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Beavah

No Older Boy Scouts?

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The mistake that the BSA has made for decades is to extend the boy scout program pass the age of 14.

 

Yah, that was an interestin' quote from the original thread that seemed worthy of a separate discussion, eh?

 

I know what emb is gettin' at here. And I know he reflects a lot of current BSA thinkin' that has shifted boy scouting into being a middle school program with coed Venturing being our high school offering.

 

Me personally, I disagree. I think if yeh look at any troop that runs an active and traditional program which gets older boys workin' as leaders that they are proud to stay in their troop, and proud to be looked up to by younger guys. Eagledad talks about this eloquently. Age 12-17 boy scoutin' works great if it's done well.

 

What's happened is that the BSA has made a shift down in age for Boy Scoutin', gradually movin' from the original 12 to 11 to 10 year old entrance. And the materials have shifted down as well in their style and pattern (includin' 6th grade webelos 3/FCFY). I reckon a big part of that has been an unconscious response to outside forces - like the development of middle school in most of the country, and the sense that we should make our program match our sponsor schools. And what a great choice, eh? Middle schools in da U.S. by and large are an educational disaster. Great thing to model our program on!

 

So we've chosen to turn Boy Scoutin' into a middle school program, followin' the example of our Mormon colleagues. And because we've chosen to do that, Boy Scoutin' isn't as attractive to high schoolers. Eagle Scout in a lot of units has become more like Arrow of Light for an 8th grader than it is a "big deal" award appropriate for a young man goin' to work or college.

 

I think that's what's really behind all da advancement debates, eh? Some folks run 12-17 programs still, where Eagle Scout is somethin' a strong high school student leader/valedictorian earns and is proud of. And some folks run a more modern program where ranks are to encourage kids age 10-12, and withholding a rank expecting high-school-like independence and achievement is "punishment."

 

I personally think the mistake we made is shiftin' the Boy Scoutin' program down into little kid land, not shiftin' it up. Though that may now be irreversible.

 

What do the rest of yeh think?

 

Beavah

 

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I don't know Beavah, I go back and forth on this one.

 

We have a troop that has traditionally had a bunch of older guys involved, and that can be a huge plus when/if those boys are active participants, mentors, role models, and leaders.

 

However, while about a third of our membership consists of boys who are 15-17 years old, they are less and less active in the troop these days. Most of the troop's youth leadership right now are boys in 9th grade or younger. The older boys complain that troop meetings are boring and they don't participate in large numbers in outings, either.

 

Some of that is to be expected of course, since there are so many different draws on their attention and time once high school gets going. Some of that is programmatic, in the sense that we have had a large influx of new scouts in the last two years and so more of the program is directed toward them these days. On the flip side, while we have a small venture patrol dedicated to doing more "high adventure" activity, none of the boys in that patrol are older than 14/9th grade either. So there's a structure available to the oldest boys in the troop to do more/different activities that might challenge them and suit their interests, but they haven't bothered to take advantage of it.

 

What I am seeing is that the troop is increasingly run by, and focused on, boys in grades 6-9. But, since it is also uncommon (not unheard of, but uncommon) for boys to earn Eagle before about 11th grade in our troop, many older boys stick around (sort of) beyond 9th grade to finish up loose ends on their Life and Eagle ranks. They just aren't terribly active as youth leaders after about age 14/15. If that's going to be their approach then they'd be better off not being in the program at all, as far as I'm concerned, and setting a cut-off of 14 sort of makes sense.

 

On the younger end of the spectrum, I'm ambivalent too. I've met a lot of boys who are sooooo ready to be done with cub scouts by the middle of 5th grade when they cross over. I've met about an equal number who are in no way emotionally or mentally prepared to be boy scouts, and who do not do well in the first 6 months with a troop. Those who come back after the summer between 5th/6th grade tend to be just fine (there seems to be a lot of growing up that happens that summer), but there are a lot of boys who are lost in that 5th grade year, either through boredom in cub scouts, or through being ill-prepared for boy scouts.

 

I'm not sure whether the answer is to change the minimum age for entry into boy scouts across the board, or what. I do think that the Webelos II program suffers a lot in the execution (not necessarily in the idea) and often could be done better to truly bridge boys into boy scouting more effectively.

 

One other observation. It seems to me that most of the boys do pretty well with kids who are within about 2 years of them on the age spectrum. So a typical 14 year old can look up to and pal around with the 16 year olds without feeling too removed, and can reach back to the 12 year olds without feeling like they're "little kids." When you get much beyond that 2-year range though, there's such a difference in emotional development, maturity, and interests/life obligations that it seems a lot more challenging to build a sense of common identity.

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a few years back at the request of the District Committee, I did a little digging to see how old scouts were in the District when they "made" Eagle. I settled on using the date of the Eagle Board of review as it's easily found on the forms.

 

The average age of a scout sitting for the EBOR was 18.1 months for the first year I checked and 17.8 and 17.9 for the 2 years subsequent. Now, this is the average age, we had some younger Eagles but its not like Eagle has become a Middle School thing in my corner of the world.

 

I have heard that the Boy Scout program is geared to 12-14 year olds or so that is because the 15-18 year olds are supposed to be running the prgram and its easier to be 15 and running a program designed for 12-14 than it is to be 15 and run a program desgined for 18

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Actually, my comments were NOT based on what the LDS does, but what has happened elsewhere in scouting.

 

I don't have a problem with boy scouting starting at 11. I think 10 is too young.

 

In most other countries, boy scouting (or just scouts, if its co-ed) are for boys (or boys & girls if co-ed) 11-14/15. At this point the young must move to the next section (Venture, Venturing, Exploring, Senior, whatever its called). They don't have the problem of overlapping programs.

 

Having been a boy scout leader, I can understand the reluctance ("we need the older boys to run the troop", etc). Yet, elsewhere the older boys are NOT there to run the troops, and things seem to be fine. So why can't we bit the bullet and make this change?

 

 

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I'm trying to figure out when and how this age shift came to pass. I bridged into Boy Scouts in 1964 at the age of 11. I was in the fifth grade. As my birthday is in December I was among the older kids in my class. When I went to summer camp that summer most of my friends went as well and many of them were still shy of their 11th birthdays. I don't see that the age has changed much in 54 years. Or am I having a senior moment?

Hal

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I'm not sure about intentional shifts in age thing, but am happy to say the troop I serve keeps the guys active all the way through high school and has some college age guys joining us on campouts and summer high-adventure. Our incoming SPL is a senior who doesn't need the position for Eagle - he just wants to stay in the game and was elected. On average, the guys older than 15 miss a few more activities due to conflicts than the younger, but they are definitely engaged. They take pride in running the troop. It drives me nuts when I hear SMs comment on their missing high-schoolers that they have done their time, now they're pretty much just working on Eagle.

 

It is a challenge to keep them engaged, but I think we're doing a few things right.

1. Expectation - we expect them to keep serving.

2. Fun - they like running things and enjoy doing so with their buddies

3. High Adventure - definitely something to look forward to and you must be active to participate

4. Challenges - we're always looking for ways to throw new challenges to the guys that are outside of normal program guides. An example is night orienteering.

5. No First Year Program - new guys are a member of regular mixed-age patrols where they gradually learn most of the skills through use and get signed off as they show their mastery. We do use Instructors to set up special classes, but about half the time that's a review for entire troop before a patrol competition. We try to minimize the "boring" classes.

6. Merit Badge Classes - We have never done MB classes at troop meetings, but the PLC recently decided every boy needs to know about Auto Mechanics, so we had a skilled dad come in for a couple of meetings and teach the class to the older boys while those not yet 1st Class worked in another area to wrap up a few things.

7. Meetings - in general, meetings are mostly about getting ready for the next campout, so we brush up on map/compass before the orienteering campout, canoe terms and safety before canoeing, survival skills before the survival campout, etc.

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In most other countries, boy scouting (or just scouts, if its co-ed) are for boys (or boys & girls if co-ed) 11-14/15. At this point the young must move to the next section (Venture, Venturing, Exploring, Senior, whatever its called).

 

Yah, but that ain't quite da complete picture, emb. In other countries, those program divisions typically happen within a single scout unit, eh? That is to say, one "troop" or "group" consists of cubs and juniors/webelos and scouts and seniors/ventures and rovers and adult leaders eh? Unlike the U.S., they don't quit their unit when they go up a program level, so the older girls and boys are often acting as leaders to younger ones, in addition to runnin' their age-specific stuff. Very different feel from the way we do things, so I'm not sure it really compares.

 

B

 

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"In other countries, those program divisions typically happen within a single scout unit, eh? That is to say, one "troop" or "group" consists of cubs and juniors/webelos and scouts and seniors/ventures and rovers and adult leaders eh? Unlike the U.S., they don't quit their unit when they go up a program level, so the older girls and boys are often acting as leaders to younger ones, in addition to runnin' their age-specific stuff. Very different feel from the way we do things, so I'm not sure it really compares."

 

You seem to be mixing 'unit' and 'group'.

 

FWIK, they shouldn't be seen in such a way. And AKAIK, that's not how it works.

 

You would have a Pack, Troop, Crew, etc, all under the same group leadership. This is little different from out having a CO having a Pack, Troop, Crew.

 

However, I am not aware of mixing of age groups in the sense you are speaking of. Each section has their own distinct uniform, program, and leadership, and thus, should have their own activities and the like. Sure, you could have events where the group comes together, but not in the sense you describe.

 

 

 

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SO if you have an active program that engages older scouts with expectations and genuine feelings of being needed, wanted and respect and they stay, what a concept! Wonder why others don't do this?

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Internally, the adult leadership needs to embrace a full range of youth. I know a guy who thought the object was to move kids up to Venturing automatically as they hit 14 and 9th grade entry.

 

I know a SM who pushed his son on the Troop as SPL.

 

I do think, given all the activities at grades 10-12, there is a "right time" to reassess the young man and see what part of Scouting's program is best for him. Sometimes Venturing will be the answer, when the young man is carrying a busy life. Sometimes the Troop may well still fill the bill

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>> I personally think the mistake we made is shiftin' the Boy Scoutin' program down into little kid land, not shiftin' it up. Though that may now be irreversible.

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"In most other countries, boy scouting (or just scouts, if its co-ed) are for boys (or boys & girls if co-ed) 11-14/15. At this point the young must move to the next section (Venture, Venturing, Exploring, Senior, whatever its called). They don't have the problem of overlapping programs."

 

I'm curious - which "other countries" do this? That is not what I've seen in my limited exposure to international scouting.

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Eagledad and others have given a long list of reasons that units are not as strong as they used to be. I think that one of the reasons for weak units is that there are too many. The problem is the way that professional scouters are evaluated on quantity more than quality. District Executives are among the most poorly paid professionals in America. I would venture that the Latinos in front of the 7-11 may be better paid. A DE's pay is based somewhat on how many new units they have in their district. It might serve a scout troop well to form a Venture patrol but it serves the DE better to encourage the formation of a new Venturing Crew whether or not there is sufficient leadership to support both.

 

The DE is also rated and paid for the number of "Quality" units they have. This has led to lowering the bar as to what constitutes a quality unit and even then unit leaders are encouraged to exaggerate their units program or accomplishments to qualify. I know a Cubmaster who was told that he should say that his pack ran a 12 month program even though they did not meet or have activities (other than Webelos camp) during the summer. At the time a unit had to be 12 month to be a quality unit.

 

In our district I have seen a number of new units that just did not have the membership or adult support to survive.

 

As I said in a previous post, I have not seen a significant change in the age of scouts since I was a scout 50+ years ago, I don't think age is the issue.

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It's interesting that some people think that because other countries do it differently that the BSA should alter the program to be more like them.

 

Based on what? Just the fact that they do it differently? Does anyone have any data to show that the other countries that do it differently have consistently better results? Any data that shows a direct link between the other countries' different program levels and... I don't no...more scouts maybe?

 

Anybody?

 

 

As far as "too many units" how exactly is that determined? If I am the District Executive and the Presbyterian Church minister calls me and says they are looking at using the scouting program to enhance their service to youth in the community, you want me to tell them no, Thanks but we have enough units.

 

I am happy to say that that is not ever going to happen. The Council is a corporation and corporations to not exist in order to get smaller.

 

Why don't older scouts stay in scouting. False premises lead to false conclusions. The premise is false. There are many units that have no problem retaining older scouts, so "scouting" has no problem keeping older scouts.

 

UNITS that do not provide good LOCAL UNIT programs geared to older scouts lose them, not Scouting. The question should be...Why do some units retain solder scouts and some units lose older scouts? Its because not all units have good unit programs.

 

Poor program lose scouts. Good program retain them.

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Eagledad/Barry,

Once again you have nailed it spot on! Have you considered publishing a series of essays?

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