First in a series of articles about the four steps to Scout Advancement.
There are four steps to Scout advancement described in the Scoutmaster’s Handbook PP. 124-127
Before we look at these steps let’s contextualize advancement within all the aims and methods of Scouting;
Advancement is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself. It is one of several methods designed to help unit leadership carry out the aims and mission of the Boy Scouts of America.
Guide to Advancement
No one does a better job of describing the spirit of advancement than the man who developed it in the first place:
The Badges… are not intended to signify that he is a master in the craft he is tested in. If once we make Scouting into a formal scheme of serious instruction in efficiency, we miss the whole point and value of Scout training…
We want to get ALL our boys along through cheery self-development from within and not through the imposition of formal instruction from without.
But the object of the Badge System in Scouting is also to give the Scoutmaster an instrument by which he can stimulate keenness on the part of every and any boy to take up hobbies that can be helpful in forming his character or developing his skill.
It is for this reason that the standard of proficiency is purposely left undefined. Our standard for Badge earning is not the attainment of a certain level of quality of knowledge or skill, but the AMOUNT OF EFFORT THE BOY HAS PUT INTO ACQUIRE SUCH KNOWLEDGE OR SKILL. If he is a trier, no matter how clumsy, his examiner can accord him his Badge, and this generally inspires the boy to go on trying till he wins further Badges and becomes normally capable.
Some are inclined to insist that their Scouts should be first-rate before they can get a Badge. That is very right, in theory; you get a few boys pretty proficient in this way – but our object is to get all the boys interested. At the same time, we do not recommend the other extreme, namely, that of almost giving away the Badges on very slight knowledge of the subjects. It is a matter where examiners should use their sense and discretion, keeping the main aim in view. There is always the danger of Badge-hunting supplanting Badge-earning.
Our aim is to make boys into smiling, sensible, self-effacing, hard-working citizens, instead of showy, self-indulgent boys. Thus the success of the Badge System depends very largely on the Scoutmaster himself and his individual handling of it.
Baden-Powell – Aids to Scoutmastership
There is nothing else I have ever read that has had more effect on the way I approach Scouting than the ideas Baden Powell expressed in addressing advancement. These are echoed in the present edition of the Scoutmaster’s Handbook;
… a boy may work on the requirements at his own speed.
… boys should not be pressured to advance or given deadlines.
… even the decision to advance at all, lies with each boy.
Nothing inspires advancement so much as a lively troop program. Take care of the program, and advancement will be an inevitable outcome.
Lastly, it’s important to understand that while advancement in Scouting is a unique system of learning. It is not academic, it is not competitive, it is not an end in itself. A key aspect of applying the program is understanding that we can’t import the practices of the academic world into advancement.
The four steps of advancement in Scouting are:
- A Scout learns.
- A Scout is tested.
- A Scout is reviewed.
- A Scout is recognized.
We’re going to look at these four steps closely in the next articles in this series. There are misconceptions that arise from time to time and become common practice that derail Scout advancement from the simple, direct and enjoyable work it ought to be.