Andy at Ask Andy shares these Eagle Scout thoughts:
In 1931, Jane Addams, founder of Hull House, received the Nobel Peace Prize; she was 91 at the time.Former US President Jimmy Carter is also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize; he was 78 when he received it. Theodore Roosevelt, the only US President to receive this recognition while in office, was a mere 48 on receipt. But he wasn’t the youngest. Lech Walesa was a mere 40 in 1983, when he received it; and Martin Luther King, Jr. was a babe of 35 when he received it.
Should the NPP committee have held these latter three recognitions back for another two or three decades, so that the recipients’ ages were more in line with others? The answer is, of course, No. Why? Because they’d “done the work.”
I know a young man who will graduate from a major Ivy League university with a Masters degree at age 19. Shouldn’t the university have tried to slow him down, to make him wait, to stall him, till he turns 24 or 25 or so? Of course not! Why? Because he’ done the work.
There are, in the military, young generals and old generals, and in some cases very old generals. How does this happen? It happens when they are considered qualified by dint of having done the work, regardless of their age.
But what sets all of these apart from the ranks in Scouting’s advancement program is that, in these cases, someone else must decide that the work’s been done; in Scouting, this is virtually entirely up to the individual Scout. This is perhaps why there’s only one Eagle Scout Rank Application, and not separate applications for “Young Eagle” or “Old Eagle.” When the work has been done, it’s the work that is evaluated; not the age.
The Boy Scout advancement program is unique in several ways. First, as stated, it is based on individual effort and is achievable by one’s own vision and energies. Second, it is not mandatory in any sense of the word: If a Scout wishes to earn this rank, there is nothing in the Scouting program that can stand in his way; if he doesn’t, Scouting says that that’s OK. Third, no one “confers” or “bestows” the rank of Eagle (or any other rank, for that matter) on a Scout: He receives what he has earned. Fourth and perhaps most significant, receiving of any rank in Scouting by one individual is not determined by the judgment of others: If the work has been completed, the rank has been earned.
It is the responsibility of a troop’s adult volunteers to encourage all Scouts to advance in rank; it is not the responsibility of anyone to decide who shall advance and who shall not, or what their respective timetables will be.
Certain ranks have tenures. Some people think these are to slow the Scout down (so he can “mature,” etc.). Actually, the purpose of the tenures is to give the Scout the opportunity to put into practice what he’s learned,
in a significant way.
Some people also think that “Eagle” is the pinnacle of Scouting, the end of the road, the finish-line, in a manner similar to earning a college degree. But, when pressed, these same people will (perhaps reluctantly) agree that even college degrees go beyond Bachelor, and even go beyond Doctor.. Yes, there are “Post-Doc” educational opportunities! When we think of Eagle as the end of the road, the tendency is to couple this thinking–however wrong–with the fact that one’s 18th birthday ends the Boy Scout experience as a youth, and so we have young men who are encouraged to plan a seven-year program from Tenderfoot to Eagle because of a misguided connection founded on an inaccuracy. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with a seven-year program of progress, but neither is there anything inherently wrong with a two-year program of progress! It’s all up to each individual Scout. The Boy Scout Handbook says so!
So much for age. Let’s move on…
Is rank advancement important? Yes it is, because this is one of the ways boys become men: They steadily expand their knowledge, skills, and outlook on life. However, advancement is but one-eighth of the methods
Scouting employs to accomplish the ultimate goal of imbuing boys with the fiber of responsible, ethical manhood and citizenship. There are seven other equally important methods by which Scouting attempts to do this, from the outdoor program to association with positive adult role models.
Is the rank of Eagle important? Yes it is, because it’s an achievable goal for every boy who enters the Boy Scout program. We are taught in management that, when we set goals for ourselves or the group we’re responsible for, those goals must be achievable. Eagle is achievable. But, historically, only two in a hundred boys reach this
level. Is this OK? Of course it is, because even though not necessarily achieved by all, it nevertheless represents a target to be aimed for.
The earliest Boy Scout Handbook called those who earned Eagle “all-around perfect Scouts.” This may have been a mistake. “All-around” certainly, but “perfect”…? I’m not so sure about “perfect.” In
today’s world, I think “all-around” works just fine. In fact, I’ve never yet met an Eagle Scout who wasn’t “all-around.” Eagle Scouts aren’t “Scout nerds,” largely because what is required of them inherently expands their world.
A Court of Honor recognizes advancements that Scouts have earned since the last court. Courts of Honor, in my opinion, need to remain this way. I don’t personally accept the notion of “EAGLE Courts of Honor,” because while this rank is significant, so are Life, Star, and, Yes, Tenderfoot. Each one marks progress; each one deserves to be acknowledged. Besides, from a purely practical point-of-view, many fewer Scouts and parents attend “Eagle Courts” than do troop-wide Courts of Honor, and without these Scouts and parents, how can this rank be used to help promote the idea of advancement overall? The plain fact is: It can’t.
Moreover, the specialized C-o-H tends to be more a coronation than an acknowledgment of a rank earned. (Even with the Motion Picture Academy Awards, Oscar winners are given 90 seconds to make their acceptance
speeches, whether it’s a single award or a group award.)
On what Eagle means…
I knew a man–president of a multi-million dollar corporation–who made a point of hiring men who were Eagle Scouts. When I asked him why, here’s what he said: “I know when I hire a man who is an Eagle that he knows how to set a goal and then figure out how to get there.”
On conclusion of a successful Eagle board of review, I share this thought with the new Eagle Scout: “The three best things about being an Eagle Scout are these: You’ve pleased and honored your parents, you’ve learned how to make good decisions for yourself, and you’re going to absolutely delight the parents of your date.”