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mrkstvns

What constitutes an "Eagle Factory"?

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Over the years, I've heard many troops referred to (pejoratively) as "Eagle Factories".  

Is it necessarily a bad thing to have a troop consistently help its scouts reach Eagle?  

Is there a specific point at which a troop goes from one having a strong program to an "Eagle Factory"?  

 

Saw this article about a troop that seems to be shooting for 12+ eagles per year....not sure if that's a good thing to be cheered, or a cause for concern...
https://www.mdjonline.com/neighbor_newspapers/northside_sandy_springs/community/buckhead-boy-scout-troop-has-eagle-scouts/article_ee744424-710a-11e9-826b-ff562ee630e9.html 

 

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I think it is based on intent. When the adults have advancement as the goal instead if a method; this is when it changes. Even if the scouts meet the requirements as written, they are denied a true scouting experience because the aims are not likely realized as they are not the desired outcome.

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I don't like it when labels are thrown around.  Unless someone is familiar with the troop and scouts, it's impossible to know what the personality of a specific troop is like.  Maybe the scouts are motivated and having so much fun that Eagle comes naturally.  That being said, I know many adults, including leaders, who believe that Eagle should be the end result of scouting. SM told my son that the MB he wanted to do wasn't important because it wasn't an Eagle.  I agree with DuctTape and he said it better then I could.

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@mrkstvns, 12+ eagles awarded/year out of a roster of 90+ is not all that surprising. A troop's rate will wax an wane. This troop's is on it's high side. More boys will join, they will take their seniors' progress for granted, and many of them will have slower advancement. The trick will be making sure those boys always feel welcome even if they aren't advancing.

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If you have a goal to have x number of eagles or if you measure your success by the number or percentage of scouts who make eagle, then you're probably an "eagle mill" that's overly focused on rank.

The troop in the article sounds pretty unique.  The troop members appear to be all or almost all from the same private K-12 school and their activities seem to be an integral part of their curriculum.  That provides a level of support, continuity, and homogeneity that probably couldn't be duplicated anywhere else.

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@thrifty I don't like labels either.  "Eagle factor" is a shallow snide label not worthy of a scout leader.  Be specific in what is wrong wrong or what should change or don't say anything at all.  ... Nothing against the original poster.  It's just a term that has been thrown around too loosely for way too long.  

One statement in the article hit me.  "“I think it’s a credit to several things but mainly the boys themselves have made the troop a fun activity within their curriculum, " ...

Magical mixtures of scouts and scout leaders happen that make the program shine.  In my 15+ years in troops, the most recent was the best.  Scouts became best friends.  Built close friendships.  Kept busy with many activities.  The SPL really owned his leadership and kept getting re-elected.  He worked to make the troop a fellowship of fun and they did things.  More than once they'd ask us when they could camp next or do specific activities.  The scouts built connections that us adults had a hard time knowing when and how they were communicating and coordinating.  But they were doing it.  These scouts did a lot, earned MBs, helped each other and almost all earned Eagle.  Plus, I'll proudly boast what they learned about leadership, responsibility, boy-led, etc against anything any adult leader tries to shove at the scouts.  

Some might look from the outside and call it an Eagle factory, but they'd be wrong.  It's the natural result of these guys having a great time.  The Eagle rank is just not that hard if you enjoy the path to get there and your friends value it too.  

I truly believe so many earned Eagle because they had fun ... enjoyed the fellowship ... wanted to be like their troop mates who also earned Eagle. 

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I'm glad that most of y'all see it as a positive thing that a troop can consistently get their scouts to Eagle.

I agree completely with Fred --- the Eagle rank really is not all that hard if you stick to it, apply yourself, and have the support of a good, active troop.  I suspect that most troops that consistently have large numbers of scouts reaching Eagle are seeing that result because they have a solid program and active support of their adults. 

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My troop was labeled like this in the late 70s, early 80s.  We didn't have 12 in a year, but had maybe 3 per year when only 1% of scouts were earning it.  We had a great program as a troop, lodge, and council.  Never new of a district existing.  We had the Mackinac honor guard each summer and is still going on today.  Had a large group go to the National Jamboree, international camping in Canada, and every other year a group from council went to Philmont.  It was the norm to have troop members on summer camp staff and to see eagles awarded often.  It kept us motivated, as it was obtainable.  None of us every thought we wouldn't become eagles.  The encouragement, resources,  and structure allowed us to excel.  With this said, most of our eagles obtained the rank at about the 16+ or 17yr mark.  We never had an eagle under 16yrs.  We weren't pushed or put in a headlock to advance, our pace and fun was stressed.   

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, mrkstvns said:

I'm glad that most of y'all see it as a positive thing that a troop can consistently get their scouts to Eagle.

I agree completely with Fred --- the Eagle rank really is not all that hard if you stick to it, apply yourself, and have the support of a good, active troop.  I suspect that most troops that consistently have large numbers of scouts reaching Eagle are seeing that result because they have a solid program and active support of their adults. 

It's really a fine line. Same troop averaging around 20-30 scouts: Son #1, he and several of his buddies made eagle. It seemed like his entire den, but I pointed out, much to the den mom's chagrin, about half of the boys from her den did not stay in the troop. Still, 50-60% is a high rate. A few years later, one den mom did have all of her Webelos earn eagle. There were so many ECoH's over about three years that the SM couldn't attend them all (we took them in shifts)! It was actually getting kind of annoying because a lot of them were on Saturdays/Sundays and coupled with graduation parties, and I missed some good camping opportunities. A few years later, we were back down to about 25% of each class yielding Eagle. Son #2 was the only one from his den. Several of his younger buddies (he tended to clique with underclassmen) aged out happily at star or life rank. Now we have a cardre of 16-17 year old life who are lining up projects and wrapping up MBs so the raw numbers will bump up. But, we have a bit of attrition, so the rate after counting those boys will still be 10%.

Really, the program didn't change all that much. It's just that some years, for example, when we took boys skeet shooting, many followed up with their counselor. Other years, we could do a similar fun activity, and nobody would use it as a springboard to earn a related MB. Or, a scout would come to camp and re-take a MB he did last year because he thought it was cool. Do that enough, and you might not make rank. But in failing to make rank, you'll have racked up some good memories!

Edited by qwazse

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My son's first troop was an Eagle Mill/Factory in the true sense of most definitions. Troop meetings started with the SM handing the SPL a sheet of paper with the announcements for the the opening. After the opening the troop broke into 2 groups and went to MB instruction for the next hour. One of the 2 badges was an Eagle required and the other was usually an elective. Sometimes there would be 2 Eagle required badges running at the same time. All scouts that had not completed the Eagle required badge were required to attend that session. The only way a scout could attend the elective badge session was if he had the required badge. No choices allowed. Badge instruction usually took 4 troop meetings and then the scouts were signed off for the badge. 90 day badges had the usual 4 weeks of instruction, then monthly check ins for progress.

There was no T-2-1 instruction at troop meetings, no games, no activities other than MB instruction. If the scout wasn't interested in either badge offered or already had them, too bad, hope you brought a book to read. T-2-1 skills only happened on campouts and were only signed off on campouts. The meetings ended with the SM handing the SPL another piece of paper with the closing announcements on it. Campouts ran on a schedule, 30 minutes for each skill then sign off and go to the next one. Adults did the teaching, older scouts helped but never lead the process. Higher rank scouts not involved in helping with skill practice just lay in their tents and read or take part in merit badge classes run by adults. The scouts did cook and clean for themselves, but only under the strict supervision of adults.

Campouts had just as many adults as there were scouts. Even at summer camp. The troop was adult run and advancement driven. There was only one path with these guys. They turned out Eagles on a regular basis. Palms flowed freely. But it wasn't scouting.

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I have never liked the fact that districts and councils "measure" how many Eagle Scouts they turn out. And if a number is below some level of expectation the question is "what is wrong", if it above the level of expectation, it is "look at how well we are doing."

I suppose it is human nature since it is one of the few methods that has some measurable. But if that is how we want to measure I would prefer to see an overall advancement measure, not just Eagle. Cubs is measured that way, but Scouts is all about the Eagle. 

The measure of a goo unit in my mind is are the youth having fun, are they learning, is the unit a good example of living he Oath and Law. 

I have seen high performing units (based on the above measures I listed) that turn out relatively few Eagles, and other that turn out high percentages. 

I have also seen units that do not meet those measure turn our high percentages of Eagles, but those units generally are not sustainable for ling periods of time because they do not have balance. Their attrition is usually high as those that "fall behind" on the path to Eagle drop out. Those units are often younger (average age of Scout) because those that attain Eagle "Eagle Out".

There are several strong units in mu area that have many Eagles, but they also have many Eagles sticking around until 18 and beyond. They are active in OA and other District and COuncil events. Those units Scouts have fun. 

I am all in on helping youth earn their Eagle, but when the badge becomes the focus then we are short changing out youth. Some units just do not get that. 

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Posted (edited)

Eagle Mills area programs primarily designed to turn scouts into Eagles. Patrol method boy run programs, on the other hand, can be designed so well that scouts intuitively find themselves with the Eagle simply by participating in the program. One troop that always amazes me is Troop 232 in La Junta Colorado. Their program is based on the theme of the Koshare Indian Dancers. La Junta is about 3 hours from Philmont and they provide a place for troops to stop overnight for a small cost, and to watch their troop dancers in action. Well worth the visit. But, their list of Eagles is very impressive, and likely one of the largest list the Nation. Is that troop an Eagle Mill? Boy! it would be hard to find a troop where scouts work harder to earn their place of stature in that program. It's no gimmy.

I'm not sure what good or bad we should say of Eagle Mills. I use to be an fierce anti-Eagle Mill person until I volunteered at the district level. Eagle Mills are basically adult run programs that set goals agendas for the scouts.  Most Eagle Mill programs I've seen design the program to get the scout his Eagle by age 14.

Our "put the adults out of business" program philosophy was at the opposite end of that spectrum. But, through humility, I learned that Eagle Mills do provide a place for families that would otherwise not participate in scouting. Is that so bad? That was the question that still challenges my idealistism of traditional scouting. 

On the positive side, Eagle Mills generally have well run programs. The scouts and the program look sharp and uniform. The adults are usually well trained and have a good reputation with the District and Council. There reputation is so good in fact, that they often set the standard for the district, which is where I struggled with them. District set the standard for units, and if the district standards are being developed by Eagle Mill programs, well it can hurt all the units as a whole.

The only reason I still monitor and participate on this forum is to help units build a patrol method program where scouts can reach whatever dream they have for their scouting experience. Truth is that reaching the Eagle is just a matter of crossing off a list of actions. As some have said here, it's really not that big of a list. But, looking from a distance at all the requirements to earn Eagle, the goal appears daunting and a lot of work.  Not what most boys want from their scouting experience. 

I was told by a lot of scouters that I should set the goal of Eagle into every new scout. But, is that fair for an 11 year old? Our program encouraged scouts from their first day on, to take one step at a time. Set one goal to learn one knot, when you reach that goal, set another goal for another another knot. Don't look at the bigger goal until you want the bigger goal, until you feel ready for the bigger goal. Write that goal in your book if you need. One small step at a time, that is all we asked. The scouts learned a process of planning small steps to reach larger goals. Not just in advancement, but in the goal of planning the next meeting, the next hike, and the next campout, the next high adventure trip, and on and on. It's a process that most successful businesses use. In fact, it's the same process that Eagle Mill use. The only difference is that the process in a patrol method program is controlled by the scout, not the adults. Developing a plan of small steps to reach bigger goals became woven into the fabric of leadership and running the troop.

I didn't understand the success of this approach until the district OA representative visited a troop meeting. When and I asked why he was visiting us, he said that the last three sets of leaders for our OA came from our troop. He wanted to know what we did differently. I was on the inside and couldn't see how, or even if, our scouts were different. But he said our scouts were good at setting long range goals and creating realistic plans to reach those goals. The Scouts from the other troops were intimidated by long range planning, so they always voted for our scouts. Reaching big goals by setting small goals is exactly how our program developed our scouts, so that made sense to me. That was moment that I though, "hey this really works".

Five years into our program, our troop had grown from 17 scouts to 70. Far larger than we wanted for a patrol method program. I learned that we were producing the 3rd largest number of Eagles in the district that year (we were averaging 1 Eagle every 2.5 months). The other two troops were mega  Eagle Mill troops of more than 200 scouts. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is what some others here are saying, if the troop encourages scouts to dream and provides a program that doesn't get in their way of their dream, Eagle is just part of the program. 

One last thing, I always like to express my observations of the topics we discuss here. The one difference of Eagle mills compared to other troops is they don't typically have a good older scout following. Even the mega troops in our district had to add a Venturing Crew to entice the older scouts to stay on. Our troop that was 1/3 the size of the Mega Troop Eagle mills had more scouts over the age 14 than any unit (Venturing or troop) in the whole Council. 40% of our troops were scouts 14 and older. That is why I always say that the success of a troop program should be measured by the older scout program, not the younger scouts program. Build a program that challenges scouts through age 18, and they will stay long enough to trip over the Eagle. Over 40% of our Eagles pass their EBOR at age 17. 

Barry

Edited by Eagledad
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Interesting question, and one that has been discussed for lo these many years.  

Current troop has 80+ Scouts and over the last 11 years we have averaged about 8 Eagles each year.  Looking at a percentage earning Eagle, for Scouts that join the troop about 50% earn Eagle.  For the Scouts that joined in one year (21) 13 attained Eagle or 62%.  They earned Eagle over a 4 year span.  Some at about 15 and some at the literal cusp of 18

The troop has never done an "advancement" outing.  All the outings are determined by the Scouts and the main drive is to have fun.  We have 11 outdoor monthly outdoor events each year, two summer camps, annual high adventure, etc etc The troop does hold MB sessions for various Eagle required badges, maybe 2 - 3 per year.  These are held prior to meetings and do not impact regular meetings.

My observation on Scouts getting to Eagle is, does the troop provide a place where they can work towards Eagle?  Majority of our Eagle Scouts are over 16, they have been in the troop and active for years, gone on High Adventure, been to camp, been in leadership, worked summer camp staff, and done many Scout things.  As a unit we have a Life to Eagle position that keeps track of who is where in the process and is the point of contact for the Eagle process.

Keeping the older Scout engaged, understanding their schedule and time demands can be a key to helping them along the Scouting journey.  You may not see some Scouts every meeting due to sports, AP classes, band, etc.  That does not mean they are not engaged.  We have numerous leaders, our practice is that the Scouts drive their advancement.  If they need to meet with a specific leader on some aspect, they send the note to make sure they are going to be at the meeting.

Are we an "Eagle Mill"?  I would say no.  We are a troop that works with older Scouts, has a large group of experienced leaders that can assist when asked.   Key is we demand no more an no less than is required.

Recently we had a Scout that came to a meeting, we had not seen him for a while, and was looking at finishing Life Scout rank then on to Eagle.  Challenge was his 18th birthday was only 170 days away (less than 6 months) and he still needed to complete 2 merit badges prior to having is BOR for Life.  Really sad part is that about 8 months prior we had reached out, advised on timelines, pointed out if he was interested in working on Eagle he needed to complete Life rank, do the leadership, etc.  No response until his recent meeting attendance.  Our conversation was he could complete his youth scouting journey as a Life Scout (after getting those 2 MB's completed) but that was it.  

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11 hours ago, T2Eagle said:

If you have a goal to have x number of eagles or if you measure your success by the number or percentage of scouts who make eagle, then you're probably an "eagle mill" that's overly focused on rank.

This is really the best way to put it. If a troop's mission is to churn out Eagle Scouts, either by some benchmark over time or by some percentage of membership, that's an Eagle mill/factory. The term carries some negative connotation but in these cases, it's probably deserved.

A troop that just outputs a high number/percentage of Eagle Scouts just from having a good program could possibly also be called a factory/mill, but I would call them that just because of the negativity around those terms. A troop shouldn't be unfairly labeled just for being a good troop that adequately supports scouts and patrols to move along in advancement easily as part of a robust and active program.

I greatly dislike use of the terms factory/mill to describe high-eagle-count troops that are outputting high numbers of Eagle Scouts because of their good program. I've heard scouters call units factories/mills based on nothing more than number of Eagle Scouts in a given time period, and it's not fair. One such unit has 96 scouts. But this scouter felt that they're a "factory" because they produced 8 Eagles in one year. Meanwhile this troop is incredible, they're highly active in the community, help out local Cub Packs regularly, they run a solid program full of activities, community service, etc. And they don't put out 8 Eagles every year, sometimes years they have 2 or 3. But one year they have a big Eagle class and all of a sudden it's a bad thing somehow.

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5 minutes ago, FireStone said:

But this scouter felt that they're a "factory" because they produced 8 Eagles in one year. 

We got a looks last year at the district banquet, we had about 30% of the Eagle Scouts in the district.  While reviewing metrics at the District Banquet some comments on needing to audit , better check the numbers etc etc.  Funny part was when you looked at number of Boy Scouts in the district, out troop accounted for maybe 25% of that number (small district), so the math sort of dictated the outcome.

Also we have the most hours for community service, no comments about that.

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