Re: Subject: Re: Completion of all the requirements-standards
Thomas C. Stoddard (tom.stoddard@CNFD.PGH.WEC.COM)
Wed, 9 Oct 1996 11:31:21 EDT
WARNING: This response is fairly lengthy........delete or come back as you may
have time or desire to proceed.
> On Tue, 8 Oct 1996, Thomas C. Stoddard wrote:
> > I have. Otherwise I couldn't look the 15-year old in the eye who
> >dutifully went through a complete 90-day project according to the written
> >requirements --
> > > Bruce E. Cobern wrote:
> >> I'm sure we ALL (who have worked in Advancement over any extended period
> >> time) come across the Scout who wakes up to the 3 month requirement for
> >> Personal Management MB two months before his 18th birthday. I am also
> >> sure that most of these Scouts somehow manage to complete the MB. How
> >> many of us have looked such a Scout in the eye and said "forget it,
> >>there is no way you can now make Eagle?"
> Bruce is once again, right on!
> May I assume you would deny the Eagle for the "near 18 year old" on that
> basis? Seems a little "harsh" especially if the candidate was not given a
> "heads up" by the adults who are supposed to be keeping an eye on his
> advancement. Perhaps such such an oversight constitutes extenuating
> circumstances which are worthy of a "second look." The counterpoint will
> always be "well we can't do everything for them" but under the
> circumstances it seems they have otherwise fulfilled all the requirements
> and are only constrained by one relatively small aspect.
> Have you considered the lifelong impact this would have on a
> Scout? Is it really worth punishing him to that degree? Is it not better
> to look at the "larger picture" and give the Scout the benefit of the
> doubt? He might learn far more from someone who is compassionate and
> understanding than from having a "door slammed in his face."
> There is an old axiom that the "spirit of the law" is far more important
> than the "letter of the law" and this axiom is utilized in virtually every
> aspect of our society from the judiciary down through voluntary
> organizations such as Scouting. The end product or the destination is far
> more important than the path followed in the process of arriving so long
> as a "good faith effort" has been made to get there.
> It is highly likely
> that if you ask the 15 year old who has "dutifully" completed the
> requirements, to put himself in the position of the "near 18-year old" who
> is in such a situation, "how would he like to be treated?"; I would give
> you good odds that the 15 year old would opt for similar understanding,
> especially when the "stakes" are that high;
> And to anticipate another counterpoint: "no, we are not sending
> the 'wrong' message;" rather we are demonstrating some humanity and belief
> in the character, potential, and spirit of the Scout!
> Bob Amick, Explorer Advisor, High Adventure Explorer Post 72, Boulder, CO
Again, the dumbing down of America, the lowering of acceptable performance
to the least common denominator, the stretching and the contortion to allow
a feel-good approach to all and then we bemoan the failures of our
social institutions, because we never had the courage to support standards
and defend and sustain them in the front of the assault of those who refuse
to accept a standard, or acknowledge a right and a wrong.
May I take your points in order of presentation and offer my observations.
1. I have given the district my "heads up". Failure to plan on your part does
not constitute an emergency on mine. In our council, we have been plagued
over the last couple years with these 18-year old eagles, and the contortions
and angst that go with it. At some point, we need to ask ourselves the
question, "Being fully informed of requirements, and expecting scouting to
foster the aims of character, which includes personal responsibility, at
what time do we allow that a young man can make and exercise decisions for
himself?" Will we "suddenly" expect him to have these values as he turns
that magical age? No, it must be inculcated as the boy moves along. And,
at some point, we must ask ourselves if we are not the co-dependent ones,
whose personal fulfillment relies on the achievement of others. We need
to ask ourselves does this young man who has been asleep at the switch for
these past 2-4 years, this young man who has contributed little if any to
his troop, who has been off galivanting with the gas and the girls and
all the other distractions, well, is this young man really cut of the
calibre cloth that we would expect and uphold in an Eagle Scout?
"Scoutmasters," I have said, "you are on notice, and I expect you to put
the young men in your troop on notice. In any good conscience, there can
be no lowering of the standard. It will be up to the scout to 'demonstrate'
that he measures up." That message occurred in a letter at re-charter time I
distributed in November of 1993. Guess what? We have not had an Eagle Scout
candidate in over a year and a half now, which was in jeopardy of his 18th
birthday within our district. And, this year, calendar year 1996, we have
achieved a record number of Eagle Scouts for the year, more than any
calendar year prior.
2. For extenuating circumstances, the personal responsibility issue still
applies. No one has taken a hard line when the boy has made the case that
for factors beyond his control he was prevented from achieving rank. But,
one would expect the intent of his desire to achieve rank to be known, to
be expressed, and then, we can work with the situation as it evolves. But,
no where should we relieve him of the consequences of his choices, for that
is teaching a false ethic which will get him in trouble the rest of his life.
In which case, the circumstance should be identified. Then, we can process the
paperwork, allow extensions, go through the alternate requirements negotiation
(notably for handicaps, but used as appropriate), and still map out a
course for success-- allowing the boy to, again, decide and execute the plan,
but to hold him accountable for his negligence if not completed.
3. The lifelong impact of doing this? I have been a scouter long enough to
have heard young men express their regret and appreciation at this position.
They have expressed regret for not completing this goal. They have
expressed appreciation that they learned this lesson early enough in their
life that they were able to take from it and grow to responsible adulthood.
In every instance, they have taken it to themselves, "It was my fault, I
should have known better, done better, it was all within my control." And
that lesson, though bitter, has served him far better in life than if we
had winked and pinned a badge on his chest. Success in scouting is when we
accomplish the aims: citizenship, fitness and character - not in how many
badges we present! Speaking of character, a personal aside: I know exactly
when I made my personal commitment to become an Eagle Scout. It was July 20,
1969. It came while listening to Walter Cronkite as he announced the Moon
Landing. Noting that Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout, I noticed the tear
in the eye, the quiver in the voice as Walter Cronkite made the comment in
all reverence, "I was a scout, and was just one merit badge short." Well,
as a young scout, I was not going to let that happen to me. In acknowledging
that one has not measured up completely to a standard, the greatest of goods
can be achieved. He is not a bad person. He is not a failure in life. We
still love and accept him. I tell you, considering Mom and Dad, and teachers,
and church leaders who should be inculcating values in his young life, and
should be setting standards for behavior and work ethic and performance for
him, the real crime is that he gets to the age of 18 and has to have me as
a scout leader finally be the first to tell him there are standards in life
which we must live by, and which will be required of him. This will be true
in school, on the job, in his own family one day to meet the mortgage and pay
the bills. What service am I giving him if I affirm that sloth is okay, and
for him to slide by, everyone will rally and let him enjoy all the fruits
in the end. I see scouting as a bastian against that kind of false ethic.
4. As regards "spirit of the law" vs. "letter of the law", the spirit of the
law is that he be a good scout; that he be active, that he contribute to the
troop, that he make his influence, and all the values he's learning felt in
the lives of friends, family, and neighbors. If the spirit of the law has been
met, we aren't having this discussion, for his participation in a good program
will give him plenty of opportunities to advance, and his achievement of eagle
rank will be a natural consequence of his own desire. The spirit of the law is
not that he should check out, sow his oats, suddenly "get religion" and come
back to complete his advancement, to get his driver's license, to please mom
and dad or so it looks good on a resume. I do not believe, and would ask the
list members for their input, if such conduct, which is a common scenario for
these cases, constitutes your standard of a "good faith effort". I've spoken to
too many scoutmasters who have yearned for that junior leadership in the
troop/team/post, and these boys are AWOL! No way is such a good faith effort.
Scout spirit is a requirement for every rank advancement. That is the Spirit of
the Law. An important lesson of life is that for every choice, there
is a consequence. And a boy must learn and accept those consequences. We do
him an injustice by shielding him from the consequences of his choices.
5. As regards the 15 year old who has "dutifully" completed the requirements,
I *have* listened to them. Just last night, at our board of review, a young
eagle scout candidate was asked, "Why did you pick this innovative service
project?" It was really different and interesting. Response: "Well, I wanted to
do something that I thought would really make a difference. I didn't want a
project that was just a throw-together thing, like so many others who don't
really earn their eagle award, but just do something at the last to get the
badge." That was a direct quote. I weep inside when I hear young scouts say
these things. But, I have to acknowledge by experience that there is truth in
it. The 15-years old eagles would probably not even respond to your question
about how they would like to be treated if they were in a position approaching
18th birthday and needing some consideration for the last stretch. The 15-year
olds I have spoken to despise these situations. The 15 or 16 year olds who can
take pride in measuring up to a standard sense the injustice. I would counter
your bet and give you good odds that the majority would say, "Hey, I did it
fair and square, why doesn't he have to?" Such is what they *have* said to me.
I had one young man come back at the age of 22 and tell me, "You should
have just pinned it on Mom. I didn't deserve it." The 18-year old quickee
eagles aren't fooling anyone here. In an E-Mail post I just read, a friend
related of the death of her young 19-year old son, and her comment was, "He
loved scouting, he was an Eagle Scout, and I mean that to say he was one of
those who *earned* his eagle award...." What are sentiments like that saying to
us? Believe me those sentiments are out there in great measure. You see, the
eagle scout, of good character, will understand the part about the standard,
and in a similar situation, I bet, would say, Hey, I didn't measure up. I
shouldn't get the award. It is that Honor in their heart (the honor I respected
in Walter Cronkite) that distinguishes these young men. And "Honor" must come
first, no matter the magnitude of the stakes at risk.
6. Monday evening, we held our Council Advancement Committee meeting and in
the discussion, the matter of appeals came up. Having sat on several of these
appeals from other districts on the Council Committee, I can tell you
unequivocably there is a bias toward the boy. Looking at the case history, all
considerations are examined. Did the boy get bad counsel from an adult leader?
Was the scoutmaster new, untrained and didn't know any better? Was the boy
given bad or outdated literature, an obsolete form? Was his merit badge
counselling up to snuff? Was parental involvement or non-involvement a
contributing factor? In many instances, these issues can be observed,
documented and the boy will get the award with letters of explanation as
needful. But, regularly, an appeal will also come up wherein these factors are
not present. He just procrastinate. Or, in one instance, a situation where he
was outright caught (and admitted to) backdating to "appear" to have completed
work months ago. I'm sorry young man. You have squandered your opportunity.
There's not a whole lot I can do about those choices he may have made. But, as
an Eagle Scout myself, I value my own honor above all else. And I refuse to walk
out of a Board of Review feeling dirty, unclean or besmirched by not standing
up for the values embodied in the scout oath and law which I revere. If a
given young man is going to be honored by this award, I am honor bound to the
15-year old Eagle Scout to not lessen its significance and value. As the catch
phrase of the advancement program goes, I will require exactly what is written,
nothing more, *and nothing less*.
And I will always be in position to look the young Eagle Scout in the eye,
who has measured up, and can stand tall. I owe him that tradition of respect
for his achievement.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City
An Eagle Scout, a Bobwhite, and a District Advancement Chairman....