Eagle Scout Badge (Walton family archives)
Today’s “Bryan on Scouting” blog entry was all about the Eagle Scout Award — the senior editor of SCOUTING Magazine, Bryan Wendell, wrote in part:
“That’s why you never say “I was an Eagle Scout.” You always say “I am an Eagle Scout.”
The tense makes sense. Earning the BSA’s top honor makes you a marked man or woman for the rest of your life. The title doesn’t go away when you turn 18. If anything, its significance strengthens.
Those two words about your past define your character for the present and future.”
“I confess I’m confused. On the one hand, our BSA Guide to Advancement makes it clear that an Eagle Scout is someone who has completed the requirements. Anything more is “adding to the requirements” and not allowed.
By that measure, an Eagle Scout is a boy who has done 13 hours of community service over seven years, plus a service project with no minimum number of hours. He’s had citizenship instruction that amounts to a half dozen hours or so, and he may or may not remember how to fold an American flag (no retesting allowed). He’s held “leadership positions” like bugler or librarian for a bit over a year, and he’s camped out an average of two weekends per year. He’s probably pretty good at paperwork, though, at least with mom’s help.
If we are honest with ourselves, the Eagle requirements define an award that’s barely worthy of including toward the bottom of a college application. It’s not even close to something that should show up on an adult resume. As a college faculty member, I can say with considerable authority that we really don’t look at it seriously for admissions anymore.
If we want it to mean all of those highfalutin’ things that folks have mentioned, then we have to substantially change the requirements for the award and the way those are interpreted in our Advancement literature. There are “old school” troops still doing that out there, but we’re not straight with people if we tell them Eagle Scouts in general merit such consideration.”
You know that I had to answer Bob… we’ve been agreeing and disagreeing on various Scouting topics for almost a decade now. We’ve never met in person. I respect the man because he has led or coached a very successful Scout Troop in Michigan. Despite his dislike for the BSA's “leadership and management” he still produces Eagle Scouts and great young men, many of whom went onward to do great things in their communities.
I wrote the following in response, both over on the SCOUTING Magazine blog and Scouts-L. We hang out at both locations:
Here’s my take on it. I will try not to go off into tangents or side trails.
Eagle Scout is a title. It’s a title the Boy Scouts of America grants to young men and women who meet a specific set of requirements over a two and a half years or longer period. To get this title granted to you, a young person must pass by six earlier “gates”, meeting specific requirements and hopefully gaining their own personal knowledge from those experiences and training.
The plain truth is that when a young man or woman does all of the things toward Eagle and appears before that review board, it is really no different than the new Scout who shows up at your door asking to join “your group”. I get frustrated when new parents would ask me “so how long will it be before Ronnie here is an Eagle Scout?” I told many of my friends that I have a good mind just to buy up, say, 20 or so Eagle presentation kits. When someone asks that question of me, I produce one of those sets, give it to the parent with instructions “when you feel Ronnie's an Eagle Scout, just give it to Ronnie. My job in this Scouting thing isn’t to “make your son or daughter an Eagle Scout”. My job in this Scouting thing is to coach, teach, and convince him or her of the qualities which make them an Eagle Scout. But if you’re just here to see Ronnie get this, take it now, and good luck with it...”
Bob, the various requirements as you and everyone else here knows, was NEVER designed to “make someone a perfect outdoorsman, gentleman/woman and scholar” but rather to enhance those things taught in the home, school, and church and apply them to the community he lives in and the people he will encounter. Over time, American life changed so that Scouting was forced to do things our families, our schools, and our faith-based study centers were SUPPOSED to teach and maintain through practice with young people. Our families work more than 60 hours in a workweek now, compared to 30 or so back in the 40s. Our schools are challenged because they are no longer in the education business but rather in the child care and rearing business because families are not there to do it. Our faith-based centers no longer spend concentrated time teaching and coaching young men and women on the backgrounds of their faith and the application of it…because most of the young boys and girls cannot understand American English enough to understand what the teachings are from our faith books clearly.
In short, Scouting (and programs like Scouting) are taking the place of our families, schools, and churches.
Expecting the BSA to somehow “make the requirements be more specific and serious” to a young man or woman is just about impossible given today’s environment. So why do we keep on giving kids the title “Eagle Scout” when it really doesn’t mean what it used to mean in the 30s, 40s, and even 50s? Two reasons — inspiration and faith.
In the “Wizard of Oz”, the group gathered to listen to the Professor (the Wizard) explain that what each person was seeking for they already possess — a brain, courage, heart, or to “just go home to family”. As the Professor demonstrates with each gift that it is not what they seek but rather having others or themselves to acknowledge their strengths, we viewing the iconic movie have our “light bulb” lit. As far as Scouting is concerned, it is not the awarding of a $17.50 medal, a $3 cloth badge, and $2 worth of card stock certificates that makes one an Eagle Scout — it is what that young person DOES with that knowledge, that bravery, that love for others as they make “new families” and new opportunities with their lives.
Will he or she get admitted to a college or university because of the fact he’s an Eagle Scout? Nah. They’ll get admitted because of the confidence we (the BSA) gave them to be able to meet with that admissions counselor; to write that leadership paper and to use what he learned from Scouting in writing it; to be able to do as well as they can in the high school placement tests and the regular work product in school, and be able to draw upon elements of their own ethics coupled with those he was taught — those “three and 12″ things even though he or she may have never seriously prayed to anyone while growing up.
To ME, Bob, that’s an Eagle Scout. Not just an “expert outdoorsman, gentleman/woman, and scholar”. Someone who has experienced our programs and emerged from it ready to meet life’s challenges and obstacles and overcome them — and someone who is ready to assist anyone else who needs or desires his hand, knowledge, and/or heart.
We don’t need to change our program much — fine-tuning here and there. The core, what we are really all about, though needs to stay where it is, and what it is.