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There are basically two troops that my Webelos Den can cross over to in my area. We are beginning to visit these troops as a den to complete AOL requirements, but also to give the boys and their parents a real choice in how they want to continue their scouting experience.


So far some of the things I see alarm me.


Troop #1 is very young with a few older scouts, but has a fairly strong outdoor program. They do what I consider to be traditional scouting activities: canoeing, backpacking, spelunking, etc. They are well-financed and routinely have scouts attend high-adventure activities like Philmont and SeaBase.


Troop #1 is adult led, with the adults fairly active in the district anc council. I have some credible reports that there has been some hazing between boys(I would use the word bullying as the situations were described to me). The bullying has gone on with adult leaders turning a blind eye to it.


Troop #2 is smaller and less well financed, but has broader range in ages of boys. Their outdoor program includes some traditional outdoor activities, but also does paintball, goes to amusement parks, and similar activities, some of which are not appropriate (according to the G2SS).


Troop #2 is boy-led. They are probably too new to have been involved in much high adventure yet, but have gone out of council at least once for summer camp (which I view as a beneficial experience for both boys and leaders). The adult leadership is not active in district or council activities.


I know some of the questions I want to ask the leaders of each troop, but I'd like some outside observations on this choice between the lesser of two "evils."


What I am less sure of is what to tell the parents about the pros and cons of each troop. They are not generally knowledgeable about the details of the scouting program, and I don't want to turn them off of the program. On the other hand, well, they need to know.


What are your thoughts?



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What are my thoughts? Well first, are there any other troops in the next town over from you?


I think that unless there's a major leadership turnover among adults, it is unlikely that an adult-led troop is going to become anything else, anytime soon. They've already established that they (adults) want to be in control and having done that, they aren't likely to give it up. Same with the bullying thing. We confronted that in our troop and I found, to my great frustration, that if the SM isn't capable of or willing to address such issues, nothing is going to change (unless the SM changes...as ours did). And new, young scouts, will almost certainly be the next group of targets so you'll likely see many of them drop out early on. You might want to ask this troop about the drop-out rate among 1st year scouts for the last two years.


In the second case, is it possible that the troop is so new, the adults just don't know the rules yet? Are they trained? Do they understand that paintball is "out of bounds" and they just don't care, or do they really not know? If they know and don't care, I'd be wondering what other G2SS matters they're ignoring, and I don't know if I could trust them with the safety of my child. If they don't know, then you have to determine whether they're "teachable" or not. Some people are willing to learn, others both don't know, and don't care.


Size and financing are deceiving sometimes, and would not be the major factors in my decision, if I were choosing again. Sometimes a smaller troop with fewer resources is still going to be a better experience than a large, wealthy troop. And adult involvement in district/council is an uncertain indicator too. Sometimes that means they're well connected to the old-boys-club and also stuck in their ways. Sometimes that means they are on the cutting edge of a bunch of cool stuff. Kind of depends on the district/council. In the past, ours was very clubby/cliquey, so being involved was a matter of snobbery. I have to say that's one good thing we've discovered from forced re-districting - it broke some of that up, so now, people who are involved tend to be involved for "better" reasons!



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Neither is following the program if hazing is allowed.


Between the two evils I would choose Troop 1. Hazing seems the lesser of the evils and IMHO can be more easily corrected in a troop that has trained leaders.


What to tell the parents? I would have a hard time even recommending that a scout go to troop 2 as they seem too far off the mark. Chances are that troop 2 is also far off the mark in advancement and leadership development. I would describe more as kid run than boy lead.





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Yah, hot foot. Yer thinkin' about this all wrong. Must be readin' too many Scouter.com postings :p


It's not "lesser of two evils". It's greater of two goods! Scouting is a wonderful program, and it's great that there are adults out there who give of their time and treasure to provide a year-round program for other people's kids.


No soccer team is perfect. No school. No band program. And no scout troop. But having two active, fun, year-round, volunteer scouting programs to choose from is GREAT! What a wonderful opportunity for them and their kids to continue the great Scouting adventure.


Your job is to talk up both programs, and point out their strengths, not their weaknesses. Help da kids and the parents find which of the units is a better "fit" for them.




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Ask the SM what his goals are for you son in the next year, and five years from now. See if that gives you a better picture of the adults vision, or if they even have a vision.


As for the parents, explain the troops just as you did to us and let them ask the questions so you can educate to good and bad points.


Both sound like pretty good programs to me.




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I'm leaning toward going with Troop#2, but only after clarifying a few things with adult leaders. I would ask them if they know that paint ball is not an approved of activity withing the Boy Scout program. It could be lack of training as pointed out. You did say that there is a broad range of ages and that they seem to be more boy led, so that's why I'd favor this Troop. By the way, the only thing that you mention that is an inappropriate activity is the paintball outings.


As for Troop #1, I'd have a hard time accepting hazing especially hazing described as bullying. Even more disturbing is that the adult leadership is most likely trained and should know better. From your description, it seems that the activities that they are doing are more geared towards those older Scouts, and I'd be concerned about the younger Scouts dropping out because either the activities are too difficult, or they are excluded from participation. For example, when you mention spelunking, I think of wild cave exploration (not your standard cement pathway guided tours). A wild cave being a cave that has not had its passages modified. Tours/exploration of these types of caves are only for Scouts 14 years old or older (G2SS). Also, backpacking can be for older Scouts depending on the difficulty of the trek, but even shorter trips can be difficult for the younger boys. Don't let their "well funded" status effect your decision...


Troop 1 - 3 strikes

- hazing, adults led, program geared toward older Scouts


Troop 2 - 1 strike, bases loaded, Webelos up to bat

- paintball outing (training may just solve the problem)



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I think ignoring the minuses and only relating the pluses is a disservice to the scouts and parents. Full disclosure. I would also have to chose #2 if these were my only options. I can chose not to attend the paintball outings but can't chose not to have my scouts bullied or hazed. Second factor is that "Troop #1 is adult led, with the adults fairly active in the district and council." If being fairly active in District and Council means the adults themselves are active at these levels then they fall under what I call "Man Scouts" a species to be avoided at all costs.


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If being fairly active in District and Council means the adults themselves are active at these levels then they fall under what I call "Man Scouts" a species to be avoided at all costs.


Oh, LH, I can't let that slip by! Do tell, what are the attributes of a "Man Scout?"

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Thanks all for the input so far.


To clarify a bit, there are no other troops in practical commuting distance for my family, at least.


Spelunking is overnight in commercial or gov't caves on "scout" tours and not high adventure exploration.


Appropriateness of activities includes (in my book) adequate adult training and supervision. Canoeing is OK with reasonable care, but can be an inappropriate activity without proper supervision, for example.


In my mind I've distilled the pros an cons something like this:


+ T1 outdoor program conforms to my ideal scouting program

- T2 program is more like a church youth group


+T2 boy led. Not well guided by adults perhaps, but boy led

-T1 adult led.


-T1 bullying "tolerated"

-T2 no interest in training or participation beyond local


Cubmaster Randy asked where I'd want my boys to go. To be quite honest, I don't think the group would do well at one or the other. Taken individually, I'd steer some one way and some the other based on program alone, even if I don't personally like the youth group approach.


My own son needs the outdoor program, but not the adult-led nonsense. I'm not worried about my son being bullied - he's friendly with everyone and knows how to conduct himself - but the fact that it's not addressed raises a red flag. Some of the other Webelos could easily become victims. Some might become bullies themselves.


No, I'm not going to be in a position to lead change for a while. Not as an ASM, at any rate.


Fortunately I've got some time before we cross over to work on this. I appreciate the perspectives you all have been giving. I'd like to influence some positive change without ruffling any feathers.



Man Scouts. I know the species, but didn't know they had a name. I'll be chuckling about that for days!



Adited to add: Lesser of two evils seemed like the best common phrase to express the dilemma, even if neither choice is truly evil. I'm a glass-is-twice-as-big-as-it-needs-to-be kinda guy.



(This message has been edited by hot_foot_eagle)

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I'm going to chime in, but there are a few things to bear in mind that certainly affect me, and probably other posters here:

1. The filter of our personal experience affects how we interpret the questions/statements of others. This especially pertains to the terms "adult-led" and "boy-led". Without specific examples these terms will conjure different images to each of us.

2. Our thoughts are given without many supporting facts you (the OP) possess

3. We are more cavalier in our opinions, because we will not bear the consequences of a decision


Regarding Troop 1, could it be that they are less boy-led because they are younger? If that is the case, and the adults are well trained (a conclusion I may be leaping to based on the statement that they are active at the district and council level), is it possible that greater responsibilty will be given to the boys as they become capable of carrying it? Even if the answer to these questions is no, I would hope that a knowledgeable new leader like yourself would be able to gently steer them back on course by asking leading questions. Regarding the bullying (which of course should be halted ASAP), without more data I would tend to think it is more likely an isolated occurrence than an institutional practice.


Regarding Troop 2, maybe it's boy led in the sense that they are picking the paintball, amusement parks, etc, but is it really a Scout program? To me, the description given smacks of untrained leaders (which raises all the questions Lisabob poses) who are basically providing a play-time program for the boys. To me, it's a danger sign if amusement parks, etc, are too dominant a part of the program. My concern would be that leaders who have not already taken it upon themselves to get trained are not going be persuaded they need training. That would make it harder to "straighten out" Troop 2 than Troop 1.


Finally, I'm going to quibble with ASM59 a little. I don't share his deduction that Troop 1's program is geared for older Scouts. Without more data, I would assume "spelunking" to involve no more than participating commercial cave tours, since anything more would indeed violate G2SS. Thus I would assume younger Scouts can still participate.


As for backpacking (Warning: this is a personal sore spot!) I disagree most strenuously that it is too difficult for younger boys. In fact, this belief has left the troop I currently serve in what I would term a crippled state. The troop used to do nothing but car camping, because the adults believed it was too hard for younger Scouts. The older, Philmont-capable Scouts have now aged out, and our 15 & 16 year olds have never carried a backpack, and don't want to, because they have absorbed the lesson well that it's "too hard". To counter this belief I have led several backpacking trips for our youngest and smallest Scouts, because I believe this is a vital skill for a young Scout to learn. Granted, these trips ranged from only 1.5 to 3 miles. As a result, they are living proof against the belief backpacking is not too difficult for young Scouts.


(Edited to add: the OP's latest post appeared while I was composing, addressing some of my points. The needs of individual boys may certainly call for different decisions for different boys, but I see fewer (or smaller) "strikes" against Troop 1, and think it is closer to the mark overall.(This message has been edited by Eagle76)(This message has been edited by Eagle76)


(Forever fixing typos)(This message has been edited by Eagle76)

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Yes, as hot_foot has pointed out, the spelunking adventures are simply overnight campouts with what sounds like professionally led tours/exploration. So, with this clarification, I agree that this activity is OK and sounds like the young ones would enjoy it. With regard to the backpacking I pointed out that the difficulty of the trip needs to be considered. I agree whole-heartedly with your position on backpacking and didn't mean to sound so one-sided. It is important that younger Scouts are exposed to backpacking on an age-appropriate level.


I had much more information, conditions, and disclaimers in my original post and deleted them to keep the post under 2 pages. Two of the things that I deleted that perhaps should have stayed in:

- I wanted to suggest that hot_foot speak to the adults of Troop#1 as well to clarify their position on everything from the bullying to what seems like "adult-led" style.

- I wanted to explain that all of my conclusions are based on the limited information given in the original post.


BTW, I also agree very much with your observation that our own personal history/background colors our interpretation of terms and circumstances. For example, I was on a trail where a Troop was somewhere in the middle of a 25 mile hike with full packs in 95 degree heat. The adults on hand were 21 and 18 year old ASM's, pushing the boys to go on even though some said they were getting sick. They had 15 Scouts 2 of whom were 11 year olds and 3 of whom were 12 year olds. Two of these young Scouts were severely dehydrated when my wife and I happend on them. As my wife, a nurse, was checking out one of the 11 year olds, the other sick Scout collapsed in my arms - out cold - and it scared me to death. An ambulance ride and short hospital stay later, this Scout was fine, but this is probably why I had such a one-sided initial conclusion regarding the backpacking.


Does this new information change which Troop I'd rather see my son in? I don't think so, but it would really depend on my personal interview with the Troop leaders of both Troops and who's willing to make some practical changes.


Thanks for your observations,


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Yah, holysmoke....


Let me take a step back to "I think you're goin' about this da wrong way."


I wouldn't play analyst for other parents, eh? Take them to visit other troops, introduce 'em to the troop leaders, and let them make their own impressions. They might notice and care about all kinds of other things that you have missed or not mentioned. Maybe Troop 2 has a more active community service program? Maybe Troop 1 seems to have more experience with ADHD? Maybe dad shares a hobby with other dads in Troop 2 and feels more comfortable there? Maybe mom is a nurse and notices that the First Aid instruction in Troop 1 is poor. Another Scouter might look at the same two units and report on Uniform Method or how well real scout skills are reflected in Advancement or how strongly they emphasize Values. Me, I'd look for da nature of Adult Relationships with the youth before anything else.


The points yeh chose to mention are just a tiny part of what makes for a wonderful scout program for a lad. Might be da ones you have an interest in, but not other folks... and maybe not even your son, eh? ;) Let other families and kids form their own impressions, and let each unit tell you about what it thinks are its strengths and weaknesses.


The only one that gnaws at me a bit is the bullyin', and only a bit. That can get sorta institutionalized in the boy culture of a troop sometimes if the adults aren't sharp. Not just bein' bullied, but yeh don't want your son to learn that as an example. But an isolated report is just that, eh?


There's nuthin' here that rises to "alarm" or "evil". Just two great, relatively strong scoutin' programs.



Now, as far as makin' changes goes...


If yeh go into a program saying "There's things wrong here that I'm going to change" you will never be happy, and you'll never be successful and you'll make your own son and every other family in that program miserable.


I can sit here in my den with da fire roarin' and tell yeh the good and bad about every troop in our council. There's good to be found everywhere. There's weakness to be found everywhere. Lots of time the two go hand in hand. Active adults drive active programs, but often they lean toward adult-run, eh? ;)


When yeh go join a Boy Scout troop, you're steppin' into somebody else's program. That can be hard to do if you were the Cubmaster or Webelos Den Leader or otherwise "the boss" at da moment. It can be hard for internet SM's to do too, who are the "bosses" of their own wonderful programs. ;) It means a loss of control. It means trustin' others the same way others trusted you as CM or WDL (or SM), even though they surely recognized some things that you didn't do well. And it means recognizing that a lot of parents and kids like what their program is doin' and don't want you messin' with it.


So don't go in tryin' to change things. Go in sayin' "this is going to be great!" to your son, let him choose his "best fit" and give him some freedom to make it his own.


And let other families do the same, lookin' for the things they care about and their son's best fit.




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Actually, My question was " What troop do the boys want to be in?"

Have they visited both troops? Perhaps gone on a campout with each. Maybe visited a second time for a troop meeting. These are activites (imho) that the parents should have done with their sons. Different troops can be right for different scouts. They all don't have to go to the same troop. Some dens choose to do this, but it is not required

(Imho) The descision of which troop to join rests with the youth with help and guidance from their parents. The parents need to be educated about the scouting program and what questions to ask. You as their den leader can help them through this process.


I asked about leading change (in time). As a brand new ASM, you may not be able to now, but do you see the current troop leaders being willing to listen to your ideas in time or do you see yourself spinning your wheels

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Excellent point Randy. After all is said and done, I guess if the hazing issue can be stopped (or found to be non-existent), then either Troop could be a possibility depending on where each of the boys wants to go.


However, what ever hot_foot (or other parents of the cross-over Webelos) can do to help the Troop program would be of benefit for either Troop. Sometimes someone coming in with some new ideas can help to change the course of an organization. Perhaps, setting the example of getting trained, would help to inspire/motivate existing Troop#2 adults to get some training themselves. Perhaps some fresh ideas about how to move Troop#1 to more of a boy-led program could be of benefit there.



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