Younger Eagle Scouts

the four percent coverPeriodically, there is a news story about a 12 or 13 year old Scout who completes the requirements for their Eagle Scout Award.  Typically, this news item is followed by a brief period of passionate discussion on various Scouting forums about whether it is appropriate for a Scout to complete their award requirements at such an age.

Technically, any Scout who completes all the listed requirements to the satisfaction of their Scoutmaster and review board(s) earns the right to receive the award.  The only age stipulation is that they must complete the requirements before their eighteenth birthday.

Now there are specific logistics that suggest boys could not possibly complete the requirements before a certain age.  Specifically, the joining requirements must be fulfilled before any advancement work can be counted.  Further, there are some requirements which specify a minimum timeframe where the boy serves in a Position of Responsibility (POR). Without fulfilling that tenure period, the boy would not be qualified to advance further.

So if a Scout joins at age 10 years and zero months (having completed the fifth grade) then he must complete (among other non-time sensitive requirements):

  • Tenderfoot physical fitness testing (do various exercises on a particular date, then using an exercise regimen repeat these exercises on a particular date – at least thirty days since setting the initial measurements).  If our hypothetical scout did his physical fitness testing on the day he joined and did the re-test on day 30, he’d now be 10 years and one month old.
  • Complete at least 10 outings (overnight camping trips) with your troop.  Many troops camp once a month, but some camp as often as twice a month.  Assuming that this young man camped twice a month since the day he joined, that would be a total of five months from his join date.  He’d now be 10 years and five months old (having done the physical fitness testing while also completing camping trips).
  • patrolLeaderAssuming this young man also completed all other requirements needed to become a “First Class” Scout, he would need to be elected by his peers as Patrol Leader, or appointed to another Position of Responsibility by his Senior Patrol Leader.  Assuming that happens immediately upon becoming “First Class”, he’d have to serve in that role a minimum of four months while he works on other requirements to become a “Star Scout”
  • Assuming that our young man has served his tenure for four months as a “First Class” Scout and has completed his other advancement work, he’d be 10 years and 9 months old.
  • He needs to continue to serve in a Position of Responsibility for six months as a “Star Scout” before becoming a “Life Scout” — assuming this happens and he meets all other requirements, then he’d be 11 years and 3 months old.
  • He needs to continue to serve in a Position of Responsibility for six months as a “Life Scout” before becoming eligible to become recognized as “Eagle Scout” — assuming this happens and he meets all other requirements (including organizing and leading a service project), then he’d be 11 years and 9 months old.

In reality, this presents a huge challenge to most boys.  The advancement work alone presents a myriad of skill mastery along with writing projects and nature study field observations, etc.

eagle_researchCan it be done?  Absolutely.

Should it be encouraged?  It depends on the boy, and who you ask within scouting ranks.

Comments on “young eagles” have included items like:

  • Some one please tell me.  Has he really practiced real leadership?  How much leading has he done?  Was he the Librarian and Historian for his leadership?  I know they count, but really…we are talking about an Eagle Scout here.
  • When people see the Eagle badge, they think leadership, accomplishment, self-reliance, the ability to serve and accomplish tasks.  When I see a 12-year-old.. I think HOW?
  • Where I agree it is possible to earn the Eagle rank at a young age, I question a 12 year old’s leadership skills.
  • I would believe a young man of 12, wouldn’t be able to successfully achieve on his own.
  • I think the real issue may not be age, but the level of maturity and real leadership that the scout is able to exhibit.

Growth_of_a_Leader-1966_RockwellIn summary, most adult Scouters suggest that their main concern is whether a 12 or 13 year old has the maturity to lead others.  Additionally, they understand that the number or percentage of scouts completing their Eagle requirements at such an early age is an outlier — perhaps as low as 2-5% of the total.

Consider these examples of early teen-aged leadership and achievement:

  • David Farragut’s naval career began as a midshipman in the United States Navy on December 17, 1810, at the age of nine. While serving aboard USS Essex, Farragut participated in the capture of HMS Alert on August 13, 1812.  He was appointed command briefly as “prize master” at the age of 12.
  • Joe Nuxhall was the youngest player in modern Major League history. He was 15 years old when he first pitched for the Reds.
  • Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roche Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette was born in 1757. At the age of fourteen, Lafayette entered the Royal Army. Before turning 20, he became a Major General in the American Continental Army and served on General Washington’s staff.
  • From age seven to fifteen, George Washington was home schooled and studied with the local church sexton and later a schoolmaster in practical math, geography, Latin and the English classics. But much of the knowledge he would use the rest of his life was through his acquaintance with backwoodsmen and the plantation foreman. By his early teens, he had mastered growing tobacco, stock raising and surveying. In 1748, when he was 16, George traveled with a surveying party plotting land in Virginia’s western territory. The following year, aided by Lord Fairfax, Washington received an appointment as official surveyor of Culpeper County.
  • Colin Maclaurin went to study divinity in University of Glasgow at the age of 11 and remained until he was 19 years, 7 months old in the year 1717 when he was elected professor of mathematics, where for nearly three hundred years he held the record as the world’s youngest professor.

Are these unusual examples?  Certainly, but very youthful Eagle Scouts are unusual as well. When Scouters openly complain about youthful achievement and hint that there may be cheating involved, it diminishes the award and demonizes the recipient unfairly (without evidence).  If this issue is so critical, then BSA ought to simply set an age limit, or change the requirements to satisfy those who believe that a 12 or 13 year old Scout is incapable of leading or understanding what they’ve been taught and mastered.

Lastly, consider this quote from a Harvard Business Review article titled “We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders” (Click HERE to see original article)

Years ago, I was involved with a firm that experimented with teaching leadership principles to elementary school children. We were introducing the same skills to 3rd and 4th graders that we teach managers in large corporations. These nine- and ten-year-olds had no trouble understanding such concepts as the importance of preserving self-confidence in your colleagues or the dangers of focusing on personalities. In fact, they lost no time in applying the principles to their parents (who are, after all, their immediate supervisors). I can’t help smiling when I think of a 3rd grader informing her parents that they were not focusing on the problem, but only on the person. From this we concluded that it’s never too early to teach leadership skills.

So a youth leadership development program (BSA) is succeeding in having boys (at a range of ages from 12 to 18) learn to communicate, motivate and lead others.  I don’t see a problem in the results as each Scout is truly unique.  While one individual may be ready to advance more quickly than others (and should not be held back artificially), others are having fun and growing despite showing more interest in the experiences of camping than completing advancement requirements.

Perhaps Michael Malone said it best:

I’ve been an Eagle Scout now for nearly fifty years and in that half century,  I’ve learned far more about what it means to be an Eagle than I ever knew on that day as a thirteen year old  [emphasis added] when my mother pinned the medal on my uniform pocket.  I don’t have to tell any of you here that earning your Eagle is merely a prelude to learning what it means to BE an Eagle, and that is an education that continues to this day [and will] no doubt continue for the rest of my life.

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Devotional: Simple Truths Shine Through

bshb0“No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys His laws. So every Scout should have a religion. Religion seems a very simple thing: First, Love and serve God. Second, love and serve your neighbor.” — Baden-Powell from his 1908 book, “Scouting for Boys”

  • Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)
  • “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NASB)

IMGP7180“The atheists….maintain that a religion that has to be learnt from books written by men cannot be a true one. But they don’t seem to see that besides printed books….God has given us as one step the great Book of Nature to read; and they cannot say that there is untruth there – the facts stand before them….I do not suggest Nature Study as a form of worship or as a substitute for religion, but I advocate the understanding of Nature as a step, in certain cases, towards gaining religion.” – BP from “Rovering To Success”, 1930

  • “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” – Psalm 19:1 (NASB)
  • “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:18-20 (NASB)

“Christ gave His life to show us that example, namely, to “Be Prepared” – no matter what it costs to ourselves – to do the right thing for others” – BP from “Adventuring To Manhood”, 1936

  • “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:3-11 (NASB)
  • “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who stands ready to judge everyone, both the living and the dead. That is why the Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit. The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” – 1 Peter 4:1-11 (NLT)

Scouters, continue to exercise your Duty to God faithfully and reverently.

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Scout Stave Dish Washing Rack

Troop113:

Awesome use of Scout staves for a very functional dishwashing station. First Class Scouts have the skills to do this, and it’s a hand’s on learning exercise to teach Tenderfoot/Second Class more lashing skills for sign-offs.

Originally posted on SCOUT - PIONEERING:

Very Functional Camp Kitchen Gadget

Very Functional Camp Kitchen Gadget

Background and History. Washing mealtime utensils on a camping trip can range from using paper plates (no washing) to “Philmont-style” (lick ‘em clean and sanitize in boiling water). Through the years, Scouting has come up with a variety of “dish washing assembly line” configurations. For a wide range of field applications, the three container method has proven itself tried and true:

  • 1st container: Washing (hot soapy water)
  • 2nd container: Rinsing (hot clean water)
  • 3rd container: Sanitizing (very hot water containing an environmentally-friendly chemical agent)
A Scout Patrol Using a Ground Level Dish Washing Assembly Line

A Scout Patrol Using a Ground Level Dish Washing Assembly Line

On many overnight camping and backpacking trips, this approach has been adapted, sometimes combining the second and third containers into one 8 quart pot, sometimes using wash basins. In all cases, the initial step is to clean or scrape off as much excess food as possible into a designated receptacle, before placing anything into the 1st container. Most often the final step, is to…

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Belief in God…

Scouting Magazine publishes many interesting articles throughout the year, and the accompanying blog “Bryan on Scouting” is equally interesting.  Sometimes they cover issues that arise from controversial decisions or program elements.

At the blog site they’ve published an article titled “About the ‘belief in God’ requirement in Scouting” and the source article can be viewed by clicking HERE.

This provocative article begins:

the-good-samaritanThe BSA asks its members to affirm a belief in God.

That doesn’t mean the Boy Scouts of America tells its members which religion to practice.

It doesn’t mean Scouts and Scouters must attend their faith’s worship services every week; a Scout could practice his faith privately at home, for example.

Here’s what it does mean. I’m quoting the relevant line from the 2014 Guide to Advancement:

“All that is required is the acknowledgment of belief in God as stated in the Declaration of Religious Principle and the Scout Oath, and the ability to be reverent as stated in the Scout Law.”

In the seven short hours since it was first posted, 108 comments were filed about the details of this simple description.

It’s my personal belief that by being “religiously pluralistic” (open to all faiths and treating all faiths as equally valid paths to God) could make people uncomfortable for many different reasons:

  • Faith and religious practice are highly personal issues and it’s natural for people to defend their own belief and faith practice since they were raised in that structure or have recently determined to follow those practices.
  • Not everyone can agree on what constitutes a “belief in God” since some faith practices don’t declare a theistic viewpoint (i.e. Buddhism is often characterized as not having a belief in a central or singular God, but BSA recognizes this philosophy as a religion and Buddhist practice as belief in God)
  • Many families simply don’t participate in organized, formal “church services” and feel awkward being confronted about their belief in God.  Sometimes, it’s easier to say “I’m not sure what I believe” or “I don’t believe” when there’s no regular practice in the home to visit a place of worship regularly.

R. Chip Turner, Chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force also offered some advice within the source article:

…we should help Scouts and their families come to realize that a belief in God is integral to Scouting and is a key element in character building. This does not reflect a change in BSA policy nor does it place Scouters in the role of religious leaders…belief in God is a cornerstone of Scouting. As Scouters, we have a tremendous opportunity to reflect this core principle while helping teach respect for the beliefs of others in pursuit of doing our “duty to God.”

Unfortunately, the BSA’s own president has been quoted as saying “In Scouting, there’s a secular emphasis on values and virtue that is not found anyplace else” which at face value seems to contradict the notion that moral and ethical values are derived or delivered from a Higher Being called “God”.

  • Chapel View 2If our values (as scouts) comes from mankind, how can we agree on the common definition of each point of the scout law?  The foundation shifts from personal view to personal view or from time to time as society redefines the rules of acceptable behavior. How can such an organization lay claim to “timeless values” under such circumstances?
  • Worse, how can BSA continue to exclude secular atheists from participating in BSA’s “secular values” program?  If morals and ethics are not integrally linked to God, then BSA ought to welcome anyone who wishes to join the organization, right?

As another blogger indicated

The god of Scouting is much like the god of Alcoholics Anonymous, a “higher power” that is whatever one wants it to be. Sure, you have to believe in god to be a Scout, you just don’t have to be too specific about it.This brings us to the basis for morals. How can an organization that will not take a stand on the identity of God be expected to take a stand on specific moral issues? There is a direct connection between the law and the Law Giver. If you’re not really sure who the Law Giver is, how can you be sure whether [any] specific behavior is “morally straight” or not? 

From what I’ve seen from internet postings by other scouters, it seems as though many Scout units fail to proactively promote this issue (belief in God) in material ways so that Scouts would be more comfortable during Boards of Review or Scoutmaster Conferences when they are going to be asked about their belief in God.

Personal conversations with other Scout leaders (during my time with BSA) indicated two (simplistic) sets of opinions:

  1. Scout Reverent medalsthat many leaders are very uncomfortable with discussing faith issues with boys for fear of upsetting parents, and BSA would be “simpler” if they dropped the whole “God-thing” and just focused on camping, etc. (like “little league” or “martial arts”, etc.)
  2. BSA is an opportunity to promote specific faith practices within the unit confines.  This means that Baptist units work to promote Baptistic, Christian faith among it’s troop families, and units chartered to Roman Catholic churches would promote RC practices to boys in it’s care (not forcing any boy to participate in specific worship practices if they were individually uncomfortable in doing so — per the declaration of religious principles)  This concept was promoted by PRAY and BSA through webinars in 2013 (titled “Baptist Scouting Ministry: Growing & Retaining Membership in Baptist Churches“)

Personally, I think it’s great that BSA wants to strengthen its promotion of core scouting ideals such as “Duty to God” and “A scout is Reverent”.  A belief in God, the development of personal faith and the fellowship afforded from regular community worship can be a strong foundation for facing the issues of growing up in this world.

However, I’m still concerned (as a parent) that misaligned family and organizational objectives will likely lead to unintended results — more specifically, a family who values their particular faith practice and wants to instill a distinctive worldview within their children may find themselves at odds with BSA’s pluralism (http://troop113.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/misaligned-objectives-may-lead-to-unintended-results/)

Other organizations, which use all of the distinctive scouting methods, but have a particular and unashamed connection to a specific faith practice may be a better fit for those families who want to raise their children to fully understand and practice their faith assertively.

  • What do you think about BSA’s requirement to assert a belief in God?
  • How does your unit cope with this requirement?
  • Do your scouts and their families support this requirement which has been in place for over a century?
  • Would Scouting be better off without faith elements incorporated?  If so, should BSA encourage atheists to join since it would be a 100% secular program at that point?
  • Considering the numerous alternative Scouting programs which are tied to a specific faith practice, why would devout families continue to align themselves with a pluralistic organization who characterizes their values as secular in origin?
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Trip Report: Allaire State Park

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

While we had heard of the many features and attractions hosted by this park, our family had never made it a priority to visit until this Fall.  In hindsight, we should have visited this park years ago since it was quite a pleasant surprise. Not only are the camping/hiking/biking facilities very well maintained, but the quality of the two local attractions were excellent for both teaching local history and for fun factor.

The park, as described at the NJ State Park web site:

Allaire State Park is probably best known for its historic 19th-century iron making town, Allaire Village, and its antique steam trains on the Pine Creek Railroad. The Manasquan River, which winds through the park, attracts canoeists and fishermen. The river’s floodplain provides habitat for over 200 species of wildflowers, trees and plants as well as habitat for birds and other wildlife. Hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders…

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Trip Report: Taconic State Park

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMGP7176My sons and I visited Taconic State Park in New York on Friday, September 12th thru Saturday, September 13th.  This campground had been recommended to us by a friend and we had never been to this part of New York State.  Taconic State Park…”is located along 16 miles of the Taconic Mountain Range, sharing a border with Massachusetts and Connecticut.” (http://nysparks.com/parks/83/details.aspx)  This “tri-state” area is home to ridges and farm-land valleys with forested streams, waterfalls and lots of friendly folks.

The park is divided into two distinctive areas:  Copake Falls Area (to the North) and Rudd Pond Area (to the South).  We camped at the Copake Falls Area (roughly a two hour drive from Bergen County, NJ)

This park area offers 45 tent sites, 25 tent platforms, 36 trailer sites and three cabin areas for a total of 106 campsites and 18 cabins.  The cabins…

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Letter to Yourself

Originally posted on Trail Life Troop 113:

IMG_20140726_124121465Trailmen, I read a blog post today that was very interesting and might prove to be a good personal growth exercise.

The original blog post is titled “A letter to my 22 year old self” and can be viewed at this link:

http://geoffwhitten.com/2014/09/05/a-letter-to-my-22-year-old-self/

In this posting, the author pens a letter to describe to his younger self where he’ll end up in a matter of years, and to provide advice and guidance on navigating the trail ahead with hope and stronger preparation.

His advice starts simply enough – “I want you to do four things:Serve. Learn. Read. Grow.”  Next he elaborates on each point with specifics.  It’s an interesting article and you may want to read it through for yourself.

I’d like to encourage readers to:

  1. consider a time in their life’s past when they were confronted by a monster decision, a scary situation, the…

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