BSA has provided guidance for marketing Family Scouting. In some part it is simply a reminder to follow the Scout Law in marketing with concrete examples of violations of the Scout Law in this context.
Even so, it gives a checklist of “don’ts.”
Make sure you review this against your unit websites and emails.
As the BSA moves to being 100% co-ed, we need to study carefully what makes the BSA uniquely successful. In business this is called “best practices.” Best practices are an attempt to articulate in clear language and procedures what patterns of behavior in a business consistently lead to success, wherever tried.
The BSA has a history of moving adult leadership toward co-ed, so that once what was solely the province of men is now open to open women, too, especially the role of Scoutmaster. Even within our own district we have had successful female scoutmasters and cubmasters leading boys.
As girls move into the provinces that were once for boys only, we should consider with diligent care what are the Best Practices of leading scouts and cub scouts.
Since BSA adult leadership has been dominated by men with consistent involvement of women, some of the habits and practices that we have generated have come spontaneously from typical male leadership patterns. They are habits arising without thought or discussion. Some typically-male practices have been encouraged, such as the tendency toward a rougher and more chaotic pattern of play and participation. Some typically-male practices have been discouraged or outright banned, such as yelling orders at boys or hazing.
Psychologically we know that women tend to be more nurturing, protective, and risk avoiding, especially of infants and younger children; men tend to be more physically playful, bombastic, and risk inviting. According to Professor of Psychology Jordan Peterson, these two patterns help support one another in developing the most well balanced children. Both are essential to a psychologically healthy child. (Most of the analysis below is Peterson’s.)
Mothers create a safe environment where a child knows that the child will be well cared for when the child runs into problems, conflicts, or chaos. Mothers physically embrace and comfort children without hesitation when problems arise. Mothers speak soothingly and tenderly, allowing the child to right himself from whatever has upset him. This comfort and soothing are critical to allow a child to quickly find balance after something disrupt the calm surrounding the child. When my son was small, and even today as prepares to leave for college, when he is upset or frustrated, he is most likely to talk to my wife. My wife gives my son peace of mind.
Fathers create a risky environment where a child can explore the boundaries of the child’s body, its capabilities, and its limitations and of the world-at-large. Fathers are more likely to engage in rough and tumble play with the children. Children learn the limits of their bodies in such play. They learn that dad is heavier and harder to hurt. They learn there are consequences for inflicting pain on playmates. They learn difference between play and real fights. But most interestingly, children are so motivated by play that when dad tells them to do their homework before playing with dad, the children are more likely to do the dreary work first in order to be able to play with dad. This is one of the first and most effective means of teaching children the value of delayed gratification. When my son was younger, assuming dinner wasn’t ready, I would often toss my infant son up in the air and catch him, or tickle him. As he got older, I would change clothes then wrestle with him on the bed or do whatever game caught his attention at the time.
The father’s role in learning makes sense. Since we are creatures with bodies, our learning begins in the physical body’s interaction with the world. Our actions teach us more about the world than do our brains. We learn stoves are hot and dangerous through feeling heat (and hopefully avoiding contact). We learn how balls bounce through playing with balls, not reading books.
We learn how to walk through trying, while scientists are just now figuring out how to have robots do the same thing. This is called “embodied learning.” Robot designers have struggled with how to teach robots how to perceive and adapt to the world. They have used enormous amounts of computer processing and had little success. When they changed their perspective and focused on how a robot with a body would interact with the world, they quickly made huge break throughs. We embody learning because our bodies are our point of contact with the external world.
We learn love from mother’s caresses and hugs. We learn to walk by climbing up tables and trying our first steps. We learn to read by touching the page with our fingers to track where the next letter will be. We learn to treat others well through rough and tumble play. We learn to clean dishes after a meal when there are no clean dishes at the next meal. We learn to plan ahead by physically suffering from bad choices previously made. There becomes a desire to avoid the suffering the next time.
This physicality of embodied learning is a natural strength for male leaders. It encourages trial and error. It encourages individuality. It allows maturity-appropriate suffering while always avoiding and teaching the risks of life- or health-threatening suffering. Embodied learning is a core component of scouting.
So as girls become more involved in scouting, we have to be able to assess where male and female leaders strengths best serve our Best Practices.
We need to consider our Youth Protection Training and natural inclinations arising from chivalric principles about how men should treat and interact with women and young girls. How do we offer girls the benefits of embodied learning and physicality generally without overstepping our bounds, especially for male leaders?
I would suggest we recognize that these girls are joining Cub Scouts and likely will join Scouts BSA to have the experience of risk-taking, embodied learning, and other characteristics of male play that the girls have found lacking in other extracurricular offerings. We need to offer these girls what they have come for.
That means that mothers and fathers who are more risk averse for their “fragile” daughters need to be coached about the value of embodied learning that challenges these girls’ self-imposed limits. We need these mothers and fathers to recognize these challenges will make the girls anti-fragile. As a result, these girls will be happier, more self-confident, and more resilient.
In other words, we need to grow comfortable with telling the daughters’ parents that we don’t intend to water down the BSA program for their daughters. It is the undiluted BSA program that works. In essessence, we need to be prepared to explain why scouting works for boys and girls.
Boy Scouts will become “Scouts BSA.” The organization’s name will remain same. That was what former Crossroads of America Council Executive Patrick Sterrett advocated for as he moved to Number 2 in the BSA. It looks like his recommendation held true.
Here is Scouting Wire’s more detailed version. This includes information on “Scout Me In” recruitment campaign.
UPDATED 5/3/18: Here is local council’s press release: Read the rest of this entry »
In the Washington Post, from last year that I have been meaning to write about, a fascinating article about emotional isssues that kids in college are facing. The focus of the article that the title suggest the emphasis is on women’s college sports. The content is far broader, even though the persons interviewed are women’s college coaches and affiliate personnel.
One strong passage caught my eye.
Talk to coaches, and they will tell you they believe their players are harder to teach, and to reach, and that disciplining is beginning to feel professionally dangerous. Not even U-Conn.’s virtuoso coach, Geno Auriemma, is immune to this feeling, about which he delivered a soliloquy at the Final Four.
“Recruiting enthusiastic kids is harder than it’s ever been,” he said. “. . . They haven’t even figured out which foot to use as a pivot foot and they’re going to act like they’re really good players. You see it all the time.”
Some of the aspects emphasized apply equally well to scouters working with scouts.
It doesn’t take a social psychologist to perceive that at least some of today’s coach-player strain results from the misunderstanding of what the job of a coach is, and how it’s different from that of a parent. This is a distinction that admittedly can get murky. The coach-player relationship has odd complexities and semi-intimacies, yet a critical distance too. It’s not like any other bond or power structure. Parents may seek to smooth a path, but coaches have to point out the hard road to be traversed, and it’s not their job to find the shortcuts. Coaches can’t afford to feel sorry for players; they are there to stop them from feeling sorry for themselves.
Coaches are not substitute parents; they’re the people parents send their children to for a strange alchemical balance of toughening yet safekeeping, dream facilitating yet discipline and reality check. The vast majority of what a coach teaches is not how to succeed but how to shoulder unwanted responsibility and deal with unfairness and diminished role playing, because without those acceptances success is impossible.
Here is a key conclusion.
The bottom line is that coaches have a truly delicate job ahead of them with iGens. They must find a way to establish themselves as firm allies of players who are more easily wounded than ever before yet demand they earn praise through genuine accomplishment.
From this article we can draw a couple key conclusions:
- In our role as scouters, we can help prepare our scouts, boys and girls, for their college experience. We can teach them to deal with “unwanted responsibility” such as cleaning up after dinner or cleaning the latrine and with “unfairness” such as being assigned camp tasks too many times when others have not had their rotation.
- We can be the “toughening yet safekeeping, dream facilitating yet discipline and reality check” that is parents to provide for their own kids.
- We can be “firm allies” of scouts “who are more easily wounded than ever before yet demand they earn praise through genuine accomplishiment” such as rank advancement, BSA Life Guard training, mile swim patch, or high adventure.
Our immediate past Council Scout Executive, Patrick Sterrett is back. He is part of a new announcement in his new role as the National Assistant Chief Scout Executive for Programming. (I know “national” and “chief” are redundant, but I have a large and diverse audience.)
They are providing a 15 minute introductory video for councils that wish to be part of the “soft launch” of Cub Scouts in the middle of January 2018. We have not received word yet whether the Crossroads of America Council wishes to participate in that. Since we are normally a beta tester for many programs, it would not surprise me if we do.
UPDATE (12/20/17): I have been advised that we will have an official update on what local council will or will not do after the Council Board meets tonight. Watch this article for further updates.
District Executive Jessica Hofman reported this morning that North Star has had a net gain in membership for 2017! It is only a handful of scouts, but given that we have been down for many years running, this is a very good sign.
Within those numbers, our Cub Scout membership is down modestly, largely due to a less successful recruitment year. However, our retention rates have been very strong so that we are keeping more boys longer.
This attests to the quality of the programs that you offer our youth. Congratulations!
Jessica is very interested in membership issues, so she is working hard to help us in that department.
In addition, we are just a few months away from girls be welcomed into our packs. While we have no reliable forecasts as to what to expect, we can only hope that this change will accomplish its stated goal of increasing membership.
Good luck in 2018! Keep up the good work.
Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh, Patrick Sterrett’s new boss, made these remarks the day after the vote to go co-ed. Surbaugh is a good speaker and worth a listen.
It is too bad these types of posts did not precede the vote.
Council has called a meeting of District representatives for next week. The topic will be about “Making Scouting Accessible to Families.”
As I noted in a previous post, this really is a questions of whether we should go co-ed throughout our programs.
If you have an opinion on the subject that you would like me to share, please me your thoughts by Sunday, August 13, 2017. I will make sure to include these in the conversation with council officers.