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Dumbed down? Why the rush?

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I'm not sure I like the term "Dumbed Down" and I really don't like "Dumbed Down Scouts".

I don't think the Scouts we have today are any less intelligent than the Scouts were at any other time.

They might do things differently and learn things differently than when I was their age.

They have ways of spending their free time that wasn't even thought of when I was their age.

Looking back at what was when I was a little fellow to what is for little fellows today?

I can't help feeling that we seem to be in one heck of a rush to end up some place and are not sure where.

One of the casualties of this rush is that very often the basics are not mastered before the move to bigger and better things are taken on.

I smile now when I remember the nuns at Holy Cross beating out a rhythm on a desk with a ruler as we elementary school kids chanted our times tables. But I'm grateful that when asked I don't have to even think to come up with a simple multiplication answer.

My memory is good enough to remember how long or how often I endured the rapping Nuns, but it was enough time that ensured that we mastered our tables.

OJ was in first grade when the school he was at came up with the brilliant idea that all the kids would learn Spanish. At the time he was struggling with his reading and writing in English. Being the pain in the neck that I am. I objected. At the time I sat on a Diocese Committee for Catholic Education.

I argued that while learning Spanish very well might be a good thing, but the need to learn English first was more important. Spending all the money that was needed to teach first graders Spanish would be better spent elsewhere.

I didn't win the argument.

The school hired a part-time Spanish teacher. The program lasted two years and was then done away with.

In Scouting, a young Lad joins and wants to please his parents and others. He wants to get the stuff in his book signed off and receiving a few badges is great.

I don't have a problem with this.

I do see that him receiving the recognition is part of the carrot that makes him want to remain in the Troop and remain in Scouting.

Still it's up to us the adults to set realistic standards that will ensure that the basics are mastered before he moves on up.

Not doing so takes away his opportunity later to take on new and bigger challenges. Without the basics he doesn't have the skills needed to participate in more adventurous activities and this is part of the reasons we are unable to retain our older youth.

Of course different Scouts learn at different paces. That's fine. We deal with each Scout as an individual, we tailor make what we do to fit his needs.

Some Scouts can earn and are worthy of earning Eagle Scout rank before a set age. Others may take a lot longer.

Done right we have lots of time to spend with the Scouts that join. We have lots of time to ensure that they master the needed skills and still be able to participate in the adventure, fun and new challenges that Scouts and Scouting can offer.

I really believe that the Scouts are not dumb.

However some of the adult who want to rush things?

That's up for debate.


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E, good thoughts.


Personally, I never use the phrase "dumb scouts" because it just ain't true, or polite. The scouts are capable of amazing feats of learning and accomplishment, given the opportunity.


I believe in tailoring the program to help scouts with varying learning levels to still achieve high standards. I don't consider this dumbing down, just good instructing.


However, I have used "dumbed down" to describe programming that is sub-par and not worthy of the scouts' time or intellect, and rewards low levels of achievement. In this case, the "dumb" label is directed at the adults who tolerate and/or organize such programming, not the scouts.

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"Dumbed down" does not refer to the boys rather the way the boy scout program has been simplified, made easier so the boys can now rapidly excel through the ranks without mastering any real skills or knowledge. Just compare the requirements in the boy scout handbooks of the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's etc right up to the latest handbook and it is all there in black and white, the boy scout rank requirements have indeed been "dumbed down" over the decades. The question is why has National felt this was even necessary, and why have the outdoor skills been continually reduced over the years?

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The Boy Scout program must be dumbed down so that the adults can speed through ITOLS (Spanish for "How to Sign It Off") in a single weekend, just like their Scouts get through "90%" of the "First Year Program" in 5 half-days of summer camp (read 2.5 days: a single weekend).


Why the rush? First Class in a Weekend makes Wood Badge available to teach corporate "leadership" theory!


It's all about "inclusiveness:" To spend a week teaching Boy Scout leaders how to think like outdoorsmen rather than CEO wannabes would be offensive to "urban youth" (1970s), Den Mothers (WB21), Hispanics (2010 Centennial), and LNT (the Paper Eagles "established campground" Patrol Method).


Yours at 300 feet,







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"why have the outdoor skills been continually reduced over the years?"

Only Troops with adults who are fixated on doing the absolute minimum and focused on their interpretation of advancement allow this sort of thing to happen.

The kids /Scouts I have had want to get out and about and enjoy the outdoors along with the challenges that come along.

I've never had a problem selling them on the idea that having the needed skill set and being prepared is something that they need.

Part of the challenge I have is finding ways that make learning and acquiring the skills fun and enjoyable for the Scouts.

To be very honest I couldn't care less what comes down from National or anyone else.



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Many parents look to the BSA to provide their son with the "Eagle Scout" BSA "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval in the belief that it will help with college entrance or future employment opportunities.


What the BSA will find out is that if they water down the requirements for Eagle, it will hurt membership in the long run.


There is a struggle for members right now and the BSA is changing to try and fix that issue. Not all are happy with the changes made and some proposed changes.

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I don't know if Scouting has been "dumbed down"...but it is considerably less challenging, as is high school, college, even employment. We have created a society of young people who demand all the latest conveniences and rewards for the least amount of effort allowable. They can get a recordable grade (not a "zero") by merely writing their name on a piece of paper and turning it in. Everyone gets a trophy for being on the team roster. Every scout gets an Eagle for little more than showing up and being spoonfed merit badges and having their hand held through every step of the Eagle project. "Active" has been defined for us as "registered". So they meet the first requirement of every rank merely by mommy writing a check. We have no one to blame but ourselves.

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"We have no one to blame but ourselves. "

Not wanting or wishing to come off sounding smart?


If we are the people at fault then it seems to me that we are the people to fix the fault.

All this "National" and "Wood Badge" stuff has nothing to do with what we do at the local (Troop) level.

As parents we choose if we want to use the TV as an electronic baby sitter or buy books and read to our kids.

We as parents, while our son's are young can leave them alone in their bedrooms with the latest video games or take them with us to share and take part in whatever we are doing.

Sure having a kid around when your trying to do something can make the project more difficult, but at the end of the day it can be far more rewarding.

Pointing fingers and appointing blame for what we have allowed to happen, without trying to correct it? Just seems silly.

When it comes to outdoor skills.

Scouts need to have people who:

1/ Know the skill in the first place and have the ability to be able to pass it on to the Scouts.

2/ Have and be given the time to master the skill.

3/ Be given opportunities to put the skill to work.


Learning how to use a compass is all well and good.

But if the Scout never gets to use one? The skill is soon something which has little or no meaning to him and is lost.

If the only intent of teaching or learning the skill is to meet the minimum requirements needed for advancement, then the truth is that teaching and or learning it is just a waste of the Scouts and the instructors time.


Many of the outdoor skills we teach are very clever ways of teaching or putting to use other skills which at first sight might not seem clear.

For instance a patrol doing a pioneering project will not only use the knots and lashings that have been learned but will also experience a lot of team building skills and the P/L will put into practice many leadership skills.

Of course for this to happen someone will have to know the basic skills, teach the skills and allow the Scouts to put them to use. Not something that can be accomplished overnight, but something that takes time, planning and experience on the part of the instructor.


Anyone of us youth or adult can choose if we want to allow ourselves to be "Dumbed Down" Or not.

We can if we want spend our free time on the sofa watching dumb TV shows or we can get off our backsides and do things some which might be new to us or re-enforce skills we might already have.

As both parents and Scouter's we can take what seems like the easy path or we can spend a little more time to do what is right.

Isn't this what "Do your best" Is all about?



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I agree with Eamonn,


It is up to us. I know my first year as ASM I was lacking the skills I was reviewing. My SM training class at camp was good (at least for fire starting, knots, setting up tarps, etc). I have to keep practicing.


Even if we complain about the local Council/District training it is our responsibility to make sure all the adults are learning their skills. I think I will try starting some Troop level training for adults so we can demonstrate these things when the boys are not around, go over advancement policy, etc.

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Eamonn, I'm all for "do your best" at unit level...many units are doing just that.


But they are bucking the tide, oftentimes....National and district level scouters have the responsibility for the strategic message of "do your best," along with targeting the right folks to serve as leaders.


Bird of a feather do indeed flock together. Sedentary, earn-it-all-quick power point scouters will tend to recruit same. This will result in a diluted "do your best" message when it comes to recruiting scouts and scouters who desire adventure and high standards.


The troop that has high standards and is outdoors alot may be surrounded by several troops that meet in the church basement once a week and work on Reading MB, with their moms in the back of the room. Many would-be scouts and scouters look at the collective image of the BSA and say "nah, not for me."


I think this image problem is true with many council and district scouters as well.


So yes, the troop can chart its own course--thank goodness! That's where real scouting happens anyway. But they tend to be islands amongst an ocean of mediocre programming, BSA-wide.

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It may be picking nits, but since when does that stop me?


Do Your Best is the Cub Scout Motto (Not that there's anything wrong with that)but it's not the Boy Scout Motto, Slogan or anything else as far as I can tell.


In Boy Scouts the idea is that you meet the requirements, you don't do your best to tie a bowline or a timber hitch, you tie a bowline and a timber hitch (and the rest of the knots) and then use those skills during the rest of your scouting career. You don't do your best to orient a map and take compass readings, you actually do it and continue to use those skills.


Perhaps the requirements are "dumbed down" for whatever reason but a scout still needs to know knots, First Aid and Orienteering skills and if they don't, its not the Programs fault, its the adults at the unit level.


Now, from what we hear, its the unit level scouters who are falling down on the job, Creating an epidemic of Eagle Mill Troops, Merit Badge Mill Day, etc. What can be done to straighten things out?

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Yeah, yeah I now have a standard speech when a boy gives me a "do your best", "Do your best if foe cub scouts, Boy Scouts is Be Prepared. Do be prepared you need to do and know the requirements. We will let you try 100 times and we will help you learn it but you have to do it."


See that only took me a year!

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I reckon both are fallin' down on the job, eh?


Yah, yah, the primary fault is with unit leaders. They know the boys and should be honest about what the boys are learnin'. Good unit leaders can buck the trend. But it's a hard trend, eh? It's always easier to "grade inflate". Less conflict, fewer complaints, lots of short-term happiness and smiles. So those good unit leaders are fightin' the good fight, and givin' extra.


Where da BSA fails is by not havin' their back. On the one hand, BSA trainin' and talk inspires 'em to go do somethin' meaningful and important for kids. To have high standards.


But when it comes down to it, when they're gettin' complaints or grief, those good unit leaders get undermined. No retesting, yeh don't have to be present to be active, holding a title is the same as serving actively in a position of responsibility, parents can counsel unlimited badges for their own kid, yeh can't question a bogus badge after da MBC has "signed off", on and on. We see on these forums every week da mixed message that gets sent, and da perception that good leaders tryin' to uphold standards will not be supported.


How much yeh want to bet the next release of ACP&P will go further down that road?


National has learned that it's easier to grade inflate than to support their volunteers.




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