On Scouting (and advancement)

This is my first blog post, not just on here, but anywhere online. I'm writing it mostly to sort out my own thoughts, and share those thoughts for anyone interested. It's probably going to be much longer than it needs to be. It may or may not be coherent. If it is, great, if not, I don't really care. But hopefully it is.

Tonight I went to an Eagle Scout Court of Honor (henceforth listed as COH), for a scout in the troop I was initially a scout of, then an assistant scoutmaster (and at times acting scoutmaster). It was for one of the last two scouts I've told people I will attend a COH for if they make eagle, until I have children of my own.

Despite some technical hiccups, the ceremony was nice. That's not what this blog entry is about. This blog entry is not about the new eagle, though I could write multiple entries on him, his journey, and the troop that helped him in the journey.

In part of the ceremony, they went through a slideshow of his times in scouting, like they've done at all eagle COH's for the past 14 (at least) years. Those brought up a lot of memories and emotions for me like always, possibly moreso since this might be the last COH I attend for this troop. That's also not what this blog entry is about.

No, this blog entry is about the other scout, the last scout that I want to attend an eagle court of honor for. That scout, I never actually expected to make eagle.

For the first 3-ish years of his scouting career, I was an assistant scoutmaster, and he never made it past second class. One of the requirements to do so is complete the swimmer test, which basically requires you to swim 100 yards, and then float for a bit (normally a minute). While he knew how to swim, he was not a very strong swimmer, and despite trying for each of the 3 years at summer camp, he never completed the swimmer test.

I'm going to backtrack a bit, and share my role at summer camp, for the most part. There is a type of scout that never really seem interested in advancing. They're there just to have fun, and learn a few things-they don't go out of their way to complete requirements, and don't bother with merit badges. For those scouts, I watch them at the campsite, help them find something that they're interested in (sometimes it's chopping wood or making fires, sometimes it's tying knots, sometimes it's hiking or swimming or kayaking, sometimes it's something as simple as playing cards or board games). Then, I make sure that they're doing that, and staying active. I was fine with people not advancing, as long as they were doing something...I was not a fan of them coming to summer camp and moping in their tents all day.

This scout that I'm talking about was one of the ones who never seemed interested in advancing. Over the course of those three years, he only earned 2 merit badges that I'm aware of, and both of those he earned with me. And both of them, once he got started he got really into, and he had a passion that seemed to mostly go unnoticed, but was there when he wanted something. But that passion was never towards advancing, and while he did go to free swim sometimes to try to get better, from what I heard (I never joined him over there), the other scouts/scoutmasters didn't think he was putting in that same passion I was convinced was there. Whether or not that's true, I have no way of knowing.

Getting back to the point-at the eagle scout COH today, I saw that he had a life badge on his uniform. I asked one of the assistant scoutmasters still involved in the troop, and got the story. Apparently the next year, he managed to pass the swimmer test, and over the summer got 10 of the required 21 badges that he needed. He finished up all the other requirements he had to do, and continued straight to life. He hasn't planned his eagle project yet, but it's probably next. Everyone else saw that passion that I'd seen 3 years in a row. The asst. scoutmaster guessed that he probably wanted to be an eagle scout, but never focused on it since he never believed he'd pass the swim test.

This made me conflicted. Obviously, I'm happy for him. But part of me feels like myself and scouting in general (almost) failed him. By having this one requirement that he struggled with and struggled with, he lost a lot of his passion for 3 years, that he could have had. And it makes me wonder how many other scouts/former scouts are out there, who had a similar issue and gave up on advancing because of it.

And another part of me thinks that it's fine. He didn't have any actual disability preventing him from passing (since he did pass it), he just wasn't a strong swimmer. It was an obstacle, and he had to overcome it, and everyone has to overcome obstacles. And he did overcome it, and who knows if he'd have the same motivation to continue if he was able to "skip" those obstacles he had trouble with. And again, I have no idea how much effort he actually put into passing the test.

It's something I've been pondering the last few hours. And I'm curious about those other scouts that I worked with, who never became eagle. I'm curious more about what was motivating them against it, and if things may have turned out differently, if I spent more time exploring that with them. And if it even matters-if they still enjoyed their experiences, and learned everything they would have learned anyway, what difference does it make what rank they were when they turned 18?

I'm sure anyone who read this far can figure out a way to relate this to martial arts and black belt if you want, but I've got enough to think about for the night.


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