Advancement

Merit Badge mania

I have always been a Scoutmaster that encourages advancement and using all of the methods of Scouting.  I have always put a priority on the Scouts having fun, seeking new adventures and in the process, rank, merit badges, and other goodies will happen.  And for the better part of 8 years, this has seemed to be the status quo of our troop.  Good participation at camp outs, doing lots of cool activities and in the process, Scouts earned merit badges and rank.  UNTIL NOW.
For some reason, some of which I don’t have a problem with the Council has decided that merit badges should fall in the hands of committees and project teams.  In an effort to gain and maintain relationships with big corporations and learning centers in the Portland metro area a premium has been placed on merit badge days and work shops.
Rather than do it the old-fashioned way where as a Scout develops an interest in a subject or understands that he needs the merit badge for advancement, comes to his unit leader and asks for a blue card and the number to the nearest counselor and then he begins work on the badge.  Upon completion, the Scout(or the counselor) returns the blue card and the Scout is presented with the badge.  The Council has now provided opportunities for a Scout to just sign up on-line for a badge, show up for a day and complete the badge, many times without the parent unit knowing he has plans to work on it.  This bugs me a bit.
The other thing that bugs me about this program is that racking up merit badges seems to have taken front seat to other Scouting programs within the unit.  Scouts will sign up and pay online to go to a merit badge hand out rather than participate in a troop activity.  I think this is wrong.
Like I said, the traditional way of working and earning merit badges has worked just fine for the better part of 8 years.  Scouts have shown interest and they have earned the badges without placing too much emphasis on them other than for advancement.
Until Now.  It seems that the latest batch of Scouts (Parents) seem to think that merit badges are the end all be all.  They are cranking out merit badges at a pace that will land them all in Boy’s Life for setting merit badge records.  I don’t know where this comes from and I don’t know exactly when the switch was flicked.  What I do know is that I think it is sending the wrong message to the Scout.  I think the parents should remove themselves from the merit badge game and allow their son to have fun in Scouting and earn them the right way.
I upset some parents (new parents) last month when I gave the Summer camp speech and told the Scouts to not worry about merit badge but to make sure they had fun at summer camp.  Some of the Scouts listened and did have a great time at camp, while others wasted no time in earning merit badges for the sake of earning merit badges.  A quick look at the list of merit badges earned at summer camp tell the story, no Eagle required badges earned (they take all week), but many “filler badges were worked and earned.
So our Tenderfoot Scouts will soon have loaded merit badge sashes and no cool stories, no great memories, and will still not be any closer to the next rank.  But their parents will be happy that they get to see Tommy Tenderfoot at the Court of Honor get lots of stuff.
What I am afraid of is the council creating a “participation ribbon” environment.  Where everyone is a winner and no one has to work hard for what they get.  A patch for the patches sake is far less worth having than one earned.
Not every Scout will be an Eagle Scout and not every Eagle Scout earned all 250 or so merit badges. 
I asked the Scouts the other night how important the merit badges were to them.  My little poll did not tell the story that the amount of merit badges would suggest.  Nor the fact that they are all rushing to work merit badges at the Council sponsored events.  Which could only lead me to one conclusion.  The parents need to get their own sashes.
Merit badges will come when the time and interest is right.  They should never take priority over Troop events, and the Council should stay out of it.
My 2 cents, you know I am interested in hearing yours.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, comments, Methods, Scout, Skills | 17 Comments

The ‘Camp’ Speech

Last night at our Troop meeting I gave my annual Summer Camp talk with the Scouts.  This is never a popular talk with the parents because I kind of go against the grain when it comes to conventional wisdom regarding “Camp”.
The rub comes when I tell the Scouts that the number priority of Summer camp (aside from being safe) is to have as much fun as you possible can.  Do not worry about merit badges.  Take a few and have fun.
I harken back to my Scouting days and the memories I have of Summer camp.  1978 at Camp Freedom was the best time I can remember.  The fun we had purposely falling out of our canoes, shooting bows and arrows and never earning the merit badge, time spent with my best buddies swimming and goofing around at the water front.  Fishing at the lake, singing songs in the dinning hall and just having a great summer camp experience.  That’s what it is all about.
Taking away from camp a life time of memories is more valuable than any merit badge.  Parents often times view summer camp as an advancement opportunity, and it is certainly there for the taking, but cranking out merit badges without having fun is a waste of summer camp.
I encourage the Scouts to take a merit badge or two, participate fully in the evening programs, make new friends, and emerse themselves in the camp experience.
Our younger Scouts are heading off to camp this Sunday.  The older guys hit the Trail at Philmont next week.  Both of the trips offer great life time experiences that needs to be taken advantage of.  Getting wrapped up in what I get out of it by way of cloth is not the focus and when it becomes the sole purpose you miss out on the wonderful Scouting experiences that are part of camp!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, High Adventure, Just fun, Summer Camp | 4 Comments

Methods- Leadership Development

Besides backpacking and teaching skills for the outdoors, my favorite subject in Scouting is leadership.  I know that leadership is but a small part of Scouting, but leadership when done correctly requires the leader to be of good character.  Leadership asks of the Scout to develop good citizenship, and of course being a good leader encourages a Scout to be physically fit.
Leadership is tested in Scouting.  It is a requirement for rank, a Scout must demonstrate his ability to lead others culminating with the Eagle project.  To be an effective leader, the Scout must first learn to be a follower.  Leadership starts early in a Scouts life with following.  The implication is that the Scouts needs to see other Scouts leading.  This is where leadership develop starts to take root.
Scouts that develop strong leadership habits and skills work wonders in a Scout led Troop.  They show what “right looks like” and are examples for others to follow.
Leadership does not require a patch.  Every Scout can start leading.  Being a great example is the best leadership tool.  Every Scout will have an opportunity to develop leadership through active participation in shared and total leadership situations.
Through the leadership development method a Scout see’s how leaders effect the over all good.  Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership roles of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.  This is why leadership development is important.  It takes time and energy to become a leader.  Leaders are not born, they are made and Scouting helps get them moving as an effective leader.  He will have skills and tools that will continue to be practiced and tested throughout his life.
Units should provide opportunities to develop Junior leaders.  Troop Junior Leader training, sending Scouts to the National Youth Leadership Training, the Eagle Scout service project, The Order of the Arrow, and various High Adventure base opportunities give the Scout a wide variety of leadership training.  Along with holding positions of leadership in the unit the Scout can find many ways to develop his skill sets and leadership tool box.  Aside from holding unit positions of leadership staffing at Summer camp is one of the greatest experiences that a Scout can have to demonstrate and practice leadership.  Unit leaders should encourage Scouts to take advantage of all of the leadership opportunities that Scouting has to offer.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Leadership, Methods | 1 Comment

Methods- Adults Association

This method is somewhat confusing, especially at the troop level for parents coming from the Cub Scout program.  I say this because it is different.
I’ll explain as we go.  First and foremost, no matter what level of Scouting you participate in Adult Association starts with being a good example.  An example of what right looks like, attitudes, habits, and the Scout Oath and Law.  This is a lofty ask, but it is without a doubt the most important part of being a Scout leader when talking about the methods.
How you carry yourself, talk and act, wear the uniform, demonstrate skills, and teach and coach these young men will leave a lasting impact.  Remember that you must practice what you preach.  I hate to say this, but if you unwilling to be a good example, Scouting does not need you.
Adults need to model the expected behavior and demonstrate good character.
We practice adult association when we conduct boards of review, Scoutmaster conferences, and work with the Scouts on skills and merit badges.  They see modeled behavior and we expect them to act like we do.  So we need to be our best.
Scouts look to adults for guidance, for coaching and a person to be a mentor.  We are that person in Scouting.
I have seen too many adults that carry this a bit far.  Boy Scouts are still Boy led.  We need to know when adult interaction or interference is needed.  Two deep leadership can be achieved from a safe distance while maintaining a healthy level of adult association.
Cub scout parents that come to a Troop often find it hard to get used to adults not being so hands on.  But as I often say, there are no adults in a Boy Scout troop who’s patch say’s leader.
We teach, coach, train, and mentor and maintain a healthy adult association through modeled behavior that reinforces good character, citizenship, and fitness.  Oh and we are supposed to have fun too!.. Remember the Scouting way.. that’s the game with a purpose!
Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, fitness, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Methods, Scoutmaster conference | Tags: | Leave a comment

My Son, the Eagle Scout

Tonight my son was presented his Eagle Scout Award. I can not express in words how very proud I am of him.  Over the past 11 years him and I have been on a great adventure.  At times the trail was rocky and hard to navigate.  At other times the trail was smooth and wonderful to pass.
Over the past couple days we have been gathering the memories of his Scouting career.  He had a great experience in Scouting and I am glad that I was able to come along.
This video is the presentation that we showed at the Court of Honor tonight.  After the video he was given the Eagle Challange and Charge and repeated the Eagle Oath.  This was presented by my father, John’s Opa and our Troops Eagle Mentor.  He was presented his Eagle Certificate by my father in law, an Eagle Scout.  The voices you hear in the video are my wife (John’s mom), his twin sister, and me.  John’s brother, currently a Life Scout was the master of ceremonies.  There was a great crowd of Scouts, Scouters, family, and friends in attendance.  I am a little biased, but it was one of the finest Eagle ceremonies I have seen.  John delivered a wonderful speech about his Scouting experience and thanked many people for helping him along the way.
Enjoy the video.  I am so proud of this young man, he’s the kind of young man you would love to have as your son… but he’s mine and I am proud.

Categories: Advancement, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Oath and Law, Scouting, Scoutmaster minute, Service, stories, Values | 5 Comments

Captain Obvious

Earlier today I received an email from a “fan of the blog and podcast”.. his email is certainly appreciated and I am glad that he took the time to express his thoughts, but…
I will not post the email here, but let me share with you the part that got me to write this post.
“OK Captain Obvious, we all know the ‘Methods of Scouting’ and use them, please tell us something we don’t know.. after all, if it isn’t broke we are not going to fix it”.
Really now.. it isn’t broke.  Well good timing my friend.  Last night at the Top Team meeting our Scout Executive presented the 2011 Progress review to the District Chairman.  I was floored by the results of the audit at both the National level and our Council.  Let me tell you that we have work to do.. at both the National Level… and the Council level.  Now our SE said we are going to “Celebrate our short comings.. and work to fixing the issues”.. I would suggest, strictly from “Captain Obvious’s” point of view that we need to work and work hard to get some of these things fixed.  So, tell us something we don’t know he said.  Let me tell you that the discussion on Methods is exactly what we don’t know.
Let me share some National numbers with you..
MEMBERSHIP-  In my last post on the Outdoor program, I suggested that PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM, and working the Outdoor program method was a key point in getting Scouts to join and stay in Scouting.  It is what gets Webelos to cross over and invite their friends to join.   When I was at the National Meetings last year in San Diego, Rex Tillerson the BSA President talked to us about “the Main thing”.  that Main thing is delivering Scouting to young men.  They can’t do Scouting if they are not in Scouting.
In our Council we are seeing a terrible trend in Cub Scout market share (market share is how the BSA measures growth).   Our Council is pretty much average with the Nation, but here are the numbers from 2007 thru 2011.  In 2007 we had 15,022 Cub Scouts in the program, 14,465 in 2008, 13, 902 and 13, 303 in the next two years and in 2011 we ended the year with only 12,600 Cub Scouts.  That is a significant loss.  The reason that I find this alarming is that without Cub Scouts you drastically reduce the ranks of Boy Scouts.
Boy Scout membership in 2007 in our Council was 11,960 and in 2011 it dropped to 11, 731.  Now this may not seem significant but long term, the Cub Scout numbers will catch up.  Boys are in the Boy Scout program longer than their Cub Scout years, so we have not felt the impact of the dropping number yet.
I would suggest that this is broke and the question first is why?  Could it be programs?  Could it be the lack of leaders not trained.. we will get into that in a second.  Could it be that methods are not being followed?  I wish I had the answer.. but Captain Obvious here knows broke when he sees it.
Now the good news is that our Retention numbers are looking pretty good.. but only pretty good.  The National Average in retention is 70.6%.  We have way too many Scouts going out the back door.  Our Council’s retention rate is 76%.. still not a great number.. so why are they leaving?  Is it that they don’t agree with our values?  are they bored? are they not getting the bang for their buck?
The average size of a Boy Scout Troop in America is 21 Scouts and we recruit about 9 a year on average… so where are they?
Ok.. lets move on to Advancement.. yeah.. remember that’s one of the methods also..  How are we doing?
Only 39.8% of the Boy Scouts in the Nation advanced a rank last year.  Need we say more?  Captain Obvious says we need to work a little harder on this.
Now get ready to treat for shock.. TRAINING!
Only.. and I hope you are sitting down for this.. ONLY 34.4% of Direct Contact leaders, that’s Tiger Leaders, Den Leaders, Webelos Leaders, Cub Masters, Scoutmasters, and Venturing Advisors are Trained in their positions!  As my daughter would say OMG!  And we are taking these boys in the woods and asking parents to feel good about it.  I would not allow my sons to be in a unit with untrained leaders.  34.4 % is the National Average of trained leaders and I would suggest this needs immediate fixing.  There is no excuse what so ever for an adult to be un trained.  NONE.  In an age where the BSA has made Training easier than ever to access, District and Council training committees are holding multiple training events annually… why are we not trained?  How do we have “Adult Association” and mentoring for “Leadership development”.  How does an adult who is not trained teach, coach, train and mentor a Scout?  Captain Obvious is shocked.
So once again, I would like to thank the reader for the email and suggest that we revisit the “Main thing” and the Methods of Scouting.  maybe, just maybe we can fix some of these issues… nay.. we have to fix these issues and the methods will help you and your unit fix what you think is not broke.  Here is what I think.  Those that don’t know.. don’t know.  Those that are untrained, will not know.  There are no excuses for this.  We all love Scouting and for the most part will do what ever it takes to deliver the promise of Scouting.  Scouting is alive and well, but has some work to do to deliver that promise.  It’s obvious what we need to do.  ON MY HONOR I will do my part!
What are your thoughts?  I am curious to know what you think.  drop an email, leave a comment, or send me smoke signals.
Have a Great Scouting day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Camping, comments, Ideals, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Methods, Patrol Method, training, Values, Webelos to Scout Transition | 6 Comments

“NOT WORTHY”

Last night we had another Webelos Scout cross over into our Troop.  He started in his last year of Cub Scouts a little late and wanted to complete his Arrow of Light, so rather than cross with the rest of his Den, he waited, finished his AOL, and crossed last night in a ceremony with his Pack.
Our Troops ceremony team conducted the ceremony and true to form, did a great job.  Last night as I stood patiently awaiting the new boys arrival from one side of the “Bridge” to me, I listened as the team presented the decorative arrows symbolizing their journey to achieve the Arrow of Light.  In the ceremony they test the arrows to see if they are straight and true and worthy to continue the journey.  In the quiver are placed non decorative arrows that are broken in the ceremony.. they are “Not Worthy” to continue on the trail to Eagle.  As each arrow is tested the suspense grows with the beating of the drum.  The Scouts are all worthy, and soon will cross the bridge to their next adventure.
I really have not given much thought about this ceremony until last night.
The symbolism of the broken arrows and how fragile they are.  Keeping the arrow straight and true and worthy of being a man of character.
Our character is that arrow, the Scout Oath and Law help keep it straight and true and worthy of the journey.  It is when we fall off target, like the arrow that is not straight or has a flaw that we will give our character away.
After the ceremony, we went back to our Troop meeting to prepare for the up coming camp out.  Last night, I shared this thought with the Scouts of the Troop, each having seen this ceremony at one point along the way.  I challenged them to seek an arrow that is straight and true, one which will not fall off its mark.  It is then that they will be worthy… worthy of a life of character.. to be called an Eagle Scout.
I challenge you.  Find that arrow within you and keep it straight and true.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, Character, Webelos to Scout Transition | Leave a comment

SMMPodcast # 104

Welcome back to the SMMPodcast, we dusted off the mic and got back to talking Scouting!  We are trying out a new segment.. “The Mobile Thought”..  In this show, we talk about Reverence, Troop Elections, and Youth Leadership.
Hope you enjoy the show.  Let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Direct LINK
Listen here

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Citizenship, Ideals, Leadership, Methods, podcast, respect, Scout Law, Scoutmaster conference, Service, Values | Leave a comment

Tenderfoot and Porn

So if you are reading this.. you are either on the blog or got it via email and you are looking at this post electronically.. it was brought to you from the wonderful world of the internet.  The world-wide web.  I think we can all agree, especially those of us that grew up in an age when the words internet and blog did not exist and the web was something that a spider made, that the internet is a wonderful thing.  Those of us that use the internet as a tool for communicating, learning, sharing, and staying in touch find a lot of value in this great invention.  But like everything, people.. yes people have a tendency to mess things up.
The internet is a great thing, people who manipulate it and find ways to make it harmful, is another story.  It is shame that in this world of great technology we have to be watchful of what is on the net.
I suppose it is much like the stories we hear from our parents about how they never locked their doors in their neighborhood or that they could leave the keys in their cars.  Then times changed and on went the locks and security of belongings took center stage.
I read a study today about pornography on the internet.  It made me sad to hear that the average age of boys that find pornography either by mistake or using a deliberate search for it is 11 years old.  11 years old!!!!  This hit home as we are in the process of working with our new Scouts on their trail to first class.  Internet safety is now just as important as Safe Swim Defense or Youth Protection.  Our youngest Scouts are 11 years old and fall right into the age of the boys in this study.  We talk about bully’s with them, we talk about “Stranger Danger” and the 3 R’s of Youth Protection, but how much do we talk about the “bad parts” of the internet.
We use the internet for everything.  Our Troop has a website, we do a lot of communicating via email and the Facebook site of the Troop and the internet offers great scouting resources.  All of which we want our Scouts to have full access to.  But what about when wondering, inquisitive eyes start searching?  How do we tackle that subject?
Now, there are “Net Nannies” out there and restrictions that you can place on the computer users, but more and more pornography and other questionable sites just seem to pop up.  The sick and twisted individuals that prey on internet users are trying to, as much as we are trying to spread the good word about Scouting, spread their destructive and harmful garbage.  We need to be up front with our Scouts and know that this smut is just a click or two away from this blog and other great sites.  We need to educate them on why these sites are bad.  We need to bring it all back to the Scout Oath and Law.
Is the site I am looking at in keeping with the values and moral code set forth in the Oath and Law?  Would it be something that I would sit with my Mom and Dad and look at?  Education and expectation is critical when introducing this subject to your Scouts.
The internet is a great thing.  I love it and would find it hard to live without now.  There are thousands and thousands of great sites out there.. and then there is lots of garbage too.
Protect your Scouts, Educate your Scouts, and be aware that Tommy Tenderfoot is the average age of a boy in America searching for porn.  Be prepared!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, Character, Ideals, Oath and Law, Scout Law, technology, Values | Leave a comment

C.O.P.E and Scouting

Spending time with your Scouts on C.O.P.E courses is a wonderful experience.  Scouts are challenged to step away from what they know is comfortable.  The team building exercises and challenging tasks push Scouts to push themselves, not only for the sake of pushing themselves, but for the sake of the team.  Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience courses test the Scouts to do their best.
The other thing that C.O.P.E teaches is the idea that Scouting is among other things a “Personal Experience”.  Now it is wrapped up within Patrols, Troops, and buddy teams, but at the end of the day, it is up to the Scout to demonstrate self-reliance and have an attitude that he is willing to accomplish any task that he gets the personal experience.  Our Method of Advancement is one way that is completely a personal experience in Scouting.
The Scout is responsible for his advancement.  If he wants to be an Eagle Scout, there is nothing in his way except for himself.  The requirements are clearly outlined in his handbook, he has the support of his Adult leadership, and he is driven to complete the task.  Advancement is up to him.  Not his buddies, his Scoutmaster, or parents.
The merit badge program is much like the advancement method in that it to is a personal experience for the Scout.  There are required merit badges, but by and large with the large amount of badges spanning every vocation, hobby, sports, and skills, the Scout can pick and choose what he likes, wants, and needs to move forward with his Scouting experience.
Last night I talked with many of the new parents about Summer camp.  They had questions about merit badges and what we expect the Scouts to do… more so… what merit badges I expect the Scouts to earn while at camp.  My answer was received better by some parents than others.  My answer was that it was up to the Scout on what he earns and how many merit badges he try to earn.  My expectation is that they have fun at Summer camp.  If that means 6 merit badges or no merit badges I am ok with that.  “But we are paying a lot of money for summer camp” a parent said… yes I understand that.  What do you think you are paying for?  In my opinion we pay for the personal and shared experiences that are found only at Summer camp.  Summer camp is a week-long C.O.P.E course.   There are challenges, skills, and tests all week.  How the Scouts handle those both as individuals and as a team determines the success of the week at camp.  Merit badges and how many the Troop can earn is not the measure of success.  In the end, not one merit badge will lead to a memory that they share.  I can tell you stories all day long about the summer camps that I attended from 1978 to 1984.  But I can only tell you 1 story about a merit badge, and it really had little to do with the badge, it had more to do with me falling asleep and getting lost while trying to earn it.  My expectation is that the Scouts have fun and build a catalog of memories.  I want them to have a great Personal Experience in Scouting.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Advancement, blog, camp skills, High Adventure, Ideals, Just fun, Methods, Skills, stories, Summer Camp, teamwork, Values | 1 Comment

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