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What standards are to be set for Eagle?

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In a previous thread on asking about Reverence for the Eagle BoR there was a comment that a boy declared that he was an atheist. He was 14 and the poster noted that he needed time to sort things out which makes sense.

I was going to post that if a boy is at his Eagle BoR and makes an issue out of being an atheist that he doesn't fulfill the requirements which is an issue. As I thought further about that I realized that a young man who is a weakling or obese is not 'physically strong' - does he get failed? What about a boy known to smoke marijuana or use other drugs including alcohol, is he mentally awake? Should he be referred to the Eagle BoR (since the issue will not likely come up in the Eagle BoR). I do believe that a boy who is clearly known to use drugs should not be passed since he is committing a crime (no matter what others feel).

I could list other things where we may not be consistent in what we pass and fail. Unlike sins which are supposed to be all the same to God, are there hierarchies of what can be fudged versus what will be strictly enforced? If so what should it be? Who should decide? Should community standards play a role - being an atheist may be common in some areas and relatively rare in others?

It seems to me that scouting should be clear about what the standards are and what is the gray area. I am certain that some Eagle BoR would fail a boy who claims to be an atheist while others would pass him - is that good or bad?

Please do not focus on whether or not the BSA should have atheists or not - focus on how we should approach the issues of meeting requirements and what the requirements mean.

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One would first have to know what the Scout meant by "atheist," because "atheist," taken literally, does not disqualify a Scout from membership or for passing for any rank. Buddhism, which has a religious award that is part of the Scouting program, goes not typically include a belief in God. Buddhists are not "theists."


Current training materials for Boards of Review, AFTER giving several examples of questions that expressly ask about "God," state, in part:


"Discussion of a Scout's religion is very appropriate at a board of review, but it should be done with respect and appreciation for the variety of faiths and beliefs in the United States. An open-ended question like "How do you honor the 12th point of the Scout Law?" will allow the boy to discuss his religious beliefs. A blunt 'Do you believe in God?' should be avoided as there are some religions that do not use the name 'God' for their supreme being or higher power."


Then those materials go on the say:


"A Scout may fulfill this duty without being a member of a particular denomination or religion. In these cases, a board will want to understand, through informal discussion, what a Scout feels about this particular duty, how he sees himself in relation to his beliefs, and how he fulfills them. It is very common for adolescent boys to question religion, particularly formal religion. If a candidate indicates that he is not certain about religion, the board should ask how he is trying address his uncertainty and to fulfill his duty to God."


Obviously, the B.S.A. is struggling with a complex issue.



A Scout does his "best" to be "physically strong." I cannot, therefore, see physical strength as some sort of pass/fail standard. "Best" is not an objective standard.



Use of drugs. A "Clean" problem, yes? Pot? A glass of wine with dinner? (Cultures vary on this.) Addiction to nicotine? Additction to caffeine? Once you get past "illegal" drugs, it gets quite gray.



Are "sins all the same to God" in all Christian churches, much less in all religions that have a God? I think the answer is , "No." (venal vs. mortal)



I don't think we can "fudge" but there may be some range of the acceptable. It appears, in practice, that a good deal of discretion is left to each Board of Review or Eagle Board.


Some might want clearer guidelines.


Some might enjoy the ambiguities.


BP said, repeatedly, that Scouting was not a science.

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Thanks for the post TAHAWK! Maybe I should have been a little more precise. Assume a boy is insistent that he has no belief in a 'higher power' and despite efforts to get him to say that nature is remarkable or whatever to allow the boy to be passed on his EBoR. He should not pass at that point. However, a boy who is obviously not able to pass another point in the Oath is always passed without a second thought. I think that it is better to be more consistent. If we do not go fishing for drug use or other issues, then we shouldn't be fishing for lack of belief in a higher power.


As to the marijuana, it is illegal and the youth is committing a crime no matter what anyone thinks. As is smoking and alcohol use in children no matter what we may think of the use or what our culture says is acceptable. Once again, I am not sure that we should go looking for these issues.

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I'm not comfortable with a fishing expedition (aka, a witch hunt). The risks of misinterpreting are very high on both sides, and additionally, asking a young man about whether he engages in a specific illegal behaviors might even have legal ramifications if the answer is "yes." I really prefer not to put a boy in such a corner.


I'm more comfortable asking broad questions - "what does "clean" mean to you?" "How do you try to follow the "mentally awake" portion of the oath?" "Are there times where being "morally straight" is difficult, and what do you do in those situations?" "How have you approached the expectation that a boy scout should be "physically strong?"


These all allow for a wide range of answers, including some introspection and back-and-forth discussion. And my understanding is that that's really what we're aiming for most of the time in a BOR.


By the way - as an educator - I find it interesting that we tend to interpret "mentally awake" as "don't use drugs." How about, "What grade did you earn on your last math test?" "Do you push yourself to take challenging classes and study hard, or do you allow yourself to coast and daydream your way through school?" "Tell me about a good book you have read recently?" "Of your 21+ merit badges, which was the most interesting/challenging/fun/useful, and why?"

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Yes, I am in complete agreement with LisaBob and I add that a 'review' is not necessarily an 'examination'. The questions, if constructed thoughtfully, can yield thoughtful and constructive discussions. This is, to me, the essence of a good review.

When the scoutmaster signs after the scoutmaster conference, he is certifying that the boy has passed all the REQUIREMENTS and that the boy is ready for his review. The review, in this sense, is also a review of the scoutmaster and the program, as well as the boy's experience and progress.


Edited part: I should add that I share Beavah's feelings regarding the 14-year-old boy who was the subject of this thread.(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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