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qwazse

Adults Earning Eagle (Or: When More Outdoor Activities Were Required).

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For he first fifty years of the BSA, adults could earn Eagle along with their sons. Bryan's Blog posted Some clippings of how that played out:

http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2015/07/02/10-times-history-adults-earned-eagle-scout-award/

 

I've heard a few reasons why this practice ended. The position of responsibility requirements were added; however, adults hold official and unofficial positions in a troop. Likewise, leading a service project (also a novel requirement at the time) would be as challenging for many adults. One respondent to the blog cited a 1972 handbook: "it would be unfair to permit those over 18 to earn badges since they would be easier for them.†I noticed that this synchronized with a series of changes to the required list of merit badges from which Bird Study, Pioneering, Signaling, and Pathfinding were dropped. All of those were concepts that I've seen challenge adult and boy alike.

 

The addition of bookwork badges to the required list could favor the adult unfairly. But, I'm wondering if the '72 statement is a reversal of causality. That is, without adults in the picture, did BSA have more freedom to add more material that paralleled school life?

 

Was the removal of adult Eagles the first step toward a more indoor program?

Edited by qwazse

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As I said the last time this was discussed, the sources differ as to whether this change was made in 1952 or 1965. I think that knowing when it was made would be the first step in trying to figure out why it was made, because then you could look at other changes that were made at the same time.

 

However, I suspect it was mainly a matter of realizing that in a youth program, it didn't make much sense for adults to be earning the youth advancement awards. I also have had the impression that it was fairly rare for adults to earn Eagle, even though they were allowed to. The "change" may have been more like the closing of a "loophole" rather than an actual change in the program.

 

Added note: I looked at some of the comments about this on Bryan's Blog. One of them says National actually imposed the age limit in 1952 but that a lot of councils ignored it until there was a new change in the requirements in 1965.

Edited by NJCubScouter

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As I said the last time this was discussed, the sources differ as to whether this change was made in 1952 or 1965. I think that knowing when it was made would be the first step in trying to figure out why it was made, because then you could look at other changes that were made at the same time.

 

However, I suspect it was mainly a matter of realizing that in a youth program, it didn't make much sense for adults to be earning the youth advancement awards. I also have had the impression that it was fairly rare for adults to earn Eagle, even though they were allowed to. The "change" may have been more like the closing of a "loophole" rather than an actual change in the program.

 

Added note: I looked at some of the comments about this on Bryan's Blog. One of them says National actually imposed the age limit in 1952 but that a lot of councils ignored it until there was a new change in the requirements in 1965.

I wasn't really trying to sort out the chicken vs. egg ... which is a mess because the idea was promoted over years, and, as you said, different parts of the country bought into two seemingly unrelated notions over the span of a dozen years. Those two ideas were:

  1. The advancement program is "for the boys" and adults in the program should occupy their time with other things (like, say, Wood Badge tickets?).
  2. This is a program "for the boys" and boys in the program need to reinforce some basic knowledge that they may not be getting from other institutions (school, church, home), etc ...

All requirement changes, IMHO, are reactions to a sense of something "slipping through the cracks" (note that Family Life was made required in 1994 ... about the apex of "family values" rhetoric).

 

I'm just wondering about what scouters in 1950 felt was slipping through the cracks.

 

I'm also wondering if the few interested adults were free to go through advancement, would the increased "bookwork" badges have been tolerated?

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My grandfather was a SM during the early part of WW2.  He was draft deferred due to his age and family.  After he died we found a file with his Scout records, including his own advancement.  I think he made it as far as Star but he had to give it up.  His brother was killed at Anzio and he was so angry about it he volunteered for the Army Air Corps.

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Maybe the fact that many scouters had to leave for WWII had something to do with allowing adult advancement to continue.   It is interesting that it was discontinued after being in place for such a long period of time.

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There may be some merit to adults earning Eagle, but it would have to be significantly different.  Currently, scouters are awarded Silver Beaver or District Award of Merit.  They also can earn their Woodbadge beads and other recognition.  I could see it very meaningful for a scouter to be awarded Eagle as recognition.  And, it would eliminate the always clumsy congratulations and/or jokes to one of the genders receiving one of the awards.  

 

It would help make many "committed" volunteers be as full of members as less committed members who earned Eagle in their youth.  

 

It might also have a nice side effect of removing the last minute panic many youth have for earning Eagle before eighteen.  

 

It might have a nice healing opportunity for those who lost out for what ever reason.  They can commit to helping the scouting program as an adult and then receive what they missed out on as a youth.  

 

Just a thought.  I'm not sure I'd really advocate for it.  Just a thought. 

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This is a boys' program. Let's keep it that way.

 

If we are supposed to be pushing the patrol method and getting adults out of the way, let's not put a reason for more adults to get in the way. Would B-P want adults earning a boys' program's top honor?

 

Left for war and could not finish Eagle? Sure. Died premature before finishing Eagle? Absolutely!

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I agree with BadWolf that this particular policy should be kept the way it is. The rank requirements are designed for a specific age group, and that is who should earn them. Adults have a specific role in the program, in service to the youth, and that is what we should be doing.

 

But the historical discussion is kind of interesting. One thing I would like to know is whether the handbooks, advancement guidelines etc. of 1910-1952 ever actually said that adults could continue to work on rank advancement, or whether there was simply a lack of any age limit. In other words, it may be that they simply forgot to specify an age when rank advancement must stop - stranger things have been forgotten - and by the time someone said "Hey, why do we have all these adult men working on merit badges and earning ranks designed for teenagers?", it was too late because by then it was sort of an "entrenched" thing and they didn't want to take away an opportunity that some people were relying on. And it took years before National finally bit the bullet and said Ok, this has to stop - and still more years before they got all the councils to make it stop. Unless someone has any actual evidence to the contrary, I think my "We forgot, and then it was too late" theory sounds pretty plausible.

 

Left for war and could not finish Eagle? Sure.

This actually shouldn't be an issue now because the minimum draft age is, conveniently, the day after all Eagle requirements (except for BOR) must be completed. I am not sure whether the draft age was ever below 18. I am pretty sure it was 18 at the time of WW2 - at which time you could still work on ranks after turning 18. One of the comments on Bryan's blog suggests that this further delayed changing the policy, because if someone was 18 and a half and still working on ranks when they got drafted, when they came back the BSA didn't want to say "tough luck, you missed out on Eagle because you were fighting in a war." My father actually did get a couple of merit badges after turning 18, but I am not sure whether he got any after he returned from the military. (He was drafted about six months after turning 18.) He finished at Star, which he had earned before turning 18.

 

Died premature before finishing Eagle? Absolutely!

There's an award for that, "Spirit of the Eagle." Families of Scouts who have passed away can apply for it.

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I think there's an argument for requiring AS and SM to earn First Class...

 

 

In my opinion,  First Class is the most important rank in Boy Scouts. Star, Life and Eagle are just rehashing things boys should have learned by First Class anyway.

Edited by SeattlePioneer
  • Upvote 1

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There's an award for that, "Spirit of the Eagle." Families of Scouts who have passed away can apply for it.

 

I'm aware of that award but I was talking about Life scouts that may die before Eagle. I get giving a FC or Star scout the Spirit of the Eagle, as they were a bit removed from actually making the rank. But it won't kill BSA to give a Life scout who has succumbed prior to making Eagle an actual posthumous Eagle rank. I'd favor that over any adult getting it.

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Star, Life and Eagle are just rehashing things boys should have learned by First Class anyway.

Really? Of the Eagle required MB's, I think you could make an argument that Swimming, Cooking and Camping are largely repetitive of the T-2-1 requirements, although even then, not completely. I am not sure which other Eagle-required MB's would be a "rehash" of the T-2-1 requirements. I can't think of one offhand. To say nothing of the Eagle project.

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I'd be good with watching a lot of the adults I know try to pass the personal fitness aspects of these rank and MB requirements. Deeeeelicious!

Otherwise, agree with Bad Wolf. Leave it as a boy's program.

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I'd be good with watching a lot of the adults I know try to pass the personal fitness aspects of these rank and MB requirements. Deeeeelicious!

 

That would be very interesting!

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... I could see it very meaningful for a scouter to be awarded Eagle as recognition. ...

I don't see us in a position of reopening this to adult leaders simply because of the sex bias. Worthy female venturers would see the opportunity to advance to first class while serving as ASM then vie for candidacy in O/A as a youth. Although some chiefs in the Brotherhood are on record as welcoming young women, the prevailing attitude among scouters has silenced all such aspirations. There are probably a half dozen other ways that adults being on the advancement track while women below the age of 18 are not would cause controversy.

 

This is a boys' program. Let's keep it that way.

See, that's the interesting thing. There was a point where people didn't say that. The handbooks referred to the "scout" advancing. Then after 1950 the discussion is about a "boy" advancing with the implicit attitude that the adults are beyond that sort of thing!

 

If we are supposed to be pushing the patrol method and getting adults out of the way, let's not put a reason for more adults to get in the way.

Ya sure, 'cause in the past 50 years, since they weren't occupied with their own advancement, adults have avoided mucking up the patrol method. ;)

 

Would B-P want adults earning a boys' program's top honor?

Well, he lived only when adults could earni it. I'll leave it to those who've collected his speeches to provide any statement of his that would speak to the matter. It would be rather obtuse, since he did not seem to mettle in the design of other scouting organizations beyond encouraging them to press on. It may help to note that the age limit for Queen's Scout is currently 25. Not sure what it was historically.

 

Whatever transpired to make us think so categorrically about youth vs. adult awards, I don't think it was any particular opinion of scouting's founders.

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@@qwazse I'm sure the NESA has all your answers. Given the focus of Scouting for Boys I'd be really surprised if B-P gave much lip service to adults in scouting other than reminding them to stay out of the way.

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