Join 3,415 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Don't Be A Human Form Letter
June 14, 2010 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame, and also an Eagle Scout) offers this advice to newly minted Eagle Scouts: Don't Be A Human Form Letter. He expands on it as he explains to the Scouts in a letter why earning the Eagle Scout rank isn't quite the ticket to success that they may think it is, and why they can't sit on their past achievements while they wait for the world to recognize their greatness. He follows up with an email exchange with a Scout who was offended by Mike's attitude about the Eagle Scout badge. Don’t be that guy. Don’t wait for the world to acknowledge your accomplishments. By all means, take pride in what you’ve done, but don’t let it go to your head. When you’re finished with Scouting, donate your uniform to The Salvation Army. Fold up your sash and stow it away somewhere private, with all the other tokens of what you’ve done so far. Then, roll up your sleeves, get out in the world, and put what you’ve learned to use. Given that we are in the high season of high schools and colleges pumping out newly minted graduates that may have an over-inflated sense of the value of their accomplishments, this seemed interesting, and something that might strike a chord.
posted by COD (72 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

 
I knew I liked that Mike Rowe.
posted by TooFewShoes at 4:26 PM on June 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


For what seems like a a show premised on a gimmick, Rowe is a guy with some serious and well-thought-out opinions. At the risk of sounding sarcastic, he's deep. Really.
posted by GuyZero at 4:28 PM on June 14, 2010 [15 favorites]


I like Mike.
posted by SLC Mom at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2010


Heard him interviewed on Carola's podcast, and it was a great conversation.
posted by prodigalsun at 4:32 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


P.S. Also, please don't be a homophobe.

Thanks, Me.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


I wonder if he would write something like that if he didn't have much real life success.
posted by 3FLryan at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


(ex-scout, in case you're wondering)
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2010


I would like to shake Mike Rowe's hand—left-handed, of course.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 4:34 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


This along with his TED Talk. Gotta love Mike Rowe.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:36 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


//I wonder if he would write something like that if he didn't have much real life success.//

I think he could, because he is mostly talking about happiness and leading a fulfilling life. Fame and financial success, much like the Eagle Scout award, guarantees neither.
posted by COD at 4:36 PM on June 14, 2010


I like what I've seen of Mike Rowe, too. I like that on Dirty Jobs he doesn't pretend it some awesome honor to be doing these jobs (he makes fun of how disgusting or strange they are) but he also respects the people doing them and does the work himself.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2010 [6 favorites]


My admiration for Mike Rowe increased after I saw the Mike Rowe Works site - he's on a bit of a mission to increase respect for blue collar jobs, on the basis that while they can outsource your job as a call center worker / programmer / writer / whatever, they're never going to be able to outsource plumbing and carpentry to India. And he sings opera!
posted by Jimbob at 4:49 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


The final reply from the kid, goddamn:
The issue is that when I first became a boy scout, I was invlolved, my dad always went on campouts with me, it was our time together. Then he started being forced to leave for the week from Monday at 4:00 am, to Friday 8:00 pm. I only get to see him on weekends, and if I went on campouts, he wouldn’t be able to go and I would only get to see him for half of a day every week.
posted by boo_radley at 4:51 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mike Rowe for President!
posted by bwg at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2010


Do Eagle Scouts really live in such an enclosed, sheltered world such that they believe all other people will be in awe of their accomplishments? Is there a merit badge for "Meet people who are not Scouts and realize they have no idea what being an Eagle Scout means"?

I'm not a Scout, don't know any Scouts, and if someone told me they were an Eagle Scout I would assume they could pitch a tent really fast.
posted by meowzilla at 4:57 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do Eagle Scouts really live in such an enclosed, sheltered world such that they believe all other people will be in awe of their accomplishments?

Personally I know a handful of Eagle Scouts and none of them think others are in awe of them. It is a big achievement (for most, anyway, there are some who do frankly half-assed projects) so I can see that they might be tempted to coast a bit after spending a huge portion of their lives working towards it.

The comparison to college graduation is apt.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:00 PM on June 14, 2010


I think at one point, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout meant something. Maybe it was that scouting at large had more meaning and was seen as less of an outdated organization, not simply something to keep boys active up through high school. I'm not old enough to know first-hand, but I'd guess there was a time when a higher percentage of boys went through boy scouts.

When I was getting close to earning my Eagle Scout badge in the mid 1990s, there was a notion of becoming a member of an elite group of men who had earned this status, from our troop leaders. The ceremony was formal, and might have even been covered in the local paper as a local section side-bar. I recently came across the items handed to me at the ceremony: a flag flown somewhere in Washington DC, a letter from the state governor or someone of similar standing, and the metal, patch and knot in a nice case.

Now, I think the organization is seen as a bunch of knot tying and wilderness skills. I've rarely told others that I'm an Eagle Scout, because it doesn't seem to come up in conversation. I haven't listed it on my resume, and I haven't noticed a special gleam in the eyes of fellow Eagle Scouts. There was a card I was to keep in my wallet at all times, but I lost that with an old wallet some years back. In short, I've largely forgotten about all that, and I though it wasn't important. To hear that some Eagle Scouts still think it'll open magical doors for them seems a bit surprising.

Maybe they're in the world of Scouting, where the goal is to become an Eagle Scout. Looking at the current merit badges, it's more modern than Indian Lore and Coin Collecting. Then again, maybe the same letter could be re-written for college grads: The Eagle Award Your diploma comes with no magic power or influence. It is merely a reminder that you have succeeded in one area where most others have failed...
posted by filthy light thief at 5:02 PM on June 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I was an adult volunteer though my son's time in Cub Scouts and for about 2 years in Boy Scouts. He quit long before Eagle ever became an issue. Eagle Scout is promoted as the golden ticket to a college scholarship and a life of plenty. (Thus Mike Rowe's warning...) Most of the pressure to achieve it comes from the parents. Most of the kids are just going through the motions. It's advertised as a leadership award but it's really more of an endurance award. It's a lot of work, spread over 4 or 5 years, but any kid willing to put in the effort and follow the template will make it.
posted by COD at 5:03 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was in the Boy Scouts in the mid-to-late 90s. I raced through the first several levels; got loads of merit badges; did all the campouts and summer trips and the whole 9 yards for a number of years. It was fun and rewarding (even those decidedly un-fun required merit badges like Family Life and Citizenship in the World). I held several troop leadership positions, including Senior Patrol Leader (twice). I did the Polar Bear thing (badge? certificate? can't recall); I went to scout camp every summer; I participated in all the older scout's Eagle Projects.

Everyone said being an Eagle Scout would look amazing on college applications and scholarships, that it was a great resume item, that other people would look up to me and respect me for achieving Eagle, and that it was an accomplishment I would be proud of for the rest of my life. I totally bought into it too. I wanted that reward, that proof that I had committed myself to something important and had succeeded. I wanted all the accolades and dues that they said only Eagle Scouts received.

But I never made it to Eagle Scout. Made it to the level below that - Life Scout. I had all the required badges, plenty of non-required badges, all the other requirements - I just never did an Eagle Project. I had plenty of ideas for what to do, just never executed on any of them. And then I turned 18, and it was all over.

I used to blame my troop for me failing to get Eagle. Shortly after I turned 18 the troop finally fell apart. It was a year or two in the making, with the older batch of scouts leaving (and taking their troop leader parents with them), and not enough younger scouts (and participating parents) filling the ranks. I think only 1 kid in my age range (of 8-12 kids) made Eagle. I blamed the lack of support, the lack of adults stepping in and saying "yes, go do that" and telling me what to do to get it done. The other kids I saw make Eagle had their dad's helping them with the projects - welding the new hand railing for the wheelchair ramp at the church for example. If only I'd had people above me supporting me.

Then I blamed the other scouts. I had helped lots of other older scouts, but all of the younger ones were a bunch of jerkoffs. They would just fuck about during meetings, wouldn't follow the agenda, always forgot to wear their uniforms or put the scarf on the right way. If only I'd had people underneath me supporting me.

But what really happened?

Honestly, I just stopped caring. Apathy struck, and the whole scouting thing suddenly didn't matter. I had other more important things to do (hanging out with friends, playing video games, getting stoned, girls; you know - important things).

Looking back now - what I really enjoyed about scouts was learning things. Learning how to use a knife properly. Learning how to build 10 different kinds of camp fires with and without a match. Learning how to tie the right knot for the right situation. Learning how to shoot a bow, build a shelter in the woods, sail a personal boat, build a bookshelf, balance a budget. I was a sponge for learning all these adult things. But when it came to taking some initiative and putting it all together: planning and executing a project - I just didn't have any interest. It didn't seem like there was anything to learn from it, so fuck it.

I don't really regret not getting Eagle. I succeeded in a lot of other things in my life since then (failed plenty as well). I don't think not having Eagle limited my college choices, and it definitely didn't hurt my job hunt.

Still, I wish there had been an Applying Yourself merit badge. That was a hard lesson to learn.
posted by ish__ at 5:12 PM on June 14, 2010 [36 favorites]


Do Eagle Scouts really live in such an enclosed, sheltered world such that they believe all other people will be in awe of their accomplishments?

Yeah, all the Eagle Scouts I've ever met are such cool, humble, utterly responsible and knowledgeable people, that I'm surprised to hear there might be pompous, egotistical ones. In fact, I've never heard that they are Eagle Scouts from themselves, but from their proud family members or friends. So, just by the survey of people that I know who are Eagle Scouts, I am pretty impressed with them, but none of them believe anybody should be in awe of their accomplishments.

I have no knowledge of the Scouts' slipping standards, if they are in fact slipping.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:13 PM on June 14, 2010


Mike Rowe Celebrates Dirty Jobs

Mike Rowe, the host of "Dirty Jobs," tells some compelling (and horrifying) real-life job stories. Listen for his insights and observations about the nature of hard work, and how it’s been unjustifiably degraded in society today.
posted by MechEng at 5:19 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I grow up I want to be just like Mike Rowe.

Oops... too late. ::sigh::
posted by Splunge at 5:22 PM on June 14, 2010


I became an Eagle Scout in Utah, which is essentially an Eagle Scout Factory. Which isn't to say that scouting isn't awesome there; it can be, but it can also be perfunctory.

But at least I was under no illusions what becoming an Eagle Scout meant that I was a wonderful person. I knew some really contemptible people who had no trouble getting that accolade.
posted by gurple at 5:32 PM on June 14, 2010


Do Eagle Scouts really live in such an enclosed, sheltered world such that they believe all other people will be in awe of their accomplishments?

No. Some people are Eagle Scouts, some people are entitled, and there is an overlap of people who are both. Being one doesn't doesn't necessarily mean being the other.

I don't know if it is still the case today, but in the 90's, it was helpful towards college admissions and scholarships not because of a scouting cabal, but simply because it was a significant achievement for a teenager. Especially if you were applying to West Point. (Kind of the opposite: I went to art school. I did notice that the other students who were Eagle Scouts were not afraid of taking on ambitious projects, and they were helpful in critiques.)

As an adult, the Eagle Scouts that I've met are usually interesting, engaged people. And they tend to not complain about rain, mosquitos, or bad cooking. Which is to say, they are the opposite of entitled: willing to shrug off short term inconvenience or hardship. I think that is one of the major life skills that a lot of young men get from scouting.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I guess that was a long winded way of saying I agree with Mike, Eagle Scout isn't a golden ticket to anything - you still have to work your ass off to get the things you want in life.
posted by ish__ at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2010


Mike Rowe was featured before on these pages, for his time working on QVC. I wrote the piece below, and I will shamelessly reprint it here.

Goddam, I fucking hate these dolls. I mean, look at 'em. All creepy-eyed and shit.

Yeah, they ain't right, Mike.

Can't believe people buy this shit.

Wish they'd buy more. Then you could get that new car you were talking about, Mike.

Fuck yeah, Skeeter.

/pause

I need to get out of here.

You're more talented than this, Mike. If I was as smart as you, I'd get my own show.

Yeah, what kind of show?

I don't know. Something where you show people interesting stuff.

Interesting stuff. Heh. If only it were that easy.

/pause

Skeeter, I've been watching you for two days now, and I have to ask -- just what the hell are you doing up there, anyway?

Cleaning the dust off the light supports.

Goddam, you are filthy.

Yeah, it gets pretty dusty up here.

I mean, you're covered in shit. Why the hell are you cleaning it by hand?

Well, it's the only way to get it clean, Mike. And if you don't get it cleaned regularly, the lights heat up, and then it gets dangerous.

Really?

Yeah, you could start a fire. And this whole TV building and the stage, well, it's all made out of wood, you know?

Yeah.

/pause

Skeeter, what were you saying about getting my own TV show...?

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


Yeah! Take that you lazy, shiftless, mooching eagle scouts!
posted by Michael Pemulis at 5:42 PM on June 14, 2010


The thing about the Boy Scouts is that the experience is totally dependent on the troop culture. I most definitely got a ton of training in leadership, since every event was spearheaded by an older scout, with adults there really just to advise and make sure nobody got hurt. When it was my turn to be in charge, it was a ton of responsibility. It's not like that in every troop. Likewise, every rank advancement had to be defended by two separate "interview" type sessions with adult leaders where you had to justify the advancement, not just show you had done the requirements. I'm not the least bit intimidated by job interviews, and have yet to not get an offer for a job if I get to the interview stage. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I've had a ton of practice when I was in scouts. But if your troop didn't take that seriously, you wouldn't get the benefit.

I think Mike's letter is great, and can be applied to so many "hurdle" type accomplishments, especially educational ones. Eagle Scout is just the pertinent example.
posted by nowoutside at 5:49 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't mention I'm an Eagle Scout, except in an ironic way because I'm persona non grata at least three different ways to the BSA. I'll still buy Girl Scout Cookies at the drop of a hat though. They're cool.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:50 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think if I like an adult applied at a job where I was looking at the resumes, and this adult mentions Eagle Scout, I'd laugh and laugh and laugh. I mean, really?

The only thing I know about Eagle Scout is that David Lynch earned it.
posted by xmutex at 5:54 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Weird he says to give the uniform away. There are a lot of scouts who finally found friends and stuff to do in scouting. They hold onto that experience as an ideal and worry that adulthood means returning to square one: No friends again, boring job, etc. You can go beyond Eagle in scouting; some do, and their contribution to society doesn't magically become trivial or immature just because they want to stick around and help other scouts.

Also, Mike's letter is certainly a lot more wordy than the one the White House sends out. I think somebody at the White House realized that the letter isn't there to preach or even serve as a good example of a "letter"; it's simply a culturally-accepted sign of recognition.

No, I think this letter started with him remembering a guy who made a jerk of himself, period. You can't teach Eagle Scouts with "now listen up, here's a cautionary tale" junk; that's what all the bad scoutmasters do when they can't be more creative.

so there
posted by circular at 6:06 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


>I think if I like an adult applied at a job where I was looking at the resumes, and this adult mentions Eagle Scout, I'd laugh and laugh and laugh. I mean, really?

Yep, every scout has to decide when it comes off the resume (and whether it goes on at all). Some really find jobs where that's respected. When somebody's in their late teens or early 20s, there's a good chance their boss will use it as a way to earn their trust -- "hey, Eagle Scout huh? COOL! Tell me about that! -- and then give them a crappy job. There's also the chance that they're working in something outdoors-related and have developed a significant skillset, toward which the award serves as a single pointer. I have a lot of friends who did search-and-rescue, and some who still do it, and Eagle Scout stays on the resume.
posted by circular at 6:13 PM on June 14, 2010


I'm an Eagle Scout, having finished mine within a few months of turning 18. At the time (late 90s) it was frequently mentioned as something admirable to put on resumes and college applications. Of the Eagle Scouts I know, none have had any success with putting it on their resume. Randy Pausch in "The Last Lecture" said he would help out people that listed Eagle Scout on their application, but then again he's dead.

When I was a young teenager (until high school or so), I was all about becoming an Eagle, just like Ross Perot and Steven Spielberg. I just has a few things to complete (a service project and one or two merit badges) to finish eagle when I was fifteen. Then I put it off for girls and rock n roll. If my best friend hadn't earned his Eagle and my parents hadn't pushed me I would have never finished. It's always funny to me that my parents pushed me to complete it, because they never wanted me to be a Boy Scout.

While the title Eagle Scout in itself hasn't opened any doors for me, there are a bunch of skills and opportunities that I wouldn't have had if it weren't for scouting. I can cook somewhat well. Some of my first experiences in electronics, woodworking and other things that have had a larger role in my life came through scouting. Plus, where else were you encouraged to start fires?
posted by drezdn at 6:14 PM on June 14, 2010


Wait, there was a form letter?

Overall, I am grateful for many of the high adventure and civic opporotunities made available because of scouting and the achievement of Eagle scout. Considering scouting is 100 years old this year, and that the scouts came out en masse for Portland's Rose Festival Parade, it was nice to see that the spirit of scouting and the building blocks that some troops will offer up for the scouts is still apparent.

Two of my closest friends are also Eagle Scouts. When all three of us are together; at BBQ's and what not, it can get pretty hilarious-- especially when our girlfriends chide us about it as quiz each other over declination, a one handed bowline, or snipe hunts.
posted by captainsohler at 6:19 PM on June 14, 2010


Eagle Scout has meant something when I've seen it on resume. It's impacted my assessment of the person. Similarly military experience has an impact on a resume.

I intuit that if someone was willing to go through all the trouble it takes to become an Eagle Scout, there's a chance they'll bring some of that ethic to the job.

That said, if someones skills aren't a match, they aren't a match, Eagle or no Eagle.
posted by el io at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2010


I'm a late 30-something in mid-career, and I personally think the meme that a new graduate/eagle scout/hire has a "sense of entitlement" is largely bullshit. Kids are cocky, you take 'em down a peg, you don't shove them in a box labeled "spoiled brat" - that's patently unfair, especially since you damn well better believe seasoned hands were sick of your n00b crap at one point or other when you started your career.

I think the real issue is that the job market is desperate and bleak, and anyone who isn't groveling is considered "entitled and spoiled" rather than cocky and eager.

What's worse, is that it will set up an enmity between two generations of workers, and you do not want to be facing a thirty-something hiring manager as a forty-something job applicant who has a rep of not getting along with younger co-workers.

Actually, I don't want to be a forty-something job applicant who's whole generation has a "resentful slacker" reputation, so knock that shit off already.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't know anything about scouting, but I think Mike Rowe's a pretty smart guy.
posted by matildaben at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2010


Trick is, anyone who even recognizes what an Eagle Scout achievement is, is either an Eagle Scout (unlikely,) or someone who failed to achieve Eagle Scout, Mr. FullOfYourself!

Weird he says to give the uniform away

He's just saving them from that thirtysomething "Can I still get into this uniform?" moment.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:58 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if someone has made a scouting program for adults. Not for adults who are taking care of kids, just for adults.
posted by adipocere at 7:06 PM on June 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


That same letter could go to some of the underemployed PhDs a few threads over.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 7:07 PM on June 14, 2010


Of the Eagle scouts I know, every single one of them turned into mellow potheads in college. So there's that.
posted by notsnot at 7:11 PM on June 14, 2010


Trick is, anyone who even recognizes what an Eagle Scout achievement is, is either an Eagle Scout (unlikely,) or someone who failed to achieve Eagle Scout

What planet are you from? If you live in a small community you know tons of scouts, just the way you know people from the Grange and/or the Masons and/or the Lutherans and/or the Red Cross volunteers or whatever. There aren't that many things to do [or there weren't back in the day blar blar my lawn etc] and a lot of times the kids wore their scouting uniforms to school. I had a few friends in high school who were Eagle Scouts. I'm not saying it was all that -- and I have big issues with the homophobia of the general organization as contrasted with the Girl Scouts who is generally reasonable about sexual orientation of their employees and/or scouts -- but yeah being an Eagle Scout in my area meant you could apply yourself to a biggish [in teen scale] problem and do something cool for the community. This letters seems nice and sensible.
posted by jessamyn at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


They could make the best bong out of anything
posted by Flashman at 7:21 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder if someone has made a scouting program for adults. Not for adults who are taking care of kids, just for adults.

I've kind of wished for that too. I was in Scouts from age 7 until age 18 - in Australia, the step for 18-25 year olds is called "Rovers", and I tried to get involved in the Rover crew once I turned 18, but they were incredibly disorganized, and were more like a clique of friends than an actual official entity that held regular meetings. So I gave up on them and found other things to do with my time. Now that I'm 30, I'm just hanging on, waiting for my son to get a bit older so he can join Scouts and I can get involved again.
posted by Jimbob at 7:37 PM on June 14, 2010


Can a woman be an "Eagle Scout?"

I was in the Boy Scouts until I found out how cool the internet was. The only Eagle Scout I know is in jail for stabbing someone in a bar.
posted by fuq at 8:00 PM on June 14, 2010


I don't think women can become Eagle Scouts, but women can earn the Order of the Arrow, and can serve in all leadership roles, last I checked. I think that's been the case since the 80s.

In some areas, women pretty much run the show.
posted by circular at 8:08 PM on June 14, 2010


Not scouting related, but, Hey, there's my friend Jim on Dirty Jobs. We cave together a lot & I missed this when it aired -- the post finally prompted me to look it up.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:09 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


adipocere: "I wonder if someone has made a scouting program for adults. Not for adults who are taking care of kids, just for adults."

It's called the Army. The main difference is that instead of your parents forcing you to stay, it's stoploss orders and prosecution of deserters.
posted by pwnguin at 8:36 PM on June 14, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah here in Utah scouting is What Boys Do™ between school and preisthood meetings. I was a cub scout and briefly a boy scout. The only thing I remember about the organization was being an outcast because I wasn't a member of the ward where the meeting was being held. After the pinewood derby's and snacks of cub scouts ended, I was gone.
posted by msbutah at 8:47 PM on June 14, 2010


pwnguin: "adipocere: "I wonder if someone has made a scouting program for adults. Not for adults who are taking care of kids, just for adults."

It's called the Army. The main difference is that instead of your parents forcing you to stay, it's stoploss orders and prosecution of deserters.
"

and instead of people throwing firecrackers and shooting bottle rockets at you, it's bullets and real rockets.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:55 PM on June 14, 2010


What is the letter that the boy in the second link is referring to? It doesn't quite make sense if he's responding to the 'Don't be a form letter' one.
posted by jacalata at 8:56 PM on June 14, 2010


It's called the Army. The main difference is that instead of your parents forcing you to stay, it's stoploss orders and prosecution of deserters.
Ahem...Baden Powell himself disagreed with that very much.
At Oregon the Socialists came to the meeting which I held for Scouts and schoolboys and protested against our making boys into soldiers. They seemed to think that Scouts were armed with rifles and were learning military drill and playing at being soldiers, and they said they would not allow any boys to become Scouts.

So I explained to them what scouting really was, that it is to make boys into good backwoodsmen and life-savers, and not into soldiers.

The boys themselves did not like the idea of being prevented from enjoying the fun of camp life and scouting, and they crowded round me after the meeting more than they had done anywhere before, asking how they could become Scouts.
--Baden Powell, quoted here.

Also: NYTimes coverage
posted by circular at 9:32 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I only know one Eagle Scout. It's my husband's cousin. He did ROTC all through high school and college, he's a Captain in the Marines and has done a tour in Iraq & 2 tours in Afghanistan. He's now working on his dual MBA/JD degree that was delayed when he had to go back the Afghanistan the last time.

He just turned 29.

He's an ambitious motherfucker. We're pretty sure he's going to run for office one day. It's too bad he's a conservative. :)
posted by chiababe at 10:06 PM on June 14, 2010


The thing about the Boy Scouts is that the experience is totally dependent on the troop culture.

This, very much, yes. I worked at a Scout camp for a number of summers (worth of my Eagle Scout award, even there, approximately zero) and you'd see troops who'd run the gamut and it always came down to the core adult leadership and whether they gave a crap about the experience, were forced to be there by their church or were out on some ego trip. Some troops worked the awards program, some were paramilitary fucks, some a summer-prison program for church youth who did not want to be there. Most were pretty good folks.

As little as I think of it, my Eagle award has been best as a subtle kick in the ass, usually when tying knots: c'mon, you're an -Eagle Scout-, you should know this. Fucking bowline.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:34 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


circular: "Ahem...Baden Powell himself disagreed with that very much. "

The worldwide success of Scouting can be attributed to Baden Powell's marketing skills. So of course he told the Socialists their children wouldn't be trained as foot soldiers to participate in imperialism. But lets look at some facts:

1. Baden Powell had a considerable military career as an officer.
2. Baden Powell founded scouting after discovering that his instruction manual, Aids to Scouting, a manual to military scouting operations, had sold well.
3. He rewrote that book and others into Scouting for Boys, which used a Cadet Troop he met during a during a siege in the second Boer war as a paragon. Many topics are discussed of only incidental military use, but topics include "our empire" and "duties as a citizen-soldier" and "marksmanship".
4. I vaguely recall reading in a BSA Scout Handbook that significant Scouting experience might lead to slightly higher initial postings. If that contradicts Baden Powell, then I guess times have simply changed or adjusted to local culture.
5. I can and in fact did fire rifles as a Scout. I also ran an archery range for Cub Scouts, right next to the rifle range. As far as I'm aware, rifles aren't part of standard search and rescue loadouts. One time we even pulled in National Guard equipment -- tanks, m16s and HMVs.
6. Finally, consider Exploring, a subsidary of the BSA which among other things, offers funding to US Army Cadets Inc to provide Explorers with an Army career exploration program. I recall the BSA suggesting Exploring to Scouts after they turn 18 as a way of going deeper. (Explorers start at 14 and can go on until 21 rather than 18).

To me this suggests that scouting and military service are linked, and at levels beyond individual troops. Even if Powell were truly opposed to the idea, which makes no sense with his background and experience, Scouting as practiced today and generally known (or not) by Mefites appears to feed into military service.

It probably doesn't have to be that way; it would be pretty badass to have a troop focused on disaster relief beyond "be prepared" first-aid treatment. I'm thinking like setting up wireless computer networks in Katrina / Port-au-Prince and CrisisCamp style projects. Perhaps this was just my troop, but scouting today seems focused on Wilderness and Roughing It, and generally looked down upon the few people who would wire radios and lights and AC/DC converters in their camp boxes.
posted by pwnguin at 12:17 AM on June 15, 2010


It probably doesn't have to be that way;

And it isn't, necessarily. Scouting is an international movement. And, from what I read on Metafilter, Scouting in the US is a bit weird, what with the homophobia and religious obsession I keep hearing about that simply don't exist in Scouts here in Australia. Hell, girls are as welcome to join Scouts as boys are here. Compared to the alternatives (Boys Brigade, Army Cadets), Scouting was the decidedly non-millitary option. If Scouting has turned out this way in Australia, and differently in the US, you can hardly blame Baden Powell.

To make a relevant similie, it's like concluding soccer is all about cheating and taking dives, when you've only ever seen France and Italy play...

Perhaps this was just my troop, but scouting today seems focused on Wilderness and Roughing It, and generally looked down upon the few people who would wire radios and lights and AC/DC converters in their camp boxes.

Some of my memories of Scouts; JOTA (Jamboree of the Air), my first experience of ham radio, which a load of our leaders seemed to be into. One of my leaders was a computer programmer, and I got a Computing award badge for writing an educational game in BASIC on my Amstrad. Leaders somehow wiring up a spark plug inside a campfire so the fire would suddenly come to life at the peak of a ghost story we were being told. Evenings were patrols, armed with $1 per scout, were sent to a farmers market to barter for and buy as much food as possible, and then prepare a meal from it. We did get to shoot an air rifle once, though.
posted by Jimbob at 2:10 AM on June 15, 2010


I'm a late 30-something in mid-career, and I personally think the meme that a new graduate/eagle scout/hire has a "sense of entitlement" is largely bullshit.

I have to disagree with Slap*Happy. I interview 50-100 potential college new-hires every year for enterprise IT, entry-level jobs. Roughly tracked over more years than I'd like to admit: 30% of them are just plain inept; 50% absolutely come off with an overbearing/really annoying sense of entitlement; the remaining 20% are true gems.

Those stats should not be generalized for all new grads/hires in different job markets and regions of the country. It is definitely a fact for my little part of the planet.

I'd much rather have graduation/promotion speakers introduce some solid reality into their speeches rather than just keep telling grads "you're awesome!" over-and-over-and-over again...if only to reduce the 50% number to even 45% for the few who would let it sink in.
posted by hrbrmstr at 3:05 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Replace Eagle Scout with grad school and you're pretty much dead on.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:39 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always liked Mike Rowe, this makes me like him even more.

I'm grateful that I never got pressured by my parents to go for the Eagle badge; it definitely takes Scouting from "Hey, orienteering camp-out this weekend! Cool, I'll learn how to use a compass" territory into the realm of "Crap, I have to earn XYZ merit badges before I can become a Life Scout, which I have to do by thus-and-such date to meet the six month requirement before I can become an Eagle." Definitely a noteworthy achievement for anyone who can pull it together amid all the distractions of adolescence, but my life has been OK without having done it myself.

I really wish the BSA hadn't adopted an official policy of homophobia the year after I left Scouting. I've often thought it would be fun to get involved as an adult, but that's kind of a show-stopper for me. In hindsight it's also kind of weird to make kids swear an obligation to deity... I think that requirement means a lot more to parents than to the kids. I'm pretty sure there was at least one atheist in my troop who would blithely recite the oath "...to do my duty, to God and my country..." without a second thought.
I wonder if someone has made a scouting program for adults. Not for adults who are taking care of kids, just for adults.
When I began working from home three years ago and knowing that I would go completely insane for want of human interaction, I found myself asking this exact same question, and after considerable poking around online I wound up joining the Masons. Freemasonry lacks the camping/outdoorsy aspect, but it pushes a lot of the other buttons that Scouting did... ritual ceremonies, strong morals, and fellowship. (And yes: critics are quick to point out that like Scouting, Freemasonry in its mainstream forms is male-only and requires a vague belief in a supreme being. While there's no official institutional homophobia that I'm aware of, I'm sure it can unfortunately be found in some places.)

Every once in a while I get manic and contemplate joining the Appalachian Mountain Club, but then realize that those folks are probably way more hardcore than I'm looking for. And they probably don't teach you about knots either.
posted by usonian at 5:53 AM on June 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never made it Eagle Scout. I had a near drowning at Scout Camp one summer and that has given me a life long fear of drowning, although I can swim perfectly well. This was sufficient disincentive for me to avoid all the required merit badges that involved swimming, and made it clear that I would never make it beyond First Class.

However, I see tremendous value in the process completed by those who made the decision to succeed at becoming and Eagle Scout. I believe there is inherent value in any discipline that requires that you plan ahead, practice, and focus. Those skills are transferable to many other things in life and give us a reflective appreciation for those who consistently demonstrate them.

And while reciting the scout law in under 4 seconds doesn't gain me much as an adult, the process of having taken the time to learn that does.
posted by plinth at 7:14 AM on June 15, 2010


It ought to be impressive to some of a kid's peers. And it sets the bar at a height appropriate to mid-teens.

But the amount of work that goes into it (in the US) is no more than a quarter of somewhat rigorous college classes. What either says about your character is that you can apply yourself to a pre-designed goal. And nothing beyond that.
posted by Twang at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2010


P.S. Also, please don't be a homophobe.

In related news ...

Trial over local Boy Scout headquarters begins
"At issue is not whether the Cradle of Liberty Council can discriminate. A landmark 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 said the Boy Scouts is a 'membership organization' and can exclude gay youths and troop leaders. But Philadelphia's City Charter says otherwise, and after years of negotiations the city decided in 2006 that the Cradle Council's refusal to explicitly reject the national scout policy violated the local rules. So the scouts were ordered to vacate the 80-year-old headquarters they had occupied rent-free, or else pay $200,000 a year to lease the building from the Fairmount Park Commission. It is one of two offices operated by the council, which runs scout troops in the city and Delaware and Montgomery Counties. The scouts contend the city's move is an unconstitutional 'coercion' that violates the organization's rights to free speech and equal protection. The city leases land to other institutions with membership rules, including a Catholic church, and those groups do not face eviction, the scouts say. The city says the comparison is inaccurate. A jury will decide, and both sides are sparring over how to screen the jury pool."
posted by ericb at 9:55 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


In related news ... Trial over local Boy Scout headquarters begins

This sort of thing comes up with BSA every so often. The American Library Association also has a non-discrimination clause in their charter which caused trouble with a special relationship that they forged with BSA [trying to get boys to read, was a totally great idea, but got a lot of people thinking and talking. Adult people came to meetings in their scouting uniforms, I think nothing ever wound up happening but my memory fails me] as well as one with a Christian or Catholic Librarians Association. This is basically how we got civil unions in Vermont in the first place. State Supreme Court says "oh hey, you're not allowed to discriminate according to our charter..."
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2010


Replace Eagle Scout with grad school and you're pretty much dead on.

I was going to say something to the effect of this, but it could really be interpreted a number of ways. To me seeing Eagle Scout or grad school on a resume is proof that someone can see a far off goal and make it to the finish line with success.
posted by Big_B at 11:12 AM on June 15, 2010


My brother dropped out of scouting when he was 15, after the annual fundraiser changed from selling enormous tins of teeth-rotting popcorn to selling organic fertilizer. (We lived in Texas.) He said "I just woke up one morning and realized that I was literally being asked to peddle bullshit door to door, and the scales kinda dropped from my eyes."
posted by KathrynT at 11:17 AM on June 15, 2010


Of the Eagle scouts I know, every single one of them turned into mellow potheads in college. So there's that.

Hahaha. As an Eagle Scout and former collegiate pothead, I can vouch for the veracity of this statement.

I've talked about the Eagle Scout thing on the blue before. You know, I'm proud of it. It's a lot of work. Like really, a lot of fucking work. And I learned a lot of things by doing it - perseverance during rough times not the least of these lessons. But, like accomplishments in general, I rarely mention it except to be self-deprecating. Like good college degrees, there's this weird "I worked really, really hard for this and it really is a big deal to earn this, but it's not cool to mention it because, well, just like in high school working hard and earning lauds just isn't cool, and inevitably people will just assume you're a pompous ass." No one likes an overachiever, or an achiever for that matter. Yeah, ok. I get it. But as an adolescent boy, Eagle Scout is one of the greater and more difficult things you can achieve.

I think if I like an adult applied at a job where I was looking at the resumes, and this adult mentions Eagle Scout, I'd laugh and laugh and laugh. I mean, really?

The only thing I know about Eagle Scout is that David Lynch earned it.


Well, by your own admission, you have no idea what it takes to make it to Eagle. It takes years of hard work. I'm certainly not saying that it's the achievement some make it out to be, but it is certainly not something to laugh at. I include it in my resume along with my other professional affiliations. What does it show? It shows that you cared about something to see it through to the end, even when you were young, that you have attained a certain level of self-reliance, that you have a skill set that's incredibly, incredibly useful (e.g. if you're out camping in the middle of fuck nowhere with no possibility of medical help and you get stung by a bee and don't have an EpiPen and you turn out to be allergic, you'd be grateful (eventually) to the Eagle Scout with you who knows how to give you a field tracheotomy.)

Do I think it's served me in life? Absolutely. Not as a thing in and of itself, but as part of the larger picture of who I am and what qualifications I have for college or for jobs. I mean, I'm walking proof that fancy degrees aren't golden tickets into high-paying, good jobs. No one thing is. So, slow clap for Mike Rowe I guess, but I don't know any Eagle Scouts who think it's some sort of magic pass to success.

Most of all, however, I value my Eagle Scout for the experiences I gained while earning it, not for its spot on my resume. Perhaps at the time I was doing it for my college admissions applications, but I now value it as so much more than that. I come from a family of Eagles, and scouting meant a lot of good times spent with my Dad, it meant backpacking through Yellowstone and sandbagging when the Mississippi flooded and navigating with only a compass and learning how to whittle and make peach cobbler over a fire and cooking for the homeless people on holidays and collecting cans for the food bank. So let's not confuse the title with the chest of skills, experiences and memories behind it.

I have serious issues with the Scouts now that I'm older, political and otherwise, but let's not belittle something that has done a great deal of good for a great many people.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


But the amount of work that goes into it (in the US) is no more than a quarter of somewhat rigorous college classes.

Haha. This is laughably untrue.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:34 AM on June 15, 2010


To me this suggests that scouting and military service are linked, and at levels beyond individual troops. Even if Powell were truly opposed to the idea, which makes no sense with his background and experience, Scouting as practiced today and generally known (or not) by Mefites appears to feed into military service.

IME this is true. From my home troop, I'd say about 80% of them entered the military.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:37 AM on June 15, 2010


A while back, my wife and I were watching something with Stephen Fry she idly wondered who a comparable American analog could be; someone who seemed to be nearly universally well regarded, talented, and who dedicated a lot of their time to voice-over work and educational projects.

We decided that Mike Rowe was probably on the short-list of contenders.

I can think of no higher compliment.
posted by quin at 11:40 AM on June 15, 2010


I'm sorry to say it, but I think Mike Rowe is nothing so much as a stud. Masculine as all get-out and just... DADLY. That's a guy who should be a dad. Nothing I can do about it, though. *sigh*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:44 AM on June 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I really enjoy watching Dirty Jobs + Mike Rowe - I think in a way he's a modern day Studs Terkel, I can't get enough of the stories he draws out of the people that he works with.
posted by mincus at 4:23 PM on June 16, 2010


I'm sorry to say it, but I think Mike Rowe is nothing so much as a stud. Masculine as all get-out and just... DADLY. That's a guy who should be a dad. Nothing I can do about it, though. *sigh*

I will grudgingly admit to that. I can watch a vid of the guy pitching dolls on QV-frakin-C and come away somehow feeling less manly.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:08 PM on June 17, 2010


« Older An investigation into the startling fraud accusati...  |  Artist Henning Lederer has ada... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments