Boy Scout programs are famous for teaching boys leadership skills and good character. One of the best ways these programs accomplish this is through the patrol method. Scout troops are divided into smaller patrols of about eight Scouts of similar ages and interests. Scout patrols give young men the chance to interact in small groups, take on leadership responsibilities, learn to work together, and form friendships that can last a lifetime. Patrols also ensure that the Scouts take responsibility for their own activities and experiences.
The patrol method has always been an integral part of Scouting. Lord Baden-Powell insisted, “The patrol system is not one method in which Scouting for boys can be carried on. It is the only method.” If the end goal is to help boys grow into men that can face challenges and make ethical life choices, the patrol method is one of the best ways to do that.
But Scouts aren’t the only ones who have put the patrol method to the test. This method has also proven its usefulness to St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey. According to an article on the Good News Network, Scouting methods helped save the school from shutting down:
St. Benedict’s Preparatory School nearly had to close its doors 50 years ago when the racial and political turmoil of the 1960s brought about the collapse of the inner city and ‘white flight’ to the suburbs, at a time when the economy was failing.
That’s when the headmaster, a Benedictine monk named Edwin Leahy, found the perfect guidebook with which to resurrect the school—The Boy Scout Handbook.
Leahy recognized the value of the handbook and the program it contained in teaching boys to be independent and develop leadership skills. He must also have been impressed by the patrol method, since beginning in 1972, he let students take the lead in their own education:
Student groups organize the school schedules and are required to run most of the operations. The boys are also members of groups that compete for the highest grades, which causes students to press each other to study harder.
These positive results give evidence to Baden-Powell’s assertion that “The more responsibility the Scoutmaster gives his patrol leaders, the more they will respond.”
The camaraderie this system instills gives each student a safety net of patrol members who are concerned about their progress and help them when they need it.
Leahy says this system he set up still allows students to make mistakes and bad decisions that fail. There’s a good reason for that, he told CBS News: “That’s a better learning experience.”
There is no doubt the method Leahy found in the pages of the Boy Scout Handbook has made a difference for the school. According to school records, 88% of students are awarded full or partial tuition scholarships to attend the school and over 90% go on to attend college.