During my tenure as Scoutmaster I have worked with 50 Scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle. Becoming an Eagle Scout is supposed to be challenging. Unfortunately these normal difficulties are often compounded by totally unnecessary Eagle Scout Problems.
All too often this drama is caused by the Scoutmaster.
Somehow there are a number of Scoutmasters who act like that they are the gatekeepers for the advancement system (especially the rank of Eagle) when they are supposed to be coaches, guides and mentors. Some Scoutmasters develop the idea that their personal standard of achievement is all important.They wield the Scoutmaster’s conference like a weapon making it a pronouncement of their often capricious judgment.
Now this all sounds pretty dramatic because it really is dramatic. Scouts and families take a huge emotional hit whose shock waves extend to other Scouts and their families.
Narratives of these dramas unfold as if they had been scripted; a Scout, having completed their Eagle project, six months of leadership tenure, 21 merit badges and six previous Scoutmaster Conferences sits down with his Scoutmaster who ambushes him with one of two (and often both) pronouncements that he has not met the ‘active’ requirement or has failed to show Scout Spirit. Sometimes the Scoutmaster may set the Scout a task to appease the Scoutmaster, sometimes the Scoutmaster just slams the gate closed.
Why does this happen over and over again? (Trust me, it does, I get emails.) Usually because the Scoutmaster either lacks an understanding of the advancement system and/or is just generally frustrated with his Scouts.
What do I mean ‘just generally frustrated with his Scouts’?. The best explanation I have is drawn from personal experience. Most of us Scoutmasters develop an idealized concept of what an Eagle Scout should be and it becomes a standard by which we judge our Scouts. This idealized standard supplants the advancement process and results in a great deal of frustration.
It took me some years to understand that no Scout would measure up to the idealized standard I had developed. Upholding my idealized yet non-existent Eagle Scout was doing a lot more harm than good. The antidote to this dilemma was an understanding of what Scouting really is all about and what makes it different from every other field of endeavor – something that I’ll explore further in tomorrow’s post.