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Eagle Scout: Merit Beyond the Badge

Posted by on Thursday, 21 February 2013

Today, the BSA National Council is drawing attention to a study conducted by Baylor University. Funded by the Templeton Foundation, this was an independent study of the differences between adults that were Eagle Scouts, had been Boy Scouts, and those that were never Scouts. You can read the entire report here. After reading through the study it is no wonder that the BSA is advertising the results!


eagle_research

According to the Baylor study, later in life Eagle Scouts are more likely than non-Scouts to:

  • Have higher levels of planning and preparation skills, be goal-oriented, and network with others
  • Be in a leadership position at their place of employment or local community
  • Report having closer relationships with family and friends
  • Volunteer for religious and nonreligious organizations
  • Donate money to charitable groups
  • Work with others to improve their neighborhoods

The final paragraph of the report concluded like this:

In sum, when compared to Scouts and non-Scouts, Eagle Scouts exhibit significantly higher levels of health and recreation, connection, service and leadership, environmental stewardship, goal orientation, planning and preparedness, and character.

Sounds good to me.


Eagle

However, those are some strong claims. As a Scout Leader I have to wonder, are we still providing the same benefit today? The first Cub Scouts I had the honor to lead won’t turn 30 for another 17 years, so I guess the jury is still out on my particular corner of the program. However, I can look at the Scouting program as it sits today and draw some pretty clear associations between the activities of Scouts and the results of the Baylor study.

Goal oriented and preparation skills? As Clarke has pointed out, preparation and planning are explicit actions expected of Scouts as they plan and execute the outdoor adventures. As long as they are the ones doing the planning and the preparing.
Leadership positions at work and in the community? Spending time in front of a group of Scouts as their “leader” is a quick lesson in where authority, motivation, and leadership are sourced. Lesson #1 is just because you have the position, doesn’t mean they are going to listen. Without the mentorship and training these lessons get lost, and with it goes the understanding of leadership.
Closer relationships to friends and family? Time builds relationships. Spend time with your friends in Scouting, and you are going to be closer friends. Camping and shared outdoor adventures bring Scouts and their family and friends together in ways that the Wii and Xbox can’t. Ask an Scout what his favorite campout was and the answer is almost always one where the weather or other challenges brought them closer to their friends.
Volunteer for organizations and working with others to improve their neighborhood? After spending 6 or 7 years working on service projects and leading one of their own choosing, it isn’t a big leap to think the Scout has made the connection with the power of volunteerism. Service is an important part of an Scouting program.



Well, that’s great that we are helping the 4% that achieve the Eagle Rank. What about the other 96% that don’t get that far? Have we failed them? One other thing I noticed as I read through the report- in many places there were not statistical differences between the Eagle Scout group and those that were Boy Scouts that did not achieve the Eagle rank. This study is one more thing that points out the benefit of Scouting isn’t in that red white and blue ribbon they earn at the end, it is found in the journey to get there.