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Issue 60 – October 2005

Here’s a letter from concerned parents. But before I offer my own “two cents,” I’d love to hear what YOU, my READERS have to say… Please give me your “take” on this one:

Andy:

The Boy Scouts are designed to encourage morality, but many of the songs they sing contain the word “heck.” “Heck” is just a slightly less offensive version of “hell.” Why is this word included in songs for Boy Scouts to sing? In my home, it’s considered a curse word, and when my son’s Cub Pack sang a song with it in it, he pointed out that this was a word that they should not say. I found it was in very poor judgment for the leaders to teach the children this song. Then, when I found this same song and others like it on Scouting web sites, I was surprised that this type of language was apparently thought to be an acceptable way for children to speak. The Boy Scouts should not be letting the lowered standards of our society corrupt the way they are leading our children. Children should not be allowed to sing songs containing words that are just a slightly softer version of cursing. We have spoken with our Cubmaster and voiced our concern, and we were told that our child could either not be involved in the campfire or not attend the campout. Why should our child miss out on the fun because he has higher standards than his Cubmaster? (G&AI)

In the arena of Reader Responses, quite a few of you wrote to me about the Scouter who had visited the Jamboree’s Merit Badge Midway in a vain attempt to set them straight. Here are two that capture the flavor of what you all had to say – one brief and one a little more detailed…

Dear Andy,

Regarding your mid-September reply to the Jamboree Merit Badge Cop: Excellent response. Thanks, and keep up the good work. (Michael A. Morris, ASM, Troop 25, Greater Saint Louis Area Council, MO)

Hi Andy,

I enjoyed your policy-based reply to the Scoutmaster about Merit Badge completion. I’ve personally run a “Merit Badge College” with over 350 Scouts, and I’ve heard the same “questions” from Scoutmasters that think a Scout MUST make it his life’s work to earn a MB! A number of MBs require that a Scout know First Aid, and CPR is a skill that’s repeated in several MBs, but shouldn’t be a problem for a Scout who know this stuff. In my experience, most Scouts can show that they have the skill in less than three minutes! After that, it’s the same action over and over again. Your help to many readers keeps Scouting going in the right direction and reminds us old guys what we’re here for. Thanks! (Don McDow, UC)

Now, on to this month’s letters…

Dear Andy,

I’m a Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking for an electronic template of the Cub Scout Roundtable Planning Guide. Any idea where I can find one? Thanks! (James Riley, Honest Abe District, Abraham Lincoln Council, IL)

I’ve not seen this anywhere online…yet! So, in the meanwhile, you might want to try your Council Service Center, starting with your District Executive. Another resource: the Scout Shop (just buy one for a couple o’ bucks).

Dear Andy,

I’ve been approached by a Tiger Cub mom who’s having problems with her son’s Tiger Den Leader being “too gruff.” This seems to be this particular Den Leader’s personality. How can I tactfully tell her to not be “too gruff”? (Kathie Murphy, UC, Circle Ten Council, Dallas, TX)

“Gruff” is a subjective description. Even the “gruff” General Patton was considered “lovable” by his family! So, have it checked it out, but NOT BY YOU! You’re a Unit Commissioner, and so your contacts with the Pack are at the Pack level—the Committee Chair and Cubmaster—not the Den level. This is a job for the Cubmaster or the Pack Trainer, or someone else within the Pack; not a UC. Your job is to consult with and advise the Pack leaders in the event that there truly is a problem.

Dear Andy,

You might call this “The Sins Of The Father.” In our Troop, we have a First Class rank Scout who’s volunteered to be a Den Chief with our “sister” Cub Scout Pack. Unfortunately, this Scout’s father alienated a lot of people when he was the Pack’s Committee Chair, and now many parents in the Pack are expressing concerns about his son being a Den Chief there (because of the father’s past behavior; not the Scout’s). I’d like to give this boy a chance, but I’m not confident that the father will stay out of the Den’s business. This man has ignored both Troop and District policy on several occasions, and I’d expect that trend to continue. The Scout himself has successfully completed our council’s Den Chief Training, and the precedent’s been solidly established: Our Troop already has five other Scouts who are the same age and rank serving as Den Chiefs in this Pack. How would you handle this? (Name and Troop withheld.)

The three key people who should be involved in this conversation are (1) the Scoutmaster, (2) the proposed Den Leader, and (3) the Scout himself, of course. This should be a three-way meeting between them, in which the Scout can describe what he’d like to do and why he’s interested in being a Den Chief rather than hold some other leadership position. It’s equally a chance for him to meet his possible Den Leader, who can ask him questions that will help determine how well (or not well) they’ll work together. This can include a question along the lines of, “How will you be getting to our Den meetings?” Possibly followed by this: “I don’t expect your parent who drives you to stay—I expect your parent to leave, and then return when the meeting’s over, to pick you up… Will this be OK?” The Scoutmaster, of course, can observe the whole thing and then de-brief with the Den Leader (alone) after that conversation, and then de-brief with the Scout. If the fit doesn’t look like a good one, the Scoutmaster can approach the next Den Leader, and so on. This is really between the Den Leader and the Scout, and I’d, frankly, ignore non-involved, non-leader parents.

Being a Den Chief is one of the most rigorous leadership positions in all of Scouting, and should be approached by gaining as much advance knowledge about the individuals as possible!

(As a “fail-safe,” if the parent is truly a problem, the Den Leader can actually get a legal restraining order to keep him out of her house—Yes, this might seem like a pretty drastic measure, but it is within the realm of possible courses of action.)

Dear Andy,

What a neat column! Here are my questions: My son went to the National Jamboree this summer—Does he wear the Jamboree patch on his current regular uniform? He also earned the five segments that go around the Jamboree patch—Do these also go on his uniform? (Mary Stambaugh, Troop 27 Mom, Cimarron Council, Enid, OK)

You betcha! He sure does get to wear those—and proudly! The Jamboree patch itself is CENTERED above the RIGHT POCKET of his Scout shirt (measure for the segments and have the bottom of the segment on the bottom about two inches above the “Boy Scouts of America” strip).

Hey Andy,

Why does it cost over a hundred dollars to buy the requirements for Tiger Scouts? (No name)

There’s nothing about the requirements to earn the Tiger Cub badge that requires spending one penny! Could you have accidentally typed the word, “requirements,” when you may have meant to say uniform? If so, the total price for the shirt, pants, socks, belt, buckle, cap, neckerchief, slide, and five basic patches comes to $92.70. If you then compare the prices of the actual main garments, you’ll discover that they are very close to what would be paid in most stores for the same articles of clothing; however, they’re not only more durable but they don’t “go out of fashion.”

Uniforms—which have been a part of the world-wide Scouting movement for nearly a hundred years, and worn by 28 MILLION youth around the world today—serve at least three important purposes: They give the boy a sense of belonging, they level the playing field (from a “fashion/designer” point-of-view), and they provide a place to show individuality of achievement. So, if this is what you were referring to, that will be the best $92.70 you ever spent on your kid—I promise!

Dear Andy,

How can my son earn the God And Me award? (Ginger Hawkins)

All of the “God and …” awards are provided by “PRAY”—Programs of religious Activities for Youth. Check out their website, and I believe this and all related questions will find answers:

http://www.praypub.org/main_frameset.htm

[A Note From The NetCommish: You can also find information on religious emblem programs at http://usscouts.org/scoutduty/index.html and http://usscouts.org/advance/boyscout/religious.html. ]

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for written solutions to “Two-by-Four” and “Traffic Jam”—group problems in the Venturing Leader Guide. I love the challenge, but I’d like to know the answers going into the meeting. Do they publish anything like a “teacher’s edition”? (John Walker, Venturing Crew Advisor, Crockett, TX)

If there were a single solution to these or the other initiative or cooperative games, there might be something like a “here’s the answer” supplement. But there isn’t, and that’s what continues to make them both challenging and FUN! It’s up to each group to work out a solution for themselves, and there are several ways to skin each cat—just like “The Great Egg Drop” and the others! Just keep in mind that, as Advisor, your job is NOT to coach the Venturers all the way to a solution; it’s to coach them just enough that they get the idea of interdependence and then make it work for themselves! Advisors don’t “lead” with answers, the way Scoutmasters sometimes do; Advisors do it by asking the right questions. Relax and enjoy!

Dear Andy,

A friend of mine has a 1929 Boy Scout Handbook in prime condition. I’ve seen it. It’s in great condition. How can I find out what it’s worth? (Arnie Lanckton)

Check out eBay and compare it to others frequently offered for bid.

[A Note from The NetCommish: You can also visit the website of Jim and Bea Stephenson at http://www.thestevensons.com. Jim is a retired professional Scouter and one of the best recognized appraisers of Scouting memorabilia. A list of Scouting Memorabilia dealers can be found at http://www.kirkdoan.com/sosmd.htm. Of these I would recommend a look at Chris Jensen’s http://www.steamwood.net.]

Hi Andy,

I’m a new District Commissioner, and I’m looking for software that allows me to track my units, leaders’ information, and re-chartering. Do you know where I could find a tool like this? (Charles R. Alvarez, DC, Tustumena District, Western Alaska Council, AK)

Try www.recordkeeper.com and www.scouttrack.com and see if these are any help.

[A Note from The NetCommish: We maintain a list of Scouting software at http://clipart.usscouts.org/Software.asp that may be helpful.]

Hello Andy,

I was just checking out the local Scouting website for Alachua County, Florida, and came across your site. I’d like to get back into Scouting as a Merit Badge Counselor. I earned my Eagle about 23 years ago, and was an ASM in Jacksonville. Can you tell me what Troops are in the NW part of Gainesville? I downloaded the BSA Adult Volunteer Application, but apparently I have to be registered with a local unit. Thanks! (Scott Crosby)

An Eagle Scout who’d like to get back involved in the greatest youth movement in the world? Wow! That’s FABULOUS! To be a Merit Badge Counselor, you need to be a registered member of a local BSA council (not a specific unit, like a Troop or anything), and you’ll fill out two applications—the one you’ve already found (BSA ADULT VOLUNTEER APPLICATION) and your local council’s MERIT BADGE COUNSELOR APPLICATION (they’re different from council-to-council, so don’t bother looking for a “general” one on the Net).

Actually getting started is pretty straightforward…

First, go to the BSA’s website: http://www.scouting.org/ On the right side of the home page, in the purple block, you’ll see the words, “sign up for Scouting.” Click on that, and then enter your information. Then click “submit,” and it’ll take you to a brief description of each Scouting program. At the bottom of that page, you’ll see this clickable blue-underlined text: “local council service center.” Click on that, enter your ZIP code and hit the “Find Local Council” bar. This will take you to the name, address, phone, and URL of the council that serves the area you live in. First, check out their website, just to get a sense for what they’re all about. Then, call them up, tell whoever answers what town you live in, and ask for the District Executive who serves that town. When connected, ask the DE for the name and phone number of the Merit Badge Dean (if they have one) or the District Advancement Chairperson (If the DE offers to take your name and have someone contact you, accept the offer!). Then, tell ’em what Merit Badge(s) you’d like to counsel, and the rest will happen pretty quickly. By the way, annual registration fees are waived for MBCs!

Dear Andy,

Our son has been in Cub Scout Pack 289 for a year. He’s earned several badges but I have no idea where to put them on his uniform shirt. Is there a proper place to put certain ones? Do you have a picture of a shirt you can send to me? He has his first meeting in a couple of days and I’d like to get all of his badges ironed on. Thanks! (Rashelle Groskopf, North Platte, NE)

Yup, there are several places you can go for exactly what you need! And let me say right now that you’re terrific parents, for wanting to get this right, and going the extra mile to make sure!

First, refer to your son’s Cub Scout book. Look on the insides of the front and back covers and 90% of your questions will be answered, because these are actual templates for proper positioning (yes, the inches up or down do matter!). In addition, you can “Google” cub scout uniform inspection form and that will pop up a pdf file that you can print out—this form gives you EVERYTHING!

HenpeckedGuy@aol.com wrote: Andy, I just left the Georgia-Carolina Council and will be part of the National Capital Area Council this year. Next year its back to the Transatlantic Council (I’m in the military). Due to deployments and such, last year was the first year I could attend a University of Scouting. This year I’ll attend a Pow Wow and University. Does the Cub Scouter Award require tenure in one Pack, or can it be split? Thanks.

Tenure is by position; not by unit. Hold, let’s say, the Cubmaster position in two (or more) Packs for the specified time, and it ALL counts toward the Cubmaster Award!

Hi Andy!

I’m hoping you can help me find an online set of job descriptions for Key 3 District positions. I’m an eight-year unit Scouter. We have a new District Executive on our council’s paid staff and I believe he’s being expected (by some of our district’s unit Scouters) to do much more than his job requires. They may be right, but I don’t think so. We have a great bunch of folks in the district; the only problem I can see is that the new DE might be getting a lot of undue disrespect. If the tension keeps building, we may lose a good man who can do the job, just because someone hasn’t set us straight. (Keith Singer)

I didn’t have much luck finding online descriptions, either. But there is a booklet published by the BSA’s National Supply Division titled THE DISTRICT (No. LT33070B), that will give you what you need. You can order it by simply calling 1-800-323-0732.

That said, it’s the job of your District Chair and District Commissioner to set straight any misinformed Scouters in your district, and it’s the DE’s job to show his spine and say, “No, that’s not my area of responsibility.”

[A Note from The NetCommish: Pine Burr Area Council has an excellent set of job descriptions for Commissioners at http://www.pineburrscouting.org/commish/descriptions.htm that may help you out. From this list you’ll see what some of the Key 3 job responsibilities are. Cascade Pacific Council has a similar set of descriptions at http://www.cpcbsa.org/commissioner/descriptions.html. Finally, Bay Lakes Area Council at http://www.baylakesbsa.org/council/files/The_District_Commissioner_Staff.htm has a listing that includes expectations for a District Executive.]

Dear Andy,

I’m taking Wood Badge, and our patrol project is going to be about recruiting. My section deals with Varsity Scouting. I’m looking for methods used to recruit Varsity teams. Can you help? (Paul Kempton, Crossroads of America Council – WB-116C-14-05 – Buffalo Patrol)

Here’s where your District Executive can be a real help! The BSA has literature specifically dealing with how to recruit and develop new members and new units. Call your DE and describe your need—This is your very best resource!

(“I used to be an Owl, and a good old Owl, too…”)

Dear Andy,

Is it “legal” for a Troop to make up some rules as to what they consider to be “active in your Troop”? It’s hard for our Troop’s leaders to approve rank advancements at Scoutmaster Conferences if the Scout has the merit badges or requirements for his next rank but seldom shows up for Troop meetings, campouts, or community service projects. Thanks! (Troop Committee Chair)

You asked an important question. Many Troops try to deal with this particular issue, in various ways—some are good, some bad, and some rrrrrrrreally ugly! Here are my own thoughts on this topic…

It’s dangerous, usually pretty darned illegal, and ultimately frustratingly fruitless for a Troop to try to create rules for the “be active…” rank requirement. More often than not, they have to bypass the rules they’ve made again and again because each situation is going to be unique.

Just to show you what I mean, let’s say that a Troop has a rule of 50% attendance at any combination of Troop meetings, outings and campouts. Pretty lenient, right? Now let’s put a Scout in the hospital for four of the six months between Star and Life ranks, and let’s also say that he attended 100% of all Troop meetings and activities before he was hospitalized. No way can he meet the 50% rule! But also no way are you going to deny him the rank advancement, if he has everything else done, right? You bet! Why? Because (remember the Cub Scout Motto—It still applies!) he did his best. So to recognize his very best efforts, which falls short of that arbitrary rule you made up, you ignore that rule in favor of Scout effort and Scout Spirit—and you know you’ve done the right thing!

Or, how about the Scout that, because he was selected for the annual “Scouting Report to the Governor,” missed the one Troop activity that would have put him over 50% and he comes in at 49%. What will you do? You’ll advance him to the next rank, of course!

How about the Scout who’s the MVP of his high school basketball team, and they’re in the division finals, playing every other night, for weeks? Are you really going to “ding” him? Of course not!

So, “rules” don’t work. That’s why some pretty wise folks in the BSA’s national office, many years ago, didn’t themselves write some set of rules on this. They realized that no set of rules would work. Honor their wisdom. Don’t try to “fix” what really isn’t broken at all!

Now, let’s talk a little about the specific “problem” you’ve referred to—That of a Scout who, other requirements accomplished, just isn’t showing up. My first question would be this: What happened to your Scoutmaster’s Conferences? They don’t happen just when advancing ranks, you know. They happen all the time, and at least monthly. So, when a Scout starts not showing up for Troop meetings and other events, that’s a perfect time for a Scoutmaster’s Conference, to find out what’s going on in the Scout’s life that this is happening. In other words, waiting till the proverbial eleventh hour and then realizing that you have an “absentee Scout” who is otherwise ready to advance is definitely not the way to go! So, if this has been going on for four months (First Class to Star) or six months (Star to Life) and your adult leaders haven’t done anything about this, shame on them; not the Scout!

Finally, what does “seldom” mean and why is it happening? Scouts, as I’m sure you know, “vote with their feet.” If meetings are dull and boring, or community service days don’t include some recreation, fellowship, and FOOD, too, why the heck should they show up? Because you said so? Nope. That’s not why boys show up. They show up because what they’re going to do is FUN (fun-with-a-purpose, but don’t tell ’em that!).

Here are “3 Ps” for your Troop: PROGRAM PRODUCES PARTICIPANTS.

Do you remember this question, in my July column?…

Hi Andy,

I visit older folks in nursing homes. One of the residents I contact is a 97-year-old Eagle Scout. He was active in Troop 121, somewhere in Buffalo, NY. His name is Peter Kronenthal. He loved Scouting, and now is just sitting around being lonesome in a nursing home. If you can find some information on him, I can do some cheering up! (Don McLeod, Former Scoutmaster, Troop 9, Sullivan Trail Council, NY)

Well, here’s a letter I received just the other day…

HiAndy,

PETER KRONENTHAL is my GRANDFATHER, and I’m an Eagle Scout, too! He lives at the Elcor Nursing Home in Horseheads, NY. I can be contacted for information about him through my email address: msdds@aol.com (Mark Schuller)

What a wonderful way for this column to come to and end!

Keep on keepin’ on!

Andy

Got a question? Send it to me at AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com – (Please include your Council name and home state)

(October 2005 – Copyright © 2005 Andy McCommish)

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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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