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Issue 23 – Mid-December 2003

The other day, Mike Bowman, our esteemed Webmaster, was asked an “Ask Andy”-type question that he shared with me, along with his outstanding response – a response definitely worth repeating. So, here it is…

Mike –

Our Troop seems to have more and more Scouts who are coming back after a year or two of no involvement to finish the technical requirements on their Eagle Scout rank. Andy has a good message—Don’t impose requirements that aren’t there. But, what can be done to impress upon the Scouts that this isn’t really a good idea? I’d like them to get their Eagle if they can, but what’s reasonable to expect of them in this kind of situation? I want them to set a good example to younger Scouts as well.

And Mike replied…

That’s easy—let them finish their Eagle! The BSA set up the requirements so that older Scouts could do just this. We adults need to remember that the program is for the Scouts and not us. We’re not looking for super stars, perfect kids, or any of that nonsense. Instead, it’s about the growth of the Scout. The fact that he’s coming back to finish what he started says a good deal about him, and he should have every opportunity to do so. A Scout’s success here may motivate him to further greatness, help him achieve more in life, and always serve as a reminder that he expects more of himself as an Eagle, which in turn may help him steer clear of bad situations and temptations that will come soon enough in college. We should always extend a helping hand and never a slap in the face to a Scout who “comes back” to try to prove himself and to take a big step in personal growth.

Thanks and a tip of the Commissioner’s Cap to Mike!

Hi Andy-

In your 19th issue, you answer a question regarding OA elections in Venturing Crews and question why this is so. The reason is fairly simple. The Order of the Arrow is part of the Boy Scout Program Division of the BSA, which includes Boy Scout Troops and Varsity Scout Teams. Venturing is part of a separate Program Division. Because of this, Venturing Crews (and Sea Scout Ships) can not have OA elections. Venturers & Sea Scouts (and their leaders) who joined the OA as either Boy Scouts or Varsity Scouts may continue as OA members. Another reason for not having OA elections in Crews is that Venturing is a co-ed youth program, and the OA is not, nor any of the BSA programs within the Boy Scout Program Division. Thus, female Venturers can not be elected into the OA. To avoid the whole issue, no OA elections are held in Crews. (Michael Brown, Osceola Lodge #564)

I can appreciate that, while both Boy Scout Troops/Teams and Venturing Crews/Sea Scout Ships are ALL parts of the overall BSA organization (as compared to Explorer Posts, which fall under the Learning For Life organization—a separate corporation, in fact), the Troops/Teams and the Crews/Ships are in different program sub-divisions. This not withstanding, as for the “co-ed” issue, the OA is hardly male-only nowadays, thanks to Troops/Teams being able to successfully nominate female adult leaders. So, to keep Venturers and Sea Scouts from having elections for the reason that “they are co-ed” is sorta like having your tongue hinged at both ends, IMHO.

Dear Andy,

Our Cub Scouts have earned their Bobcat, and they’ve been working on the “OLD” Wolf Book and requirements. Do they have to re-do what they’ve done, since there are new books now, or can they finish the year using their old books? (Michael and Dawn, Den 3)

No, you don’t have to “replace” the books you’ve started with… In fact, you have till August of 2004 to use the “old” Wolf and Bear books and till August of 2005 before you need to use the newest Webelos books. Various Web sites can tell you even more — and they’re not too tough to find. They’ll give you more detail than I can provide here.

Dear Andy,

Great column! I love it and I’ve encouraged other Commissioners to read it. First a couple of editorial “corrections/updates” to your Issue 18 response. The current version of “Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures” book is now #33088D, and all your page references are low by two (e.g., your reference to page 21 is now page 23.) I agree with 100% of everything you’ve said about what I call “Requirements Creep.” I find myself confronted with units that add “objective measures of quality,” even for leadership credit. My first question for you is really a confirmation: In addition to requirement creep for rank and merit badges, would not the BSA policy of “No Council, District, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from any advancement requirement” also apply to the components thereof, such as leadership? For example (#1), a Troop decides to not give leadership credit to a Scout for the rank Star at the 4-month point “because in this Troop we’ve always required 6 months.” In another case (#2), a Troop decides that “active” means a Scout must attend 80% of all Troop meetings.

One another issue entirely (#3), what procedure should a Troop use to remove a non-performing junior leader (e.g., Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, etc.) who’s elected, but then decides not to participate? I would think a series of warnings to the Scout, escalating to a written letter, followed ultimately by a special election if not an appointed position.

Another question (#4) is this: Since the “Scoutmaster’s Handbook” states that “a…Troop sets its own requirements” for leadership positions, beyond the caveat of “with the approval of the Scoutmaster,” is it appropriate for a Troop to set any rank, age or prior participation requirements for leadership positions beyond the guidance in the “The Scoutmaster’s Handbook?”

My next (#5) topic is about Merit Badges. What official purpose does the Unit Leader’s signature serve on the middle portion of the blue card after the Merit Badge Counselor has signed the blue card? This is being interpreted by some Scoutmasters as their opportunity to “perform a QC” check on the Merit Badge Counselor. If in the opinion of the unit, the Counselor “skimped” on the requirements, then the Troop may not award the Merit Badge until the Scout has satisfactorily completed the requirements with a Merit Badge Counselor that they feel actually has the Scouts do the work (usually a Scouter within the Troop). Is this OK? (RH, District Commissioner)

Thanks for buying a more current version of the ACP&P book than I used… You page numbers are accurate per that edition, of course. And thanks for reading and “spreading the word” – The more readers, the more good questions… and comments like you own!

And now on to some creepy (Oops, make that creeping) requirements…

1 – Leadership tenure should correspond to the stated requirement and nothing else, and the words, “In this Troop…” simply have no place. And shame on the leaders who practice such malarky!

2 – Where’d that percent come from? Thin air? Someone’s brilliant thinking? Wrong, wrong, wrong. The basic rule of thumb is so very simple: DO YOUR BEST. That’s the foundation-stone of Scouting – from the beginning of the Scouting trail to the end. If a Scout is doing his best to attend as many meetings, outings, and other Troop and Patrol activities as he’s able, that’s it. And, how do we know? Just as simple – we ASK THE SCOUT. And then we believe him. Period.

3 – “Removing” a PL or SPL? Simple. The disgruntled Scouts can call for a vote, and vote for someone who does show up. This, of course, needs wise and delicate counseling and guidance by the Scoutmaster, and I believe it would be a strategic error to create some stringent pathway or set of rules to follow. This is an organic occurrence, and needs to be treated as such. BUT, I’m concerned about this “changing his mind” notion – If he doesn’t want to do the job, how was it that he got nominated in the first place? And afterwards, where’s the Scoutmaster? The Scoutmaster’s primary job is to train the Troop’s junior leaders – sounds like somebody’s goofin’ off!

4 – A good prerequisite for the positions of PL, APL, SPL and ASPL would be First Class rank, for a mature, stable, and pretty large Troop. But not all Troops are that way. Some, in fact, might need to have a Tenderfoot elected to the PL slot, if it’s a new Patrol in which all Scouts are the same beginning rank. That, to me, is certainly preferable to “importing” an older, higher-ranked Scout to “manage” the new Patrol till some advance. Let’s not forget: The Scoutmaster’s true primary job is to train the Scouts in the Troop for leadership. Boys don’t learn too well by watching. B-P discovered this, and that’s why the Scouting program is based on hands-on, “guided immersion” learning experiences. JASM’s, on the other hand, do have a very specific age requirement, just like ASMs and SMs.

5 – The Merit Badge issues you mention are easy to address, and we don’t have to worry about my opinion, yours, or anyone else’s–The BSA is darned clear on most all matters here (you’ll find all of what I’m about to say in “the book,” and I’ll leave it to your own eagle-eye to spot the right page and paragraph).

  • · No badge or rank earned can ever be “taken away” from a Scout. In the case of MBs, so long as the counselor is registered as such, that’s it. End of story. No retesting or “QC” nonsense.
  • · The SM’s signature in the middle (Applicant’s Record) portion of the “blue card” verifies just what it says at the top – It’s an assurance that the Scout has turned in the “Unit” portion of the card, so that if the Unit ever loses their portion, the Scout has a back-up signed by the SM. Plus, it even says on one of the panels: “A merit badge application can be approved only by a registered merit badge counselor.” So, right there, it knocks the SM out of the box as the “ultimate approver.”

That said, if a SM (or any adult leader) believes a counselor is mis-treating Scouts (by not adhering to the requirements—in any direction), then this is an issue to be brought to the attention of the district advancement chair and committee. But, even if the counselor is not re-registered as such, if he’s signed a Scout’s card, it’s still a done deal, because he did so while duly registered. Period.

That’s five answers for the price of admission! Take it easy next time—I don’t get “overtime pay” here!

Dear Andy,

You always keep me at the edge of my seat! I am cheering you on—then, out of nowhere you make a remark that is not BSA policy! Committees can NOT remove Scoutmasters (or any leader). A committee can only ask the COR (Chartered Organization Representative) to replace a leader. Please read some of the same material you quoted! If the COR will not take the action needed, then the committee can go the chartered organization itself with their REQUEST. I enjoy your section and wish that committees would have the desire to read the Scouting material and get the facts before jumping in with both feet. This very thing has caused too many good units to break apart. The district or council will not accept any new leader without the COR signature on the form. So, read the book, go buy it and don’t make up your own rules! (D.M., Commissioner, Greater Alabama Council)

I don’t know whose column you’re reading, but it’s sure not mine! Nowhere have I said what you’re claiming. Try a better pair of reading glasses. I don’t “make up rules.” Period.

Dear Andy,

I’m working on my PhD thesis for our College Of Commissioner Science—it’s on older people in Scouting. I’m having a problem coming up with biographies on the founders in Scouting, as well as the executives that kept it going thru the years. Can you help me out here? (Gene Henderson, Unit Commissioner, Buckeye Council, North Canton, OH.)

Did you know that in the UK, after a certain age, adults may not have direct contact with youth (they get “kicked upstairs” to an organization called Scout Fellowship), because the British Scout Association believes that the “generation gap” gets too wide? Anyway, check out our founder—Robert Stephenson Smythe Baden-Powell—because he didn’t found Scouting till he was in his early 50’s. In the US, the three key players (not counting William D. Boyce, the fabled newspaper publisher lost in a London fog—the city, not the raincoat, by the way) were: James E. West, first Chief Scout; Ernest Thompson Seton, naturalist who wrote much of the first Handbook for Boys; and Daniel Carter Beard, earlier founder of “Woodcraft Indians” (a youth program) and the BSA’s first National Commissioner. Early Scout Handbooks (50’s and earlier) go into much more detail on these gentlemen than current-day handbooks. Try plugging those names into your preferred search engine and watch the citations pop up!

Hi Andy,

I’ve just read your column on SINGING and the lack of it in the Scouting program today. I’ve noticed the trend myself. It’s as if we’re so wound up in being entertained that we’ve forgotten that we can participate as well. I’ve been encouraging singing at each and every event. It isn’t easy—both Scouts and parents are reluctant to join in when we start—but over time I can see a little headway. This trend can be reversed—if we’re willing to work at it. Thanks for your column, it’s helped me many times over the last year. (Dennis Fairbairn, District Commissioner, Lubbock, Texas)

Thanks for your letter, and THANKS for SINGING! Success in Scouting usually happens one Scout at a time, and it sounds like you’re “out there” making it happen. Keep on keepin’ on!

Hey Andy,

I was knocked out by your views on the Scout uniform! You should read the Scoutmaster Handbook and the “SALT” training book. Both of these state in no uncertain terms that a Scout is not required to have a uniform to belong to a Troop or to advance. It says that “what is inside a Scout is much more important than what is on the outside” (like a Scout uniform). Are you going to “modify” policies to suit your personal feelings? (D.M., Commissioner, Greater Alabama Council)

Sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t think I’ll be modifying my thinking on uniforming anytime soon! Looking even further into Scouting literature, you’ll discover that one of the eight methods of Scouting – methods being the ways in which Scouting achieves its four aims – is the uniform. In other official literature, you’ll find this: “Scouting is a uniformed organization.” Personally, I believe that, if a boy or his family truly can’t afford the price of a uniform, the unit to which he belongs can be of great assistance. There are even “experienced uniform” websites that can help. So, as B-P himself stated (the following is a paraphrase), while it’s certainly what’s “on the inside” that counts, any true Scout will with equal certainty equip himself with a proper uniform.

As a personal aside, during my tenure as Scoutmaster of a perpetual Quality Unit and National Camping Award Troop, the Troop’s PLC decided that we’d wear our (full!) uniforms everywhere, and so we did, to great benefit – our Scouts were many times invited to conduct opening ceremonies at District and Council events, we received special treatment while camping at National Parks and Forest Service reserves, and even appeared on TV because the newsmedia “captured” us on camera and interviewed our Scouts (we were selected from among several hundred Scouts on an encampment because we were the only Troop in full uniform). Some of our Troop’s Scouts appear in the BSA nationally produced commemorative video of the ’93 Jamboree. I could go on, but I believe the point’s made – The benefits to uniforming far out-weight any purported “benefits” there might be to the obverse.

Hi Andy,

I’m looking for a source of possible Den service projects for the Citizenship Activity Pin (Req. 8). Can you direct me to somewhere I can get ideas from? (Dot Beltramine, WDL, Pack 298, Hardyston, NJ)

Have you contacted your Pack’s sponsor, local churches, your town’s rescue squad, or whoever in town takes care of any parks or public grounds in the town? I’m thinking these local folks will be your very best resources, and a nice way to strengthen the bonds between Scouting and your community.

Happy Scouting!


Have a question or problem? Got an idea that will help others? Send an email to – be sure to let me know your Scouting position, town, state, and council!

(Mid-December 2003)


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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