(Nope, this isn’t a pre-Halloween horror story… It’s real.)
Our son joined a troop of his choosing when he crossed over as an Webelos, and my husband (an Eagle Scout, former Assistant Cubmaster, Wood Badge) and I (Pack Committee Chair, Wood Badge) followed along as Assistant Scoutmaster (my husband) and Committee Member (me).
Our son and his friends picked this troop because they liked the other Scouts, felt welcomed by them, and had a good time camping and working with them as Webelos Scouts. The Scouts of this troop really do get along well, and are good kids—there are no “boy issues” at all! But there do seem to be some “adult issues,” and so I thought I’d better write to you. Here we go…
This troop eschews The Patrol Method completely, using what it calls “the troop method” instead. This “troop method” is backed by the long-time Scoutmaster, the Committee Chair, and a fair number of committee members.
When we plus a bunch of other, new-to-the-troop-but-well-trained parents noticed that, friendships and good Scout-level relationships aside, this troop had no-program, chaotic meetings, lack of Scout advancement, and limited leadership opportunities for the Scouts, we realized that something had to change or this just wasn’t going to work in the long run. So we started introducing The Patrol Method… When a Scout had a question or problem and came to one of the ASMs, he’d ask, “Have you asked your Patrol Leader about that?” or when a Patrol Leader had trouble of some sort, “Have you talked with your Senior Patrol Leader about that?” These Scouts GOT IT! The Patrol Method started to catch on, because with it came organization, peer-to-peer problem-solving, and cohesiveness, and they loved it!
And that’s when the blow-back from the “old-timers” hit…hard!
The first was a lecture to us by the Committee Chair, the Scoutmaster, and a committee member, along the lines of “You new parents don’t understand that ‘our troop’ does things differently! We use ‘the troop method’!”
What they meant by this is that they have the Scouts cook meals for the entire troop and not patrol-by-patrol, and then, when the meal’s ready, all the adults line up and take their food first, after with the Scouts are “allowed” to get in line for the food they’ve just cooked (which is usually decimated by the time they queue up), while the men sit off to themselves munching away. And, of course, this also means that the Scouts do all the cleanup and dish-washing—including the adults’ dishes. It also means that, on a campout, the Scouts pitch all the tents (under the direction of the adults) and then the adults pick the tents they want, after which the Scouts can pick what’s left.
All of this and more, they explained to us “newbies,” is to “teach these boys (that’s right: to these men they’re “boys”—not Scouts) the value of hard work.”
We newbies put a stop to some of this. The Scouts now cook and eat by Patrol, and set up only their own tents—by patrol. And now the Scoutmaster no longer goes on outings when we’re there (and outnumber him).
We’re trying to get both the SM and CC, at the least, to basic, position-specific training, but they’re both refusing. The SM still uses an ancient Scoutmaster Handbook, and one committee member considers it silly to have to “train to volunteer my time,” and while the Committee Chair went to training (once), he instantly started dissing the trainers and training both.
Other than promoting training opportunities and leading by example, we new volunteers don’t know that we’re going to have any real impact on these die-hards…but we do see the balance of trained vs. not shifting on the committee.
But, before the balance shifted to The Patrol Method side of the see-saw, we got this ultimatum…
The Committee Chair has told us all that this troop is dispensing with The Patrol Method effective immediately, and ‘the troop method’ is to be reestablished. This will include meals, cleanup, and tenting as before; appointing (not electing) Scouts to all positions of responsibility by the adults; creating “patrols of convenience” (for the adults) on all campouts and hikes; banning all patrol-based activities including outings; disbanding all patrols for everything except tenting while camping; and requiring any Scout’s interest outside of this troop (e.g., joining a Venturing Crew) to have get committee approval.
The “old guard” is intransigent on this, including telling us that if we “don’t like how this troop is run, then take your kid and leave.” They tell us that their way is the right way, that we’re just quoting “method” and not a practice to be followed, and that the BSA’s guidebooks on this subject has “suggestions” but not “rules.”
The ASMs are kept powerless in this controversy because the CC firmly believes that “the troop committee sets all policies for the troop” and he enforces this with lots of shouting and even personal insults to anyone who opposes his way of thinking. This is making all of us—Wood Badge or not—questioning ourselves… Maybe this Patrol Method thing is actually just a guideline? Maybe it’s okay to have some other sort of troop organization?
We newbies have experienced The Patrol Method through our own training. But is this a “must” or a “shall”? I know Baden-Powell said it’s the ONLY way of Scouting, but is it? After all, wasn’t that a hundred years ago and maybe things have changed?
From my own standpoint, I do think The Patrol Method is the crux of Boy Scouting… But am I too entrenched in this?
Some of us have spoken with our Unit Commissioner, who says his hands are pretty much tied, our District Executive (who says about the same thing as our UC), and our Chartered Organization Representative, who is a good friend of the Scoutmaster but very unaware of the actual troop practices. At least the CR is now attending committee and troop meetings after years of absence. But I’m not sure how much influence he’ll be.
I would appreciate any insight you have on how to influence this and or stay on course for the good of the Scouts. (Puzzled Parent & Confused Committee Member)
You didn’t mince words, and neither will I. The unvarnished truth about what these self-important, self-entitled geezers have created is this: It’s SLAVERY.
There is not, and never has been, any such thing called a “troop method.” There has always been, and will remain, The Patrol Method. Check out http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2016/10/18/the-age-old-question-how-is-your-troop-organized-into-patrols/)
This “little thing” is actually huge. So long as it’s permitted to continue, your sons are NOT getting Scouting… They’re being completely misguided and abused by a bunch of self-centered old goats who know better but refuse to budge. And why should they? After all, they have a bevy of boys whom they’ve convinced should do their bidding at every turn!
The only way to put an end to a corrupted organization is from the top-down. It can’t be changed from the bottom-up. Trying the latter will inevitably lead to frustration, disappointment, and a sour taste that will last a very long time, to say nothing of the personal toll on energy and emotions.
This sorry “troop method” nonsense can’t be “fixed”… It either has to be stopped instantly either by removal of these slave-masters or by getting your sons out from under their domination.
These perpetrators will not change; they must be thrown out.
Neither the District Executive nor any Commissioner has any direct authority to force a change in either troop management or personnel, so don’t look there to solve this problem. The only people associated with your troop who can change what’s going on are the CR or head of your chartered organization. They must be made acutely aware of what’s being done to the boys who are supposed to be getting a quality program and instead are getting the shaft. If no immediate change in personnel is forthcoming, then all like-minded parents need to get your sons out of this troop—fast (before they’re permanently damaged).
Find a troop nearby that gets it right, and then immediately transfer your sons to it. If such a troop isn’t available, then start a new troop.
There is no “third option,” and don’t waste further time by worrying about “hurting the feelings” of these slave-masters”—they’ve already damaged your sons, with no regard for your sons’ feelings whatsoever.
Yes, that’s the decision… Do you want your sons to be Scouts or slaves?
Happy REAL Scouting!
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)
[No. 504 – 10/25/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]