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Is it ever appropriate to "slow" a Scout's advancement?

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  • Is it ever appropriate to "slow" a Scout's advancement?

    I know a SM in my district who feels that Scouts "advancing too quickly" should be "slowed down". He also believes that boys should be "older" when they take on positions of responsibility because it will mean more to them.

    I'm not sure I disagree with him but his definitions of "advancing too quickly" and "older", as well as his methods for "slowing people down", sort of raise my hackles a bit. From my conversation with him, Scouts who advance at a rate that would have them at Eagle at/before 16 YO are moving too quickly. In his opinion, a 14-15 YO Eagle is unacceptable regardless of the boy's ability or motivation.

    Most concerning to me are the several methods that he uses to "slow them down". He described them like tools in a toolbox with a certain gleam in his eye. Here are his favorites:

    - Cancel or delay a SM conference until after a COH. He says that this can delay a boy for months because Scouts often forget to reschedule until just before the next COH.

    - Require a Scout to schedule an appointment with the Troop Advancment Chair to guarantee that all of his MB records or service hours are properly recorded before he can schedule a SM Conference. This is not Troop policy and only boys he wants to "slow down" are told to do it.

    - Refuse to accept positions like bugler, librarian, historian, scribe, etc as leadership. He wants younger boys to serve as PLs and, if they are not elected, to wait until they are. He only allows older boys in the SPL election and has once nixed the choice of a younger ASPL.

    - Require a Scout to do extra months in a leadership position because of a missed outing (1 missed outing = 1 extra month). This also applies to younger boys who missed Summer Camp due to events like Jamboree but not to older boys who missed who went to Philmont or "are bored of Summer Camp".

    - Talk to the Scout and convince him that his parents are pushing him too hard and that he should be having more fun.

    I should mention that this man has been SM of a Troop of ~65 boys for about 6 years now. He is very highly respected and well liked inside and outside the troop. His churn rate is a bit high but otherwise he's considered a stellar leader in these parts.

    In your experiences, does this sound appropriate to you?

    Does BSA have any specific guidelines or recommendations about age and rank?


  • #2
    As a fellow SM, his methods bother me somewhat.

    I think that the path to advancement is every bit as important as the destination, if not more so. But, if someone wants to "run down the path", you really can't stop him. I've seen it. Sometimes it's the Scout, sometimes that parent, but I think they're missing some of the fun if they go too fast. That's just my view, so as long as I see the Scout enjoying himself, I won't deny him an advancement that he's rightfully earned. Playing games with the rules to slow someone down in the ways mentioned just isn't right. Besides, the advancement rules are what they are, you can't add things to them just because you want to.


    • #3
      BSA guidelines and recommendations regarding prerequisites, age, maturity, etc. for rank and positions of responsibility are spelled out in chapters 3 and 10 of the Scoutmaster Handbook.


      • #4
        There are indeed Sails and anchors in scouting.


        • #5
          No person may add, change or alter the requirements of a Rank advancement (including what positions fulfill leadership roles) or MB. The BSA has put in place certain time restraints to particular ranks and merit badges. These are found in MB's such as Personal Mgmt., and all ranks above 1st class.

          As an Eagle Scout, I shudder at the thought of the 13-14-15 year old Eagle Scout. I shudder more at the thought of an Eagle Scout who earns his Eagle at 16-17-18 years of age and is later seen on the TV or in the paper for obvious "unscoutlike activity".

          As a leader, we have no right to "hold back" the progression of a Scout; you are only hurting the boy and his excitement for learning and advancing in Scouting. Many Scouts latch on to Scouting because it is one of few areas that they exceed.

          It should be every SM and ASM goal that every Scout earn the 1st Class rank in the 1st Year (this wont happen if you dont go to a BSA Long Term Camp.)

          I find it hard to believe that a 6th - 8th grade boy is advancing at too fast a pace because he wants to be an eagle at age 16. There is likely a parent behind the scenes who is pushing, and in extreme cases signing the book (or blue cards) to force thier son to attain the honor of eagle at an early age. The way to combat this (this is my opinion) is with the SM Conf. - talk with the scout, find out what he wants to do in Scouting, what his goals are, etc. dont just talk about the requirements for the rank. (and remember a SM conference can be done at any time NOT just before the BOR. Also, talk with the parents, find out what goals they have for their son. Inform them of the purpose of the Scouting program, its aims and values.
          (This message has been edited by iaeagle)


          • #6
            If you cant kick a dead horse when it is down, when can you kick it?

            This is my opinion, a Scout that is very active, has set personal goals, and works consistently at advancing will achieve the Eagle rank when he is 14 years old. This is good! A Scout may then look to earning Eagle Palms, or joining a Venturing Crew and working towards the Silver Award and the Ranger Award. A Scout may also have an interest in working towards the Quartermaster Award in a Sea Scout Ship.

            Scouts that I have observed that have earned Eagle at 17+ years of age have usually had long periods of inactivity in advancement and participation in the troop. Many are procrastinators that were pushed in the end by their parents to finish their Eagle.

            If you believe that a Scout has not earned the Eagle rank then the fault lies with those that have signed off along the way. If a requirement, merit badge, or service project was signed off with out meeting the standards then shame on the person that signed off.

            It seems to me that most people that have an issue with Scouts earning Eagle before the age of 16 are either: people who earned eagle at the age of 17, or parents of Scouts that earned Eagle at the age of 17. In my opinion they cannot fathom someone earning the rank at a younger age than they or their son did.

            Was Theodore Roosevelt too young to be President of the United States?
            (This message has been edited by Region 7 Voyageur)


            • #7
              not adding to or modifying requirements-I know several parents who have said no Eagle - no drivers license


              • #8
                Thanks for the input guys.


                Thanks for the SM Handbook references. There don't appear to be any hard age limitations. Instead, the guidelines are generally based on experience (which makes sense to me.) The handbook does actually mention a 12 YO PL and a 14 YO SPL but only in the context of how much support might be required from adults.


                I wondered if his concern was more about parent's cutting corners and asked at the time. This SM has rules in place forbidding parents from signing off any rank or MB requirements for their son. This rule is absolute and applied uniformly to all the boys in the troop. Even Troop leaders cannot sign off their son's requirements or serve as a MB counselor for them. I liked the rule actually and have suggested that we implement it in our troop as well.

                Region 7 Voyageur:

                I agree with your observation about likely bias. This SM's first son achieved Eagle at 17 as did the second son of the CC. He also talked about how humiliating it is for some "older" Scouts to be passed up by "younger" Scouts. I know he was a former CM and suspect that some of these "older" Scouts are from his original Pack.



                • #9
                  "forbidding parents from signing off any rank or MB requirements for their son.

                  A SCOUTMASTER CAN'T DO THAT.

                  Now you will need to look in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures manual and you will discover that a qualified and registered merit badge counselor can work with ANY scout including their own child.

                  A scoutmaster has no authority over merit badges.



                  • #10
                    "Thanks for the SM Handbook references. There don't appear to be any hard age limitations."

                    Maybe your Scoutmaster is working from a different handbook?


                    • #11
                      Bob White,

                      I thought the SM had to sign a blue card authorizing a scout to begin working on a MB. (But something at the edge of my recollection is whispering that there may have been a fairly recent change in how the blue cards were handled.)

                      If SM has to sign the card before work can begin, can't he work to help the scout find another MB counselor that isn't his parent?

                      As a personal matter, I've never signed my own kids off on any of the merit badges or other skills I teach. I have helped them learn the subject matter, but made them go through the learning process of setting up a meeting with another counselor or a Troop Instructor, because I feel they learn more in the process.

                      As for the general question about "slowing" a scout's advancement, this does open a can of worms. As previously stated, requiring a certain age for rank is not allowed, although the troop may address this indirectly by requiring a certain age to hold each position of responsibility. But what's the real issue here? The underlying issue/concern is about making sure the scout has the maturity, etc., for each rung of the ladder. We can't hold him back at the SM Conference because we don't think he's mature enough, etc. If maturity (or playing well with others, etc.) is a concern, this should be picked up along the way under the requirements for positions of responsibility and scout spirit. It takes a lot more work to clearly spell out expectations and to coach/counsel/mentor along the way, but this is exactly what the scout needs to help him mature and grow. I'd personally rather work it this way than by inserting POR age requirements.

                      Of course, there's also the point (which I don't think has been mentioned) about how scouts get their POR in the first place. If you're following the book, most PORs are either elected (SPL and PLs) or appointed by the SPL. The SM also has some leeway by choosing to assign a leadership project or selecting a scout to serve as a Den Chief. Holding up a scout with maturity or other issues shouldn't be a problem. What SPL wants to invite this kind of problem onto his leadership staff? (Let me answer that question: The SPL who's being forced to by his SM or other adults - usually parents. Rarely the SPL may also select an unsuitable buddy for a position, but SM has the expressed responsibility of looking out for this one.)

                      We just ran into this Eagle-age issue in one of the troops I serve. We have an immature scout who has significant difficulties working with other scouts, but has an incredible drive to advance. (Two issues are directly related to his overwhelming "Me first" attitude.) There was considerable documented evidence to support not signing off on his recent POR tour and scout spirit. Over the objections of scouter staff, the SM signed him off on everything (including his Eagle Project), then refused to give the scout his SM Conference for Eagle because he was only 14. Incredible. The scout and his parents were understandably upset and this was overruled when they appealed to counsel.


                      • #12
                        Why would we ever want to prevent a Scout from doing his best?


                        • #13
                          I may have missed it, but I don't think anyone said anything about a scout not doing his best. That's not the issue.

                          I love ya man, but sometimes it says "demonstrate how to tie the knot," not "do your best to tie the knot."
                          There are some requirements that must be met -- not just best effort.

                          -mike(This message has been edited by Mike F)


                          • #14
                            Hi Mike,
                            Nope no changes, the Scoutmaster is signing the card at the beginning to show that the scout has the name and contact number of a district/council approved and registered counselor. Also it's important that the scoutmaster be aware of what a scout is interested in and what he is working on. No the scoutmaster no more decides for a scout which merit badge a scout can or cannot work on, anymore than he or she decides what rank requirement the scout can work on at any time.

                            As far as what you do as a merit badge counselor and dad is up to you. The BSA has no problem with you sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm about a subject with your son but they don't make anyone do it.

                            As you say its a matter of they did the job or they didn't, so no one can really say you were harder or easier on him. Besides so what? If you are an approved counselor it's your decision not theirs. If they have a problem with how you do things they can explain it to the district advancement committee who can talk to you. If they think you did something wrong they will ask you do change or they will weigh anchor.

                            But I'll bet you would do just fine with your son.

                            So the fprogram works just fine, when everbody follows the program.

                            No, no adult has the authority to 'slow' a Scouts advancement. The scout has either completed the requirement or he hasn't. For an adult to display that he has "power" over a scout is never a sign of good leadership.



                            • #15
                              Mike F,
                              You are of course right.
                              I didn't mean that doing ones best replaced or reduced any of the requirements that do need to be met. Adding or taking away requirements is a no -no.
                              I did mean that if a Lad has set goals and is doing his best to meet the goal, holding him back would not be right. I can't see a Scout leader ever saying to a Scout "Do your best, but do it slowly!!"
                              Sorry for the confusion.