Today was a slow day as far as Scouting goes. Received a few emails from our DE about some things, but nothing really noteworthy and I didn’t really have anything to work on for the Troop. I did create a separate email address for the blog and potentially for a podcast – MNScoutmaster@gmail.com. Feel free to contact me there with any questions, comments or concerns you may have. I did have some time to think about advancement – so I thought I’d pass my thoughts on to you and see if any of you out there have any comments.
How important is advancement in your units? I’m primarily talking about the Boy Scout level here, but if you have something to say about any other level (Cub Scouts, Venturing, etc..) feel free to contribute! I have heard of some Troops being called ‘merit badge factories’ – those Troops that focus primarily on advancement and pumping out as many merit badges and Eagle Scouts as possible.
Personally, I don’t like that idea. When I was a Scout I went to a few merit badge workshops – where they sit you down for 8 or so hours in one day and you just hammer it all out until you’ve earned the badge. I don’t feel this is a good way to earn merit badges as you really aren’t able to absorb much of the material presented and thus don’t retain much of it. Sure, you earn the badge, but that’s it. You really don’t learn the skill. I’d much rather see a Scout take 2 or 3 months to earn a merit badge (especially the Eagle required ones) than bust one out in a day. They’re better for it in the long run, and so is the entire program.
That being said, I’ve been looking at the new Journey To Excellence (JTE) stuff for Troops and particularly the advancement portion. 55 to 65% of a Troop advancing one rank in a year isn’t really that terrible of a hurdle, but sometimes – in certain years and certain circumstances – it can be. For instance, if you have a Troop that is full of Scouts that are First Class and above. In that situation, it’s very possible that less than 50% of your Scouts will advance in the year. I guess it all depends on how much you stress advancement, and how easily available you make it to them. That’s one thing I’m struggling with at the moment – all of the Scouts that are First Class and above strictly need required merit badges to move them on to the next rank – most even all the way through Eagle.
So how do I help them along? We’ve tried the intro to a required merit badge during a meeting. I think ONE Scout went with it and is now close to completing that one. The rest, well, I think they took the Cub Scout mentality (no offense to any Cub Scouters) of group advancement. I may take a few minutes next meeting and gently remind those boys that advancement is up to them, and will not be a group thing. Of course, our younger patrol is currently on an advancement kick, and is utilizing one of our ASM’s to help them get lots of stuff knocked off up to First Class. Still, there are many things they just can’t do as a group in a patrol meeting. So they will have to advance at their own pace as well.
Sorry if I’m babbling a little here. I’m just letting you know my thought and how our Troop is currently operating. I think advancement is important in the program, but I also think that we as leaders shouldn’t push them too much. I have a Scout that is a founder of the Troop 6 years ago that is still Tenderfoot. He likes to come to meetings and go camping when he can, it’s just that advancement isn’t important to him. I think he still gets just as much out of the program as the boy who is all about becoming Eagle. So I’m still pondering.
There is most likely a balance. There always seems to be a balance. It’s their Troop, not mine. They’ll actually figure it out, won’t they?
Happy Easter to you all, I hope you have a great weekend!