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Changing Times & Demographics

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What a lot of scouters fail to recognize is that the basic core of what scouting is and has been for the last 100 years is archaic and irrelevant to todays youth techno centered and self centered exsistence. Unless scouting is totally reinvented it will NEVER appeal to the youth of today.


I totally disagree with this statement. How is learning to be self-reliant & confident archaic? I think the problem is exactly what was stated - self-centered existence.

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Back in the 60's there was some element of the scouting program that made the statement, "A scout is square", younger members of the forum may not understand that use of the word square. To be a "Square" meant to be fair, honest, respectful, in other words to do what was right and proper, to be scoutlike


Youth doing what is right and proper never has been too popular, the Zoot Suiters, Greasers, Hippies, Disco Darlings, Punks, etc have never claimed to be youth doing what was expected or nice or even engaged in legal activities. As society glorifies the outlaw, the unconventional, the rule breaker, the tax cheat, the drug addict and all manner of illicit behavior, we have to wonder why would anyone aspire to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean or Reverent?


There is a segment of the youth population that gets into physical challeneges, be it extreme skate boards, snow boards ot whatever, but how many of them would be attracted to any program the BSA offers?


Can a program that values Citizenship, Charactor and Personal Fitness survive in an increasingly hedonistic and anarchistic society?

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"Can a program that values Citizenship, Charactor and Personal Fitness survive in an increasingly hedonistic and anarchistic society?"


I won't disagree with you, OGE. However, I do think there is a fundamental disconnect in the perception and marketing of the program today. Take a poll of your troop, team or crew and ask them what attracted them to Scouting. It's not going to be the Scout Law and Oath - and if even one Scout mentions "values," I'll eat my old Nalgene.


Very, very few young men are interested in joining a program that promotes itself as teaching citizenship, character and personal fitness. Even fewer are going to be gung-ho about learning about "words to live by," "timeless values," or whatever the catchphrase of the day is. Those may be good marketing lines aimed at parents, but there's now way they're going to work for boys. And it's the boys who vote with their feet.


I don't think that it's a matter of changing times and demographics - I sincerely doubt that boys back in the early 1900s were interested in "values" or meaningless marketing catchphrases, either. What attracted them, and what still draws boys today, is adventure, excitement and exploration. Honor, duty, country - those are more abstract things that they'll internalize as they get older, through both the natural course of the program and the natural course of maturation.


I believe that the enrollment numbers are suffering and declining not because of its values, the God & gays controversies aside. They're declining because the program is being adulterated, becoming less about outdoor adventure and more about academics and technology.


There's a page on Kudu's site - details below - that talks about how most boys will jump at the chance to do something that's hinted at being just a little bit too dangerous for them. Using an iPod isn't dangerous. Sitting at a computer isn't adventure. That's entertainment, not excitement.


The same thinking can be applied to the current "values" marketing scheme, which has to be one of the worst recruitment messages I've ever heard. It might work for the clergy, but not for boys and young men. Being Kind and Courteous, Thrifty and Reverent are all excellent values, and I'm not saying otherwise. But there's no adventure there. A kid is not going to become a Boy Scout because he wants to be Trustworthy or Loyal. He's going to join because he wants to go whitewater rafting, hike the Appalachian Trail or shoot a tight grouping on a target.


As long as the BSA talks the "character and values" talk in trying to draw Scouts in, it's going to fail. As soon as it starts promoting adventure, and delivering on that promise, there will be a boom. Get the extreme sports kids involved. Then work in the values. No prosyletizing, just good common sense.


EDITED to add: I found the page on Kudu's site, inquiry.net. The relevant quotes, from a writeup of a school recruiting visit: "I try to convey the hint that Scouting might just be too dangerous for some sixth-grade boys. ... Most importantly, to shatter peer-pressure emphasize anything dangerous and forbidden: bears, rattlesnakes, knives, axes, matches, gas stoves, white water canoeing, repelling off cliffs, and primitive camping as an encounter with natural forces beyond our control."


The page is http://www.inquiry.net/adult/recruiting.htm


He also put it a lot more succinctly than I just did in writing: "The Outdoors is the primary attraction, never forget that. ... Surprisingly, the Ideals will emerge as a natural consequence of struggle in the great outdoors."(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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This is a really splendid thread. It's very thought provoking.


My only chip to toss in is that public opinion MATTERS. There are a few important sources of public opinion: the people in the mass media, and people leading other, mostly local, sources of public communication. The mass media people hate the Boy Scouts for the gay issue; it's the one immediately recognizable thought that comes to their minds. . . and they also, for some reason, don't like the outdoorsmanship stuff (probably some feminist inspired bias).


I don't think the Boy Scouts of America can successfully woo the national mass media. I think the organization itself has to get out there on the national stage and promote and marketing and advertise.


With respect to minority participation, I'd say look to the long-term. Even if you're from another country, pretty soon you'll be wearing blue jeans and hanging out at the mall. If the scouting program is seen as a regular thing for boys to do, those groups will eventually discover and gravitate towards it.


The big threat to scouting, in my opinion, is the increasing focus at earlier ages on sports. Even though sports don't, in my opinion, do much for a kid's development.

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There is little doubt in my mind that BSA is putting more emphasis on leadership than outdoorsmanship. BSA is marketing to adults not the youth. The adults want the leadership. The youth want adventure.


Just look at WB. The new course has nothing about outdoor skills, and is 100% about leadership and personal development. Same with NYLT. The BSA is becoming little more than a youth Toastmasters or Kiwanis and less of an Outward Bound adventure program.


That just doesn't attract youth and definitely cannot compete with sports or other youth distractions.

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Are you subbing for Kudu to supply the required WB bashing?


When has anyone ever seen WB or NYLT (what exactly is that name? you know, the "L" word?) used as marketing for new members? Most Scouts and Scouters don't hear about these until they have been in the program a few years.


If you want to see how Scouting is marketed nationally to boys, check out Boy's Life. Last time I checked it was pretty heavily weighted on the adventure part of the program. Other than national, Scouting is advertised locally by the units. They control the content and message.

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Boy's Life is not a marketing tool for the BSA. It is a publication for those boys already in the program. When have you seen Boy's Life in the newsstands?


Why is it that when one makes note of the WB emphasis on leadership, one is bashing it? I'm just saying that the BSA in its pinnacle program, WB, is training their adults leadership and personal development, not adventure. Perhaps if we spent more emphasis training our adult volunteers how to deliver adventure instead of leadership, we would be better aligned to attract more youth.

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I'm going to have to disagree. If most units actually actively marketed and advertised the program in a coordinated fashion, it'd be different. But that's what National and the councils are supposed to do. There's no way small chartered organizations and units can compete with the professional expertise in community outreach and public relations that DEs and FDs and the like supposedly have. The units and COs can do small things on a community-by-community basis, but there's no comparison. National sets the tone, and it's gotten some really bad marketing advice.


To another of your points: Boys' Life isn't a recruitment tool. It's a program tool. If it has much of an influence on membership, it's on the retention side. But let's look at the numbers anyway. The magazine doesn't even reach half of the registered Cub and Boy Scouts out there (2007 enrollment of 2.5 million, not counting Varsity or Venturers; Boys' Life Scout circulation of 1.1 million). It reaches an additional 200,000 non-Scout subscribers. And the "pass-through rate" of 6 million cited by National is a joke. When was the last time one of your Scouts actually handed a copy off to a friend to read?


Aside from that, the Boys' Life image isn't what my council promotes on its Web site ("words to live by" tops the page). It's not the message that covered a billboard near where I used to live ("timeless values" was the dominant phrase). And it's not the impression you get from visiting one council's recruitment Web site (which focuses on "GIVING YOUTH SKILLS TO BE SUCCESSFULL IN LIFE" - spelling apparently not being among those skills).


Log on to Scouting.org. The first main body of text you'll see is this:


"The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation's largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness. For nearly a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes and through nearly a century of experience, knows that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society."


Wow-eee. I can't wait to join, can you? Every 12-year-old wants to be a conscientious, responsible and productive citizen. Forget learning how to save a life or track a raccoon through a forest. I want to be a developed youth, darnit! [ end snark ]



Edited to add: An earlier version of this post made some critical observations about beascout.org, which I thought was a recruitment site run by National. It's actually owned by the Cradle of Liberty Council. But it still reinforces the "values" marketing approach, with a healthy dose of typos and flat-out misinformation to boot.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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I understand that youth are not looking for values, rather they are lookign for fun, adventure, challeneges etc.


Having someone say "That guy is such a Boy Scout" is not seen very often as a complement


When in the Star Terk movie the following exhange occurs between mother and son:


Dr Marcus (to his mother, also Dr. Marcus) "Remember that overgrown Boy Scout you used to hang around with ?"


His mother responds "Listen kiddo, Jim Kirk was many things but he was never a Boy Scout!"


In the movie "Clear and Present Danger" the hero, Jack Ryan is castigated for not wanting to deal in the illegal by the insult, " You are *such* a Boy Scout! You see everything in black and white!"


Given those references, just the two I can come with right now. Boy Scouts is known to be an organization of people who do good, are good, act nice, however you want to put it. Being a "goody goody two shoes" or a "Holy Joe" has never been a compliment and being called a Boy Scout is probably not going to be a compliment for a very long time.


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Disagree if you like. What you didn't mention is Boy's Life is in the libraries, both school and local here. And for your local neighborhood kid looking at Scouting, he isn't going to visit any of those web sites. He is going to see the local unit. He will see the other elementary kids wearing their uniforms to school. The parents will get an invitation to a School Night for Scouting event and talk to the other parents about the unit. That is where they are going to get 90% of their information. Billboards? Not around here. DEs and FDs doing any advertising? Not around here. We don't expect them to. We do our own marketing in the school for the Pack (135 boys). Run a good program and word of mouth is just about all the marketing you need. When you start getting emails from Kindergarten parents asking how their sons can join, you know you are doing something right.


Gern, the BSA offers training for adding adventure to your program. It's called Powderhorn. Should we duplicate that program in WB? Why?

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Yes, Powderhorn is available but is Venturing centric, not Boy Scouting. Its more of a high adventure program course, not one for delivering adventure to young scouts, although it could be tuned to be that. And if BSA put as much emphasis on Powderhorn as they do Woodbadge, perhaps we would have an adventure program instead of a leadership one.

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I do not think it wise to have National or even Council market the Boy Scout Program. Whose program do they market? The one that Daddy_O yearns for?


If National advertses a high adventure all out program that is boy lead, how many of us are in programs that can say, yeah we do that?


Before Natinal can promise adventure, it has to be sure every unit, or at least most can deliver the promises they make, can we fulfill that promise?

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In regard to Boys' Life, it is definitely read by kids in the schools that have them in their library. National should seriously consider finding a way to get it into every school in the country. And that would be both Cub and Boy Scout printings in the elementary schools, since that is the cross over level.


I donate old copies to various schools in which I sub, and the librarians always say they wish they had them regularly, and more of them. One school says that more than once she has had keep the pieces for the boys to read; and she also said a lot of girls like them too. I also occasionally talk a bit about some outing I was on with my troop, and I always have a number of boys show serious interest, if it is outdoors; and even service that they see as fun and interesting, such as flags at Memorial Day.


Now, if they put out a contact piece as part of the mag itself with the recruiting link for on-line, and maybe an 800 type number for local council, that would really be a good tool it seems to me.

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SO how much is a subscription to Boys Life now anyway? SInce my son aged out I dont see them anymore.


What if the Council "bought" a subscription for all the public libraries in the council? Then maybe the schools? yes, it depends on numbers and finances, but maybe a troop alumn would fund Boy Life for a year at good ol' PS 49

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"Before Natinal can promise adventure, it has to be sure every unit, or at least most can deliver the promises they make, can we fulfill that promise?"


By making available training to every unit an adventure leader course curriculum that exposes and trains modern suburbanites the skills to confidently take youth into the wilds. To emphasize that training above all else and encourage units to exercise it. Put outdoor skills ahead of management skills. Not the other way around.


In my council, the only skills course (besides instructor training) for BSA Scouters is ITOLS. One weekend, jamb packed with basic skills. But not nearly enough to take 10 youth into the wilderness for a week. Especially if you never backpacked before. We are fortunate enough to have a couple of adults in our unit who are active outdoorsman. Just think if you had a unit with none? Does BSA provide training for those leaders? In management, not outdoorsmanship.



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