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Is Boy Scouting Too Loosey-Goosey?

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The Grand Canyon Council in AZ offers units a Merit and Honor award above and beyond the Quality Unit award. Basically, these awards take the QU awards and raise the bar. OGE, would earning these awards be similar to your unit accreditation idea?


The Grand Canyon Council Merit & Honor Unit awards can be found at http://www.grandcanyonbsa.org/Su456form.php?Cat_IDz=9 just below the QU award applications.



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This is just an outline of what I am talking about; the Grand Canyon Council has an excellent start:


Trained Scoutmaster

Trained Committee Chair

Assistant Scoutmasters 50% trained

Committee 50% trained

Representation at least 75% of Roundtables held in a year

Documentation of 8 regularly held PLC meetings

Documentation of 8 regularly held Committee meetings

Documentation of a Youth leadership training session done within 4 weeks of an election


Patrols have flags and cheers and at least 2 patrol leaders a year


Troop has at least one long term (7days) Camp a year

Meetings are Youth lead

Meetings are Youth planned


Private interviews with SPL, ASPL at least one PL and at least 3 other scouts to verify the troop is boy lead


The program would be totally voluntary, with the participating troops providing the manpower to make it work. This is just a start, I welcome additions, deletions and comments.


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Most accrediting bodies are independent organizations. (or are supposed to be)


Rather than try to get sanctioned by BSA to add a new program, why not form an organization that accredits Youth Organizations. Rather like ISO 9000 wherein you get accredited for following the official program (whatever it may be), getting OGE accredited would mean that Troops follow the BSA rules; Campfire kids follow their rules, etc.


Even without official approval by BSA or others, the idea would be that parents would eventually seek out accredited units and the units would use the recognition as a form of advertising for recruitment.



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The underlying issue is the development of nationwide consistency in how troops do things in order to promote nationwide consistency in the quality of the Boy Scouting program. Enhancing the Quality Unit award or developing new levels of that award is one possibility. Having our trainers strongly emphasize the model BSA program as "the only way to go" is another. Preaching at every opportunity (unit visits by UCs, Roundtable, District Committee meetings) the "every troop should be following the the same fundamental practices and procedures of Boy Scouting" message is yet another. District-level "How To" Training for all youth Positions of Responsibility could be another. A youth-level honor society, like the Order of the Arrow, but dedicated to, say, the Patrol Method and functioning PLCs (the "Green Bar Brotherhood") might be another.


As much fun as our forum discussions are, far too many of them deal with basic troop operations questions that should really never have to come up.


Dan K


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My own solution would be...


1.) Position patches would be restricted items, only awarded upon completion of some level of training (I would argue for Basic, although some might argue for Fast Start)


2.) Scout leadership to be structured like many other professionals- must achieve a certain number of credit hours a year to keep accredited. Non-accredited leaders cannot be rechartered. Roundtable counts for hours, as do many other options, including American Red Cross CPR/First Aid, etc.


3.) Modify rechartering and commisioner staff so that it takes a certain number of visits and 'check-offs' to certify/recharter a unit. Check-offs could include things like strong summer programs, evidence of annual planning, etc.


4.) Streamline the program overall and dump those things that cause problems or division but really don't advance the program. I would include required uniform pants in a heartbeat. Other things I'd drop are 'uniform litter' (the tendency to issue patches for the shirt for every little thing), merit badge classes at unit meetings and many summer camp merit badges, and 'loose' requirements for advancement (like 'show spirit').


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Some thoughts, not in any real order.

If, in my opinion we are going to see any real improvement we need to do it at the unit level.

This could mean that we might need to be more selective in who our Chartered partners are and what they are going to do.

Everything needed to deliver the program (Apart from enthusiasm!!) is covered in a BSA publication. I'm thinking mainly about the Handbooks.

Of course the "Top Guy" in the chartering organization has a lot of other things going on, so the COR would need to play the active role.

The selection of the COR would have to be a very careful selection and he or she would need to be trained and shown where the resources are.

While the Council, District or National can't make the COR accountable to them,he or she would need to be accountable to the CO.

We District types need to really work at improving our relationships with our CO. Having the DE pop in once a year to get a paper signed and having the UC pop in again to get the charter signed is not enough.

Maybe we need a meeting once a year where the people from the District (DE, UC,)meet with the unit leader the COR and the Executive Officer. A report of what is happening in the unit from both the Districts view and the Unit Leaders view could be given. The report could include things that are good and bad:

Near the end of the meeting a plan could be made to correct the bad things. This report could cover any and all things: Untrained or all trained leaders, uniform, advancement, outdoor activities and so on.

We need to stress to the CO how important it is that they select quality leaders and that these leaders work for them, they don't work for us.

Maybe at this meeting it might become apparent that the unit leadership just isn't working and the selection committee needs to meet and select someone who will deliver the program.

If by "Loosey-Goosey" you mean do we have unit leaders that are not delivering the program? The answer is yes, but we didn't select or appoint them. They work for the CO and except in extreme circumstances only the CO or person or persons representing the CO can remove them.


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I think the problem come down to the lack of required training. All adult leader who be required to attend training for their position in the Troop/Pack/Crew. And should that position change, they should be required to attend the training for that position. No patches issued without training certification.


While this won't solve all the problems, it would help minimize most of them.


Ed Mori

Troop 1

1 Peter 4:10

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Eamonn, my thinking is this: Yes, the key to substantial improvement in the quality of our programs is "better" unit leaders. However, because we (BSA, Council, District) don't control the selection and appointment of leaders (the CO does), we can't make significant improvements in the quality of our leaders without making significant changes in our program (such as requiring minimum training, testing, and/or continuting education). Yes, we can do things locally to help make incremental improvements and temporarily improve leader quality, but I think it is fair to say that as priorities change and time passes, local initiatives falter and we return to a situation of uneven leader quality and widely varying levels of interest by the CO.


Therefore, the premise behind this question is that we are stuck with the unit leadership we have -- good, bad, and indifferent. So if we can't change unit leadership or their levels of knowledge, skill, and training, what can we do to raise program quality generally?


Another premise behind this question is that we can't or aren't going to make any substantial changes to the Boy Scouting program itself or major pieces of it (such as the syllabus for SM/ASM Specific Training).


That leaves us with one main area we can play around with: How (and how much) the existing program is used by our existing unit leadership. This is the area where a lot of fundamental weaknesses seem to develop. In my view, one reason for that is that in Boy Scouting, troops have (or believe they have) a lot of leeway to deviate from or not implement the model troop program set out in BSA literature and materials (thus, "loosey-goosey"). Thus we get lots of local variations in how the program is run at the unit level -- with widely varying unit quality. How can we reduce these variations and get more units on the same page (the model troop prgram) so that we can reduce the problems that units get themselves into?


Dan K

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As I see the word flexibility being used, it probably is an observation on units that have a lack of knowledge or experience with a program that has lots of elements that evolve and change over time. Turnover is constant in the BSA. Training can be effective or ineffective and both levels can be found within the same year in the same district. Training is sporadic in many units and sometimes only one unit leader is trained and the training may have happened years before. Quality control could be considered a function of the Commissioner Corps but what generally happens is an occasional visit from a well meaning individual that will not be seen for another year. There are many well trained and dedicated individuals in Scouting but sometimes those can be counted on one hand within any district. Some district programs are run by the same people year after year. Turnover, a lack of consistency in knowledge, lack of constant effective training, and lack of quality control helps to make many Scouting units appear less than optimal but these may simply be growing and learning about a very big program.



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I'm going to side with Juris. Loosey-goosey is the way Scouting started. It's the reason it has been successful. You can say it's not the BSA program if you want, but in my experience, it's the way most good troops function. My troops never got anything out of the camporees and we generally had plenty of Eagle projects going on to get them out for community service. I have no use for a committee that's going to tell me what to do, unless they have more experience than I do (and I have even more than Juris). They can certainly fire me and that's their call. So can the COR.


What's not BSA (assuming you are following G2SS and I didn't see any red flags there) about boys camping, earning ranks, making Eagle and being leaders in a boy-run troop? Do you not make suggestions to your PLC? Do you not pick a candidate for SPL?


The only reservation I can make in all this is to say that Juris' plan is not for newbies. But I would also say being an SM is not for newbies. Training? You bet! Everybody should should get as much as they possibly can. But if I'm the SM, the most important training they can have will come from me. Nobody in Dallas or Council HQ knows more about my troop than I do.


I know this isn't a popular view here, but just look at the good troops with lots of kids in your area and tell me they aren't doing pretty much what Juris says. It's also interesting that Juris says something I don't see much, which is get to know your boys and have them like you. I can visit a troop and tell in 10 minutes whether the kids like their leaders or not. If they do, it's usually a good troop. If they like you, they'll follow you anywhere and not let you down. Juris claims 30 years experience and 90 boys. It's hard to argue against success.

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I think it is time we stop blaming others for our own problems. If youy are the CR, the commitee chair, the cubmaster, or scoutmaster and the unit is not succeeding then the problem is most likely of your own doing, either through what you have done or because of what you have not done.


The BSA has ample training, and resources to help a unit through any problem. But if it is not sought out, not accepted, or not implemented it cannot work.


Perhaps accredidation is one way in some communities. I do not see how it is feasible to do on a national basis with any more consistency than we currently get from the national program at the unit level, but at least it could hold a unit to a higher standard than the Quality Unit Award does.


I still tend to agree with Eamonn. The best way to improve the program is for CO's to take their resposibility to select quality leaders more seriously.

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I remember a Peanuts cartoon in which Charlie Brown is visiting Lucy's Psychiatric Advice booth. Charlie Brown complains that he is unhappy and lonely. Lucy says, "Get some friends. Five cents please."

I'm reminded of this when I hear that the solution is to "get better leaders." I agree that this is an excellent aspirational goal, but we shouldn't pretend that it's easy. For many units, it's tough to get leaders at all. If you have somebody who's willing to put in the time, you're probably not going to reject them because you think they're not an ideal candidate. I think most of the time we have to solve problems by making better leaders out of the leaders we have. Clearly, the way to do that is training, and the way to get more training to these leaders is to provide it in more ways that are attractive, accessible, and flexible.

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Yes, let's get Chartered Organizations to take their responsibilities more seriously. So, how do we do that on a consistent, nationwide basis over the long term?


Yes, let's have leaders in every unit who can figure out what works for them and what does not, who the kids like and who can lead other unit Scouters with lesser Scouting knowledge and skill. So, how do we do that on a consistent, nationwide basis over the long term?


Yes, let's do a better job making training attractive and accessible. So, how do we do that on a consistent, nationwide basis over the long term?


Better leaders/better training is the "rote" answer to the issue of improving program quality in units, and has been since Baden-Powell's time. How's it going so far? I think we all know the answer to that. We have lots and lots of good and great Scouting going on, but we also have lots of poor Scouting going on, and it is always changing -- fix a problem here, and a poor unit improves; at the same time, a great unit loses its inspirational leader, and starts to go downhill. Overall, the average level of program quality remains pretty much the same.


These things could, perhaps, be achieved with major changes to how we select and manage our leadship, but such changes seem unlikely.


We have a volunteer workforce with widely varying levels of tenure, commitment, time, interest, skill, knowledge, and experience, who are randomly dispersed among our units. Many of them can't or won't get trained or won't understand or implement the training they do get. We have a program that is somewhat complex and, in some respects, counter-intuitive. It is not going to be changed to make it simpler to understand and operate.


Given those conditions, what can we do to help a leadership corps with a very uneven ability level successfully operate a complicated program? I'm suggesting that the first step is to eliminate a lot of opportunities for leaders to make mistakes. How? By creating an environment that tells them that there is a "right way" to do Boy Scouting, that doing things in that right way is hugely more effective than other options and will save them a lot of unnecessary work and worry, that failure to follow that path has dire consequences for their boys and their troop, and that the very best thing they can do for themselves and their units is simply implement the program that BSA has laid out for them in its instruction manuals.


Dan K

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How does a CO take the responsibility of selecting quality leaders and delivering a quality program more seriously? First by having a better understanding of what it means to be a chartering organization, and I think that the local professionals and the local commissioners staff have that responsibility.


Then the CO needs to select leaders the same way they choose ministers, teachers, deacons, board members, employees etc. They need to decide what skills and attributes are needed to do each job and then select individuals for their ability to meet those characteristics. We have become a program lead by people who answered the call of "We need sombody who will...." rather than a movement lead by people who were selected for their unique character and abilitity to do the job.


If training is not easily available in your community then that is a local problem your District Chairman needs to address, that is not a national problem. If training is not affordable in your community then that is a local problem your District Chairman needs to address the BSA does not set the price of training outside of national training schools. If your training teams do not deliver the info in the syllabii then that is a local problem Your District Chairman will need to address. The BSA tells us to follow the program and gives us everything we need to do it.


Why are some people trying to make their local issues national's burden?


If there is litter in your neighborhood do you wish that the federal government did more to educate people on why they should not litter? Do you wish that Congress passed stiffer fines on littering? Do you wish for more police to watch for litter bugs? Or do you go out and pick up the litter.


We need to quit wishing for other people to solve our problems.




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