A wise wag once told me that the most popular radio station on the planet is WII-FM, which stands for What’s In It For Me? Sure, you can’t find the station on your radio dial or on your favorite streaming app, but you can tune in nonetheless. In fact, you probably tune in every day. Don’t believe me? Count the number of knots on your BSA uniform. 🙂
Part of the genius of the Scouting program is that we answer that question pretty well for kids, enticing them with fun, adventure, badges, etc., so that they’ll hang around long enough that we can teach them character, citizenship, and fitness. After all, nobody ever joined Scouting at 10 years old to get his character developed. As Robert Baden-Powell said, “Had we called it what it was, viz, a ‘Society for the Propagation of Moral Attributes,’ the boy would not exactly have rushed for it. But to call it Scouting and give him the chance of becoming an embryo Scout, was quite another pair of shoes.”
This week, I’ve been working on content for volume 2 of the new Troop Leader Guidebook about working with older Scouts. In thinking about how troop leaders interact with Scouts in high school, I’ve come to realize that we don’t always take the WII-FM question into account. We want our older Scouts to be present and to serve as troop leaders–which is all well and good–but we fail to consider what’s in it for them. We grumble that they want to spend all their time in the corner chatting with their friends, not understanding that hanging out with their buddies may be the thing they’re most looking for. We criticize them when they skip troop outings that feature the same old simplistic pioneering projects and string-burning games, not understanding that they’re yearning for challenge and high adventure. We complain when they come straight to a troop meeting from band practice without putting on their Scout uniforms, not understanding that they’re yearning for affirmation, not condemnation. And then we get mad when they leave Scouting for other pursuits that better fit their needs.
At your next troop meeting, look around at the older Scouts who are present–and think about those who are absent. Is your troop answering the WII-FM question for them?
The comments section is open; I’d love to hear your responses.