Scouting’s progressive program is built on the idea of developmental stages. Tiger Cubs work hand in hand with their parents, Wolf Cubs build on the relationships with their family, Bears build on the concepts of community, Webelos on self-reliance and independence. The Scout Troop and Patrol builds on all these skills as Scouts progress through the ranks.
Every so often I come across a situation where some overheated leadership has taken it on themselves to depart from the age appropriate activities and blaze their own trail.
I can understand an eager parent excited that their son is approaching the age for the great outdoor adventures mom or dad has been anticipating. But this eagerness sometimes blinds them. Projecting aspirations on a son, however pure the intention may be, stresses the parent-son relationship.
Scouting’s progressive program is not intended to hold boys back, nor to quash their enthusiasm. Its patient, scaled, time-tested approach respects the growing ability of boys individually and as a group. When leaders respect this concept boys progress happily. If leaders ignore these incremental steps boys ultimately become discouraged.
Nearly any seven to fifteen year-old boy probably has an irrepressible desire to drive a car. We curb this ambition because they lack the physical and mental development to drive responsibly. Arguably there may be a few twelve year-old driving prodigies but a parent who encouraged them would be guilty of questionable judgment.
Webelos (and especially their eager dads) would like to do everything that a fifteen year-old Scout does but they would miss out on the benefits of being Webelos. Some Webelos leaders almost seem to look at the program as purgatory; not really cubs, not yet Scouts and decide to amp things up. But those two Webelos years, properly led, are as full and exciting to a boy as the next seven years in a troop.
Sitting my teen aged Scouts down to do an Webleos Activity Badge is as absurd as taking Webelos on a five day canoe trip. Good leadership measures and responds to a Scout’s ambition and may be challenged to keep up with them. But our response must be bounded by the concept of age appropriateness described in the program.
Scouting is not a list of experiences to be ticked off as quickly as possible. Scouting is not a foot race to the finish line of achieving Eagle. Scouting is a progressive journey that leads a boy from stage to stage with his parents, his family, his fellow Scouts, his community, and (perhaps most importantly) himself.