I volunteer with the Boy Scout troop that my kids belong to. The Boy Scout program is very different than Cub Scouts, and there's still the ideal of 'Boy led, Boy run.'
In fact one of the problems we have is getting Moms to detach from their kids and let them do stuff by themselves. We have to be fairly firm at first that you sit over here, and your kid is going off over there.
There is some concern about abuse/child safety/etc, and leaders are required to take a short course in how to manage those problems. They amount to that no single adult should be alone with the kids.
Somethings have changed even since I was a kid in Scouts in the early 80's. The general fitness level is way down. I was a geeky, skinny, non-athletic kid. Classic nerd. My troop routinely did 10 mile backpacking trips. We did a 50 mile hike over the course of a week once a year in early summer(you weren't allowed to do that until you'd done a year of camping and hiking). A few weeks ago my troop did a 6 mile hike up to the highest point on Long Island (401 feet). Several of the boys had trouble keeping up with me, a middle aged man with a desk job.
And that last bit about the fitness level concerns me, because it's entirely possible for people to get more fit in their adult lives, but it's not the way people necessarily trend, and it's not the easy direction to go.
(Also I think it's very easy for discussion of this sort of thing to devolve into discussion of weight, which is not my concern here. I don't want to talk about what the kids weigh, I want to talk about what they can do.)
re: adult fitness - I also wanted to comment that adults have a little more autonomy when it comes to fitness than kids do... if guardians aren't providing kids with opportunities where are they going to find them if they are constantly supervised?
I was kicked out of girl scouts in the 4th grade when I took the fall for a practical joke. Looking back I feel like I was singled out---and probably also dismissed from the troop---because my parents weren't able to be very involved. (They also never challenged the assumption that I was at fault or even asked me what happened.) And I agree with you... it's the kids who need it most who won't benefit if they always have to have a parent in tow.
I'm sadly not surprised that it wound up being the kid (or at least a kid) who had parents who were not able to be involved who wound up as the scapegoat in a group situation. I don't even mean that other parent volunteers would do that deliberately, because I would hope that in most situations they wouldn't. It's just that when some kids have an advocate and others don't, the results really do tend to come out uneven unless you're trying very hard. I know some Scout leaders like my mother did try very hard, but not all do.
"'The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,' but that's the way to bet."
I have the problem of buying books to share with someone except that I'm not sure who that person is. I think sometimes the person changes. I realize that's not quite the same impulse (and I do not mean to be implying any sort of comparison, it's just this is the avenue you sent my mind careening down). I find myself sometimes buying and reading stuff with the mental knowledge that I want to compare notes and reactions on it with SOMEBODY. And it's somebody specific. I just can't usually figure out who.
In a semi-related story, I am curious whether you have any thoughts on the works of A. Lee Martinez. I read his Monster on a plane and liked it but it inspired some thoughts about unsympathetic and anti-heroes (in combination with another book I finished on that same trip, Glen David Gold's Sunnyside). I thought about writing the essay that was going to congeal from that, but I checked the impulse because I realized the only person I wanted to have the discussion with, in that particular case, was probably you.
I still have The Automatic Detective sitting in the plane-trip pile, but the nature of that pile implies it will have to wait for the next plane trip, and those are few and far between until the TSA is abolished.
In an unrelated story (yes, sorry, my brain is in Ramble today), I'm seriously considering investing in the first volume of the Mark Twain autobiography collection.
The only A. Lee Martinez I've read is Gil's All Fright Diner, which, if I recall correctly, struck me as doing what it did reasonably enough, but what it did was not my sort of thing. Have not read Sunnyside and don't know anything about it. But would like to hear it anyway.
Oh, and the minute I hit post I thought of what else:
I often I know who I want to talk to about various books. I think I'm lucky that way. Sometimes I have to wait for them to get around to it, but often if I get somebody a book for Christmas, their birthday, or Random Here's A Book Day, it's not because I'm a nice person, it's because I want to talk to them about the book. Some of the usual suspects include markgritter
, my mom, alecaustin
, my mother-in-law, and unfortunately a bunch of people with less time to read and/or less habit of e-mailing me or talking to me.
Really? Cubs have to have a parent at each meeting?! I hadn't heard anything about that--back up until the mid-90's, when my boys were working with Webelo den meetings, it wasn't like that. Yes, the parents showed up at the monthly pack meetings, but the dens were run or chaired by (typically) two parents, and the boys were dropped off for those weekly meetings.
If there is that requirement, it sure isn't on the BSA website. And my husband, who is running the Cub Scout recruitment for our district, hasn't said anything about that change. I'm wondering if it's specific to that pack and/or den, or if they just can't get the volunteers to run it.
I think it's just the very first year of Cubs? I hope? But often it's easy for kids to feel like they're not "in on" something if everyone else has been doing it and they haven't.
Edited at 2010-11-16 08:16 pm (UTC)
My husband was a cub scout leader for five years, and it was always the rule that parents dropped the kids off and either left completely or zoned out in a corner with a cell phone or laptop. Because many of the kids were ADD/ADHD or plain spoiled, my husband had a hard time managing 12-14 hyperactive kids all by himself, and could have used an extra hand, sadly. Having one parent present and participating for each scout would be overkill, however.
Glen is now in boy scouts, and his troop is completely boy led. It is really inspiring. The boys run the meetings, plan all of the trips and outings, and camp outdoors at least once a month all year long. Older boys lead the younger boys, and the adult leaders provide guidance and advice. On the camping trips, the adults form a "stealth patrol" that camps separately from the boys and watches from afar. It's really neat. There are not many activities left where kids get to have that much autonomy.
I am so very, very glad to hear that.
My main emotion when hearing about Boy Scouts is usually envy. As Girl Scouts we got to do *so much less* cool stuff, and I do hope that's something that has changed. I participated until I was old enough that we were running our own meetings, but we had a lot less camping out and outdoor skills even than my brother got in Cub Scouts. The year I went to GS camp I was in the Pioneer unit and even there I think we had a total of one hike with backpacks (I was so small I couldn't manage the whole distance with mine, but surely practice would have helped.) At least I did learn to kindle a fire there.
In one of his essays, Steven Jay Gould wrote about how Teddy Roosevelt actually wrote and published a scientific paper during a Presidential campaign - IIRC, debunking the idea that flamingoes' pink feathers are protective coloring meant to help them to be hard to see at sunset. Not too many modern candidates do that sort of thing.
How sad; I had the opposite impression. That is, that Girl Scouts could do just as much of the camping stuff as they wanted, but that Girl Scouting did so much more range of stuff and Boy Scouting still did a lot more just outdoorsy stuff. I mean, I earned science and computer badges in the '80s. Maybe boys were doing that, too, but I sure wasn't hearing about it, just knots, knots, knots. I like knots. But once through the knots is good, and then I'm ready to go for the hike, volunteer at the nursing home, learn chemistry, and bake apple pies from scratch.
(This 1960 Scoutmaster's handbook was really keen on axework.)
I see your point, but I never felt like we learned much other stuff in Girl Scouts either. I suppose it depends a lot on the leadership. My mom was Brownie leader one year, but Mom isn't great at either outdoors stuff or crafts and anytihng she'd have tauhgt us in there would probably be stuff I'd learn from her anyway.
(Pretty sure there were no computer science badges in my GS years in the 1970s. I did have computer classes in grade school, but that was highly unusual at the time.)
It really does depend a lot on the leadership, especially in the younger years. As much as the 1960 handbook was talking about letting the boys lead and plan, there was definitely adult willingness to teach and transport involved even with that stuff.
My mom was our Brownie leader and later our Junior Girl Scout leader, and we did so much more than the other troop in our grade. There were some girls in the other troop who felt that it "wasn't fair," but we couldn't make their leader take them places or teach them stuff or let them do stuff. There's no really polite way to say, "I'm sorry all your moms suck, but I'm not sorry mine doesn't," when you're 32, but when you're 7, it's particularly hard to figure out the tact there.
And of course it wasn't all "suckiness" on not knowing stuff to teach them. But most of the taking us places was not a matter of money or anything like that where it was "fairness" of that sort. It really was that Mom and her co-leader Donna were willing to do research and put in the time hauling a van full of kids around, and the other leaders didn't want to do that.
Edited at 2010-11-17 02:40 pm (UTC)
In my mom's case, the problems were not suckiness but 1) no co-leader (that I remember), 2) a certain timidness in driving that meant she wasn't about to be hauling us too far afield and 3) a limited horizon - not a lack of willingness to do research but a lack of realization that the research was there to be done and the activities were there to be had. Maybe also because at the Brownies age, I don't remember doing much outside our normal meeting time (Friday afternoon after school) so big outings wouldn't really be feasible anyway.
And that doesn't make a person a bad person. It does limit the experience.
I think there's a distinct difference between a situation where a person says, "I have two hours of a Friday afternoon with six to twelve small girls; what can I do with them within that time period?" and a situation where a person says, "I have charge of six to twelve small girls for limited periods this year; what can we do together that's awesome? Friday afternoons a plus." And a lot of people don't have the scope of experience to even know that the latter is possible. It doesn't even get to the stage of "we can't do that, it'd take too long/cost too much/require us to pack dinner/some other obstacle," because once you're thinking in those terms, you can sometimes get to the point of thinking, "wellll...if the girls were really excited about it maybe some of the parents wouldn't mind having the meeting go into Friday evening so they could have a date night to themselves," or, "there's a picnic grounds, we could take our own dinners at no great cost." But if that's completely outside your experience, you're just not thinking of the stuff in terms of awesome thing/obstacle. You're just not thinking of it at all.
And again, that didn't make your mom a bad person. It just meant that things were a lot more limited in scope.
Exactly. My mother had a limited scope (less so now than then).
There are merit badges in Computers, Nuclear Science, Astronomy, Chemistry... Also Cooking, Basketry, Leatherwork, Painting...
But when you're trying to get young boys interested, nothing really beats fire, knives, axes, rifles, shotguns and generally messing about in the outdoors.
Apple pies from scratch are a regular desert for the senior patrol on camp outs.
Community service, like volunteering at the nursing home, is also a requirement for rank advancement.
Some of the political positions the Boy Scouts of America have taken over the years have been, and continue to be, less than enlightened. But at the sharp end of the stick, it does a lot of good for individual boys.
Also girls (Venture Scouts), since the turn of the century.