Cub Scouts

JTE Changes for 2018

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As we are wrapping up our 2017 Journey to Excellence scorecards with rechartering. Now is a good time to become familiar with next year’s scorecards.

Units

For the most part, at the unit level, there are few changes. On line 10, the consistent change is from requiring the minimum adult leadership for rechartering plus an assistant unit leader (i.e., assistant Cubmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, or Associate Venturing Advisor). Now the requirement for Bronze on line 10 is simply to have an assistant unit leader. This makes sense, since the others are required to recharter. Even units that do not qualify for bronze need a unit leader and committee members. This is less of a change than a simplification of the scoring method.

I have omitted other wording changes that do not change the underlying scoring mechanism for the criterion.

District

The significant changes are at the District level. While most unit leaders have little interest in what district qualifies for, it does impact units. The impact is on what commissioners and committee members do to support the units. In their efforts, they need the cooperation of unit leaders to be able to meet BSA JTE requirements.

On line 4, membership growth, the focus is shifting from the district-at-large to Cub Scouts. So lower overall growth is sought but actual growth in Cub Scouts is the minimum level. The logic is that if we grow Cub Scout membership, we will grow overall membership. With co-ed taking effect in 2018 for Cub Scouts, ideally this is an easy requirement to meet.

On line 7, the target percentage of scouts with advancement is reduced between 2-3% on all levels.

On line 9, the target percentage of Cub Scouts camping is increased 2-3 % on all levels.

On line 12, unit retention is increased for bronze but reduced for silver and gold. All now seek 90% retention.

On line 13, unit commissioners are expected to have more detailed and more frequent information about the health of the units in their charge. That means the unit commissioners are expected to ask better questions so that they better understand the units. They are then accountable for summarizing that information in the reportingJTE system.

Line 15 requires one less committee member to qualify for gold.

Conclusion

So for planning purposes, very little is shocking to units. The amount of requests for assistance from district may go up. It seems the goal is to have better overall scouting experiences available to boys and girls without putting more pressure on any one unit to fulfill that goal.

Please look at the scorecards for 2018 and build improving into your monthly unit committee meetingsto insure a great 2018.

 

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Anti-Fragile and Scouting (Part 4)

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This is the fourth part of a series commenting on what I have been reading in the works of Nassim Taleb, beginning with his book Anti-Fragile, part of the Incerto series.

incerto

In the first article, I outlined his biography and introduced the questions of “What is the opposite of fragile? Are your scouts, scout parents, or scouters fragile? What are your duties as a scout leader in handling this matter?”

In the second article, I defined anti-fragile as strengthing in face of adversity. I suggested that resilience is not the antonym of “fragile.”

In the third article, I discussed using the concept of anti-fragile in planning and programming for troop outings.

This week we will start to look at teaching scouts how to be anti-fragile emotionally in the field.

Taleb talks about one the great Roman philosophers in Chapter 10. Seneca was a stoic which meant he sought to remove emotionality and dependence on worldly goods from his life. At the same time, Seneca was among the wealthiest men in Rome. It seems a contradiction. Taleb interprets Seneca’s worldview as focusing on removing the vagaries of life from his worries. Seneca did not seek to throw wild parties with his wealth. He sought to make himself safe from worries. Even so, Seneca acknowledged that many wealthy people sleep poorly at night for fear of losing their fortunes the next day. Seneca sought a way to obtain a different result.

The stoics’ way, as taught by Seneca, was to be able to face tragic problems and say, “I lost nothing.” Imagine your scout brings his iPhone and loses it on the next campout. Does he stress about it the rest of the weekend? How do his parents react on learning the news? Do they raise the roof with complaints? Do they calm accept the loss of valuable property? Neither is probably the best approach. What will the scout do in anticipation of that coming parental reaction?

Taleb suggests the first step is to move away from post-traumatic harm to post-traumatic growth. Clearly an over-reactive parent will induce post-traumatic harm. So does a complete dismissal of the loss of the iPhone lead to post-traumatic growth? I suggest not.

To have post-traumatic growth, using the Seneca method, the scout has to prevent harm an over-emotional response. Avoiding an emotional meltdown and focusing on concrete steps to handle the situation is key. A scoutmaster or patrol leader asking, where did you last see it? where did you go next? what were you thinking about? These questions are not emotional; they are functional and likely to increase the likelihood of finding the phone. Finding the phone reduces the emotional punch of an angry parent. Failing to find the phone but implementing a systematic response allows action to step in the place of emotionality.

Yet in all of this example, the scout is only barely coping with the problem. He still feels the loss of property. He fears the parental response. He has feelings anticipating the response. By giving a systematic response after the phone loss occurs we have not made him anti-fragile. The next conflict with his parents is just as likely to lead to an emotional break down if we are not there to offer systematic guidance.

Returning to the unemotional parental and scout response to the loss of a phone, we have the different problem that the scout is probably learning to be irresponsible with his and other persons’ property. He is learning to be untrustworthy. He faces no consequence for mishandling his own property. He is likely to be the one to misplace the cook kit from the patrol box.

Seneca suggests, in Taleb’s telling, that the scout in our story go through a series of mental exercises of pretending he has lost the iPhone long before he ever losses it. He think about what the consequences of the loss would be. He think about how he would adapt without the phone. He think about how he would carry out those same tasks without the phone. He think about how he would relate to (fail to relate to) his fellow scouts without his phone. In this exercise, the value of the phone is reduced. He starts to see that life goes on without the iPhone being omnipresent. He learns other ways to deal with life without the iPhone.

Interestingly, these exercises tend to make the risk of loss of the iPhone much less likely. First, some scouts may choose not to bring the iPhone on the outing because they don’t want to take the risk of loss. Similarly, some scouts may not bring it because they like the alternative scenarios better: more card playing time with fellow scouts or more time in the woods. Second, some scouts may still insist on bringing the iPhone but plan for its care much better, because they have learned to anticipate how losses could occur. Third, others may learn the opposite of our intended less that the theoretical absence makes the heart grow fonder. In all of these scenarios, the scout has learned to be more anti-fragile because he has learned that the iPhone being lost has consequences that he does not care for.

Seneca’s lessons from these anticipation-of-loss scenarios during travel was that he generally traveled with only what he would end up with if he was shipwrecked. In scouting language, he took in his backpack only what he needed. Heavier backpacks add new worries for loss, damage, fatigue, distraction, risk of falling, etc. Packing light in anticipation of real risks is a form of anti-fragility. Packing what your willing to part with is another form of stoic anti-fragility.

For a scout trek, a great exercise in anti-fragility is to imagine all the things that could go wrong that day and how you would cope with those problems. The unknown-unknowns (see Don Rumsfeld) are always a risk, but learning how many unknowns or risks are actually foreseeable is a great form of creating an anti-fragile scout.

The first time you discuss foreseeable risks with an 11 year old, you might induce fright and panic. But if you follow this process every morning on every campout, if they then repeat this exercise 3 years later in the Boundary Waters, they will have confidence built from learning how to manage foreseeable risks.

Taleb sums up the point by saying

Seen this way, Stoicism is about the domestication, not necessarily the elimination, of emotions. It is not about turning humans into vegetables. My idea of the modern Stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.

Seneca proposes a complete training program to handle life and use emotions properly— thanks to small but effective tricks. One trick, for instance, that a Roman Stoic would use to separate anger from rightful action and avoid committing harm he would regret later would be to wait at least a day before beating up a servant who committed a violation. We moderns might not see this as particularly righteous, but just compare it to the otherwise thoughtful Emperor Hadrian’s act of stabbing a slave in the eye during an episode of uncontrolled anger. When Hadrian’s anger abated, and he felt the grip of remorse, the damage was irreversible.

Seneca also provides us a catalogue of social deeds: invest in good actions. Things can be taken away from us— not good deeds and acts of virtue.*

I love that underlined passages. They just scream Scouting.

Returning to our unemotional scout who has lost the iPhone. In many ways, he will be your biggest problem. He has learned to remove himself emotionally from problems.

Taleb in a latter book in the Incerto series discusses how psychology is coming to understand that emotions are a necessary part of decision making. An unemotional scout will be one that just doesn’t care what the outcome is, so he will not spend much time thinking through the problem. Emotions are the “lubricants of reason.”

Descartes’ Error presents a very simple thesis: You perform a surgical ablation on a piece of someone’s brain (say, to remove a tumor and tissue around it) with the sole resulting effect of an inability to register emotions, nothing else (the IQ and every other faculty remain the same). What you have done is a controlled experiment to separate someone’s intelligence from his emotions. Now you have a purely rational human being unencumbered with feelings and emotions. Let’s watch: Damasio reported that the purely unemotional man was incapable of making the simplest decision. He could not get out of bed in the morning, and frittered away his days fruitlessly weighing decisions. Shock! This flies in the face of everything one would have expected: One cannot make a decision without emotion. Now, mathematics gives the same answer: If one were to perform an optimizing operation across a large collection of variables, even with a brain as large as ours, it would take a very long time to decide on the simplest of tasks. So we need a shortcut; emotions are there to prevent us from temporizing. Does it remind you of Herbert Simon’s idea? It seems that the emotions are the ones doing the job. Psychologists call them “lubricants of reason.”**

 

So the strange thing is that we find ourselves having to calm the emotional scout to move toward reason and logical behavior; we need to spark an emotional response to move him toward reason and logical behavior, too.

In both cases, we are teaching the scout to confront the situation and plan for foreseeable but yet unknown risks.

Next Saturday will continue to look at applications of Incerto and Anti-Fragile in particular to the scouting world.

_______________

* Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Incerto 4-Book Bundle: Antifragile (Kindle Locations 2855-2863). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

** IbidFooled by Randomness. Kindle Locations 21806-21815.

Invitation to Pack 358’s Hayride

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Pack 358 Hayride Invite.png

Pack 358 from Zionsville Christian Church is again opening its annual hayride and bonfire to other packs in the North Star District. To participate, simply visit this link.

For troops this is a wonderful opportunity to get to know parents and cubs from various packs and to help serve cub scout packs.

Known Issue with Rechartering Invoice

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This year National Council has added local council insurance premiums for registered members. That means the $1.00 insurance premium per scout and scouter is automatically included in your invoice, which is an upgrade over the last rechartering cycle, completed in November 2016.

Unfortunately, all is not rosy in the invoice automation. At Council meetings last we were informed that the Adult Partners for Lions and Tigers (i.e., parents included on the Youth Application but have not completed a separate Adult Application for positions such as Den Leader, Assistant Den Leader, Committee Member, etc.) do not have that insurance premium included in the invoice.

Consequently, please count these adults and multiply by $1.00. This will need to be added manually to the amount of the invoice for your pack to be paid in full.

Anti-Fragile and Scouting (Part 3)

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This is the third part of a series commenting on what I have been reading in the works of Nassim Taleb, beginning with his book Anti-Fragile, part of the Incerto series.

incerto

In the first article, I outlined his biography and introduced the questions of “What is the opposite of fragile? Are your scouts, scout parents, or scouters fragile? What are your duties as a scout leader in handling this matter?”

In the second article, I defined anti-fragile as strengthing in face of adversity. I suggested that resilience is not the antonym of “fragile.”

Up to this point, I have focused on making the scouts anti-fragile, stronger for having faced adversity. Let’s look at the concept of anti-fragile as a criterion for assessing the quality of your unit’s planning and programming.

Taleb questions the engineering world’s emphasis on efficiency. Let’s assume the definition of efficiency is doing just enough to complete the task with just enough resources and time. No wasted motion, effort, time, or resources. What is the effect in today’s world of being ever more efficient?

When planning goes well, the planner looks like a genius. No waste. No muss. No fuss. The trailer is packed so efficiently just the perfect amount of food is loaded. There is no excess weight to slow the trailer down. Every scout finds just the equipment he needs to do his tasks. It’s perfect.

But what happens if some of the planning fails? What if there was no weather report of a major rainstorm? To have been truly efficient, the planner took only what was in the plan. Since no weather report predicted a rainstorm, the efficient planner takes no shelters or tarps to keep the weather out when cooking. People get cold and wet and maybe are a little hungry.

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BSA rolls out 100% co-ed

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You may have heard, but all programs will be co-ed by January 1, 2019. Cub Scouts start, as I read it, June 1, 2018.

Here is the announcement from CAC Council Commissioner Ron Penczek:

Team,

I wanted to take a moment to forward on to you official communications from our National Council regarding girls in Cub and Boy Scouting.  While it is too late for my girls to stand beside their brother in earning Eagle Scout, I am very excited to bring our program of citizenship, leadership and fitness to girls around the country, I hope you are as excited as me.  I know for some Scouters, this change will be concerning and their concerns are not without merit, but as a Commissioner Corps, I am sure we can help deliver a positive message.  We can be the agent of change that helps everyone to see the benefits of such a change and help implement such change in a positive way.

Please cascade this to your District and Unit Commissioners and begin talking with your units about this change.

I look forward to talking with you next week.

Kind regards,

Ron

BSA Expands Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts Programs to Welcome Girls

The BSA’s board of directors has unanimously approved welcoming girls into our Cub Scouts program and delivering a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

The historic decision comes after years of receiving requests from families and girls. The BSA evaluated the results of numerous research efforts, gaining input from current members and leaders — as well as parents and girls who have never been involved in Scouting — to understand how to offer families an important additional choice in meeting the character development needs of all their children.

Linked below (or attached) are a few resources to help you learn more about today’s decision, as well as respond to any inquiries you may receive. As always, please direct all media queries to pr@scouting.org:

Official BSA news release

Family Scouting page on scoutingnewsroom.org

Family Scouting FAQ

Roundtable Thursday

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This Thursday we will have a busy roundtable.

We will have all the following at 7:00 pm

  1. Den Leader SDistrictCommissionerpecific Training for all grades;
  2. Camping skills for Webelos Den Leaders and Cubmasters with demonstrations by boy scouts from Troop 56;
  3. Introduction to Rechartering methods and other fun of unit administration. This is open to all persons handling rechartering; and
  4. An open forum for boy scout leaders not involved in rechartering.

We will also have Youth Protection Training for Cubs and Scouts live at 6:30 pm.

See you Thursday at Luke’s Lodge on northeast corner of campus of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 West 86th St, Indianapolis, IN 46260 at 7:00 pm.

Anti-Fragile and Scouting (Part 2)

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This is the second part of a series commenting on what I have been reading in the works of Nassim Taleb, beginning with his book Anti-Fragile, part of the Incerto series.

incerto

In the last article, I outlined his biography and introduced the questions of “What is the opposite of fragile? Are your scouts, scout parents, or scouters fragile? What are your duties as a scout leader in handling this matter?

Let’s return to the question of “what is the opposite of fragile?”

Is it resilience? I have written here before about the value of building resilience through the scouting program. The research on building resilience in children is important for life-long physical and emotional health.

A quote from the previous article makes the point.

Amid all the hustle there are some worries parents can let go of, says clinical psychologist David J. Palmiter Jr., PhD, and author of Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies That Make a Difference. Forget the concept of work-life balance, he says. It doesn’t exist. And the worries that you’re giving your kids the short shrift because both of you work? There’s no evidence to support that either, he says. In fact, there are many things that working parents worry about that aren’t really a big deal. But cultivating resilience is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, he says.

How important is resilience? It could have long-term health implications. A study published in the February 1, 2016, issue of Heart found that young men with low stress resilience scores were 40% more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life.

So how can you teach your children to bounce back—especially when you’ve got limited time?

I suggested that scouting provides a means of answer Dr. Palmiter’s question, “[H]ow can you teach your children to bounce back[?]” I made the point that you can’t teach resilience. You give it a chance to develop in presence of stressors and good role modelling. The scout learns how to behave amidst adversity.

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REMINDER: District meetings

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Thursday, October 5, 2017 at Second Presbyterian Church, 4th Floor:

  1. Commissioners: 6:00 pm, Room 401
  2. District Committee: 7:00 pm, Room 405

Thursday, October 12, 2017 at 7:00 pm (except where different below), Luke’s Lodge, outbuilding on Campus of St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 100 W. 86th St.

1. Youth Protection Training (Y01) (6:30 pm)

2. Boy Scout Roundtable: TBA. Possible topic: path to Eagle.

3. Cub Scout Roundtable: planning your next camp out. Presented by Scouts from Troop 56 and RTC Bill Buchalter. (Great for Pack Programming Chair, Pack Chair, Cubmaster and Den Leaders, especially Webelos Den Leaders). Tents and gear explained.

4. Rechartering breakout for Unit Rechartering Coordinators. How to rechartering. Changes to system.

Anti-Fragile and Scouting (Part 1)

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As I have mentioned before, I have been reading the works of Nassim Taleb, beginning

incertowith his book Anti-Fragile, part of the Incerto series.

Since I plan on writing a series of commentaries on this author’s work, let me begin by giving a quick version of his biography.

Taleb is a polyglot (i.e., French, Arabic, English, etc.) and graduate of Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in a small francophone village in Lebanon to a well-connected Greek Orthodox family. Through most of his later childhood, he was surrounded by the Lebanese Civil War. After coming to America he has been a floor trader in the commodities exchange and worked on derivatives trading. He eventually received his doctorate and served as a distinguished professor at NYU’s School of Engineering and Dean’s Professor at University Massachusetts at Amhearst.

He is deep. He is thorough. He is just damn funny.

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