Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Troop Needs a Library

We now have a merit badge library for the Troops' use.  Yes, I used a plural possessive. The troop has purchased fourteen of the fifteen required (white border) merit badge pamphlets for the boys to use - the Scout Shop was out of Personal Fitness booklets.. They will be available to the boys in the three wards using our building library.  It's hard enough to work on a merit badge without having to track down all the information that is so conveniently provided in these resources, and you just can't count on the public library system having them when you need or want them.  So, now they are available to anyone who is living up to the Scout Law.

Eagle: A Means to an End, not the End Itself

"The Boy Scout advancement program is subtle. It places a series of challenges in front of a Scout in a manner that is fun and educational. As Scouts meet these challenges, they achieve the aims of Boy Scouting."
--2008 Advancement Guide, BSA, p.23.

We often talk about a boy "getting" his Eagle, as if it's as easy and natural as getting a zit, or as simplistic as buying a Slurpee. Other times it's made a condition of some other goal, like a driver's license. We also talk of "his Eagle" as if it's been reserved and is just standing by waiting for the "owner" merely to check all the boxes and claim what's already his. While well-intentioned, these philosophies belie a misunderstanding of what the BSA advancement method, and more particularly achieving Eagle really mean.

We adults do a gross disservice to the boys by setting our own sights primarily on the Eagle rank. Eagle is not the point. I have read that of all boys enrolled in Scouting nationwide, 3-6% earn this rank. Does this mean that Scouting has failed the other 94%? By the "Eagle is the objective" measuring stick, then yes. Fortunately, the Boy Scouts of America has clearly stated its Aims: building boys and men of (1) high character, (2) physical, moral and spiritual fitness and who are (3) participating citizens. Put simply, the Boy Scouts of America does not exist to hand out badges to boys.

So, when you hear these ideas put forward, ask, "why"? Why does he have to earn Eagle before he can drive? Is it Eagle for Eagle's sake? Is it for you? Or do you want him to work toward it because you recognize that the knowledge, skills and abilities embodied in the process of earning it will serve him throughout his life? And have you communicated that concept to your son/Scouts?

Of course, we want our boys to earn the Eagle rank. Advancement is part of the program, and earning Eagle is a very worthwhile, noble and achievable goal. But it needs to be for the right reason. The adults involved in a boy's scouting experience must recognize that it is only one piece of the puzzle; that it is part of a process; that he is, through learning these skills, bettering himself for the future. If he earns it at 14 years or at 17 years, 11 months and 28 days, it is the same achievement - there's no bonus for finishing early nor is there a penalty for taking longer than someone else.

If, for whatever reason, he does not earn the Eagle rank, but has developed into a man of high moral character, who takes care of himself physically and spiritually and who understands his role in society, (and for my fellow Mormons, is worthy of the Melchizedek Priesthood) we have succeeded! Conversely, if he "gets" his Eagle but doesn't exhibit these qualities, what does that say about his mentors?

"It is better to build boys than to mend men." --Truett Cathy

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, July 14, 2011

How (and Why) Advancement Works

Most of a letter I wrote to the Patrol Parents:

I realized the other day that five of the seven boys in the patrol are the oldest/first Scouts in their families, and so this is the first time for everyone (including me, both as a Scout dad and a Scout Leader). You must unlearn everything you learned about progress and ranks from Cub Scouts (If you have younger sons, don't flush it entirely, just tuck it away in a safe place).

Boy Scout Rank advancement is a method that Scouting utilizes for boys to set goals of achievement, learn new skills and measure their progress. The ranks are, in order: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle. Those are their names, but they could just as easily have been named Level 0, I, II...VI. As you are aware, one of the goals we have for each boy is that he earn his First Class in this first year of Scouting, in order to stack the deck toward his earning his Eagle before he becomes a Teacher/14yo and his time and interests are pulled in different directions. Everyone is on track to meet this objective.

The requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class can all be worked on simultaneously, and this actually makes it easier in two ways.
  1. Instead of teaching skills in rank order, I can teach the First Aid reqs for all three at once, saving time and consolidating effort
  2. Regardless of when a boy's birthday occurs, he will get all the necessary instruction over the course of a year, irrespective of others' rank progress
However, Ranks must still be earned in order (Tenderfoot first, etc). That means that even though a boy may have finished all the 1C requirements, but still has one Tenderfoot item to finish, he has to finish his Tenderfoot BEFORE he can receive his First Class. (Boards of Review ensure that this happens properly, as you can't have one without having finished all the requirements for a rank, and you must pass one for EACH rank - no doubling up BORs)...

Keep in mind that the advancement program is but one method, albeit the most visible, in the Scouting (and Church) arsenal to help you shape your sons into young men of character, fitness and good citizenship, in addition to being worthy Melchizedek priesthood holders. We try to take a long view, and build the program around the question, "What kind of men do I want these boys to be in 15 years?" There are eight methods we use to get there:
  1. Ideals (Oath/Law/Motto/Slogan)
  2. Patrols
  3. Advancement
  4. Adult Association
  5. Outdoor Activities
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Leadership Development
  8. Uniforms
You'll notice that many of these overlap one another, but they are equal in importance. We should be just as concerned that our boys are developing into capable leaders and associating with adults of good character, etc. as we are that they eventually earn their Eagle award (for that matter, we should demand the same for our daughters).

Clear as mud? I know that it can get confusing. If you have any more questions, please ask me. Also, look through your son's handbook, it's full of answers. If you are familiar with the requirements and the structure, you'll be in a better position to guide him through the process...

I hope this has clarified any confusion you may have had about how this Scouting thing works. I've learned a lot about it in the last year since I accepted this calling, and am excited to keep learning more about how to guide boys on their path to developing into worthy young men. I have really enjoyed working with your sons, and have seen a remarkable transformation in each of them as we have worked together.

Let me close with a quote from Scouting's founder that concisely sums up what we're doing:
"I have clearly stated that our objective in the Scout movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God's Kingdom on Earth." --Lord Robert Baden-Powell