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35 minutes ago, vol_scouter said:

@HashTagScouts  Even if the is not a new Scout Patrol, the older girl or boy will be learning skills with younger youth while their friends are doing more advanced activities.  To adults, the distinctions are small but for youth, they can be substantial.  I have seen this many times, but others may have seen such situations evolve differently.  

Sorry, but I would never agree you must use that structure. 

My son had zero desire to be in Cubs. He observed the Den of his school friends in Cubs, and saw it of no interest. First troop he joined, SM (who had never been in the program, he took what he learned from the BSA training and what his wife, who had been a Cub leader told him) wouldn't let my kid go to summer camp (assumed it wouldn't be enough time for my son to prepare between when school was over and my son could officially join the troop and when camp began). My son spent the summer reading the BS handbook, learned the Law and Oath, and having a father who had been a Scout he had learned fire-building and appropriate pocket-knife handling, etc. from our father-son outdoor experiences. When the summer was over, my son was was handled differently than the kids his same age who had earned AoL. SM (and his wife), couldn't reconcile that a kid could learn the actual relevant things that Cubs is intended to teach in a matter of a few months. 80% of the Cub program is repetitive from one year to the next. After only a few months, my son was ready to quit the troop, it had become boring, the troop/SM was intent on trying to teach him skills he already knew, rather than letting him go with his age-appropriate peers that were AoL. 

The whole intent of the Scouts BSA program is kids teaching kids. If your 12 year old First Class Scout can't teach another 12 year old the Tenderfoot requirements, you may want to re-evaluate what your 12 year First Class Scout learned getting to that rank.   

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Well kind-of.  Certainly the social issues had an impact on membership, but I suspect it's not the lion's share of the issue.  A very significant issue has been scope creep in sports combined with the

I've heard about that research, but not seen it.   I question reaching the conclusion from the research.  We may be losing opportunity with some families that become committed to other programs,

None yet. Lions came out in 2018. So the first group is only Webelos I's. Got another 8-9 years to see the retention. Now I would like to see the retention rates for that. Closest we can get

@HashTagScouts  We were clearly discussing Scouts BSA because and new Scout Patrols.  I di note that your experiences could be different than has been mine.  Your son was fortunate to have an Eagle Scout dad.  (As an aside, my son and I are both Eagle Scouts).  

The intent of the Scouting program is to develop character through the application of the Scout Oath and Law.  One of the methods is to require youth to lead other youth with consequences.  This is one of the three pillars of character development in youth as has been shown through many academic publications.  

The troops with which I have worked have been very successful in producing young men of character by seeing their success into their mid-forties and younger as well as success in advancement with many Eagles.  Our youth teach one another but a 14-16 year old does not like receiving much teaching from a 12 year old.  They prefer to see themselves as more capable.  Once again, that is my experiences with successful units over more than 30 years as an adult volunteer, yours might be different.  

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11 minutes ago, HashTagScouts said:

The whole intent of the Scouts BSA program is kids teaching kids. If your 12 year old First Class Scout can't teach another 12 year old the Tenderfoot requirements, you may want to re-evaluate what your 12 year First Class Scout learned getting to that rank.   

With a one-and-done scheme of advancement, this is, in fact, what you see now.  Scout skills are dying out.  

Heck, most adults I meet don't know how to do requirements up to First Class.  Most don't even bother reading or learning from the Scout Handbook.  Anymore, few, and very few, are adept at Navigation, First Aid, Swimming and Water Rescue, Plant and Animal ID, basic Citizenship stuff, Wood Tools usage, Ropework & Pioneering, etc. etc. etc...  it is disheartening...

 

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1 hour ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

With a one-and-done scheme of advancement, this is, in fact, what you see now.  Scout skills are dying out.  

Heck, most adults I meet don't know how to do requirements up to First Class.  Most don't even bother reading or learning from the Scout Handbook.  Anymore, few, and very few, are adept at Navigation, First Aid, Swimming and Water Rescue, Plant and Animal ID, basic Citizenship stuff, Wood Tools usage, Ropework & Pioneering, etc. etc. etc...  it is disheartening...

Wow!  We are seeing a little of that in my council.  The troop where I volunteer has a dozen or so Eagle Scouts as adult volunteers who do have all of the skills covered so those boys are lucky.  

How do we attract the alumni to the program?  How do we attract people who are currently active in the outdoors to Scouting?  How do we get them all trained?  I have seen many different kinds of efforts, but none have been all that successful.

Scouting is facing significant problems in almost every part of the organization.  We need everyone who is experienced to remain active or become active again.

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1 hour ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

With a one-and-done scheme of advancement, this is, in fact, what you see now.  Scout skills are dying out.  

Sad but true. I am even seeing this in my troop, and we attempt to be Scout led. And the councils do not seem to help. Many just sign off on MBs at their events.

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"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.' Having said that, we then need to ask ourselves why do kids want to join and why do parents sign them up? The short answer is that kids want to have fun with friends... parents want their kids in a safe, wholesome environment that will support their family values. The quality of the program experience varies widely from one unit to the next. In a perfect world every pack and troop would offer an outstanding program that met the needs of all concerned. We don't live in or operate in that world. This is why a quality district staff including commissioners, trainers and program support volunteers is critical along with solid district/council staff support. Sadly, too many of those elements are missing these days. 

 

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5 hours ago, vol_scouter said:

Once again, this was not research from National but a third party.  The research is solid.

National has released much of their research but for many reasons have not released the raw data.

There's plenty of other research that says kids get burned out. There's also plenty of research that says kids at that age are sampling, not staying. Also, BSA has a long history of using, quote-unquote "Research", to justify marketing and financial goals. If someone on top of the food chain decided that recruiting another younger rank of cubs would increase membership and revenues, then I'm sure they were able to find the necessary research to support it. 

5 hours ago, vol_scouter said:

 Are the early signups for Lions and Tigers really beneficial in the long run or would it be better to join later?  That is a thorny question that would take a huge and expensive survey to complete.

Based on the membership crashes of the past several years, that doesn't seem to be bearing up. During the pandemic, local nature centers, parks departments, etc., reported significant participation increases for elementary age nature programming. Many had waiting lists for programs. 

5 hours ago, vol_scouter said:

 If Cub Scouts was easier to join for a year or two, leave for a year or two, and then return again, I think that the appeal could be increased.  

If we could likewise make Scouts BSA friendlier for coming and going, it might help us to inculcate the values of the Scout Oath and Law into many more children and youth.  Scouts BSA is harder to make it friendly and it has a nearly singular access point at about age 11.  A girl or boy who join much after age 11 could find themselves in a patrol of 11 & 12 year olds that teens usually do not like.

In my opinion, it is critical for growth of the movement to make it easier for youth to join whenever they wish and then to find the program accepting of them at whatever their age.

It's very easy for kids to move in and out of other activities as their interests change or their time limitations vary. There really is no reason why membership in scouting has to be so linked to a unit, council, or in some cases rank. It is truly an impediment to retention and recruitment. One of my nephews joined a troop late in high school simply because he wanted to go camping with some of his friends who he enjoyed other outdoor activities with.  Unfortunately, the troop leadership just did not know what to do with him and he only lasted a few camp outs. 

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43 minutes ago, Ojoman said:

This is why a quality district staff including commissioners, trainers and program support volunteers is critical along with solid district/council staff support.

NOOOOOO!!!! This is why a quality UNIT staff including TRAINED and KNOWLEDGABLE volunteers is critical along with solid so that, ultimately, you have no need of district/council staff support.

This should be the gold standard!  Growing up unit volunteers so they do not need commissioners, district, council, national!!!!!

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31 minutes ago, yknot said:

There's plenty of other research that says kids get burned out. There's also plenty of research that says kids at that age are sampling, not staying. Also, BSA has a long history of using, quote-unquote "Research", to justify marketing and financial goals. If someone on top of the food chain decided that recruiting another younger rank of cubs would increase membership and revenues, then I'm sure they were able to find the necessary research to support it. 

Based on the membership crashes of the past several years, that doesn't seem to be bearing up. During the pandemic, local nature centers, parks departments, etc., reported significant participation increases for elementary age nature programming. Many had waiting lists for programs. 

It's very easy for kids to move in and out of other activities as their interests change or their time limitations vary. There really is no reason why membership in scouting has to be so linked to a unit, council, or in some cases rank. It is truly an impediment to retention and recruitment. One of my nephews joined a troop late in high school simply because he wanted to go camping with some of his friends who he enjoyed other outdoor activities with.  Unfortunately, the troop leadership just did not know what to do with him and he only lasted a few camp outs. 

This is the reality- we became so focused on advancement as program, the organization became less about time spent in the outdoors. The skills learned were of practical nature to the environment we were in. As a youth in Scouts, I slept in a cabin maybe three times. I slept more times in a tent on top of snow than that. We didn't have "trail to First Class" at summer camp. The Troop only had two stoves, so cooking over the fire was the norm. We had a blast, and were dog tired by the end of our weekends. Checking off the boxes in the handbook was the last thing on our minds.

I don't know about the rest of the country, but in New England, seems every council is now running weekends at  council camp that are open to the public, no Scouting membership required. And most of the attendees are not registered in Scouting nor have interest in joining. Cost seems less of the issue from the parent comments shared to me, it's the time commitment- they perceive that Scouting has to be full-time thing, or the kid will "fall behind". I recognize the dilemma for many leaders- if they didn't focus on advancement, they are going to deal with parents upset their kid is not advancing. I've been there. I know of far too many units that can't get enough leaders to spend the whole week at summer camp, so they have to do a rotation. 

Spirit of Adventure Council in MA did not offer summer camp at one of their camps this year. They give a long-term lease to a group of Scouting-affilited individuals to one of their camps, and that group ran a coed camp that wasn't about a Scouting advancement program. They didn't have a great deal of difficulty in getting attendees, and it cost a lot more than a week of Scout camp does. 

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Years ago I discovered that sports wasn't the problem. Our Pack started with 6 families, two years later we had over 50 and a year after that split a new pack off with 30 families and we were still around 50. We had 100% retention except for families that moved away. Kids, Parents, everyone was having a good time and when folks are happy they stay. Yes, we had single parents, yes we had 2 parent working families, yes we had sports to compete with (baseball, soccer, basketball, football, swim team, hockey and more). But we became the competition by running a high quality 12 month program that engaged the families. Don't blame sports. We didn't have the internet but we had to compete with Nintendo and Atari. The troop grew in short order from 2 kids attending meetings to well over 20 and probably went a lot higher but we moved and lost track of them. 

Don't point fingers at sports and family structure to explain the decline. We did take a hit when the decade of resisting the LGBTQ lawsuits and bad press cost us donors including United Way as they were pressured to defund us and as we were labeled bigots and hate mongers. It was an unwinnable fight and more recently we got hit again by the 'shyster' lawyers that used todays standards to judge 30, 40 and 50 year old abuse cases against the BSA and went after the BSA instead of the 'perverts' because the BSA had assets. Many lawyers/law firms specialized in suing the BSA and for my money the BSA mostly rolled over. We got labeled as enablers to sexual predators and our ineligible volunteer files were labeled the "perversion files".  That didn't help our membership much and the whole thing has cost the BSA chartered partner relationships, units and membership. 

Covid seems to have completed the perfect storm as neither the Cub or Scout programs are suited to staying home and doing stuff on line. 

We have a long, hard road ahead of us and I expect many will be too tired or frustrated to continue. Time will tell. But I do agree that making the programs focus advancement instead of leadership, character and citizenship is a mistake. The magic of Scouting was that kids learned to have their character developed by having fun. Greenbar Bill Hillcourt said that "Scouting is a game with a purpose". BP often likened Scouting to 'a game'. Advancement, like character, leadership and citizenship, should happen as a result of 'playing the game'. 

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3 hours ago, InquisitiveScouter said:

NOOOOOO!!!! This is why a quality UNIT staff including TRAINED and KNOWLEDGABLE volunteers is critical along with solid so that, ultimately, you have no need of district/council staff support.

This should be the gold standard!  Growing up unit volunteers so they do not need commissioners, district, council, national!!!!!

You describe perhaps one in 100 units that have the level of commitment/dedication by the leadership to become so competent that they don't require any support. Scouting is supposed to be a brotherhood and the structure was put there for a purpose. God Bless those few highly competent units that run so well but eventually every unit will run into issues as the experience leadership turnover. We need more opportunities like 'Pow Wow's' and 'Univ. of Scouting' events as well as well attended roundtables to deliver the best programs. 

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4 hours ago, yknot said:
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 Are the early signups for Lions and Tigers really beneficial in the long run or would it be better to join later?  That is a thorny question that would take a huge and expensive survey to complete.

Based on the membership crashes of the past several years, that doesn't seem to be bearing up.

All anyone needs to do is to look at the Council membership reports by grade for Cub Scouts and you will see that most packs lose 60% or more of their Lions/Tigers by the Webelos years and many Webelos drop out prior to graduating into troops. Most packs are built like a pyramid with a large base at gr k & 1 and a small group at the top. The reality is that if they are offering a solid program that meets the needs and interests at the various 'ages and stages' of the kids that the Pack would be larger at the top than the bottom as kids would be attracted and join their friends in the later years as they hear about/learn about the great experiences their buddies are having. 

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4 hours ago, Ojoman said:

... The magic of Scouting was that kids learned to have their character developed by having fun. Greenbar Bill Hillcourt said that "Scouting is a game with a purpose". BP often likened Scouting to 'a game'. Advancement, like character, leadership and citizenship, should happen as a result of 'playing the game'. 

This is what I believe 100%.   Absolutely.  

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