Advancement seems to be a great method in teaching and achieving the Aims of Scouting (Character development, Citizenship, and Physical and Mental fitness). We can find parts of all of the goals in the advancement method.
Character is built throughout the process. The Scout demonstrates good Character by showing his honesty during the Scoutmaster Conference and Board of review, he demonstrates Integrity when working on skills, seeking counsel for Merit Badges, and returning a completed “Blue Card” to the Advancement Chair or Scoutmaster. He again shows good character as he completes the requirements by not gloating or putting those in his peer group down.
Good Citizenship is found in the process also. As the Scout progresses through the Early ranks and then on through Star, Life, and Eagle, he is placed in positions of responsibility. He needs to understand the concept of Selfless service, making decisions for the good of the Patrol and Troop and not himself. He participates in elections and group decision making to move his patrol forward. This tests the scouts ability to work with others and challenges him to think not only of what is best for him, but what is best for all. Often times he discovers that majorities are not always right, but decisions must be seen through to get the most out of the learning experience.
And physical and mental fitness is borne out of the method of advancement. He is tested physically as a Tenderfoot. Then through the required merit badges of Cycling, Hiking, Personal Fitness, and Swimming. Many other merit badges will test him both physically and mentally. This all develops the young man while peaking his learning and growing an appreciation for skills, careers, and the out doors.
These are all reasons that Advancement is important.
Goal setting is a big reason for the Advancement method. We know that the Scout is solely responsible for his progress along the way. This test the scouts ability to set short term and long term goals, stick to it, and complete the goals. A Scout that does this experiences responsibility unlike anything his class mates will ever experience. A Scout that truly progresses through the advancement process, setting his goals and achieving them should be satisfied that he has accomplished great things. Those Scouts that race through the process or rely on others to walk them by the hand through it will never understand the feeling of success and accomplishment.
I have seen Troops that are for a lack of better terms, “Merit Badge mills”. They turn out merit badges at a rate that keeps the Scout Shop inventory system on edge. And at the end of the day the Scouts have a great amount of merit badges and no skill. They have a sash full of cloth, but no interest in the subject areas, they have an advanced rank, but no understanding of Character, leadership, or being a member of a high performance team.
The advancement method is there to assist the Scout and the unit in achieving the three Aims of Scouting. It is the Leaders function to provide a program in which the Scout can achieve success. To provide those opportunities that foster growth and development, to test the Scouts individual abilities and skills and to teach, coach, train and mentor the Scout along the way. It is the Scouts responsibility to advance at his own pace and to learn, set goals, know the requirements, have fun, and achieve the feeling of success.
Advancement is but one of eight methods in Scouting. We should not loose sight of the goal to get more patches. We need to ensure that Scouts achieve, not just receive. They need to earn the ranks and the merit badges. By earning them they will be successful in finding Character, Citizenship and Fitness.