Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Boys At Risk!

I don't know if you've seen This Brochure but it speaks volumes about the problems facing our young men today, and the benefits that a well run scouting program can offer them to overcome these challenges.

Recent Studies Indicate boys today are at risk.

They are:
33% More likely than girls to drop out of high school.
200% More likely than girls to be diagnosed with learning disabilities.
24% Less likely to enter or graduate from college than in 1970.
30% More likely to use cocaine than high school girls.
200% More likely to commit suicide between ages 5-14 than girls.

Men who were Scouts are more likely than those who have never been Scouts to:
• Graduate from high school (91% vs. 87%).
• Graduate from college (35% vs. 19%).
• Earn higher annual household incomes ($80,000 vs. $61,000).
• Value family relationships highly (81% vs. 72%).
• Have lifelong friendships (89% vs. 74%).
• Believe helping others should come before one’s own self-interest (92% vs. 83%).

Now, why is it that the vocal minority wants to condemn scouting? Why is it that more people don't support Scouting as volunteers or via FOS?

I can only hope more people will take notice of the struggles of young men in this country, and the world, and will notice that Scouting already offers opportunities and programs to help them overcome these challenges.

Study Sources:
“The Trouble with Boys.” Newsweek. 30 Jan. 2006.
Harris Interactive. Values of Scouts: A Study of Ethics
and Character. May 2005.

Standing Up For The Young Men of This Country!

Recently Rebecca Hagelin posted this opinion piece at regarding the Boy Scouts.

Her opening paragraph speaks volumes:
Despite the negative images of males that the pop culture shoves down our throats, the hearts and souls of America's boys are begging for positive direction. They naturally delight in "guy" stuff like rugged camping and "cowboys" when they are young because they truly want to be protectors - to be the good guys. Anyone who has ever been around a five-year-old boy knows that he desires to be a super-hero who saves damsels, children and the elderly from evil. But as guys age they are constantly pounded by images of lazy or sexually predatory images instead of courageous, genteel protectors - and some grow confused. Radical feminism doesn't help - many teen boys even wonder if they are supposed to be polite anymore. Too many have opened the door for what they thought was a young lady, for instance, only to be screamed at by a suddenly vicious and angry female. Why would they want to take that risk again?

Isn't that why many of us defend scouting, and sacrifice so much of our personal time and resources to run the program and help encourage young men to grow into responsible adults, citizens, fathers, and contributing members of society?

In addition to more adults willing to support the program by volunteering their time, what Scouting also needs are more advocates like Rebecca explaining to the people in this country and the world that the values of Boy Scouting are not old and outdated, but rather fundamental to the success of our nation and defense of our very liberty.

Please take a moment to read Rebecca's article and if you agree, then please take the time to E-mail Rebecca Hagelin and thank her for supporting scouting.

I hope many of her readers get the message, and many more will begin to support scouting and that a resurgence of support will revitalize the program and its values.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Campout Report: The 2:30AM Wake-up Call

I'll warn you now, this one is going to ramble a little...

One of the advantages of living in the country is having your own campsite in the back yard. We have 5 acres, 4+ is fairly wooded, with river-front, and a nice bluff to climb and all the firewood a scout could want. I even have a small cave in the bluff they can hike to and explore. I do try to use the site sparingly because I don't want the scouts to be too bored with the location, but it's a good place to camp for our first camp of the season as we go through the tents and gear before heading anywhere further from "home". I call it "Scoutmaster's Farm Camp" and this was Farm Camp III!

We held a two night camp this last weekend, starting Thursday evening because our scouts were on spring break over Easter weekend. Top that off with uncharacteristically warm & dry weather for April and it made for fantastic outing weather. Not too cold, weeds, nettles and trees not overgrown yet, no mud, it was great!

I strung up my invisible flagpole, had new staves & holders for the patrol flags, and had the scouts build a nice generous fire-ring. My ASM/Troop Committee Chair brought his chain-saw and cut some fallen/falling trees down and into bench length logs for us to use around the fire ring.

Patrols set up their tents together, and then commenced to have dinner. Food preparation/clean-up is one area that our troop really struggles with. A Lot. Camp started at 7pm Thursday, but they were just finishing dinner clean up at about 11:30pm.. Friday breakfast preparations started at about 6:30am, but clean up wasn't done until almost 11am.

We had a lot of fun activities planned that we just didn't get to because a lot of time was spend avoiding the chores. But the SPL knew the schedule, and knew what needed to be done, so I sat in my chair by the fire like a dutiful SM and watched, offering periodic advice and guidance where necessary.

Around midnight it was finally time for bed, but a couple scouts wanted to stay up and talk around the fire. That was fine, buddy system intact, scouts calm and responsible, so I went to bed and listened for awhile.

Then the fun began. First I realized that at 36, I'm too old to sleep on the ground with just a foam pad. It's time to get a mattress or something. I still have a major kink in my back that's making me walk crooked..

Then about 2:30am I awake to the (very loud) voice of a scout, sounding teary, yelling at his Mom on the phone that he wants to go home - now! He says he's cold, and doesn't want to sleep in the cold tent on the ground. I sit up and open my tent fly, and he's standing in the woods, in his nice warm coveralls, with his gear all packed beside him. I call him over and ask what's going on. He reitterates that he wants to leave. No encouragement or coaxing can convince him otherwise so I put on my shoes and head out with him to meet his Mom with his gear. He said he was cold and couldn't sleep, but from the look of it he never even pulled out his sleeping bag.

He was one of the scouts that stayed up around the fire. Chances are when everyone turned in and went right to sleep (about 1:30am I'm told) he decided he wanted to go home and was either homesick or lonely and just didn't want to stay. His Mom and didn't know what more to say than I did, but convinced him to come back in the morning on her way to work. Which is good since he's the cook for one of the patrols and is working on his 1st Class cooking requirements!

He came back in the morning, but again that evening he said his parents were going to come get him because they were going to town to go out to eat and do some shopping and he needed to go with them. Curse cell phones, and being close enough to home that make such mutiny feasible. Time to revisit the rules with scouts and parents because I'm not sure anyone would have told me he was leaving if I hadn't had my heightened scouty-sense firing on all cylinders and heard him on the phone. That would have caused quite the problem in the morning to have misplaced a scout..

We had a pretty good outing otherwise. Took the scouts to a state park and ran an Orienteering course, scouts did some fishing in the river, plenty of hiking/wood gathering, recruited a new scout, reminded another that he likes scouting (he said this was the second best campout ever), covered Toten'chit for the new recruit and refresher for those that needed it, and for one scout to complete his Paul Bunyan requirements as well. We had a lost cell phone, scouts talking in their sleep, and my ASM lost his day planner somewhere. Fortunately the phone and the planner turned up, and nothing major was injured, broken, or otherwise remiss.

Time for another campout next weekend.. are we ready?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chicken Or The Egg? Scout Or the Troop/Pack?

I'm sure the ebb and flow of registered scouts in a given Council isn't a new dilemma, or unknown to most councils. But I wanted to write today about the challenges I'm seeing in our district, and what I view as some "lack of direction" issues that are contributing to the challenges of operating a scouting program; at least in my area.

First, I realize that everyone is busy. Everyone is being pulled a million different directions, including our kids, so it is reasonable to think that some adults simply don't think they have time for scouting.

Second, running a scouting program is a full time job. There are a lot of meetings, a lot of training, and simply a lot to do if you don't have a lot of adult support.

That said, do you start a Pack or a Troop with a minimum number of registered Scouts? (5 required) or do you wait until you have enough interested adults and youth to make a viable program?

Furthermore, what is your council doing in areas where there are many units struggling to stay operational?

In our District, our troop just started back up due to sheer determination after being dormant for two years. We don't have an operating Pack to feed our Troop, but for two months a group has been trying to start up a new Pack without much enthusiasm from boys or parents. A neighboring town (we'll call Town H) has a Troop with just one scout, and a Pack with few active Scouts. Another neighboring town (we'll call Town L) has a Pack, but no Troop.

At last month's roundtable I asked the Cubmaster of Town L what they were doing with their crossover scouts. They really hadn't considered it and don't have a Troop to feed them into. I said I'd be more than happy to come talk to the Pack and parents about our Troop and enroll them in our troop if they desired to keep them in scouting.

A couple weeks after that, the Cubmaster of Town H contacted me because his son is crossing over in May and the Scoutmaster in Town H said to call me because their Troop is folding. Of course we're thrilled to have him - but there are complications.

At roundtable this month, when I talked to our District Executive, he said he had been tasked to both try and start up a new Troop in Town L, as well as help Town H do some recruiting to save their troop.

So the question is.. Which comes first, the Scout or the Troop/Pack?

My thinking is that there should be a good program to draw in the Scouts, but you can't start a new unit without a charter, and you can't have a charter without a minimum number of scouts and leaders.

So wouldn't it make more sense to leverage an existing unit, and grow it with the intent to split it? Rather than start from scratch? What parent wants their son to join a cub Pack with 5 kids, aged 5 to 10. (meaning 2 Tigers, one Wolf, one Bear, one Webelos) when there isn't a cohesive program even running? But this seems to be the tact of our council.

While researching a project, I was able to review an archive file at work that included many scouting artifacts from our founder's involvement in scouting, including national boards, and Silver Buffalo etc. In that file I found a map of the council showing the districts that existed back in the 50s-60s. Today our council has 3 districts. It used to have 12.

If I had a vote, which I don't, I'd recommend consolidating some units, re-district in geographic boundaries that make sense, and work on strengthening the program vs. simply growing numbers of scouts.

I don't know if the BSA executives get bonuses for retention and growth like the Girl Scouts do, but it sure feels that way when they're more concerned with numbers of scouts than quality of the program.

We have a pretty strong troop for now, but if we don't get an infusion of leadership and new scouts soon we will start fading again and I don't foresee a way to keep the troop from shutting down again. And here we have cubs that want to go into scouting, and deserve to go into a functional troop, and yet they're going to likely end up going into a newly formed troop if at all simply to keep numbers of units up. Moreover, of our 12 scouts only two have parents involved with the Troop, and one on the committee. The others don't participate, and can't be coaxed to participate.

Sorry for the downer/negative post, but it's been a little frustrating to be working hard to provide a program, and to see boys falling away from scouting on either side because the program is failing them. And to see parents that know scouting is important, but no interest in helping run the program.

What are you doing to bolster scouting in your area?