Friday, June 29, 2012

"Eagle Scouts: Merit Beyond the Badge "

Cam Edwards had an interview earlier this week with Prof. Byron Johnson of Baylor University. Johnson and his colleagues with Baylor's Program for Prosocial Behavior just finished a two year study funded by the John Templeton Foundation that measured the effects of being in Scouting as well as being an Eagle Scout. In the interview with Cam, Johnson says that he was somewhat surprised by the differences in terms of leadership, civic engagement, and other issues between those who have attained the rank of Eagle Scout, those who participated in Scouting, and everyone else.

The full study can be downloaded here. It should be noted again that this study was not started by the Boy Scouts nor was it funded by them.

Prof. Johnson's research was presented this week at the Heritage Foundation. A longer and more detailed video presentation on his work can be found here.

While this study concentrated on the Boy Scouts, it would be interesting to see follow-on studies examine the impact of being in the Girl Scouts and if earning the Gold Award produced similar results to earning the Eagle.

I was both a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout in my youth. At one time I think I held the record in my troop for being the oldest Tenderfoot. However, once I made the decision to get off my duff, work hard, and stay involved with the Scouts, I did earn my Eagle. I actually have my Eagle with the Bronze Palm and am a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow (Tali Tak Taki 70 Lodge). For those of you with experience in Scouting, this will mean something. For the rest, it means I got my act together. I found Scouting to be a very valuable experience and hope boys nowadays continue to enjoy the fun times and great learning experiences it offers.


  1. Maybe not a good idea to put achieving Eagle Scout on an college application for an "elite" or wannabee college; leadership positions in JROTC and 4H significantly decrease your chances according to a study, although those are intrinsically more "Red State" than scouting.

    I myself have very mixed feelings about scouting: I was an avid Cub and then Boy Scout in the late '60s and early '70s when they changed the program to be more relevant to urban youth. A complaint at the time was that you could become an Eagle Scout without "hiking, camping or cooking over a fire" (although the Wikipedia link says that was for First Class; another says all outdoors Merit Badge requirements were dropped for Eagle, and "The Handbook's entire section on "Lost" shows a drawing of a boy talking to a policeman, with the text: "Ask for directions to find the way.").

    I wasn't as concerned by that as how they totally screwed up advancement grandfathering; at that point, I was one step from achieving First Class, but I was effectively busted down to Tenderfoot. Rather a lot of work suddenly going poof, and the de-emphasis on the outdoors was beyond the pale.

    At that point I and my father, who'd also been a scout, said "Fsck it" and I dropped out, one of millions through the rest of the '70s as membership dropped by 34%. By the time they came to their senses and started restoring the old program I was in college.

    That dropped on the first day of dove season, my third actively hunting, and was probably near the point where I was trusted to hunt quail; I guess hunting replaced that part of my life. I'm pretty sure neither of my younger brothers went beyond Cub Scouts, it was still screwed up when they would have started Boy Scouts.

  2. No one showed for my Eagle Scout project. No one. Not the bastards that I helped. Not a single Scout.

    My best friend rode by on his bike pretending not to see me. I threw a rake at him but missed.

    I would sue the Boy Scouts of America into bankruptcy tomorrow and get a court order to expunge its existence from the history of the world tomorrow if I could.

    I will not lift a finger to help the Scouts, not even if they are on fire. I will not help any Scout, especially an Eagle Scout.

    1. Sounds to me like you were the problem not scouting. If your normal attitude is anything like your post I can not imagine anyone wanting to help you. You most definitely are not Eagle Scout material.

  3. @hga: You and I must be roughly the same age. I remember those changes. Fortunately, they lasted only a couple of years and BSA reverted back to more of the old time Scouting. Being a plodder I outlasted the urban scout phase.

    @Anon: I'm sorry that you had the experience you did. Mine was far different and I remember it with fondness.

  4. I guess I wasn't a "plodder"; I noted in my Internet searches that there's a strong "First Class in First Year" effort since achieving that seems to correlate with staying in. I'm don't think I was quite that quick but I was pretty close, and had finished the summer and my first Boy Scout summer camp with only ... earning one Merit Badge? left (back then Merit Badges were otherwise reserved for after you'd achieved First Class).

    So between the devaluing of the end goal of Eagle Scout (not insignificant), having to redo everything since I'd joined (very significant), and the shear injustice of the latter (intolerable) it was Game Over for me.

    It was very much in the Zeitgeist of the times, another example of the New Left marching though the institutions, with the counterrevolution gaining more and more weight (e.g. Dirty Harry premiered 8 months earlier; I was too young for my parents to let me watch it but they told me all about it). And, hey, I was pretty committed to Nixon beating McGovern a couple of months later, I certainly didn't grok all the nuances of "acid, amnesty and abortion" but I did know that gutting the DoD (37% in three years, Nixon's commercials of a hand sweeping 1/3 of the toy ships and soldiers off a board were particularly effective) and establishing a $5,500 in 2012 dollars dole were bad ideas. I.e. I was very "Red State", I knew there was a culture war going on, and the BSA made it crystal clear which side they'd taken, one entirely anti-ethical to scouting as I had known it.

    And I had lots of company; according to one Wikipedia referenced history once the bleeding stopped around 1980, a decade later in 1989 the BSA regained only 1/2 of the Scouts lost in the '70s. Today membership is down 59% from the pre-'72 peak; don't know why that is but with a vastly larger US population....

    Ask a policeman when you're lost??? I love orienteering, and remember the JROTC event where I found the quarter I'd left at the beginning of walking a triangle. I guess the couple of years of JROTC I was able to fit into high school also substituted. Certainly my time on the rifle team in 10th grade (Winchester Model 52s) marked a major transition, it's when I started getting really serious about marksmanship (probably not coincidentally the first time I ever had an accurate rifle to shoot :-), my first coach other than my father and he was good, had been an infantry small arms specialist (e.g. one of the officers tasked with finding out why M16s were so unreliable, he said he fired about 10,000 rounds in that and lost a good part of his hearing, made real sure the latter didn't happen to us). Good days.

    1. There certainly are a LOT of problems with BSA, but the majority of them seem to be based on top-down wrangling by lawyers at National trying to reduce their liability. Also, there seem to be a lot of watermellons (green on the outside, red on the inside) at national, and I blame them for the crock of BS that is the "outdoor code."

      As for the current membership levels, it seems to me that scouting is no longer the "cool" thing to do; this combined with all the leftists who are everywhere (no troops in schools anymore, people who don't like BSA's policy on homosexuals, people who don't like kids learning about guns, hard work, and self reliance), and it all adds up to less participation.


  5. Thank you for posting, John. That gave me a smile.

  6. I hate the Boy Scouts of America with a bright, burning fire of rage. I just need to focus my hate on volunteering to litigate it out of existence. BSA cannot die soon enough.

    1. "I hate the Boy Scouts of America with a bright, burning fire of rage. I just need to focus my hate on volunteering to litigate it out of existence. BSA cannot die soon enough."

      Why don't you elaborate as to why you feel that way?

  7. The biggest single determinant of the nature of the Scouting experience is leadership at the local level. If you have good adult leadership who follow the program, the results are great. If they don't understand the program, or only follow it in part, the boys suffer. It's not rocket science, but it does require work, and thought. The most active troops are the most successful.

    There are many more activities competing against the Boy Scouts, and it's getting harder and harder to keep the numbers up in the Packs and Troops. Urban areas are really difficult, but Scouting is thriving in the smaller communities. Here in Chicago, it takes well over an hour just to drive to someplace where you can camp. In the smaller cities it just takes 15-20 minutes. More opportunity for camping, hiking, all the outdoor stuff. Urban environments have a much different feel from the smaller cities; hip-hop influences, active antagonism from the liberal-dominated institutions, political efforts to undermine the fundamentals of Scouting......

    My younger son is an Eagle Scout, and spent 4 years in Navy JROTC achieving the rank of Cadet Commander. The leadership skills he developed through Scouting and JROTC reinforced each other, and lead to a Navy ROTC scholarship. The military recognizes the exceptional nature of the young men who have achieved the rank of Eagle, and promotes new enlistees an additional "stripe" on completion of basic training. In my opinion, anyone who disparages either JROTC or the Boy Scouts is an elitist snob with no sense of history. For over 100 years the Boy Scouts have been building leaders, both boy and adult. The "elite" colleges may look down their noses, but the solid universities who produce the bulk of the college grads who are actually productive, recognize Eagle rank as the exceptional achievement that it has always been.

    Anonymous: I am sorry that you had such a negative experience in Scouting. Just like any other activity it's not for everyone. In general, it may have been the troop, or it may have been you, or it may have been any number of things. I have been involved with Scouting for over 50 years, and there has been much that was good, some that was not-so-good, but I have never personally encountered a situation where a boy was harmed by the program. Please do not judge the whole of the most successful youth development program in history solely by your negative personal experience.

  8. "decrease your chances according to a study" what study?

    The AG of my state (and a good friend for a few decades) listed it on his app to our states most demanded public University and for his application for grad studies at University of Chicago. he considers it a success factor there and later in life (as do I). My sons troop is very active and has great leaders/many activities, I wish I could motivate him to get the Eagle that I didn't. Scouting is an important program I'd like to protect and grow.

    That said, I agree with the previous poster that national's concerns about liability is selling some of the programs volunteers down the river. Girl Scouts quite often get more adventurous adventures then todays boy scouts. I'm also just a little concerned about the programs increasing "marriage" to our countries fastest growing Church. Obviously there are some parallel values that work synergisticaly for both groups, that Church has some really positive social impacts in other areas too (not to mention marketing and financial power). But... the potential for BSA dependency makes me nervous.

    For "extra credit" consider what might happen if the same Church strengthened ties with the worlds largest trainer of civilian marksmanship... again there are synergies with obvious advantage to both parties. But... for those of us who think of ourselves as Christian in a less "Church-dogma" way it seems like a mixed blessing. TNX for allowing anonymous posting.