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Maintaining Traditional Advancement Skills?

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Okay, so a Scout learns the "traditional" Scout skills contained in the Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class requirements, gets signed off, and completes First Class. He's already forgotten some of the knots and doesn't have much opportunity to use most of the other "traditional" skills unless the troop is preparing for the annual camporee competition or the Pioneering campout they have every two or three years. How much (if anything) should a unit do to "preserve" the specific traditional Scout skills found in the T-2-1 advancement requirements so that Scouts can practice those skills even after the requirements have been completed and the rank earned?

What if a Scoutmaster gathered his new Scouts around and said: "For Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks, you are going to have to learn a few traditional Scout skills, such as certain knots and lashings, cooking over a campfire, and using an axe. Those things are really good to know as life skills and survival skills and if you want to be a real woodsman like Mr. Johnson. But on our regular campouts and hikes and other adventures you will rarely, if ever, need to use some of those skills even though they are required for rank advancement. So, for those of you who aren't itching to lash together a survival shelter, consider them living history lessons. Mr. Johnson knows all of those things and will teach you. Learn them well enough to complete the requirements, and try to get them out of the way quickly so you can focus on the everyday skills you will need for our program like climbing knots, 2-person cooking on backpacking stoves, GPS, paddling, and bike maintenace. Okay?"


Dan KurtenbachFairfax, VA

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We make our own shelters on campouts 2-3 times per year. We bring the poles, ropes and tarps only, and the Scouts have a blast. There are no restrictions on the design, though I wander the site late at night with the SPL and water to "test" their water proof design.


We leave the stoves at home 2-3 times per year if possible, forcing everyone to either do dutch oven or campfire cooking. I had a boy grilling bacon recently.


Finally, we have the knot board. It has all of the T-2-1 knots and lashings on it, with a piece of rope for every knot. We have time trials, patrol competitions, etc. on that board. Boys love competition.


Boys have shown up to a troop meeting to find that there was a bus crash of all adult leaders, and each Patrol had to help one carload of adults. ID their problem, and then take care of them.


Only addition is that we have an annual Camporee with competitions that overlap T-2-1 skills significantly. This works very well to get the boys interested in perfecting their skills.

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Thanks, but I'm not really asking WHAT special activities you do to maintain traditional but otherwise unused skills found in the T-2-1 requirements. I'm asking WHY BOTHER? That is, for the Scouts who have already completed those requirements. (This does not include First Aid, which is always needed, even if seldom used).


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA

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dkurtenbach writes:


I'm asking WHY BOTHER?


Because Scouting is entertainment.


That is why I am against justifying the "value" of Scouting in terms of practical skills that sometimes come in handy.


Nobody ever says that kind of stuff about sports!


The BSA millionaires want to switch from camping to soccer, but what's the point of soccer? WHY BOTHER?


For instance, what's with that 300 foot rule? Soccer is just as bad as American football in that regard. Why should any game be based on something as arbitrary as a distance of 100 yards?


The way to move a ball is to get rid of those "old-fashioned" 300-feet-between-endzones rules (like we did to the Patrol Method), and teach teams to work together with corporate team-building exercises.


You know, the modern stuff we learn at Wood Badge and NYLT (it would not be a Kudu post if I didn't explain why Wood Badge sucks).


All entertainment is excitement over impractical skills and arbitrary rules.


That's right, the purpose of Baden-Powell's Wood Badge and Green Bar Bill's Wood Badge and Patrol Leader Training was to inculcate a passion for mastering skills that were already impractical a hundred years ago!


Yours at 300 feet,





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They are only not practical if you don't use them.


The scouts should be using them. They have to pitch their tents. Two knots on every guy line. Every time they pitch the tent. They should be tying up laundry lines. Two more knots. Making campsite gadgets, knots and lashing.


They are cooking and eating 3-5 meals a weekend. They should be using cooking skills. Campfire on Saturday evening. Someone has to gather the firewood and build the fire.


I would argue that GPS is not a traditional skill, that map & compass is the traditional skill. GPS is just a toy to break or wear out the batteries. Summer camp always awards points for campsite improvment. Lashing a flagpole, weather rock, or gateway is a campsite improvement. It is fun and brings the scout together.


Who is teaching the T-2-1 skills to the younger/newer scouts? Should be the older scouts. Gotta know it to teach it. Review by instruction. Mr. Johnson may know all the skills but he should only be a backup for the older scouts AFTER they have consulted the handbook. The adults in our troop practice the skills so they can always help a struggling scout. If Mr. Johnson is the only resource in the troop, the troop has other problems.


The idea is that the troop should be incorporating these skills into normal campouts. They are practical.

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I don't consider most of the T-2-1 skills to be useless if you are going to continue being in the great outdoors. If you aren't going to be in the outdoors, then you don't belong in the Boy Scouts, Venture Scouts or Sea Scouts. The core game that helps our purpose stems from the great outdoors.


The basic knots are needed for most shelters, for being able to use a tent that has had a mishap or 3, or for just tying stuff down on the roof of your car when you leave Ikea.


Starting a fire with nothing is a great skill, and being able to cook over it even more so. Adding in the need to use a backpacking stove as well is also needed.


I saw a presentation from an astronaut, showing his diagonal lashing of gear on the International Space Station.


First Aid is always going to be critical (though you mentioned that).


I do think the requirements need reviewing on a regular basis. I would add that all Scouts should know the advantages and disadvantages of a GPS unit, for example - but they still need to know map & compass BECAUSE of those limitations. Some have argued that the basic bowline is not sufficient, and should be replaced.

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When the troop's ordinary monthly campouts consist of backcountry hikes in which the troop uses dome tents that don't need guylines, dining flies with those little thingys on the cords that serve the same function as the tautline hitch, internal frame backpacks with nothing hanging on the outside, and freeze-dried backpacking food, their fires (when they have them) are small and made up only of sticks that can be broken by hand, and they never, ever hunt around for sticks big enough to lash together "useful camp gadgets," it is no wonder that we have First Class Scouts that have forgotten how to tie basic knots even in an active, adventurous outdoor program.


So why do we think that is a problem? (Note: _I_ see it as a problem, and I'm trying to figure out why I feel that way.)


I'm reminded of the scene in "Follow Me Boys!" when the Army officer doesn't believe Lem is a Scoutmaster because he can't tie a sheepshank. Is it necessary for Boy Scouts to maintain a certain minimum of "traditional" skills just because things like campfires, knots, and lashings are part of the "identity" of Boy Scouts (like neckerchiefs, lemon-squeezer hats, and helping little old ladies across the street)?


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA


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biggest thing we do is having scouts that have already completed all those requirements teach the younger scouts. Although we do have some boys who are either terrible teachers or just don't want to, but the boys that do we use a lot. It also helps the younger scouts get to know the older boys.

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you can focus on the everyday skills you will need for our program like climbing knots, 2-person cooking on backpacking stoves, GPS, paddling, and bike maintenace.


Over time I've come to see this as not being a problem. The focus points listed above are pretty good skills to have too. I used to worry about Scouts not knowing their knots, but now I figure they'll learn the things they really need for the trips that we actually go on, as opposed to trips that we might imagine we go on.


I don't give the speech listed in the original post, and I wouldn't, but I'm not too far off from that sentiment.

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DK -


We think that's a problem because we won't always have freestanding tents, thingies on cords, internal frame packs, freeze-dried foods or camp stoves at our disposal.


Matter of fact, when we need them the most, chances are we definitely won't have them.


Far better to know how to do things from scratch than rely all the time on modern conveniences.

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Pardon me, I have been away on a trip but I find this topic distressing


A scout knows his scout skills, because its what a scout does. A scouting requirement is a step in the program. He learns to tie a square knot and bowline because he will need to be using square knots and bowlines and reading a compass and everything else and if he does not, and the Troop does not expect him to do these things, then why is the youth a scout and why does the Troop exist? To produce Eagles?


The Troop program is supposed to be Outdoor based and scout skills prepare the youth to be outdoors and active and if that is too much, I shudder


The Horror, The Horror


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