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Going by the Book, or Changing to Encourage Participation


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Is a program better of to stick with the BSA program (as trained), or change the program to keep youth interested?

I realize this is a bit of an open-ended question.  A general example is that National provides training and guidance that tells us the troop should follow certain procedures. When some of the youth in the troop don't want to do those things, they will complain often to parents who then give the SM an earful. In some cases, youth quit because the troop and patrol expects them to meet certain obligations and be responsible. Recently had a parent pull the kid out of the troop because the parent didn't think their boy should be responsible for helping maintain patrol gear. SM didn't bend on this one, but in other cases has. Some of these parents are influential in the CO, so the SM is put into a difficult political situation.

Part of me thinks that if a youth doesn't want to do scout things, then he shouldn't be in the program. Once we start modifying the program to accommodate, then the program and the scouts suffer. 

 

 

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This discussion is the cart before the horse. What is the purpose of scouting? What is the purpose of the activities? I learned as I gained experience to measure if each activities was providing a pos

Any of the methods, if done right, are fine. The problem is there are so many that everyone gets lost in the weeds and can't see the forest. I'd replace woodbadge with a 5 day class on creating f

My son just asked his best friend why he dropped out of scouting (from another troop).  He said Boy Scouts is 10 hours of boring meetings for every weekend of camping.   He can just go camping without

There's certainly a middle path between going by the book and adapting. Not all change is good, but not all change is bad. The program is local and flexible for a reason. For example, I personally think the taut-line hitch should be replaced with a more modern and effective knot. But learning to tie an adjustable knot that holds under tension is a big part of camping/scout or bushcraft. Similarly, functioning as a patrol is a big part of scouting. What exactly that means can vary, but keeping up with communal gear matters.

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2 hours ago, ramanous said:

Is a program better of to stick with the BSA program (as trained), or change the program to keep youth interested?

That's not very specific.

2 hours ago, ramanous said:

Recently had a parent pull the kid out of the troop because the parent didn't think their boy should be responsible for helping maintain patrol gear.

That is. I agree with the SM, and the program in this case.

2 hours ago, ramanous said:

Some of these parents are influential in the CO, so the SM is put into a difficult political situation.

Something tells me this is getting closer to the problem at hand. Can you give us a bit more information? This sounds like new parents that don't like how the troop is run. Could it be they still like the cub scout model and don't understand the scout model? If so, this is a common problem.

 

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In a Scout troop, everyone pulls his weight and does his/her share of the work.  BP said, "Never do anything for a Scout that a Scout can do for himself." 

hat's the program.  No, I don't think it should be changed.

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There are several "books" as well. 

  • YPT/barriers to abuse ... Enforce 100%. 
  • G2SS... Attempt to follow 100%; however, I'm sure there has been some violations.
  • Program books (various handbooks, etc.) ... each Troop has their own spin on the program.  Enforce the procedures/rules your Troop follow based on what the PLC/adults agree upon.

In your case, the scout isn't following your Troop's very reasonable expectation, then they have the choice to leave.  

Now, I was ranting a bit tas I was backpacking with my Troop this past weekend.  I was complaining to one of my ASMs that I am seeing less and less engagement from scouts in our overnight activities but far more in day only merit badge sessions.  Another leader indicated he has heard similar feedback from Troops in our area (merit badge sessions "selling" out but camporees, overnights lacking attendance).  The ASM said ... well, perhaps the market has changed and you need to change with it.  She said that perhaps scouting should just be merit badge clinics and summer camps going forward.  I didn't like that answer, but I don't know if I have a better one. 

How does this apply ... if you build a Troop program which results in no scouts wanting to be in the Troop ... well, then what's the point?  The example you gave seems pretty clear.  However, if there are rules your Troop has that your PLC doesn't find valuable and just turns kids off of scouting ... then it is ok to reevaluate the rules.  The key is that the rules should be enforced uniformly across all scouts.  That should be clear to the SM, CO and all involved.

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4 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

There are several "books" as well. 

  • YPT/barriers to abuse ... Enforce 100%. 
  • G2SS... Attempt to follow 100%; however, I'm sure there has been some violations.
  • Program books (various handbooks, etc.) ... each Troop has their own spin on the program.  Enforce the procedures/rules your Troop follow based on what the PLC/adults agree upon.

In your case, the scout isn't following your Troop's very reasonable expectation, then they have the choice to leave.  

Now, I was ranting a bit tas I was backpacking with my Troop this past weekend.  I was complaining to one of my ASMs that I am seeing less and less engagement from scouts in our overnight activities but far more in day only merit badge sessions.  Another leader indicated he has heard similar feedback from Troops in our area (merit badge sessions "selling" out but camporees, overnights lacking attendance).  The ASM said ... well, perhaps the market has changed and you need to change with it.  She said that perhaps scouting should just be merit badge clinics and summer camps going forward.  I didn't like that answer, but I don't know if I have a better one. 

How does this apply ... if you build a Troop program which results in no scouts wanting to be in the Troop ... well, then what's the point?  The example you gave seems pretty clear.  However, if there are rules your Troop has that your PLC doesn't find valuable and just turns kids off of scouting ... then it is ok to reevaluate the rules.  The key is that the rules should be enforced uniformly across all scouts.  That should be clear to the SM, CO and all involved.

I notice this as well...many Scouts camp just enough to fulfill requirements.

It is about advancement and Eagle Scout.  It's about padding the college resume and applying for scholarships and service academy appointments.

For most, parents included, it is not about character or any of the other seven methods of Scouting other than advancement... my opinion/observation

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5 hours ago, ramanous said:

... Recently had a parent pull the kid out of the troop because the parent didn't think their boy should be responsible for helping maintain patrol gear. SM didn't bend on this one, but in other cases has. ...

First, it's really easy to go down a rabbit hole over any scout who leaves over how you do things. Especially if you start insisting on things that you might not have before. The question to ask yourself, are the other scouts happy with the decision?

Secondly, is everyone becoming more worried about equipment than about scouts? This happens when troops invest in more and more gear to the point that patrols have a lot to maintain?

Putting it together, I take kids on backpacking trips that not everyone in our troop wants to do. (Those of you who hike a lot would consider these to be very easy excursions.) I get thank-you notes from a scout or two (at most) ... that's about as many as I get from new scouts who enjoyed their first summer camp. So, looking at the positive, I consider backpacking on par with summer camp for this lot.

Based on the positive reviews of the orienteering course at summer camp, I thought we would be doing a lot more of it this year. It didn't turn out that way. Scouts are still smiling. I'll call it a win.

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The original question is too broad and circling around a root problem.  

 

12 hours ago, malraux said:

... The program is local and flexible ...

Key statement.  

8 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:
  • YPT/barriers to abuse ... Enforce 100%. 
  • G2SS... Attempt to follow 100%; however, I'm sure there has been some violations.
  • Program books (various handbooks, etc.) ... each Troop has their own spin on the program.  Enforce the procedures/rules your Troop follow based on what the PLC/adults agree upon.

Well said.

8 hours ago, Eagledad said:

What is the purpose of scouting? What is the purpose of the activities? ...  to measure if each activities was providing a positive growth opportunity for the scout. Mostly character, but other growth as well. By measuring each activity, I was forcing myself to understand the goals of the program, as well as insure the activities were presented in a manor that would produce growth. ...

HOWEVER, scouting is game with a purpose and if the game isn't fun, then what is the point of the purpose if nobody comes. I made two deals with our scouts after each SPL election: 1. If I can't justify the purpose of the activity toward growth, they can take it out of the program. No questions asked. 2. If the activity is not fun, it must be changed. 

We adults are here to build ethical and moral decision makers. We are given the sub goals of Aims, and the tools of methods. ... 

Agree.  ... I wish we'd de-emphasize the aims and structures.  Focus more on the game and developing active scouts.  Hike.  Camp.  Explore.  A variety of activities every month including a weekend overnight.  New experiences regularly.  Past favorites repeated.  Higher experiences periodically.  ... The rest will happen..

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

I was complaining to one of my ASMs that I am seeing less and less engagement from scouts in our overnight activities but far more in day only merit badge sessions.  Another leader indicated he has heard similar feedback from Troops in our area (merit badge sessions "selling" out but camporees, overnights lacking attendance).  The ASM said ... well, perhaps the market has changed and you need to change with it.

17 hours ago, Eagle1993 said:

How does this apply ... if you build a Troop program which results in no scouts wanting to be in the Troop ... well, then what's the point? 

Thought a lot about this last night...

The market has only changed in that it is now easier to "be awarded" a badge or rank, than to earn it.  This is the reason many pursue these "easier" opportunities.

Waxing philosophical:

I tend to frame a lot of things based on human nature.  Here, it's our tendency to choose the path of least resistance...the easy way, rather than the right way.

As I have said before here, it is fairly simple to lie, cheat, and steal your way to Eagle Scout.

Most (yes, I mean most) merit badge programs I have seen at summer camps and merit badge colleges are lacking in integrity.  Instructors, counselors, and leaders are all complicit in the scheme... pay your fee, get your degree.  Few Scouts complete the requirements as written.  First year camper programs across the board are egregious offenders.

I was guilty of this myself as a youth.  When on staff at summer camp, the Program Director tasked me to teach merit badges I didn't have, and signed them off for me after I taught the class.  This still happens a lot these days.  In hindsight, I didn't really earn those badges until about the fourth or fifth time through teaching them, as I actually learned and completed the requirements.

We also did a merit badge trading scheme.  In Scoutcraft, I'd put in a blue card for my buddy in aquatics for a merit badge, and he did the same for me.  Thankfully (again, in hindsight) we got caught.  Rather than firing us on the spot, the Camp Director used it as a discipline, teaching, and mentoring opportunity.  I had lots of other great life lessons from him over the years I worked for him on staff.  He helped put me on a good path.

Matthew 7: 13-14

I see lots of corruption (for lack of a better word) all around.  I see it in Scouts, schools, and everyday life.  People lying about what they have done, cutting corners, and cheating themselves and others for the easy way to get some prize (like a merit badge or a paycheck.)  Again, I have done the same on many occasions, so I'm not just casting aspersions on others.  Guilty as charged.  But I do not accept the behavior.  Over my years, the frequency became less and less... and still not perfect, but trying every day.

When I have discussions with Scouts about being trustworthy, I share my failures, too, and what I have learned.  I often ask about some of the more difficult requirements for merit badges they have, to find that they did not complete them as written.  There is a sheepish grin, downcast eyes, and the "I've been found out!  look on their faces.)  And then I ask them what they think they should do about that.  Many have then gone back and completed the task as written. And we talk about how they felt after they did it the right way.  There is a sense of relief, from a burden of sorts.  There is a better lesson in integrity, confidence, self-esteem, and ethical and moral decision-making in that than any merit badge or rank itself can offer.

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Recent Eagle Project:   Tommy Scout came to us and we worked to define his project.  Fewer things to do, smaller bites.  Must define things that CAN be accomplished, completed.   He understood.  Working with his dad and mom (separated), the mom was a stand back and watch person: whatever  Tommy wants, I'll help. Dad was more take charge. Him, I had to remind that he was a "consultant", he was "cheap labor"   anyone asks him ANYTHING, his response must be "Ask Tommy".... He  eventually came around to that.  

This is the mind set that our Scouts have recently grown up with . I saw it in the middle school classes I sub taught.... Wait for the teacher to give the clue as to what they want to hear.  Don't volunteer. Don't take ownership of a thing, the parent in loco will do it FOR me.  Being responsible for my "fun"  (choose, plan,  execute the activity) is a new thing to kids that have become complacent and used to WATCHING the fun be provided (videos, PC games,  virtual stuff).   Even the ""good"" computer games (Minecraft?) are ultimately spoonfed stuff. There is a definite, limited set of choices.  Not so out in the woods.   

Over protective?  Wife and I were reminincing.....  How her mom and dad would not hesitate to let them and their friends at 6 and 7 years old , cross the road to the store WITHOUT ADULT ESCORT (horrors) .  Today, same neighborhood?  Not on your life..  Busier road,  store is still there, but  not the same ethos, for sure.   Wander around in the woods, get muddy in the creek , not come home until dinner time?  Again, different time, different ethos.  

But we can adapt.  That's what Scouting is about.   Scoutmaster, Cubmaster,   allow choices.  The Scout can be out in the woods,  given/taught skills to lead to self confidence (I can do this).   Being REQUIRED to read "Hatchet"  in middle school leads to NOT WANTING to read it , not wanting to consider it's implications (could I, a twelve year old computer gamer, do this?) .  

That's why we do what we (try) to do.....

See you on the trail.....

 

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9 hours ago, fred8033 said:

The original question is too broad and circling around a root problem.  

 

Key statement.  

Well said.

Agree.  ... I wish we'd de-emphasize the aims and structures.  Focus more on the game and developing active scouts.  Hike.  Camp.  Explore.  A variety of activities every month including a weekend overnight.  New experiences regularly.  Past favorites repeated.  Higher experiences periodically.  ... The rest will happen..

I'm not sure what to think about this. I'm up for discussion, but I believe 95% percent of scouters couldn't even quote the Aims (character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness). or Methods (ideals, Patrols, Outdoor Programs, Advancement, Association with Adults, Personal growth, Leadership Development and Uniform). .And, those who can quote the Aims and Methods generally believe that the adults are responsible for both the Aims and Methods. 

 I don't think knowing the Aims and Methods is the problem. I personally believe that not knowing how to use Aims and Methods is the greater problem. And I blame our National Leaders. First example, I purposely left out one of the Aims, "Leadership Development". How can leadership development be tool for developing character habits and goal of developing moral and ethical decision makers at the same time? Talk about confusing and complex. I'm ashamed for our National Scouters ignorance of our program. If the top leaders don' t get it, how can they translate it to adults in the trenches?

I fully agree with your suggestions of "Hike.  Camp.  Explore.  A variety of activities every month including a weekend overnight.  New experiences regularly.  Past favorites repeated.  Higher experiences periodically". You get it. And I believe those are synonyms of the 8 Methods we need to pass along to new scouters. But, there is more to developing a scout than your list like duty, serving and honor. Those are the noble actions of the scout law . 

Part of the problem is that adults don't respect youths mature nature to want to serve and grow in character. In fact, you will find that puberty drives that desire of youth, but troops don't provide activities to exercise it. I tried something with my PLC's that I didn't know where it would go. I challenge our PLC to set goals at each campout that would Develop Character, Practice Citizenship and develop mental and physical fitness. I gave them the Aims, of which I believe really belong to the adults. But I was trying to build a troop where the adults didn't have to show up for the program to function. 

It turned out to be no big deal to the scouts. Character development was working together to make decisions. Really what that turned out to be was scouts respectfully listening to each other. Citizenship was doing community service projects like picking up trash monthly by a section of road or camp improvement projects at campsites. There were many others, but these were routine. Fitness was easy because the PLC just planned hikes, swimming and other typical outdoor exercises. 

But, here is what I observed that surprised me; the PLC got use to planning camp service projects on every campout. They would ask the owner or manager of the area we camped for some service needed to clean up or improve the area. Camps always need some maintenance and clean up and a troop of 80 scouts can get a lot done in an hour or so. Well, when we went to summer camp, I noticed the scouts planning campsite projects just a couple days into the week. Nobody was asking, they just started doing projects that improved our campsite.  One project was building retention walls where the rain was washing the ground away. That was a troop effort that took almost the whole week. The camp director was amazed because nobody asked and it was a large effort.

The adults didn't encourage the scouts to take on these projects. It wasn't even our the adult radar. The scouts just got in the habit of doing service projects and initiated the tasks themselves, without even asking the camp director or troop leaders. The projects weren't burdens that required begging, The scouts found the work to be rewarding at several different levels. The monthly trash pickup turned into opportunities for young scouts to lead for experience. They weren't getting leadership credit, but it was opportunities of experience. I took advantage of it by training new scouters to assist the scout for the experience of letting the scout lead and work the task and only stepping in when the scout requested. The activities motivated from aim of citizenship was turning into a huge growing opportunities for the adults and scouts. 

Now, these things aren't always as easy at they sound, but all I'm saying is if the program is struggling because the scouts aren't having fun, it might be because the scouts aren't being allowed to define fun. And, a program doesn't need to ignore actions of character like discipline, regimental tasks and schedule routines to be a fun program. 

Scouting for adults is hard and it takes practice. But, if the adults don't like what they see, they should fix it. And more than likely the change needs to be simpler and giving the scouts more ownership.  Stepping back is hard for adults. It has to be practiced to be perfected. And it will never be perfect.

The simple issue is the program has to be fun, but the scouts should be involved of defining fun. That doesn't mean the actions that define the nobility of scouting should be ignored for fear of not being fun. They just need to be defined as part of scouting and developed in a fun way. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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I purposely left out one of the Aims, "Leadership Development". How can leadership development be tool for developing character habits and goal of developing moral and ethical decision makers at the same time?

I concur with your previous statement about the Aims & Methods. As an Aim, perhaps its better worded or "Ethical Leadership" or "Servient Leadership".  And, your idea about setting goals for the PLC is great. Now, just to convince our SM to try it.

Above discussion wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I posted, but nonetheless all good comments related to my concerns. I'm a newer, but not new, scouter, and 80s era Eagle Scout. I've definitely been troubled by the same things mentioned in these posts....

... requirements being relaxed or ignored outright. SM/BOR/TLC seem to pay no mind. I know the SM/BOR are NOT to test/retest the Scout on the requirement, but they should at least question themselves about how it happens.

... emphasis on earning Eagle more than achieving the Aims of scouting

... lack of Leadership Development, Patrol methods, and more about individual achievements

Now, I wonder if this is at least partially the result of unreasonable expectations. The idea that a scout should make First Class in a year? I question how many 11 year olds are mature enough to complete the laundry list of requirements to the letter (I've read guide to advancement, so I know to look at the wording of the requirement carefully.) Then, there are issues like First Class cooking requirement, where you have to break the patrol method in order to get enough opportunities for upcoming scouts to meet the requirement (not to mention the similar cooking & camping mb requirement)

And Eagle Coaches? That position exists for one reason: Troop priority placed on Advancement above any other Scouting method.  

On the other hand, there's little emphasis placed on Leadership Development. I think ILST and NYLT should be a requirement to get Eagle, along with a meaningful leadership role like Patrol Leader and probably some requirement to participating in creating a troop program. We have a couple Eagles who have NEVER been Patrol Leaders, let along served as SPL or in the PLC. And, that sets an example. Librarian, Historian, etc are not taken seriously by the scouts; they are patches to get easy "leadership" credit to meet rank requirements.

I don't blame the scouts for this, or even think its an issue with "today's kids". Maybe its the parents that don't know or don't care that Scouting is more than just "getting an Eagle" rank. Channeling Ed Demming, is it the people or the process (program)? I mean, we really weren't that much different in the 80's then now. I had plenty of distractions, including video games, exhaust fumes and perfume. Of course, the program changed in '89 but I don't know how much that had to do with any of this. One thing that is different: we have a lot more adults involved now than then, and most of them are not parents and have no interest in scouting skills beyond frontcounty camping. I suspect most are there for the fellowship with other adults.

From a scouter preservative, we take various standardized training. But when the Key3 vary from the standard, it makes our roles as adults confusing. I've been called out by the SM a few times for "doing things wrong" when in fact I was going by the book (which is consistent with my experience as a Scout also). I've pointed that out, and at least one instance was told "today's scouts are different", which relates to the above. Hard to volunteer in this environment where isn't clear the actual process being followed. Not following the plan (when there is one), also sets a bad example.

 

Edited by ramanous
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1 minute ago, ramanous said:

Now, I wonder if this is at least partially the result of unreasonable expectations. The idea that a scout should make First Class in a year?

This is certainly one piece of the puzzle.  A Scout should make first class when it darn well pleases him, and he has the motivation to do the requirements.  In most Troop programs I see, everything is repeatedly spoonfed to them, or outright pencil-whipped.

2 minutes ago, ramanous said:

I think ILST and NYLT should be a requirement to get Eagle, along with a meaningful leadership role like Patrol Leader and probably some requirement to participating in creating a troop program.

I love the idea of ILST and NYLT being required.  An implementation plan might need a bit of work, but I think this is doable.  Meaningful leadership roles?  Now there's a failure I've been trying to crack the code on for a while.  Librarian and Historian (and Bugler and Assistant Patrol Leader, for that matter) can be meaningful leadership positions.  This depends on the Scout having a session to set meaningful goals (SMART goals a la NYLT), and having to be accountable for them.  This leadership development takes a lot of time and follow up, but merit badges and rank accumulation tend to get in the way.  I say make the writing and accomplishment of SMART goals part of the requirement for these leadership positions.  

BTW, "No" to requiring they must be a PL or SPL.  You can be a great leader as a Den Chief or a Chaplain Aide, or Chief-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer.

3 minutes ago, ramanous said:

From a scouter preservative, we take various standardized training. But when the Key3 vary from the standard, it makes our roles as adults confusing. I've been called out by the SM a few times for "doing things wrong" when in fact I was going by the book (which is consistent with my experience as a Scout also).

Trained adults who follow the program are the most critical element of successful Scouting.  You are doing it well when you follow the standards set, and only deviate when good judgment dictates.  (And be ready to have your judgment questioned.)

3 minutes ago, ramanous said:

Hard to volunteer in this environment where isn't unclear the actual process being followed. Not following the plan (when there is one), also sets a bad example.

Bingo.

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