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Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts suffer huge declines in membership


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1 hour ago, Eagledad said:

I really don't think we are disagreeing ... agreed

... Leadership is the image of a Scout. ... I'd argue it's also the guy getting out and doings.  But then again, that's a core of leadership.

The struggle here is the teaching of leadership. ... 100% correct ... First of all, I think most of us agree that when the Patrol Method method experience is applied correctly, leadership development will take place naturally. ... 100% correct ... In fact, just about all the decision making character skills scouts develop during their scouting experiences are learned mostly by observing the actions of others in the patrol method activities. Most scouts will learn the habits of good leadership if they simply just hang around their patrol for a few years. I can go into that deeper if you like, but my experience as an adult in a boy run program confirms that premise. I have watch even the most shy and introverted scouts make leadership decisions when they found themselves in situations that required them to step up. How did they know what to do, they just did what they had observed and experienced during their scouting experience. 

The problem isn't developing leadership without a direct leadership POR experience, the problem is adults trusting that the Patrol Method method does develop leadership decision making habits simply by participating in a Patrol..

There was a large Council about 25 years ago that was considering removing all youth leadership training from the council because many of the adults felt leadership courses didn't really contribute to their scouting program. The big issue wasn't about taking leadership out, but the adult takeover of patrol method by adults who felt they were taking over the role of leadership. I believe the council stepped back as a result of the problems they were seeing with adult run troops.

If adults aren't trying to reach agreed goals  ... Interesting comment ... , then they develop bad habits that dilute the rest of the program, especially patrol method. Leadership must be considered a priority program strength to insure integrity in the Patrol Method method and the development of character because many leaders would otherwise let their instincts of telling youth how they should run their patrols take over the troop. 

While we talk (at least I do) a lot about character development from the Scouting program, the natural image of scout development is leadership. See, most people think of scouts being prepared as stepping up when the situation requires. Being prepared is the mental ability to step up in stressful situations. Leadership is having the confidence to make a decision when the moment requires a decision for the good of those around. Leadership is making moral and ethical decisions in a moments notice. Scouts don't need leadership courses for those leadership decisions skills, they need to be exposed to many leadership decisions of a long period of time. ... well said ...

If the troubling issue is adults ability of teaching leadership, OK, I'm with you. ... yes it is ... But, if the issue is that the leadership image is just equal among all the strengths a scout will gain during their scouting experiences, then I don't agree. Leadership, as an image of scouting strengths,  is a higher strength along with character and should be marketed as such because it is each scouts leadership habits (even the scouts without direct leadership experience) that are learned in the program that set them apart from the habits learned in other youth organizations. Adults need to learn how to lean on patrol method for leadership development, not on leadership courses to achieve the method. Leadership courses have their place for reinforcing proper management and leadership habits, but not as the primary approach leadership development.

I know this was a long way of saying that Leadership is very important for the image of scouting. It's not as simple as just saying leadership will come to those who play the game, it must be emphasized that leadership is one of the most important traits of a scout and the scout must play the game to develop the skills.

Sorry for the long post. 

Barry

Well written!  I questioned focusing on leadership because troops don't teach it well.  I question focusing on leadership because scout's don't show up to take leadership courses.  

... "adult run" ... I'm not really sure anymore what it means.  I've seen so many adults argue over "adult run" and "boy led" that I'm tired of the discussion.  I've seen so many adults proudly assert teach leadership with actions and comments that I found incredibly destructive.  At this point, I just don't trust the average (or above average) scout leader to teach leadership. 

... I'm okay saying leadership is important to the image of scouting and the marketing of scouting.  Fine.  I agree.   But when you say what do scouts do at meetings and what do troops to as part of the scouting program, I want to remove much of the explicit emphasis on leadership.  

EXAMPLE:  Patrol needs to plan for a campout.  SPL (or SM supporting SPL) should say to pick menu, who's going to shop, who shares tents, who brings what, what activities, etc.  Then, let the PL work thru it with his patrol.  They will stumble the first several times.  But by the 10th time, their gears should be greased and they start having success.  Perhaps a few small conversations such as (SPL or SM):   (SPL/SM-->PL)  Ready for this weekend? ... or...  What's your big meal?   ... or ... how many are going ... Simple quick questions that let the PL speak, represent and reflect on how thepatrol is doing.  

I'll stand with my original statement though.   "Leadership.  I just don't think troops teach it well.  I question focusing on leadership.  I question encouraging adults to teach leadership.  Scouts will learn leadership naturally by trying to get their scouts out doing things.  Be active, etc.  "

I've seen troops with check-list after check-list.  I've seen troops that don't feel like they can develop leadership because they lack senior scouts.  I've seen patrol meetings where two or three adults hover at the patrol meeting to help the patrol run effective patrol meetings.  I've seen adults inject and badger on how to be a leader so much that I'm tired of watching it crash and burn.  ...  Worse, I don't think adults agree on how to teach leadership or how to do youth led.  

I'd much rather see our emphasis being:  Hey, we haven't done a 50 mile bike trip this year?  Who has a good idea where to go?  The leadership development will come thru the stress of participation and being active and doing interesting things.   Hey, we've got 15 miles left and two hours before dark.  We better finish eating and get moving so we have time to setup our tents for the night.  

My apologies if I sounds harsh.  I don't intend to be.  Written words always appear more harsh than the spoken voice. ...  I'd really like scouts to get back to being active and doing interesting things as the key method to teach leadership.  I'm always sad talking with Eagle scouts who's troop didn't camp much or never went on a canoe trip or never was really stretched as part of the program.  

Edited by fred8033
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Let's hope that we don't have a group that wants to "re-imagine" the BSA and it's programs.  The Cub movement toward heavily family oriented over the last 10 - 15 years was not getting in the droves o

Probably re-hashing a really old argument yet another time.  ... I agree that we don't need to keep re-imaging BSA and the programs.  I would say though that I disagree on the strengths.  I feel like

I advocate for the Fieldbook as a primary resource too. Especially the first one. I often find copies of these at garage sales for $1. I have mentioned in the past a patrol could go page by page with

On 7/4/2021 at 3:18 PM, ALongWalk said:

Yep, 100% agree. Get the kids in the outdoors and the other things (leadership development, etc.) will happen anyway. 

The funny thing is we have pretty much the ideal opportunity to sell that kind of outdoor fun right now. Parents are favoring outdoor activities over indoor because of COVID, and the BSA still encouraging the same, if you can do something outside instead of inside do it outside. I haven't held a den meeting indoors since Feb 2020.

We're pretty good at getting kids outside and having fun. If only we had a National marketing campaign available to us to reach local families with that kind of outdoors-heavy message. Instead, the latest marketing materials and stock photography we have from national are heavy on masks, which is trending out of fashion for parents, especially in outdoor settings.

We're missing out on an opportunity to sell what we do best, at a time when we are outside even more than we have been in years past.

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Outside of an Eagle board of review I have never heard a kid say they joined Scouts to " become a fine leader"; "learn to be self reliant"; "learn important lessons that will help me through my life's journey" or any of the other grand ideas that many Scout leaders focus on.  Nooooooo, instead I hear things like " to camp out"; "so I can have a knife"; "to go swimming"; "to go to summer camp"; "to mess with fire"; or simply " to have FUN."  I just can't help to wonder how many young people are very disappointed and just walk away because they didn't get what they thought they would get.

 

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7 minutes ago, Mrjeff said:

Outside of an Eagle board of review I have never heard a kid say they joined Scouts to " become a fine leader"; "learn to be self reliant"; "learn important lessons that will help me through my life's journey" or any of the other grand ideas that many Scout leaders focus on.  Nooooooo, instead I hear things like " to camp out"; "so I can have a knife"; "to go swimming"; "to go to summer camp"; "to mess with fire"; or simply " to have FUN."  I just can't help to wonder how many young people are very disappointed and just walk away because they didn't get what they thought they would get.

 

I'm not sure what you are saying here, but the discussion of this rabbit trail is about the ideological images of scouting, not the activities of the program. Most scouts also haven't heard the BSA Mission, Vision, Aims, and Methods. But, those ideals and program strategies hold the program on the ideological course of developing scouts to make confident decisions based from the Oath and Law.

I do agree you that many scouts have been disappointed by a program that isn't presented in the FUN of outdoors as they were expecting. But, that is different discussion.

Barry

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3 hours ago, Eagledad said:

I'm not sure what you are saying here, but the discussion of this rabbit trail is about the ideological images of scouting, not the activities of the program. Most scouts also haven't heard the BSA Mission, Vision, Aims, and Methods. But, those ideals and program strategies hold the program on the ideological course of developing scouts to make confident decisions based from the Oath and Law.

I do agree you that many scouts have been disappointed by a program that isn't presented in the FUN of outdoors as they were expecting. But, that is different discussion.

Barry

I'm not sure it is a different discussion.   Perhaps it is one of many rabbit holes why scouting has declined, but fundamentally scouting has disappointed too many kids.  ... speaking from my perspective ... what I've seen is we begin to hold such high ideals for scouting that we then forget it's the simple stuff that makes the magic.  The fires.  The burnt pancakes.  The laughs.  The outdoors.   Scouting too often becomes like school or like drudge work and it doesn't have to be that way.  

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2 hours ago, fred8033 said:

Perhaps it is one of many rabbit holes why scouting has declined, but fundamentally scouting has disappointed too many kids.  ... speaking from my perspective ... what I've seen is we begin to hold such high ideals for scouting that we then forget it's the simple stuff that makes the magic.  The fires.  The burnt pancakes.  The laughs.  The outdoors.   Scouting too often becomes like school or like drudge work and it doesn't have to be that way.  

One of the most alarming, although slightly funny,  experiences I had on this subject was with my last AOL den. At their cross over ceremony they were so pumped and ready to be Scouts. All they wanted to do was camp,  hike, shoot, high adventure, etc. And then the Scoutmaster got up and said a few words of welcome to them. He spent the next few minutes talking to them about leadership, hard work, merit badges and how Eagle Scout would look on their college applications; how important it was to "get it all done" before things got real busy for them in high school. He told them that the challenges they would face would help them develop life skills they would need. He told them being in scouts would develop leadership skills that would be recognized by future employees and help them get a job... I never saw a bunch of 10 year old kids deflate so fast. Parents couldn't pull out the checkbooks fast enough but all those pumped up scouts were  suddenly full of apprehension and somber faces. What was thought of as fun suddenly sounded like work. I think as adults we sometimes get carried away with things that seem important to us but are not necessarily as important to kids. I do believe a lot of kids walk away, especially during those critical cross over years, because scouting at times is more what adults want it to be. You can still supposedly be a boy led, patrol based unit and have the culture largely driven by adult expectations and egos. 

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6 hours ago, yknot said:

One of the most alarming, although slightly funny,  experiences I had on this subject was with my last AOL den. At their cross over ceremony they were so pumped and ready to be Scouts. All they wanted to do was camp,  hike, shoot, high adventure, etc. And then the Scoutmaster got up and said a few words of welcome to them. He spent the next few minutes talking to them about leadership, hard work, merit badges and how Eagle Scout would look on their college applications; how important it was to "get it all done" before things got real busy for them in high school. He told them that the challenges they would face would help them develop life skills they would need. He told them being in scouts would develop leadership skills that would be recognized by future employees and help them get a job... I never saw a bunch of 10 year old kids deflate so fast. Parents couldn't pull out the checkbooks fast enough but all those pumped up scouts were  suddenly full of apprehension and somber faces. What was thought of as fun suddenly sounded like work. I think as adults we sometimes get carried away with things that seem important to us but are not necessarily as important to kids. I do believe a lot of kids walk away, especially during those critical cross over years, because scouting at times is more what adults want it to be. You can still supposedly be a boy led, patrol based unit and have the culture largely driven by adult expectations and egos. 

Very well written.  ... I've seen that exact thing repeatedly ...    And it drives me crazy.   Presenting to youth the reasons adults want them in scouting and then overly focusing on why adults want them in scouting.  ... Then, forgetting the whole reason so many youth loved scouting.   It does feel like a lot of ego stroking while ignoring the promise to youth why they want to be there. 

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Minimum of 11 campouts and 1 summer camp. Adults don’t cook, shop for groceries, and butt out. Have free time, allow Scouts of higher rank sign off for those of lower rank, meet 1/ week, and advancement and leadership happen. Have fun, get “credit for it” via advancement, let Scouts plan and run it, and leadership skills are developed. 

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On 7/6/2021 at 12:31 PM, fred8033 said:

I questioned focusing on leadership because troops don't teach it well.  I question focusing on leadership because scout's don't show up to take leadership courses

Maybe, rather than "teaching" leadership there should be focus on giving scouts "opportunities to learn" leadership or even just "an appreciation" of leadership. Encouraging an internal motivation rather than forcing an external motivation is the difference between fun and school. My son had a soccer coach whose goal was for the kids to learn a "love for the game". He figured if the kids had that then they'd figure out the skills on their own.

All of the check boxes and "leadership skills" are external motivation. While some of that is needed to prime the pump, the real goal is beyond that. Making requirements more and more detailed is going the wrong way. 

How to describe and sell this in a phrase, to both new parents and adult leadership, is the basis of making the adult method work. There's an aspect of play that's also important. Learning how to get along and take care of each other while playing in the outdoors sounds more inviting to me.

 

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Posted (edited)

The method is “leadership development,” not “teaching leadership” for a reason. The way I figure it, responsibility plus service develops leadership. Coincidentally, responsibility and service enable one to fulfill the vision of the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with your mates.

Our job is to show scouts (and the rest of the world, for that matter) how they can be responsible and provide service. We give them a vision of scouting (just like @yknot’s AOL den did), offer opportunities like @MattR describes, throw in the occasional management tool (e.g., rope and tarp, map and compass, cook kit and recipes, …) and watch scouts develop leadership.

Inasmuch as we muddle that vision, we lose membership.

Edited by qwazse
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6 minutes ago, qwazse said:

The method is “leadership development,” not “teaching leadership” for a reason. The way I figure it, responsibility plus service develops leadership.

This is it. The cool thing about scouting is that the structure is there, just do it. Camping is fun. Camping is also unpredictable and thus provides natural situations where things go wrong and Scouts step up or learn. The fact it is unpredictable is so key since that is what allows for leadership situations. 

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So, to work back the history a little-bit (as some of you are about to roll your eyes):

  • In the sixties, National instituted the ageist policy of restricting advancement to those under 18 because Eagle Scout "is a boy's award."
  • The removal of "observe-and-report" badges like Bird Study and the rise of book-work badges ensued.
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    Leadership Development did not emerge as a distinct "Method" of Scouting in the BSA until 1972, when the Sixth Edition of the Scoutmaster's Handbook was published. 

    http://inquiry.net/leadership/index.htm

  • In 1973, the steady decline in BSA membership began and continues until this day.
  • In 1982, cue Stevie Wonder, I wish.

Yep.

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Outside of an Eagle board of review I have never heard a kid say they joined Scouts to " become a fine leader"; "learn to be self reliant"; "learn important lessons that will help me through my life's journey" or any of the other grand ideas that many Scout leaders focus on.  Nooooooo, instead I hear things like " to camp out"; "so I can have a knife"; "to go swimming"; "to go to summer camp"; "to mess with fire"; or simply " to have FUN."  I just can't help to wonder how many young people are very disappointed and just walk away because they didn't get what they thought they would get.

 

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Ideological view of what Scouting is.  You lost me on that.  Whose Ideological views?  The general public; volunteers; professionals; parents; or most importantly, the kids?  It's a simple concept that kids want to have fun and be entertained.  They aren't too interested is being in school and learning lessons on their free time.  I'll not bore yall justifying this opinion, but please accept it as my own.  If I do what I am supposed to do as a Scouter, I am the facilitator and give the kids what they want and need to have fun.  Then I slip in some leadership opportunities and even some tips on how to be successful, and sit back and watch the show.  This is my simple formula and I am deliberately excluding adult supervision, YPT, guide to safe scouting, and all the other "do nots" because I don't want to start more crap on how things should be done.  I'm simply presenting MY simple formula for success with kids of all ages in all settings.

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13 hours ago, Mrjeff said:

Ideological view of what Scouting is.  You lost me on that.  Whose Ideological views?  The general public; volunteers; professionals; parents; or most importantly, the kids?  It's a simple concept that kids want to have fun and be entertained.  They aren't too interested is being in school and learning lessons on their free time.  I'll not bore yall justifying this opinion, but please accept it as my own.  If I do what I am supposed to do as a Scouter, I am the facilitator and give the kids what they want and need to have fun.  Then I slip in some leadership opportunities and even some tips on how to be successful, and sit back and watch the show.  This is my simple formula and I am deliberately excluding adult supervision, YPT, guide to safe scouting, and all the other "do nots" because I don't want to start more crap on how things should be done.  I'm simply presenting MY simple formula for success with kids of all ages in all settings.

Great comments.

I think about the great scoutmasters I've known.  When they brag, it's not about number of Eagle scouts or how they ran their troops.  They brag about trips to the rockies or bike trips or camping at the state fair grounds or summer camp storms or ...  It's never about how effective or well organized the troop was.  

 

Edited by fred8033
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