A reader asks about the pace of Scout advancement:
“Our troop seems to think we should hold off the scouts until they are older (ie end of Junior Year) to do their Eagle Projects and try to control the pace of advancement in the troop because they want the scouts to be more “mature” and stick around to lead the younger guys. I see some value in this, however, if a scout is motivated and fulfills the requirements needed, shouldn’t he be allowed to advance at his own pace? It becomes discouraging rather than motivating. Is there a policy we can point to in addressing this concern?”
The one specific policy that may help is ‘a Scout may earn any merit badge at any time’ – there are no age or rank restrictions. More importantly there is no policy that permits scout leaders to control how quickly a Scout advances. A duly constituted board of review may, on rare occasion, ask a Scout to work on some particular aspect of their advancement if it is found wanting, but I have never seen that happen in the past 26 years as Scoutmaster. Get yourself a copy of the Guide to Advancement and see that your Troop is conducting things ‘by the book’.
There was a time when I used to think we should control the advancement program and regulate our Scout’s progress. Then I began to understand that I did not ‘own’ the advancement program, it was not something that needed my management or assistance. Advancement happens because Scouts do things like camping and leading and inquiring about the world. Some do this quickly, some slowly, some start fast, slow down and speed up later on… in short every Scout works at their own pace.
Adults often think they know better (it takes a bit of an ego to be a Scout Leader!) than the program.
I would suggest that they abandon advancement plans, outlines, schemes, curricula, or other forms of interference. Just keep the records, conduct Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review. Scouts like to advance, they will do it without our ‘help’.
Retaining older scouts is not really a question of policy so much as attitude and program. Do the adults make all the decisions? Do they have high profile roles at meetings and camp outs? Do they feel that they have to do most of the leading because the Scouts just can’t be trusted to make things happen? Do they sit in the room at Patrol Leader Council Meetings and put their oar in every two minutes?
Older Scouts leave because they don’t have any real responsibility or engagement. They stay when they have real responsibility, they thrive on it; it is what Scouting is all about! This year our Troop will graduate five high school Seniors that have remained engaged, interested and active since day one because they have a real stake in the success of their Troop.