I read the thread about the 17 year old life scout that is having troubles with his SM over scout spirit and while I think in this case the SM is handling things the wrong way, I know exactly what the SM was thinking. He's breaking rules to improve his troop and I do that as well.
Succinctly put, most scouts are unwilling to push themselves out of their comfort zone. When that push comes from from other scouts the program works great. Unfortunately, sometimes there are not enough other scouts to give that push and an adult needs to create it. That's when I break rules stipulated by the BSA.
Believe it or not, teenagers can be lazy and that has ramifications in a program that encourages scouts to make their own decisions. If they don't know a skill and only have to pass it once to get a check mark then they are unlikely to want to practice that skill. So those are off the calendar, the one that we are not supposed to interfere with. This wouldn't be an issue in a troop that already has first aid woven into the culture of the troop, but that's not very many troops.
Then there's the scout spirit rule. The typical scout takes 4 to 5 years to go from First Class to Eagle. So in those 48 to 60 months he only has to show up, help out, and essentially live the Oath and Law for a year and 4 months. For me, any scout that's wearing a First Class or above patch is expected to help out. The Scout Oath and Law are not just about getting requirements signed off.
So I break rules. These are mainly the rules that relate to getting scouts to do what they know they should do but are just too lazy to do. I will reject the scout's calendar if there are no outdoor skills being practiced. I encourage them to make it fun, but they have to do it. Every scout will have to show that he knows the scout skills of all the ranks up through the one he is seeking before I will do a SMC with him. If he doesn't know them then he gets to spend as much time as needed with an ASM until he does know them. If a scout is wearing a Star or Life patch then he's expected to help out. Period. And that includes going on some campouts. If he doesn't like the campouts or is bored then I encourage him to fix that problem. I understand disappearing for a year, sports and band and all that, but being active 48 out of 60 months is a lot different than 16 out of 60.
I'm sure these rules came from a small number of people that abused a situation and so now we all are restricted. Kind of like the GTSS and squirt guns. A bit of common sense is all that's needed but rather than encourage that the boy scouts create rules. I do my best to ensure a scout has a path towards success before I break a rule. If a scout, that's been gone for two years comes up to me with barely enough time to do an Eagle project and wants to get Eagle, I'll work with him. I won't prevent a scout getting eagle at a young age but that's a small number of scouts. I give the PLC as much say as I can in picking the calendar. But in the end, there is a minimum standard and as the saying goes, you can lead a scout to water but you can't make him drink.
With all that said I don't have to break the rules that often and I really don't enjoy it. The scouts know they have to learn the skills so the whole retesting thing is not an issue. The scouts know they need to have skills and challenges built into the events and enjoy the challenge of making them fun. I've also found out that if I screw around and have fun with the scouts 10 times as much as I have to tell them they're doing something wrong, then they respect my view. I've had a lot of scouts thank me for kicking them in the butt.
I'd rather not break rules. My ideal troop is where all I have to do is answer questions, ask a few, and enjoy the outdoors. I'm getting closer but I know I'll never get there. I'm sure others don't like what I do and I'm fine with that. I have talked to a lot of other SMs in my district and I'm not that far off from what they do.