Visiting An Eagle Project

The son of someone I know through Ockanickon asked me to serve as her son’s Eagle coach, a new position in Scouting with the goal of guiding a Life Scout through the steps required to get Eagle.  When I arrived, the kids were largely sitting and the adults were woodworking away building the project and I cringed a bit.  The Eagle Scout in question passed me his workbook and the number of cases where “my mom” or “my dad” was the answer to the question of “who will do x?” made me somewhat uncomfortable.  I could find nothing wrong with his work except for a few insignificant misses and signed off on the section verifying his prep work and oversight of the project.

Leadership is a cornerstone of the values of Scouting and the rank of Eagle is a milestone in its training.  Leadership to me is best shown in one of two ways: dealing with a problem or opportunity that popped up facing a group or building something over the course of many years.   Neither of these scenarios is conducive to the timescale of Scouting rank advancement so the Eagle Project is used as a proxy for it.  An Eagle Project must be lead by the Scout, help a non-Scouting community, and be both tangible (something gets made) and definite (not ongoing).  Sometimes this works as a platform of leadership but often the only skill proven is that a Scout can navigate paperwork and cooperate with multiple people.  I’d say this is an important skill but it is not quite Leadership.

A debate in Scouting rages over whether or not one can be “too young” to get Eagle.  I don’t necessarily believe this to be the case but I have found that older Scouts tend to be more ambitious with their projects which in turn requires leadership.  They focus on the outcome rather than completing the project as a check box and I believe that creates a more impactful project.  Do I hold anything against this Scout for how he’s getting his Eagle?  No.  Do I wish there were a bureaucracy-friendly way to create a crucible of leadership a la the Kobayashi Maru of Star Trek?  Hell, yes.