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WisconsinMomma

Let's talk about the Eagle Scout journey

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Hi Scouters,

I'm interested in hearing your perspectives of how Scouts should or should not pursue the rank of Eagle Scout.  OK, maybe this is a dumb question, but what are your thoughts and feelings about a boy's journey through Scouting whether he achieves Eagle rank or not?

I am observing, through adult discussion, two Eagle candidates who seem to be close to their 18th birthdays,  who need to complete one or more merit badges very soon.  Like, very soon, as in, they may not make it all the way to Eagle, they may stop short at 90% or thereabouts.  

Of course, missing a goal is a huge lesson, but I'm curious how often this happens, and what you think about letting kids fail.  Also, what do you think about the process of Scouts going after the Eagle rank?  Many here say that it's not about advancement -- does that mean you let the scouts navigate everything on their own?  Eagle Scout takes a lot of paperwork and some planning for how a Scout will get through all the ranks and all the merit badges.  Do only Scouts with superior organizational skills achieve it?  

I will be curious to see how the next month or two goes for the Scouts.  Wish them luck! 

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Good questions, and they really get at the crux of our culture wars when it comes to parenting these days.

The boys you mention are Life scouts, I assume. Then they are already successful boys. It's okay if they are not Eagle scouts. Not a problem. I've been at university graduations where the valedictorian proudly had "Life Scout" in on his bio.

People sometimes talk about this age 18 deadline. They had seven years to proceed through a 3 year process. Nearly all of us boys know this. We all come in, add up the time requirements in our books, and think to ourselves, "Easy-peasy. I got plenty of time." That thinking is even worse when your first PL earned it at age 14!

I personally don't like the deadline, I'd rather boys/men make rank without the last-minute pressure by anyone in their family. Some parents' would cry a lot less if their scout just said, "I'm gonna finish this when I'm a scoutmaster ..." instead of "That's it, I'm not earning it." However, my bet is without the deadline there would be fewer Eagles as many of these boys simply procrastinate indefinitely. Do you really think, if there were no deadline, those couple boys you mention would sign up as an SM/ASM, serve diligently, and earn Eagle in the next couple of years?

I'll take life scout (the concept, not the patch) any day over some hurry-up Eagle.

I too hate the paperwork miasma, but I've known scouts with terrible organizational skills earn Eagle. How? They started early ... having earned Life around age 15, and starting on Personal Management ASAP, then their project a month or so after ... that gave them plenty of time to blunder over mistakes ... they just had to be tenacious for a year or two!

Only scouts with superior tenacity earn Eagle.

Now, I do approve of the family devoting time to trying out some MB's that the boy may be interested in. If brother is earning Swimming, get sister or grandma into lessons at the same time!

But the paper-chase, that should be the boy's business. There's hardly a job out there today that doesn't require organizational skills -- and fending off the revenuers requires careful collection of receipts!

As a crew advisor and ASM, I've dealt with boys who aged out at Life rank regularly. They've grown up strong and good. Mostly, they learned to do what they would have needed to earn Eagle rank. They just happened to learn it after age 18.

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Every youth that truly wants to pursue his Eagle Scout Awards should be encouraged, mentored and assisted appropriately. It should be their decision and desire that is driving it though, not the parents, SM or anyone else.

For some Scouts, Eagle is just not their goal, and that is perfectly fine. Scouting is not, and should not be, about achieving Eagle Scout. Character, citizenship (including leadership), and fitness are the goals, and what we should be trying to instill in every youth. If we do not make every effort to instill those three characteristics into Scouts, then it is our failure, not the youths, but not achieving Eagle is not a failure on the Scouts part. Most never make it, (94-98% depending on how you want to slice the numbers). But those 90%+ have hopefully learned a great deal that will help them to be a success throughout life, had experiences they may not have had otherwise and made lasting friends and memories.

I would say the only superior skills required are determination, discipline and handwork. While it may be easier for some Scouts because of an abundance of skills and smarts, Eagle Scout is not out of reach of any young man. But sitting on the coach and waiting for it to come to you will not get it done.

I do tell my Scouts I have never had an Eagle Scout tell me they regret earning their Eagle, but I have had countless others tell me they regret not getting theirs. I don't harp on that point, but I do try to get them to understand that someday the rank of Eagle may mean more to them than it does now, but it will be something they can not longer earn. I also tell them if they learn to live the Oath and Law in their every day life I am as proud of them as I would be any Eagle Scout, because that is the measure of a man, not the rank he earned as a Scout.

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1 hour ago, WisconsinMomma said:

Hi Scouters,

I'm interested in hearing your perspectives of how Scouts should or should not pursue the rank of Eagle Scout.  OK, maybe this is a dumb question, but what are your thoughts and feelings about a boy's journey through Scouting whether he achieves Eagle rank or not?

I am observing, through adult discussion, two Eagle candidates who seem to be close to their 18th birthdays,  who need to complete one or more merit badges very soon.  Like, very soon, as in, they may not make it all the way to Eagle, they may stop short at 90% or thereabouts.  

Of course, missing a goal is a huge lesson, but I'm curious how often this happens, and what you think about letting kids fail.  Also, what do you think about the process of Scouts going after the Eagle rank?  Many here say that it's not about advancement -- does that mean you let the scouts navigate everything on their own?  Eagle Scout takes a lot of paperwork and some planning for how a Scout will get through all the ranks and all the merit badges.  Do only Scouts with superior organizational skills achieve it?  

I will be curious to see how the next month or two goes for the Scouts.  Wish them luck! 

In the case of the 17 year old Life Scouts working on Eagle, I will do whatever I need to do to help them earn the MBs needed, and what I need to do to help them with the project (reviewing paperwork, etc.).  That said, they have to do their part, and if they don't, well, that's not my fault. They just can't say that I didn't do exactly what I need to do.  

Scouts who are active or have pushy parents are the ones who get Eagle, IMHO, for the most part.    

 

The Eagle journey is different for each Scout.  

Edited by perdidochas

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50 minutes ago, Tampa Turtle said:

Depends on the boy. Does the boy really want it? How bad does he want it? Some boys even at 18 may lack organizational abilities because of a disability and that becomes an obstacle. Others lose interest...I give 'the speech' and move on. I know in my Troop adults will work hard to remove any artificial obstacles for a boy making a good faith effort. Several times I have been 'on call' for last minute sign offs for one of my Eagle required Merit Badges if I know ahead of time. If I am going to be out of town I will suggest other MBC's that I trust and give them a heads up (but I never tell the boy). Some just plumb run out of time.

If a boy is a terrific Life Scout and has had a great youth career than praise, praise, praise him. Too many parents (and Scouters) are transmitting the attitude that not getting Eagle is a failure. Wrong, wrong, wrong. We had a SM once who was forever telling the boys "not to go from Life to Stupid". I hated that. Eagle should be something that you accumulate along while having fun. Don't even get me started on the boys who skipped along to Eagle with the minimum MB's and camping nights. 

One son of mine took 4 hours to fill out that dang Eagle Proposal even though he had it all figured it out because writing and computers were hard for him. Our Life to Eagle Coordinator (God Bless Her) spent those 4 hours on the phone talking him through it, asking him questions, encouraging him. He has problems communicating and having to solicit folks for fund raising was a major accomplishment for him but he needed some coaching. Seemed fair too me. He really wanted Eagle since Tiger and was very, very active scout other than that.

My other son could do it all on his own but is very dyslexic and has terrible time planning. I pretty much left him alone other than sitting him down when he was 6 months out with a Calendar and telling him the facts of life about all his remaining requirements and extracurriculars. He pulled everything off at the last minute and got lucky nothing went wrong but if it had it would be on him. He was very well liked by Scouts and Scouters and I had to tell folks to back off and let him struggle because he needed that experience.

Stopping at 90% is painful but why did he stop? Do you know? I see sometimes an act of teen rebellion, others poor planning. The best you can do is advise them of the pros and cons, maybe provide them some information, and remove any artificial road blocks. Do as a leader see a boy aging out as Life a failure? While getting a Mentor Pin is nice (alas we career ASM's seem to get so few compared to SM and Life to Eagle coordinators) I'd measure more did you help a youth through a rough patch or contribute toward making a better citizen or human being? 

I do agree. One of the best Scouts in our Troop was a Life (now for Life).  IMHO, he didn't finish because of three reasons: 1) he was academically gifted (and identified as such), he never had to work hard at anything in school to get by; 2) the fumes --perfume and a job to get a better car than the one his dad gave him; and 3) a bit of a rebellion against his Eagle Scout/Scoutmaster dad.  

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1 hour ago, WisconsinMomma said:

Of course, missing a goal is a huge lesson, but I'm curious how often this happens, and what you think about letting kids fail.  Also, what do you think about the process of Scouts going after the Eagle rank?  Many here say that it's not about advancement -- does that mean you let the scouts navigate everything on their own?  Eagle Scout takes a lot of paperwork and some planning for how a Scout will get through all the ranks and all the merit badges.  Do only Scouts with superior organizational skills achieve it? 

What do I think of the process? Hmmm, that's an open question. First of all, let's not forget methods vs aims or goals. So I'm fine with scouts that that don't want to complete Eagle. Anyway, the process is long and confusing. There are thousands of lines of requirements and they have little to do with the aims. Eagle is not proof that the aims of scouting have been met. This is not understood and is the source of so much grief.

This is not to say that I have no interest in scouts earning Eagle. I'm interested in helping scouts that are developing character in the process of earning Eagle. So, if a scout is torn between helping the PLC and completing Life in time to get Eagle before his 18th birthday then I will help him out. If I can use that moment to teach a scout about time management (and he's listening) then I'll ask questions and try to get his mind back on the critical path. If, on the other hand, I have a scout that never shows up, is selfish, and just never helps out anywhere ask me to sign off something that he did months ago, that I never saw, then I'll likely follow the letter of the law and tell the scout to find someone that saw him do it to sign off.

So, regarding superior organizational skills, I recognize those scouts that are dealing with a really confusing eagle packet and are struggling with it. If they're honestly trying I will ask questions that will help them out. Ultimately it's always up to the scout.

I'm not sure if this is fair or right but that's what I did. I stepped down as SM mostly because I was tired of dealing with the advancement as aim problem.

As for your two scouts that have a month or two to finish one or two MBs, they have plenty of time. If they're having fun in scouts they'll make it work. Right now they're dealing with finals in school.

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2 hours ago, WisconsinMomma said:

OK, maybe this is a dumb question, but what are your thoughts and feelings about a boy's journey through Scouting whether he achieves Eagle rank or not?

I don't think boys should view advancement as either a goal or an achievement. It should be something that just happens sometimes during the course of a journey, like finding a really neat shiny stone while strolling down a path.

 

 

Edited by David CO

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Interesting question. For some Scouters, and most especially parents, not getting Eagle is considered failure. To them I quote: "Failure, the best teacher it is."

BUT WHAT DID THE SCOUT FAIL AT REALLY? 

The goal of  Scouting is NOT earning Eagle, but "...helping boys become men, training them for citizenship." Will that "Life for life" be a good citizen? That is what we should be asking.

The Scout who saved my life in Canada never got past Star. Do I consider him a failure because he didn't earn Eagle and I did. No I do not.

Do I consider the Scout who has no interest at all on working on advancement a failure because he is happy to remain a First Class Scout, despite meeting the requirements for Star? No I do not. He's been a great PL, SPL and other roles.

As others said, it's a journey. Key is to have fun and learn.

 

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I started scouts as a cub.  Earned Life by age 14.  Completed the last bit of stuff 4 months before my 18th.  I enjoyed the program.   I got a lot out of the program and it very strongly influenced who I became as an adult.  For the intervening years between 14 and 18, I always thought it would be nice to be an Eagle scout, but I didnt really care enough.  Too much like school work for me.  Parents put their foot down and strongly encouraged me to wrap things up the last six months.  Glad they did because I needed the encouragement.

I have two sons.  One didnt join scouts until couples months before 15th birthday.  He joined with the explicit purpose of earning Eagle to put on his college resume.  He worked events to get as many requirements as quickly as possible.  He was able to earn the rank of Eagle.  He did not require any outside prodding at all.   He is very proud of his accomplishment.

Other son started as a Wolf cub.  He has attended three National HA bases as a participant.  Very active and missed virtually no events the troop offered.  He had most everything done by age 16.  Couple of the "paperwork mb" waited until the last year.  He completed it with some reminders every couple of months the last year so he would understand the he needed to start by date X to finish by date Y.   He is the type of kid who earned his Eagle.  Stayed with the troop and gave back to the program.  High outdoor skill level, good leader, type of eagle candidate people often refer to as a real Eagle scout.  Wouldnt really matter if he had all the requirements signed or not, he is an Eagle.  Nice that he did get everything signed and completed.  If people ask him, confirm but he does not go around telling people he is an Eagle scout.  

Some lads need more prodding.  Some need shome guidance to see how obatinable it is.  Others are self motivated.  Last I checked, all the requirements can be completed in 21 months.  Scouts are allowed 7 years to complete.  If a scout wants to become an Eagle, it is not that difficult for active scouts.  At that age, something that takes more than two weeks, seems like a lifetime.  Some of the required merit badges are way too much like school work and not having fun with buddies in the outdoors.   

I agree that I doubt anyone ever regrets earning Eagle but there are very many that regret not finishing the last few items.  If the scout has been active in the program up till age 18, the program has influenced them for their lifetime.  Not having a patch in the drawer or Eagle on the resume will be a hard lesson but may motivate them to complete other tasks in their life.  

I recommend that someone take interest in the Life scouts at age 17 and encourgage them to sit down with a calendar and show them it is possible but only if they start taking charge of their own life now.  

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1 hour ago, David CO said:

I don't think boys should view advancement as either a goal or an achievement. It should be something that just happens sometimes during the course of a journey, like finding a really neat shiny stone while strolling down a path.

 

 

I disagree. It should be a goal, not just an accidental happening.  

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My Troop has Eagle Coaches. We are assigned to Scouts to be a resource for them to ask questions and give advice. Scouts in our Troop if they want Eagle and put forth the effort, we make sure the steps are not mysterious. 

In my 5 years as a Project Coach I've had most Scouts finish but they would have likely earned Eagle regardless. 

I myself am an Eagle Scout for what that's worth, and a NESA board member in my Council. 

Eagle is a Goal. Not making Eagle at the end is a painful lesson. But a Scouts time is not a failure because they don't earn Eagle. 

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46 minutes ago, Sentinel947 said:

I myself am an Eagle Scout for what that's worth

It is worth whatever you feel it is worth, no more and no less.

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4 hours ago, David CO said:

I don't think boys should view advancement as either a goal or an achievement. It should be something that just happens sometimes during the course of a journey, like finding a really neat shiny stone while strolling down a path.

Hmm.  Does that apply to performance in school as well?  To future employment?  To the military, if they go?  I think part of the purpose of the advancement program is to give the Scouts experience in setting a goal and achieving it - or not achieving it, and learning from the experience either way.  As for your shiny-stone-on-the-path analogy, I think the requirements are really a mixture of things that one might happen upon while walking down the path (such as learning outdoor skills while on a camping trip and advancing accordingly) and things where one has to make a special trip (such as, oh I don't know, Citizenship in the World and some of the other required MB's.  The BSA advertises Fun!  Camping!  Climbing Rocks!  Whitewater Rafting!  etc. etc.  It does not advertise, for example, that you will learn the skills of personal financial management and practice them for at least 90 days, but you can't make Eagle without doing that.)

I have mixed feelings about the importance of Eagle, which has been debated in this forum SO many times before.  I myself am a Life for Life.  That was actually a conscious decision that I made when I was 16 years old.  I was PL, SPL and JASM, and aged out, and continued as an ASM until I went to college, but I did not really "go" for Eagle.  I would change that if I had it to do over again, but I don't.  I encouraged my son to go for Eagle if he wanted to, and at the age of 15 I told him how to avoid having things come down to the last minute.  I have told the harrowing story before of how THAT turned out - he almost procrastinated himself out of making it, but he made it - with (in effect) four whole hours to spare.  (And actually if it had rained on one specific day, five days before his birthday, he most likely would not have completed his project.)

 

Edited by NJCubScouter
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My troop has had 4 Eagles in less than a year. We had a total of 5. 2 earned it young, 2 at the last minute (BoR after 18th birthdays), and 1 at 16. 

My son earned Eagle at 14, almost 4 years ago. He was done his badges by 13, but wasn't ready to head up a project. A project fell into his lap and he pulled it off by 14. We were in an 'Eagle mill' troop for his first 2.5 yrs of Boy Scouts. They did Eagle badges each month in troop meetings, pushed the boys to go to MB fairs and to max out their summer camp schedules with badge classes. His first CoH he got 4 Eagle Required badges and 4 more. 8 badges in 5 months, a little nuts looking back on it. Then another 7 at his first summer camp.

We transferred troops and things slowed down, the SM there refused to allow a 14 year to become and Eagle so we transferred again. Third troop was laid back, but no issues going for Eagle.

Other young Eagle from the troop earned his at 13 and change. Mom made him do badge work every Sunday as part of his chores. He would 'earn' 6-8 badges every CoH and more if a MB fair or summer camp fell during the timeframe. Scout wasn't really wanting to be there, but was well behaved. Mom was the ultimate helicopter, kid and his younger brother never did anything without mom in tow. Imagine an Eagle scout that's never been anywhere without mom to remind to put his sunscreen on.  They left the troop in the spring over a leader dispute. He didn't even have a ECoH with us.

One of the just in time guys, #1 had been putzing along on Eagle for the last 1.5 years, his project gave him fits.  He'd left scouting for a few years after reaching Life young and came back to fulfill a promise to his late mother.

The other just in time guy, #2 finished 6 Eagle required MBs the day before his 18th birthday. Mom of the young one above arranged a MB fair of sorts at her house that night. His project was done the weekend before his birthday and signed off the night before becoming 18. SM did his SMC at 11:30 PM that night. Took the paperwork to council on the kid's 18th b-day. Kid hadn't shown up all school year for meetings, no real PoR work, not a scout in any way shape or form. But all the adults thought he should be an Eagle cuz mom wanted it. I don't think the kid cared one way or the other. There was a family history of last second Eagles. He couldn't even make time to come to to his own EBoR.  It was done on day 45 after his 18th B-day, too busy to schedule it, after threats from the district Eagle coordinator. He didn't care.

So where am I going with all of this? Each boy's journey is individual and he makes it happen or not happen in his own way. There is no shame in not finishing Eagle. Scouting is about having fun, learning and growing. My son has grown in numerous ways as a scout - NYLT, Jambo 2013, 2 summers of camp staff, 4 years of summer camp without mommy in tow (not counting work). It was rather emotional for me to watching him at work one day, it was 10 years to the date that he and I had gone to his first Cub Resident camp as a Tiger graduate, and there he was the Eagle scout that the little Cubs were looking up to.

I can't say just in time guy #2 got anything out of Scouts, he was never there. As for the other young Eagle scout, I don't think he's gotten much out of scouts either. Hard to grow when mom is on your shoulder every inch of the way.

So, IMHO it doesn't matter what rank a scout leaves off at as long as they learn, grow and become good young adults. 

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I've told the Tale of Two Eagles often enough on this website that I don't think I need to repeat it. But suffice to say my cousin earned Eagle with my uncle pushing Eagle at 13 and quit shortly thereafter. I was Life at 13, completed the project at 14 years, 7 months and I don't remember how many days. I had fun prior to earning Life, the real adventures came afterward: Brownsea 22, OA, jamboree, Canada trek. Earned the last MB, Personal Management, 5 days before 18.  I had a blast. Don't know how much fun cousin had as a youth, but as a Scouter, he didn't push his son to get Eagle. But son is an Eagle, and stayed around until going to college.

 

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