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Gold Winger

Dwindling Numbers

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I agree that kids are not all that different today than they used to be, at least when I was a kid, after Brownsea Island but before the end of the red berets. But one thing kids today are is more sophisticated, they have been exposed to so much more. How many times have you heard comments at a kids birthday party such as "They never had anything like that when I was a kid". I remember watching Jason and the Argonauts with my son and I asked him how they filmed the fighting skeletons or the flying harpies. He was 11 at the time and looked at me and said "Puters daddy, they use computers". I pointed out that the movie was made in 1963 and they didnt have special effects computers back then, he was impressed. A bit later we were watching "Topper", you know, with Leo G Carroll. And they had ghosts and I asked him how they did that. He said "Puters" again and I said hey, they didnt even have color, let alone computers and he was again impressed. Some of todays cars park themselves, others give you turn by turn directions, how many people drive a standard shift? And that's just the cars.


At the grade school I went to, (Elementary and Middle Schools combined don't you know) we had a sophisticated security system. Sister Mother Principal screened anyone comming in the school and could repell a pack of rabid rottweilers with a single glance. Today. most people want the pack of rabid rottweilers to be the security system. The boy scout troop was lead by WWII vets who were either European Theatre and did winter camping well or Pacific Theatre who did summer camping well. And they smoked and drank a bit (beer) as well.


But saying numbers are down because times have changed will not help. OK, I agree times have changed, but we can't keep blaming the youth for changing. What do industries do that face a changing consumer? The finest quality buggy whip manufacturer had to diversify or face extinction during the first 20 years or so of the last century. The president of ACME Whips may have blamed the consumer up and down, but that did not save his company. Blaming the changing times does not increase dwindling numbers. Unfortunately, to engage youth today takes effort and planning and a committment to the BSA program that is daunting. Even if you attend all the possible training that is offered and you follow the program to the letter, unless you have enthusiasm and drive, you may not be sucessful. This last bit is a tad disheartening to me. I can see that it takes more than just dedication to the program to get kids excited, each unit needs real talent to engage the youth, and that is where I beleive the issue is. To know and think like your target demographic, its what susessful compnmaies do, its what we have to do, I just wonder if it's within our grasp.

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Quite a sordid view you have there!


My parents were not raised on a farm. In fact, none of my friends (and there were lots) while I was growing up had parents who were raised on a farm. All were city or suburban raised. And we were outside all the time.


Yeah we are a little sports crazy. But


Sports in general teaches to win at all costs and take drugs to help one do so. These are not good values.


to me is not accurate. Just because there have been a rash or professionals who have done this, doesn't mean that is what sports teaches. I have coached basketball on many different levels & I can tell you none of what you stated is even discussed.


Our kids need our protection, but that doesn't mean we need to watch them 24/7. They need to try things on their own. If they don't they won't learn. They also need to learn how to fight their own battles & stand up for themselves & social interaction skills. Sitting in front of a video game screen all day is great for hand-eye coordination, but nothing else.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10(This message has been edited by evmori)

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>>The obvious conclusion is that they mainly car camped then too. The menu plans seem to support this with pounds of flour and raw bacon and lots of can goods.

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I think declining numbers in BSA is just a symptom of a much larger societal issue.


Google "Pergams and Zaradic" to read about their research on declining camping numbers at the national parks; they relate much of the decline to the impact of watching TV and playing video games -- they also note the decline isn't localized to the US -- they see the same decline overseas.


Someone mentioned "Nature Deficit Disorder"; that phrase was coined by Richard Louv, who happens to be in the process of updating his book, "Last Child in the Woods" in which he observes (as many in this thread have done) that fewer children are playing outside, especially in unsupervised play situations.


He attributes much of the responsibility for this to parents' irrational fear of kidnapping, fed by sensational (and constant) media reports, as well as structural problems like HOAs that prevent kids from building tree houses in their own back-yards (my son and I ran into this very problem when we tried to build a tree-house four years ago).


I'm also in the middle of reading Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone". He's a sociologist who has documented the trends of various things like church attendance, membership in bowling leagues, how many times families host dinner parties, etc., over a roughly seventy year period (approx. 1920 to 1990).


In other words, he looked at the many ways we, as Americans, "get-together" either formally (e.g., PTA meeting) or informally (playing bridge at the neighbor's house), and how the number of those "get-togethers" have changed over time. It should come as no surprise that his research indicates that we are doing far less "getting-together" today (i.e., early 90s; he published his book in 2000) than we did back in the 50s and 60s.


This is consistent with the observations of many that we aren't the "joiners" we used to be: membership in all types of organizations across the board, like BSA, Rotary Clubs, PTA, etc. is declining. Membership in passive "advocacy" groups like AARP (an example of a "group" you can join, but which does not have any local meetings) is increasing. So we are trading the opportunity for face-to-face get togethers for letting someone else (usually paid professionals) to do the work we once did locally in less formal circumstances.


Putnam refers to this "connectedness" as "social capital" and he posits that we have less social capital today than we did 40-50 years ago. He defines it, measures it, and demonstrates how it has changed over time. Social capital increased in the early part of the 20th century, peaking in post-war 50s-60s, and then going into decline through the 70s, 80s and 90s.


Its a massive book (over 500 pages), and like I said, I'm only half-way through it, but I've gotten far enough into it to know he blames TV for much of the effect of our being less-connected today than we used to be. I think he will eventually get around to making some recommendations, but I doubt if he's found a "silver-bullet" that will reverse all these declining trends.


I've thought about the issue of declining BSA membership for many years, first as pack committee chairman responsible for planning "Back-to-school" recruiting nights, and later as a member of the district membership committee, coordinating the many B-T-S nites across the district. The point of this lengthy post is this: I think we should stop beating ourselves up about declining BSA numbers (both youth and adults).


I still think we should recruit actively and put on the best program possible -- but the fact is, society has changed, and people simply don't "join" organizations like they used to, especially if those organizations (like BSA) ask them to actually do something, as opposed to passive organizations (like AARP) that ask for nothing more than your money.


Let's offer the best Scouting program we can to those who value it, and stop wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth that others simply "don't get it". We won't be able to change everyone's attitudes about Scouting in general or BSA in particular, but we can certainly do right by the boys we have.

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I think that what you posted was what I was trying to say!

Somehow I think this is linked to a conversation that was in another thread about trust.

Back when I was a little fellow I was allowed to go to our local park, without adult supervision. But the Park Keeper (Not sure what he would be called in the US?) Knew us kids and knew where we lived. He wasn't unopposed to grabbing us by the back of the collar and frog marching us home.

The local policeman walked his beat, knew the area and the people. He at times delivered his own instant justice in the form of a quick whack on the back of the head.

We also had nosy neighbors, little old ladies who looked through lace curtains who couldn't wait to report any wrong doings to our parents.

Of course at that time and at that place the wrong doings were just pranks, no guns or drugs.

My parents came from an age where the rules were the rules and they didn't ever really question the rules. They seen some people who because of what job or position they held as just always being right. Teachers and Schoolmasters were always right, policemen and priests were always right.

I didn't arrive on the planet until the mid 1950's. I was too young to be part of the Summer Of Love and the goings on of the 1960's. I was aware of what was going on.

Of course by the time I attended high school, the masters were from the same generation as my parents -Rule followers and I was from a generation where we asked "Why?"

It seems to me that one of the draw backs of living in this information age is that we have lost a lot of the trust that we once placed in people. We have seen what happened in the Catholic Church, Policemen in some areas caught doing some really nasty and bad stuff, the President of the USA setting a terrible example.

The media has a field day with all this type of stuff.

Even the BSA has been caught with some Councils telling lies about what the real membership is and using these lies to get funding that maybe they shouldn't get?

A lot of the new leaders I see who join seem to join, not because they want to serve the Scouts but because they feel the need to keep an eye and look out for their kid.

When I see postings of Troops who go to camp with an army of adults, I can't help thinking that having all these adults takes away from the program.

Of course the parents feel the pressure of having to be there and the time it takes to be there, so when the pressure gets too much they quit and take their kid with them.

A good friend of mine who did join just to keep an eye on his son (The Lad is ADD) tells me that his wife is on his back telling him that the Lad has to hurry up and get his Eagle, so he (the Dad) can hurry up and get back to doing his work around the house.

Even Her Who Must Be Obeyed, at one time got fed up with my not being home and spending so much time away. She was scared and gave me the options of: Her buying a gun, Me not going away, or buying a guard-dog. I of course went for the dog!!

I trust my son, but when he tells me he is going into Pittsburgh to an amusement park or ball game I do worry. He was born and raised in the "Sticks", he lacks the street smarts that a lot of the city kids have. Of course at 19 years old he is big enough and ugly enough to have to look after himself. But I still do worry.

I'll admit that at times I don't understand how much things have changed. When I was a Lad, if I wanted to hang out with my pals we went some place to hang out, now he doesn't have to. He can hang out on line, play games on line, send instant messages and photos on line or on his cell phone.

He really enjoyed working at summer camp. I know a big part of this was due to having more freedom and less supervision that he would have had at home. I'm guessing when and if I ever do find out some of what they got up too? I'll be shocked! (I only found out about a trip they made to Washington DC on their night off, a few weeks back!)But he tells me that he really missed being away from home for the summer, not because he missed his Daddy, but he missed being with his friends on line!! (Mainly females!!)

I'm not sure if I understand the way this generation thinks? I'm not sure if this is true of every generation not understanding the next?

I do hope we do find some middle ground.

I'm almost sure that a group of old codgers sitting around talking about the way it once was or arguing what some English Lord said or done 100 years ago is not the answer.

I worry that if we don't try and understand the kids we serve we will end up not serving any. If this means that we need to change? I really think we the older Scouter's need to be willing to change.

We know that the values we stress are good and are needed and will be needed in the days to come, if bending a little is what is needed to keep the youth in Scouting, we have to bend.

Making long lists of rules and harping on about the way it once was is not the answer.

In fact at the end of the day I feel it will really scare the youth away.



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>>Making long lists of rules and harping on about the way it once was is not the answer.

In fact at the end of the day I feel it will really scare the youth away.

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Barry, if you've Louv's book, you know he doesn't hold out a lot of hope that BSA can do much to get kids outside again.


And that saddens me, because BSA ought to be considered the premier youth program around in terms of getting kids outdoors, and developing self-confidence and self-reliance in them, as well as teamwork, citizenship, leadership, etc. I know sports can also do some of that, but not every boy is cut out for varsity athletics.


Isn't it ironic that people all around us are making much ado about global warming and saving the environment, while at the same time boycotting, denigrating (and in some cases, suing) the very organization that is best suited to instilling a sense of conservation and stewardship in the next generation?


It boggles the mind . . .

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Right on. Parents don't let kids play outside in groups like they used to. As such, kids don't want to do outdoor activities like in the past.



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Its not just parents that arent willing to let scouts be on their own, it is scouters too. Eagledad describes a troop where adults escorted youth to all their summer camp activities. That would not happen without the support of scouters.

I had a similar observation this past February. I volunteered at a district klondike derby where half of the patrols competing had adults accompanying the patrols throughout the day. The klondike was held on about 100 acres of a local forest preserve. It would have been impossible to get lost for more than a few minutes before stumbling on some type of civilizaton. I brought this up at the next round table. There were scouters that have never considered letting their scouts be responsible for themselves without an adult present, even in the safe confines of an organized klondike.

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While I'm sure that over-protective adults, both parents and adult leaders might be part of the slump.

It however does seem to me and I don't have any numbers or reports to back this up.

Tiger Cub numbers seem to have gone down since the changes that were made a few years back.

We as an organization don't do that bad a job of recruiting. Here in my small town we had about 26% of the TAY in Cub Scouting.

I'd go into the local Elementary school to do the boy talks in September and it seemed to me that nearly all of the boys had at one time been Cub Scouts.

Sad thing was we just weren't able to keep them in the program.

I'm not sure why?

A big part of the problem at one time was adults who just didn't seem able to work together and get along.

Even as I write this there is a local Pack, where the adults are not able to get along with the Lady who is the driving force of the Pack and they are all jumping ship to join a Pack in the next town. Maybe she is driving everyone nuts?

I have been informed that we lose most of our Cub Scouts when they become Bears.

I was a little surprised to hear this, I thought it would happen when they became Webelos Scouts.

No one has ever given me a reason why this is happening.

I tend to think that Cub Scouting is more adventurous then it used to be.

But I wasn't around in the good old days -I'm basing this on my Mother-in-law being a Den Mother. While I can see her doing crafts and I know she knows 101 different crafts that can be made with old Readers Digest magazines, I don't however think taking little Lads to camp ever crossed her mind and if it had she would have ran a mile!!

Without in any way trying or meaning to come of sounding sexist, I think the female Scouter's we have today are a lot more "Boy Friendly" than back when my Mother-in-law was Den Mothering.

While many of us really don't like to admit it. We do have an image problem.

We adults tend to see Scouts and Scouting through adult eyes.

Before you post that the Scouts in the unit you serve can do COPE courses and leap tall buildings in a single bound. There are a lot of kids out there who don't like our "Goody two shoes" image.

At times I get upset that we as an organization tend to market Scouting to adults and not the youth. Even on a local level most of the newspaper photos I see tend to be of a very smart uniformed Scout posing while he receives his Eagle Scout Award. - Great Stuff!! But not going to help recruit a bunch of 14 year olds.

Adult leaders who lack imagination, lack outdoor skills and who fail to understand the youth they serve really can't do the job of being a youth leader.

We have to get the youth in Scouting and keep him /her in Scouting for the values to really become meaningful and understood (Not that a little bit hurts!!)

I'm saddened when I visit Troops who only offer Merit Badge classes week in and week out. To my way of thinking it shows that the adults just don't understand the program or the kids.

Anyone can line up expert after expert and have them pass on their know how to a class of Scout aged boys.

Worse still is when the boys have no say in what the Merit Badge of the week is!

After sitting in school for seven hours, going to Scouts for more classes?? I'm sorry but I think I'd rather watch paint dry.


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Who is Davey Crockett? ;)



Seriously though, we talked a lot about this in my philosophy class too. Kids really arent what they used to be for several reasons. I know they have classified my generations parents as helicopter parents because they are always there making sure that everything is ok and always handle everything and if you get into a mess are always there bailing you out (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kv52oVIcUKk watch 5:37 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyVwY5b6-1g ). With parents handling your every need responsibility has hit an ultimate low, if it hasnt flown out the window all together. This might be due to the way the past generations were raised by their parents, making them learn responsibility the hard way (you made your bed now go lie in it!) and therefore they want their kids and grand-kids to have a better time of it. It used to be if you want that horse go rope it and train it yourself now there is no imitative to become responsible or a leader, kids are handed things and if they dont stand up and take it, they know eventually that someone (most likely an adult raised by the break you own horse generation) will either take the reigns and hand it to them or take the lead themselves and all they will have to do is follow.


Besides that there is a lack of perseverance and commitment when it comes to things. kids are just lazier. There are more opportunities out there to do things as well so instead of joining a troop and following the scout law, working on merit badges (which takes effort as well as commitment) they can simply go to camp for one summer and do the same activities (http://www.aave.com/). Kids dont know the value of a job well done and could frankly care less as long as they get to have fun and can stop when they want too. Kids get bored easier (why shouldnt they when from age 6-10 and even younger their parents have been chauffeuring them around to one activity to the next instead of letting them just play and entertain themselves?) It has become common for kids to try something and quit when they get bored (back to the lack of commitment) and try something knew. Society encourages this try something new! not a bad message, but along the way they neglected to teach them about commitment. Because of this kids sign up for several, clubs and sports teams at a time and quit half way through the season or perhaps only go to meetings, never the events or vice versa. Being bored wont kill you(at least it didnt used too) now days kids seem to think they should (and thanks to some parents) deserve to be entertained all the time, its an expectation and when you dont meet it and actually expect them to work for something they get bored fast.


Tv and movies have a lot to do with how the youth today act as well. It has become the norm for youth depicted in movies and TV shows to have a blatant disregard and well frankly apathetic attitude toward rules, while depicting adults as complete idiots who make the rules because they dont know how to have fun or purposely want to ruin the fun of the teens around them (check out these trailers: this one shows the typical idiot father http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urm5rfdD59o and this one extorts the be different message despite the fact the main character is a deviant:



Adventure and excitement arent depicted the same way either infact it is amazing how often they boarder the line of stupiditythat is if they dont cross it. Adventure now must either a). Break some sort of rule, b). Have some sort of risk or c). Both. The problem with movies is that they dont show the reality of what can happen and when they do (like in reality TV shows such as Scarred: http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?id=1556075&vid=141075 or Jackass:

) it is depicted as heroic and only encourages others to do it (after all he did crack a few vertebrae jumping of that cliff. but dude he made a come backhes a hero!!. I say hes an idiot.) Yet, despite how stupid some of these things are youth do them anyway and come up with quite a few stupid stunts of their own and other people watch them and copy them. However, as kids to get bored faster new better stunts must be created and it seems more often then not better is defined as greater risk (according to the

National Injury Prevention Foundation in the year 2000, 50,000 children ages 5 to 14 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for skateboard-related injuriesand despite what this foundation thinks, it isnt because they just werent wearing helmets).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVZQIV010hM notice the beginning of the show where they tell you not to try any of the following stunts that got these people on TV)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmJdQWuVqmM, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkYKdnAyXe4,


Kids arent concerned with their futures only what they can do and have fun in the present the fact that the present can have long-term effects on the future doesnt occur to them and with the response of kids will be kids! the maturity rate of American youth has extended into the early and mid-twenties.


I personally think there is only one way to conquer this. Whether you change your uniforms or advertise more it doesnt change the fact that once kids join the BSA (or any organization or sport for that matter) they will have put out effort (they will actually have to work for something) Kids dont sit at home and say I should join the Boy scouts of America because I can learn to become a leader! most likely, they see a commercial during video game breaks and think heythey get to climb stuff! but once they actually get into the organization and realize that there is expectation and that behind all the fun things they get to do there is a purpose that requires commitment and strong work ethic they lose interest and walk out. What it takes arent parents who say welltry it, have fun and when you get tired you can quit, what it takes are parents with higher expectations that say No, you may not quit, you signed up and made a commitment and you are not going to just quit because its gotten hard, you are going to keep at it, because I know you can do it. While they are still young kids need to learn the importance of working hardthe expectations of our parents and society (unfortunately) has plummeted while the expectation of the BSA remains the same. Perhaps kids are even scared of expectation. All I know is that kids need to stop being taught that everyone is a winner and that they can do anything and be anything because they are special! and be taught to work hard, to commit to what they are doing, and above all else to remember that the present does effect the future. I personally believe that there is nothing better then the feeling of a job well done when you know youve worked hard for something (didnt just scrape by) and you got it not because it was handed to you but because you deserved it.

Everywhere you look our society is changing to fit the next generation (including education and workwatch the very fist movies I posted on here about what corporate America is doingI couldnt even believe it and its my generation!) Responsibility, commitment, work ethic, planning for the future and the way these things all used to be perceived have all been throw out of the window. The BSA does not need to change (and I am not talking about changing uniforms here). If you do you will start to lose some of the key elements of what the organization was founded on and kids need to learn it from somewhere. I personally believe that the kids who are now actually in the organization showing interest need to be focused on more then everthey are the future too at least we will have some hope.








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"I dont think it is much different than today. During football season we played football. During basketball season we played basketball and baseball season was baseball."


However, much of what we did was just interaction among friends. Pick-up games. No officials. No parents. Larry Bird never played organized basketball until Junior High. Today, they have "instructional leagues" for first graders.



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"Sports in general teaches to win at all costs and take drugs to help one do so. These are not good values.


to me is not accurate. Just because there have been a rash or professionals who have done this, doesn't mean that is what sports teaches. I have coached basketball on many different levels & I can tell you none of what you stated is even discussed."


I've officiated sports at many levels and probably for more years than you coached (20+).


Winning at any cost is the mantra of many coaches. Look at the Little League scandal a few years back with the ringer who was too old to play.


How about the idiot coaches who send their players out to foul the opponent in an effort to stop the clock. "It's part of the game!" is the cry. It's against the rules and I've never seen it work to turn the game around.


I know a soccer coach who is very proud of the way his son knocked down an opposing player and then kicked him in the head to show dominance.


I've seen coaches berate their teams and call them "*** losers" because they lost a game after three extra innings. (This message has been edited by a staff member.)

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Posted (edited)
On 3/21/2008 at 11:38 AM, RememberSchiff said:

Here's what I remember from Scouting in the 60's.

... Make or make do, no online shopping at Campmor or Capelas. Good stuff cheap at Army-Navy stores, e.g., I.Goldbergs in Philly. Troop budgets were small, no need for BIG fundraisers.

Update Friday Aug 23, 2019: 

After a century, I. Goldberg Army & Navy closed Friday. Back in the 60's, my Dad bought my camping gear there.  :(



Edited by RememberSchiff
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