The Young Men Program is Dead! Long Live the Young Men Program

11 May 2017

The Church announced today that it will be dropping its use of the Varsity and Venturing programs from the US based Young Men program. It was a bit of a surprise to me, and I’m really a bit disappointed.

Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded so much if the announcement was that Varsity and Venturing would be dropped to emphasize the traditional scouting program. I have long thought that the artificial divide we impose on our age groups was more damaging than uplifting. One of the cornerstones of the Scouting program is youth leadership. But it just doesn’t make sense to have 12 and 13 year Olds leading 12 and 13 year Olds (not as senior leadership, especially). So merging the age groups would provide a huge benefit as you could actually have your older leaders teach the younger leaders to lead. Novel idea, right?

Unfortunately, the statement kind of reads, “well, if the kid wants to keep going because they haven’t earned their Eagle yet, let them. But we’d really prefer that they not interact out of their designated age group.” I might be reading a little more cynicism there than is justified, but that will be the practical effect on most units.

What I find most disturbing, however, is that we are already acwoefully undertrained youth organization that is now giving up access to some of the best and most cost effective training resources in the world. I just went and looked through the training resources for Young Men leaders on lds.org, and I’m not impressed. There’s nothing there about pedagogy and the psychology of learning (EDGE method). Terrifyingly, there’s nothing there about Youth Protection training. Our training problem just got a lot worse.

The customary saying for when a Monarch dies is “The King is dead! Long Live the King!” It is intended to convey both sadness at the monarch’s death and recognition of stability through succession. The kingdom, it is thought, endures despite the change. T.H. White uses this phrase in a very mocking tone in The Once and Future King to point out that the passing of a monarch has almost zero impact on a commoner’s life. Notably, if the young men program wasn’t of the desired quality before (the king is dead), it won’t be now either (long live the king). On the bright side, we won’t be paying as much for a crummy program.

I’ve said for many years that the only way I would work in the Church’s young men program was if I was given the liberty to run a program I thought would actually benefit the boys. Today, I revise my stance. I’m just not willing to work in the Church’s young men program.

Long Live The King.