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Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

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  • Top-Down Advancement -- Why?

    In the parent thread Benelon writes the advancement training materials are necessary because "Because too many adult leaders add too many additional requirements to the process because they have their own idea of how the process should work and the boy is caught in the middle. Especially when he moves between units or states."

    Why is that a problem?

    Sure there have always been requirement and the "neither add nor subtract" rule has been around as long as I remember. But why?

    If my CO is an American Legion unit and wants all their Scouts to be able to recite the Preamble to the Consititution? Why does National care? If we're chartered to a VFD or rescue squad and they want the Scouts to continously upgrade and maintain their first aid training, why isn't that a good thing?

    In our district we have troops which will only accept SPL as the POR for Eagle. Another has very strict attendance policy (and has well before last year's change). One has fixed age requirements Scouts have to reach before receiving various ranks and before attempting a Eagle project. One has a long list of American history and government and Scouting history questions they must pass for each rank. I suppose my greatest transgression is refusing blue cards for merit badge universities and a handful of required badges taught at summer camp.

    We can quibble over the specifics of each of these, but if these represent what is important to the CO and the leadership of the troop AND are clearly delineated up front for the Scouts, then why does BSA care?

    If troop A has a heavy aquatics emphasis and wants every scout to complete BSA lifeguard why is that bad? Shouldn't we be honoring the Scouts and units which do more and hold higher standards.

    I know the company line is "it's national's advancement program and we must follow it." Again I ask, why? Why isn't can't national take the view of "these are the minimum requirements, go for it." Don't like the requirements added by the above troops? There's another one which runs advancement like Cub Scouts and routinely cranks out 13-y.o. Eagles. I hear they're taking applications.

    There is very little in the current direction of BSA advancement policy with which I agree. The new Guide to Advancement has it's pluses and minuses, but includes a not-so-thinly veiled contempt for unit leaders, as reflected in Benelon's remarks, above. But I guess we're all just a bunch of sadistic bastards who have to be kept in check.

    Or maybe we simply see greater potential in our boys than the bureaucrats on the "Advancement Team."

  • #2
    My comment was in the context of obtaining a rank or a merit badge. What a Scoutmaster or unit may want to teach a Scout outside of advancement is up to them. In a national program the advancement requirements need to be the same nationally so a Life Scout in New York is not penalized because his Scoutmaster happens to think he needs to memorize the US Constitution and be able to recite it repeatedly over a 12 month period, to become Eagle while a Scoutmaster in California doesn't. This becomes a very large issue when at 17.5 years of age the California Life Scout's family move him to New York and he wants to complete the rank there. As much as possible the requirements in a national program need to be uniform.

    This isn't new. You can read about it in the earliest Scoutmaster handbooks.

    (This message has been edited by bnelon44)


    • #3
      Oh yeah, we all know that McDonald's insists that a Big Mac is 2 all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles on a sesame seed bun. But why can't that franchisee down the street make a sandwich with 2 fillets of fish, tarter sauce, cheese, and pickles on a poppy seed bun and call it a Big Mac, and why can't that franchisee in Iowa make a sandwich of pulled pork, barbeque sauce, cheese, onions on a kaiser roll and call that a Big Mac?


      • #4
        How is a Scout penalized by his SM thinking he needs to memorize the Constitution? I guess where many of us differ philosophically with those on the "advancement team" is in thinking that knowing the Constitution would be a good thing. (Actually I said "Preamble" but it's hypothetical anyway).

        Your example of the "problem" of a Scout moving from one program to another is the same thinking which gave us the Department of Health and Human Services, the Energy Department and those nice folks at the IRS.

        Your "problem" assumes that only national/federal solutions will work. I'm willing to bet given a general framework of a program, local folks could come up with a solution for your Beach Boy. Such as the SM waives the local requirement for a 17.5-y.o. moving from another troop, or the Scout maintains dual registration with his old troop for six months and works cooperatively with the two troops, or the kid simply goes down the road and finds a troop which is a better fit, or completes his Eagle as a Lone Scout, or contacts his local Scout Service center for help, or, or, or. If you think outside the existing paradigm, the solutions are many.

        And I'm glad you mentioned the example of uniforming -- it's a point in my column. Have you been to summer camp lately? If your understanding of how troops wear the uniform is jamboree or NOAC, you're in for a surprise. While there is a Uniform & Insignia Guide, just like the Guide to Advancement, it starts with the caveat that there is no requirement Scouts wear a uniform at all. While I'm not suggesting an equivalent, optional approach to advancement, I do think the acknowledgement that units will apply the method to varying degrees is important.

        Oh, by the way, if you come to our summer camp, we're the "standard plus" troop which always wears the full uniform along with our troop hat and necker.

        Calico -- it all depends on your purpose. McDonald's has built their program on strict compliance with its standards. The conversation I' trying to start here is whether or not maintaining a strict national "franchise" is really as important to Scouting as it is to McDonald's? Apparently the Advancement Team thinks so. Why?(This message has been edited by Twocubdad)


        • #5
          Now you know Beavah is going to jump down your throat with the McDonalds comparison...

          Standards are great but standards are a minimum. However unlike sports or other your activities that have intramural competitions there is no way of qualifying one program versus another or measuring one participant against another in scouting.


          • #6
            Our family is the perfect example of why advancement standards need to be maintained at a national standard with no more or less. Son #1 is a month away from his 18th birthday. He's been in three troops. Each troop thankfully stuck with the national vision.

            What if in Troop 1 he could only advance by continually upgrading his first aide skills in addition to the national standards then we move to Troop 2 where only kids with gold medals in marksmanship advance? My son hasn't been working hard at marksmanship, just first aide, and is immediately behind the eight ball.

            Then we move to Troop 3 where if you can't do a 50 miler in four days at 2500+ feet in elevation, no hope for advancement. My son just spend two years trying to advance while becoming an expert marksman, letting his first aide skills slide, and not touching a pair of hiking boots. Now he's behind another 8 ball.

            Son #2 just crossed over into Boy Scouts. We will probably be in a minimum of four duty stations between now and his high school graduation. Several will be geographically remote and he will be a lone scout. When we get to Super Troop near the end, are they going to look askance at his previous advancement because it was done with small troops in weirdly named places or through Lone Scouting?

            If one troop is getting away with adding requirements, other troops will do it as well. Eventually, every troop in an area could be doing this giving transferring Scouts, whether from one troop to another locally or even internationally, that much less flexibility and choice.

            There are two places for program/advancement based upon a very narrow set of additional criteria: Venture Crews and University Departments.

            I don't understand why people feel like they have to improve locally upon the National Advancement standards. What is so difficult about agreeing to implement a program and then doing it by the book? If you want your troop to stand out, have great boy-led programming and not rely on some adult sense of required elitism.


            • #7
              It's not just units that drift away from "by the book" advancement.

              I had one case where we had to call national over an Eagle app. (One of my first posts on this forum.) council was ignoring a straightforward read of position of responsibility requirements.


              • #8
                Wouldn't it be a bummer if all scouts had to pass a written/skills test of the requirements in order to pass as they used to do? None of this once done, checked forever advancement. It will mean the boys actually had to learn the material regardless of how it was taught. The standardized test would require all the boys to know the minimums of the requirements and if someone wants to go beyond that, so what. Learning too much is not a bad thing. But for advancement, they need certain skills, that is a good thing too and then we wouldn't be having any Eagle Scouts who have never lit a fire in their life on the rosters.

                And so the argument pops up, what's going to happen if the SM teaches only to the test? Yeah? and what's wrong with that, isn't that the whole idea and skills acquisition and competence? And scoring the test? 100%! Isn't that the point of the REQUIREMENTS for advancement?

                Right now we are so gun shy that we don't even dare "re-test" at the BOR's. Why not? Do the kids know this stuff or not? If not, why are they advancing?

                I'm thinking that every Eagle Scout should have a complete weekend of testing on a number of different subjects, skills and accomplishments so that everyone knows the boy knows his stuff! He should be able to set up a camp site for himself and his patrol, build a fire, prepare a meal, clean up, design and build something with the help of his patrol, take a hike showing his map/compass skills, demonstrate swimming skills, etc. etc. Isn't Being Prepared a result of knowing your stuff?



                • #9
                  jblake47, your testing weekend would definitely be adding a requirement to the Eagle rank, which, of course is not allowed (never was.) But it has merit. Why don't you suggest it to the National Advancement Team?


                  • #10

                    Excellent post! I guess Iv'e been too accepting of the National influence.
                    I want my boys to know this stuff. National wants to keep numbers up, and believes that churning out Eagles is the key for future numbers. I think they're just diluting Eagle to the point of killing Scouting.


                    • #11
                      Advancement is only one method right?

                      Scoutings problems are deeper than whether we have Eagle scouts that can rub two sticks together and make fire.


                      • #12

                        Your absolutely right. Hopefully troops have a much larger program than just relying on advancement to tell them what to do every month.


                        • #13
                          I agree. Units have the wherewithal to focus on outdoor adventure rather than advancement. And thus attract scouts that are interested in adventure as it builds a reputation for adventure, (perhaps with a focus on a specialty area). Families that are interested in advancement for its own sake will naturally join a unit that supports their interest, and avoid units whose focus is adventure (or service, or ...).


                          • #14
                            "In our district we have troops which will only accept SPL as the POR for Eagle. Another has very strict attendance policy (and has well before last year's change). One has fixed age requirements Scouts have to reach before receiving various ranks and before attempting a Eagle project. One has a long list of American history and government and Scouting history questions they must pass for each rank. I suppose my greatest transgression is refusing blue cards for merit badge universities and a handful of required badges taught at summer camp."

                            We have 35 boys registered in our troop right now. They elect a new SPL every 9 months currently. It was 6 months, but the boys decided that was not long enough for the term. By definition then, only a very small number of our boys would ever be able to even dream of Eagle if SPL were required.

                            We also have a few boys for whom the long list of history questions would be a serious issue, but they know how to camp and cook their meals. Would you hold them back on that?

                            And really, you refuse to give merit badges if you do not like they earned it at camp or in a merit badge college program?We may want to encourage our boys to not skirt requirements and to not earn all their badges through such means, but to not allow what a counselor has signed is a pretty big roadblock.

                            Our troop is pretty by the book and gives all our boys chances to advance at their own speed. We have our 8th grade boys anywhere between Scout and Life right now as some are working hard and some are enjoying, but hardly working at the last miscellaneous things they need for the next rank. This is how it is supposed to work and we have decent scout retention because of it. We age out 3-5 boys per year and most of those are Eagles. Typically they earned thos Eagles between 15 and 17.9 and hung out to help the younger guys along a bit as well as joining the Crew across the street.

                            Do we emphasize really knowing and practicing skills and first aid and such, sure we do. But no extra roadblocks needed!!!


                            • #15
                              I'm of two minds.

                              Regarding the classroom merit badges, I'm all for once and done. Get it checked off and forget it. "You'll never use that stuff in real life anyway." But I understand the National BSA thought in requiring exposure to those concepts, once.

                              But the physical skills that make a Boy Scout a Boy Scout, I am going to retest, re-teach, and reinforce. If national thinks that is bad, I look forward to being fired!

                              Re-testing does not hurt the boys. Ignorance and over-confidence hurts the boys.(This message has been edited by JoeBob)