Years ago there was some question as to whether one of my Scouts who was a candidate for Eagle had satisfied the ‘active’ requirement. He had not attended many meetings or outings in the last six months. He was a high school senior and a wrestler. We set up a meeting with him, his father and his wrestling coach.
At that meeting the Scout enumerated the things he had accomplished as a leader in his Troop and his wrestling coach spoke of how much the team relied on his leadership as a team captain. By the end of that meeting we were thoroughly convinced that this young man had done just what we would have expected of an Eagle Scout and more. He went on to a board of review and earned his Eagle.
Disputes like this are as common as they are resolvable when cooler heads prevail. Having a clear set of principles to guide us is vital in setting reasonable expectations for Scouts to succeed rather than finding ways to fail them.
Evaluating some advancement in Scouting is a cooperative effort. Our role is to set reasonable expectations with rather than for Scouts and join the effort to meet them; to always be on the side of our Scouts. Instead of issuing judgments we enter into conversations with our Scouts in an effort to define a goal and evaluate if it has been met. This relationship is an uncommon one. We are used to a more adversarial relationship with goal setting and achievement; with trying to meet a standard, to please a boss or supervisor. Scouting has no bosses waiting for performance reviews. Scouting has only mentors and coaches who are engaged in assuring that things go well. Achievement should be common and disappointment rare.
How, then, do we honestly and fairly set expectations and evaluate performance. A statement in the Guide to Advancement gives us some definitive direction:
The concepts of “reasonable” and “within reason” will help unit leadership and boards of review gauge the fairness of expectations for considering whether a Scout is “active” or has fulﬁlled positions of responsibility. A unit is allowed of course, to establish expectations acceptable to its chartered organization and unit committee. But for advancement purposes, Scouts must not be held to those which are so demanding as to be impractical for today’s youth (and families) to achieve.
Ultimately, a board of review shall decide what is reasonable and what is not. In doing so, the board members must use common sense and must take into account that youth should be allowed to balance their lives with positive activities outside of Scouting.
GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT 2011 page 20
We are entrusted to exercise a sense of proportion and common sense in establishing reasonable expectations. There are no suggested expectations described, only the broad underlying concepts that guide us. Absence of specific metrics is an indication that setting reasonable expecations is a highly individualized undertaking from unit to unit; from Scout to Scout.
Many youth activities are overly demanding; miss a practice and you can’t play a game, miss a rehearsal and you loose your part in the play. Scouting is the only activity I know of that encourages youth to balance commitments and interests so they can take advantage of all opportunities to learn and grow.