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Why does sports/band/etc seem to trump Scouting?

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"Im different from you in that I want a boy to struggle with tough choices because that is how he develops the skills of discernment."


I would say this mis-characterizes my viewpoint. I said that I wouldn't want to make a Scout's choice *more difficult* by placing constraints (I debated with myself about using the phrase "artificial constraints"). Tough choices are already there -- the kind of thing I'm talking about, as an example, would be placing restrictions on advancement because of a troop-imposed attendance rate. That's just one example. It's something that unit scouters have control over.


Every adolescent faces tough choices, and I am certainly not one to try and shield my own kids from that kind of thing. I gave the example of my 2C son, in one of his first scheduling dilemmas ever, choosing a Klondike Derby over a basketball game. The only thing I did was try to help him see both sides of the issue (he's missing a game, the team picture, and he could attend both, if he was willing to skip dinner with his troop that evening). He made the choice, and I'm supporting him with it (meanwhile, while I'm not planning on overnighting with the troop, I'm dropping by for part of the day, and I will still be going to the game because I keep score for the team).



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I think a lot of this is griping and perhaps insecurity about "our" program.


Yes, there are kids out there who are over-committed and who don't ever learn to make choices. What I see is that these guys are typically a small minority. And many of them don't truly commit to much at all - they drift from one focus to another, never really rooting themselves anywhere. So it isn't just scouting that "suffers" in their lives. Then there are the kids who spend all their spare time either hooked to a gaming system or in their rooms staring at the ceiling or something, and can't be bothered to participate in scouting. Those kids, who seem to have little connection with anything or anyone, I worry about. But again, it isn't just scouting that "suffers" in their lives.


As for those who are serious musicians or athletes or what have you, I think it is short-sighted of us to expect them to sacrifice their love of something else to put scouting "first" all the time. Yes I agree that scouting is a wonderful program (particularly when it is well-run). But you can't expect it to be the be-all, end-all for every kid. For the kid who loses (or finds) himself in music and gladly plays his horn 5+ hours a day, nothing else is going to match that. Demanding that he sacrifice his passion for music so that he can meet someone else's standard of "acceptable" involvement in scouting is silly and fails to serve that boy well in his development. Now maybe that kid shouldn't be SPL if he knows he can't be at half the meetings or outings, due to his other involvements. But my goodness, what I'm hearing in some people's comments is a suggestion that he shouldn't even be a boy scout!


C'mon people, boy scouting, for all the wonderful things it does, is not the only way to reach kids, to teach kids, or to help them develop and grow. We need to be attuned to the needs of each individual boy, and scouting is not going to play the same role in all of those kids' lives.


Rather than be angry and seeming to chastise kids for this, I think it would be better to recognize it. That doesn't mean you should countenance irresponsible or rude behavior like boys frequently canceling on you at the last minute, or boys choosing to take PORs that the can't realistically fulfill, but it does mean you should understand that some boys will want to explore other venues in addition to scouting, to develop their many talents. Run a good program and those boys will stick with scouting too, more often than not.

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Sorry to post twice but I want to add this.


When else in a person's life is there so much relative freedom to explore and develop talents, hobbies, and interests, than in middle and high school? For all that there is a good deal of pressure from homework and maybe having a part time job, teens still have a remarkable freedom to try new things. As adults, we all know it is more difficult to do that, as we often get kind of "locked in" by the daily responsibilities and pressures of adult life. Maybe when we retire we'll have that time and freedom again...if we get to that point in good health.


How many of us still have a hobby, or passion for, or at least fond memories of something today, as a result of something we first became acquainted with as teens, whether it be scouting or sports or music, or some other activity? So - why would we want to force boys into an either/or choice at a young age, when they rightly should be trying out different activities?

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Lisabob - I think you hit the nail on the head. That's what I meant when I said it's all part of the package (Scouts/band/sports/etc).


Lots of kids are exposed to all sorts of things starting from toddler-hood on up. My two sons have been in various music classes since they were very young, and we'd see all sorts of parents drop in for a semester or two and then drop out, and then move on to dance classes, or gymnastics at the Y, or whatever. I considered them "survey" parents, searching for breadth in exposure, while we were choosing more depth in one area (with balance being added by "surveying" other things). I don't consider either method more valid than the other.


I'm happier now that my kids are older and are able to express their preferences. That has it's dark side too -- my 2C son may have the desire to become an Eagle Scout. But my W2 son has already told me that he doesn't think Scouts are for him (he's finishing up AoL as soon as he can because he doesn't enjoy Cubs any more), and that he'll probably be more interested in sports. I've been trying to use every "Jedi mind trick" I can think of to try and convince him that being a Scout will be a good idea too, but so far he's just showing reluctance.

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"First let me say, all things being equal, I dont believe that those other activities even come close to developing a better direction for the rest of a boys life than scouting...Scouting far and away is better...My philosophy of direction when I was a SM was to develop our scouts into citizens of character and leaders of integrity."


Barry, I don't want to come across as a pain, or a contrarian, but maybe as a Devil's Advocate in the spirit of good debate. But as I said before, this is the kind of value judgment that I couldn't make, having personally been in this same boat.


So what I'd like to ask you is to support your statement. Why do you think that Scouting is far and away better? You haven't really given a reason why you believe the way you do.


I feel, as others have pointed out, that Scouting doesn't have a monopoly on certain values. In fact, the very first lecture I received on integrity came from my junior high school band director, delivered to our entire band. Integrity, leadership development, teamwork, citizenship, character development (I could probably run through the entire set of aims and methods)...those kinds of things pop up all over the place. As a youth, I really appreciated the "outward boundness" of my troop's high adventure experiences because I learned that despite being a non-athletic kid, I had no physical limits that weren't imposed by my own brain. I would think a good coach would be able to foster that same thing with young athletes.


Scouting is, arguably, the best known and oldest (100 years!) youth leadership development program. But I really would like to hear your supporting argument.





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I think it is short-sighted of us to expect them to sacrifice their love of something else to put scouting "first" all the time. Yes I agree that scouting is a wonderful program (particularly when it is well-run). But you can't expect it to be the be-all, end-all for every kid.


Yah, but doesn't the same apply for those band directors and coaches who demand the boys sacrifice their love for scouting? I may be mistaken, but I've never seen a troop anywhere that has anywhere near 100% attendance expectations the way those other programs do. I've never seen a troop say that a lad has to sit on the bench during patrol competitions because he missed that week's meeting. Never seen a troop that demands practice every day and then kills the weekend with a mandatory 1-hour concert midday Saturday on top of that.


So I reckon it's bunk that anybody is expecting a scout to "sacrifice their love of something else." But it's not unreasonable to expect lads in middle and high school to commit enough time to contribute substantively and really grow in their scouting. Especially if anyone thinks the band and sports "commitments" are reasonable!


I love da arguments about grades, too. Does anybody really think that a band grade amounts to anything more than a hill of beans? Every college I know of immediately subtracts off those "fluff" classes and evaluates the transcript based on academic performance. Then looks at band as an extracurricular like any other.


I can't speak for Eagledad, but I agree with him. Scouting is a better program for boys' development for a very simple reason. It allows kids to make choices. Lots of choices. Choices where there is no right answer. Choices where they are allowed to fail. In all those school programs, the coach makes all the choices, and the band director's job is to make sure the kids don't fail at the concert. Lectures about responsibility and the narrow teamwork required to play your part on the field or in the orchestra are nice and all. But they don't compare to having real responsibility and the broader teamwork required to plan and lead an open-ended task like an outing or a year's worth of events.


I love to see kids engage in a passion for anything, eh? Sports, theater, band, robot club, whatever. It's all good for 'em. But school extracurriculars don't hold a candle to a well run scoutin' program.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Now, labeling band as a "fluff" class is what really pisses me off. Just as much as someone who has pre-judged a band grade to be nothing more than an easy grade. In my own firsthand experience, it was anything but, and I've already listed the reasons why.


Just think how you would feel if a college recruiter dismissed the concept of being an Eagle Scout as fluff.


For the record, HS electives are not fluff. But there are school districts, like the one I'm in, that will calculate grade point averages and class rankings two ways, one with only core courses, and one with all grades, including electives. But I would guess that the two pretty much track the same way, statistically-speaking.


Personally, I would never dismiss anything that takes serious dedication, commitment and discipline as nothing more than fluff.



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I have to disagree with the Beaveah here, because the school's I've been associated with DO calculate band and PE into the GPA And I've known people have missed out on being Valedictorian because of PE.


Also at the college I used to work at, they did NOT modify the GPAs to exclude PE and band. So they are not 'joke" classes.


Also When I did my undergrad, the toughest program at the university was the School of Music. All the vsarious school had the max full time at 18 hours EXCEPT the School of music, which was 21 credits. The reason was that there was no way a student could complete the curriculum in 4 years unless the did 21 hours every semester after their first year. In fact I broke up with a girl because she spent all available free time practicing. So don't think music is a "joke'

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Yah, before all the band folks get all in a twitter, let me be clear.


I don't think extracurriculars are fluff, and I certainly don't think bein' in the band, or on varsity, or in the play, or on the quiz bowl team, doesn't take a lot of hard work and effort, or isn't worth anything. All colleges look at depth of extracurricular involvement (but not necessarily breadth) as a strong indicator of a person who will be successful.


But outside of some lad's quest to be valedictorian, a band grade is meaningless from an academic perspective. An A in band or a C in band isn't goin' to affect anyone's future or count for much of anything. Bein' in the band, sure. Bein' president of the band, even more. But a band grade has no real value. Anyone lookin' at grades is goin' to look at Science, and Math, and English, and History, and Foreign Language, then glance at an academic fine arts class and pretty much ignore anything else. The bigger universities that use screening formulas drop band grades as irrelevant. Dat's just the way it is, eh? Not all grades are created equal.


So a savvy parent, knowin' that, could push back a bit harder on the band teacher, and give his or her son some room to pursue other extracurriculars more fully.




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Music conservatories at the post-secondary level are a whole other story, as far as I'm concerned. I could go on for hours about how many of them do a disservice to young musicians, and I would never knowingly encourage a young musician to consider that a first step on a career path.


There was some famous jazz musician, maybe Phil Woods, who said (more or less) that he wished a college would fill a bus with incoming music students, drive them around for several hours, have them play a gig, load them and transport them again, and keep repeating the process for several weeks. Then have them decide whether or not they wanted to continue as a student.


It takes a certain makeup to be able to thrive at that level, where it is strictly dog-eat-dog. I wouldn't wish that "Lord of the Flies" scenario on anyone. But that's how they filter out those who want to be the absolute best.


(my undergraduate work was done at a school with a notorious conservatory program; I took a small handful of classes there, and participated in a couple of their ensembles)

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The council Jamboree committee just interviewed for 3rd Asst. SM for both troops and one of the young men was 16 1/2 and a junior in high school. We told him of the committment that has to be made and that if a sporting event or band came up, he would have to miss it, because he was an adult, and he agreed to it. We did tell him that if he didn't make the total committment, then we would replace him.

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Where to start...


I did band and JROTC and excelled in both because I put in the time and made sacrifices. I stopped doing Scouts with my church troop because all they did was play basketball. I wanted to do outdoor stuff. I managed to get that with my JROTC Recon Company/High Adventure Explorer Post (which would probably be Venturing nowadays).


I was ranked 13 out of 540 in my graduating class. Band and JROTC sucked the GPA down, as well as not taking honors classes because I did summer classes to have room in my schedule. My grades overall helped me get a full ROTC scholarship and admission to a top university. The leadership I learned and practiced in Scouting, band, and ROTC all helped as well.


I managed to strike a balance between the two/three. I got permission from my band director to miss part of summer rehearsal to attend to my JROTC duties, including being commandant of the summer NCO Academy. Part of why I was allowed to do this is because I had proven I would keep up my end of things n the band, and I also presented a plan for how things would run in my absence. JROTC allowed me to attend to band functions as needed. It took communication and initiative.


All that out of the way now, let me add another curveball. Maybe it is just a Texas thing, but most communities I've been in have managed to get the school district to make a "family night" policy. This initiative was mainly started by the local Baptist ministers so their youths could do Wednesday night church, but they built enough of a coalition that the public pressure was too much to ignore. The district made a strict policy of no school activities after 5PM on Wednesdays to allow for family time. Most church and other youth organizations in the community were smart enough to use this as their time for activities. This avoided most schedule conflicts during the week. Weekends took some doing, especially with sports, but I'll put that back under the "you have to make a decision of some kind" category. If the youth and his adult leaders/parents can help him make arrangements to attend to his responsibilities in both areas, then great. I think most organization leaders will work with a youth who shows the initiative to take responsibility and work extra hard to make things happen. And if not, time to make a hard decision like most adults have to make.

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Good evening; not my first posts, but still am an overall new guy to your folks' forum.


Though I was an active Boy Scout in my youth (and it was my #1 priority), I have been extremely involved in another program that has an active youth program, as an adult member.


It shouldn't be any surprise that I have heard this exact same question and associated responses within the other program also!


I don't believe I can (or should) restate some of the other great responses. With that in mind, as a person who held the equivalent role of Scoutmaster in the other program, I too have beat my head against a wall at times over many similar rhetorical questions. At the end of the day, I came to same conclusion every time.


(And yes, one finger is pointing while three are flipped back at me.)


Parents' concept of prioritization. Simply put, they pay the light bills, they set the tone for what's "good to go" at home at associated stuff....while our youth programs supplement and compliment what their money and tone establish as "good to go."


I agree and disagree with my own assessment, depending upon the point of view I take when considering it (Eagle Scout circa '90, or as a Father, or through a few other classifications).


Not seen two cultures who view the matter the same way yet (and that's after having worked or lived in 42 of the 50 states....sheesh!)


A mixture of sales and leadership (not the rhetoric stuff, the real stuff) are the best medicine I've found to alleviate the symptoms we all seem to have experienced. Even between the two concepts of sales and leadership, there's a flexing ratio of each we should offer to the parents and to the youth. As you can guess, the ratio is generally in favor of the parents.


These two concepts, when matched against reasons on how our programs meet THEIR needs wins the day (at least it has for me in my recruiting and more importantly, retention matters). Sometimes neither party is sold on the "be a better man" rationale, because that notion isn't the primary need for either group. Sometimes it is for some, but sights have fallen off target.


But you folks surely know that.


Lastly...in all fairness, sometimes units don't fulfill promises implied (or overtly told) that matter to some young folks. For example, the boy who joins a troop, envisioning stories of reliving "Man vs. Wild," may do a priority shift when all he's tasked to perform is popcorn sales and a once-a-year Coleman Stove Cook Off down behind the YMCA. Yup, I've seen some folks use a canned pitch to bring folks in, and then not really deliver.....and then wonder how come the Zimbabwean Stamps Collecting Club steals away good members.


(Not to imply that Trail's End isn't an important financial pursuit, but it isn't high on the "coolio" meter to some young folks.)


Sorry to be so long, but obviously three pages of posts confirms this isn't an easy topic with which to deal. Do take solace, though, that my beloved BSA is not the only program fighting this same dragon!


NO PREACHING intended; just thinking out loud, as your peer of equal standing. Okay, perhaps lesser standing given that I'm a newer face to your forum...albeit not an untried face in the least! :-)


Regards and respects for what you all do for my brother Scouts and Scouters,


USAF vet

Civil Air Patrol continuing member

BSA "re-upped" ASM with a Boy Scout legacy to mentor!

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THe attitude I see here from some folks makes me cringe. This sense of moral superiority isn't likely to win over many boys to the program, even assuming you're right about the relative merits of different programs (and in some cases, I think that assumption is based on limited personal experience with programs besides scouting). Belittling other activities that, evidently, boys in your troops have freely chosen to be part of, isn't likely to win those boys back to the fold. Sending a message to others that they're making inferior choices if they chose something other than scouting on a given day or weekend (and that's the message I am hearing from many of you), isn't going to convince people of the rightness of your cause.


For the record, my son's high school includes fine arts, performing arts, applied technology (everything from robotics to welding), and PE grades in the GPA. There is no "core" GPA and everything is weighted the same. State law requires students to have at least a year of arts education, a semester of PE, and a semester of health, in addition to "core" academic subject requirements, in order to graduate high school. The large public university where I teach offers scholarships and admission to our honors college based primarily on GPA - and we don't filter out any of those classes mentioned above. There are, of course, circumstances where that might happen, but Beavah's assertion that these grades simply don't account for anything but fluff is erroneous in many cases.


The bigger point isn't - and shouldn't be - grades and scholarships and lines on a college application though. The bigger point is that we ought to be encouraging boys to develop their talents in various aspects of their lives, concordant with scouting! Some of the posts I'm reading here do seem to make this an either/or decision, denigrating the value of other activities, and by extension, the scouts who sometimes choose those activities. That is more likely to drive good kids away from scouting. Again: we need not tolerate rude and inconsiderate behavior like frequent last minute cancellations, and we should certainly counsel boys not to put themselves in PORs where they can't fulfill their obligations. Maybe some boys do see scouting as a secondary activity in their lives. Maybe some of them will never make Eagle as a result. But so what!


I fear many are losing sight of the purpose of the program here, which is not about rank advancement and being SPL, etc., but about helping each boy develop in his own unique way. For some boys scouting will be a bigger part of that development than others.


Sorry this is so long - you guys touched a nerve I guess.

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