Tuesday Talkback: What are your thoughts on 12-year-old Eagle Scouts?

Tuesday-TalkbackA select few very motivated boys are now earning the Eagle Scout Award before they can (officially) see a PG-13 movie.

Yes, the latest members of the “youngest Eagle Scouts ever” club are 12 years old.

First, the facts. It is, technically, possible to earn Eagle at 12. To join Boy Scouts, you must be a boy who is 11 years old, or one who has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old.

Reaching First Class comes with no time limit requirements. But once there, a boy must be active four months as a First Class Scout to earn Star, six months as a Star Scout to earn Life and six months as a Life Scout to earn Eagle. Add those numbers together and you get 16 months, or the minimum length of time from joining Boy Scouts to earning Scouting’s highest rank.

Let’s say we have a 10-year-old boy who earns the Arrow of Light and joins Boy Scouts. It’s quite possible he could complete all the requirements for Eagle Scout before he becomes a teenager.

So it’s possible, but should we encourage it?

I asked a similar question more than two years ago, and that post has now generated 190 comments from Scouters like you.

It’s time to have the discussion again. So for today’s Tuesday Talkback, tell me: What are your thoughts on 12-year-old Eagle Scouts? Leave a comment below.

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565 thoughts on “Tuesday Talkback: What are your thoughts on 12-year-old Eagle Scouts?

  1. I believe it is our job to support boys in their rank advancement … but NOT to encourage it at an accelerated pace. Furthermore, I seriously question the true value of an Eagle rank earned at such a young age – both on the basis of the retention of what a young man has learned, and on the true leadership experience he has had in the process. The value of a leadership term comes from what can be learned in the process and applied in the future – something that requires a degree of maturity that is largely lacking in such a young boy.

    I serve in a council where boys are largely encouraged to complete their Eagle rank at a very early age, to make room for religious activities in their teen years. I see boys wearing an Eagle rank that don’t remember how to tie knots and don’t tuck in their uniform. “Lead by example” has very little application for such young men. While I respect the rank they have earned, I regretfully question the true quality of their Scouting experience.

  2. Certainly there is a small percentage of boys who can and will become Eagle very young and will continue in Scouts and get everything they can out of it. BUT for the vast majority of boys, there are true lessons to be learned in the journey to Eagle which can only truly be appreciated with maturity. Maturity most often comes with age (not always but mostly).

    I encourage all parents to not just push their boys through before the “fumes” hit just because they’re afraid their kid will lose enthusiasm but to encourage them to stick with Scouting. One of the biggest benefits our troop has had is having older boys stick around to be those experienced Scout Leaders; those who can help lead and really make the troop BOY lead. The likelihood of a boy who earns Eagle at 12 or 13 sticking around till his 17 or 18 is very slim in my opinion.

  3. I have seen a few boys at 12 that knew their stuff, earned their MB,s and rank and could have earned their Eagle by age 12. They usually were in scouts at a young age and had an older brother(s). My old troop never held back a boy, but suggested that they mature, learn more, and just have fun at a younger age.

    Our troop was more concerned over quality than quantity of Eagles coming from the troop. We really were not only interested in Eagle’s either, but developing the boys as future leaders, husbands, and workers.

    Most of the parents of scouts agreed with the troop leadership as well. We had a couple of boys that could have earned their Eagle at a later age of 12, but none did this.

    We did have one transfer boy come into the troop. He turned in his blue cards and earned 12 MB’s in two weeks! Of course his parents were the councilors for all of them. They wanted him to earn his Eagle really bad. We had declined him on his MB’s. Apparently he pulled this in 4 other troops. The parents never figured that SM’s talk to other SM’s. The boy didn’t even want to be in scouts to begin with. The family soon left our troop and he became a Lone Scout. The council was wise enough not to accept his advancements. But this is one extreme case.

    My personal opinion of an Eagle at age 12 is that the parents earned it or the troop is an eagle mill. The troop may be more concerned of notching their belts at the number of eagle’s in the nest than on the boy’s welfare.

    • Rejecting blue cards is not the right way to handle this. You have to accept the signed card, period.

      But, you then call the district and have them drop the parents as registered merit badge counselors, because they are not following BSA policy.

      • “You have to accept the signed card, period.” Not anymore. Read the 2013 GtA, which includes “limited recourse for unearned MBs.”

  4. Actually, it is possible for a Scout to earn Eagle at 11 years, 5 months. Here’s the math:

    Under the 2013 requirements:
    • To earn Arrow of Light, requirement #1 states, “Be active in your Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade (or for at least six months since becoming 10 years old), and earn the Webelos badge.”
    • Join at 11 years of age (or “has completed the fifth grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award and is at least 10 years old”)
    • Tenderfoot–requires physical record of 30 days as a Scout
    • Second Class – no minimum time or tenure and can be earned in parallel with Tenderfoot
    • First Class – no minimum time or tenure and can be earned in parallel with Tenderfoot and Second Class
    • Star–requires tenure of four months as First Class
    • Life–requires tenure of six months as Star
    • Eagle–requires tenure of six months as Life

    If a Scout has earned his Arrow of Light and active in his Webelos den for six months and has completed the fourth grade, he can join a Scout troop on his 10th birthday.

    T=10 years old at the time of joining a Boy Scout troop

    Tenderfoot physical requirement of 30 days (let’s call it one month)
    Second Class and First Class requirements are done in parallel with that of Tenderfoot, i.e. the Scout “blasts” through the requirements, including the camping (he’s done patrol and troop camping and other activities in the summer and those authorized in the troop has accepted those activities). *This is key.* There is no tenure between Tenderfoot and First Class and, in fact, until recently, the national Advancement Team had promoted “First Class, First Year” based on the premise that a Scout advancing to First Class will most likely stay in Scouting longer.

    So, T= 10 Years, 1 month

    Star tenure of 4 months

    T = 10 Years, 5 months

    Life tenure of 6 months

    T = 10 Years, 11 months

    Eagle tenure of 6 months

    T = 11 Years, 5 months

    Should he do it? That’s really up to the Scout and his Scoutmaster to determine his motivation. Since the Scoutmaster should reference Section 2 of the 2013 Guide to Advancement to help with bringing a quality program to the unit, the emphasis will be on the experience and not merely “checking off” the requirements.

    As a district advancement chair, I’ve see too many units base their program around advancement (merit badge classes during troop meetings, etc.) and abdicate a quality unit program that naturally results in advancement.

    Secondly, I’ve seen too many Scouts who’ve attended merit badge midways/clinics (including summer camp and jamboree) and walk away with completed merit badge cards when the requirements, as written, were not met.

    In these cases, I blame the the Scoutmaster, MB Counselors and other adults running these venues rather than the Scouts for robbing the Scout of his experiential learning (the phrase from GTA Section 2).

    • Lou, I fully agree with your comments – with one note.

      I have been our troop’s advancement chair for over nine years, and in that time I have come up against scenarios like you’ve described many times. I have been instructed that my job as advancement chair is NOT to “test” the boy on the validity of the blue card he brings me, but to simply verify that requirements have been signed off. I’ve presented a number of merit badges to boys that I had doubts about (as an example, several required merit badges cannot be completed solely at a merit badge midway, yet I’ve had completed blue cards for them turned in to me).

      The leaders who operate these events bear the responsibility of ensuring that requirements are truly completed before handing the boy a completed blue card. These requirements cannot be met simply by a boy’s attendance.

      • Unfortunately Tim, this happens all the time now. Scouts “earn” merit badges without being able or required to complete the requirements as written. The BSA guide to advancement has encouraged this – if something is signed off – it is signed off – even if we know the scout hasn’t completed 20 nights camped or cooked the meals in the cooking merit badge. It is a shame. And a sham. And it means Eagle doesn’t mean anything because you have no idea of the quality or lack of quality behind the badge. Maybe some parents did the work. Maybe no one did and someone simply signed things off.

      • Yes, Tim, if the MB “blue card” is signed by a council approved merit badge counselor (easy to do in one’s local council where one can obtain a copy of the council merit badge councilor list and not so easy if the Scout earned his MB outside of the council), we cannot deny the Scout his merit badge.

        If there is a question about a specific merit badge counselor that needs to be brought to the attention of the council advancement committee, the 2013 GTA has a form in the appendix (Topic – Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns) that should be completed and submitted, even for an out of council counselor. I’ve followed up with my counterparts in the other councils when there are concerns by our troops and, of course, word does get around as to summer camp/merit badge midway/group instruction in that council.

        But, it is still incumbent upon the Scoutmaster and his unit committee to ensure that the Scout has every opportunity to reinforce the skills learned (rank and merit badge) by having a quality unit program and encouragr him to teach that skill to younger Scouts, especially if it is suspected that he didn’t really complete the requirement. One cannot “take back” a requirement or MB once it’s signed off (GTA Section 2, GTA Topic, GTA Topic

      • The latest Guide to Advancement addresses this issue and allows units who -KNOW- the boy could not possibly have met the MB requirements to not award the MB to the boy. If you haven’t read the GtA cover to cover, I’d encourage you to. There are some small changes with big implications.
        You want section Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges, page 53. That said, I personally stress the word “limited.” http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf

    • Lou,
      What about the time required in a “position of responsibility?” This scenario could only be fulfilled if this Scout were in a very small troop. Kelly mentioned that the family in her email left the troop and the Scout was a “Lone Scout.” It’s not possible to continue as a scout in that scenario, as the scout has to be a member of a troop with a Chartered Organization. No CO, no Troop.

      • Bob,

        Advancement for the Lone Scout is addressed in Topic in the 2013 GTA where the criteria for this type is (note item #1 regarding home-schooled youth):
        1. Home-schooled where parents do not want them in a youth group
        2. U.S. citizens living abroad
        3. Exchange students away from the United States
        4. Disability or communicable illness that prevents meeting attendance
        5. Rural communities far from a unit
        6. Conflicts with a job, night school, or boarding school
        7. Families who frequently travel or live on a boat, etc.
        8. Living arrangements with parents in different communities
        9. Environments where getting to meetings may put the Scout in danger

        For position of responsibility, remember there is an alternate to this requirement in regard to a service project. Topic specifically addressed this, “For example, a Lone Scout may fulfill a position of responsibility by serving in his school, place of worship, in a club, etc. Where it is not possible to meet requirements as written, a Lone Scout counselor may suggest equal or very similar alternative requirements.”

        The Lone Scout counselor may be his parent or guardian.

        Where there are Scout troops or teams in the area and the parent or guardian decides that they want their boy to be a Lone Scout, it’s up to the local council to accept/reject their application. Do parent abuse this? I’m sure there are cases.

    • Are there those who could earn Eagle as a 12 year old? Sure…you see 12 year olds in college sometimes. Would I encourage it…no. Does the BSA need to “slow it down”…no. The percentage is extremely small.

      Some real observations to match Lou’s timeline:

      Requirements allow it – Older Time between ranks requirements actually would allow a scout to make Eagle faster but you also had to be 11 to join. Now you can be 10. You used to have to go over your approach on working on your next rank as part of your SM Conference as well. Now working on all 3 ranks at the same time allows quicker advancement.

      Troop/Patrol events – counting – no real standard – some count basically anything including more than one event on the same event (day hike during a campout) – the 5 events for 2nd also count for 1st so 1st class requirements can be finished in 30 days

      Soft PORs – Historian, Librarian – No leadership challenges faced like PL/ASPL/SPL have…troop doesn’t or hasn’t set reasonable expectations for performance

      MBCs are in troop or parents – allow close access to Eagle Required MBs

      EP that do not need much planning or execution – Conservation EPs can be done relatively quickly (just ask the 17.5 y/os)

      BORs pushed to minimize time between S/L/E – 4 or 6 months to the day so the scout is not delayed

      Life ambitions/Other Leadership positions statements on his Eagle application thin – what other areas do 11 year olds get to lead?

      Troop hopping when ULs don’t cooperate with the plan – ULs pushed – GTA waved under the UL’s noses

      ULs and MBCs do not want to be seen as holding scouts back or feel it’s easier and less headaches to not deal with the parents

      Soooooo…..Sadly my experience in the younger Eagles I’ve seen is that the entire process is managed by helicopter parents and the scout is along for the ride. Does the Scout “make” Eagle or “earn” Eagle?

  5. I personally think we put way too much emphasis on Eagle to the point where it has turned not into an achievement along a spectrum that continues beyond Eagle, but a “graduation” that boys (and their parents) think of as the end. That’s wrong, and it creates a horrible brain drain on troops.
    Anyone who has thought about it knows that a boy can earn Eagle by 12, and if a boy wants to, he can do it. My concern whether he’s 12, 14 (the avg Eagle age in the ’50s), or 17 (today’s avg) is that he doesn’t disappear. Eagles that disappear are useless to my unit, and the investment we put into them is wasted. I don’t need their names on a plaque, I need their butts at our meetings teaching the younger scouts, leading trips, planning an exciting program, etc.
    For that reason, I’ve started promoting the National Outdoor Awards. It’s impossible to earn some of them until way into their teens, and frankly they tell me more about a Scout’s commitment to Scouting (outing) than Eagle does. They require long-term activity and planning, and that means time spent with the troop.

    • AMEN! That’s my goal…I want young men…that have earned AND LEARNED…to be sitting in the meetings, teaching and guiding the other boys how to keep and maintain a boy-led troop. I have yet to see a single young man earn his Eagle and STAY. On that note, my son is 13 (as of 9/11/13). He is currently SPL (and struggling with the responsibility) and he recently earned his Life rank. I believe he is only SPL…because no one else wants to do the job. His SM is already talking Eagle project. Yes, he has completed all but 1 of his required Eagle merit badges…BUT, do I believe he is ready? Absolutely NOT. He wants more than anything to earn his Eagle…but his main focus right now is community service and getting his patrols organized and the unit on track. With his frustration level, I could easily see him earning Eagle and wlking away. That is the last thing I want to see happen.

      • Eagles dont stick around? No one wants the SPL position? Leana, those are MAJOR indicators that something is wrong within the unit. As chair, you should reach out to your unit and district commissioners and have them lift the hood and check the engine.

        • OH, I KNOW exactly what is wrong with the unit! But, I have a committee full of parents that are unwilling to enforce the proper changes to get these boys to a truly boy led troop. ‘they’ want to keep the boys as ‘cubs’ and refuse to give them enough room to grow and learn from their mistakes.

          I’m a true believer in ‘if you only put ketchup, buns, and pickle relish on your menu; and your QM forgot to pack the chuck box—you better pool your resources and think fast’ I’m sure you’ll plan your campout better next time.

          I believe that a young man should be led by a man. But, if an SM can’t provide the proper planning and leadership materials…that SM should accept help from the committtee, not be offended by the offer of help and threaten to quit. Yes, our unit has issues. And, they need fixed. I apologize for my negativity. I just came out of a situation where the SM and ASMs didn’t allow the boys to do the menu on their own…so they threw one together 3 days before the campout and texted ME to ask if we had funds available and if I would shop. Then, proceeded to text me FROM THEIR CAMPOUT that they had NO WATER. guess, you better start teaching the boys how to gather water from a survival stand point. I mean it was a wilderness survival campout! Shoot, there was enough morning dew that they could have gathered leaves off the ground and filtered the water into canteens.

        • That sounds pretty bad Leanna. No doubt – a Webelos III troop is probably the hardest problem to unwind because you are basically competing against the will of the adults (who have all discovered that running a Web III troop is easier to run than a boy led troop).

          As CC you hold virtually all the cards. My suggestion would be to have a heart to heart discussion with your COR and let him know that you are going to be re-organizing the unit to run by BSA program guidelines and it is likely to cause friction. Once you two are on the same page, pull the SM in for a meeting and inform him of the terms under which he can continue to run the unit. If he balks, thank him for his previous service and fire him on the spot with the COR’s approval. If the COR balks, resign and find a new unit. A wise man once told me that if the SM, CC, and COR aren’t singing in harmony, there will never be a good resolution to unit issues. Cut bait and find a new fishing hole. Your sanity will thank you later.

        • Here is the deal. Troop program resources volumes 1-3 lay out a 36 month program for the boys to follow. All the SM has to do is train the SPL, teach them to cook, make reservations, and drive places. It is much more fun that way.

        • Yeah, that is true Scott but it sounds like Leanna is having trouble with adults who aren’t interested in the mechanics of the program not necessarily the content of it.

        • Then they must go. We went thru that. The CO said you don’t want to turn away volunteers. They are hard to come by. The next week when they were informed 2 dozen scouts were quitting along with 8 registered leaders and looking for a new CO, they decided in favor of removal.

  6. As advancement chairman for my distrct, I have had a couple of young eagle scouts. I do not feel that they really understand why they are providing the service(s). I would like to see an age mininimum to become an eagle scout.
    Maturity and knowledge comes with age.Being able to be in complete charge of a eagle scout project is difficult if the scout is young.

  7. All the comments so far are my believes as well. There is no way a 12 year old can manage the processes that it takes to be an Eagle at that age, except with both parents, or others, doing most of the work. I have a general rule that they should get their eagle before they get their drivers license(usually16 in most states). When they get their drivers license they get the three “sniffs”. they sniff gasoline, perfume and money. They get a car, get a girlfriend and get a job,,,and then school get in the way some where.,,,Let them enjoy camping, hiking, friendship and 100′s of other adventures.

    Scout leader for 36 years

  8. Boys should become young men in the process of becoming Eagle Scouts. Progressing in the minimum time should raise questions about who is doing the work – is it the boy or is it their parents? It’s also worthwhile to look at who is pushing for rank – is it the boy alone, the boy with some encouragement from parents/other adults or is there a parent or other adult doing all the driving (scout is doing what they’re told)? Adults doing the work for scouts or being the primary/only force driving advancement should be avoided. With all that said, if there is a boy of 10 who charges hard to earn his Eagle, more power to them!

  9. I think Eagle Scout projects are for the older scout who has to juggle the likes of aHigh School schedule and teenage life and still get the project managed into all that. My daughter would have easily completed her gold award prior to being 16 and a Junior and instead completed it the summer of freshman year as a new 13 year old or so, the demand on her time and her interest level in lots of other things was less. I am imagining this to be the case for my boy scout 7th grader. If my daughter is able to complete the gold award now that she is completely immersed in high school life, acadmeically, socially and sports wise, then I think that gold award holds more weight for those considering that she did complete it. She also appreciates the magnitude at which completing it is. She also better understands the purpose of completing it and others that are working with her on it can also better appreciate who she is in her project.

  10. I would not encourage the young scout to earn his Eagle as soon as possible. I think that the scout should mature before he tackles his leadership, service project and some of the required merit badges. Also, he is short changing hmself on the excitement and benefits of the scouting program if he earns his eagle and leaves the program.

  11. I’ve seen a common thread through the responses so far…yes, it is possible to earn your eagle that fast. Does that mean it was done correctly? My opinion is no. Troops that are known as “merit badge factories” and “Eagle factories” exist in our area, as well as others. Parents and multiple leaders establish themselves as counselors and shove these kids through the program like they are making sausage. The merit badges are designed for the kids to do the work. They work at their pace, not one established by the parents or the leaders. This is where you get the cream rising to the top, so to speak. Not every Scout will earn Eagle, nor may the have the desire to. We have one Scout in our troop who hates camping, but he is coming to Scouts for the other features of the program. Will he advance…technically no. You have to have overnight camping experiences to advance. I don’t know how many kids I’ve seen miss Eagle by one or two badges, because they didn’t have the time or placed other things as a priority over Scouting.

    Should a parent be allowed to council a MB for their son? Our troop has adopted a policy of not allowing that, and we have even gone as far as saying that they should investigate using another counselor over someone in the troop. We do not want folks thinking that we have established a “drive thru” merit badge system.

    So are these 12 year old Eagles dedicated or being railroaded through? I guess we can’t say without knowing the Scout in question. The level of dedication required from not only the Scout, but of the leadership has to be EXTREMELY high in this case. Required service hours, camping/overnight requirements, the dreaded “90 day” requirements for Family Life, Personal Management and Personal Fitness, rank pre-requisites…it can’t all be learned and “experienced” in that short of a time…just my opinion.

  12. I really believe we should discourage attainment of this rank at such a young age. Earning the rank of Eagle goes well beyond earning merit badges and rushing through leadership positions. Young men should grow through experience and leadership during this journey. It’s not a race and I wonder how much a young man has taken away from the program when they achieve eagle at such a young age. I also wonder what attraction the program will hold for a boy who has achieved this rank young.

  13. I Believe that the scout earning Eagle at the age of 12 and even sometimes 13 at being pushed to get it. I don’t think that you are even old enough let alone Responsible enough to earn Eagle at 12. That means that most of the Eagle project was probably planned by and adult. Because I am 17 and having a hard time planing my eagle project…I do not see how a 12 year old could possibly do this.

    • Well said, Christopher. I think your comment, as a 17 year old scout, has the most value.

      Good luck finishing your Eagle project and wear that medal proudly! You really earned it!

  14. Wasn’t there a requirement (back in the early-mid 1980′s) somewhere in there (post-First Class) that you had to hold a position of leadership for X amount of time? I can’t imagine a lot of 11-year-olds being good Senior Patrol Leaders (with experiences to share and knowledge to impart on the ‘younger’ kids). I know I wouldn’t have been a good SPL at 11 years old.

        • Hi Mike, no need for me to re-read anything. I’m very familiar with the requirements, and what I wrote is correct. here is no current requirement to hold a position of leadership for any rank, including Eagle. There are, however, several requirements to hold Positions of Responsibility.

        • A Scoutmaster-assigned service project for Star and Life may be substituted for a POR.

          Star Requirement #5: While a First Class Scout, serve actively in your unit for four months in one or more of the following positions of responsibility (or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the unit):


          Life Requirement #5: While a Star Scout, serve actively for six months in your unit in one or more of the troop positions of responsibility listed in requirement 5 for Star Scout (or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the unit).


          Eagle is the only one requiring, explicitly, that the Scout serve in a PoR for 6 months *and* demonstrate leadership through his Eagle Scout service project.

      • He’s right. It says “position of responsibility” not “position of leadership.”
        Let the hair splitting begin ….!

        Star requirement #5 …
        “While a First Class Scout, serve actively in your unit for four months in one or more of the following positions of responsibility (or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the unit):
        Boy Scout troop. Patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, senior patrol leader, Venture patrol leader, troop guide, Order of the Arrow troop representative, den chief, scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, chaplain aide, instructor, troop Webmaster, or Leave No Trace trainer.”

  15. 12? Is that even possible? Always thought there should be a minimum age, 15 or so. One must stop and smell the roses if you may, and Scouting has a lot of roses to smell. I had my Eagle board the night before I turned 18, I had left Scouting when I was 14 and returned 2 years later, it made me want it more. I am almost 50 and I look back at the mentors that helped me along the way. It’s not just the award but the journey taken, Besides, many leave their Troop after Eagle, there is nothing left to shoot for.

    • Nope. Nothing. Well, except the other 110 merit badges, Hornaday award, hornaday medal, nova awards (4), super nova medals (2), Outdoor achievement awards (5), Outdoor achievement medal, 50 miler, Eagle palms.

  16. I certainly wouldn’t seek to demotivate an ambitious young Scout. But this bothers me for a couple of reasons. First, the cynic in me has to wonder how much parental elbow grease went into the effort and what lesson was taught to the Scout. Second, and much more importantly, the purist in me has to wonder how much emphasis we are placing on the individual achievement of Eagle Scout at the expense of the traditional goals of Scouting (replacing Self with Service, developing strong citizens, etc.).

  17. Seems like we all agree … the real tragedy is
    (1) that such boys may not get as much out of Scouting as they truly should, and
    (2) such boys are likely “Eagle and out” and miss out on so many other aspects of what Scouting is all about.

    I got my Eagle at 17 … and I got it because I finally decided I really wanted it (and therefore better git’r’done!) That accomplishment means more to me than it ever would have at a younger, more immature age. The real value in that accomplishment, though, is now being able to serve as an adult in the same troop I earned my Eagle rank from – to pay it forward for a new batch of Scouts.

  18. Wow, I disagree with the tone and direction of almost all of the previous posts. The point of scouting is to build good boys. The mid-hudson valley council had a “policy” that they would not allow any boy to become eagle before he is 14. My oldest son was gung-ho in scouting. He took the initiative to call Merit Badge councilors and without any assistance from his parents or leaders contacted the mayor’s office (it was quite a surprise when the mayor called our home asking for our son). Many people asked us what they should do at his project but we simply directed them to ask my son and he managed the whole project and developed leadership skills. If our family vacation schedule hadn’t gotten in the way he would have been 13 at his board of review and would have been rejected (I didn’t know that until after the fact) and that would have been terrible for him and would have killed his scouting experience. He remained active in scouting through his eighteenth birthday.

    If a boy can meet the requirements then he should get the badge. If the boy leaves scouting after achieving the rank of eagle it is because his leaders aren’t following the program or don’t know how to build a program that will engage older boys who have already reached eagle.

    In no circumstances should a boy be denied advancement based on his age rather than on his qualifications. Age is not the issue. The quality of the scout is the issue and anyone who says differently does not understand the true purpose of scouting. Sure, there will be boys who reach eagle only because their parents essentially drag them through the process and do all the leg work on the project for them. But that happens with 17 year old scouts as well 12 year old scouts.

    The program is a good program. Stick to the program and don’t let your own biases hinder boys who enthusiastically embrace it. If the scout actually meets the requirements and is living the scout oath and law, then they have earned the badge … PERIOD!

    • Do you honestly believe, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that a 12 or 13 year old can be trusted to take charge of a catastrophic situation? i.e. hurricane, tornado, earthquake.. If not why? That is what we should be training them for. To take charge. When we see that knot WE should be able to trust him to just that. Not run home to mommy and daddy. Oh no, age and maturity is a big deal. By your words I would guess you would pass off a boy regardless of ability. You would also send a kid to camp 4 or 5 weeks so they can obtain merit badges the easiest way. Shame, Shame on you.

      • I absolutely would trust a 12 or 13 year old who has been properly trained to handle any situation. In fact there are 12-13 year old boys I would trust much more than 16-18 year old boys.

        Do not assume the type of leader I am or what I would want my boys to do. 1 week out scout camp each year is enough. In order for a boy to earn the required badges for eagle before they turn 12 they would need to have a lot of personal motivation and seek out counselors on their own initiative.

        Shame on you for presuming to add requirements to the scouting program. Shame on you for thinking you know better than those who wrote the requirements for the badge. And shame on you for not encouraging your boys to be the best they can be.

        In my experience boys will rise the expectations set for them. Get off your high horse and evaluate each boy as an individual rather than by some arbitrary standard you think is better than the one established by the BSA. Certainly, there are 12 year olds that shouldn’t be eagle. There are also 17 year olds that shouldn’t be eagle. It is about the boy not about the age.

      • I whole-heartily have to disagree with Mike here. All of that is opinion or a parenting choice. But it’s not Scouting. No where does the Boy Scouts of America say any teenager should be able to take charge in a catastrophic situation. You will not find what you just said in any of the literature. I take the direct opposite and disagree that is NOT what we are training them for.

        It might be an great aspiration. Certainly one could make it goal for a son or daughter. But we’re not raising Lieutenants in the army. We’re raising teenagers to one day be men.

        When I see an Eagle knot or award, I think of a young man who, while still in High School, did a lot of work, had a goal and achieved it, did a worthwhile project, set his sights high, wore a uniform that probably got snickers from peers, stood proudly, learned a lot along the way, and is better prepared for adulthood than those aforementioned snickers.

        I sincerely hope our Eagles “run home to mommy and daddy” when they need them. Not out of cowardice, but because they are mature enough to know when to ask for help, guidance, and maybe in times of need, a little charity from those who love him most.

        I don’t expect most adults to know what to do in a time of crisis. BSA doesn’t teach crisis management. It’s teaches boys to grow, learn, expand, extend, manage, and much more.

  19. I would no more trust a twelve year old Eagle scout any more than I trust the leadership in Irvine, Texas or b HUSSEIN o. Obtaining the Rank of Eagle requires Strength, Growth, Knowledge, and Leadership among other attributes. No 12, 13 or 14 year old can fully understand the Duty and Responsibility they take upon themselves when accepting the Eagle Oath and Commission. Many 15 and 16 year olds do not properly earn the rank but are passed through for convenience – financially. I am not a stick in the mud. I started serving as an adult leader in 1977 and have seen many change, mostly bad. Now is the time to get back to the basics of scouting. Back to Honesty and Integrity. Back to when a young boy was tested for rank advancement he knew his stuff. Not like today when they do it once they are passed or that one item counts for three different requirements. This has nothing to do with race, nationality or other politically correct areas. As for those with handi-caps, we can modify the requirements but not to the detriment of the Ideals of Scouting. As for the original question, There is a reason less than 2% of scouts obtained Eagle years ago. It was hard and tough. I have seen to few scouts who could actually handle the old days and the old ways. Perhaps we, as Old Timers, need to take even a greater role before it is too late

    • Pining for “the good old days” has nothing to do with this. If you believe the requirements for eagle should include an age requirement then you should petition the BSA to change the requirements. Do not presume to punish boys who work hard in the program today just because you have not had the good fortune of working with exceptional young men. AGE DOES NOT MATTER. The quality of the boy is what matters and any artificial requirement you imagine for yourself (including the eagle oath and commission) is exactly that, your own imagination.

      There is nothing in the requirements for Eagle Scout that mention anything about the made up eagle charge and commission. The requirement is for the boy to live the Scout Oath and Scout Law. That includes your request for honesty and integrity. I believe that is covered in teaching a boy to be trustworthy. Unfortunately, you are missing eleven other attributes in the scout law that boys need to embrace and demonstrate in order to achieve the rank of eagle, along with having honor, doing their duty to God and country, and keeping themselves physically fit, mentally awake, and morally straight. Why you feel the need to add to that I have no idea. Maybe because your organization doesn’t expect that from their scouts.

    • Mike, a couple of questions for you.

      Does the unit you are involved with have a quality unit program? By that I mean that it has at least one outdoor activity per month with a specific Scouting skill theme for the activity?

      Are the troop meetings prior to the even/activity set up to teach the skills (not classroom, but hands-on i.e. EDGE instruction) by the older Scouts to the younger Scouts and incorporate inter-patrol games to reinforce the skills?

      Are the Scouts being signed off while on the activity rather than in the troop meeting?

      Have those who are signing off on the requirements properly trained junior leaders under the coaching and mentoring of the Scoutmaster and then reviewed from time to time to make sure that the leaders are maintaining the advancement standards (doing the requirements as they are written, no more and no less).

      Is the Scoutmaster reviewing the Scout’s advancement by asking questions about his experience in the unit and not quizzing him about his Scouting skills (i.e. How was Johnny as an instructor for lashing? What did you learn from him? Was he clear in his explaining how to lash? Was his demonstration good? Did he have you show him the lashing?) then if finding issues, taking corrective action with the instructors and then providing the Scout with opportunities to “pay it forward” with younger Scouts as an instructor himself *and* to have future activities include opportunities to reinforce the learned skills.

      Are your unit boards of review providing feedback to the Scoutmaster with areas of concern in the area of advancement through similar questions of the Scout? Are the BOR members even trained in conducting effective boards of review or are they perceived as “rubber stamps?”

      If your unit is doing all of this, then your unit is following the tried and true advancement method of Scouting as defined by “Green Bar Bill” Harcourt and still done today in properly functioning units.

      All too often, our memories about Scouting in our youth are tainted with time and we forget that Scouting is only as good as the unit program leadership understanding the advancement method.

      *That* is why Section 2 of the latest GTA was written – to reinforce the *reason* for advancement as a method and not as an end unto itself.

      Experiential learning, folks. Hands-on, not classroom, instruction through a good unit program will naturally result in a Scout’s advancement, so when that Scout is tested, he will know his stuff then, additionally, reinforce the skills as time progresses and the Scout continues to grow.

  20. I have some personal experience sitting on an Eagle board of review for a young Scout and, after he passed, provided the following words for he and his parents as a “charge” (to the best of my recollection) to address those who may question his status:

    “Eagle Scout is more than a rank. It is a state of being. One can recognize an Eagle Scout by the way the person; whether they are a youth who just completed his Eagle board of review or a senior citizen who has lived a long a fruitful life conducts himself. The commonality of these two individuals is the same; they’ve accepted the Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan as an integral part of their being. The Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan are more than words and the meanings behind the words. They are the very source and core of how they conduct themselves in their everyday life.
    In everyday parlance, ‘Boy Scout’ is, for good or bad, a description and ‘Eagle Scout’ is almost always an explanation. ‘Well, he’s an Eagle Scout’ has become shorthand for an entire body of skills that has enabled a man, young or old, to accomplish something.

    Every Eagle Scout, during the course of his life, experiences having certain expectations laid upon them. Adult Eagles come to appreciate the full implications of the phrase ‘always an Eagle.’ It is the only childhood award that appears on your resume that is recognized by potential employers. It will likely be included in your obituary. You become accustomed to the flicker of respect in the eyes of others when they learn you are an Eagle, suggesting as it does unseen skills and strength of character.

    The Eagle medal, patch, and lapel pin, which will be awarded to you at your Eagle Court of Honor, are merely outward signs of an inward reality. They, by themselves, mean nothing. It is you, regardless of whether you are wearing your Eagle items or not, that should exude ‘Eagle Scout’ and you must not simply wear it on your sleeve as a memento. As was said, Eagle Scout is a state of being and not merely an award. I cannot emphasize this enough.

    There will be those who will try to cast aspersions about your age and experience as an Eagle Scout. How you react to the aspersions will reflect, not only upon you, but every Eagle Scout who has come before you and who will come after you. Remember this.”

    • Well said Lou. I was there when you said it and I expect I will hear something close from you when my son has his Eagle Court of Honor.
      One thing I would add, those that cast aspersions says much about the character and “Scout Spirit” of the one casting.

  21. We need to look at the real problem here. Which is a National Organization that wrote the advancement requirements that allow this to be possible. They are more concerned this generating advancement than making sure that the advancement is truly earned. Merit Badge Universities and Summer Camps that offer boys a chance to earn 6 MB in a week are also to blame. The rules need to be rewritten so a boy needs to be in Scouts at least 4 years to earn Eagle.

    • I think the problem is more about the implementation of the program in individual units and in enforcing the current requirements. The timing on the requirements has not substantially changed in more than 25 years. What has changed is the way people treat the requirements. That is what needs to change.

      • You’re hanging out with the wrong 14 year olds. Some of the 2013 14 year olds in our troop are amazing. They are phenomenal. They stand up for their values in a climate of moral decay I couldn’t even imagine when I was a young man. They give service to all kinds of charitable and civic organizations. They are well read and can discuss politics and have their own opinions. They are outstanding scouters and help all the boys, both older and younger, to improve and stick to their standards. I think most 1949 boys faced with the moral, and ethical challenges of today would struggle at least as much.

        Do not short change the today’s youth. They have tremendous potential. They will rise to the high expectations placed on them by those who care about them who have earned their respect.

        • I am not “shortchanging today’s youth.”
          I am not “hanging out with the wrong 14 year olds.”
          I also do not disagree with your assertion that boys of this age from 1949 would struggle at least as much as our current youth do. In fact – I agree.

          All I said was that these are two different eras, and are in my mind therefore incomparable. If you derived more than that from my statement, then you read way too much into it.

        • Tim, I believe I understood you perfectly: The requirements of the Eagle in 1949 cant be compared to today because the Scouts of 1949 cant be compared to the Scouts of today.

          And, as stated, the eras are different. The Scouts aren’t. This past weekend, after a 20 mile backpacking trip, I had a 3 hour conversation o on the drive home with an 18 year old Eagle and a 13 year old Life Scout about: the molecular make up of asbestos and it’s properties, the relative merits of minimum wage laws, job hunting based on personal budgetary requirements, and a subjective comparison of bluegrass to dub step music. The depth of the discussion in each case impressed upon me that no one should ever sell these boys short.

          Increasing the Eagle age requirements will do nothing except produce fewer Eagles and hamstring the go getters.

  22. As an Eagle Scout and a current Scout Leader I believe that those who rush and earn it before there 15 birthday are not learning everything they need to. They may complete the requirements, but they are not learning the material

      • You raise an interesting point. We don’t give a whole lot of thought to First Class these days because as you say, those skills are mastered in a year or two. A lot of folks in fact see First Class as little more than a stepping stone on the way to the coveted Eagle, and they use Eagle counts as a measure of unit success even though it is an individual accomplishment. So my question would be, what’s the point of the exercise? Is it completing First Class, completing Eagle, or something completely different that we seem to have lost sight of?

  23. I have watched boys who have made Eagle at a young age (under 16) and I don’t think it was a good idea. Of the 3 in our troop, 2 have left before they turned 16, and one who is now 15, acts like he has something better to do than help younger boys. I am the Committee Chairman and I have voiced my opinion , but to no avail. I have sat on a few Eagle boards, and I see questions asking what they like about Scouts, how to tie knots and what was challenging about scouts. I think if a boy is going up for Eagle, these questions should not have to be asked. I want to know what they think about what is going on in the world. How they would change something for the better, issues in their community, These questions might help a child realize if they are prepared for Eagle, that it is not an entitlement, but an honor.

    • With regards to boys leaving after Eagle: That ought to be a huge red flag to you as a committee chair. Something is wrong if the Scout is receiving the message “this unit has no more challenges for me.” Your Eagle board questions sound spot on to me, however, it may be that your unit is too focused on advancement overall.

      BTW, as chairman, you have more than an opinion – you hold the trump cards on the unit’s direction. While you cant do anything to change the advancement requirements themselves, you can help makeover a unit to one that older boys WANT to have a role in, regardless of their rank.

  24. This kind of a funny question to me… I am usually answering the doorbell to a scout who needs a signature on his Eagle application form on the eve of his 18th birthday!

    When my dad came to one of the first COH’s we had when my son was a first year scout several years ago, he looked around the room and asked, “Where’s all your Eagle Scouts?” I had to tell him that it seems most of them get it so late in their scouting career that they are out of the troop right away after their COH. (My son was no exception, it turns out… though he is still registered as an ASM.)

    12 or 13 a little young? Maybe. but I think that is the trend we will see. The scouting system is changing folks!

    The number of boys in the program over the age of 16 is shrinking.We are recruiting younger at the cub scout level (Tiger Cubs and ?). They (and their parents) can only stay interested in the Cub program for so long. Today’s kids are more sophisticated earlier and need the challenges of the Boy Scout program at an earlier age. I am willing to bet that we are going to see the age limits for entering Boy Scouts lowered to 9 years old over the next several years. That means 10 year-old First Class scouts and 11 and 12 year-old Eagles!

    Scary thought isn’t it? Let’s hope the Eagle requirements don’t get watered down along the way.

    We are already making some exceptions for High Adventure. Northern Tier tried 13, but have now added “AND completed the 8th grade”. We took a group of mostly 13 year-olds (all going from 7th into 8th grade) to Northern Tier and they had a good time, but struggled at times too. Adults had to carry the canoes and we packed an extra pack to make each pack lighter. Some portages were two trips.

    Final thought… a work colleague and I were discussing a resume for a potential hire one day a few years ago. I mentioned that the candidate had Eagle Scout on his resume. My colleague (not a scouter) came back with: “Ach! Eagle Scouts are a dime a dozen.”

    I hope not.

      • Longhouse council in northern NY has had a pilot Lion program for over 5 years now; i was a “Lion cub leader” twice when i lived there. I liked it, and it was very age-appropriate for kindergarten boys. Having done it twice, i can see improvements to our program are still needed, but i liked having cubs start at kindergarten. Kids now start soccer at 3, so starting cubs at K isnt goifn to burn anyone out, if its done right.

        • I help with our district Cub Scout recruitment. I am always asked by parents of kindergarden boys if they can join and the look on those boys faces breaks my heart to tell them they have to wait a year. They are ready and they should be able to join.

        • I saw that when I did a Google search earlier. Good for you! I don’t know why our council site says it is the only one in the country… maybe was at one time and is old info. I also saw a vague reference on Wiki about the Lion program being rolled out nation-wide for the 2014-15 program year. Haven’t seen anything official though…

  25. Maybe the issue to raise is not the age of the boys but is about their commitment to living the principles of scouting. Every ranks has the requirement to “show scout spirit”. I think too often this requirement is overlooked. This requirement means they not only understand the principles of scouting but that they are striving to live those principles in their everyday lives. Ask your committee and scout master what they are doing to make these active principles in the lives of the boys from Scout to Eagle. Once they understand and live the principles the program becomes one of developing character rather than a camping club. When you the boys buy in to developing their character the advancement follows naturally.

  26. Could I have become an Eagle Scout at age 13? Yes.
    Did I? No. I consciously waited until I was 15.
    Why I chose to wait was for several reasons. At 13, there was no way I would be able to pull off a great Eagle Project. Even at 15 I felt bad having my dad drive me around to get donations from stores.
    There are others in my council who got it at 13 but their mommys and daddys did it all for them. Their parents counseled 10 MBs until the child got all of them and then swapped to 10 new ones. The children who have their parents do the work are, in my experience, the most annoying Eagle Scouts. “Haha, I got Eagle before you!” was a frequent taunt and my only thought was “at least I earned it.”
    Yes, there are some exceptions, some boys are responsible enough to do it themselves but unfortunately many of them are simply done by mommy and daddy.
    A local scout camp has become notorious for handing out MBs to scouts who could not have possibly earned them while there. How can a scout complete Personal Fitness or Reptile and Amphibian Study in one week? Many scouts in the troop were trying to hand the badges back at the Court of Honor because they were not earned. Unfortunately, because this camp is run by the council, questioning the validity of the badges does not make a difference.
    12 year old Eagle Scouts happen because the parents, troop, and council don’t care enough about the boy and him learning the skills that makes an Eagle great instead choosing to simply make sure he gets everything done ASAP.

  27. I am a troop volunteer and currently have a 12 year old scout. For my discussion, let’s assume all scouts are Arrow of Light.

    My AOL Webelos crossed over in December. As an average most would have about 2 to 2.5 years before their 13th birthday to qualify as a 12 year old Eagle. AOL scouts should easily pass through Scout award and Tenderfoot rank. Camping and hiking and being in the outdoors should not be new to AOL scouts. Earning First Class within the first year should not be a challenge for AOL scouts (the one exception maybe the swimming requirement). During that first year scouts will also go to summer camp. I know many counsels offer a buckskin program but I favor scout skills being taught within the troop thus allowing the boys to earn real merit badges at camp. For my son, he will have 3 summer camps under his belt before his 13th birthday. So if he earn four merit badges per camp that would be 12 merit badges. That would mean that he would have to earn the other 10 on about a 1 merit badge per quarter rate. If the scout only makes it to two camps, then he would have to earn the other merit badges on about a 1 every other month rate. In no way do I feel this is a rushed pace to eagle.

    Leadership requirements do not require that you are a Senior Patrol Leader. While that is an import role in scouting it is not a mandate. Other positions like Librarian, Bugler, Scribe, … also count as leadership roles.

    Some argue that you must be an older scout to earn your leadership dues. Being older usually only means that you are bigger and can use intimidation because of your size to get things done. While this is a factor even in the adult world, intimidation and leadership are two very different things.

    As my son just transitioned from 11 to 12 years old and serving his second term as Librarian, he had his sites on SPL. As his parent, I have encouraged him instead to run for patrol leader first so he can get his feet wet there before seeking SPL. But with elections this month then six months later, he could be PL and SPL with in his 12 year old year. I feel he will be a fine leader at either position.

    Although my son will not get his eagle while a 12 year old, depending on his progress he won’t be far behind. The main reason for the delay is timeliness getting merit badges done. He will often go for several months and not even work a merit badge, then bam he gets pumped up and will turn several out at one time. It’s those kids that can stay motivated all of the time that can earn eagle at 12.

    One thing to consider is that a boy 12 turning 13, is quickly become eldest in the troop anyway. I would like to see a age breakdown of active boys in troops across America. Maybe by age by quarter.

    What really concerns me are the boys that are barely making it by 18. Our troop has had several boys that earned eagle but couldn’t even put the badge on their uniform because they had turned 18 before their ceremony. You can almost bet that the 12 year old eagle will more than likely be a better candidate for things in life than the eagle who barely makes it. Just my thoughts anyway.

    • There is so much to be said here, but on your point of 18 year olds. From my point of view, in hiring a candidate for employment with all things being equal, I’d hire an Eagle that earned his rank at 18 juggling cars, girls, and honors classes and STILL worked at getting his Rank, then an Eagle that earned his rank at 12-13 year old and barely know what the honor means. There are a few stellar 12-13 year olds and I realize the “requirements” are all that need to be met but when you’re older people have an expectation of what an Eagle means (whether right or wrong). Scout Oath & Law, someone who can lead, one who is responsible. Meeting someone who is an Eagle Scout used to mean something. I pictured those that were committed through a length process, learning leadership, responsibility and values. When I hear a 40+ year old say “I earned my Eagle when I was 13”, for some reason, the credibility just goes out the window.

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