I am often critical of how our boys are being, or seem to be being led down a path that is removing them from adventure, fun, and testing their ability to grow into men.
I am talking about how we hypocritically rail on about how things were when we were kids.. you know, drinking from a hose, climbing trees, mud clod fights, staying out till the street lights came on, loading up our packs and getting on our bikes and heading out for over nighters… You know, that stuff that made our childhood and for many of us our Scouting experience fun and exciting.
We talk about the good old days with fondness and make it a point to tell those stories to our kids and our Scouts, but no way in hell are we going to allow our kids to do that great stuff… No way in hell.
We are so afraid of lawyers and our kids getting a little hurt that we have placed them in a bubble.
For the record, I am not one of those.
My boys climbed trees and we made it a point to allow adventures. The first time I ever took my two sons backpacking we hiked about 2 1/2 miles up to a little lake. They were 5 and 7 years old respectively. The weather was not the best, but it was time to get out. Hey if you live in Oregon you can’t be a fair weather camper. I will never forget that outing. After I showed them how to use a MSR Whisperlite stove, we cooked dinner and the temperature started to drop. We climbed into the tent. It started to snow. We made up stories and ate dehydrated ice cream sandwiches.
Why do have to change things? The answer is that we don’t.
I am a collector of Scouting literature. I have a nice collection of all of the Boy Scout Field Books. The worst of which is the current edition.
Looking back at some of the older Field Books, especially the Field Book from when I was a Scout, they are full of skills and adventure. They open the doors for boys to develop self reliance and skills that help them both in the outdoors and in their daily lives.
Cooking fish over an open fire, building shelters, heading out into the woods to hang out with your buddies. Pioneering that could actually be used for something other than demonstrations. The picture in this post.. God for bid we actually build a bridge today over real water.
So why? Lawyers? Really? It’s not the lawyers… it’s the parents. After all, who is calling the lawyer. Lawyers don’t hang out in the woods waiting for you to allow a Scout to climb a tree. Lawyers are not there when you head to a lake and take a swim. Lawyers are not there to say no.. we say it because we are afraid that a parent would not approve of her little darling be let out of the protective bubble.
I was talking to a group of new parents (to Boy Scouts) the other night. When we presented the annual plan to them, I could see on their faces that they were not to comfortable with some of the high adventure activities that we do. Backpacking, canoeing, shooting sports, you know.. scouting. Seeing this look, I asked what concerns they have. It turns out that they are just concerned about their son being able to do all of this without them.
That, I told them, will be just fine. The boys do well without their parent hovering over them. I went on to explain that we don’t just drop off their son in the woods and pick them back up on Sunday. We have qualified adults that are there to teach them, coach them, and mentor them. Not do it for them, but prepare them to do it alone or with their patrol. I told them that it will ultimately come down to trust.
You either trust that we doing Scouting right or you don’t. If you do, your son will have an awesome time in Scouting. If you don’t, he will not be able to participate because you won’t let him. If that is the case, you should find another activity for him.
Building that Trust is up to the unit leaders. Assembling the right group of adult leaders that are willing to go the extra mile to be trained and seek additional training for the type of activities your unit does. It is easy to be a STEM troop. You just take your Scouts to the Science museum and pick them up in an hour. Having skilled , trained leaders to execute a Scouting program is important. I have mentioned this before but it is not our job to tell the Scouts no. If they want to put something on their calendar that is adventurous, find a way to do it. In our Troop we never say no. And we find a way to facilitate their adventures. Among the Assistant Scoutmasters and I we have thousands of miles on the trail. Hundreds of hours climbing, canoeing, kayaking, and winter camping. If we can’t find an expert, we become on. I can not tell you how much money has been spent to get extra training and gear just so we could do a great outing. We are not afraid to share that resume with the parents, it is all about building their trust and confidence in us so they will let their boy out of the bubble.
I don’t blame society on this. Nothing has changed. The water is still wet, the trees still grow, and night falls about the same times as it did when we were kids. The BB gun stings just like it did when I was kid, and fish still taste better than ever over an open fire. What was fun for us is just as fun for our kids today. Let them be boys.
Bob Mazzucca once said that we need to take Scouting where the boys are. So we have taken them to the zoo, to the museum, and to all the safe places that parents have pushed the boy into the bubble. Boys used to be outside and looking for adventure, and that is where we need to take them. Taking Scouting to where the boys are used to mean something a bit different. I don’t want to take Scouting where they are right now. Scouting belongs outside not behind a computer or in the lab. Yes, before I get beat up by all the STEM guys.. there is a time and place for that, but Scouting is Scouting.. just take a look at what it is in the old field books.
Flipping through those pages I find that there is nothing in them that we can not do today. We just won’t because it is to comfortable in the bubble.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Posts Tagged With: Adventure
I am often critical of how our boys are being, or seem to be being led down a path that is removing them from adventure, fun, and testing their ability to grow into men.
I have been digging through my collection of Troop Pictures and wanted to find some good annual pictures of our Troop, you know, the Summer camp shots that show what a great year of Scouting we had.
As I dug through my collection I looked back on all of those young men that have enjoyed a great program at our Troop. I think about all of the young men that have come and gone. Some stuck it out to the end, some are still active with the Troop.
It has been fun to look at the guys and think about the funny stories that come with each of these pictures.
In light of current discussions on growth and membership, when I look at these pictures I see our program and why it works. I see great kids that want to play the game with a purpose. I see those adults that give a ton to the program. I see the place we have been and things that we have done and it makes me want to give more to these incredible young men that join looking for the adventure of a life time.
As I look back on these pictures I can’t help but remember those years when membership was booming and activities never seemed to end. I think back on our transition from a “Patrol Box Troop” to a “Backpacking Troop” and how that changed our adventure. It also changed our membership. It made us a bit smaller, not every young man wants that kind of adventure. I think about all the Scouts that we talked with on join nights and Troop visits that we suggested different Troops to. Those young guys that had that look that they did not want to join our Troop, but for us them staying in Scouting was more important. I often run into some of those young men and am glad that they stayed in Scouting. Even though we did not ‘get them’ Scoutingwon and so did the Scout. A look at the pictures bring back memories of attacking raccoon’s and awesome dutch oven cook offs. They tell a story of our Troop and the fun that we have had.
Doing an independent camp out in Eastern Oregon was a great adventure. A staff made up of our parents and Scout leaders. Trips to historical sites and learning to catch bee’s. Water skiing, horseback riding, and launching rockets. Hanging out in the stream and paddling rubber rafts across the pond with our hands. Catching fish and having an amazing fish fry, for some the first time they ever had Trout.
Leaving an Order of the Arrow Sash at Chief Josephs grave marker was a special day and raising the flag on the flag pole we cut, shaved, and placed on the ranch property leaving the owner speechless with a tear in his eye is a memory I will never forget. Troop 664 shined that summer and did something that I never thought we could pull off. 5 hours from home and one of the best summer camp experiences we have ever had.
In 2010 13 members of Troop 664 went to the National Jamboree with Contingent Troop 720. I had the pleasure of being the Scoutmaster for that Troop and Rob, one of Troop 664’s Assistant Scoutmasters was an Assistant Scoutmaster in 720 also. The rest of the Troop went to Camp Baldwin that year and I do not have a picture of that group.
If you have never been to a National Jamboree you need to go. It is said that the National Jamboree is a once in a life time experience. Well, not really, you can go to as many as you want. But 2010 was a special year. Being the 100th Anniversary of Scouting in America, the Jamboree in 2010 was very special. It was very cool that I was selected to be a Scoutmaster. It was extremely special that my two sons were in my Troop. It was the only National Jamboree that the three of us would every be able to go to together. The young men of that Troop were very special and bonded quickly. Those bonds remain. That group will forever have a special place in my heart.
As you all know, Philmont has a special place in my heart also. I love Philmont. In 2012 our Troop put together two Crews and made the journey to Scouting’s Paradise.
It was a life changing event for many of the Scouts of our Troop. That group of Scouts that made the trek in the Sange DeCristo Mountains came home different. The other day we were talking about the guys that went to Philmont Scout Ranch. Of that group all but three stayed in Scouting. 5 are or will be in the very near future Eagle Scouts. The rest are still active in the Troop. One completely turned himself around and became our Scout of the Year last year. Philmont made a lasting impression on the life of Troop 664. Last Monday I sat with a Scout, he was my Crew leader at Philmont, for his Scoutmaster Conference for the Eagle award. We talked about Philmont and his impression of the experience. He shared with me that at first he was not to excited because he was the crew leader and was afraid that he would be to busy leading that he would miss the experience. On the contrary. It was his leadership and the way our Crew bonded that made the Philmont experience a special one. We talked about his experiences in the Troop and his growth. He talked about Jamboree, Philmont, and all the cool camping trips. Troop 664 delivered the promise to him and continues to provide the adventure of Scouting to the young men that keep showing up.
Last year our Troop went North to the Chief Seattle Council to Camp Pigott. It was the second time we have been there and the experience was once again fantastic. The camp is great, the staff is wonderful and the experience is always one that the Scouts talk about for year. In all of this, as I look back though, it’s not the camp, it’s not the staff, it’s not the time of year. It’s the Troop that makes these pictures come alive. It’s the Troop that as it grows and passes along traditions, stories, leadership, and fun creates the wonderful adventure of Scouting. That is the common theme that has run through the adventure of Troop 664 for the last 10 years and I am certain it will continue for the next 10… and beyond.
Finding that adventure in where we go and what we do. In our young men and the dedication of the adults that go along for the journey. As I look back at these pictures I can’t help but think that we are doing it right. The proof, they keep coming back. They learn, they grow, they become men of Character. All of that wrapped up in this game we play.
Delivering the Promise is a unit thing. Every unit needs to wrap itself in that promise and provide endless adventures for the young men of tomorrow. I look forward to seeing more and more pictures of Troop 664. I need to find the rest. It is fun to watch the growth of the Troop.
How’s your adventure?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Monday night our Troop held its annual Order of the Arrow election and its six month youth leadership election. Our Troop elections are like most Troops in that we hold the elections for youth leadership. We may differ in this aspect, we only elect the “assistants”. When we hold our elections every six months we elect the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Assistant Patrol Leaders. The idea here is that now the Assistant has six months to learn how to do the job, then he is more successful when it comes his turn to serve as the ‘Leader’. At the six month mark, the Assistant automatically becomes the leader and we elect new Assistants.
It’s pretty simple and works very well.
The OA elections are held just like everyone elects members into the Order of the Arrow. We do not announce the candidates until they are called out at Camporee.
After the meeting on Monday night a group of Scouts and I were talking about leadership issues and the OA. I shared a story about how my ordeal went when I was a youth compared to how they do them now. There are some differences for sure, but the spirit of the ordeal is pretty much the same. A couple of the Scouts mentioned that they wish that the ordeal was still like it was when I was a Scout. Now to be sure, I know that there is some form of “it’s cool if the Scoutmaster says it’s cool” going on here. Rest assured I am not saying this to stroke my ego, and there will be a point here I promise.
We talked about how sometimes it seems that some Scouts take things like the ordeal serious, while others do it to get a sash and pocket flap. I asked why they think that is. The overwhelming response was that it is cool to be in the OA, but members should be “worthy” to be in it. If they do not want to participate, they should not be in it.
I agree, but understand that to some the OA may be just another thing in Scouting and it certainly looks great on the Scouting resume.
One of the Scouts chimed in that he viewed it kind of like the different Troops we see at Camporee. Some take the wearing of the Scout uniform serious, while other look like slobs (his words not mine, although I agree). Some like to build the gateways, while others would rather hang out in camp around the campfire. I am not sure that there is a right or wrong answer here other than when we discuss methods, like wearing the uniform, but what I suggested to these Scouts was that it comes down to their unit’s culture.
And how is that formed? Well, I think that somewhere along the way we form our culture by the activities we do, the way we develop traditions, and our attitudes toward how delivering the promise of Scouting should look. The Troop’s program has a lot to do with that also in that it becomes the style of the Troop.
So in the case of my Troop we have Traditions that passed on as the Scouts move through the unit. New Traditions meet the older ones and it helps shape our culture. Our Troop’s annual program goes along way in the shaping of that culture. Being a backpacking Troop, we do things a bit different and the Scouts of the Troop view themselves as adventurous and skilled. This adventurous spirit and skills are the personality of the Troop. They like the idea that they are different from most Troops, especially at Camporee and summer camp. They like to show up with nothing but their packs. This attitude is a big part of our culture. It is not right or wrong, it’s who we are.
Where does that come from? Well, certainly I had a part to play. Introducing the Troop to backpacking, but then the Scouts took it because they liked it. As a Backpacking Troop it lends itself to adventures like Climbing, Kayaking and Canoeing, Glacier hiking, snow shoeing and lots of other adventurous activity. It is not for everyone and we have seen Scouts come and go because of who we are. And that is ok.
We decided awhile ago that we would deliver the promise of Scouting and this would be our delivery method. The Parents of our Scouts see that what we do works and those Scouts that stick around and take an active part in the program get a lot out of it.
We find a good balance of Youth leadership and Adult interaction through Coaching and Mentoring. When our youth cross over into the Troop they immediately learn who is in charge, the SPL and their Patrol leader. They never stop hearing it. The endless stream of Scouts seeking attention is more often time met with “Ask the SPL”. The culture of the youth led troop balanced with the ability to know when the Scout needs more than just the Senior Patrol leader.
The Scoutmaster conference is a big part of our culture. More times than not, it is not an open book and signing session. It is far more frequent for that Scoutmaster conference to deal with “Boy issues”. Stuff that they just need to talk about. To the outside eyes and ears that may sound a bit creepy, but in our unit Trust is high and sometimes there are just things you need to talk about with someone who you trust. I have built that trust with our Scouts and their parents.
That trust is a huge part of our culture and comes from an unwavering commitment to the Scout Oath and Law. Those are the rules of the Troop and those are the only rules.
I told you that there was a point here. Yes, our Troop is not for everyone and often times our Scouts look to be arrogant or have a swagger about them. That is true, however it is not arrogance, it is confidence. We pride ourselves on skills development and staying true to the goals of Scouting. We wrap all of that in our adventure and fun program. I believe like Baden-Powell asked us as Scoutmasters to the heart of the boy and to be their friend. That is why our Scouts would have that feeling that when I suggest it is cool.. it is. I am not always right and do not seek the worship of these young men. I will tell you quite honestly that I love it when they want to be adventurous. I love to see them push their boundaries and step out of their comfort zone. I love to see leadership in action, no matter how ugly it looks at times. This has become our culture, this is our Troop. I am sure that your Troop has its own culture and its own traditions and its own swagger.
Watch a Troop as it sings its Troop song or yell. That will give you a peek into that Troops Culture.
This all started with a couple of Scouts talking about how they wish things were different. My answer to them was simply this, If you want it to be different, change it. Know my guys.. they will.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
This is sort of a follow up to yesterdays post.
As some of you know I collect Scouting Literature and memorabilia. I often like to look back at the old Scoutmaster handbooks and see how things are different. The one thing that I have seen that is constant is “the boy”.
I am going to quote extensively from the 1953 Handbook for Scoutmasters in the this post. I know that it is not cool to use so much material like that. But I really need the BSA’s help (from 1953) here to make my point.
On what a boy wants:
He wants to stand on his own two feet, to make decisions, to show his independence and initiative. He dreams of being a leader.
I see that in today’s boys. The problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know and so we need to teach them.
He wants action and fun. He wants to be in the thick of things, to run and fight, to be on the move.
But today we don’t want him running, he might get hurt. But today’s boy still wants to run, just watch him. Most of what we call ADD today is pent-up energy. We need to let the boy let it out.
He craves adventure, a change of surroundings. He want to experience new things in new ways, to feel the wind in his hair, the sun in his eyes. He wants to escape, to get away from his everyday life.
Boy, that sounds good does it not? Sounds like all the reasons we joined Scouts when I was a kid. Sounds like the reason a lot of still do Scouting. Why not let the boys do that to.
In 1953 the Handbook for Scoutmasters shared “We must take him as we find him, and help him grow into the man he hopes to be.” Sounds familiar. Bob Mazzucca told us this just a few years ago. The handbook reminds us also that we in Scouting do not have the sole responsibility for helping the boy become a man. “Most of it, as a matter of fact rests within his home, his Church, his School.” The 1953 handbook goes on to say; Then in our own work with the boy, let us strive to do well the things that we know that Scouting can do- and can do better than any other agency… He comes to us because he wants to become a Scout- he wants to Scout!
The book goes on to talk about the fact that boys do not come to Scouts to get more School (paraphrasing), but for the Outdoor thrills of hikes and camp. I will wrap up my last quote from the handbook with this.
That’s what he comes for. And that’s what we must give him: THE SCOUTING ADVENTURE HE EXPECTS!
By giving him pure unadulterated Scouting, we come closest to reaching our goal.
Now I don’t know about you, but in my opinion boys have not changed. It is the parents that have changed and as a result, they are taking the boyhood out of the boy.
A quick look back at not so long ago gives a peek into a world that allowed boys to be boys. I contend that nothing today precludes us from still letting that happen.
I am curious to see where you stand on this. Leave us a comment, lets talk about this. I want our boys back!
Have a Great Scouting Day!
First off.. if you are a Scout or Scouter read this post with caution. You may not agree with some of what I am going to say. Know that I love the Boy Scouts of America. I am always trying to tell our story in the best light of Scouting. I think it is the greatest youth program around. But in the discussion of membership it is fair that we take a look at ourselves and ask the question, Why is it Not cool to be a Scout? Please, if you disagree, read to the end and then leave a comment.
One of the most common things that I hear as a Scoutmaster during conferences is that sometimes our youth don’t feel that it is cool to be a Scout. Peer pressure at School and in their neighborhoods, comments made, and the fact that in most cases the uniform causes a boy to shy away from the program and certainly not invite his friends to join something that is not cool.
So why is that?
In my opinion one of the reasons is that we and the National Council do a terrible job at telling Scouting’s story. In our focus to deliver the “Main thing” we have lost sight on what Scouting has traditionally been about.
When I was a Scout, and I cringe at starting a sentence that way, but none the less, when I was a Scout I joined the Boy Scouts because it looked cool. I was drawn to the adventure. I was longing for to be in a group that Norman Rockwell painted climbing to the Tooth of Time or heading out for a weekend of canoeing. I watched as older boys embraced leadership and taught me skills in the outdoors. Older guys that played on the high school football team that we all looked up to but were not afraid to lead a song or skit at camp. Members of the Order of the Arrow that dressed like plains Indians and stood in canoes with torches blazing, landing on the shore and presenting dramatic ceremonies that left me wanting to be a part of their group.
While I am a believer that we need to take Scouting where the Scouts are… I am also a believer that we can take the Scout on an adventure that will challenge him and leave him wanting more. Instead, the Scouting story is that of catering to the lowest common denominator. We dumb things down because of parents that are over protective and do not understand Scouting.
We take away from the challenge and make it “Accessible”. I want every boy to have the opportunity to be a Scout, but I want every boy to accept the challenges that lead to self-reliance, life long skills, good character, and being fit. There is plenty in Scouting for all, but we have made it so restrictive that leaders no longer feel that they can seek and provide adventures in their units.
Bad press is the only press. That’s the story we get. It does not impact our youth that much, but it keeps Mom and Dad from bringing their son to us. When all we see is bad press, we judge the program based on it. Suddenly all Scout leaders are fat bone heads that push over billion year old rock formations. We are all looking to abuse youth. We are all.. well you get the point.
But what of good press. National does nothing. No ads on TV. Yes, I know that costs money, but what does the BSA waste each year fighting in the courts? How much does the BSA waste in preaching to the choir? They target the membership campaigns to those who are already in Scouting and fail to tell our story to those that need to hear it.
We have been systematically removed from the Schools, the Churches are bailing, and parents see this as an organization that can’t keep it’s poop in a group. It’s all bad press and yet we do nothing to turn the tide of the bad publicity.
We tend to circle our wagons and rally the troops from within the organization, but that’s it.
I watched a great video the other day on YouTube. Rex Tillerson, the former BSA President talking at the National Meetings of the BSA about the new changes that are taking effect. Of course I am talking about the new Non discrimination policy. What Rex had to say was fantastic, but you know, I bet only Scouters saw it. Why was it not on TV? Why did the BSA not contact the major media outlets and networks and have that 10 minute video or parts of it in the main stream media? 10,358 views on Youtube.. and I bet they are all Scout people. A google search produced hits on the video all associated with Scouting websites, blogs, and of course the National office.
Scouting is for nerds. Just ask your Scouts. That’s what they will tell you their classmates think. I recently sat with one of my Scouts at his Eagle Board of Review. One of the board members asked him if he thought Scouting was not cool. He answered that he thought it was cool, but it was not cool to those guys at his high School. The discussion kept going, “Why do you think that?” the Board member asked. “Because of what they think we do in Scouts” the Eagle candidate answered. “What do they think we do?” “Well, for the most part they think we go camping, but it’s mostly about crafts and artsy stuff.”
Crafts and artsy stuff. Yep, that is what we have become.
As a Cub Scout I remember doing craftsy stuff. Soap box derby races, pinewood derby and rockets led the list of cool things that we did as a den. The craftsy stuff when we got to Boy Scouts was Monkey bridges that actually crossed water. Signal towers that you could actually climb. Earning the Paul Bunyan Ax man award and actually chopping down trees.
But that’s all gone now. In the name of Safety? Really? No, in the name of insurance fear. I am not advocating getting Scouts hurt, but we didn’t then so what’s changed. We moved away from adventure and got wrapped up in the lowest impact don’t let Tommy Tenderfoot get dirty family camp.
Look at our merit badge program. Last summer at camp we had more Scouts earn the finger printing merit badge than the canoeing merit badge. It is what we have become.
We as parents have forgotten that our boys need to be boys. We as parents have forgotten that getting dirty is part of childhood. Playing in the woods and coming home when the street lights come on is part of the adventure of being a boy.
We are so afraid that every boy is a victim. Every boy is fragile and a broken bone is the end of the world. I once broke two bones in my arm when I was 10. What was I doing? Trying to fly. Not smart, but you know what, I am no worse for ware.
I watched a Patrol mate burn his eye brows off blowing on a camp fire. A great laugh and no harm done. I can remember coming home from camp outs and my mom not letting me in the house till I first took all my clothing off and hosed down in the backyard. I learned, I grew, and I am a better person for it.
I never earned Basketry or the Art merit badge, and if it were around in 1980 I would not have earned the game design merit badge. I did earn Backpacking, hiking, first aid, wilderness survival and those badges. Heck I joined Scouts for fun and adventure.. not more School work.
The Boy Scouts of America has a rich tradition and yes it has undergone many changes since 1910, but our story is the same. Our Story is still about Character building and Citizenship. Our Story is still about challenge and finding our limits and growing from experience. Our Story is still about great outdoor programs. Our Story is still about adventure and life long learning. Our Story is cool. But we don’t tell our story the way we want it heard. We don’t take the opportunity not to be just another YMCA or after school program, but to be the Boy Scouts of America full of the cool stuff that boys want and need.
We tell the story of numbers and membership, but forget that not everyone wants to be or should be a Scout. We tell the story of abuse and scandal without telling the story of the million great things going on every week at meetings and on monthly camp outs.
We get excited when we have a mediocre district event and wonder why our Scouts are not better recruiters. We miss out on telling our story in the media when things are going good. We miss the boat on getting ahead of bad press and showing the Boy Scouts for what we really are. We are cool, we are making a difference, we are what we say we are. But, for a group that prides itself of spinning a great campfire yarn, we don’t do a great job of telling our story.
Some thoughts. We clean up and get ourselves right. When we have guests come to our house, we straighten up, vacuum, and maybe even light a candle to make the place smell good.
Scouting needs to do that. We need to get our leaders to wear their uniform right and agree to deliver the promise of Scouting using the methods. Leaders need to be trained.
We need to get our Scouts in full uniforms out in the community doing something other than selling popcorn or marching in a parade. We need to show Scouts doing service and other cool stuff that really makes a difference.
We need to budget for local advertising. We need to get in the media in a positive light every opportunity we can.
We need to sell adventure… Not just another chess club. (I have nothing against chess, but we are talking adventure here) Boys want and need adventure.
We need to get with current outdoor practices and try new methods of camping. It is fun for the boys and increases the challenge for the whole unit.
We need to develop better relationships with the Forest service and Park Rangers. They are a great resource for Scouting.
Do you want Scouting to be cool? Then you need to act cool. You need to be cool. You need to look cool. Hey, we are cool… right?
I am tired of the BSA getting beat up for nonsense. I see so much potential in how we can move ahead to tell our story so we can change the perception of Scouting. And then, our numbers will go up, boys will stay longer, and we will be cool, not just to us, but to everyone.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Those of you that have followed the blog for a while know that I am a fan and collector of Scouting literature. I don’t just collect the books, magazines, and other literature, I love to get into them and see how Scouting was, how Green Bar Bill wrote and what the program looked like over the decades.
A common phrase I hear often from “older” Scouters is how things were “Back when I was a Scout”. It seems that things were so much better back when we were Scouts. But then I got to digging in to the literature and what I have found is that the more things change.. the more they really do stay the same.
Yes, before I get hate mail… Scouting has changed a lot over time, but really, it has stayed the same.
In the 1959 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook the Boy Scouts of America talks about YOU, the American Boy.
Before I get into this, I was listening to a podcast the other day. The host of the podcast was talking about kids today and some of the things that they have lost over time. Some of the heritage of America has not been adequately passed down to our kids. I remember when I was a kid that we played like we were on the wild frontier of America. I was Daniel Boone and some of my friends would play the roles of Davy Crockett and Kit Carson, and Wild Bill Hickok. We would fight the battle of the Alamo, build rafts and float down the “Missouri”. We built forts and tried to live the legends of American History. I once met Daniel Boone at Frontier land in Disneyland. It was a great day, you would have thought Daniel Boone came back just for me to meet him.
I think everyone I knew could sing every word of Davy Crockett. You remember.. he was the “King of the wild Frontier”.
I think watching the tv shows, seeing our hero’s at Disneyland, and learning about them in Scouting, School, and out in the woods shaped how we played the game with a purpose then.
Who are the hero’s today? Who are those Davy Crockett’s that the kids today run through the woods acting like?
The 1959 handbook talks about the American boy…
“Have you ever dreamed of hiking the wilderness trails that were worn down under moccasins hundreds of years ago? Do you hear in your imagination the almost soundless dip-dip of Indian canoe paddles or the ring of the axe of an early pioneer hewing a home out of the American wilderness? Have you followed with your mind’s eye the covered wagons on the trek across our continent? Have you thought of the men and women who built our country by their determination and devotion? You are the descendant of those people. You are the guardian of what they built. You are the American on whom the future of our wonderful country depends.”
Great writing. It inspired Scouts for years to learn about our heritage and not feel ashamed of being an American boy. It valued the spirit of the pioneer, the frontiersman, the explorer an encouraged the Scout to seek that adventure and become a part of the American Narrative.
We have lost that kind of writing in our current handbooks. Now the handbook gets the Scout to the next rank. But the more they change, the more they are the same. Where we have lost it is in us. We have stopped teaching them. We have stopped allowing them to be American boys.
“Today you are an American boy. Before long you will be an American man.” The ’59 handbook continues. “It is important to America that you become a citizen of fine character, physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” We all agree that there is no change there. The handbook, as in today’s handbook sets the course for the Scout to begin a life of values and adventure. “Yes, it’s fun to be a Boy Scout! It’s fun to go hiking and camping with your best friends… to swim, to dive, to paddle a canoe, to wield and axe… to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who led the way through the wilderness…to stare into the glowing embers of a campfire and dream of the wonders of the life that is in store for you.” Do we make that promise to our boys today? Why not? Nothing has changed there. The world is not that much different.
I always tell our new Scouts as we sit around the campfire to watch the older boys as they join us in the circle. There is a magic in the campfire. It is a magic that no matter who you are or what your job is in the troop, it plays true every time. That magic is in the embers. It forces one to stare and quietly be a part of it. And sure enough, someone will join us in the circle and their eyes will immediately move to glow of the fire. Where once a loud noise came is now silent and engaged in the magic of Scouting. It is for us to not allow things to change. Scouting is rich in tradition, values, adventure, and spirit. The more things change, the more that will always stay the same. If we want it to.
I think that we need to go back and take a look at old handbooks. Look at the writing of William Hillcourt and how he could draw the imagination of the boys of America. Look how he engaged them to being a part of the rich heritage and adventurous spirit of Americans before them.
We have lost that spirit and way that pull the boys of America into this great adventure. It will be gone if we don’t share it. If we don’t allow them to be American boys.
Building rafts like Huck Finn and standing atop the Alamo defending an ideal. Hanging out in a tree house and hiking off into the wilderness in search of new land. We hold them back in the name of protection, we kill their spirit of adventure and call it safety. I cringe at the thought of not passing on our American spirit to this generation of boys.
They want it.. they just don’t know what it is.
The more things change.. the more the American boy is the same.. Let him be one!
“When you are a Scout, forest and field, rivers and lakes, are your playground. You are completely at home in God’s great outdoors. You learn to notice every sound, to observe every track. Birds and animals become your friends. You master the skills of walking noiselessly through the woods, of stalking close to a grazing deer without being noticed, of bringing a bird to you by intimating it’s call. You learn to find your way cross country by map and compass, to make a meal when you are hungry, to take a safe swim when you are hot, to make yourself comfortable for the night in a tent or under the stars. You become a true outdoorsman.” Boy just like when I was a kid acting like Daniel Boone.. the king of the wild frontier. This was Scouting when I was a boy… and it is Scouting now. We just need to remember that things really have not changed that much.. it is us that changed. The wilderness still calls, adventure still yells for our boys to come. Are you going to let them?
Have a Great Scouting Day!
Well, by now most, if not all of you have seen or are keenly aware of the Hit TV series “Are you tougher than a Boy Scout“. As they get through the first season, the subject of future seasons have begun.
It has been refreshing to watch Scouting on the boob tube presented in a positive light, showing high adventure and skills that most of us in Scouting like. I am also happy to see the caliber of youth that have been selected to be on the first season. They have really represented Scouting well.
But what of future seasons? At what point are they going to show your average Scout.. the merit badge hunter, the mud finder, and the velcro scout.. you know, the young man that can’t be to far from the safe reach of mom and dad. What will future events be on the show? A trip to the zoo? Maybe an aggressive game of chess? How about a fun game of patrol box cleaning? Sounds fun don’t it? Sounds like the stuff boys join Scouting for. Yep, and the nation will get to see all that adventure.. not quite High Adventure, but adventure none the less. I get the feeling that once the public gets their collective eyes on that they will beat down our doors to get in.
OK.. OK.. sarcasm over.
I have been going back and forth with some Scouters via email and some discussions that go back to comments I made regarding Scouting not being for everyone. It seems that most do not agree, and that’s ok. It’s certainly alright to disagree and I encourage it. What I don’t agree with though is that our program should be “dumbed down” for lack of a better term. Go back to the beginning and you find adventure in Scouting at every turn. That is what it’s all about.
Now, I suppose you could argue that adventure is adventure, and that is found in the individual. Yeah.. you could argue that. Ability levels can be accommodated, but at the end of the day, if we are not encouraging our Patrol Leaders Council to seek adventure, we are not helping in delivering that promise.
It serves us well to remember the Promise of Scouting that we are supposed to be delivering.
Allow me to refresh your memory:
Scouting promises you the great outdoors. As a Scout, you can learn how to camp and hike without leaving a trace and how to take care of the land. You’ll study wildlife up close and learn about nature all around you. There are plenty of skills you can master, and you can teach others what you have learned. Everyone helping everyone else-that’s part of scouting, too.
Scouting promises you friendship. Members of the Troop you join might be boys you already know, and you will meeting many other scouts along the way. Some could be lifelong friends.
Scouting promises you opportunities to work toward the Eagle Scout rank. You will set positive goals for yourself and follow clear routes to achieve them.
Scouting promises you tools to help you make the most of your family, your community, and your nation. The good deeds you perform everyday will improve the lives of those around you. You will be prepared to help others in time of need.
Scouting promises you experience and duties that will help you mature into a strong, wise adult. The Scout Oath and Scout Law can guide you while you are a Scout and throughout your life. (The Boy Scout Handbook 11th edition)
It is absolutely no surprise to me that the great outdoors is listed first! That is where adventure is found. Friendship and the bonds that last forever are forged in shared experiences and trials. I love the last part there… “a strong, wise adult.” The Oath and Law are great rules to live by and will last forever in the man.
So there it is.. the Promise of Scouting.. So are you Tougher than a Boy Scout? Can you assist in living up to the expectations that boys join Scouting for? Are you up to that challenge. Imagine if you flipped the channel to watch a high adventure show and there are a handful of Scouts diligently working the fingerprinting merit badge. Click! I just turned the channel looking for the home shopping network.. maybe I could buy some adventure there.
I’m looking forward to the next season of the show.. man am I happy to see Scouting on TV and looking cool!
Let me hear it! I know you have an opinion.
Thanks for reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
It has been an interesting week or so and the blog once again, while always on my mind took a back seat to the daily working of being a Scoutmaster. As we prepared for the camp out and then went out on another winter adventure the Scouts of Troop 664 kept me busy
and looking for new ways to reach our Scouts and peak their interest.
On our way home from our camp out yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with the Senior Patrol Leader of our Troop. We were talking about the morning and some of the challenges that we encountered. Taking advantage of a good teaching and learning opportunity we shifted the conversation to what we could have done different. James talked about how he could have been a better example in that he should have got packed up before the young guys allowing him to be more available to assist were needed and he could have worked better as a team with the Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders. I told him that he was right, a leader needs to always set the expectation by being a good example and that pretty much goes for everything. We talked about some of the decision-making of the group this weekend and why some Scouts seem to get it and others don’t. It comes down to decision-making and common sense. We agreed that common sense is not as common as we would like and then talked more about decision-making.
When it comes to making decisions, especially in a cold weather camping environment, there is a simple rule in that for every action there is a positive or negative reaction. The worst thing that a leader can do is nothing.
A Scouts skills is the knowledge base that his decisions are formulated and made from. The Scout can choose to do the right thing, or he can choose to do nothing. What we have seen from our Scouts is that when the make the choice to do nothing, they are cold, wet, and tired. In short, they do not have a good time. We have watched as Scouts that do not have fun on camp outs tend not to camp as much and lose interest in Scouting. There are a few arguments for and against. I have been told on one hand that it is my job to make sure that the Scouts have fun. I have also been told to stay the course. Now, before anyone jumps down my throat about this, let me tell you that we are not weeding kids out by camping in the snow and maintaining our Troop camping as backpackers. Every Scout that joins our Troop knows how we camp and see the calendar so they know when, where, and how we are camping, climbing, and find adventure. They make a choice at that time to join us or find another troop. As long as our Patrol leaders council wants to head down that trail, we will. We do a great job in training up our Scouts to be successful. But we require that they make a choice. They need to make a choice to learn or not to learn. That is up to them. Like I have explained over and over again, it is the jobs of the Scoutmaster and the Assistant Scoutmasters to assist Scouts in making it to First Class. I am not to interested in Eagle Scouts, that will come with hard work, determination, and developing as a young man. the skills learned and habits formed on the trail to First Class is the foundation of the making a man. Camping Skills, Citizenship, Fitness, and Character are all elements of the trail to First Class. But the first step on that trail is a choice.
So as I talked with the Senior Patrol Leader on the way home from the camp out we discussed possible reasons why the Scouts we have now are less mentally tough and unwilling to push themselves. Why can they not take what they have learned and apply it? Why have they not made the choice? Is it a lack of training? Is it a lack of want to? Is it something that we have done or failed to do? We could not put our finger on it. Whats different in the Scouts we have this year opposed to the Scouts we crossed over 4 years ago or even 2 years ago? We don’t really know. They all come from good homes, great parents, and none of them have learning disabilities… so they all have the ability to learn and make sound choices. So what is it? We will find out I guess.
In the mean time, what does this mean for the Troop? Tonight the PLC met and started getting ready for the next camp out. Next month we will head into the woods to develop our Wilderness Survival Skills. The plan won’t change and I am sure that some of the Scouts that have not been having a great time, well, they won’t go camping. I asked the PLC what they thought about that.. they said that it was fine, at least they won’t have to have bad attitudes on the camp out. I think the boys get tired of dealing with it too. It’s that “one bad apple” thing and the majority of the Scouts really would rather camp with the guys that want to be there and have a good time.So what? I think it is great the SPL is aware enough to have this talk. I am encouraged by a PLC that is willing to stay the course and take a part in having a Troop that they want to belong to, that they want to lead, and that they want to share with their friends.
We will have to see where this takes us. For now, we just get ready for the next outing and keep working with the young men that want to be there. These last few months have been challenging for the Scouts of our Troop, some are stronger for it, some developed better leadership skills because of it, and some have made a choice not to camp in the winter. I am ok with all of it.
What do you think? I think that things will be just fine. I think that the Troop will be fine and that we will continue to have great adventures in the future. I think that while some of the Scouts choose to turn away from challenges, most boys want to be challenged and want to see just how far they push themselves. I think this is the way boys are no matter how hard we try to be over protective and keep them in a bubble. Some how.. some way.. boys need to be boys and Scouts gives them that outlet when we provide the program and allow them to make a choice. That’s what I think. I am curious to see what your thoughts are.
Have a Great Scouting Day!
There has been much said, yeah.. even here on this blog, about how Scouting has changed to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator. A greater emphasis on merit badge work shops and staying within an arms reach of a cell phone. Sometimes I wonder if we in Scouting are still delivering the promise.. you know the promise of Scouting.
I find it interesting that when we look back in the not to distant past that Scouting was much different. Even as far back as when I was a Scout there were not the concerns of life as we know it in today’s Scouting world.
Now I am a believer that we do need to bring Scouting to where the boys are.. but sometimes we should take the boys back to where we came from.
Baden Powell once said “By the term Scouting…is meant the work and attributes of backwoodsmen, explorers, hunters, seamen, airmen, pioneers, and frontiersmen.”
The 1947 Handbook for Scoutmasters goes on to add, “The word ‘Scout’ opens up to the boy the picture of open spaces, woods, rivers, and lakes, mountains which are to be his playground and where he will have his fun.” It goes on to say, “It is this promise of adventure, of camping and life in the outdoors that lures the boy into Scouting. We MUST keep faith with him by giving him that adventure – not just to satisfy him, but because it is the best way we have of holding him.”
There is more written in the Handbook for Scoutmasters that reinforces this idea of adventure and the promise of Scouting, I wonder when we stopped talking about that. There is no mention of it in the current Scoutmaster Handbook.
We have allowed lawyers to dictate that adventure. We have allowed video games and laziness to dictate our levels of activity and we worry about Scouts leaving the program because we need the numbers.
I believe that every boy should be in Scouting… but not for merit badges or bobbles and beads. I think they should be seeking adventure! Like we did when I was a boy. Adventure! Parents need to allow this to happen.. that’s where it starts.
You know, there were just as many creeps in the world in the 70’s and 80’s as there are today. The world really is not more creepy.. the difference… we have 24 hour news now and this wonderful thing called the internet.
We rode our bikes to and from Scout troop meetings. Heck, we rode our bikes everywhere. We were told not to talk to strangers and never to take candy from them.. and you know, we came out alright. Every day in the summer we left in the morning and came home in time for dinner. Looking for adventure.
In Scouts we found adventure. We camped with our Patrols, we did not need… nor did we want, all the adults hanging around. The fewer of them the better. Our parents were concerned about us, but knew that we would be ok. We trusted our Scoutmaster and the skills we were taught and we looked for adventure at every turn.
Not every Patrol got a ribbon at Camporee.. but then again, they were not all about competing either.. they were about skills and discovering new things.
Our PLC had a blank check to plan the next big adventure. I remember when I was a Tenderfoot Scout we had the biggest adventure ever. Our Troop was dropped off in Belgium to take a ferry across the English channel. Once we arrived in England we took a bus to the Baden Powell house and stayed there for a few days. We explored the local area and got to camp at Gilwell Park. 2 weeks from when we left home, we boarded the ferry and back we went. We only had 2 adults with us the whole trip and it was an adventure of a life time.
The old Handbook for Scoutmasters suggests that we can retain Scouts because “it [adventure] is the best way we have of holding him.” The best way! I firmly believe that if we just allowed it, we can get back there. I don’t think that boys have changed much… it is the parents that did the changing. You know.. I can’t remember one kid when I was growing up that had peanut allergies.. now you can’t even say the word peanut without some Mom yelling that her son is allergic. I think it’s time we give our boys their adventure back. I think it’s time that we go back to actually delivering the promise and not just Eagle Awards. I think it is time that all of us Scouters ask the simple question.. are we still delivering the promise?
Just my buck and half.. curious to hear you thoughts. Weigh in.
Have a Great Scouting Day!