Reaching the rank of Eagle Scout is a laudable and challenging goal for any boy, and we ought to keep the trail to Eagle clear. In many instances the process has been clouded by a self-appointed priesthood pledged to ‘maintain standards’ and ‘the integrity of the award’. They most often do this by unethically and incorrectly adding to the requirements in subtle and not so subtle ways.
Perhaps it is a local anomaly but we seem to have an inordinately difficult time with the approval of projects, conduct of boards of review and a high degree of nit picking. Precious little of our advancement program is a single uniform standard; ‘six months tenure’, for example, is always ‘six months tenure’. (That is unless one scout’s tenure included the month of February and another’s didn’t – the first would have served several day’s less.) Most requirements towards Eagle involve an unquantifiable measure (demonstrating leadership, for example) that are best judged by a group rather than a single person – thus the Board of Review.
Scoutmasters should monitor (from a respectful distance) the relationship between a District Advancement Chairman and their scouts working towards Eagle. If the District Advancement Chairman is making unfair demands outside of the clearly written procedures and policies than it is wholly appropriate to call these demands into question. A scout working towards Eagle is new to the process, Scoutmasters are not and they should keep an eye on things. Should a Scoutmaster be inexperienced with the process they may want to call on a colleague who is.
I have seen project ideas rejected for capricious reasons that have nothing to do with the actual requirements: demands of a certain number of hours for projects, a benchmark for the number of people involved, unreasonable expectations of the way the project report is to be written and presented and other additions to the process that are absolutely forbidden by policy.
The heart and genius of Scouting is that individual Scouts are not assessed against a single standard, but according to the personal effort they have extended in meeting the spirit of the requirement. Judging one Eagle Project against another, the elegance of one project report against another, adding expectations, benchmarks or suggested standards is not only inimical to the Spirit of Scouting, it is just plain wrong.