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Untrained leaders is indeed a problem in scouting. Leaders who do not follow the scouting program is also an issue. But I am not sure there are any more/less leaders following the program today than there were in the '60s.


I have posted that I was skeptical of GW's original post, then I found the US Park service statistic page and found what I did. The numbers of any type of camping is going down. We have a fellow forum member who is a Park Ranger who pesonally verifies that camping is down. We have people coming up with the term "Nature Deficit Disorder" to describe youth's detachment from the outdoors and writing articles about it. None of this is due to untrained scout leaders. I have a deep love of the outdoors, I am at a loss to pass on this love to the youth. I can take all the training I get my hands on and staff all the Powder Horn Courses I can (which I am) but if the families dont camp, it makes that much harder to interest youth in doing so. Doesnt mean it can't happen, as evidenced by RangerT's experience, but it makes it that much harder and how much energy should be expected?



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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.   https://www.inquirer.com/business/i-goldberg-

And how does one explain to the EBOR why the scout has only the minimum number of nights camping to just get by for the award? I do believe that the first camping MB required 50 nights of camping not 20.


No one's going to the state parks anymore, and yet how does one explain the large numbers of people flocking to such places as the BWCA? Surely one can't take their RV and mega-hp fishing boat there to have their fun. The face of camping has changed and with the high cost of energy, it will change again. Let's hope the drop in camping is due to the price of gas with a major RV burning it at a rate of 5-8 mpg, and not due to a disinterest in the outdoors.


So far I haven't experienced a distraction to the outdoor program with my boys and I don't expect to experience it.


One might also consider that during Webelos outdoor training many of the participants I taught stopped by Walmart/K-Mart to pick up a tent and sleeping bag for the event. I think the major problem with scouting outdoors is many of the leaders, trained or not just don't like bugs and the inconvenience of such activities. And sleeping out under the stars at -10 degrees is inconvenient for even the most hardened outdoorsman. I bet without too much difficulty I can find a handful of trained Cub leaders who won't take on Webelos or Scouting because of the outdoors nature of the program. This aversion is easily translated to the boys they are in charge of. One can endure the training of the BSA program without ever encouraging it with the boys and still be called a BSA trained leader.





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

Adult Training: Here's the handbook, read it. Few courses if any, I know neither my SM or mother (a den mother) took any courses nor did they request any. Adults were WW2 veterans and lived through the Depression so tended to be resourceful and creative with few dollars. They had experience and willingness - no need for today's MBA conceptualizing, acronym, org chart nonsense. 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.

Paperwork: SM had a one page record for each scout. Mrs. SM went to council with a shopping list and bought the awards. Council kept it's own records with a part time staff of 3 and the scout had to keep his merit badge cards for potential Eagle application. Today what a database hassle!

Do any scouts keep their mb award cards?

Adult leader footprint: SMALL. For a troop of 25, we had a SM, ASM, and 3 or 4 adults on Troop Committee. On campouts, we had at most 2 adults. No adult patrol. Adults ate what we cooked, but like now adults did not trust scouts to make coffee. Today, my unit could have 8 to 12 adults along plus siblings - that's not scouting to me. But today get with the program, scouting is a "family experience". I stay home more now.

Year program: Wasn't planned in advance by Troop Committee and scouts made it up as the year went along. District planned camporees and Klondike Derby, Troop Committee planned scout week dinner; ASM would plan summer camp. Scouts were expected to plan hikes, campouts, museum trips, etc. Philmont was The Scout Ranch - the only high adventure camp available, unlike today with Northern Tier, Maine, Sea Base,...

Activities: Planned and lead by scouts ASPL and APL usually planned activities and then the SPL and PL's lead the activities. Adults just handled the driving. No adult activity coordinator.

Klondike: stations were run by senior scouts, today stations and their challenges are handled by adults.

Philmont: In '69, my patrol had 8 scouts and 1 adult leader. That was the ratio 1 adult to patrol. If something happened to that adult, a Philmont ranger would replace him. I'm amazed that crews have 3 or 4 adults. If something happened back then, I would send two scouts to bring help, because that's what a PL does.

That was then. Today, adults have taken over the program both in sheer number and control. I agree it is contributing to the decline that started in the 70's.

The data is there - membership, activity attendance, and length of time as scout are declining. Either something is wrong with the program or fewer families want this program. We really need a Bill Hillcourt now. The common response I get is "Bill who?"

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I was also a Scout in the 60's and a Scout leader since the 1970s


The percentage of trained leaders seems to be noticeably less to me.

The program changes have been largely cosmetic, The heart of the program and its methods have changed very little. The attraction of a good unit program today is as strong as it was in the 60s. There just are not as many good units as there used to be.


Needs and characteristics of kids have changed very little. Kids still resond to respect and adventure. But technology has chaged tremendously and so has the ooportunity for kids to be entertained electronically. Unit leaders need to understand the needs of the youth. Just going camping is not enough to capture the imagination of most kids for very long.


One poster askes, "why do we need to crank up the thrill?" That gap in understanding the needs of scout aged youth is why youth are quitting units or not joining scouts. "Why cant kids do it for themselves?" Because they are kids, and they need to be taught how to do it, there is a purpose for adult leadership in a unit.


Scout units do not lose membership because of kids who do not know how to be scouts, but from adults who do not understand how to lead scouts. The BSA knows this and spend more resources on teaching adults how to lead Scouting than on teaching kids how to be kids.


We all have the same program, he all have the same training information, We all have the same program materials. Yet some units thrive and some units fold. What is the difference between them? The adults selected to lead the local unit program.

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I'm another of those scouts in the 60's and adult youth leader since. But I'm one of the "unimaginative, uneducated morons without a clue about the needs and desires of todays youth" who doesn't follow scout program policies very well, spends too much time being a kid and yet runs a growing and successful Troop AND Crew at the same time. Am I trained? Yep from Cubbing up to Venturing and toss in WB and Univerity as well. Have I taught training on most of those levels? Yep! Does training make a difference? Yes, but only a little, far less than some on the forum seem to indicate. Does training insure a good program NO! Does following the scout program insure a successful pack/troop/crew? NO! All training does is give one an opportunity to wear a "TRAINED" patch on their sleeve and keeping the DE from bugging them about getting trained. Nothing more nothing less.


Over the years I have found out that my best training comes from the kids, not the BSA program. The BSA program does not nor will it ever be able to insure every pack/troop/crew will be successful. Those that expouse such ideals have no idea what the potential may mean for their boys. Ever have a boy call you up crying because he couldn't make it to the meeting that night? What does training do for you at that point? Ever have a boy go before a judge to have the custody arrangement adjusted so he could go with his fellow scouts to summer camp? What does training say about that? Ever have boys hanging around as adult leaders 4 and 5 years later because they don't want to leave? Where's it written in Scout literature that promotes that? The Scouting program with all it's literature, rules and recommendations is only the first step in a long journey. At best it points one in the right direction. What the individual does with that first step determins the course of his/her own journey. Scouting is an issue of the heart, not the mind. One can train the mind, but the heart is where it all happens.



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"Ever have a boy call you up crying because he couldn't make it to the meeting that night? Yep


" What does training do for you at that point?"

It helps you to understand the characteristics of youth and how to use the methods of scouting to deal with them. It teaches you counseling skills to help in situations like this. You took the training, did you get the scout through this sitauation OK? That's how the trainin helps.


"Ever have a boy go before a judge to have the custody arrangement adjusted so he could go with his fellow scouts to summer camp?"



"What does training say about that?

Who expects the BSA training to tell you what do do if a scout is arrested? Doesn't it tell you how to teach values to scouts to help thenm avoid that situation. It does teach you how to counsel scouts and how to know when a situation is beyond your training and to turn the situation over to others with those specific skills. So did you do OK or did you get him the help he needed. Either way Scout training played a role.


"Ever have boys hanging around as adult leaders 4 and 5 years later because they don't want to leave?"

Lots of times.


"Where's it written in Scout literature that promotes that?"


Why in the world would you need that written down somwhere. Did you not know that some scouts become scout leaders? What exactly would you need the BSA literature to tell you about on that topic?


Remember that I NEVER called any volunteer unimaginative, uneductated morons. I have never spoken of volunteers in this or any program in that way.






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I don't dispute that a well run, well trained unit will attract interested youth and flourish. My unit is doing well and growing. We draw from a large area where there were once 5 troops, now there are 2. Was it a lack of program or untrained leaders? Perhaps. Was it a lack of kids who were interested? Perhaps. But the net result is that those kids who were interested in scouting consolidated to the two remaining units when the other ones shut down. The market just wouldn't support more units. GW is right. Demand for scouting is down and in my opinion, isn't because of untrained leaders or poorly run programs. Kids just aren't interested like they used to be.

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Scout units do not lose membership because of kids who do not know how to be scouts, but from adults who do not understand how to lead scouts. The BSA knows this and spend more resources on teaching adults how to lead Scouting than on teaching kids how to be kids.


It's always the fault of the adult leadership. Nothing else could be the reason for the decline in membership. And I have some great swamp land to sell!


Let's not forget, the decline in membership is not solely from boys quitting, but from boys just not joining and I think GW's original post had a lot of valid points as to why this is.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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Yah, there's never been any question in my mind that good units form around and are sustained by good adult leaders - what B-P called Scouters of the "right sort." I have no doubt that given a few scouters of the "right sort" and a decently supportive community, a troop will flourish.


But I wonder how many Scouters of the "right sort" are available these days.


A Scouter of the right sort has to have sound outdoor skills - enough to be comfortable and happy in the woods.

A Scouter of the right sort has to really like and enjoy spending time with young people as a friend and mentor.


Neither of those are currently "taught" in BSA training, let alone learned to the proficiency needed. So we are dependent on adults coming to us with those abilities. So we get a few Gerns who have some real outdoor savvy, and some jblakes who have some real love of kids (and all da rest of you, too!). But they're fairly rare.


Back in the 60s and 70s, we had a lot of young guys fairly fresh out of a service that ran a draft. It therefore included a lot of middle class guys who now had outdoor experience in the jungle and other places. Some of 'em also enjoyed kids. Now our folks with service experience live in clusters rather than bein' spread across the nation. Scoutin' is still doing fairly well in areas with more servicemen (and women) present, but perhaps is fading in other areas?


Plus, too, the outdoor sports have changed, eh? As GW says, back then it was Davy Crockett and adventures in the woods. Straight camping. Adults were better at that. Campin' hadn't changed that much since B-P's day. Now, it's a bit more aggressive - mountain biking and skating and snowboarding half-pipes or rails. That's not da same as instant gratification - I've watched kids work for weeks earnin' wicked bruises tryin' to learn a skate move. But it is more aggressive than most of our available adult leaders are capable of supportin'. And sometimes, as in the case with paintball, it's more aggressive than we older adults are willin' to even wrap our brains around permitting.


Maybe the kids have moved on, and left a lot of our BSA adult leaders behind.




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"but there was far less training required of adults back in the 70s to be considered trained."


Actually it was the same. Cornerstone Training, as it was called in the seventies took just as long as todays New leader Essentials and Scoutmaster Leader Specific, along with a pre outdoor course and an outdoor weekend experience training.




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