Jump to content
shingobeek

Lot's of questions

Recommended Posts

So I've been following this forum for a while now, and there seems to be an issue that comes up frequently. 

"Scouts advancing too quickly"

Usually the topic starts like this..."My son's Scoutmaster refused to sign off on the requirement...."

or

"The new leadership of the unit is pushing through advancement too quickly..."

I've been involved with the program for quite a while, not as long as others, but still it's been 30 years since I became an Eagle, and I think this qualifies me as having been around. 

So here's what I don't understand, and never have. The BSA creates a series of requirements for advancement, be it merit badges, rank, religious awards, etc. Furthermore, in the Guide to Advancement it states "Policy on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement Program - No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements."

Why is this concept so difficult to understand?

YOU CAN'T MAKE CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM!

It doesn't matter that you've always done it this way - or that in our troop we do this. Some hard-headed adults have a hard time believing that some requirements are easy concepts for certain youth to comprehend. If you read the requirements, quite a few MB's are similar, and if a scout does his homework, earning a MB could be done quickly. 

So why do we put up with the SM's who refuse to approve work done by scouts? This happens in both good and bad units, and if you look around, and are really honest, you can find examples of this in quite a few places. 

We should be doing all we can to keep boys and girls in the program - not driving them away because - "That's not how we do it in our unit"

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I grew up in a unit that kind of shamed other units who allowed fast advancement. The unofficial troop talk was "Oh, yeah, so-and-so's troop is an Eagle factory, they let kids advance too fast." And my troop had a lot of older active scouts, which was nice, but I often wonder if we had it wrong, and should have been more open to allowing advancement at the pace that suited the scout.

As an adult, I'm much more open to advancement being allowed at whatever pace suits the scout. What I learned after the fact about my unit as a youth and the other troops in town who had different advancement philosophies is that nothing really bad happened at the units that allowed more "free will" advancement. In fact, the scouts I knew who reached Eagle younger were a lot more likely to do additional things. Some took on other roles in the troop, one even went on to be a district exec. Of the guys from my troop who were doing advancement longer and later because of troop culture, not many are active as adults. In fact some I've spoken to have a sour view on Scouting today and won't put their kids in, in part because of their experience in our troop. I wonder if they had had more control over their scouting timeline and progress if the experience would have been different for them.

I suspect a lot of scouts in units where they are hampered not by official requirements but more by troop culture requirements end up feeling frustrated with the experience, or with an overall negative view of their scouting days because of that.

So as an adult and a dad of a scout, if my son were having these kinds of issues with troop culture dictating that he wait some additional time to get signed off on something, we'd go looking for a new troop.

As a more general approach, I do wish the BSA would communicate more with units on the ground about this, as it does seem to be a common issue. Adding requirements or delaying sign-off is not approved BSA policy, and the only way it stops is if the BSA does something about it. We've seen too many cases where at the local level issues like this are brought up and nothing happens. The scout and/or parents just get labeled as "trouble" or "disruptive", and council rarely takes action. I think it's time for a more broad reinforcement of policy and encouragement of all BSA leaders to do the jobs we're tasked with doing. When a requirement is completed to the satisfaction of what is prescribed in the handbook, we should sign off on it. Period. No additional waiting, no delay.

There is so much to do in Scouting, but the focus is so often on Eagle Scout, and it seems like the culture of some troops is to stretch the timeline in parallel to earning Eagle. The idea is something like "We want our Eagles to be 16 or 17." But then scouts just Eagle and age out. I'd really like to see more 14-15-year-old Eagles who then take a couple of years to do other things, earn other awards, take on other roles, etc.

And by the way... the troop I was in as a youth, it's gone, closed up due to lack of interest/membership. The so-called "Eagle Factory" troop I mentioned, it's still around, vibrant and active in town. So on the longer timeline, in my personal opinion it seems to me like "free will" advancement is the better and healthier option overall in terms of maintaining an active unit and active scouting culture in town. Scouts are happier, have a better experience, and come back with their kids later in life.

Edited by FireStone
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, shingobeek said:

Why is this concept so difficult to understand?

This is really the only question you asked. :)

I think if you dig a bit deeper you can find out where some of this comes from.

There are a number of issues with advancement. The ideal model is it's a byproduct of doing fun and adventure, and the scout knows it solidly by the time it's signed off, or at least by the time they age out. All the rest of the rules are based on this and they work fine if this happens. Unfortunately there are things that get in the way and cause problems. Changing the time frame, which I believe is what you're talking about, is a crutch to manage some of these problems. Take for example the idea that a scout knows the skill solidly. How many scouts tie a bowline, get it signed off, and then forget how to tie it a week later? Probably most. One way to solve it is to have the scouts tie a bowline often. Have them teach it. Have competitions.

That takes a lot of effort to set up. This also conflicts with the idea that the PLC gets to decide the calendar. Maybe they don't want to do competitions. That's usually because they don't want to admit they don't know the skills. The trick here is to use SPL whisperer skills. @Eagledad is the one that mentions these. I'm not a good SPL whisperer so I only got it to work with the good SPL's, but the idea is to convince the SPL and PLC they truly owns the program and the program includes knowing all those skills. It takes an SPL with a lot of humility if they don't know the skills.

What this has to do with the topic of adults changing the rules is simple. What I'm mentioning here is not really taught to SM's in any training I've seen. It's not mentioned in any round tables. And yet, a lot of SM's understand that signing off on an eagle scout that doesn't know how to tie a bowline is kind of defeating the point. So they add testing before ranks, they change the definition of active or scout spirit. I've done some of these. I've even had scouts thank me because they had seen scouts in other troops that didn't know the skills. Anyway, the SM's aren't all bad. Some are, but most aren't.

  • Upvote 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Often times, the worst-case scenarios trickle up to the interweb, and there's that.

On average, when scouts are really enthusiastic about advancing,

  1. We tell them, "Show us you're all that."
  2. They pull together ways to sharpen, then prove, their skills.
  3. We give them due recognition.

From time to time, you get SMs who are frustrated that, in this age of streamlined products like velcro, their Star scouts forget bowlines (or how to build patrol spirit, or show up to a shakedown ready to camp, or whatever).

Other times, you get SMs who interpret "no adding" to mean "once-and-done", as in the kid grabs his book, crams, and that night can rattle off safe swim defense. Nay! It's perfectly within the intent of the Guide to Advancement to have a boy learn a skill one week and wait until he shows he can do it the next week before signing off.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, qwazse said:

It's perfectly within the intent of the Guide to Advancement to have a boy learn a skill one week and wait until he shows he can do it the next week before signing off.

Would I be reasonable if I told a scout, who had just been studying a picture of a knot in the handbook,  that she needed to wait to have her knot-tying skill checked off?  (None have tried this yet.  Hope none do.)   That is, can I expect them to know it cold?

Edited by Treflienne
added one more sentence

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here in Murlin, our state states you must be 16 years of age to take the test for a learners permit to learn (!) to be a licensed  driver of a motor vehicle. UNLESS, your parents allow you to take the test at age 15 and 6 months....

"But dad/mom, the driver ed teacher says....", yes darlin' but WE say.... 16 , happy birthday, here's your learners permit...

With practice and reading and instruction, our teenager gets the state's permission to drive. With practice and attention to detail, they KEEP that permission.  I have kept it for niegh onto 55 years now.  How?  Practice. Use.  NEED to use...   Once and done?   Not on (yours and mine) life. 

Same with any Scout Skill.   Learn it and move on?  Sure, but the Eagle Factory that is successful insists that the skills learned (bowline, organization, boot care,  tent packing, camp cooking,,,,) gets opportunity to be used.    The Scoutmaster and his/her minions must NOT ONLY insist on the correct fulfilling of the rank requirements, but INSIST the Scouts plan opportunities to USE them.   

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Treflienne said:

Would I be reasonable if I told a scout, who had just been studying a picture of a knot in the handbook,  that she needed to wait to have her knot-tying skill checked off?  (None have tried this yet.  Hope none do.)   That is, can I expect them to know it cold?

All I can say, is that I studied my knots at home then tied them for my PL at the next campout (not even the next meeting, those were for planning activities, reflecting on past activities or the nation's history, and playing pool, ping pong, or air hockey). The exception was the taught line hitch that I hadn't figured out, and the SM showed me how and set me to retying all of the guy lines around my tent. By the end of the day, my PL signed off.

Really, a proper simulation is for the scout to go home and practice tying the knot in the shower with the lights off. That prepares her for her first rainy night insertion with just a tarp and parachord!

  • Haha 1
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Treflienne said:

Would I be reasonable if I told a scout, who had just been studying a picture of a knot in the handbook,  that she needed to wait to have her knot-tying skill checked off?  (None have tried this yet.  Hope none do.)   That is, can I expect them to know it cold?

You shouldn’t expect them to know it cold (ie, with no instruction), but it doesn’t seem reasonable to force a Scout to wait for instruction if he or she has already learned it. The method of learning doesn’t matter.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, and devoured the Handbook backwards and forwards. Plus I darn sure knew those knots we’d been tying since Bears. If anyone had told 10.5-year-old me to come back and wait for a senior Scout or ASM to “teach me” how to tie the basic knots, fold a flag, identify poison ivy, or treat for shock, I’d probably have walked out in disgust.

Kids learn in vastly different ways. Some learn largely on their own. If they can do the skill, they can do the skill.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, shingobeek said:

...

YOU CAN'T MAKE CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM!

...

So why do we put up with the SM's who refuse to approve work done by scouts?  

10,000% agree!  A scouter of any level who puts up barriers to a scout's advancement is just plain NOT a good scouter. No excuses.  No if's and's or but's. 

The only reason a scouter should refuse to approve work done by scouts is because it doesn't meet the requirements.

"No more, no less." works both ways. Scouters should not be putting up barriers by inventing garbage "rules", but by the same token, the scout should not be inventing shortcuts. 

 

Edited by mrkstvns
  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mrkstvns said:

10,000% agree!  A scouter of any level who puts up barriers to a scout's advancement is just plain NOT a good scouter. No excuses.  No if's and's or but's. 

The only reason a scouter should refuse to approve work done by scouts is because it doesn't meet the requirements.

"No more, no less." works both ways. Scouters should not be putting up barriers by inventing garbage "rules", but by the same token, the scout should not be inventing shortcuts. 

 

See, that's my point - adults putting up barriers. When the "well intentioned" scouter says to the youth "it's great you know how to tie a square knot now, let's see if you can do it next week (or next month...) too!" That is a barrier. 

Scouting is supposed to be fun. 

On a secondary note - and this really gets to the point - BSA requirements are not that difficult for young adults. Too often adults may feel that scouts are moving too fast, and set up barriers, i.e. making them wait. This can have deleterious effects on youth. Regardless of one's opinion, the world we live in today moves fast. No amount of longing for yesteryear is going to change society. Young people today have been conditioned to expect things in a rapid fashion, we adults are too. This is not about teaching patience, this is adapting to the changing culture. 

I'm a teacher. No matter how much I want students to go to the library to do research, I know it's not going to happen, and nor should I expect it. It's ridiculous to expect this when young people today can do the same, if not more, research from the comfort of their own home. I, the educator, have to ask, what skill am I assessing, the knowledge gained from the research, or the act of researching itself?

Are we asking a scout to tie a knot, or tie a knot 2 months from now?

We cannot ask a young man in his Eagle Board to tie a sheepshank, or map out a trail to his school, because he's already done that. Why are we insistent on doing the same for the new scouts?

Edited by shingobeek
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, SSScout said:

With practice and reading and instruction, our teenager gets the state's permission to drive. With practice and attention to detail, they KEEP that permission.  I have kept it for niegh onto 55 years now.  How?  Practice. Use.  NEED to use...   Once and done?   Not on (yours and mine) life. 

Same with any Scout Skill.   Learn it and move on?  Sure, but the Eagle Factory that is successful insists that the skills learned (bowline, organization, boot care,  tent packing, camp cooking,,,,) gets opportunity to be used.    The Scoutmaster and his/her minions must NOT ONLY insist on the correct fulfilling of the rank requirements, but INSIST the Scouts plan opportunities to USE them.   

I'm not sure that's the correct analogy for Scouting. At some point long ago the BSA made a conscious change from a "proficiency" system to a "merit" system. We no longer require a show of proficiency in a skill after the requirement is signed off.

I get your point, that the unit should create opportunities to use the skill, hence reinforcing memory of said skill and retention of it. But I don't think it's a shortcut to quickly learn what is necessary to satisfy a requirement and get it signed off. Maybe it's not the ideal method for Scouts to learn and retain these skills, but by the book, it's what we've got, and we can't hold it against scouts that this is not a "proficiency" program.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It feels like advancement often gets a disproportionate amount of attention.  As I see it, advancement is just one of eight methods of Scouting.  It's not the most important nor the least important.  It's just one of the eight.

Our troop provides lots of opportunities for Scouts to work on advancement.  Often it's in the form on a PLC organized event, skills instruction, or adult organized time to work on something.  We make sure the opportunities are easily and readily available for a motivated Scout who wants to advance.  We don't force advancement on anyone, but nor do we try to slow it down.  In our troop, if you participate actively and want to, you can get to first class in about a year and you can be Eagle at 14 or 15.  Or you can come to every meeting and event and be Tenderfoot until your 18.  It's the Scout's choice.    On the whole, our scouts tend to move along.  Most get to Life by about 14.  Some power on to Eagle, others stay at Life for years.  Our older scouts don't really focus on advancing - they focus on doing things that they think are fun and it keeps them engaged.

This feels about right to me.  Again - advancement is just one of eight methods.  We make it possible to advance if you want, we make it possible to do other things if you want.  Scouts who want advancement advance. Scout who want to camp camp.  Scouts who want to be leaders lead.  etc.

My takeaway from @FireStone's post is that it's not about whether you advance too fast or too slow.  It's about whether the Scouts are advancing at a pace that's rewarding to them and keeps them motivated.  Make sure the opportunities are there and let the Scouts decide.

I do like this description on the advancement method from the BSA:

Quote

Advancement. Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.

 

Edited by ParkMan
typo
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
56 minutes ago, shingobeek said:

...

I'm a teacher. No matter how much I want students to go to the library to do research, I know it's not going to happen, and nor should I expect it. It's ridiculous to expect this when young people today can do the same, if not more, research from the comfort of their own home. I, the educator, have to ask, what skill am I assessing, the knowledge gained from the research, or the act of researching itself?

Are we asking a scout to tie a knot, or tie a knot 2 months from now?

We cannot ask a young man in his Eagle Board to tie a sheepshank, or map out a trail to his school, because he's already done that. Why are we insistent on doing the same for the new scouts?

So, you're a teacher. If a student opens the book, during class, finds the answer to your question, and rattles it off right there, does he/she know the material? Can you strike that question off of your next quiz because the student answered it and the class was present to hear it?

So, yeah ... a kid will need to demonstrate a skill more than once, with confidence, every time. For most, that takes a week. For some, that can take a while.

I am asking scouts to tie their knots, now, next week, and two months from now. I'm asking them to be able to swim in a strong manner ASAP, the week after, and the month after. My PL's need to sign off when they are confident that that boy can be counted on for that skill.

On some level, First Class is more important than Eagle. I want all my scouts to be first class ... all the time.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is there any other benefit to learning skills? What about the practice of setting the goal of learning a skill and developing a plan to to reach the goal? And what about the practice of communication to ask for help to learn, or to show the learned skill.

Scouts who practice the traits of initiative, planning, and communication have more self confidence to push the boundaries of their comfort zone. They accel in many of their life decisions, not just advancement.

As some here are describing of their own experience, consider the life skills a scout can develop through the practice of learning skills during their scouting experience.

Barry

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/12/2019 at 11:25 AM, shingobeek said:

So here's what I don't understand, and never have. The BSA creates a series of requirements for advancement, be it merit badges, rank, religious awards, etc. Furthermore, in the Guide to Advancement it states "Policy on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement Program - No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to, or subtract from, advancement requirements."

Why is this concept so difficult to understand?

YOU CAN'T MAKE CHANGES TO THE PROGRAM!

I've been asking this very same question for the past ten years. I've concluded that in the BSA rules really are made to be broken...or more accurately, ignored. 

I couldn't agree with you more strongly on this though. There are a lot of good scouts who have suffered because of petty, ego driven Scoutmasters who truly feel that their way is better than the BSA's way. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×