The letter you’re about to read is true. I’ve deleted some minor details and all names in order to protect the parties to this, but everything you’re about to read happened…
I’m a Life Scout, age 17 (I’ll be 18 in seven months). I earned Life rank in the troop I was in before the one I’m in now. My family moved from one state to another about two months ago, and my original troop is now more than a thousand miles away! Before we moved, I had completed all my merit badges for Eagle, my service project (with all signatures in the right places in my workbook), and I had served as Senior Patrol Leader of my original troop for seven months. But at almost exactly the same time as I was putting together a list of references and was about to ask my Scoutmaster for my Scoutmaster’s Conference for Eagle, our family moved, and so I transferred into a troop here in our new town.
When I first joined this troop I thought it would be a good idea to get to know some of the Scouts in it, and the leaders, too. So I’ve been to every single troop meeting, and also helped some of the Scouts in it with service projects. Then I went to my new Scoutmaster with everything I’d done for Eagle and asked for a Conference. I showed him my Handbook, where requirements 1 and 4 were signed and dated, gave him a list of my references for requirement 2, showed him my merit badge cards and blue card stubs for requirement 3, and showed him the workbook for my service project with the four required signatures in the front and the two at the end.
But instead of giving me a date and time for the Conference, the Scoutmaster told me that I’m not “Eagle quality” (his words) and gave me three choices. He said I could quit Scouting, or stay in the troop if I wanted to but know that I’ll never be an Eagle Scout, or go find another troop. He said that even though I’ve been coming to troop meetings and helping other Scouts, I’m not showing Scout spirit because I haven’t gone on any campouts. I explained to him that in a year I’ll be graduating from high school and I work afternoons Mondays through Fridays and all day Saturdays and Sundays to earn money for college. He told me, “So what.”
He said that I’m “not showing leadership initiative.” I told him that he is the one who refused to assign me to the Senior Patrol when I joined the troop (this patrol is made up of Scouts who are my age and, although I was told I have to have a leadership position to be a member in it the Scoutmaster wouldn’t hear of making me a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, there are definitely guys in this patrol who have no leadership jobs in the troop at all). Instead, he put me in a patrol of Scouts 11 to 13 years old! I’ve showed them some stuff for their Second and First Class requirements, but the Scoutmaster told me this doesn’t count because I “should” be doing this anyway. (I described this to my parents, and they said it’s a “Catch 22,” and so I looked that up and it sure is!)
I tried to tell my Scoutmaster that I have already completed every requirement for Eagle, but he said that that’s not enough, that “this troop has higher standards,” and then he gave me a list of things I would have to do for the next six months to be “considered” for Eagle. Here it is:
(1) Attend 75% of all troop meetings;
(2) Attend the greater of 10 days or 50% of all outside troop activities, and including 6 overnights (if I do anything here for less than 5 hours, it will only count for a half-day);
(3) Hold a leadership position that he’ll select;
(4) “Show initiative” by helping other Scouts.
I asked to speak to the troop committee and chairman about this, and the Scoutmaster said OK, but the first thing these men told me was that I’m “pathetic” and “a joke.” I was stunned and asked if they were joking with me. They were not!
One of the men said that he had told me over and over that I needed to go to a special troop campout and I had refused, but when I challenged this he finally admitted that all he had done was ask me one time if I was going and I told him that I couldn’t because I had to work that weekend (I work every weekend). Their solution to my working for college was that I should “get my priorities right” and quit my job.
They did acknowledge that I’d completed my own Eagle project, but went on to say that I don’t help others with their projects. I pointed out that I was at all but one workday for two different Scouts in the troop. Their only response was, “Oh.”
When I asked them why they hadn’t sat me down right away to tell me they were having had a problem with me, their answer was that they “wanted to see what I would do on my own.” They said they didn’t tell me I needed to go on a specific number of campouts because I would have gone on that number just to please them and not because I wanted to.
To make sure I was understanding them, I re-stated what I thought they were telling me: That no matter what I do—if I go on every campout and hold leadership positions—nothing is going to be good enough. They said, “That’s right.”
They told me they were just being nice to me by telling me this now, so I would have time to find a new troop. But they also told me that if that troop contacted them to find out about me, they’d say that, in their estimation, I’m “not Eagle material.”
Is there anything that can be done about this situation? Thanks!
(Name & Council Withheld)
OK, readers, there you have it. That’s the story. Here’s the question: What do you think should happen here?
Write to me with your thinking on this and I’ll put what you have to say in a column right away.
Got a question? Send it to me atAskAndyBSA@yahoo.com.
(Please include your council name and home state)
(July 9, 2007 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2007)