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


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