Is your Troop’s advancement program aimed at ‘true north’? Here’s some statements derived from Andy’s (at Ask Andy) answer to a Troop where the Scoutmaster is seriously off course:
- Every Scout can advance in rank according to each Scout’s preference for velocity, and no one will attempt to either slow him down or speed him up–this is entirely each Scout’s personal decision.
- Any Scout can apply for any merit badge any time he wants—whether Eagle-required or not—and upon informing the Scoutmaster of his preference or preferences will immediately be given a Blue Card and the name and contact information of a local Merit Badge Counselor.
- All merit badges, earned anywhere, will “count” and there will absolutely not be any “re-testing” by anyone. The Merit Badge Counselor’s signature will be the sole indicator that the badge is completed. Merit badges are absolutely not subject to boards of review of any kind, or even review by the Scoutmaster.
- There is no “holding back” on rank advancement. If there’s a Scout who wants to be Eagle by his 13th birthday, or 14th, or whenever, that’s his personal decision and no one else’s.
- Boards of review for ranks will absolutely not include quizzes or tests on requirements for either the rank or any merit badges. The Scoutmaster will not be a member of any board of review, and has no “vote” in any board of review.
- If a Scout is ready to advance in rank, and requests a Scoutmaster Conference for completion, this will happen either right then and there or within one week or less of the original request. All Scoutmaster Conferences will be held in accordance with BSA policy and will not be conducted as “final exams.”
I have some empathy for Scoutmasters who are, as I once was, frustrated with the quality of their Scout’s skills. Most of us have a predictable response – to tighten up on instruction, evaluation and generally to become more drill sergeant or schoolmaster than Scoutmaster. Problem is this course is not in keeping with what Scouting is trying to accomplish. Remember what Baden-Powell wrote in response to an early attempt to standardize Scouting:
Our standard for badge earning—as I have frequently said—is not to attain a certain level of quality of work (as in school), but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT EXERCISED BY THE INDIVIDUAL CANDIDATE. This brings the most hopeless case on a footing of equal possibility with his more brilliant or better-off brother. We want to get them ALL along through cheery self development from within and not through the imposition of formal instruction from without.
If your present practices are not in alignment with those above it is time for a course correction. Scouting is not a system of measurements, grades and evaluations – it is a road to the joys of discovery, personal development, and adventure. The Advancement Program is only one of several measures we use to achieve these ends.
Get your Troop aimed at ‘True North’ and enjoy the trip!