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mwhittington

Asst. Scoutmaster / District Advancement chairman

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I had a call today from a DE questioning a policy that the District set long before my involvement.

Our District gives each prospective Eagle scout a guidebook to help with the project as well as prepare for the Eagle board of review. It contains things like what kind of questions to expect, helps in assembling the book, etc. It also contains a form for attendance and states that District policy is 70% unit participation over the last year and participation in at least four overnight camping trips.

A scout went to the Council office and complained which prompted the call from the DE. He stated that we, as a district, could not enforce this policy.

I would like to know what other Districts do and what others think of this policy. I feel that in some ways, the Eagle requirements have been watered down in the past few years. At what point do we stop trying to make the rank of Eagle something worthy of those who go the extra mile?

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This same subject has been discussed in other threads, although those discussions dealt with setting expectations for participation at the unit level for ranks below eagle. The general consensus was that a unit committee was within its rights to set standards, and indeed should set some sort of standard for participation for rank advancement. In my mind the same logic should extend to the district and how it handles eagle advancement. Whether the right number is 70% or some other number is something one can argue about, but I don't see how any eagle board can judge and pass on an eagle application without some notion of a standard. The other point that came out of the other threads was that such expectations need to be communicated to all involved early in the process. It sounds like you are doing that. I think that boards should be given some flexibility in applying standards such as a four night standard. There could be a variety of extenuating circumstances that could influence a scout's participation and boards should be able and willing to consider such facts.

 

One district I was involved in had a numerical standard for eagle projects. The idea was that 40 hours of effort, other than the effort of the eagle applicant, was the minimum expected for a project. If one of the purposes of an eagle project is to demonstrate leadership, one measure of the effort led is the hours put in. All eagle applicants had to submit some kind of time record showing dates and names to substantiate the effort. Nobody ever had a problem with that policy. What is different about setting a standard for participation?

 

I would be inclined to resist this directive from the DE and take it up, first in the district committee, and then at the council level.

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Districts do NOT have authorization to set standards outside of the National program. I couldn't believe what I was reading. There is a "Life To Eagle" package from National, available at your Council's office. It breaks down the Eagle advancement process, and has an excellent section on Eagle Projects and required paperwork. A Troop's adult leadership (Committee and Staff), have current and complete knowledge of an individual Scout's participation in the Troop's program. Levels of activity, participation, leadership, training, etc., are discussed well in advance of a Scout completing any rank.

A Council's District Staff does NOT have knowledge of individual Troop programs, or of individual Scouts, in order to make some sort of District advancement policy outside of the National program. Nor should it. So, this should answer your question of what other Districts do. All nine Districts in our Council do nothing!!!!

 

sst3rd

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It has been some time since I looked at an eagle package. There is a general rule that merit badge counselors and volunteers do not have the authority to re-write the rules or requirements, with the exception of the lower ranks where disabilities or medical or safety considerations may be involved.

 

However, a general requirement such as "Be active in your troop and patrol for at least 6 months as a Life Scout," needs some definition. Does that mean just maintain registration? Maybe the burden is more on the unit to enforce some notion of "be active" before the scoutmaster and the chair sign off on an eagle application, and the district should do nothing about this. But somebody ought to set some standards somewhere, and new life scouts should be advised of those standards so they know what is expected.

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The requirement eisely refers to is on e that was written long ago when folks probably had a better handle on what "being active" meant, without having to have it defined with a number. Today, we've lost that ability, and everything we do in life has to defined by some sort of number or percentage or written target. This didn't happen overnight. It's happened over generations, and now we can't do anything without having specificity being the watch word. The rules and guidelines, when first written, were general in nature, allowing for adult leaders to judge each boy on his abilities and nature. Today, we seem to need specific numbers and targets. Close enough doesn't work any more, for boys or their parents, or for leaders for that matter.

 

That being said, and knowing that what used to be, will not be again, I'd have to agree with eisely that perhaps the National Council has to revisit many of the requirements in Scouting that are still "general" in nature, such as Scout Spirit and being active, and redefine them with numbers and percentages, so that the thinking part of judging each Scout along the way is eliminated.

 

Too bad.

 

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I'm going to take a chance here and hope that the author, from another website won't be unhappy with me..............

 

In a discussion at that website about a young man turned down for Eagle due to lack of time in position as a leader, the author posted the following, which I think has relevance to the discussion here:

 

 

"With regard to the question of "is there a certain

percent that a scout must attend in order to

advance in rank?", the simple answer is ABSOLUTELY

NOT. BSA's position is that any Scout that is

REGISTERED, is active, no matter how many meetings

he attends, and no unit may impose a attendance

requirement, since that would be "an addition to

the published requirements".

 

There is an "INACTIVE" registration status, but

that is designed and intended to be used for such

cases as retired Scouters in nursing homes, and

Scouts attending boarding schools away from their

home units, etc. where the individuals wish to

maintain their affiliation status only.

 

As for "Scout Spirit, the requirement is

"Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath

(Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life."

Note that there is NOTHING there about attendance,

and that it only refers to how he "Lives his

life".

 

So, if he meets the PUBLISHED requirements, with

nothing added or deleted, you must allow him to

advance.

 

If he's registered, you are giving him merit badge

cards, he's using the counselors you have

assigned, and he's earning the merit badges, he IS

active.

 

Similarly, if the SPL has assigned him a position

of responsibility, and allowed him to remain in

that position, no matter how well or poorly he has

carried out the duties, for the requisite period,

he has met THAT requirement as well."

 

Basically what this says is that we can't redefine the requirements by adding percentages or numbers. Perhaps that is to our disadvantage these days. Many people do, though, and even at that website, there's a publication by a fellow that defines each and every boy position in Scouting and gives minumum percentages for attendance for each, at least in the authors eyes. I know troops that used that guide as gospel for attendance and time in position. For sure, if National was to redefine the requirements with numbers and percentages, for they seem to be the only ones who can or should be doing that, it would take the guesswork for many out of the equation. But then, would that be to the benefit of all boys? How about two boys of equal ability, both of whom complete the requirements, both of whom show leadership abilities, one of whom attends 90%, and the other 65%. Do we deny the boy with the lower percentage, based on numbers, all else being equal?

 

I'm not sure, myself.

 

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Eisely and Jmc both talk about how "general" requirements don't work anymore. This is so true. Same subject came up in a discussion at work where a group thinks there has to be a specific form and written procedure for everything done in the company. And in this case we are talking about highly paid and educated adults! Anyone heard of common sense? Can we not trust others to use their best judgment?

 

We do seem to have become a society that is all about specific wording, ignoring the intent and big picture. I know my own 10 year old already tries to do this with me "but you didn't say for me NOT to do THIS, you only said don't do THAT." Or "you said I could watch 30 minutes of TV, the commercials don't count so I get to keep watching."

 

Oh, if I only had the answer to this dilema! Then I could write a book and get rich!

 

 

 

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There was at least one other thread in this forum recently where the question of active participation and performance of a leadership position was thrashed out at length. One of the better points made was that the rank requirement did not require a boy to be all that successful as a leader, merely to have served. I don't have a problem with that as long as the boy has tried.

 

What I think bothers a lot of people is waving scouts through ranks who have done absolutely nothing in the position they hold. We are trying to be a little bit tougher and more consistent about this in our troop after a recent dispute of this nature, not at the eagle level. I think what it comes down to is a willingness on the part of a scoutmaster to remove a boy from a position if that boy is doing absolutely nothing. Better the position be vacant than give credit where credit is not due.

 

The point about the lack of authority of districts and units to "add requirements" is well taken, but does that mean there should be no standard at all?

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I appreciate all the replies and look forward to more. Those so far have given me a lot of insight. One point was made, and well taken, that if a boy is assigned a leadership position, does nothing with it, and the troop leadership allows him to finish his tenure, then the troop leadership has failed the boy and the troop. As the District advancement chair, I have no problem making this "additional requirement" go away. I do feel however that there should be some kind of standard set at each troop. It does not have to be a actual number, but each boy should be observed and we should note his efforts and the growth in his abilities.

I did find out that the particular boy in question has not met unit participation requirements,in fact, he has not done anything at all this year. He has been a Life Scout with his Eagle project completed for almost two years now and all of these issues were raised about a week before his eighteenth b-day. On top of it all, his Scoutmaster would not sign the application because he felt that the boy had not even tried to meet any standards at all. Even if the District participation rule was a problem, the boy has known about it since his Eagle preparation class over two years ago and has had ample time to question it.

On another note, this is my first time in a forum like this, but it will not be my last. Being able to gain wisdom from scouters all over the nation has been great. Thank you!!

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Hmmmm . . . I would question the worthiness of any eagle candidate attempting to squeak by on a technicality such as challenging the definition of "active in the troop". Everyone ought to know what "active" means, and we don't need numbers from National to tell us. Get real.

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I have a question mwhittington about the scout in question. You said he had done his Eagle project 2 years ago and had been inactive in the troop, I take that to mean inactive since completion of the Eagle Project. When he did his Eagle project, did he have all his merit badges done or were they done shortly after? (2-3 months)? If he had sent in his Eagle Application within 4 months of completion of the Eagle Project, would the Scoutmaster have signed it then?

 

How many scouts make Eagle at 15 or 16, submit applications, receive Eagle and are never heard of again? Are they still Eagles? Should the fact this scout delayed his application cause him to be denied Eagle? As I read the requirements, the scout is to hold a position of leadership for 6 months while a Life Scout, did the scout fulfill this requirement? If he did, and completed all his merit badges and completed his project then he is an Eagle. The fact that he has been inactive for 2 years after that, while regretable, should not effect his receiving the award. He "earned" Eagle when his merit badges, project and leadership requirement was met. As much as I abhor paper Eagles, I would also not appreciate denying an Eagle based on the paperwork being delayed, as long as it is in before his 18th birthday.

 

Yes, some may argue that just earning Eagle and dropping out is wrong, and I beleive it is, but I also wouldnt want this scout to feel the wrath caused by other scouts

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Responding further to two additional points made:

 

The 6 months service in a leadership position need not be the most recent six months. As OGE suggests, the boy who is the subject of this thread may well have done his six months while a life scout some time ago. If the boy in question has simply been sitting on his application for two years, that does not reflect favorably on him, but by itself is not grounds for rejection. One presumes the unit adult leadership, who are much closer to the facts of this situation, know what they are doing.

 

I am fortunate to live in an area where the number of boys completing eagle is unusually high. I have been told that our district produces more eagles than any other district in the nation, presumably on a per capita basis. This could be a local urban legend, but I do know that there are a lot eagles. I think we had seven eagles in one year in our troop. I am not aware of any district level standards here for participation or leaderhsip roles or anything else. Most troops in this district have an additional committee position called "eagle coordinator." This is an adult who takes on a long term commitment to stay in touch with all the life scouts to monitor their progress, mentor them, etc. Certainly "quality control" is a primary unit responsibility before an application for eagle is signed off.

 

Responding to FScouter, I suspect that the idea of putting some kind of numerical standards in at the national level has been kicked around more than once at the national level. I would agree that I think that it would be a mistake for national to do this. That imposes a heavier burden on units that much unit level leadership doesn't even think about until there is a controversy. Personally I would advocate that units should set participation standards in the form of a minimal amount of "showing up." I think it was Woody Allen who said that 90% of life is just showing up. If we can't get youth leaders to even show up, then they should be removed from the position after a reasonable period of time, say three months, not get credit, and the opportunity passed to some other boy.

 

Welcome aboard mwhittington. We look forward to hearing more from you.

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To answer a few questions. The scout in question finished his Eagle project, but still had a couple of merit badges left to go. He finished those up about six months or so after the project. He did not submit his application until very recently. Would the scoutmaster haved signed it then? I cannot answer this one. The young man's excuse for not coming to meetings and campouts is that he was playing basketball and trying for a b-ball scholarship. According to someone in the troop, his attendance over the past 18 or so months could be counted on onehand with a few fingers left. I'm really beginning to think that the mom wants him to have it more than he wants it. I have also heard words used such as disrespectful, wild, non caring. Obviously the scoutmaster has a better handle on this than anyone else. It's a shame that the district was passed the blame when obviously there is more to the story. As the days pass, the story grows and the picture seems to become more clear.

I do like the idea of having an adult to monitor the Eagle candidate's progress. Some boys in scouts do no have the ever mindful parent checking on them and this would be a help to them especially.

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You need to ask the Scoutmaster that if the scout gave him the application when the merit badges were done, would he have signed it. Still not answered is the question if the leadership requirement was fulfilled at the same time as the project and merit badges. As far as the "stories" of being wild etc, Does the troop have documentation that the scout was told he was wild and this would impact his Eagle? And the behavior continued?

 

Perhaps the driving the right now is the mother, but if the scout earned the Rank, he deserves the rank.

 

If anyone chokes when I ask for documentation from the troop about a conference between a scout and scoutmaster concerning rank, this comment comes from experience. We had a similar situation and the boy appealed it to council and won. if you or the scoutmaster are planning on denying Eagle to the scout, you should be sure you can prove everything that is alleged. DO I like taking this approach? NOT AT ALL, was I totally frustrated and irritated when I saw my "test" scout wearing an Eagle badge? COMPLETELY!!!

 

I hate scouting has gone this way, but to protect the integrity of the rank, it must be done

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mwhittington,

 

Sounds like this could get very ugly before it is totally resolved. Good luck. Let us know the outcome. We can all learn from each others' experiences.

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