I recently received this question about Scout Spirit via email:
I am a new Scoutmaster and I think I have a bit of background on Scouting. However, I have been reading your Eagle posts with some confusion and need some enlightenment.
I have a Scout, who is a Life currently, and is 17 years 1 month old. He needs one or two merit badges and his Eagle Project. He is always joking and clowning around. Nothing is serious, he often interrupts the progress of the PLC (or any other instructional activity) with his wit.
During a recent knot relay challenge I was trying to help individual Scouts who were having problems. This Scout told me was having trouble tying any knots so I showed him the bowline. He turned and walked away from me. This is not my idea of an Eagle Scout. Where is his Scout spirit? He certainly is not helping the other youth in the troop when he disrupts the PLC and is so disrespectful. I don’t think he is courteous or obedient.
I also have a mentally challenged Scout who works much harder. Every time I ask him to do or learn anything he always does his best. He exemplifies my idea of a hard working Scout and I’d be pleased to see him reach Eagle.
Two different Scouts….two different stories.
Your problem Scout is familiar – I’ve had my fair share. You don’t have to wait for an Eagle Scoutmaster’s conference to address your concerns. I’d suggest you sit this Scout down for a conference right away.
Pose your concerns in the form of questions without making accusations and listen carefully to the responses. ” So let’s pretend that we’re having a Scoutmasters conference for Eagle. How would you evaluate yourself when it comes to the Scout Spirit requirement?” “Can you give me some examples of how you have fulfilled the requirement?” “John I want to talk to you because I am confused by some of the things you do. Do you have any idea what those may be?” “Can you tell me how you would reconcile these things with the Scout Oath or Law?”
“I think that you have some real potential, what kind of responsibilities do you want to take on?”
“Sometimes I think your behavior is really distracting. How do you think we should handle this?”
“You’re going to turn 18 in less than a year, how do you see your role in Scouting between now and then?” “How can I best help you from here on out?”
You have a better than even chance of being stonewalled. He may disrespect you and or be patronizing.
“Listen, John, I’m making an effort to figure things out. If you don’t want to cooperate with me you really leave me with very few options.”
The sense of your conversation is to let the Scout know that you are both on the same side, that you support him and that you are willing to work together. There are a hundred different reasons he is acting the way he does. He may be covering some deep insecurities. He could be testing you as a new Scoutmaster. He may actually be a clown. He may be acting up because he’s having trouble at home.
Have this discussion the next time you see the Scout, don’t wait.
We all struggle at some point with the subjective nature of the Scout Spirit requirement. I really think the most effective, enlightening and fair way of evaluating if a Scout has completed the requirement is to get them to evaluate themselves.