If you’ve read some of my posts you’ve seen references to my son’s troops (plural). Well we’re back to a troop which gives me a chance to comment on troop culture. It’s sort of neat to see the differences between organizations, and I have to add I’m rather glad that both youth are now with the smaller troop. (In order to protect the innocence and as both units are very good I’m leaving unit numbers etc out of this post).
The troop my son left, which served as a refuge during an upheaval at his old troop, has a long and storied history as one of the “movers and shakers” of the district. It is quite large (about 80 boys), which is about three times Baden-Powell’s ideal size and clearly successful. They are very good at following the awards and trappings of scouting.
The troop he (re)joined is smaller, has a bit of a reputation for being rough and ready, and doesn’t always help with district events (though that is changing). It’s not the most organized unit in the world, and definitely doesn’t have the spic and span uniforms of the bigger troop.
What determined my son’s choice really is where his buddies are (they got in touch via facebook), but another major factor was the troop culture of adventure.
The big troop, for all its resources, treats the youth as though they are physically fragile. If it’s cold – they cancel events (maybe changing the activities is a good idea), if it’s wet they cancel events, and if it is too demanding they put limits on the participants. For example you have to be so big or so old to go backpacking. It is sort of a webelos den++. (mixed metaphor but C++ is an “improved” C language). In fairness, given the difficulty of herding 80 cats, it’s not surprising that they need to have a well-organized (e.g. mostly adult run) machine.
The smaller troop, is a little reckless, if anything. They “bail out” if conditions are truly bad, but that’s rare. If a troop activity is planned, everyone is welcome. If it is really strenuous, then that is made clear, but if a scout comes he makes it through. I have a picture (and the scoutmaster keeps a copy on his notebook) of a practice trip for Philmont. It was taken about 5 miles from nowhere along the Georgia-South Carolina border. The older scouts are there, with the younger ones next to them, and there is a visiting cub scout in front. (in fairness he is my other son and had already been backpacking with the family so this was not a big deal). They’re smiling, they’re having fun.
I think the event that made this clear, was the relative behavior on two trips this winter. The Venture crew for the big troop canceled a canoe/snorkel trip because it was cold (canceling the snorkeling was very wise – but everything else?). The adults, who are really supposed to be “hands off” with Venturers overruled the youth. (by the way Venture crews are all older youth, who may or may not be scouts or even boys – the adults really are meant to be resources and not scoutmasters.) The other troop had a regular campout that weekend and despite the extreme cold went on it. Next month the small troop had its big adventure trip planned – the Okeefenoke canoe trip I wrote about in this blog – and it was not exactly clement weather. In fact at least one scout troop bailed out. We just made sure we were prepared and had a blast.
When thinking about scouts – the show or “sizzle” of an outdoor program is important, but the meat of delivering it is critical