Re: Life to Eagle requirements, is this fair?
Charlie Thorpe (charlie2@RO.COM)
Wed, 13 Mar 1996 16:18:39 -0600
Hello David -
Enjoyed your posting...you raise an interesting set of questions! The
whole issue of how we can help our Scouts get the most out of the
advancement method is a great topic for debate. We can all profit from a
dose of discussion at regular intervals <g>.
IMHO, the advancement process is one tool in the tool kit that we use to
accomplish the aims of Scouting for our Scouts. It turns out that
Advancement is an important (and enjoyable!) part of the growth environment
that we try to set up for each kid to chin himself on. Advancement works
particularly well for a lot of reasons, but some of my favorites are:
the Scouts discover that big things can be done in small boy-size chunks;
progress can come in fits and spurts, as each Scout's needs/interests change;
the process has simple rules that the kids can learn early on and that stay
consistent throughout each Scout's career;
the boys get plenty of opportunities to learn how to interface with sympathetic
(adult!) strangers; and,
as a process it is designed to get progressively harder and harder as the boys
work their way up to Eagle.
The Eagle Service Project is a wonderful opportunity for growth. Done
right, it can be a challenging and rewarding capstone that draws on the
best of our program to set off a neat Scouting career. Done wrong, it can
be just another exercise in adults-beating-up-kids or in
I don't envy a District/Council Advancement committee person! The
challenge of having enough quality control to ensure that ALL Scouts are
getting the most growth out of all facets of our Advancement process is
formidable. Troop programs differ widely when everybody is singing off of
the SAME sheet of music (using the SM Hbk and Wood Badge training
<g>)...things REALLY get hairy when you factor in those unit programs run
by untrained or badly out-of-date leaders.
How the Advancement Committee folks ever manage to do their job of keeping
the Advancement program up to snuff (WITHOUT at the same time introducing
so much rigidity that the needs of individual kids start to get lost) is
beyond me. IMHO, understanding of the process (lots and LOTS of training
for Scouts and Scouters) and consistency of the process (stays the same for
ALL Scouts during ALL their Scouting career) are critical parts of the
It sounds to me like your Advancement guy is trying to do just that!
I might not like his training schedule (only twice a year takes a lot of
the spontaneity out of a "self-paced" advancement process <g>). I might
love his desire to have each boy make a personal presentation to an adult
stranger (ain't too happy with the need for it to be a single bottleneck in
the process!). I might disagree with the idea that 100 hours defines a
good project (most sharp Eagle-caliber young men benefit from having at
LEAST twice that to really show off their ability to plan, organize, and
I might not happen to feel that typing is the only way to effectively
present an important part (project report) of an important accomplishment
(Eagle Award). I might agree completely with the idea that a project
should come from inside the kid and I might not particularly care whether
all the persons working are from his Troop or not. I may or mayn't want to
set a specific drop-dead date for any given project (depends on the kid,
the project, and who it's for <g>).
In short, I would be completely willing to cheerfully debate each and every
one of your Advancement Chairman's guidelines <g>. What I WOULDN'T be
willing to do is to completely discount them!
> Who should I complain to?
Why complain? Find out some stuff first!
You mentioned that you are an Assistant Scoutmaster in your Troop. Get
with your Scoutmaster and other Troop Scouters that you trust/respect and
lay out your understandings/concerns about the Advancement Committee
guidelines to them. See what insights they can add to how your Troop's
advancement program dovetails with those guidelines. If things don't mesh
at all, perhaps your Troop's program needs spiffing up! Check out the SM
Hbk and your unit's Wood Badge experience and work out what your Troop
would like to see as an "optimum" advancement program (Eagle Service
Project included!) for your Scouts.
If your Troop's specific needs turn out to be different from the District
Advancement Committee's guidelines (mine would be! <g>), then the
appropriate folks from your Troop should drag the District Advancement
Committee Chairman off to a quiet corner (ply him with coffee <g>) to
discuss the differences. Listen to all his horror tales (Scoutmaster's kid
didn't...mumble, mumble...unfinished projects messing up the organizations
being served...mumble, mumble... 25-hour/one-day trivial efforts...mumble,
mumble...Scout's father did all...mumble, mumble... picking up beer cans at
a skinhead rally...mumble, mumble...) and try to imagine yourself walking
in his shoes for a while.
Let him know that you DO understand the BSA Boy Scout Advancement Method
(prove it!) and show him that your Troop has some clear ideas on how to put
it to work. Listen to his suggestions about your Troop's advancement
program and see if everybody can come to an understanding of how to make
maximum growth possible for all your Scouts within their Scouting context.
If he doesn't nibble at your suggestions and you still feel that he is
wrong, ask him what the procedure is to challenge/waiver/change his
guidelines. If procedures exist, do it. If there isn't any, ask who his
boss is (should be the Council Advancement Committee...IF you are lucky
enough to have one that functions...). Arrange for you and the District
Advancement guy to visit his boss...and so on up the line.
Or...you could stand outside and lob hand grenades in! Go over
everybodies' head...pitch a fit...get a lawyer...make SURE that your son
gets an interesting "growth" experience out of all this <g>.
I always like to see things be nice and tidy and to mostly go by the book.
BUT ...I truly believe that sometimes consistency is more important to a
kid's growth environment than process perfection. If my son were the kid
sitting next to me at the meeting you described, I would take a serious
look at whether I should be the one to fork my horse and grab my lance to
tilt at the local windmills.
I don't know many volunteer systems that can balance a need for consistency
with a need to allow beneficial change and have things happen quickly
enough to not seem a force-fit for your son. I guess I would be worried
that the lesson that I wanted my son to learn would be to live with the
rules he started under OR to work within the system to effect needed
change. I certainly wouldn't want to do anything that might give him the
idea that I am trying to teach him to weasel his way through the system.
If you get involved right now in getting the Advancement Committee to
"clean up" it's act, you and I would know that you were doing it for the
good of all the Scouts in your District...but, would that message get home
loud and clear to your son? I would be tempted to suggest that you either
let someone else in your Troop carry the fight to District or you wait
until you have an Eagle in the family before you do it yourself.
However you work it out with your District Advancement guru, I hope your
son enjoys a challenging and rewarding Eagle Service Project...and that dad
gets to grin his head off at the Eagle COH...good luck!
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City