Re: Scoutings Image (1/2) (long)
Mike Walton ("Settummanque)
Thu, 16 Nov 1995 00:44:56 -0600
Terry Howerton (HEY! We've missed you here!) wrote:
>Would love to hear reports of what various units have done to help strengthen
>the image of Scouting in their communities. Or anyones thoughts on Scoutings
>image as a whole, and what needs to be done to improve our public relations
>as an organization.
This is a copy of what I sent Terry privately after reading the posting
(part one of two)
A while back, we over at Scouts-L addressed that very issue. I have the
postings at home in a file and would be more than happy to share it with you
and the readers of Scouters' Journal. If you would, if you agree to print them,
please attach a tag to the top of the article explaining that this came from
the Scouts-L youth program discussion list, and please add my new email
address at the end or at the top or wherever!
My personal thoughts are the following (it may trail what I've wrote in the
posting; if so, use the stuff in the posting rather than here...it makes
more sense, I think.):
We're trying to keep the "S-Word" and everything it stands for, a secret. A
secret which is only shared between those that wears the "secret pin", or
whom share the "secret handshake" or the "secret word" with us. This needs
Scouting is NOT a secret world, set aside from the rest of our society...but
our national organization, our local organizations, and LOTS OF US
VOLUNTEERS are "playing right along" and making it increasingly hard for
kids to become Scouts, for adults to find out about Scouting, and for
community agencies and resource groups to rally around us and utilize our
experiences and energies instead of fighting, teasing and pushing us away
from public view.
The REASONS why the BSA has such a massive PR problem can be rooted or
traced back to three significant events in our recent history:
The first one, was the "Scouting/USA debacle", in which we attempted to
redefine ourselves by the new "era" which we as a nation was moving in. We
spent as a corporate body millions to try to "change our spots" only to have
massively on us. That news conference announcing our "new communicative
name" was one of the most-attended we've ever had and the print and
broadcast outlets use "Scouting" and "Scouts" even today instead of "Boy
Scouting" and "Boy Scouts". What was needed was not a *redefinition* but
rather a *rededication* to what our program is all about. We didn't get that
internally until Bill Hillcourt placed us all back on track via the ALL OUT
FOR SCOUTING! program in the late 70s.
The PUBLIC has never received that rededication. The BSA was too busy
taking people to court and in "defending it's name" with "we have no comment
on this matter". To our public, we are STILL that new communicative name,
"Scouting/USA" (what does it mean? Does it mean we let anyone in our
program now? Does it mean that girls can be Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts now?
What DOES it mean? The BSA could have saved millions of our program dollars
by TELLING THE PUBLIC OF OUR REDEDICATION, in that way re-emphasizing what
the Boy Scouts of America is all about TODAY.
The second was the firing/letting go of our internal PR Scouting executives
and the hiring of an outside PR firm to "tell our story". Blake and his
fiends down there have NO CLUE as to what really goes on in a typical Troop,
Pack, Post, Ship or Team, and nor are they really interested. Yet, they try
to reach the public with lame ads which while states that "Scouting is a
good place to learn", negates the FACT that "Scouting is a place to have
FUN!" and "Scouting is a GAME...a positive game which has positive results!
"Only", it has been said many times about racial pride, "those that ARE can
tell someone else what it's like to BE". Much of what we've had to endure,
has come because the right image...the 60s Scouting image, of Scouts doing
Scouting things...has been lost in trying to appeal to the parent instead of
the child. Cereal manufacturers haven't lost that approach. When a new
cereal is introduced, the emphasis is on how much fun the kid will have
eating it, munching and crunching the berries, squares or "lifesaver holes"
alone or with friends that like the same things (reference the series of ads
promoting the Apple Jacks cereal..."...because we like it!". Only in
referencing the relative value of having a complete breakfast and the
vitamin and mineral content, do we get something that parents can hang onto
when shopping. The bottom line in Scouting, in our approach to it with
kids, with our approach to it to our chartering partners and potential
chartering partners, should be that "Scouting is a fun, enjoyable game.
Perhaps the most important game you will ever play." If we continue to
treat Scouting like an educational institution, we will eventually only get
those Scouts wanting an education.
That's what schools are for.
The third reason is because we have strayed from the realization that
Scouting is supposed to be this magical game which kids play under adult
supervision and at the same time, learn how to be good citizens, how to take
care of themselves and others, and how to be a useful contributer to life on
the planet. We have
emphasized the negative aspects of being in Scouting: the clampdown on the
rules, the requirement for additional adults to "protect our children", the
desire to "be everything for every kid". Just like we are too fast to tell
adults "Hey...Scouting may NOT be for you, and don't feel bad if it isn't",
we are too fast to tell every kid we see that "you should be in
Scouting...you're nothing if you're not!" Once we have them in the program,
we don't let them lead...we want to either "relive our experiences through a
new set of eyes" or we feel that "they can't handle leading 40 other kids
and telling them what to do".
I only remind you that we have youth gangs all over this land, made up of 50
to 100 kids --kids-- being led by, influnced by, and being killed or maimed
by -- kids. If a 15 year old gang leader can "influnce action" upon his or
her membership, then surely with some coaching, a 14 or 16 year old Scout
can positively influnce action upon the rest of the members of his or her unit!
We as Scouters have oversold, overrate, overkilled the "high adventure"
quality of Scouting and many of us forget that first and foremost that
Baden-Powell created Scouting as a GAME that kids can play at home, either
by themselves or with other kids, and that we adults that are "playing the
game" aren't really playing...we're there as I've stated many times over, to
"keep kids from killing each other or themselves, to keep them from burning
down the building or tearing up the room, and to watch them grow and help
them, IF THEY ASK FOR IT, to grow along our Scouting tenets of character,
citizenship and personal fitness." We have instead taken the Scouting
program "underground", not even sharing with others in our OWN communities
about what we are doing.
"They don't have a right to know what we're doing". "We'll tell them what
we're doing when we want". Yet, each fall and spring, we ask and
practically BEG our communities for money to support our local unit and our
How many times have you seen *adults* wearing their field uniform? Not
many. But we want those Scouts of ours to wear them every chance they get.
What an example!! During my college days...both undergraduate as well as
during my graduate and post-grad days, I would wear a uniform shirt every
Tuesday. No reason, just that of being able to put it on, walk across the
campus and to BE ASSOCIATED WITH SOMETHING LARGER THAN JUST ME. I had
lunchdates with the uniform on, would go to class, and even would go
off-campus into the communuity.
People eventually recognized me on those *other* days as "the guy in
Scouts", and would ask me about how to get involved, how to get their kids
involved, and my personal opinions on various Scouting or youth-related
issues. We tell our Scouts to wear their shirts...but when it comes to us
"showing our colors", we would prefer to only wear it when we HAVE
to...during a meeting (and there's many of us that don't even do it then!)
or enroute to a campout or some other event.
How many times have you heard the word "Scouting" as it comes up in a
conversation about what is done outside of work? It's like the word
"Scouting" has, as I've written before, have replaced one of those seven
"dirty words" that nowadays come up with alarming frequency from our media,
from our fellow adults, and today, from our own children! We are well-versed
in what we choose to tell other adults what we do to occupy our time when we
are not with family or church or friends...but when it comes to the
"S-word", we're not really ready to share that with many others.
How many times have you invited a school group, or a church group, or just
the "kids on the block" to come out to the Scout camp and look around? To
use the resources of the Council for their environmental project, or from
their biology class, or for their PE or health and safety class? It's like
we're trying to keep others from knowing about our camping and outdoor
facilities, that we don't want them to use them "because they are ours", a
really selfish act to take.
It's like we all belong to a secret, private club that nobody else has the
right to know, or we should even "humor them" with telling about what we do
and how great it really is! Scouting is NOT secret, nor private, and instead
of self-promoting ourselves, we need to tell EVERYBODY what we are all about
and what we are doing TODAY.
(part two follows in separate posting)
(MAJ) Mike L. Walton (Settummanque, the blackeagle) (
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