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Watching the TV this morning.

Seems that a lot of people are asking a lot of questions.

CBS is doing something they are calling "Where America Stands". They were looking at American creativity today. Inventions and inventors, what has changed the way we live and what's next?

ABC was busy showing a poll about Americans and if they are happy at work and the work they do. It seems that most people are not happy.

All of this got my little gray cells working.

I kinda think that Scouts here in the USA is about ready to change.

Not sure why I think this? No one has said very much, but it's just a feeling I have.

I think that before we make any changes we should ask people questions.

This thread is about:

What questions should we ask?

Not the answers.

We might want to spin off and look at these questions in other threads.

While maybe asking the question if girls and gays should be allowed in? Is a question. My hope is that we are not going to dwell on it. Same goes to the question"If God should be removed from the Scout Oath? Again maybe the question is viable bit I hope we don't get bogged down by it. (One reason why this thread is here!)


I also wonder who we should be asking?

The Scouts we have?

Youth that we don't have?

Adults who now serve?

Parents of youth?


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We should definitely be asking the COs, both ones that are active in their Scouting programs and those that aren't. How is Scouting helping their broader mission? What would they like to see?


Ask the youth we don't have ... Why aren't you in Scouting now? What would make you join?


Ask the Scouts we currently serve ... What excites you? What keeps you active and involved? How can we do more of that?

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Eamonn - I really like the fact that you're considering polling those not in Scouts. If the only people you survey are those already involved, it stands to reason that you will find they don't want it to change much. Otherwise, tey wouldn't be mebers now, would they?


As for what to ask, as someone who is unlikely to ever be a member, I'd go beyond the specific discriminatory areas like gays and atheists, and look into the whole concept of chartering organizations. You can't change the gays and God thing while the CO situation is like it is.


I would ask if Scouting should be able to make policy decisions completely independently of other organizations such as churches.



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Great question, Eamonn.


Here are some of the questions I think would be relevant:


When you think of Scouting, you may picture some things you like and some things you dislike. Can you list for me the three things you like most about Scouting? The three things you like least?


That would work well verbally - but you could also do it in written format. You could offer a list to choose from, or make it free-form.


You could also check to see which items are most important to people -

Would you rather join a troop that camps a lot but pays little attention to character development, or would you rather join a troop that camps very little but pays much more attention to character development?


How far would you drive to participate in Scouts?


For people who are still in Scouting:

What items attracted you the most to Scouting in the first place?

Have separate adults and kids surveys:

For adults, How did you hear about Scouting for your son? Why did you join up? What age was your child when you became involved as an adult?

For kids, What is the best part of Scouting? How is Scouting viewed by your friends? For those friends who are not in Scouting, what do you the top reasons are?


Ask some of those agree/disagree statements:

For non-members, they could be phrased one way

I would want to join (or I would want my child to join) an organization with the following mission: To prepare young people to make ethical choices over their lifetime by instilling in them values such as being trustworthy, loyal, (etc).

I would want to join an organization with the aim of growth in moral strength and character

I would want to join an organization with the aim of participating in citizenship

I would want to join an organization with the aim of development in physical, mental, and emotional fitness for my child

Having an advancement program is a good way to help kids accomplish things.

Being in the outdoors is important.

If Scouting permitted homosexual leaders and members, that would make it more likely that I would join



For both members and non-members you could ask agree/disagree for statements like:

I like the Boy Scout uniform

Scouting would be better if they made the duty to God part optional


For members, I think you need a set of questions to assess the impact

Scouting should de-emphasize the uniform

If Scouting stopped prohibiting homosexuals at a national level, but still allowed chartered organizations to set such policies when choosing their leaders, I would leave (or alternately, stay) with my unit.


That last type of question is one that I think you need to be careful about. People are very bad at predicting what they would actually do. I'd rather focus on what people really think, and what they really like, or what really puts them off, about the Scouting program.


I also don't think there's a lot of point in asking questions like Do you like recognition? or other motherhood and apple pie kinds of questions that are self-serving.


In practice, the most likely new members are Tigers, so the parents of potential Tigers are the most important people to survey in one respect. But I think you'd clearly want to interview members, former members (drop outs), both parents and youth.



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Oak Tree - Asking "drop outs" why they left is an excellent idea. It happens where I come from.


You don't always get the absolute truth, and certainly get some interesting perspectives, but it can be very valuable.

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While I don't know, have not heard and don't have any what might be called insider information.

My feeling is that there is a move to try and make Scouting here in the BSA more relevant.

Some of this has to do with the diverse changes that are happening in America as a country. Some of it has to do with with the decline in membership over the past decade.

I along with two or three others, believe that we only have to look at Venturing here in the BSA to see what happens when the BSA has a knee-jerk reaction.


I have been around for a while. I have very fond memories of what Scouts and Scouting was for me and what it meant to me. At times I can be and tend to be very defensive when it come to anyone messing with my idea of what Scouting is or should be.

A trip to my son's bedroom clearly shows how much things have changed since I was a Lad.

My bedroom had a bed, a bedside light and a bunch of books that I got from the local library. His room is full of every high-tech gadget known to man. Lap-top computers connected to the web,, phones that I at times think are smarter then he is. A TV that reaches 299 channels.

His day is full of text messages, emails, social net-working sites. When he finds time he challenges his cousin in Honk Kong to games on his Play Station.

What I'm trying to say is that the world he has grown up in is very different than the world I grew up in.

One day in the future he is going to become a parent. His values are not the same as mine.

Maybe? One day he will become a Scout Leader.

I don't see him ever spending an entire afternoon with a Brillo Pad scouring a Billy Pot! (Benn there done that and it wasn't a lot of fun!)



Oak Tree,

Thanks for a very interesting list. You have got the little gray cells working.



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Perhaps Scouting is on the verge of change, I just hope it's the right change. At least half of all change is in the wrong direction and Scouting ceases to stay true to its core if it changes too much which I believe will have an even worse effect on membership. Take the outdoors out of Scouting and you're left with a shell of a program. Remove parts of the Oath and Law or make them optional (or "aspirational") and we are just padding resumes instead of building character.


Personally, I think Scouting needs to stay true to its heritage and promise. It's one of the few institutions left in America that hasn't succumbed to the decay some call progress -- which is why it's so frequently under attack by those who despise America's traditions and heritage.


Surveys can be wonderful useful sources of information. They can also quite frequently be ephemeral wisps changing on a moments notice, read however the reader wishes in accordance with his or her predetermined desire.

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Ever since it's onset, Scouting has been a unique program for boys, an alternative to the every day world the scout finds himself in. Since 1972-ish, BSA has been trying to adapt scouting to be like everyone else and relevant to the lives of boys. It's emphasis has not always been altruistic and has at times buckled under political and ideologies that are different than it's original intent. The numbers have fallen. Is is because scouting is no longer relevant or has it fallen prey to the whims of the world. Being like everyone else may be a goal for some, but remaining a vital but unique concept has in the past proven to be an asset that people turn to because there is no other place such benefit can be attained.


One can try and justify competition by playing like everyone else and they can try and justify competition by being like no others and standing out from the crowd.


Until the words "I was president of my 4-H chapter", or "I was team captain of my football squad", or "I was president of my student council", stand equal to "I am an Eagle Scout", I would like to think that BSA might want to consider being different than the rest rather than trying to compete with them.


I have always felt BSA stood for quality, not quantity, but unfortunately that doesn't pay the bills.


Instead of asking such poll questions such as "How does BSA stack up against the local school programs", or "How do they stack up against extra curricular activities," or "How do they compare to the local YMCA programs", maybe they ought to review what they do best and improve on it. I have found over the years that when asks the wrong questions, they will always get a wrong answer.



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>>Instead of asking such poll questions such as "How does BSA stack up against the local school programs.....maybe they ought to review what they do best and improve on it. I have found over the years that when asks the wrong questions, they will always get a wrong answer.

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Barry and Stosh,

Couple of things.

I don't know about others, but I know when I'm asked to do an evaluation of something that I'm part of, I do at times to become very defensive.

Barry, you have brought up this Tiger Cub "Thing" several times.

I'm tempted to ask Can it be turned around? Or it is that it was a bad idea from the get go?

As you know I'm not a great fan of Venturing as it is right now. I think we have looked at it, tweaked it, evaluated it and defended it. Still I think it just isn't working.

On the same hand, I think that very few Troops do enough to really engage and hold the interest of older Scouts. I mean more than just having the odd visit from a Lad who wants to complete his Eagle Scout rank.


A few years back I was involved in a project which entailed me asking people for very large amounts of money. I met with and talked with several very wealthy people and a few foundations. I was very taken back when they explained that they had of course heard about Scouts and Scouting, but really had no idea what we did or were about.

I was left trying to judge what was the best selling point to the person I was meeting with.

Was it better to try and sell the program? All that good out-door type stuff. Or better that I go for high-brow type stuff about helping the youth we serve be better prepared to make ethical choices. (Or a mix of the two?)

One question I'd ask if there was a poll would be how do we do a better job of marketing Scouting?


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I would take maybe 5-10 of the greatest assets of the program, i.e. leadership, outdoors, etc. and make sure they are goals that people understand and want for their children. Obviously if people have to ask what the purpose of a program is, it is not being clearly marketed in the population. The last thing I ever want to hear about BSA is "what does it do?" It should be obvious to the average person. When someone sees a scout in uniform it should create an image in the person's mind what that means. When one sees a military uniform, even between the different branches of the service, a police uniform, a fireman's uniform, people immediately have an understanding of what that means and don't have to ask, "Why are you wearing that particular uniform?"


If the BSA program is all over the place with it's aims and goals, this will confuse the population from wanting to join in. If my kids go to a church youth group, it follows that I have a certain amount of expectation for what my kid will receive in return. If I think he/she will benefit by being in that group, I'll support the program. If not, I'll pull my kid and put him/her where it will benefit him/her more.


If every Tiger Cub scout's parents were told that over the course of the next 10 years, your child will receive the best leadership training available to youth in this day and age, at least they will perk up their ears. If the program doesn't deliver that, then that's another story.


A poll of expectations and assumptions on the part of outsiders is vital. A clear understanding of whether or not those expectations and assumptions can be fulfilled are mandatory or BSA will be seen as not holding up it's end of the deal.


BSA has to constantly ask themselves have I fulfilled what I promised or implied to have promised for this kid? If not, why complain when the parents and or scout seek out other avenues of growth for their kids? After a year does my Tiger kid want more or does he have a bad taste in his mouth about what he thought he was supposed to be getting?


When an Eagle Scout walks down the street, or puts a reference to it on his college or job application, does the person reading it know what that means and how much they can rely on it to better their school or business?


If I were to run a poll, the first question asked to any potential new scouts' parent is what do you expect or assume is going to benefit your kid if he/she is involved in BSA. Then I would poll the insiders as to whether or not they are providing that. Otherwise all you have is two ships passing in the night.


I have so much time in the lives of my child, how can I get the best bang for my buck? If I believe BSA can't provide it, I will find someone else who will.


If a boy eats, sleeps and breathes Scouts, there is no way a parent is going to keep him from the program. But if the boy is waffling about yet another week of Scouts, then they will be the first to suggest he seek something else.



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A few comments that may stray form the original post. 2 factors have caused BSA membership to decline in the past. One was the introduction "urban scouting" and the other was the decline in the birthrate in the population, both hitting in the 1970s.


As for current membership decline, I have no evidence but anecdotal, but the inflation of membership stats may have been more widespread than initially believed. I can tell you that actual number now vs actual numbers 11 years ago in my district are up. Although technically they are down.


As for me, I believe if we deliver the promise of adventure, we will grow. Hopefully Cub Scouts 2010 will spark an increase. maybe we need more outdoor programming for the Cubs? I know that I could get every boy interested in Scouting when I did school roundups when I talked about camping, bb guns, archery, etc.

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