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Falling Membership - 2011 Annual Report

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shortridge

 

I agree with your synopsis. Maybe the problem at National and on the local level too many packs, troops, and crews are concentrating too much on the bookwork and rank advancement rather than giving the youth more of the outdoor adventure and challenges that are exciting and fun, and would advance them in rank even faster than sitting in a room with their books signing off requirements.

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Shortridge wrote: "I look at the programs my daughter is involved in - dance classes and youth theatre - and think of how they pitched themselves. Rather than selling the benefits, these programs - growing very rapidly - sell the fun. Few children in them are going to end up professional dancers or actors, and that's freely acknowledged. Yet many end up continuing from a young age into their teenage years because dancing and acting are enjoyable. Parents - and kids - are sold on the immediate fun, not on the future benefit of what dance and theatre will do to build their character."

 

I would suggest that parents are not sold just on the immediate fun (though it is certainly good to have your child in a program where he or she is having fun). In addition to the fun, parents can _see_ real and rapid benefit to the child from things like dance and theater and piano and tae kwon do. Those benefits are things like physical fitness, development of confidence from performing in front of people, having to actually learn something worthwhile (physical or otherwise non-scholastic) and be able to _do_ it (possibly for the rest of their lives), and learning from experts.

 

These are all things that Scouting comes close to, but often misses the mark. While we have physical activities, we generally don't offer any programs for regular physical training or practice in fitness. There are a few communication-related program elements in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturing, but they are all short-term, once-in-a-while things. And Scouts generally do not practice skills with the object of performing for audiences. Scouting has lots of worthwhile, life-skill type elements, but parents never really see the good stuff because it happens out in the woods. And while there is some learning from experts (such as through merit badges), very little is really long-term tutelage.

 

Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA

 

 

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I've carried on following this thread with interest since my attempt at war and peace and I think Shortridge has nailed it, you have to look at what the scouts want and sell it to them. You have to do both and it's the scouts themselves that matter more than the parents.

 

Kids these days have options, far more than they did 50 years ago. Last year was our group centenary and we had an old boys day. (Some wonderful old photos provided by them here https://picasaweb.google.com/102300161421707243528/ReunionOldPhotos# Talking to them it was clear that when they were 12 being a scout was just about all that was available to them. These days though, within half a mile of our HQ are 2 swimming pools, 1 skate park, 2 martial arts clubs, army cadets, sea cadets, 3 rowing clubs and that is just what I am aware of. I have no doubt many parts of the USA are the same.

 

If you want bums on seats you have to a show they want to see and make sure they know they want to see it and its better than the one up the road. The promise and law is NOT why kids sign up to be scouts they sign up for fun and adventure

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having to actually learn something worthwhile (physical or otherwise non-scholastic) and be able to _do_ it (possibly for the rest of their lives)...

 

That's a good point. I think a lot of youth programs sell to the parents by selling something the parents either had fun with themselves as a kid, or else wish they'd done more of.

 

Parlor Scouting isn't going to be high on any parent's list of things they wished they'd done more of as kids.

 

 

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having to actually learn something worthwhile (physical or otherwise non-scholastic) and be able to _do_ it (possibly for the rest of their lives)...

 

That's a good point. I think a lot of youth programs sell to the parents by selling something the parents either had fun with themselves as a kid, or else wish they'd done more of.

 

Parlor Scouting isn't going to be high on any parent's list of things they wished they'd done more of as kids.

 

 

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I should also point out one key difference between Scouting and other programs - sports, dance, theatre - is that kids can pretty much join & start the others that very day. Grab a pair of sweats and dance barefoot, read some lines and help move scenery, grab a ball and start dribbling. If your parent pays and fills out the form, you're in.

 

Not so with Scouting. A typical interested Boy Scout-age kid is going to attend a meeting, which is typically indoors and boring. His parents have to fill out a form, mail it in with the check, go to a store and buy a uniform and handbook ... And then the boy has to attend several other meetings before he actually goes camping and hiking and fishing and climbing, which is probably what he was interested in in the first place.

 

Think about how most troops spend the majority of their month - in meetings indoors, in church halls and Legion posts, planning and preparing and talking about adventure rather than being adventurous. That's not a way to gin up excitement. It conveys a very plodding, staid image. And it's boring as all get-out!

 

Maybe we should be taking a lesson from the dance academies.

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Think about how most troops spend the majority of their month - in meetings indoors, in church halls and Legion posts, planning and preparing and talking about adventure rather than being adventurous. That's not a way to gin up excitement. It conveys a very plodding, staid image. And it's boring as all get-out!

 

Y'know, if you follow the meeting template in the resource guide (ah! I'm suggesting using some material from National! I'm not a complete rebel after all...) the meetings shouldn't be boring at all.

 

-A few minutes of opening ceremonies (which can be interesting if they're not the same old same old)

 

-Some sort of hands-on skill insrtruction or interesting demonstration (no reason the new guy can't dive right in and learn whatever the other guys are learning)

 

-A game (boys hate those, especially if there's running around and yelling...)

 

-Patrol meetings (assing him to a Patrol for the meeting. If the patrol is functional, they'll be talking about something interesting - meal plans for a trip, a patrol hike, etc.)

 

-Maybe a handful of awards or other recognition for guys who've earning things (gets the new guy thinking about earning those cool looking badges himself)

 

-reminders about cool, fun, upcoming events

 

-Scoutmaster's Minute

 

-Closing, see you next week!

 

 

Sure, I agree that the campouts are the mostfun, but the weekly meetings shouldn't be boring. There should always be something fun and interesting going on.

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@cubtrails Thank you! There's more where they came from. Someone gave us thousands of old slides that over time we are trying to get scanned and uploaded, those on line are just a few we've done so far.

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"...Think about how most troops spend the majority of their month - in meetings indoors, in church halls and Legion posts, planning and preparing and talking about adventure rather than being adventurous. That's not a way to gin up excitement. It conveys a very plodding, staid image. And it's boring as all get-out..."

 

My son dropped out after only two years. He was ready to drop after one year, but held on thinking that there would be change. His primary complaint was boring Troop meetings. He enjoyed the outings and campouts, but unfortunately, the dominant program of the Troop was the weekly Troop meetings. He had enough and was on to other things that he was interested in. By the way, he was a Star Scout close to getting his Life rank (at 13) but that "carrot" was not enough to keep him in the program. One option was to transfer to another Troop, but the other Troops in our district are not remarkably different from the one he left.

 

Honestly, his Webelos program was more fun and engaging than the Troop. I realize Webelos is an "adult-led" program but the boys learned, went on campouts, went on hikes, did outdoor activities, and the weekly meetings were educational, engaging, and enjoyable. We had no falling membership during those Webelos and Cub years; we had rising membership.

 

 

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>>Honestly, his Webelos program was more fun and engaging than the Troop. I realize Webelos is an "adult-led" program but the boys learned, went on campouts, went on hikes, did outdoor activities, and the weekly meetings were educational, engaging, and enjoyable. We had no falling membership during those Webelos and Cub years; we had rising membership.

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Fun for boys needs to be the cornerstone of all Scouting programs.

 

From what I've seen, Webelos is the program most likely to be done poorly. The temptation is to "work" through an excessively long list of requirements and not to do the age appropriate hiking and camping Webelos Scouts are ready to do and able to do, ideally in conjunction with a Boy Scout Troop.

 

Treating the Webelos program like another year of Cub Scouts is a very common mistake.

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Webelos was my favorite group. At that age, boys can do a lot more for themselves and you can have really great conversations, too. We had a total blast with the Webelos, working on requirements, but also just doing things the boys thought were fun. And our program wasn't boy-scouting-in-miniature but we did get them outside a lot more, and they did stuff the "little" kids in the pack did not do.

 

 

 

 

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Baden Powell came up with his Handbook for Scouting as a tool to teach youth to be tough outdoorsman to make them good soldiers.

 

"I've seen enough of war to want to keep away from the military idea. Woodcraft, handicraft, and all those things are invaluable. First aid and all that goes with it is excellent; but the boys should be kept away from the idea that they are being trained so that some day they may fight for their country. It is not war-scouting that is needed now, but peace-scouting. The explorers, the pioneers, the persons who are always on the lookout to do something for the benefit of humanity, are the ones who count, and that should be the motto of every boy scout." --Lord Baden-Powell, Chicago address, 1912 (my emphasis)

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=AYlGAQAAIAAJ&vq=%22It%20is%20not%20war-scouting%20that%20is%20needed%20now%2C%20but%20peace-scouting.%22&pg=PA197#v=snippet&q=%22It%20is%20not%20war-scouting%20that%20is%20needed%20now,%20but%20peace-scouting.%22&f=false

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