Here are three reasons Scouts don’t advance, and some simple ways to recognize and resolve them.
They don’t want to “do requirements”.
When Scouts don’t advance it may be we’re preoccupied with a list of stuff Scouts need to do (the requirements). If we have an active program of camping Scouts meet requirements as a result; not because they are ‘doing requirements’. Scouts don’t want to ‘do requirements’, they want to go camping.
Forget about requirements and concentrate on doing all the cool stuff you need to do to go camping.
Someone stands in front of the troop and asks; “What requirements do you want to do next?”. Blank stares, except for the two Scouts who are busily thumbing through their handbooks.
Someone stands in front of the troop and asks; “What would you like to do at our next camping trip?”. Fewer blank stares; the brave ones answer “build a fire, cook something, go on a hike, look at the stars, build something, play a game.”
When the camping trip comes around the senior patrol leader announces an inter-patrol fire building contest. As they start working on their fires there’s a lot of questions flying around about the skills and knowledge needed to build a campfire that happen to correspond to requirements. Later the Scouts are asked to demonstrate some of the skills and knowledge they just learned; this time they have their handbook and, lo and behold, everything they needed to know is right there. Pretty soon they are making the connection and getting requirements signed off.
When Scouts do what Scouts do they advance. When Scouts ‘work on requirements’ they often grow restless and disinterested.
They may have “stalled”.
It’s a rare Scout who, once he begins advancing through the ranks, continues seamlessly through to Eagle. Typically a Scout reaches a point where he stops advancing for a while. There are as many reasons for this as there are Scouts and chances are they don’t understand what is going on themselves.
Growing frustrated or demanding when Scouts don’t advance is usually counterproductive. Nine out of ten times the Scout will start up again without any prompting ; it may take six months or two years. Have a little chat and see what you can find out if they are happy, active, engaged and having fun. If so let them be; they’ll advance when they are good and ready. If not see if there’s something you can fix (more often then not there isn’t). Go fishing and see if you can catch their attention.
Mark has been a Scout for three years. He has been hovering at first class for the last eighteen months. I have been looking through our advancement records and see that he has all the merit badges he needs for Star and only needs one more for Life. At some casual moment I initiate a stealthy Scoutmaster’s conference; I haven’t announced this to him, I just start asking questions. “What merit badges do you have?”, he thinks for a minute, lists a few and then he’s stuck. “How many merit badges it take to be a Star Scout?” he thinks and offers another uncertain reply. “Are you going camping this month?” he is noncommittal. I say “I’ll bet you have enough merit badges for Star, I think you should check up on it and see; we could get things sorted out when we’re camping next weekend; how about it?” He may take the bait, he may not, but I have a whole tackle box full of lures and I am not giving up.
Every Scout advances at their own speed. Compel a Scout to advance and they’ll wait to be pushed. If we leave it to them they will, nine times out of ten, eventually move ahead. A very few may never move ahead. Remember that advancement is just one-eighth of Scouting.
They may not know how to advance and/or are afraid of the process.
When Scouts don’t advance they may not understand, or be afraid of the process. The terms “SCOUTMASTER’S CONFERENCE” or “BOARD OF REVIEW” may look like “FINAL EXAM”, “DENTIST”S APPOINTMENT”, or “TEACHER’S CONFERENCE” to them.
Demystify the processes individually. If you herd all of the Scouts together and tell them these things many of them will not get it. Talk to them individually and prompt them to ask questions. Scouts can be reluctant to ask questions in front of their peers. It may take a few tries at explaining things before they understand.
I had a conference with a querulous Scout to look at his Tenderfoot requirements more than a year after he joined the Troop. He brought his handbook, a length of rope, an American flag and a pocketknife to the conference because he assumed I would be testing his skills. I paid no attention to the things he brought and continued on. When we were done I pointed to a signature in his book; “see this?” I asked, “that means you have been tested for this skill or knowledge. You’ll need to know and do these things as a Scout but you will not be tested again; not by me or at your board of review. Does that help?” He noticeably relaxed and replied ” It sure does”.
We can talk our heads off, distribute handouts, and repeat the same instructions but some Scouts may never hear them. The assumptions and fears they have built in their minds speak much louder.