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Dumbed down? Why the rush?

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Well said Beavah!!


Eamonn, you are so right about what you said of leaders who expect more of their boys, as you did. The problem today is most scoutmasters look at the requirements and that is as far as they go, never taking the boys to the next level, because they teach to the book and that is all. One could argue then if that's what National expects then why should they go any further. As another poster said with todays youth (and adults) it is all about instant gratification, everyone expects to be rewarded whether they put in much effort or not. This seems to be the prevailing attitude in the BSA today, and National continues to bend to this mindset. The result is a much devalued program and rank advancement that doesn't mean much anymore.

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"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."


I was thinking of the Scout Oath.

You know that bit that goes:

On my honor I promise that I will do my best.

Followed by all that other good stuff and wise words.


Over the years I've served my time as a District and Council type.

As District Chair my impact on the units in the District?

I'd say was about zero.

Same can be said for my time as District Commissioner.

I did or like to think I did make a difference serving as District and later Council Training Chair. -Maybe more so during the breaks when I was free to voice my own opinion and not following the syllabus.

But even when I was following the syllabus I don't ever remember telling anyone that short cuts and loop holes were OK.

I just don't buy into trying to pass the buck to others.

If the program you deliver is doing anything that "Dumbs Down" Scouting then like it or not the buck stops with you.

Most unit leaders have no contact what so ever with the powers that might be in the National Office. This trend of fast track Scouting with Advancement driving the program at full speed ahead is coming from the unit level.

Some of the reasons might be:

Lack of the necessary skills?

Lack of understanding of how Scouting is supposed to work?

Lack of imagination?

At th Cub Scout level, I've seen it where one little Lad moves ahead of the Den, earning his badge (Wolf, Bear.) Then as if by magic the parents who haven't laid a hand on the Lad's book all year sign off just about every requirement.

Maybe because they are parents they can be forgiven?

But SM's? - I'd hope that they know better.

I'm not sure if there is a place in Heaven for Scouter's?

But if there is, I'll bet the Eagle Scout count isn't worth a tiddly.

I'll also bet that integrity and doing things the right way opens them gates a lot quicker than anything else.




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Eng is right.


The two battles I see with a kids time that kills Scouts: sports and school.


Sports: every program a kid gets involved in today has to give 110% of his time to that one program. The days of a three sport athlete are gone in the school districts Im familiar with since the coaches expect (and get if the kid wants to actually play) a year round commitment to their sport. Band is a close second, we would lose half our troop each fall during football season to marching band requirements.


School: challenges and demands of more school work being done at home than before. Competitions for class rankings, home work in advance placement classes.


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Have the requirements become easier, or is that just a perception?


Sure, we don't have requirements concerning morse code and flag signaling anymore - but the Scouts of that time didn't have requirements to meet regarding internet safety, participating in a program on substance abuse, explaining the three R's of personal safety, completing exercises in preventing child abuse or leave no trace.


Back in the 50's and throughout most of the 60's, there was no requirement for an Eagle Scout leadership project. Some complained mightily about how skill awards in the 70's dumbed down the requirements. They did no such thing - they merely moved the requirements into categories and were as rigorous as they were when they were separated out into the rank requirements.


Yes - there are some things that we constantly talk about, as Beavah has mentioned, because there are so many different ways of interpreting things like what active means, etc. I've used the franchise argument before and have been naysayed for doing so, but the similarities are still there. When Micky D's puts out instuctions on how to make a Big Mac, they expect every store, everywhere, franchised or corporate owned, foreign or domestic, to follow those instructions. When the instructions say use one squeeze of secret sauce on the top bun, they mean one squeeze, not two, and top bun, not the middle or bottom bun. If it's made any other way, it is not a Big Mac. The reason behind this is one thing, and one thing only - consistency. When the BSA says that active means registered, and engaged by their adult leaders. they do so out of consistency, so that every Scout earning a rank, no matter where in the country (or world) he's earning it, is doing so under the same rules. When Troop 12X says active is attend 75% of meetings, then it is no longer the BSA's Star Rank. Some rank requirements are pretty self evident - there is only one way to tie a taut-line hitch - the one's we dicker over are the ones that are subject to an individuals viewpoint.


That is no excuse, however, for not delivering things beyond the requirements of rank. A Scout may only need to demonstrate how to display, raise, lower and fold the American flag once for Tenderfoot, but that shouldn't mean he never has to do so again. For Second Class, he may only need to plan and cook one hot breakfast or lunch on a campout, but that doesn't mean he never has to do it again. For rank, they're learning the skills that they are meant to then put into practice. It's up to us, as the adult leaders, to guide the PLC's to create a program that provides plenty of opportunity to put those skills to use.

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Are we expecting more from that adults than we train? Should we expect more from the adults than we train?


It used to be that the majority of leaders were boy scouts in their youth, I think that has changed a lot. I know the adults I had the most trouble in teaching boy run were the ones that didn't know what boy scouts did other than what they read in the hand books.


I do agree with the instant gratification theory because adults in general want to know how well they are performing in most things we do, even as a volunteer. But scoutings goals are long range and its hard to know if we are succeeding in building character after two just camp outs. Unless the adult has the experience of scouting as a youth, it is difficult to understand success three years down the road. Its much easier to be motivated for next month by feeling good about the successes of this month. Does training give adults a good long range vision and the many small, but successful, steps to reaching that vision? I don't know because I came into scouting as an adult with a lot of experience as a youth. But I've said before that adult leaders with a scouting background as a youth are a couple years a head of adults who don't have that experience. And we seem to be getting more and more of those inexperienced adults. Is our training good enough, I don't know.



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Are we expecting more from that adults than we train? Should we expect more from the adults than we train?


Many of us that were involved as kids in Scouting have taken a nice long break in between that time and before our own sons were ready to join. Many of those skills were long lost and had to be relearned. I wasnt out doing lashings or working a compass while I was busy building a family and profession. So even those of us that have come back still take some time to brush off the rust. And yes, there were things we werent proficient in that need to be learned better to teach and make sure our Scouts know better. Especially if were supposed to be experts on all topics.


How difficult has it proven to get leaders to come out for the SM specific training? How difficult is it to get a full roster for Woodbadge? How much are we expecting from an adult that are also trying to keep a balance life with other respects on top of the multiple hours a week and 11 months of camping? We can have the highest proficiency requirements in the world in all areas of the Scoutcraft we want, but who is going to teach it to that level and who is going to test them? Its not going to be us part timers.


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BSA long ago departed from Baden-Powell's standards for satisfying badge requirements. See Baden-Powell's Outlook, http://usscouts.org/history/bpoutlook4.asp#_Toc536191302 (below).


In any event, our Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class requirements are not written in a manner that would require practice and proficiency, but rather ask only that a Scout complete a particular task once, or regurgitate information once, or have a particular experience once or a limited number of times. And then we bar re-testing. And a Scout never has to duplicate a skill or knowledge requirement in order to earn a higher level rank. The Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures booklet calls for proficiency, but most Scouters have never heard of it, much less read it. The Advancement requirements found in the back of the Boy Scout Handbook drive the troop program, in the sense that they tell the troop the minimum contents of the troop program. And since anything beyond the minimum is optional, it is no wonder that many troop programs settle at (and sometimes struggle with) the minimum (or perhaps just below it).


In short, if you want a troop program that values competence in outdoor skills (and particularly in _modern_ outdoor skills), you cannot look to rank requirements for guidance or for a long-term structure for skill development. Rather, the troop must create its own standards and expectations (since we can't add requirements for ranks) and provide opportunities for Scouts to meet those standards and expectations -- and incidentally getting those pesky rank requirements out of the way as it goes along.


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA



Standardisation of Badges


IN view of a very elaborate curriculum that was recently drawn up by one authority for standardising the tests for badges, I was obliged to criticise it in this sense:


"I hope that the compilers are not losing sight of the aim and spirit of the Movement by making it into a training school of efficiency through curricula, marks, and standards.


"Our aim is merely to help the boys, especially the least scholarly ones, to become personally enthused in subjects that appeal to them individually, and that will be helpful to them.


"We do this through the fun and jollity of Scouting; by progressive stages they can then be led on, naturally and unconsciously, to develop for themselves their knowledge.


"But if once we make it into a formal scheme of serious instruction for efficiency, we miss the whole point and value of the Scout training, and we trench on the work of the schools without the trained experts for carrying it out.


"We have to remember that the Scoutmasters are voluntary play leaders in the game of Scouting, and not qualified school teachers, and that to give them a hard-and-fast syllabus is to check their ardour and their originality in dealing with their boys according to local conditions.


"I could quite imagine it frightening away many Scoutmasters of the right sort.


"The syllabus as suggested seems to go a good deal beyond what is prescribed as our dose in Scouting for Boys; and if the proportions of the ingredients given in a prescription are not adhered to you cannot well blame the doctor if the medicine doesn't work.


"Our standard for badge earning -- as I have frequently said -- is not the attainment of a certain level of quality of work (as in the school), but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT EXERCISED BY THE INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE. This brings the most hopeless case on to a footing of equal possibility with his more brilliant or better-off brother.


"We want to get them ALL along through cheery self-development from within and not through the imposition of formal instruction from without."


November, 1921.




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Think I had a rant about training a month or so back!

I'm not ready, just yet for another.

I do know that I was very fortunate because I as a youth came from a Troop that was very active and had adults who knew boys and knew the skills.

A lot of the new adults that I've met, just don't get it.

Many seem to forget that we are working with boys. Not small or little adults.

Boys see the world differently than adults. They don't share the same goals as adults and most times have ways of reaching the goals that they may set, that people who don't understand "Boy Thinking" fail to understand.

Even though I had a great time as a Scout and was good at the outdoor stuff. When I look back I now see that a lot of things could have maybe been done a little better.

For years I have struggled with trying to get this youth led thing right. In part because when I was a Scout it was something that was very much on the back burner.

Over the years I have got a lot better,mostly because I have got better at active listening and while I've never learned to keep my big trap shut. I'm a lot more open to ideas and plans that come from th PLC and the Scouts themselves.

Many of the newer adults forget that this is supposed to be fun.

While some things do have a academic side which can't be avoided and is fun for some Lads. Scouts and Scouting isn't an extension of school and class work.



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I like the thrust of this thread (thrusting threads), but I find that in comparing my time as a Scout with the son's time as a Scout, the difference is not in the requirements (they are not easier, now versus then, necessarily, only alittle different) but in the willingness of the leaders (boy and adult) to ALLOW things, and to say "yeah, you know that".

CSDC: I ask the 13, 14, 15 year old Scout Staff who has Totin' Chip? Hands go up. Who can do lashings? More hands. I pick out some likely helpers, and we go to step the flag poles for the week. I point out the poles, ropes and some hand axes. I need eight pegs about yea long for the guyropes. three boys go out in to the woods to get peg poles. And you boys come here to lash these poles together to double the length.

I never saw a better example of ignorance in my life. Not one boy could chop a 2" diameter pole in two, (and my hatchets are kept sharp) or successfully point it into a peg to drive in the ground. Demonstrated cutting a "v" to cut the pole in two, demonstrate the contact method and point the peg. All said they had never seen that way to do it. Hand them the hatchet? One tried to hand it back to me BLADE TO ME.

The lashers were no better. Demonstrate the parallel lash to them... "oh, THAT's how you do it" ... Tautline hitch? Foreign to all but one. Clove hitch around the pole? They all did it, but really had to think about it.

"Two round turns and two half hitches" was speaking Latvian to them.

These were Scouts from many different Troops, and all above FC (required for CSDC Staffing).

When Scoutson came back from a Merit Badge Day, he had "earned" badges that I would have thought would need a couple of weeks to do right. The Ecology badges all call for experiments and observation, but the counselor "signed off" on them in one long Saturday. We sat down with Scoutson and went over the requirements with him for completion. He knew that with a grandfather who had been a timber cruiser and a dad who liked the woods, the Forestry MB might be a sticking point with him. He had a few more things to convince us he knew, but it was there. Barely.

I too think the elimination of some of the requirements or the redfining of them may have been unnecessary (Morse Code is a fun thing, still), but there is a new realization that some other things should be included (LNT? YP? Computer savvy?).

The requirements are not the problem. It is the holding to standards that is the problem. If the boy is a First Class Scout, should he not be able to tie a tautline hitch and know when it can be useful?


After "passing the test", give them NEED to use it. Bungie cords on the tents eliminates the need to adjust the ropes, but it also adds $$ to the cost of the tent.

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Give them the need to use it indeed.


I heard our SM say that dining fly's will be part of the allocated stock of Patrol equipment. I like the idea primarily because it will force them to erect a dining fly on campouts using their knots and give us an excuse to have competitions at meetings.

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After "passing the test", give them NEED to use it.

Absolutely! The regular program is what is going to make the Scouts proficient in their knowledge, not a one and done approach. A PL can sign off on a skill, but the T-2-1 needs to utilize that skill on many campouts and games/events the Troop/Patrol should be taking part in throughout the year, year after year.


When we were first working to get the troop out to do some hiking, when one of my PIA parents recognized the distance met Camping MB req #9B2. Almost instantly there was a rumbling in her sons patrol that half werent going as theyve already done that requirement. Thanks for that one, Mommy. Once you can get your Scouts and parents looking beyond that perspective, then your Scouts are becoming proficient in many ways without even realizing it.


I dont really see a dumbing down of Scouting going on in the requirements, but I have seen a dumbing down in the lack of program. Initially, we as adults leaders can improve that by giving our boy-lead units some guidance on their planning. Eventually, they take over completely and determine their own program to do these things. If we let them, that is.


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SSScout wrote: "The requirements are not the problem. It is the holding to standards that is the problem. If the boy is a First Class Scout, should he not be able to tie a tautline hitch and know when it can be useful?"


Since that is a Tenderfoot rank requirement (4b), it will have been long forgotten by the time a Scout reaches First Class. And that _is_ "holding to standards" -- at least the standards set out in the rank requirements themselves, and even the "competence" standards set out in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book.


Tenderfoot requirement 4b states, "Demonstrate that you know how to tie the following knots and tell what their uses are: two half hitches and the taut-line hitch." Suppose that before that requirement can be signed off, you tell the Scout that the way he will be tested on that requirement is to demonstrate the tautline hitch for you on three different occasions at least a week apart, "on demand" -- that is, you'll walk up to him and hand him a rope with no prior notice or chance to "review" the knot. So you do it that way, and the Scout successfully ties the knot without hesitation on each occasion. You sign off the requirement.


Then what? There is no rank requirement that a Scout _continue_ to be able to demonstrate that he knows the uses for and how to tie a tautline hitch. A Scout trying for First Class does not have to re-pass all of the Tenderfoot and Second Class requirements. Rank is not like a certification; there is no provision for taking back a rank badge if the Scout forgets how to tie a knot or can no longer pass some other requirement.


Modern tents don't require that you know the tautline hitch; they have those plastic or metal thingys on the guylines -- if you even use guylines. Dining fly? If the campsite doesn't already have a shelter, then there are pop-up canopies or flies that have poles with velcro or shock cord with little hooks, or guylines with those plastic or metal thingys. And even if you have to string a line somewhere, well, there are lots of "knots" that a lad can make up on the spot that will do the job (though messier and not as well). And really, would you ever lash together a "useful camp gadget" when you can get what you need at Wal-Mart or Sports Authority?


So there are two problems here. One problem is that the rank requirements include many traditional skills that are no longer fully compatible with modern equipment and practices. In order to teach and learn those skills, the troop has to create artificial situations and environments.


The other problem is that in order to maintain skill and knowledge, they must be practiced and repeated. A troop has to come up with ways to do that outside and in addition to the rank advancement system. We have to understand that rank requirements offer nothing more than an introduction or exposure to skills, knowledge, and experience; and that the Advancement system does _not_ include standards for maintaining skill and knowledge once aquired.


Dan Kurtenbach

Fairfax, VA

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