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Turning a boy down at a Scoutmaster Conference

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I have a young man coming up for a Scoutmaster Conference for Eagle and he has a foul attitude, poor spirit, lots of reasons not to send him forward for Eagle, but the application for Eagle states "Take Part In a Scoutmaster Conference". It is not a pass or fail scenario. How do other Scoutmasters deal with this situation? Thanks.

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Yes it is a pass of fail scenario. Now might be your last chance to help this young man out. Lay it on the line with him. All through his advancement, one of the things he has had to complete was "show Scout spirit". Has he done this, and suddenly changed? Is he burning out? And don't take this personally, but are you sure it's all his attitude, and none of yours?


Talk with your staff, your committee, and your Unit Comm. about this. We all need to get back to making Eagle something for the boys to work for, not just a tenure advancement.

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I agree, this is your last chance to straighten this boy out. Stan raised an interesting point that seems to show up far too often in these discussions. How did this boy get this far and still be unfit? Is this something new? If not, the time to address the problem is when it first showed up, not at a review or a conference, at the EXACT moment you notice it or when it is brought to your attention. If it is, you need to find out what has caused this change.


I view the Scoutmaster Conference as our time to explore the boy's character. The badges and other requirements measure concrete and quantifiable achievement. Character and the contents of a boys heart and mind can not be measured like the budget requirement for personal management. Yet like the "concrete" requirements a Scoutmaster Conference must be passed. By signing off the Scoutmaster Conference you in effect state "I think that this boy:

1-Has completed all physical requirements in good faith.

2-Is mature enough to accept the resposibilities of the next rank.

3-His character reflects that he intends to live his life by the Scout Oath and Law to the best of his ability.

If you are not satisfied that ALL THREE are met, then you must give the boy a means to achieve all three, and not recommend that he recieve a board of review until he has.


My best suggestions-

1. Talk to the boys parents, tell them what you think.

2. Document all of your reasons with specific examples IN WRITING.

3. Ask the boy does he think that he is ready after you spell out all your issues. If so, why.

If not, what does he think he can do to mend his ways.

4. Together, the both of you come up with a plan to help the boy improve his outlook.

5. Set up a hard date to have another Scoutmaster Conference and discuss his progress.

6. Be prepared to explain yourself to the Troop Committee, Troop Parents, and the boy's parents.

7. (This probably outght to be number one)Meet with the Troop Committe and discuss the problem and get their support or at least come to an understanding of what the Troops position will be in these matters.


Bottom line: You are going to have a big mess on your hands if you are not very careful how you handle this. I went through this myself when I was the Advancement Chairman and turned down three boys on Board of Review night. Two of them are now model Scouts, the third went to another troop and was literally handed his Eagle. The upside is that after that night every boy in the Troop realized that Eagle was HARD and that I would not make it easy or hand it to them, so now they all work harder than before. I have found that children rise (or drop) to meet your expectations. Expect great things, be happy with good things.

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FYI - this boy transferred into my Troop as a Life Scout. We have discussed his poor attitude and other problems with temporary band-aid changes then a return to same old kid. Dad is an ASM who is wonderful, but somewhat in denial. I, too, had a rough go when I turned down a Scout for Life rank for poor spirit, stealing, lieing, etc. and "failed" him. According to national and my own council, the boy has a right to proceed to a Board of Review. Scoutmaster conferences are not pass or fail, and in fact, National reads the requirement very narrowly, to "take part in a Scoutmaster Conference" meaning the moment you sit down and begin a conference you must sign off that requirement. So....my dilemma. I don't want to pass this problem off to a Board of Review and have them question, well why did the SM allow this boy to go forward? That is why I am curious how this is handled by others.



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Yep, inheirited problem kids before myself. That's a tough nut to crack, cause all he needs to do is swap troops till he finds someone willing to pass him to Eagle.


I have to say I always believed that the Conference was a pass or fail or at least a good point to stall a boy who needs a few "issues" resolved. After looking even more closely, I see that you are right. All is says is take part not get a reccomendation.


Did council give you any suggestions or was the response, in affect, "pass him on?" I guess you would have to raise your concerns with his review board (in writing) and let them come to a conclusion. At least that way it is obvious that the boy is being reviewed without Scoutmaster approval. Once again, I'm not sure that that method would meet with council approval.


In my personal opinion the spirit of the Scout Oath and Law clearly states that a boy that shows the behaviour and attitude that you describe is not ready to be an Eagle. I also think that as a Scoutmaster, at his Scoutmaster Conference, I would have to tell the boy that his behaviour was unacceptable, lay out a plan to correct the problem areas, and state in no uncertain terms that he is not ready to hold the honor of all Eagles on his back and does not my recomendation to a review board to be an Eagle until the problem areas are resolved in good faith.


I think the bottom line from what you have told us is that you have to send him to a review board by the rules of the BSA, but I would not do so before I voiced my objections to the Scout and the Review Board.

Good Luck, don't know if I helped or not.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This young man is apparently not ready for his Scoutmaster' conference. He needs to pass the Scout spirit requirement before he can be ready for his Conference. Therefore, maybe you need to counsel him about his scout spirit and set a time limit for him to improve before his has his conference. Good Luck

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  • 5 weeks later...

I had a conversation on scout spirt in my woodbadge course this summer. One of the instructors was informed by national that a scout has scout spirit even if the scoutmasater thinks he dosnt. I know this is hard to swallow, but honestly who are we to judge someone elses spirit. I suggest that the leader talk to the scout about what each of you think scout spirit is and then ask him if he feels he has lived up to it.

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  • 1 month later...

Just started reading these message regarding the boy coming up for Eagle Scoutmaster's Conference. I'm surprised to hear of national's view on an number of these issues, particularly the narrow interpretation of "taking part in a scoutmaster's conference", interpretation of a boy's scout spirit, and the non- pass/fail nature of a scoutmaster conference.


I am a scoutmaster of a troop of 60 boys. I am facing a similar situation with 2 of my boys. I delayed the scoutmaster conference, with full and complete communication with both parents, for Life Rank with one of these boys for 6 months based on my view of his recurring behavioral issues as they relate to scout spirit. His attitude toward scouting principals and his oath did change is such a way that we did have his Life SMC.


I attempt to understand 2 things about a boy at an SMC. First, I expect that they are learning and retaining basic scout skills. Second, I have some discussion with them about how they live up to their oath, including the Law, within and outside of scouting.


On a few occasions, I have not signed a boy's book for Star rank or above, only, at the conference because of what I consider shortfalls in one of these two areas.


Getting back to boys and scoutmaster conferences, I take the issue of scout spirit very seriously. The second boy is coming up on Life Rank. He's "doing the work" for advancement, mainly because his dad (Outings Chair)tells him to, but through his behavior and general attitude, appears he has little real interest in the entire scouting program and does not care about applying or modeling the principals of the Oath and Law.


The way our troop seems to handle the Board of Review is to rubber stamp that the scoutmaster has signed off the boy for the Scoutmaster's Conference. According to what you are all saying about national, we are administering the SBC/Board processes backwards. Interesting.


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I think that you and I are on the same wavelength. I take Scouting very seriously. I too was shocked at what I was told by reps from our council and national. In my mind, if those are the policies and we are not allowed to attempt to steer boys towards living the Scout Oath and Law then why even bother with "Reviews?" In effect, I was told that if he simply completes the tangible requirements then give him the badge. That is not acceptable to me or the committee and parents in our troop. The subject has been discussed and consensus has been reached. We believe that national is wrong.


As far as the statement made earlier of "Who are we to judge" Give me a break! WE are Scoutmasters, Committee Members, Eagle Scouts and concerned Parents and these are our children! We have every right to judge our children's behaviours and attempt to modify negative attributes. No we are not "better" than other people and no we don't have all the answers but it is our job to instill the highest values in our children the best way we know how. It's pretty obvious if a boy doesn't have Scout Spirit.


Interesting? No, just sad.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Good point, Mike. Kind of devalues the Eagle badge, doesn't it?

It seems that when I went through the Eagle board (and sat in on some since then,) the Scoutmaster was supposed to be present. If you feel you can't slow him or help him change his attitude, maybe stating your concerns at the board can make a difference. After all, they essentially get the final say...


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It's been awhile since training, and maybe it's changed, but Scoutmasters do not usually attend Board's of Review. I have made an occassional exception, when a Scout ( usually a younger Scout) asked if I would just be there for support ( not to participate).

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  • 6 years later...

There are a few ways that the Scoutmaster and Troop Committee can deal with "poor scout spirit", as regards advancement.


One thing all troops should have is a strong discipline policy, approved by the Troop Committee, and posted on the Troops website. We hand a copy to the parents of each new scout when they join. The policy should deal with symptoms of poor scout spirit, such as bullying, disrespect, disobediance, unsafe behavior, etc. Our Troop's policy provides various levels of discipinary action based on severity and frequency. The Troop Committee investigates and decides what discipinary action is needed based on documented poor behavior.


Scouts with poor scout spirit usually end up violating the policy and becoming subject to disciplinary action. In in more severe cases, this results in a 6-month suspension from troop activities (including advancement), or even eviction from the troop. Most scouts respond favorably to lesser penalties, such as a requirement that one of their parents attend all scout functions with them for a period of time.


The key in all of this is to document the behavior as you would for an underperforming employee, so that both scout and parents must face up to it. Don't wait until three weeks after a long-term camp to try and piece together what happened. That becomes an "I said, they said" nightmare.


Troops that allow scouts to "slide" on poor behavoir will end-up facing the delima of having to award Eagle rank to scouts who don't even buy-in to the Scout Law or Oath.


Another basis for withholding Star, Life and Eagle advancement from scouts with poor scout spirit is failure to demonstrate Leadership. The fact that they've had a title for 6 months is not sufficient to sign-off on that requirement. We make sure they continue to attend meetings and fulfill their responsibilties before signing-off.


On the issue of testing, I believe that some demonstration on the scouts retention of his training is necessary, especially for ranks Tenderfoot through 1st Class. Our troop allows Star through Eagle rank scouts to sign-off on requirements for lesser ranks. We did this to encourage the older scouts to demonstrate leadership, but it requires that the ASM's do some "quality checking". I'm also very concerned that some of the "Trail to Eagle" programs I've observed during long-term camps fall way short. Once a "quality check" has been passed, we spend most of conference on character issues.


It is true that scouting is not about knowing knots, but unless the scouts take the requirements seriously, we won't build character either. Scouts are very quick to learn when something is real or fake. We owe it to them to make it real. Furthermore, I've never had a scout that I asked to come back better prepared next week that didn't.


This was a very long post, but as an Eagle Scout, and father of an Eagle Scout, I feel very strongly on these issues.



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