... 

So, what is the common thread among all the "adults aren't doing it right" threads? And, how do we teach, train, coach, wedge into the brains of all those volunteers that want to do right, but are clueless, the answer that will get them progress? Is it a class, a series of classes, a video, a bunch of stories, a volunteer progressive program (with patches at each level/rank, of course) that slowly builds understanding, or what? Let's just say it can't include a mentor. I have no problems with mentors but we don't have enough of them.

Yep.  We keep re-circulating the same discussions.  It's to the point that I just have contempt for discussions about "scout-led" or "patrol method" or many others.  The very adults that say they are doing it so well then at the same time subvert the program.   I've sat in and participated in years of debate.  Only to see it rarely done well.

A recent one I've heard ...   The scout leader that is proud to repeat stories of:  ask your patrol leader.   The leader thinks they are teaching a good lesson.  As often, I bet the scout thinks the adult is looking down on them.  ...  I keep thinking back to the common questions my 1st son's SM would ask when helping a scout solve conflict.  What happened?  What do you think the other person saw happen?  How do you think it made him feel?  ... So in response to the "go ask your patrol leader", I only ever respect that answer if it's worded like "That's a good question.  I don't know.  Let's go ask your patrol leader."   THEN, the scoutmaster gets out of his chair and walks with the scout to the PL and says "PL ****, Timmy has a question".  Then, let's Timmy ask the question. ... Any leader that says "ask your patrol leader" and then stays seated" is usually doing far more harm than good. 

At this point, I'd much rather listen to discussions on where can we go camping?  What's new that the scouts have never done before thru their school or with their families?  I'd much rather listen to training on how to run a good camp fire program.  

I've said this many, many times.  I'd put our scouts up with any scout troop out there.  We might not be as shiny.  Our patrol lines might not be snap at attention straight.  ... BUT, our scouts have the miles under our belts and do the work.  Our scouts easily average far over a hundred nights of camping and stories to tell.  

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On 6/19/2021 at 6:16 PM, mrjohns2 said:

I’ll tell you this - the troop leader handbook, wood badge, IOLS, BALOO, online trainings galore, and round table haven’t thought me much. I got back in 2.5 years ago with my girls. I draw some of the most upon my experience on camp staff nearly 30 years ago and my troop growing up nearly 35 years ago. Ask Andy is pretty darn good too. 

I agree with you. Unfortunately that is the go to method. You have to figure it out on your own.

 

On 6/19/2021 at 6:14 PM, mrjohns2 said:

I read a blog about management and becoming a better manager. She does a great job with advice as she almost always provides advice and then often a script. She said she includes words to say as it is a hard jump for many from advice and then “how do I DO that”. 

Right. A vague description does not explain how to solve typical problems. I like the idea of stories. I remember my wife, way back when, having to read case studies in MBA school. They were very specific dives into a problem that one company had. It wasn't general, but if your problem was close then you could find useful info.

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On 6/20/2021 at 12:36 AM, David CO said:

I totally disagree.  The problem is the rules.  Stupid rules.

The rules can be a pain but they didn't cause any of the mills we complain of. FCFY is not a rule.

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16 hours ago, fred8033 said:

Yep.  We keep re-circulating the same discussions.  It's to the point that I just have contempt for discussions about "scout-led" or "patrol method" or many others.  The very adults that say they are doing it so well then at the same time subvert the program.   I've sat in and participated in years of debate.  Only to see it rarely done well.

Are you saying that anyone that thinks this is simple or easy is likely missing something? If so, I agree. There are some fine lines between helping and hindering. That alone is a good topic.

16 hours ago, fred8033 said:

At this point, I'd much rather listen to discussions on where can we go camping?  What's new that the scouts have never done before thru their school or with their families?  I'd much rather listen to training on how to run a good camp fire program.  

I've said this many, many times.  I'd put our scouts up with any scout troop out there.  We might not be as shiny.  Our patrol lines might not be snap at attention straight.  ... BUT, our scouts have the miles under our belts and do the work.  Our scouts easily average far over a hundred nights of camping and stories to tell.  

I don't think I understand what you're saying. To me, this sounds like a) there's no point in talking about any of this and b) your troop does it right. So how did you get to the point where your troop does it right? How does the new SM, just in from being a den leader because nobody else will volunteer, figure this out by going to a single source? No need to buy rare books on ebay.

I'm looking for a common theme and how to make it concrete so leaders can easily use it to, for example, understand how to answer questions from random scouts walking up to adults because that's where the answers have always been or how to deal with cell phone on high adventure trips.

Most of what I learned came from outside any training I got. To me, the way I learn, the training was nearly worthless. Some things I figured out, like how to deal with conflicts between scouts (your go ask the PL scenario). Things like having patrols do their own thing was a long drawn out, 2 steps forward 2 steps back kind of thing that was a constant challenge not only with the scouts but with the adults as well. I completely understand your comments about your patrols not being shiny but that you have scouts making great memories. Again, another fine line between how adults should encourage scouts.

And maybe that's the theme - how adults best encourage youth. It's an age old problem. The biggest challenge I ever had was encouraging scouts to own a responsibility or do their best. There was never a one size fits all strategy. The common description is train them and trust them but didn't appreciate the wide range of personalities of scouts. Some scouts respond to a challenge while some respond better to success.

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4 hours ago, MattR said:

... how adults best encourage youth. It's an age old problem. The biggest challenge I ever had was encouraging scouts to own a responsibility or do their best. There was never a one size fits all strategy. The common description is train them and trust them but didn't appreciate the wide range of personalities of scouts. Some scouts respond to a challenge while some respond better to success.

Yep.  Then add the mix that not only do scouts need different methods, but adults do too.   Further, we often have so many adults that you can never get them all on the same page.  

Some common phrases I think about.  

  • Continually adjust to maturity and needs of the scouts
  • Continually back off as soon as scouts begin to take the lead
  • Number one job is to keep them from major injury
  • Adult leaders should be in the background; not foreground
  • Adults need mentoring as much as the scouts 
  • Forms and print-outs have few places in scouting

Often best to focus on program and adventure.  The rest will follow.  Like a sun tan.

 

 

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I’m always on the hunt for fresh examples , of which about one in ten I may apply.

It’s like I said to the SPL today, he is to fill his little black book with other SPL’s numbers. That’s partly because I enjoy the look on their faces when I put it that way. But mostly because it’s through our youth talking to other youth that really fun outside-the-box ideas begin to trickle in to the troop. Do SPLs take me up in that little bit of seasoned summer camp advice? Not always.  But if I didn’t repeat it, the would do it even less frequently.

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On 6/19/2021 at 6:36 PM, MattR said:

Neither of these "solutions", which both amount to saying "just do it the right way," are at all satisfying to me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about anyone here or any of these discussions. But after watching these threads for years all I can think of is that if it were that easy then it would have already been done and we wouldn't be talking about MB mill summer camps, Eagle mill troops/parents or adult led troops. When a thread came up with one of these problems the first person would say "here's the root of your problem, go read/do this" and a month later they'd come back and say "wow, you guys are brilliant. My whole troop has transformed." But that never happens. There's a problem when the fundamentals of the program are so poorly done and the resulting answer is to take the training or just go read BP's or Hillcourt's work. I don't want to pick on Eagledad, because he's really contributed a lot to these discussions, but it shouldn't take a visionary to do the basics well. (my apologies to EagleDad if I'm misinterpreting his ideas.)

 

Not at all personal. I don't harp on the visionary stuff because I think it will turn on a light, I say it often to make sure it remains as an idealistic principle. I also don't spend enough words separating the main goal or vision of the unit separately from the main goal of the BSA, the Vision. I believe success is based from a team agreeing on the same goals. Our troop initially set the goals that the scouts will be the leaders, it will be boy led and FUN. You're right Matt, making moral decisions makers doesn't really explain how the program makes good leaders. So, we made a checklist that is a little easier to check ourselves, the scouts make the leadership decisions, the scouts run the troop even if it is in the ground, and that they have fun. Of course those turned out to be challenging because in the end, adults struggle the most to do their roles in a boy run troop. But, that is the sun tan that was mentioned.

I remember when this forum had over a 1000 active members on the forum with dozens of different discussions all across the forum spectrum. And, 95% of those discussions were about how to provide a better program for the scouts. Today 95% of the discussions aren't about the functions of scouting, they are about adults wanting to change scouting for their personal adult reasons. There are a lot of adults here who don't like the scouting program for one reason of another. In fact, I see basically two groups on this forum in the discussions last few months, adults who believe the program changes youth into adults of character (no change), and those who believe the program is basically sitting service (wreck it). 

I'm not sure how we make a step forward, but I think you are right in a sense that scouting needs to scale back a little. But, I don't think the program needs to scale back so much as maybe the activities need to lean up a bit. Less high adventure in Philmont and more adventure locally. A program where the patrols can get together more often as a patrol on it's own and not as part of the troop program. It would be a challenge at first, but is a day hike around town all that difficult? I don't know, you are right. But, how?

I am convinced the Scouting will survive because some of us have seen it do it's magic and have the passion to make adults can change the world. The rewards are great. We just might figure out a way of taking a small group of youth and turn them into lean scouting machines. 

Barry

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