Wednesday, October 23, 2013

BSA is having a rough year.

You may have already seen this, it really all occurred about a week ago.

These are three Boy Scouts of America troop leaders destroying a natural formation at goblin valley state park. I should actually say these are three former BSA scout leaders, as BSA has rightly removed them from scouting. This isn't the first public relations nightmare that BSA has had this year either. At one point early in the year BSA affirmed that it would not allow openly gay youth to be scouts, which caused an uproar. Then when they changed their minds - hoping to calm people down - they angered their own people, and all of it played out in the media. I would think at this point the BSA are just hoping to end the year quietly.

I have a long standing love/hate relationship with Boy Scouts of America. Scouting has a great tradition in both the United States and in England before that. From what I can find on the BSA website there are about 2.7 million scouts in the US. I applaud any organization that can get that many people into the outdoors. I love that. On average about 30,000 scouts will go to Philmont scout ranch yearly. That is a great number - for comparison in 2011 NOLS graduated 'more than 16,500 students'. I have two dear friends that had amazing experiences with BSA, one even working at Philmont Scout Ranch. I earn a little bit of my income teaching Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace to scouts, and the people I meet are hard working, attentive students, with a real desire to be as good as they can in the back country.

So what is there to hate about BSA? Well, frankly, a lot. While I applaud the number of people they get active in the outdoors,  I hate that they do it so poorly. A lot of the problem is that there is a great deal of variation from troop to troop. Some troops do very little in the outdoors, and some are very active. The reason for that is that the level of activity is determined by the troop leaders, which are generally volunteering parents with little or no training. It is people with little or no training in the video above. I can guarantee that no one in that video is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, as all NOLS instructors are.

When I look at the gear list for Philmont Scout Ranch I cringe a little - keep in mind that Philmont is the pinnacle of scouting trips. A compass is listed as optional. Clothing is mentioned but no mention of what the clothing should be made out of. I am hoping the scout leaders bringing their students to Philmont know not to bring Cotton. I found three different gear lists on Philmonts website, presumably for three different types of activities. One list has "pack cover - trash bag acceptable" and one list "pack cover - trash bag not desirable". One also lists "no pancho's" and another list "rain gear or pancho" and the store sells pancho's. How is that for a mixed message? I could go on significantly longer about things they do wrong, but they are having a bad enough week. (I did eventually find a fourth gear list that said no cotton!)

Maybe it is time to have a standard curriculum for Troops? Maybe it is time for some form of systemized education, and training program for scout leaders? How about to be a scout leader you have to do more than put on a uniform? Maybe scout leaders should be told "if you are wearing that uniform you represent the Boy Scouts of America, and your actions need to be in line with the goals and values of Scouting." In retrospect though that wouldn't work. The scout leaders in the video above weren't in uniform.

Addendum - Between the time I started writing this post, and finishing it, the original video was pulled from youtube. I found an alternate host, but at some point I am sure it will be gone too. I am also sure pulling the video is on 'the advice of counsel'.

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