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What are the causes of the Eagle Mill?

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The term "Eagle Mill" does seem a bit pejorative. Why do we need to give such a label to other troops? It may indeed be the case that some troops focus more on the advancement method. Does that mean we need to insult them? It almost feels like those using the term are offended by the troops that do this. Is it because those troops make it easier for boys to get Eagle?


The troop I grew up in was barely functional, very disorganized, had a few sporadic camping trips. We had fun when we did stuff, but we were in no way an Eagle mill. Some troops focus on the outdoors method, some on the uniform method, some on advancement, some on the patrol method, some on leadership. My troop growing up did none of those. I think that the one troop in town that consistently turned out Eagles did more camping than my troop did, more patrol work than my troop, more leadership development than my troop. I don't know why I'd want to insult them by calling them an Eagle mill.


Even if we were to agree on some definition of an Eagle mill (and we won't, I know), I'm not sure what the point would be. Would those troops be better if they just became all disorganized and stopped working on anything? Or sat on their applications?


Eagle mill has been defined in the past on the forum - people throw out things like: a very high focus on advancement, typically including merit badge classes as meetings, adult run meetings, boys have a schedule for when they will receive each rank, boys advance in lockstep, etc. Even if we all were to agree we wouldn't want to be in that troop, I don't see how insulting them helps. If you want to convince them that there is a better way, might it be better to talk about the way things could be, rather than just disparaging the current status?


If you are currently using the term "Eagle mill" to refer to other troops, let me ask this: what would convince you to stop using an insulting term (and it's definitely perceived as insulting) for other Scouts and Scouters?

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Oak Tree, there are a couple more possibilities that perhaps we could consider. One possibility is that the existing programs, in whatever form they exist now, are allowed to remain what they are, perhaps encouraged, by BSA. It is possible that the 'aura' toward Eagle and the 'Eagle Mill' idea are the outcome of a desire by BSA to achieve greater numbers. The emphasis on the rank of Eagle certainly does bring greater public awareness and perhaps greater public esteem to the program. To inexperienced persons, as noted in earlier posts, this would naturally lead to the emphasis and to programs where the characteristics seem to fit those of the stereotype.


Another related possibility is that the implicit allowance of a 'local option' approach by BSA, again with the goal of making people happy and boosting numbers, naturally lends itself to a situation where different units pursue their own different programs. In that case, human tendencies alone, combined with competition between units for the boys, could produce the same outcome as the first possibility.


In both cases, adults whose interest is honed by whatever they collectively choose (including the top rank) and untempered by a deeper understanding of it, drive the units to whatever fate their programs meet. If BSA does nothing to 'correct' this variability, the things we are wringing our hands over are almost inevitable. And, I add, as long as BSA continues to allow this implicitly, it is also an implicit endorsement of 'local option'. It could be that THAT is the real direction things are moving toward. I suggest that unless there is a strong 'crackdown' and attempt at control by BSA, it is virtually unstoppable.

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Horizon......Hitting a bit close to home????????


How can a 13 or 14 year old take the Eagle Charge? Heck at 14 I am not even sure we have got a peek at the man he is going to become.


Our Troop hasn't had an Eagle in more than 10 years, we have lost the boys at 15 because of a very repetitive program. The previous SM was 70 years old and couldn't camp any more.....That has changed and we are currently poised to have our first eagle, I sat down and chatted with him about his project ideas and offered a bit of advice, later I called the District Eagle Board rep and asked for some guidance.


I am going to say that our troop is in the traditional sense.....the boys earn a rank or two a year. We don't focus solely on advancement. We love the outdoors, fishing campouts, shooting camp outs, hiking, backpacking.......


Pack.....if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck.


While there is no rule against Eagle mills, I bet the adult leadership of an eagle mill troop can quote you the advancement rules, It is against the SPIRIT of scouting. A scout is supposed to be unselfish and giving, advancement is not that for sure.


I believe Eagle Mills are contrary to the vision of Seton, Beard and Powell.



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I am trying to do some research and find out if it is really true that there are more Eagles today than there were 20, 30, 40 years ago, in terms of percentages. I really can't find those statistics and reference them.


However, in presentations and rah rah type meetings, I seem to recall that the percentage of scouts that make Eagle is around 2% or so. Someone please correct me if I am wrong.


The point is, I am not sure that the percentage has changed over the years. If it "seems" that there are a lot of Eagles running around today it maybe just because there are more scouts running around today in terms of absolute numbers. But I would bet that in percentage terms, it's the same amount.


A troop could put a lot of emphasis on advancement (and I still don't think that's wrong), but at the end of the day, the scout has to want to do it. And no matter how much hand holding those "Eagle Mills" (a term I really hate by the way) do, the boys gotta sit down, learn the stuff, and get up and DO the stuff.

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I don't have any figures to go on, but I strongly suspect that the percentage is higher today. Perhaps part of the reason is the existence somewhere of the dreaded "Eagle Mills".


But I think a much bigger reason for a higher percentage is not a higher numerator (number of Eagles), but a lower denominator (number of kids in Scouting in the first place).


Back in my day, our troop contained mostly kids who had no particular interest in Scouting. They were there because (1) their parents thought it was a good idea, and (2) in general, they had fun at most of the activities, so they didn't bother rebelling too much against their parents.


Most of those kids stuck around until about 7th or 8th grade. In the process, they had fun, they learned a few outdoors skills, and they probably had their "character" built. Then, they had other conflicting activities, such as sports, school, girls, etc., and they eventually drifted away from the troop.


There was another group of kids (such as myself) who were more gung ho about Scouting. Many of them (such as myself) were nerdy kids who didn't have much interest in sports, were afraid to talk to girls, etc. We stuck around through high school, and most of us earned Eagle without much difficulty, mostly by just engaging in normal Scout activities.


Most of the first group got to about First Class or so. Most of the second group got to Life or Eagle.


As far as I can tell, that first group is now largely gone, or at least there aren't nearly as many of them. By the time they're old enough to join Scouts, they're probably already engaged in other activities. And there's no longer a universal belief that Scouting is a good thing. So fewer kids are pushed into joining by their parents.


The second group is probably still there in about the same numbers, or maybe even larger. Since those kids are more likely to earn Eagle in the first place, that skews the numbers.

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Clemlaw, I actually think you hit the nail on the head.


I think you are right in saying that nowadays, if a boy is still in Scouts beyond 8th grade, it is because he is really dedicated to scouting itself, and thus much more likely to become Eagle, regardless of parent or troop intervention.


It really breaks my heart to see already amongst my son's peers (he's going into 5th grade) that scouting just isn't all that "cool" and that being heavily involved in a sport is much, much better. Of course my son has a number of really good friends that are scouts, plus a heavy dose of adults he cares and respects that place a good emphasis on the "coolness" factor of scouting so he's not very bothered by those kids that think kicking a ball is way better than camping for a weekend.


It would be interesting to see what percentage of boy scouts drop out in high school today versus say 30 years ago. I can't find those numbers either.

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I'm not a fan of Eagle mills, but I think your comment goes too far. They are just another variety of Scouting that some boys and parents may choose in my opinion.


I think they are primarily the product of adults who figure out the most efficient methods of carrying their son into the Eagle's nest. It's a product of being goal oriented and efficient.



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The percentage of Scouts who earn Eagle is about 5-6% per year, (something like 50,000 out of 900,000), but since the average Scout is a member for multiple years, the actual percentage is more like 16% (out of the 300,000 or so Scouts who join each year, 50,000 will earn Eagle at some point).


They used to say the percentage was 2%. Some parts of the Eagle requirements have definitely become easier over the years - for example, back in the 1940's you had to have 50 nights of camping to get the Camping merit badge, and now it's 20 nights. But there are many other changes to the culture as well that could be more responsible for the increasing number of Eagles.

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Maybe the negative side of that, momof2, are the boys who don't care much for Scouting, drop out by the 8th or 9th grade, but do so having earned Eagle. No particular point to be made, just a thought....


Who asked for a definition of and Eagle Mill? Here's one:


An Eagle mill is a troop with a program structure making the completion of requirements for ranks and merit badges as easy and convenient as possible for both youth and adults. The emphasis is on process over experience. Symptoms include:


-- Group sign-off of requirements

-- A one-and-done approach to completing Scout skills

-- Merit badges classes instead of troop meetings

-- An emphasis on a strict First-Class-First-Year progam (especially if all Scouts earn ranks as a group)

-- Selecting summer camps based on the potential for earning the maximum number of MBs

-- Attendance at Merit Badge Universities

-- Encouraging the use of MeritBadge.com work sheets instead of real one-on-one mentoring

-- Cookie-cutter Eagle projects

-- An "everyone-gets-a-turn" approach to leadership positions

-- Marginally-qualified merit badge counselors instead of true experts in a field or at least a real passion for a subject.


Oak -- I won't disagree with you about "Eagle Mills" being a rather pejorative term. But it's rather like a good ol' anglo-saxon swear word. While it offends some, it effectively and efficently communicates a great deal of meaning and everyone with a third grade education understands it. What would your preference be?



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"I think they are primarily the product of adults who figure out the most efficient methods of carrying their son into the Eagle's nest. It's a product of being goal oriented and efficient. "


And isn't scouting supposed to be boy led????? Efficient is not the way a typical boy lead troop functions. Given a choice do 11 and 12 year olds want to sit at a table at the scout meeting doing merit badges or play british bull dog. Or go to a merit badge university or go canoeing for a week. The boys want to be active, the Adults want awards.


2cubs your point is excellent and thought provoking. So do you want a 13 year with an eagle who could care less about it???? or a 15 year old who understands the significance, amount of work and sacrifices made?












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One thing that I have observed is that some come to think of Eagle as the be-all, end-all of the Scouting experience. They forget about the point of the exercise (namely to prepare young men for parcipating citizenship) and make it about how many Eagles they can "produce." National's "marketing" of the Eagle "brand" doesn't help.

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Yes, you're right - it's convenient to have a short-hand notation for the set of behaviors. It's especially convenient when discussing types of troops. As with many of these things, it's one thing when you're talking about a group, it's another thing when you are talking to a troop. And here on the internet, we're always doing both.


It doesn't seem like a particularly courteous term, and I think people do use it (not all, just some) as a way to put down other troops' programs, and that doesn't seem necessary to me.


As for what I would prefer, I'm not sure. For one thing, the term is used by different people to mean different things. What if a troop shows about half the signs that you list? Are they an Eagle mill?


My general rule would be to use a term that the group themselves would choose. I don't think that any of these terms would have quite the same 'grabbiness' of the term Eagle mill, but maybe that's partly because the term captures a little bit of the frustration that people often use to refer to those that consistently do better on some measure.


When I google "Eagle mill" or "Eagle factory", I find lots of troops that say that they are not those. I think that some people use the term to refer to any troop that produces a lot of Eagles, and of course, some (many) of those troops are units that put on a great program.


Maybe the Eagle mills would describe themselves as "Advancement-oriented troops", or "Organized advancement troops" or "Eagle-expected troop" or "a troop with a plan to get every boy to Eagle"


Homework assignment: Find a troop that you believe is an Eagle mill. Ask a leader in that troop whether they would agree with the term, and if not, what term would they use to capture the meaning? How do they advertise themselves to potential recruits?


I have no expectation of being able to stamp out the term - I'm just asking people think a little bit about whether they really want to use a term that other troops might find insulting.

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Lack of training on the part of the SM,ASM's and Committee. easy way out for the troop leaders. They do such an injustice to the boys and they miss so much. I have seen 13 or 14 year old Eagles who couldn't lead a stick.


Parents still in the Cub Scout mode and see it as another line on their college application. It takes boys longer to mature and develop, parents don't always see it that way.


Our troop tries to provide a soild outdoor program, to teach basic life skills and to let each boy advance at his own pace, not all boys want to be Eagle Scouts. They are there for the program and to have fun and if that's the case so be it. I will not cave into parents who start pushing, I ask them to back off and give the boy some space to develop and if they keep on that track I tell them to start looking for another troop.



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