I had an interesting conversation yesterday. Someone came into my office at work and told me he had been in a District Scout meeting (advancement committee, maybe?) and my name had come up. Apparently, the district executive told them that I had the only Venturing crew in the district that was doing it right. The criteria for this, of course, was that I had boys earn Venturing awards.
To me, that's an interesting measure of whether or not we're doing things right. Advancement isn't a method of Venturing--the awards are there, but they aren't a major focus. The Journey to Excellence criteria for Venturing doesn't even mention awards. But still it is seen as a major indicator of a crew that is "doing it right."
Yes, I've had boys earn awards, but I am the first (and perhaps only?) person to admit that doesn't mean I'm doing it right. There are a lot of things I think we need to improve. A lot.
We need to have much better activities. To do that we need to re-visit our Activity Interest Survey. We also need a Program Capability Inventory (despite my urging, the committee still hasn't done their job on this). We need to get outside more. We need to do more high adventure. We need boys to actually come to activities. Speaking of attendance, we need our Advisor to actually come to activities (I'm the associate advisor). We need to get our officers trained in with the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Crews. We need to do much better about our crew officers meetings. We have a lot to improve.
Why is it that with all these shortcomings I get credit for the only Venturing crew that is doing things right? It's the awards. That is the one thing that other people can see. They can't see our poor attendance on Wednesday night. They can't see our lack of camping trips. All they can see is that I've given out awards. (They can also see my green uniform....) That must mean something.
And it does. It means I have tried to tie our activities to award requirements, whether the boys are interested in the awards or not. It means I have introduced them to activities (like ethical controversies) that we wouldn't have done if not for the awards. It means I talk to the boys with some regularity about their goals and have told them I would like to see them earn these awards. Ultimately the choice is theirs. I haven't given out as many Venturing awards as I would like. I wish every one of my boys had a Bronze award. I wish more than one had chosen to go for Gold and Silver. But they have had the opportunity. They know about the awards. They know they are available. Some choose to put in a bit of effort, most don't. And that's okay. It's their choice.
I have often wondered about other Venturing advisors who are getting their boys to do some fantastic activities, but they don't know about the awards at all. They are doing great things, and most of their boys could earn some pretty cool awards if they would just take the time and effort to look at the requirements. The problem is that the Advisors don't care about the awards. Most don't seem to care about the Venturing program, period.
I have often tried to imagine what the excuses for not doing it could be. I keep coming back to Advisors saying something like, "they just aren't interested in awards any more." My response to this fictional exchange is "that may be so, but who are you to make that decision for them?"
I wish my leaders had told me about the Varsity and Exploring programs/awards when I was a boy. I like to think that I would have chosen to earn some of them. But I never knew about them, and consequently didn't have the chance to make that choice. I determined at the beginning that my boys would at least have the choice. I'm fortunate enough to have had a few choose to go for it.