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#1 JustThinking

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 02:00 PM

I was approached the other day by the SM of my son's troop about whether my son and I would be going to summer camp in the spring.  The reason being that my son will be the only scout eligible for OA and it is traditional with the troop that the boys father be inducted into OA as the same time if the father is active and in good standing.  I said we would both would be a camp if at all possible, it was my son's decision about him being in OA, but I had no real interest in belonging.  Thinking I was joking, the SM had a chuckle until I said I serious and didn't see that OA really did anything other than a few extra meetings and campouts each year. 

 

I asked what does OA really do?  I am not talking about ceremonies and such.  I mean what does it offer to me that makes me better able to do for the scouts?  The only answer that the SM was able to give is that OA is supposed to be about service, but what I have understood that in the past few years OA service and the "ordeal" has been straightening rocks on a trail and racking leaves. 

 

Maybe I don't understand, but why?


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#2 sst3rd

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 08:57 PM

JustThinking,

 

    It appears that this Scoutmaster is ill prepared to explain what the purpose of the OA is. Since you're not interested, there's your answer. As far as your son, this Scoutmaster needs to have someone to talk with him who can explain the OA's purpose from a youth perspective. Your son can then make an informed decision. I'm sorry this SM wishes to keep this "tradition" going, as it seems forced. A SM can't force a Scout to stand for an OA election. If your son is not interested, he needs to tell his SM. I've had occasional years where I had no eligible Scouts for an OA election, so no OA election that year.

 

    What might be nice, is to invite your OA Chapter's Chief (or other chapter officer) to a meeting, to present the purpose of the Order of the Arrow. The Scouts need to be knowledgeable about the OA as well as the adults. If no one is interested, there needs to be no OA elections.

 

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#3 JustThinking

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 09:50 PM

I haven't found anyone yet that can really explain the purpose of OA, chapter officer on down.  Talking with OA members about it, not pressing about secret ceremonies and such, just nuts and bolts of it, to me it sounds more like a mutual, self-admiration society than any organization that actually has a benefit.  At least in the area I am in.   I thought I always asked a simple question, "What does OA really do?"   I just get vague platitudes, blank stares, or puzzled looks.  Folks seem horrified that I am not interested and treat me like I just farted in the room.   It this attitude that is making me rethink going to camp this summer or even staying apart of scouts.


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#4 Stosh

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Posted 07 December 2015 - 10:44 PM

I haven't found anyone yet that can really explain the purpose of OA, chapter officer on down.  Talking with OA members about it, not pressing about secret ceremonies and such, just nuts and bolts of it, to me it sounds more like a mutual, self-admiration society than any organization that actually has a benefit.  At least in the area I am in.   I thought I always asked a simple question, "What does OA really do?"   I just get vague platitudes, blank stares, or puzzled looks.  Folks seem horrified that I am not interested and treat me like I just farted in the room.   It this attitude that is making me rethink going to camp this summer or even staying apart of scouts.

First of all @JustThinking welcome to the forum. 

 

Secondly I totally agree with you.  I have been an Arrowman for 20 years now and the only thing I've done since Ordeal/Brotherhood is pay dues to the chapter and not receive any newsletters in return.  It simply isn't a big deal anymore.  The only "service" they ever do is for the council camp and even that is minimal.

 

If your OA chapter isn't active and it's only a "mutual, sel-admiration society", then put your energy into the troop and don't worry about it. 

 

The really sad part of it all is that as boy-led, they do not ask OA to come in and do an election unless they get a request to do so from any boy in the troop.  It's been years since I have been involved in a troop that has had an OA election.  I have a new troop now so the issue hasn't come up, none of my boys are elegible at the present time.

 

Don't give up on Scouting just because of the council lodge.  My troop of inelegible boys do more service projects that the OA does on an annual basis.  That's good enough for me.


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#5 SpEdScouter

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 12:35 AM

You think OA is bad, try Micosay. This is a similar honor society in the Heartland area that I cannot see any real advantage for other than keeping older scouts involved. Other than that I see no college scholarships and no business networking opportunities.

 

But go to Bartle and they look down on you if your not wearing the claws.

 

Now at least with OA I've seen them do alot with mentoring and helping the scouts with business and personal goals.


Edited by SpEdScouter, 08 December 2015 - 12:36 AM.

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#6 RememberSchiff

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 05:32 AM

The OA is suppose to help mentor scouts in camping and outdoor skills. Discuss outings ideas. The OA lodges around here used to publish an informative Where to Camp guide which was very helpful for yearly planning. I see little of this now. OA weekends are at council camp and why would any loyal scout want to camp elsewhere.

 

There is also the free labor aspect for council camps and that is a major reason for drawing in dads who have and can use power tools.

 

Some of our scouts join OA but within a year they usually fade away due to the time demands. Our SM has stated he has no use for OA as their campout weekends often conflict with ours. He wants his older, experienced scouts with the troop.

 

When our troop camps at the council camp, we ask the ranger what work needs to be done and serve accordingly.

 

My $0.02


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#7 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 06:07 AM

Maybe I can help.

 

I've been in the OA a while in 5 different councils, and I can tell you that every OA lodge (council level) is different, and every chapter(district level) is different. Heck the same lodge can change over time based upon the leadership of the OA Lodge Adviser.

 

First and formost the OA is suppose to recognize those honor campers who exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in action.

 

Second the OA is suppose to be a service organization to help take care of the camps and units in their area of operations.

 

Now I've been in chapters that did absolutely nothing. No communication, no work. nothing.

 

But I've also been in chapters that did a lot. I've seen chapter's do there own workdays at camp, take on specific building projects, and raise money for maintence and equipment at camp. This is a big deal with my current chapter as historically, the camp in our district has really been neglected. The council has focused on the main camps, and neglected the 3 smaller camps. The OA chapters have been keeping things up to specifications up until the last SE. He actually did something for the minor camps.

 

Another thing I've seen lodges and chapter do is raise camperships for summer camp. That's also a big deal in my neck of the woods. Each of the 9 chapters is required to raise two 50% camperships minimum, plus the lodge does some fun fundraising stuff to add to the 18 camperships.

 

OA is also suppose to be fun. In addition to lodge fellowships, section conclaves, and biannual NOACs, I've seen chapters do pool parties, take tours of military bases, and, when it was allowed, Lazer Tag Lockin.


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#8 Krampus

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 07:13 AM

I haven't found anyone yet that can really explain the purpose of OA, chapter officer on down.  Talking with OA members about it, not pressing about secret ceremonies and such, just nuts and bolts of it, to me it sounds more like a mutual, self-admiration society than any organization that actually has a benefit.  At least in the area I am in.   I thought I always asked a simple question, "What does OA really do?"   I just get vague platitudes, blank stares, or puzzled looks.  Folks seem horrified that I am not interested and treat me like I just farted in the room.   It this attitude that is making me rethink going to camp this summer or even staying apart of scouts.

 

You must live near me, because that's what our OA folks are like...at the adult level.

 

I am not, nor do I ever plan to be, in the OA. There are no real qualifications for getting in other than camping and being popular. My unit has kids that exceed the Oa standard for anything but they are a bit geeky, and therefore don't get elected....yet these kids have been PLs, Instructors, etc. Several have more service hours than a good many of the Arrowmen....combined!!!

 

Go with your gut. If your local lodge/chapter is as you say it is they will only want more from you and will give nothing back. If your son wants to join I would leave that decision to him, but you sound like you have made a good decision.


Edited by Krampus, 08 December 2015 - 07:14 AM.

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#9 gumbymaster

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 11:29 AM

Out of this whole conversation, I think the part that bothered me the most was the tradition of inducting an active parent with their child.

 

Ok, as a youth, I was elected by my peers for membership.  Is it really different for Adults?  Or is this just a fancy way of electioneering to induct the parent?

 

That said, I've had a love-hate relationship with the OA my whole Scout career.

 

As a Youth, I was honestly surprised to be elected, and honored to join.  We did a lot of off-season service projects to help improve and fix up the summer camp.  My Troop actually never went to our Council camp, so I joined the OA lodge for the nearby Council whose camp we did go to.

 

My co-ed explorer post didn't particpate with OA because at the time (maybe still, I'm not really sure), the female youth members were not eligible.

 

As the Summer Camp's program director, I was frustrated that, during camp, the local OA (youth) leadership, could never muster enough participation to even complete a Scout Law trail (a tradition for the closing Campfire was a trail walk where every 20-30 yards was a plaque or post for a point of the scout law and an arrowman reading the full definition of that point by candle light over and over as the campers waled past.), much less in-camp service projects.  Sometimes, they couldn't even muster an election and/or induction team for those units that qualified.  They were able to stage a dance team (sorry, I forget the exact term) event.

 

As an adult cub leader - the OA has been very helpful in our arrow of light ceremonies each year.

 

As an adult Scouter, I've honestly had too many other things going on to attend the chapter meetings - which until recently were at the same time as Roundtable.  I have seen them supporting some of the District run events and parts of the Scouting for Food drive that we do.  Also, as an adult, I think I would feel almost out of place just hanging out with the Youth OA members, and I already have too many Scout jobs to take on Advisor responsibilities as well.

 

As for purpose, I had always understood that Service was their big claim, but in practice, it seems intended as a way to keep some of the older boys involved in Scouting.  In theory, they are supposed to reamin active with their Troops, but I have seen some get so involved in OA stuff, that they really didn't participate much with the Troop, so that's harder to see in practice.


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#10 Krampus

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 11:43 AM

Out of this whole conversation, I think the part that bothered me the most was the tradition of inducting an active parent with their child.

 

Ok, as a youth, I was elected by my peers for membership.  Is it really different for Adults?  Or is this just a fancy way of electioneering to induct the parent?

 

One hopes the parent is a) a registered scouter, b) meets the OA requirements, and c) is elected by the other eligible adult leaders for the slots allotted for the unit.


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#11 desertrat77

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 11:52 AM

Speaking as a long-time OA member ('76), I think the OA is slowly dying.   Pockets are still alive, but not many.

 

Seems the scouts just aren't interested in it.   They could take it or leave it. 

 

I know organizations change.   But I think the beginning of the end was when the OA changed from focusing on electing the best scouts/campers to emphasizing an "honor society."     The OA flap was a badge of honor.   

 

The old hallmarks were:

1.  Tough to get elected. 

2.  A difficult ordeal. 

3.  True appreciation for Native American culture and heritage.

4.  Being proud to serve on camporee staffs, ceremony teams, cleaning the latrines at camp...service was key.

5.  There were secrets.  But you gotta be elected to learn them.

 

Society and scouting have changed a bit.  I don't think it's particularly tough to get elected anymore.   The ordeal--varies.   Native American aspect:   some scouts are still enthusiastic, most don't care.  Service?   Not so much.   I see alot of OA chapter/lodge fun events, and a huge leap in the OA patch design industry.   Secrets?  No!  The horror!  

 

The OA isn't that big a deal any more.   I think a few decades ago, the BSA purposefully decided to downplay the mystique and honor-camper aspect.  

 

...mission accomplished.


Edited by desertrat77, 08 December 2015 - 11:58 AM.

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#12 Krampus

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:22 PM

@desertrat77, I personally would have changed OA this way:

  • If a camping "honor society" make it hard to get. 15 nights over two years? How about 25-30 nights over two years? That's an achievement and worthy of someone who is truly a camper.
  • Service group? Why not make service hours part of the joining requirement? Should "in cheerful service" be just a platitude or something that one really strives for? Why not make mega service hours a condition for election...or even for keeping your status?
  • Make leadership at the troop level a requirement. Reward those who truly give of themselves as leaders credit for doing so.
  • Want to stop the popularity contest? Elect candidates blindly. Have Candidate #1 and give his qualifications (e.g., 35 nights camping, 55 service hours, continuous troop leadership positions, etc.).

I laugh every time I hear someone mention the OA being a national honor society or national camping society of "elite" campers. Total hogwash. Even their stated mission of recognizing "Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives" is a load of horse pucky. If that were true the requirements would reflect that mission by tying eligibility to those goals AND allowing SMs to hold back anyone who does not meet those requirements.

 

The OA is a swag factory that allows popular people to wear even more patches to make themselves feel good without having to lift a finger.


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#13 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:23 PM

Your lodge and chapter may vary.  One of the advantages for adults in the OA is fellowship. Great to bounce ideas to problems at folks. And for me, I was very active in American Indian Affairs as a youth, so I can really get involved with that.

 

 

In regards to Desertrat

 

Speaking as a long-time OA member ('76), I think the OA is slowly dying.   Pockets are still alive, but not many.

 

Seems the scouts just aren't interested in it.   They could take it or leave it. 

 

I know organizations change.   But I think the beginning of the end was when the OA changed from focusing on electing the best scouts/campers to emphasizing an "honor society."     The OA flap was a badge of honor.   

 

The old hallmarks were:

1.  Tough to get elected.   I think the change in election policy in the mid 1990s is the start of the OA's downfall. I didn't get in until the 3 ballot and I didn't complain. Now, I've seen folks quit Scouting b/c they didn't get in.

2.  A difficult ordeal. DON'T GO THERE! I remember three notches and you have to come back. I've read where  it use to be 1 notch and you're out. One Ordeal I attended, had an adult candidate complain the entire time. Couldn't send him home as that was "hazing," and had to remove him and do a 1 man candidate work party. As soon as the Ordeal Ceremony was completed, he dashed.

 

3.  True appreciation for Native American culture and heritage. To many "Hollywood Indian" stereotypes. Although National is starting a push for lodges to "go local" and do their own research. Big proponent of that, but know first hand that fighting the stereotypes is extremely difficult.

 

4.  Being proud to serve on camporee staffs, ceremony teams, cleaning the latrines at camp...service was key.

5.  There were secrets.  But you gotta be elected to learn them.

 

Society and scouting have changed a bit.  I don't think it's particularly tough to get elected anymore.   The ordeal--varies.   Native American aspect:   some scouts are still enthusiastic, most don't care.  Service?   Not so much.   I see alot of OA chapter/lodge fun events, and a huge leap in the OA patch design industry.   Secrets?  No!  The horror!  

 

The OA isn't that big a deal any more.   I think a few decades ago, the BSA purposefully decided to downplay the mystique and honor-camper aspect.  

 

...mission accomplished.


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#14 Eagle94-A1

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:27 PM

If that were true the requirements would reflect that mission by tying eligibility to those goals AND allowing SMs to hold back anyone who does not meet those requirements.

 

SMs DO have that ability already. They have the right to deny someone eligibility if they don't have Scout Spirit.  But in my experience the SM rarely does this. In all my years in the OA, only 1 SM regretted allowing a Scout on the ballot.


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#15 Krampus

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:47 PM

SMs DO have that ability already. They have the right to deny someone eligibility if they don't have Scout Spirit.  But in my experience the SM rarely does this. In all my years in the OA, only 1 SM regretted allowing a Scout on the ballot.

 

There's nothing quantitative for the SM to deny someone OA candidacy. The litmus test becomes to what extent a Scout lives up to the Oath and Law. For me, if you claim to have an "honor society" then you should have some quantitative measure of what "honor" means. ANY Scout that goes for an SMC or BOR for rank in any given year has to live up to the Oath and Law. So by extension, since ranks are also rarely held back, ANY Scout that advances in a year is living up to the Oath and Law. This is EXPECTED of Scouts, not something special.

 

If OA is supposed to be the elite of the elite, then making adherence to the Oath and Law grounds for entrance (along with a paltry number of camping days) does nothing to prevent an SM from allowing EVERYONE who qualifies to sit for election. It is also nothing special. Living the Oath and Law is a requirement for rank advancement, if not membership. And the very election process is nothing more than a popularity contest. So in the end the OA is not elite, for just about everyone qualifies. The OA is not fair, because it rewards popular kids and punishes the geeky kids. OA does not service, because after you are elected and go through ordeal, it is nothing more than a club with a patch that does little.

 

OA, like my district, is of little value. Sure they have cool patches, but what else? I can make cool patches too....and I won't just give them to the cool kids.

 

P.S. I have had DOZENS of kids who were not elite campers make OA. But the OA's "purpose" is not reflected in their requirements, so I had no ground to deny those Scouts membership in the OA. They met the paltry requirements and were in good standing. They were not trouble-makers, but they were not Norman Rockwell kids either. To deny them without quantitative cause (backed up by an actual policy or requirement) would have been harsh. Hence why the whole organization is a laugh. They need to change their requirements or stop taking themselves so seriously.


Edited by Krampus, 08 December 2015 - 01:53 PM.

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#16 walk in the woods

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:56 PM

 

3.  True appreciation for Native American culture and heritage.

 

I wish more kids thought about this.  Native American culture, Hollywood or otherwise, hasn't been part of mainstream American culture for decades.  When the OA was founded Native American tribes were still making pilgrimages to Washington, D. C. to meet with the government.  How many of our youth today could identify the acronym BIA?


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#17 walk in the woods

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 01:59 PM

@desertrat77, I personally would have changed OA this way:

  • If a camping "honor society" make it hard to get. 15 nights over two years? How about 25-30 nights over two years? That's an achievement and worthy of someone who is truly a camper.  YES!  And more nights every year to keep status.
  • Service group? Why not make service hours part of the joining requirement? YES! Should "in cheerful service" be just a platitude or something that one really strives for? Why not make mega service hours a condition for election...or even for keeping your status?YES! 
  • Make leadership at the troop level a requirement. Reward those who truly give of themselves as leaders credit for doing so.  YES! 
  • Want to stop the popularity contest? Elect candidates blindly. Have Candidate #1 and give his qualifications (e.g., 35 nights camping, 55 service hours, continuous troop leadership positions, etc.).

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#18 Eagledad

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 02:08 PM

When I was a scout in the 60/70s, each Troop voted for the two OA candidates minimum age 14. Only two, so it was always the two best scouts in the troop. And usually these scouts were the most active campers and leaders. Being voted as a candidate was considered more honorable than earning the Eagle because you were voted in by your peers. And if the candidate passed their ordeal ( that was not automatic back then) the scouts were considered the best of the best. Kind of Special Forces of scouting. Ask an Eagle scout who was in the OA back then and he will fill you will stories of the OA and hardly mention the Eagle. 

 

Today all the scouts are expected to be voted in, which takes the honor out of it.

 

Barry


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#19 JustThinking

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 02:57 PM

Well... I wasn't trying to cause a fuss.  I was just trying to figure out if my instincts about OA were right and it seems they are. 

 

I was bothered about the father/son tradition also and I talked with the SM about that.  The reasoning seems to be not every parent is chosen, but if they meet the requirements it is put to a vote.  Right now there are only four adults, including myself, actively participating with the troop and three are in OA.  Trying to be objective, would I meet the requirements?  I think so.  I just don't want to because to me it has to mean something besides a patch.  I can't figure out why it is so insulting that I refused.  Not just in my son's troop, but almost district wide and that is what has me rethinking scouting.


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#20 RememberSchiff

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Posted 08 December 2015 - 04:33 PM

I understand your situation and concern. I wish misconceived traditions like this were uncommon. 

 

It is okay for you or your son to say "No thanks".

 

As always talk the situation through with your son and do what you think is best for him. 

 

I'm hoping he says "I'm with you Dad."


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