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Eagle mill or running the program as designed

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In the previous thread a mention was made of more Eagle Mills in recent years.


I was at an Eagle Court of Honor a few months ago and the father of the Eagle Scout made mention that the other troop in town was an Eagle Mill because they camped twice a month and focused on advancement.


If our troop had the adults to support camping twice a month our Scouts would advance faster as well too. My gosh I am always amazed at how much advancement is done on a campouts as it is.


For instance we had a mini-camporee this weekend (three troops from the same school district). The moment the competition was over I had our new Scout patrol leader ask me if it would be okay if he took out the staves and twine so he and his patrol could work on the lashings they needed to complete the requirement that were not done during the competition. I directed him to the Troop Guide. They finished up the lashings and then worked on several other requirements.


My point is when does a troop become an "Eagle Mill" and is it a bad thing? When they produce a lot of Eagle Scouts by using the Methods of Scouting to achieve the Aims of Scouting?


My gut feeling is that every Scout can be an Eagle Scout if given the proper encouragement and opportunities. Our troop plans a lot of our activities around new Scout Skills. Pioneering, Cooking, Backpacking,... themed outings. Older Scouts teaching younger Scouts how to do the job right. Our older Scouts are working on merit badges at their own pace. We don't have merit badges classes as such but we do regularly work requirements from merit badges into our program. For instance when we have a campfire we make mention that being the MC is a requirement for Communications merit badge or when we make a pioneering tower on an out we point out that it completes a requirement if anyone is interested in pursuing a pioneering merit badge. A few take note, get the blue card and get started. Most don't.


Right now out of 24 Scouts we have 4 lined up for Eagle. These Scouts are 16 or 17 year olds.


About two years ago we changed to a lot less adult control. This has been difficult at times but we are working through it. So far it has been well worth the effort.


Now here is the more interesting part. We have several Scouts that are moving far more quickly than their predecessors. We are headed toward having several 13 year old Life Scouts and one 12 year old Life Scout. Some are likely to become very young Eagles compared previous years.


It is taking about a year for our Scouts to reach First Class if they are reasonable active (assume playing one interfering sport a year). Less active takes longer. A very active Scout First Class takes about 8 months (near 100% attendance). We have about 1 of those a year. This is a different from past years when some Scouts were still Tenderfoot after 3 years.


We don't run merit badge classes. We do have lots of informal Scoutmaster conferences. Probably once every other month or so we ask each Scout what he has to do next to get to his next rank and how he plans to do it. We ask the patrol leaders to find ways to be good servant leaders and help remove road blocks from those Scouts that are not advancing.


Are we turning into an Eagle Mill? I hope so because as far as I am concerned there are not enough Eagle Scouts out there yet. If there were the world would be a much better place. Are we doing it in a way that keeps quality in the program? I hope so. Are we balancing the methods of Scout to meet the Aims of Scouting? I believe we are.


So what makes an Eagle Mill a bad thing?

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This is just my opinion, you understand...


I think there's a big difference between an "Eagle Mill" and a successful program that turns out a high percentage of Eagle Scouts.


When I think if an Eagle Mill, I think of a program that focuses through taking kids in batches through all the requirements as quickly as possible, without regard to how well the boys actually learn the concepts the requirements are supposed to be evidence of.


A program that offers lots of *opportunity* for advancement is not the same as a program that is focused on checking off boxes on a requirement sheet.


What you describe does not sound like an Eagle Mill to me. Neither does the program that has campouts twice a month, at least not just because of the frequent campouts. The other adult you were talking to probably either knows something else about the troop that you don't know, or he's just jealous of the other troop's resources. Or... maybe he has a different idea of what constitutes an "Eagle Mill" than I do.


The world does need more boys in it that have learned the skills, values, and leadership that becoming an Eagle Scout represents. It doesn't necessarily need more boys who can write "Eagle Scout" on their resumes without it having any real meaning; that cheapens the achievement for the boys who really do work for it and learn the concepts. It does NOT sound, from your description, like this is what your troop is doing.


I say, keep up the good work.



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Yah, I agree with Liz, eh?


And I agree that each unit needs to figure out what its goals and da goals of its CO are. Nothing wrong with a young Eagle if the lad has met your aims. Just that each program should be thinkin' first and foremost about its Aims, and not about da advancement program. We don't want more Eagle Scouts, we want more young adults of good character and informed citizenship.


It is taking about a year for our Scouts to reach First Class if they are reasonable active (assume playing one interfering sport a year). Less active takes longer. A very active Scout First Class takes about 8 months (near 100% attendance). We have about 1 of those a year.


So here's part of what I mean. Right now, if any of us were to grab one of our 11-year-old First Class scouts at random, could he, on his own with no adult help whatsoever, pack his gear, buy his food, and go on a 10-mile weekend backpack trip that included off-trail navigation and hiking? Eat well, camp well, and Leave No Trace for da entire trip? In "bad" weather?


On that trip, if he came across someone with a malfunctioning backpacking stove who suffered serious burns, would he be able to properly secure the stove, respond to the burn, evaluate the burn, clean and dress the wound, treat for shock if appropriate, and manage an assisted evacuation?


What I personally struggle with sometimes is that I don't really believe it's possible for an average 11-year-old in a typically active troop to have really learned da full T-2-1 skill set in a year, if what we mean by First Class is what Scouting has traditionally meant by First Class Scout, eh? Being a fully-capable solo outdoorsman ready to lead others. Especially if the lads' experience in the unit isn't "school," with an adult-driven "curriculum."


Sometimes, I reckon adults make da Aim of First Class Scout being to "get" First Class, eh? Meaning practice 45 individual "requirements" in isolation until signed off, instead of use 'em together to be able to do somethin' on your own. For me, da citizenship goal is only met when the boy is able to do, on his own. Well, for da BSA, too, if we go by their literature ;).


We are headed toward having several 13 year old Life Scouts and one 12 year old Life Scout. Some are likely to become very young Eagles compared previous years.


Which I'm sure reflects da adults' way of lookin' at and usin' the program, eh? Could be a fine thing.


But it's worth it for every unit to take a look at whether what we do is meeting the Aims of the program. I've seen units where an average Eagle Scout project involves 40-50 man-hours of labor, and the lad essentially follows a plan similar to what other boys in da troop have done, assisted by mom & dad & SM & Eagle Coach. And I've seen units where an Eagle Scout project involves 300-500 man-hours of labor, and every one is a unique project which reflects da special personal interest of the boy, with no Eagle Coach.


Nuthin' wrong with either, eh? But worth considerin' what we want for our expectations and "results" in each of our units, eh? And what those who sponsor us want and expect.


None of the different approaches have to do with addin' or subtractin' from the requirements. They have to do with the goals and culture of each unit. ASM411 describes da culture of his unit changin' to havin' more young, rapid rank advancement. That can be a fine thing, if done consciously, with an eye on da goals, not on da number of kids achievin' rank. I think all of us old-timers see more and more units movin' toward young, rapid advancement without really being mindful of aims and goals, eh?


That's an advancement mill.


Probably another good test of an Advancement Mill is this. As an adult in your unit, time how much time you spend talking about or managing advancement vs. anything else. When yeh talk to kids, how many conversations do yeh have where you don't mention anything about advancement? If more than 10% of your time or conversations are about advancement, you're probably an advancement mill.


Judgin' by da Scouter.Com forum percentages, I reckon a lot of us are over-emphasizing advancement.




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"Eagle Mill" = what we call the Troop that has more Eagles than ours.


"Too Young for Eagle" = what we call a boy younger than ours that makes Eagle.


"Advancement Mill" = what we call a Troop that holds more merit badge days than ours.




You sound like you are doing well. In my Troop I have 14 year old to 17.99999999 year old Eagles. I will probably have a 13 year old Eagle or two within a year. They are getting there thanks to the opportunities I have presented to the Troop:

- 3 backpacking trips per year, plus one 10+ mile hike.

- Merit Badge Counselors available at Troop meetings twice per month.

- 2 nights of camping every month

- Summer camp (with the current theme of multiple merit badge classes offered)

- Troop JASM focused on Trail to First Class, along with one Guide per Patrol (we do not have an NSP).

- ScoutMaster Conferences whenever and whereever the boys ask me.

- BOR at almost any given Troop meeting.

- Advancement is recognized thrice (BOR, Patch and COH).


Nobody is forced into any of this. I have a group of boys who bridged over 1.5 years ago. Their ranks range from Tenderfoot to Star. The opportunity is there for the boy who WANTS to grab it. However, if a boy just wants to show up sometimes and go camping - we welcome him.

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I kinda thought it was somewhat strange that my boy organized advancement went faster than the adult organized advancement. I have one boy make FC in 6 months and the bulk of the rest of the webelos crossovers are 2nd class with only 1-2 requirements left.


My first reaction was the boys weren't actually doing the work and their PL's were just writing them off. However, I found out that the boy that made FC in 6 months, the FC-2 requirement (compass course), the boy did wasn't quite correct with the requirement. He didn't actually DO the course, he designed one and is now teaching his buddies it. This was a stumbling block for a lot of his buddies getting their FC, so he took the initiative to cure that problem.


His 15 year old brother is completing his MB's at the present time because his Eagle project is done and he's just tying up loose ends. He completed his project while he was still 14.


I'm thinking that allowed to go at their own pace it may in fact be quicker than adult paced programs.



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Youth lead units do tend to go faster in advancement because the youth are doign the work all the time, so requirements are easily met. Furhter they tend to have more motivated Scouts. In adult lead units, the advancement is scheduled, and scouts tend to get bored. But this is my observation.


As for leaders getting too into advancement. I'm Guilty :) I know that everytime I see some a scout, especially the ones I know and "pick on" I always bug them about when they are getting their next rank and or palm.


My advice is 1) let the scouts go at their own pace in advancement. You will be surpised at what they do! and 2) as soon as the Scout gets Life, encourage him to start the project IMMEDIATELY. I've known folks who the project was the hardest thing to do becasue they waited to the last minute and got it completed under the wire. I also know of 1 scout who had 62 merit badges, but didn't get the project completed in time.

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""Advancement Mill" = what we call a Troop that holds more merit badge days than ours."


A troop that any "merit badge days" is an advancement mill.





We recently went on a campout and taught the fire safety merit badge. The troop has held wilderness survival, pioneering, canoeing, motorboating, orienteering, bird stufy and climbing campouts over the years where the boys camped and also earned a merit badge. The scouts pick a merit badge and we try to make the campout happen about 3 times a year.


We do graduate a lot of eagles. I think it is because we offer a lot of opportunities to the scouts but it may just be because we are an advancement mill.

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This summer we had a trail to first class camp for all new scouts, at first it sounded really good having control over the teachers for the rank advancement and all. Now six months later we have a bunch of scouts that have rank but don't have maturity of a boy who took his time and learning the skills by doing them over and over again. We also have young Eagles and older Eagles, the older boys projects seem to me to be more worthy and planned out, then the young ones in my opinion.



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...A troop that any "merit badge days" is an advancement mill...


By that virtue,then any troop that participates in a District held merit badge day is an advancement mill. Hey wait but our District encourages the troops to participate District events because the District is there to provide the troop with supports so that the troop can benefit from the moneys that the troop collected during the Popcorn sales or FOS.


What a dichotomy!


A good program is one that will allow the scouts opportunities to learn, grow, and advance.


What's the difference between a poorly run merit badge day and a bad merit badge counselor who just signs off the blue card without much guidance or coaching on the merit badge? Okay, so you cycle the boys through the bad mb counselor one at a time. By that you "space out" the Eagle candidates? Is that the objective?


On the flip side, a well run merit badge day will have great mb counselors who are there to introduce/teach the boys a skill, a career, or a hobby, while engage each scout.


There is some truth into what Horizon said:


"Eagle Mill" = what we call the Troop that has more Eagles than ours.


"Too Young for Eagle" = what we call a boy younger than ours that makes Eagle.


"Advancement Mill" = what we call a Troop that holds [or attends] more merit badge days than ours.



... but you are taking away the one-on-one interaction with the boy. So exactly, when can you have one-on-one interaction with the boy if YPT is taken under consideration?


The troop that I was with had a successful year last year. They had 11 Eagle CoH. Does this mean that the troop is an Eagle Mill? No ... it so happened that there were 11 Life scouts who finished their eagle at different time during the year. They were all at different ages ranging from 14.6-17.9 years. Yet another troop called us an Eagle Mill!


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  • 2 months later...

Fellow Scouters,



Greetings again!



Sometimes an Eagle Mill and running the program as designed may be synonymous.


IMHO.. I discuss with Scouting friends that trail to Eagle Scout should be an accomplishment not necessarily a struggle. If it is a monumental achievement, outstanding for the newest Eagle, my biggest and hearty congratulations!! If it is just an achievement, great, kudos, and a sincere "good job" to the newest Eagle.


If a unit has an actual program, then Eagle Mill may be synonymous. It would be a Scout or family that would be falling short of the available opportunity.


Regarding Merit Badge Day, there are just a few merit badge that can be done within an 8 hour period. I like the Merit Badge day concept; but Scouts, Scout leaders, and parents need to be realistic and honest. Many academics for merit badges may be started, and blue cards initiated. Just a limited few merit badge can be completed.


During my own troop meetings, my troop demonstrates a few merit badges skills, the opportunity to participate in the merit badge and whom the available counselors are. But still, each year, we have parents and sometimes Scouts asking why our troop doesn't do merit badges every meeting. After we show the parents any of the merit badge pamphlets, and that just a portion involves knowledge. More than half require reports, observations and work; then it is up to the Scout to complete the majority of the merit badges outside of the troop meeting. We can certainly understand that a relatively new Scout or recent Scouting parent does not understanding why troop meetings are not a merit badge class. But then when they see the work put into any merit badge, they come to appreciate that merit badges are not completed in an hour and half.


So back to a Merit Badge Day. Exposure to some "hard to find" professional experts (merit badge counselors) in distributed career fields is great. Some merit badges they will never begin on their own, or within their patrol or troop. But they will only be able to achieve maybe one-third of those merit badge requirements in one day, and bring home partial completions. I do like the MB Day concept, but the complete blue card results will be a limited few.


Scouting Forever and Venture On!

Crew21 Adv

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