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What are the causes of the Eagle Mill?

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There's been a bit of talk, off and on, about the Eagle Mill. So I thought I'd toss out a question...


It seems we can identify them. But what is the underlying cause of the formation of an Eagle Mill?


1) The boys? Is it a competition thing?


2) The parents? Do the parents all get this idea that Eagle opens every door in life? Parents who are bent to get Johnny to Eagle, because they didn't?


3) Adult Leaders? Do the SM's and ASM's thing that their success as a Leader is directly connected to the number of Eagles they produce during their tenure?


4) CO or District? Do they measure the success of the Troop on the number of Eagles?


Of course, there is the possibility that it doesn't make a difference to understand this.


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Engineer... YUP!!!! :)


Seriously all of that. Somethings play into it more then others.. Sometimes it's like the game of mouse-trap, where one thing touches off another, which touches off another.


National giving the expectation of First class First year, is setting up an expectation. Maybe a little of Districts looking at this as one (only one) of it's checks to gauge the health of a unit.


I think more so is the parents in a unit, pushing for advancement because they are not out of cub scout mode yet, or want their son to be the shinning star, and this is something they can measure.


The SM's who are not trained correctly, or have gone through training, but the right things were not stressed. Or, SM's, who buy into the quick advancement mentality, (after all most of them are parents of at least one of the scouts in the troop themselves.)


I think if there are boys competing with each other, that is the rarest of all you listed, but it does happen (probably still the boys who started the trend had some parents pulling strings), and when it does it could get a whole troop moving in that direction because the parents are happy with it, and the boys are defining their own program, so even the Scouters who try to let the boys run their own program, follow where the boys are leading them until they can find a good way to guide them into interest in a different direction.




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1 -- competition among Scouts is a good thing. As far as pushing advancement goes, that's easy to control and redirect into more productive area.


3 -- it couldn't happen without leaders, but I think it's a lack of training and understanding the nuiances of the program rather that a real desire to pump out lots of Eagles. They just think that's how the program is supposed to work.


4 -- CO, no. District, no. Council, no. National, in some respects. I agree with Lisa they FYFC extends the Cub Scout mentality that every thing we do gets rewarded with a badge and we get one badge every month. There seems to be a lot of downward pressure on the overall ages in program. I don't know if that's an intended outcome or a consequence of Tiger Cubs and Venturing pushing Boy Scouting into a 10 to 14 y.o. program. I will say that National's advancement policies push advancement toward lowest common denominator, check-list approach. For example, see the 100s of threads regarding the rediculous national policy defining "active participation" (but please don't get it started again here.)


So that leaves us #2, parents. Yes. 80%+ I've had parents tell me they want to "get Eagle out of the way" so Dear Sweet Thing can focus on lacrosse. Or the cello. Or tiddly-winks. I've had parents complain about getting "their money's worth" of merit badges at summer camp. I had a dad tell me his son "had his heart set" on earning all three citizenship MBs at summer camp. (I called B.S. on that one.)


It's part of the trend we are all guilty of to one degree or another of managing our children's future from conception through and Ivy League school to the Presidency or what ever.


I really think too many parents read the requirements for Eagle and think, "this is easy, I could do this in a few months" and project that check list attidute onto their sons. Well yes, at age 45 with an MBA and 20 years work experience, Eagle would be easy. But that's not the point. The real Trail to Eagle isn't a checklist, its a set of experiences Scouts should enjoy. I've expressed my thoughts on that in the current thread on First Year programs so I won't repeat it here.

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Sad but true but I would add a subset of (2) parents is Eagle Dads. I would say 70% of our problem parents has an Eagle Dad or Maternal Grandpa. Some of these kids didn't even want to get into scouts and still don't seem to enjoy it in spite of our best efforts.


The program promotes Eagle too much, I hear too many adults say "I was only a Life". Only a Life! A Life Scout should have been pretty accomplished. I always ask "were you the best scout you could be? Did you have fun?" That is what is important.


There is HUGE pressure on our boys from their parents that an Eagle and Lacrosse and a huge number of service hours will grease them into a great college program and the career of their choice. I see this start in Elementary School. I see it at church. I see it at non-profits. Look at the Arrow of Light inflation. Now it is a rarity for kid not to get it. I had an irate parent in Webes whose boy missed a lot of meetings and make-ups and was probably miss AOL say "He really needs his AOL so he can get his Eagle; it is so important!"


Sometimes it is the kids. My special needs son was a Tiger saw a presentation by a Boy Scout on canoeing (yes we took Tigers on a canoe trip -the infamous "river of death" fiasco) and asked what the badge was. The boy proudly explained what the Eagle was. My son said "I want to get that" and has been very competitive in scouts because that is his goal. Of course he wants to get in the Military (again since 1st grade) and sees the Eagle as proof that he can meet a challenge. Who am I to discourage him?


His younger brother wants it to; I think it is a sibling rivalry thing. But he LOVES scouts so if it keeps him motivated.


In our Troop we have had better luck in the last year explaining to parents that Eagle Scout is not the goal, but character development and independence is. If a boy is an active participant and stays focused he can get that Eagle around 16; that is our informal goal that a boy could be within striking distance. That gives a year for project and a buffer year for distractions/family emergencies.


We also have had some excellent Life to Eagle coordinators in our Troop -really nice and tough ladies that challenge the boys that have stated they want Eagle to have a plan.


I personally tell the boys to have fun. Some of these kids are wound really tight.



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You guys are way more generous than me.


It is the Adults issue, period.


Every single Eagle Mill SM or Leader that I have met brags about how many eagles they produce a year. They advertise it on their troop trailers. The worst one I have personally seen is the one that included ages with the names. The years say 30 years ago, the boys were 16 and 17 receiving their eagles. The more recent years most of the boys were 14.


It is about the parents who view it as another line on a resume or something they believe will give them a leg up.



It doesn't have anything to do with training.



The age of the selfless scouter is over.

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I saw one of those Trailers on the way to camp for the first time. An Atlanta Troop I believe. "Where Eagles Dare to Soar" or something. No ages just years. Had 15 last year.


What is wrong with the traditional plaque in the scout hut or church lobby? In my old single digit Troop I used to like to see the odd congressman or ministers name in there...


Eagles sure seem more common these days. I do not think they have the same prestige. My two first cousins were Eagles in a traditional Troop in the early 70's. Older one waited for his brother had same COH. Folks flew in from all over, major newspaper coverage.


Has anyone seen the growing emphasis on Eagle Palms in their Troop? I wonder if the awards "arms race" is spreading.

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I was fortunate in that the troop I grew up in was a "hiking and camping troop," and getting Eagle wasn't the focus.


But I was under pressure from my Eagle cousin, and a heck of a lot of pressure from Uncle "Double Eagle" to get it. Funny thing was once I got it, and sent the invites to them to attend the ECOH, they never did show up to the ECOH. Had two big roles for them ot play in the ceremony, but that was OK. My first SPL in the troop, the one who mentored me and worked with me when I was a brand new PL, had come home in time from Iraq, and he took over their roles. More appropriate IMHO.


Anyway, I have seen one Eagle mill up close. Very adult led, and pressure from parents to get Eagle and move on. Although some Eagle do stay on, usually attending one or two of the "megatrips" that they do. Only time you see them is district and council camporees. Occassionally at district banquets.(This message has been edited by eagle92)

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Why doesn't one of you define Eagle Mill so that we can properly decide who to throw out of the Brotherhood fo Scouting, or who to shun at Summer Camp. We can even make a nice list to those units we should avoid. Perhaps we can add a scarlet outline on the Eagle knot if someone got their Eagle too early.


What a bunch of hogwash.


Troops shouldn't be proud of their Eagles?

Troops shouldn't provide a complete program that allows a dedicated Scout to Advance and be recognized? I am tempted to tell my Scouts to sit on their applications for Eagle so that some blowhard doesn't sneer at them if they earn it too "early."

Perhaps we should stop accepting applications from Eagle candidates under the age of 14, and over the age of 16 - after all, after we are done slamming young Eagles, we can get onto the important business of slamming death-bed Eagles.


Lets see, who have we insulted so far:


Young Eagles (like me).

Scout leaders who are Eagles (like me).

Dads who earned Eagle who encourage their kids to earn it (like me).

Troops that are proud of their Eagles (like the one I am honored to serve, and the one I am proud to have been a member of long ago).



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I was lucky to grow up in a canoeing troop. Not many made it to Eagle, I was the 5th in about 10 years. Luckily we always had SMs that let the journey be the adventure and advancement just wasn't the goal. I tried to do the same when I was in that role.


I think it takes a special person that can fight that encroachment from pushy parents. It's so easy to cave in, constantly being tested. Some still got by me and eventually had to deal with it. I wouldn't hesitate to point them towards the mega eagle mill unit up the street. Some left, but most didn't and we continue to have a thriving troop today. Never give in!

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"What is wrong with the traditional plaque in the scout hut or church lobby?"


We rent a school so we don't have a place to put the plaque. So yes, we put the names on the trailer. What is the problem with putting them on the trailer? We may have a lot of Eagles, but we don't gear the program around making Eagles.


"Has anyone seen the growing emphasis on Eagle Palms in their Troop?"


We have had more in the last few years as those that have earned their Eagle prior to being 18 (about half) have stuck around and picked up the palms along the way. We don't emphasize them, they just happen.

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Another underlying factor not mentioned so far is the mindset that Eagles are inherently superior individuals, a cut above everyone else. It's the whole "Once an Eagle, always an Eagle" idea. It stems in part from the elaborate ceremonies and rituals that adult Eagles have cooked up to make themselves feel more important - balderdash such as the "marked man" phrasing in the "Eagle Charge," which some folks have elevated to the status of scripture.


Eagle is an incredibly significant accomplishment, and those who have earned it should be recognized and honored. But is an Eagle Scout really fundamentally different - now and forever - from a Life Scout who did his project and served his troop, but just earned 20 merit badges?


Earning Eagle is not the be-all, end-all ultimate goal of the Scouting program. But when people perceive it to be so, they start focusing on it to the exclusion of much else.


Also agree on the boring summer camp and pushy parents thoughts.

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Shortridge has some interesting thoughts and I am sympathetic to some of them. There does seem to be some kind of 'aura' about attaining Eagle. I think things might have changed over the years. Back in the early 60s when I earned Eagle, my ceremony took about 5 minutes as part of a regular church service for my church. That was it. I have always viewed the achievement as something very personal. I don't 'wear it on my sleeve' (I do have that knot, one of only two that I wear on the uniform). I don't expect any kind of recognition from anyone because of it. The only recognition I expect is my personal knowledge and satisfaction at having achieved a goal that I set for myself a long time ago.

When I am asked to give the 'charge' I always delete that awful "marked man" stuff. I consider it harsh, hollow, and really...incorrect. The 'mark' evidently has not deterred persons who are "always an Eagle" from doing some dreadful things. And even then, those individuals suffer whatever humiliation and shame they feel - and somehow betraying the Eagle rank probably is not very important to them. It evidently IS important, in an almost perverse way, to those of us who think Eagle is so very special. And that is why I am sympathetic to Shortridge's comments. It isn't necessarily a function of what each person who attains Eagle feels, but rather some kind of 'aura' that the rest of the people attach to it. And when an Eagle shows feet of clay, the tsk-tsking is almost audible.

Basement is right. The mills are driven by adults. Remove that external (and I think false) 'aura' and personal achievement and accomplishment will freely return.(This message has been edited by packsaddle)

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Shortridge and Packsaddle,


I'm tracking with your views...I have to bite my tongue when I hear the over-the-top superlatives about the Eagle rank (once/always, marked man, etc.). I keep thinking "Are you kidding me?"


Just a bunch of purple prose designed to give more rah-rah to the ceremony. The presentation of the badge speaks for itself...far more eloquent that the long screed that accompany many Eagle ceremonies today.


I keep quiet about earning Eagle unless its pertinent to a conversation (shooting the breeze, or coaching). Eagle is a moment in time, and the end of the advancement trail...the rank is not a knighthood, or an induction into royalty.


I think some moms and dads sit thru one of these coronations, and then picture their Johnny up there on stage...hard for some parents to resist. Then the parental campaign of Operation EAGLE OR BUST begins.


Many of the best scouters I ever worked with were Star and Life scouts...they have my deepest respect and I look up to them still.

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