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Gold Winger

Dwindling Numbers

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BSA's membership numbers have dropped since the 60s. Why? One arguement is that there is much more pulling at the kids today than there used to be.

 

Sports have become a year round activity and not in the traditional sense of the four letter man. Basketball is year round. Soccer is year round. Baseball is nearly year round. If you want to play a sport, that becomes your life. But sports have a process of natural selection and most but the very talented drop out of overly organized sports by the end of middle school.

 

I don't buy the argument of girls and cars either. Despite what we want to belive, our teen aged boys are not junior Cassanovas. At least the boys that I know. Strangely, it is usually the thugs that have the girlfriends. Go figure.

 

Let's just look at life in general. Until the fourth quarter of the last century, where did kids spend most of their time? If they were healthy, they were outside.

 

If it was hot, they were outside. If it was cold, they were outside. Often, even if it was raining they were outside.

 

Also, who were the heroes of the youth of yesteryear? In general, they were outdoorsmen. Buffalo Bill, Dan'l Boone, Davey Crockett, Tom Mix, John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Lewis and Clark, the Lone Ranger. Even before movies, radio or TV, dime novel cast outdoorsmen in heroic roles. So what did boys do? They emulated their heroes and went into the woods looking for adventure.

 

Even as far back as when Twain wrote "Tom Sawyer" this was the case. Tom and a friend played "Robin Hood."

 

So Scouting would have a natural appeal to boys back then. Hey! We can go play in the woods and our mothers won't get upset about us getting dirty.

 

Something else was different back then as well. Kids of all ages played together. No play dates. No play groups. It was just "play." The older kids ran the neighborhood and saw to it that the younger ones understood and lived by the rules of the block. There was a natural order of things. You may not have been best friends with everybody but everyone made an effort to get along.

 

I learned to play football by playing it on the street. No coaches. The "big boys" explained plays in simple terms. The same was true for baseball. Of course there were times that the big guys would be playing tackle and the little guys couldn't play but that was okay. No one ever said that you had to be included in everything.

 

Also, by being in a mixed age group, you learned that there was different behavior for different situations. Belching was cool if you were just chillin' after a football game with the guys but if you were a young guy and decided to belch when one of the big guys was chatting with a cutie, you most likely would get walloped.

 

This translated into Scouting in that the older boys expected to be in charge of the younger boys and teach them what they need to know.

 

So where does that leave us today?

 

Who are the heroes of today's suburban youth? Not Davey Crockett. Do we even see kids playing like we did back in yesteryear with complex games with complex rules that they make up? Okay, if I shoot you . . . you have to fall down until you count to 100 or the medic comes and patches you up unless I throw a grenade and then . . .

 

Kids don't just go outside to play. Nowadays it's play dates and play groups of very select kids. If Jimmy has a disagreement with Johnny, one is going to be excluded from the play group.

 

Older kids don't go outside to play anymore. If they aren't mezmmerized by their video games, they are being shuttled from activity to activity by their parents. No pick up games. No made up games. Parents are in charge of everything. And of course, everything is divided by lines carefully drawn by age.

 

So where does that leave Scouting? In a big mess, that's where.

 

What's the appeal of going camping to kids who are really afraid of the outdoors? Other than a casual mention in social studies, they have no idea who Davey Crockett is and so have no desire to emulate him.

 

We look to the older boys to provide leadership since their lives have been spent only interacting with people their own age, they see no value in providing leadership to the younger ones. So after 14, they usually drop out instead of saying, "Hey, this is my opportunity to lead."

 

Today's parents are so used to controlling every aspect of their children's lives that they insist on running the show in Scouting.

 

So is it any wonder that Scouting's numbers are dropping?

 

(This message has been edited by Gold Winger)

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GW,

This is a great post!

In the same vein, I'd like to add that BSA National does a poor job of advertising Scouting. I'd like to know why BSA doesn't have commercials on TV/Radio ala Project S.O.A.R., BoyPower/ManPower. I think that BSA can have success in attracting youth with the current Good Turn for America and the Emergency Preparedness Award.

I also don't understand why there are not any new movies that depict boys in a scouting environment. Why is there no remake of "Follow Me Boys"?

You need to hit these kids where they live. When a boy has the latest "Guitar Hero" video game, why isn't there an insert selling scouting and the music merit badge? Same with Madden Football; include an insert in the packaging promoting scouting and the sports/ athletics mb?

I do think that part of the reason for dwindling numbers is the fact that the size of families has changed over the last 50 yrs. Today, the typical family size is four. You don't see families of 6 to 8 or larger that much anymore. When you consider that most of the youth today are in the scouting program because their father was in the program as a youth; it becomes apparent that smaller families = smaller numbers for BSA; especially if the offspring are all girls.

If BSA wants to attract more youth, they must advertise! We can only do so much at the local level.

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was a little skeptical at GWs remarks, then I did a search on the National Park Services Public use statistic page

 

http://www2.nature.nps.gov/stats/viewReport.cfm

 

I checked the last ten years in the categoies of BackCountry Camping, Tent Camping and RV Camping. All seem to be trending down. If the family isnt camping, why would junior be interested in it? I know if scouting is the best show in town, then their wont be an issue attracting youth, but what if the interested and trained adults are not showmen? I might be able to put on a huge gala show stopping event once every 6 months or so, but every week? Who can do that? maybe I am just getting tired

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Who has the time to go camping anymore? Kids are on the go all weekend long with one game after another.

 

When I was active with my son's troop, it used to drive me nuts that we'd go to all the trouble of driving 30 miles to camp and then break camp at 9 AM on Sunday because parents insisted that their kids be home for other activities. Heck, you're there in the woods, enjoy the day.

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GW,

That was excellent! The only thing you forgot was when you got hurt, ya rubed some dirt on it & you were OK!

 

Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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As a ranger in the National Park Service I can tell you directly that old fashioned camping is way down. What people ask is if we are going to build more lodges or hotels in the parks which I respond with a strong NO! I have said for years now that the outdoor emphasis of boy scouts scare many of todays youth away, which is a sad commentary. Those who consider themselves campers want a place to park their trailers or their massive RV's and still want the site to have all the hookups and elite restroom facilities with private showers available,and possibly a nice coffee shop nearby.

 

Almost all of my Venturing crew the first year had never been camping in their lives, by the end of that year they had solid knowledge and experience in the outdoors and they loved it. The first trip we went on however most of them cried and whined the first night, by the third night they were having a blast without any of their electronic devices, go figure!

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Wnen you say that parents are "running the show" in Boy Scouts or Venturing, do you mean patrol meetingn, Troop meetings. activities and outings?

 

Do you see this as a feature of the Scouting program, or as a probelm of leadership in the unit?

 

 

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I 100% agree with GW here.

 

Ed, you got any extra thread to repair that tear in the space/time continuum? I'm fresh out of dental floss.

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Bob,

are you insinuating that the national decline in BSA ranks is attributed to unit level delivery of the program? What is different in the delivery of the program now than it was in the 60s? Were they better trained?

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Kids hang out with their friends.

 

Kids hang out at the mall.

 

Kids hang out at the arcade.

 

Kids hang out at their buddies' homes.

 

Kids hang out at ....

 

How many kids hang out at a campsite? Why do we always need activities to keep kids entertained all the time in scouting? Why can't they just hang out at the campsite and jaw-jack about anything they want?

 

I have been camping since the early 50's when I had a floorless pup tent with no front flaps. There was "nothing to do" for the most part, but I still yearn for those early years. Staring into a campfire for hours, telling jokes, whittling, cooking and well, yeah, just hanging out.

 

Stosh

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"Wnen you say that parents are "running the show" in Boy Scouts or Venturing, do you mean patrol meetingn, Troop meetings. activities and outings?"

 

Patrol meetings, troop meetings, planning, outings, everything.

 

"Do you see this as a feature of the Scouting program, or as a probelm of leadership in the unit?"

 

It isn't a feature of the program, at least it isn't an intended feature. I think that too many of today's parents aren't willing to let go and let the kids make mistakes and thereby learn.

 

 

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So if it isn't a part of the program and is a problem caused by parents outside of the program instruction, then isn't the solution simply for leaders to lead according to the program?

 

Gern

What I think has changed is the opportunity for youth to experience adventure. Times have changed and a campout at the state park will only work so many times and then you have to crank up the thrill.

 

I think there are a lot of leaders who make scouts experience the same year of scouting over and over and over again, and when they get bored an quit blame it on a symphony of other people and things rather then on their repetitive, mundane program.

 

Units that don't make every age of scout do the same things at the same places every year don't have membership loses.

 

 

 

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"BSA's membership numbers have dropped since the 60s. Why? One arguement is that there is much more pulling at the kids today than there used to be."

 

I do believe that the BSA made major program changes in the 70's that made an impact on the goals program as well. It was working well back then and it doesn't seem to be now. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" may have applications here.

 

Stosh

 

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Sorry Gern! I used all mine up! Try duck tape!

 

Membership fluctuates in all units.

 

Why do we have to crank up the thrill? Why can't the Scouts do that? Where is their imagination? It seems to be gone.

 

Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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