Eagle Scouts’ Virtues for Life
The first American Eagle Scout Award was given one hundred years ago this year to Arthur Eldred of New York. Since then, more than two million young men have achieved the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank. But does this early achievement have long-lasting effects?
A new report, Eagle Scouts: Merit Beyond the Badge, demonstrates that it does. Baylor University’s Program on Prosocial Behavior received a $992,000 grant from the John Templeton Foundation to measure the lifelong impact of attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
“We found that the effort and commitment required to earn this rank produces positive attributes that benefit not only these men in their personal and professional lives, but also benefits their communities and the country through the service and leadership they provide,” reports Byron Johnson, Director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior and lead researcher on the project.
There is no shortage of examples or anecdotal accounts which affirm that participation in scouting produces better citizens. Surprisingly, however, until now there has been very little scientific evidence to confirm the prosocial benefits associated with scouting or earning the rank of Eagle Scout.
This new research demonstrates that Eagle Scouts are more likely than those who have never been in scouting to do better across various parts of life, including personal health, social connection, environmental concern, goal achievement, and character development. They have higher levels of planning and preparation skills. They are more likely to be in a leadership position at their place of employment or in community groups and have closer relationships with family and friends. Eagle Scouts volunteer more often for religious and nonreligious organizations, and donate money to charitable groups more frequently.
Prosocial behavior is clearly vital for a healthy society and yet is hard to achieve. The report notes that families have traditionally provided the training ground for character, though today’s families are under enormous pressure and young people are bombarded with conflicting messages from all sides. Further, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
The founders of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), a century ago, recognized the need for such training to help young people succeed. More recently, the programs of the BSA have incorporated what is known as “positive youth development.” It is based on the premise that when adults support and enable youth to control and motivate themselves, young people are most likely to harness and internalize their potential for prosocial behavior.
About four percent of boy scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank. Before their 18th birthday, scouts must demonstrate their understanding of leadership, service, character, personal fitness, and outdoor skills. They must also plan and execute a project that serves and benefits the community.
“Eagle Scouts have made their mark throughout history. We’re proud to claim some truly great men in American history among our ranks. We’re even more proud that every day Eagle Scouts become wonderful husbands, fathers, and citizens,” says Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive of the BSA. “This research validates for the world something we’ve known about Eagle Scouts for years. They lead. They vote. They donate. They volunteer. They work hard and achieve their goals.”
The Chemistry of Trust
Are human beings fundamentally good or bad? Neuroscience is casting new light on this ancient debate.
Paul Zak, professor of economics at Claremont Graduate University, calls the mammalian hormone oxytocin the “moral molecule.” He has shown how it allows us to determine whom to trust. His work is supported by a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
Zak’s new book, The Moral Molecule, is a first-hand account of the discovery of the role of oxytocin in our lives, which took Zak from the laboratory to the jungles of Papua New Guinea.
His work has implications for organizations and individuals alike. It explores feelings from empathy and heroism to skepticism and anger. Loneliness, Zak believes, is devastating for human beings. Compassion is part of human nature.
Templeton Prize Ceremony to be Webcast
The Dalai Lama, winner of the 2012 Templeton Prize, will receive his award in a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral on Monday, May 14, at 1:30 PM in London (8:30 AM EDT). The celebration will be webcast live, along with an earlier news conference with the Prize Laureate. Viewers can pre-register here.
It will be an historic occasion as the Dalai Lama visits the cathedral for the first time. “The award of the Templeton Prize to the Dalai Lama under the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral will be a reminder that working towards peace and harmony is a practical and spiritual challenge to all faith communities,” said The Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Now in its 40th year, the Templeton Prize is awarded to a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Funding Opportunity: The Meanings of Convergence
Convergence is one of the most intriguing areas of contemporary research in evolution. It is the phenomenon whereby processes of natural selection produce strikingly similar features in otherwise evolutionarily distinct organisms. Hundreds of examples have been documented.
That evolution should arrive at similar “solutions” to the problems of adaptation raises many questions. The John Templeton Foundation is launching a $5 million initiative on the Meanings of Convergence, which invites grant-seekers to develop proposals for research on the significance of convergence for a better understanding of the living world.
This Funding Competition challenges applicants to consider several varied questions that could be pursued. They include whether different examples of convergence point to the same evolutionary processes, or what the phenomenon of convergence implies about random and non-random elements within evolution. Enough has been learned in recent years to make the broader issues of what convergence implies about the nature and processes of life worth addressing.
Potential grantees can learn more about how to submit an Online Funding Inquiry for this Funding Competition or our Core Funding Areas in 2012 Funding Cycle 2, for which the submission window opens August 1, by visiting Our Grant Making Process online.