scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: Ghost Units [Long] Part 1
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Wed May 24 2000 - 23:49:04 CDT
<Steve Hoar wrote>
The whole system is motivated by the number of units and number of
registered scouts. And we are surprised that there are exaggerations as to
the real numbers?
Many volunteers at the district, council, and unit level aren't suprised at
all. I'm not suprised to find out that a council has been accused of padding
the numbers. I'm suprised that the alleged reason for doing it is to get
more funds for the council. That's not generally the overall motivation for
As many have already guessed, and mentioned in this thread, the motivation
behind the numbers is getting designated as a Quality District and Quality
Council to maintain or enhance the local professional (and in some cases,
even volunteers). This dilutes the meaning of Quality District and Quality
Council in much the same way as number padding at the unit level dilutes the
designation Quality Unit.
And to a lesser degree the same holds true at the unit level. I see units
with a large number of registered scouts ... actual number participating
seems strangely small. Many inactive scouts are carried on the rolls long
after they have left the program and the neighborhood ... small unit
inflation is done is keep the unit 'alive' so that the adult leaders boys or
a few other boys can complete their Eagle
At the unit level, ego may be a greater motivator than anything else. There
is, however, often pressure from district volunteers and professionals to
"find a way to make Quality Unit." Professionals are judged on membership
numbers for their areas. The best way to make those numbers look good is to
sign up new Scouts and units. Creating new units is an important number to
professionals. Recruiting new Scouts and leaders is slightly less important.
Once the units are created, it's easy to convince a leader to fudge on
Quality Unit requirements (they are, after all, just goals - as long as you
do your best...). The percentage of units who qualify as Quality Unit in a
district provides the indicator of the health of the district and eventually
In some cases, though, the number padding isn't necessarily intentional.
Scouts can be recruited, signed up, put on the roster and lose interest.
Come recharter time, phone calls are made, the boy gets involved again for a
period of time, only to lose interest later in the year.
One of the problems I see is a lack of active unit commissioners. These are
the folks who are supposed to be looking after the health of the units.
They're supposed to be making the rounds month by month helping unit leaders
solve problems, receive training, and understand how Scouting works.
Unfortunately, many UCs are not particularly inclined to make the rounds
unless the unit is non-functional. Even then, the quality of assistance from
the UC can be doubtful as the district voluteer becomes more interested in
helping the district numbers than helping the unit.
It would be a rare district that does not suffer from this malady. It is a
reflection of the American Corporate mentality. We life or die by the
quarterly report. You grow or you die.
Those UCs who do understand the job and do it well are usually severely
outnumbered, under a lot of pressure from higher ups, and in some cases
under attack. In those few districts where the entire staff is made up of
quality people who focus on unit health rather than compiling numbers, they
find themselves in a minority working long hard hours to maintain their
program while others (sometimes even in their own council) count phantoms
and receive just as much or more praise.
AJ Mako, Scoutmaster email@example.com
Great Trail Council