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Penta

BSA training: Some thoughts from an outsider

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Scouting relies on prior skills from the adults, you say. I'll ask what needs to be asked: If that's a good thing.

 

Maybe, maybe not, eh? You're right in that da folks with prior skills are a limited pool of people, eh? Essentially former scouts, military, and those who've been through other outdoor skills programs (Outward Bound, NOLS, college outing clubs, etc.) or just family background. In truly urban areas, there aren't that many of 'em. And if we're honest, I think in truly urban areas there isn't much good scouting.

 

But what's da alternative? We claim that in the best youth program we can come up with it takes at least a year's worth of weekly training and a dozen outings to make it to basic outdoor skill competence (First Class). At that point yeh can start to take on a position of responsibility, but it takes yeh at least a year and a half more of an intensive program and practicing core "required" skills and other optional ones in order to be solid... as a youth. Presumably more to be responsible as an adult.

 

And that's just outdoor skills and such, eh? Takes even more when it comes to teaching and leading groups.

 

So a new adult volunteer steppin' in with no prior skills, you're talkin' about 'em working hard for 2-3 years before they're really ready to lead as an ASM or SM. I reckon that's about right, eh? Would we really trust children to an adult with only a few weekends of camping experience? Or one weekend of IOLS and some online course with a cute little animated fellow? That really would be negligent. Yeh could do it in an intense one-month training program, I suppose, like a NOLS outdoor educator course. But what volunteer can afford to do that, eh? Plus it would kill most of our overweight fellas. :)

 

I think we're just stuck with relying on volunteers who come with prior skills. In fact, I can't think of a strong troop that isn't led by one or more adults like that. I understand da claim that the SM can just be a CEO and "hire" other adults who have the skills. But it still requires those other adults to come with prior skills, eh? And honestly, I've rarely seen that work. Most troops are too small to have an aloof CEO-SM. Most rely on a SM who personally knows da business.

 

And that's the kind of fellow (or lady) who takes 'em out to see da bears! ;)

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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If "In truly urban areas there isn't much good Scouting", by which I'm guessing you mean cities like NYC, LA, Chicago, etc. (defining an urban area is tough), then I think it raises a question:

 

Who *is* Scouting meant for, then? All boys that could subscribe to the Oath and Law I first learned in 4th grade, I thought was the hope. But that, if you had to focus and choose, it was created for (and is meant for) boys in *precisely* those urban areas. Whether it be the East End of London in the 1910s, Watts in LA in the 1960s, or kids in DC today. Kids in the country don't necessarily need the outdoor stuff - they can do that on their own, and the rest of the program, that they do need, can probably be provided by church youth groups or the like without the expenses Scouting entails. Kids in the suburbs? Need something, but that "something" need not be Scouting, because those kids have more opportunities than you can swing a cat at. Kids in the cities, though...Especially poorer kids?

 

Those kids *need* Scouting, in all of its dimensions. They need it precisely because they're immigrant kids who need a "hook" into what being an American is about, and/or because they're in areas poor enough that there just *aren't* many opportunities for them, because the schools are crap and have been suffering for a century, because people write them off. Except, maybe, gangs. Gangs give them an opportunity, of sorts. Gangs don't write them off. The boys who could be good Scouts, except they can't be Scouts, because Scouting is not really present where they are...Are exactly who gangs look to recruit, last I checked. (And 90% of the time, by the way, it's boys. Girls, I'm given to understand, don't often join gangs, though that does happen.)

 

It's to me a difference of perspective: To me, Scouting may financially depend on the suburbs - that's life, and I understand if that's where the energy of most adults involved in Scouting goes. But that's not where its purpose is, or where it should be fighting most for boys. Where Scouting reaches the full purpose, IMHO, the point where you get entirely *why* a war hero created a movement 100 years ago, is in precisely the sort of areas you say good Scouting isn't happening. Where, if good Scouting *isn't* happening, good Scouting *needs* to happen. Where, I don't think it's a stretch to say, if Scouting isn't present and doesn't fight like its soul depended on it to be present, then it should hand back it's Charter, pack up, and go home. Among suburban kids, among country kids, Scouting is practically expendable. In the cities, Scouting is essential, and if Scouting abandons the cities, Scouting loses its soul and its reason for being, just as surely as if it quits going camping.

 

To be totally plain: To say that "Good scouting isn't done in cities" begs the question of "Why the hell not, and why are we not pouring our energy into making sure that Good Scouting can happen there?"

 

Because it's not just about numbers or money. At some point, if we say "Good Scouting can't happen there" and write off the cities, Scouting loses its soul. Scouting becomes just another yuppie club.

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In his book Aids to Scoutmastership, Baden-Powell said, "The whole object of our Scouting is to seize the boy's character in its red-hot stage of enthusiasm, and to weld it into the right shape and to encourage and develop its individuality so that the boy may educate himself to become a good man and a valuable citizen for our country."

 

Now, a person learns more by teaching something than he does by learning, which is why we want to get boys involved in the teaching.

 

Do with Scouting what you'd do with any endeavor. Learn as much as you can. Ask as many questions from other people who are already familiar with the endeavor as you can. Be bold and go out and do it. Recognize that you make errors, learn from your mistakes, apologize, recorrect course if necessary and go on.

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Perhaps your premiss is incorrect. A Scoutmaster except for a new Troop does not need the skills of the requirements of the program as much as he needs the ability to communicate and associate with boys and adults. The Scoutcraft knowledge is passed down by the boy teaching the boy and is covered in the BSHB as well as a number of other publications. IOLS introduces to leaders the skills scouting uses. Good adult leaders understand that learning is a constant process not a one time deal.

 

Skills of scoutcraft do not always require practice for folks to retain their knowledge. I learned to tie a sqare knot as a boy and have been doing so correctly ever since as well as a host of other knots. After a several year break from the outdoors my fire was lit with a single match because I remembered how it is done.

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A good leader does not need to know everything. All he or she needs is the abilty to find out the answer and the good sense to realize that he or she does not know everything. And BSA training is so redundant. And the fact that certain training must be done through BSA, I know the reasoning but it does get rediculous. (for example, I was a certified military range instructor with Marines, I took the NRA Instructor course to teach both adults and youth. I was a youth instructor with the Young Marines for 4 years before I joined BSA as a volunteer. I had to retake the entire course again for BSA, and I mean the same course number ... the same exact course!!! Can anybody explain the logic there?)

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Yah, dat's exactly what I'm referring to, ScoutMythBuster. The BSA relies on people with prior skills coming in as leaders. In fact, someone like yourself with years of experience is goin' to be far, far better at doing instruction than some newbie who just finished the course for the first time. Since we're relying on prior experience for safety anyways (because we all admit da BSA training ain't enough), there should be a way to easily acknowledge real experience and not make a fellow repeat stuff that's redundant. Requiring IOLS of the former Outward Bound instructor makes as much sense as requiring WFA of the ER doc, or requiring YPT of the social worker, or NRA of the former marine rifle instructor. That is to say no sense at all.

 

Now, at da same time I really don't buy the "just look it up in a book" bit. I don't think yeh can really learn any skill just by looking it up in a book. Try doing that for swimming. Or climbing. Or rifle. Or sailing. Or... Just doesn't work, eh? Especially when you're talking about also teaching the skill, and taking kids out and being responsible for them. That takes experience, eh? And da judgment that comes only from experience.

 

Da adults who scare me the most in scouting are the inexperienced fellows who think that because they've been "trained" in an evening or a weekend or by taking an online course they actually know what they're doing.

 

Beavah

 

 

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"... requiring YPT of the social worker ... "

 

I think I'd disagree with you on this one. BSA's YPT rules are very organization-specific. (Granted, they're also common sense.) And it's not like it's the most onerous training in the world.

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BSA's YPT rules are very organization-specific.

 

Oh, I dunno. From where I sit, keepin' kids and adults safe is not organization-specific, eh? That's the only point I was makin'. YPT offers a few pithy rules for inexperienced adults. What more can yeh get in 20 minutes? A social worker who deals with kids all the time is goin' to be far better trained, more alert to "signals", more aware of resources, better at recognizing issues and keeping kids safe.

 

Yah, blowin' through da online YPT is not a huge annoyance, eh? Just a minor annoyance. But as we see in da "molester of the week" news reports, it also isn't all that effective compared to having an alert and experienced person around.

 

But whatever. If yeh don't like that example, choose one of the others ;)

 

Beavah

(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Well, as much of a problem as I have with some aspects of the "Professional" view of it...

 

Volunteer Position training is necessary if ONLY to safeguard the funds of the liability pool from incessant raiding due to it's indefensible access by those who live in victim world - the Truly wronged will probably get theirs.

It provides a portion of a comprehensive legal defense strategy - but, as we have discussed, it has very limited utility on the ground as an actual comprehensive instructional toolbox for that SM or ASM.

 

One additional side note, for those with military backgrounds - if they were E-4 or above they probably had some instructional experience plus troop handling plus a wide background in the basic hygiene and basic injury prevention and care skills. But probably don't know (from those experiences) about bear bagging.

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"The public thinks that scouting is about creating a wilderness survivalist with First Aid, Firebuilding, and Knot tying skills. BSA thinks scouting is about developing personal self worth, confidence, and leadership that just happens to take place outdoors."

 

How did this get turned around on us? The training does not "happen to take place outdoors." To say that obscures the method being employed, namely the outdoors.

 

Scouts don't "happen to be" outdoors. We get the boys out, away from TV, video games, modern conveniences and support systems, so that they can see for themselves what they are truly capable of. We use the outdoors as the ideal laboratory for the boys to build personal self-worth, confidence, and leadership and to test themselves. In this you will find the beating heart of Scouting; without it, we'd be just another social club.

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I like Penta's perspective, in a cub pack there are usually a number of den leaders,and a CM that the den leader can go to with problems that may arise. In a scout troop the SM is usually out there on his own, yea he may have a ASM or two to help out but even they depend on his leadership and supposed skills and experience. This is why I feel that the patrol method is so VITAL to the survival of any troop, without that functioning youth leadership structure in place the teaching of leadership skills will never take place. Too many troops become paramilitary oriented with the SM as the drill sergeant or the troop becomes nonfunctional, meeting once a week only to play basketball or some other sport.

 

IMHO, all the SM's and ASM's need to be not only better trained in scouting skills, but in how to make the patrol method an effective and essential part of every troop program.

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I won't deny I like getting applause, BadenP, but I'm confused what you're applauding specifically.:)

 

One thing that strikes me as an outsider is two facts that usually arise simultaneously, I'd imagine.

 

First, for the Patrol Method to work, you *need* older Scouts. You need active Star, Life, and Eagle Scouts.

 

Second and related, the new troop doesn't have those. And the way things work in most organizations (to which I doubt Scouting is an exception), the habits established initially are very hard to break.

 

Without older scouts, the adults basically have to take the lead. All that's required, then, is for the pattern not to change (or for the conditions enabling a change not to emerge), and the troop becomes adult-led by default.

 

Once that happens, how do you then say "Nope, we've been doin' it fundamentally wrong" without killing leader credibility?

 

(It's sort of a chicken and egg cycle, I realize. You need older scouts to do the Patrol Method...But unless you're doing the Patrol Method already, it doesn't seem like the conditions are in place to learn the Patrol Method.)

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Penta

 

You may be surprised to see what a 1st class or 2nd class scout can do when placed in a leadership position. As a youth I was a patrol leader after making 1st class, while it would be nice to have star, life or eagles to draw from but the patrol method can work perfectly fine in a young troop without them. Eventually you will have those same boys advance to those ranks with some great leadership skills under their belts.

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Ditto BP, you'd be surprised what a 2nd Class or 1st Class Scout can do. I was a PL at 2nd Class

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I also agree with BadenP, and at the risk of going out on a thin limb, I would not want to see an Eagle as either PL or SPL. An Eagle would make an excellent Den Chief or even a JASM (if you believe in JASMs), but I would rather see an Eagle take on the POR of INSTRUCTOR who could help put on Troop Leader Training with the Star/Life SPL for the 2nd/1st PLs. My $.02.

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