Why Adult Association Matters



I recently had an interesting email discussion with a reader about whether adult leaders should conduct Scoutmaster conferences for their own sons. I pointed out that there’s no prohibition against this practice in the Guide to Advancement but that the sons of Scoutmasters would benefit from building relationships with other adults in the troop.

So what did I find in my local newspaper the very next morning? A story entitled “Study: To raise graduation rates, increase number of adults in community.” You can read the story online, but here’s the upshot: Research from America’s Promise Alliance suggests that improving the ratio of adults to school-age children improves graduation rates. In fact for every seven adults a neighborhood adds, one fewer child will quit school.

This research focused on school, not Scouting, but it seems to me that our Scouts also benefit from having more adults around. In fact, that’s the whole point of the adult association method, one of the eight methods of Boy Scouting.

Unfortunately, some Scouters see this method as being in competition with the youth leadership method, arguing that adults should stay in the corner drinking coffee instead of interacting with Scouts. While we shouldn’t do things to undermine our youth leaders, that doesn’t mean we should be absentee adults. After all, our Scouts’ futures are at stake.



2 thoughts on “Why Adult Association Matters

  1. I asked my son whether he thought I should accept the Scoutmaster position. He thought it was a bad idea. I did it anyway, but I always had an ASM do his SM conferences.

    It was probably good training for both of us, staying out of each other’s business as he became PL, then SPL, then Northern Tier Crew Leader.

  2. The benefits and method of adult association are subtle. I’ve had a couple of Scouts tell me how great a role model I was, and how they want to be like me. I can guarantee you that I was not making a special effort to be an amazing person.

    In one case, I used my WFA training and responded calmly to a backcountry injury. I felt very relieved that it was manageable and had a nice list of things I didn’t do right, but the Scouts didn’t see that side of it. If I’d known they were watching that carefully, I would have walked them through my mistakes.

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