Author Avatar

Issue 85 – More September 2006

Hi Andy!

Greetings from Malaysia! I was reading your September column where you noted your readership in the Transatlantic Council (where I served years ago as a Cubmaster). I want to let you know that you also have a reader in Malaysia! Thanks for the good counsel! It really helps those of us who are a long way from home and Scouting fellowship. (Colin Helmer, SM, Troop 818, Direct Service-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Ahhh… the famous Batu Caves! Yes, I’ve been there! Thanks ever so much for being a reader, and for writing! Spread the word!

Dear Andy,

Our troop had a long-standing tradition of mothers attending just three campouts a year—a Troop Family Campout, a Snow Camp and a Mother-and-Son Campout. The rest of the troop’s campouts were without moms. Over the last four to five years, mothers have been increasingly attending other campouts. Now, there’s a discussion going on about formally limiting moms to the original three campouts or strongly encouraging them to not attend any at all. While this won’t be discussed at a committee meeting till next month (October), I’m wondering if you have any thoughts and guidance to offer our troop committee. The topic is already causing contentious discussions. Many thanks in advance! (Julie, Northern California)

I’m frankly not concerned if every one of the troop’s Mamas and Papas and Bob’s yer Uncle, too, go on troop campouts. That’s not the issue. The issue is this: What are these extraneous adults doing while they’re there at these campouts? If they “get it” that campouts are for Scouts and their Scoutmaster and maybe one ASM (two-deep leadership), and that the Scouts are to be together and engaged in activities throughout the day from Reveille till Taps, and no supernumerary parent is anywhere to be seen or heard, then there’s neither harm nor foul. But, the minute just one single parent shows his or her face (beyond providing transportation for the Scouts), then I’ll say flat out: GO HOME—THIS IS NOT WHERE YOU BELONG.

The Boy Scout outdoor program is for boys and young men of Scout age to be amongst themselves away from “civilization” in woods, fields, streams, rivers, lakes, deserts, and mountains, to learn from one-another as they gain woodsman’s skills and knowledge, and experience personal growth, while under the safely watchful but not hovering eyes of their Scoutmaster and his assistant–camping, cooking, learning the ways of the woods, playing amongst themselves, and being led by one another. This is what builds teamwork, leadership and—most importantly—emotional and intellectual backbones.

If, on the other hand, well-intentioned but equally misguided parents of whatever gender and number undermine this method and its goals by somehow turning what was to have been a 99% boy-to-boy experience into some sort of “family camping” experience, they clearly don’t “get it” and are doing irreparable damage to the plan Scouting’s had in place for nearly 100 years. THAT is what your discussion needs to be about.

If such non-uniformed adults truly enjoy camping with one another, then they should plan to do this, BUT they should do this on their own and not attached to a troop campout that has entirely different goals from theirs. If these same people like to engage in “family camping,” then they should go and do so on their own, and not use a troop camping event as the platform to fulfill their own predilections.

Are you getting what I’m saying here?

If not, just read pages 2 and 3 of your son’s BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK. What you’ll discover is that nowhere in the description you’ll find is there mention of “me and my Dad” or “me and my Mom” or even “me and Bob’s me Uncle.” What you’ll read about is a Scout how is skilled, knowledgeable, and comfortable with his fellow Scouts—his BUDDIES! THAT’S what Scout camping is all about. This “wheel” works just fine—Don’t even think about reinventing it!

Dear Andy,

We have a Scout that gave us a fit at summer camp. At age 13, he’s one of our older Scouts—we’re a two-year-old troop. While at camp, he lost his Firem’n Chit (making a torch with a match and a bug spray can), his Totin’ Chip (throwing his knife), and then managed to pour orange juice on the head of another Scout while he was performing First Aid for a leg cut. We’ve made him retake the Firem’n and Totin’ classes over. He verbally and also in writing apologized to the Scout he poured the juice on. Now, he’s going for his Star rank. Overall he’ shaped up over the past month, but he still does one thing that I interpret as defiance of me (his Scoutmaster) and the other troop leaders: He refuses to wear his neckerchief even this is this is troop protocol when in dress uniform. Claiming it was lost, he was nevertheless given a new one, which I specifically told him he’s to wear. He never has. I think this is setting a poor example of Scout Spirit and I’m having trouble supporting him going before his BoR. Obviously, I can tell him that this could impact on him, and he’d likely straighten up for the two weeks between now and our troop’s next round of BoRs to get what he wants, but so far he’s been told repeatedly to no avail. We have only one more troop meeting before the BoR, and I don’t feel it would represent his true spirit if he wore the neckerchief that one time—I believe he’d to it just to get his Star rank and then most likely revert back to his old ways. I’m inclined to deny him rank and then tell him why… Not so much that it’s the neckerchief per se, but more his direct lack of respect of the leadership of the troop and our way of doing things. Help me here—I’m open to suggestions and ideas. (Bill Fleming, SM, Troop 388)

You’re Scoutmaster, right? That means you’re the advancement gatekeeper for every rank for every Scout. Your most important tool is the Scoutmaster’s Conference. That’s when it’s showdown time for the misbehaving and joyous encouragement for the Scouts who “get it.”

No Scoutmaster worth his salt will allow a questionable Scout to slide through his Scoutmaster Conference, hoping that maybe the BoR will not “pass” the Scout. That’s not the BoR’s job, and is a flagrant display of cowardice (no, that’s really not too strong a word) on the SM’s part.

The purpose of the Scoutmaster’s Conference, which is always the final requirement of a rank, before the board of review (which is mandatory, but not in the category of “requirement”), is for you, the Scoutmaster, to ascertain whether a Scout is ready to advance to the next rank or not. You and you alone must determine whether or not each Scout’s is ready or not, based on your conversation with him, your observations of him during the interim between now and his last rank advancement, and your own sound judgment (meaning “evaluation” and not “here come de judge”). So, with regard to your “problem Scout,” don’t walk small—make the call.

NetCommish Comment: Make sure it isn’t about the neckerchief. If you focus on that one item as an example of the problem, you are going to be perceived as worried more about form than substance.

Remember that our goals are citizenship, character and fitness. Uniforming and advancement are methods of getting to the goal. If lose sight of our goals and focus too much on the methods, we can fail the Scouts we are trying to help grow.

Andy is right about the Scoutmaster Conference. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where the Scoutmaster has to make a difficult call based on fair judgment. Your big questions may be whether the Scout has shown significant improvement or whether he still needs time to work on behavior issues. How you discuss this with the Scout is very important.

Remember that you are not sitting in judgment. Rather you are trying to coach toward a goal. This works best when you use open ended questions and the Scout has to reach a conclusion about his own conduct. When behavior issues are on the table, the Scoutmaster conference is going to be much longer and you have to allow time to have a frank discussion and one where you do as much or more listening than telling.

Your strategy is going to depend on a lot of factors, but basically you will want to start with positive re-enforcement of progress, move to questions about his Scouting experience (this is where you get evaluation on the Troop and your role) and end with questions with the Scout deciding on his own that he needs more time and that he will do x, y, and z to improve.

When you ask questions – listen! Try to reflect back each answer and use it as a jump point for more discussion. Example:

SM: How can we improve our Troop?

Billy: Let us older boys do more fun stuff. Making us help the newbies all the time stinks. They are such a pain.

—> You’ve just learned that the Troop program is not challenging and filling needs for older boys. You may be getting a hint here that you need to hear and you may want to think Venturing.

—> You’ve just learned that maybe from the Scout’s perspective he’s being ask to do too much with younger Scouts and you’ll have to judge whether he needs to understand the need to help others or whether the Troop needs to be more careful in how far it is pushing.

SM: What sorts of fun stuff would you like to do?

Billy: Explains

SM: You also said helping the younger guys was annoying. Why is that?

Billy: Vents – we want to have fun too. But every meeting and campout we have to hold hands for the little guys. That’s not fun and pretty much stinks. It is boring.

—> More clues –> Program is out of balance isn’t it? Maybe?

SM: So, you are saying that we need to do a better job of making sure you have more time to do things that are fun for you? What do you think the right balance is? Does a leader ignore everyone so that he can have fun? How does a good leader balance having fun and helping the younger guys that depend on him?

You may want to start the Scoutmaster Conference with something like this:

SM: Billy, it’s good to see you here for you Scoutmaster conference for the rank of Star. You’ve made some great progress. Since summer camp, we’ve been real happy to see you showing more leadership. It took a lot of courage to apologize for the stuff at camp and stick it out. That shows a lot of grit on your part. You are really moving in the right direction. Now let’s talk about your advancement to Star. I’m going to ask you some questions and I want you to be honest with me about what you think.

Billy: OK

Ask some questions to help you evaluate

SM: What things have been the most fun for you?

SM: What do you like most about Scouting?

SM: If we could change things, what would you change?

SM: What sorts of things would you like to see the Troop do in the future?

SM: Are we giving you enough opportunity to practice leadership?

SM: What roles would you like to have in the future?

SM: What do you need to prepare yourself for those roles?

SM: What are your goals as a member of this Troop for the next three months, six months, year?

Next you may want to ask some open ended shaping questions:

SM: How do you try to live the Scout Law and Oath in your life?

SM: What is the toughest thing about living the Scout Law and Oath?

SM: What does show Scout Spirit mean to you?

SM: How do you show Scout Spirit?

SM: How can you improve?

SM: What will you do to improve?

SM: How long do you think it will take to accomplish what you want to do?

SM: How can we help you?

The bottom line is that a Scoutmaster Conference when done right is a growth experience for both participants. It is not a one-way street. It is not a judgment forum and it is not one where the SM walks away without any assignments and the Scout walks away with all the burden. Nope, it is a challenging experience for all and one where everyone walks away with ideas, opportunities, plans, and obligations.

OK, Andy –

If I know I’m likely to hold a Scout back from advancing in rank, do I tell the parents about this in advance? (Bill Fleming, SM, Troop 388)

We’re talking about the Scoutmaster Conference and not a BoR, Yes? If so, what’s making you think this is any more necessary than informing parents, in advance, that their son will be advancing? Isn’t this supposed to be a conversation between you and the Scout? Won’t you have given him very specific instructions, and a timetable, so that he can succeed? Aren’t you concerned that the Scout would consider you a snitch, not worthy of his trust any longer? A Scoutmaster’s role is entirely unique among young men’s associations, and I’m not convinced that I’d want to take on the role of surrogate parent—That’s about the last place I’d want to be.

Bingo, Andy!

I held up that Scout on going before his BoR for Star. His dad then writes to me, wanting to know when I planned to let them know so they’d be prepared to handle their son’s reaction! I told the father that I’d be glad to meet with him or both him and his wife, and even suggested a time. I left the ball in their court to actually confirm the schedule; they never called to confirm. I think they must have sat their son down and, assuming he told the truth, they had their answer. I don’t believe I need to call them beforehand and give them the possible outcome of a Scoutmaster Conference.

Just by way of more background, this troop started with “green” boys—we had no older Scouts for them to model themselves after. The BSA doesn’t address this realistically! Thanks for your support and suggestions. (Bill Fleming, SM, Troop 388)

Good going! The Scoutmaster Conference, to my mind, has always been a confidential conversation. This is how Scouts began to know they could trust me. A couple of times, I was told stuff I’m pretty sure they’d not told their parents (nothing I had to worry about as far as legalities were concerned, thank goodness–mostly stuff about how a brother or sister got treated “better” than them, or how Mom or Dad pretty much ignored what the Scout considered to be a fairly significant accomplishment). What these Scouts came to learn was that they could come to me with stuff they’d feel uncomfortable talking with a parent, teacher, or even religious leader about, because I was pretty non-judgmental and was also a pretty straight shooter (kids know real fast when you’re shinin’ them on or “BSing” them).

Yes, in one case, I had to tell a Scout that although he’d completed all the stated requirements, there’s a little thing called Scout Spirit that I wasn’t seeing, and what did he think he could do about that? He knew what he was doing (and not doing!), and he actually laid out a plan for himself and asked if that would change things. Then, when I told him it would, he stuck to his plan and made First Class in due time. His parents were never involved in any of this, and that was just fine by him!

I do know what it’s like to start up a troop with a brand-new bunch of Scouts. In one of my turns as a Scoutmaster, this was exactly the situation. I knew some of the boys, having been their Webelos Den Leader, but other fledglings were brand new to me. I started out by asking them to form patrols and elect patrol leaders (who then picked their assistants) and I was lucky enough to “borrow” from a neighboring troop a Scout who was our Senior Patrol Leader for about six months (but had had no prior leadership experience–he was only a year older than the rest of the troop). This meant I had to train our SPL on how to do his job and also provide guidance to the new PLs on how to do theirs. By the end of our first year, wed qualified for the National Quality Unit Award and also for the National Camping Award, and all Scouts had made it to First Class rank (even one who started out as a total non-swimmer!). Frankly, I enjoyed this turn at Scoutmastering more than either of the two other times I’d done this, because I had no “bad habits” to deal with and I could guide these boys from “Day One.” Ten of the twelve “originals” stayed in Scouting right up to their 18th birthdays (one dropped out when his father died and he had to take on work after school and weekends to help support his mother and sisters, and the other moved to another state), and several became Eagle Scouts (one went on to earn 38 more merit badges after Eagle) on my watch! Several were elected to the Order of the Arrow, and one became Chapter Chief. No paycheck I’ve ever received ever matched that!

These new boys of yours don’t need “older Scouts” to model themselves after—YOU are their role model, Bill! Being a role model is a darned honorable “profession”—Enjoy and respect every moment!

Dear Andy,

Our troop uses the “Scout-led” concept of running the troop; however, recently we have a Scout—the ASPL—who believes he doesn’t have to answer to or listen to anyone! He’s stating that our Assistant Scoutmasters have no authority over him (i.e., his position), since the troop is “Scout-run.” Recently, he showed great disrespect toward one of our ASMs. To what degree does the concept of a Scout-run troop apply? Isn’t a troop’s adult leadership the final authority (not meaning “authority” in an egotistical or autocratical way). (Mark Tompkins,Longhorn Council, TX)

That ASPL needs some training (or re-training)! First, he appears to have forgotten that he’s appointed (means he can be un-appointed if he doesn’t straighten up and start flying right) by the Senior Patrol Leader, to whom he reports (Note: The ASPL doesn’t report to an ASM or even the SM; he reports to the SPL).

Next, that ASM needs some training, too, so that he stops interceding between the SPL and his assistant.

As for “final authority,” take your cue from Sea Scouting (which as been around and pretty much intact since 1912): The Sea Scout ship’s youth leaders are ALWAYS IN CHARGE with one exception. In the event of an emergency, where emergency actions must be taken instantly and without hesitation, all authority immediately transfers to the SKIPPER.

Follow this principle and you’ll have a terrific youth-led troop!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a Scoutmaster since 1969. We have 35 Scouts in the troop, and five patrols. The troop committee wants me to start up a program of “patrol advisers”—one for each patrol (an adult position). Believe it or not, we have 53 parents on the troop committee! I can find no training information on this subject. I’ve asked our District Executive, but that produced nothing, also. Can you give me any resource for patrol advisers? (George Mills, SM, Troop 224, Pacific Harbors Council, Tacoma, WA)

Wanna know why there’s no information available on “patrol advisers”? Cause there’s no such position in Scouting. What genius came up with this idea? The only time a patrol has any adult who keeps a weather eye on them is a Webelos Den that’s just bridged over to a troop as an intact New Scout Patrol, and that ends after a year, at most.

There is absolutely no need, no purpose, and no advantage to having adult “patrol advisers.” Kill that idea before it takes on a life of its own.

Scout-age boys absolutely do not need some parent looking over their shoulders and breathing down their necks. They’ll never learn what Scouting intends to teach them with this kind of arrangement (which smacks of Cub Scouting, by the way!).

53 adults on the troop committee? I’m going to assume (hope) that you have no “paper” committee people. That being the case, what the heck are these well-intentioned people doing? Or is this some sort of “parents club” that likes to go hiking and camping “with the boys”? If so, that’s just about as dumb as the patrol adviser notion. Or maybe the patrol adviser idea was concocted to find “jobs” for adults who have nothing to do but butt in on boys and their own personal development and growth?

Hello Andy,

I’m a parent of a new Tiger Cub and when I signed him up I bought the book that was offered—which turns out to be the previous year’s book—which states that they have to earn their Tiger Cub Badge, and then they work on the Bobcat Badge. But the new book is the reverse. Bobcat first, then Tiger Cub. As I reviewed the requirements, it looks like the older version was correct. To whom would I speak to about this? It doesn’t make sense to have the kids do the hardest things first. Last year, they had to do three things to get the immediate recognition emblem (by its name you’d think it was first). Now they must do eight far more advanced tasks just to get started! I think this needs to be reviewed. Thank you. (Deborah Fahey)

Until recently, the Tiger Cub program, for first-graders, was a more-or-less auxiliary program preceding the regular Cub Scout program, which begins at age eight and second grade. It was created some years ago in response to both boys’ and their parents’ desire to “get started” with Cub Scouting as early as possible. As often happens, there are subtle evolutionary steps that occur as a program unfolds, and it was recently decided by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America that Tiger Cubs and their dens should become formal members of the Cub Scout Pack with which they were formerly affiliated. In order for this to happen, the earning of the Bobcat Badge needed to be moved forward one year, because each and every boy in a Cub Scout Pack is expected to earn this before anything else.

These learnings are the basic information all Cub Scouts are expected to know. These form the foundation of the Cub Scouting program. This is why every boy who enters Cub Scouting—regardless of age, grade, or level—will earn the Bobcat Badge.

Note that the stipulation that Tiger Cubs will now earn Bobcat first was only made by the BSA on June 1st—that’s less than four months ago. Unfortunately, some council Scout Shops still have “old” Tiger Cub books, and apparently that’s what you purchased. But this isn’t a monumental difficulty, since all of the basic information to be learned is available at the US Scouting Service Project website and myriad others.

I assure you that a seven-year-old first-grader won’t have any difficulty learning what he needs to know to earn the Bobcat Badge.

Dear Andy,

While searching for another answer, I came across this Q/A(See Below). I found your exchange interesting. I was faced with this same question a few years ago. I spent 3 years (all perfect attendance) in Cubs and earned Bob/Wolf/Bear/Lion awards with arrow points. I was the only Cub to go on to Boy Scouts. Then the Cubmaster quit. I was the only Cub scout to join our troop that year. I spent seven years in Boy Scouts and earned Eagle and a Palm, was elected to the OA, and at 18 became an Assistant Scoutmaster. Some 30 years later, my mom sent me the old mothers’ pins that she got when I was a boy. Included was a large, pin-on Arrow of Light of the style that would be used in the 1960’s. She was not involved in scouts and only showed up at some of the Courts of Honor. I called her and asked where she got that, she told me that they must have given it to her for me being in OA. I knew that wasn’t what that pin meant. I looked through my old Lion book, but I didn’t see any of the Arrow of Light requirements signed off (our Cubmaster didn’t always keep great records—things were a bit loose in that department), and other than in my books, I received no cards for advancement—just patches or pins. My best guess is that since none of the other boys earned the Arrow of Light, (they didn’t go on to Boy Scouts), the Cubmaster probably gave the pin to my mother so I could wear it on my Boy Scout uniform. I long ago moved across country and am active in a new council. When I received the package in the mail, I brought this up to some of my new Scouter buddies—all Eagle Scouts, Silver Beaver, etc. They encouraged me to wear the square knot for the AoL, but I felt funny about that. It wasn’t until one of them went out and bought an AoL square knot for me that I actually sewed it on. They had a little ceremony for me. (Name Withheld)

Congratulations! Yes, I think you can be justifiably proud of having earned the Arrow of Light award—There’s no way your mother would have had that pin if you hadn’t! Wear that knot with humble pride, my Scouting friend! And keep on enjoying being a part of the greatest youth movement the world’s ever known!

Dear Andy,

I’m currently taking Wood Badge (SR 741). I enjoy the training so far, but an area I’m having trouble with is my ticket. I’d like to write about diabetes. I have been to various training courses, but none of these has mentioned anything about diabetes. I’ve gone to summer camp, and the camp was notified about my condition. The same was done for Wood Badge. I’d like to do my ticket on the following: 1. Create a presentation on menu planning for diabetics at the troop level, 2. Make the same to troops within my district, 3. Work with my local council to have this done for the council and district training courses, 4. Work with the BSA national office to get it included in all training, and 5. Write a book about meal options for diabetics. My problem is that I’ve talked to some of the Wood Badge staff and they say there’s no diversity. I am having problems understanding this.

Also, I’m writing my thesis for my MBA on Wood Badge training, but I’m having a hard time finding information about the “old” Wood Badge training courses. Could you possibly give me some websites or point of contacts at national? (Dwayne Davis, ASM, Troop 1, Suffolk, VA)

Of course, you’ve already checked with your WB folks, including your coach-counselor, and their position will take precedence, and that’s as it should be. But since you’re asking, I’ll add my own two cents…

I believe your intent to “universalize” diabetes sensitivity is honorable and an important learning for Scouting leaders; however, I’m not entirely certain that it’s concomitantly appropriate to promote the idea of a “troop menu” to accommodate diabetics (or vegetarians or vegans or lactose intolerants or peanut-sensitive or devout carnivores non-shellfish eaters or medically restricted diets or anything else along these lines). In the first place, as you learned in Wood Badge, cooking is intended to take place at the patrol level; not necessarily at the troop level. In the second and I believe more important place, those who have personal dietary needs or restrictions are pretty much expected to (a) notify outing leaders and (b) take personal responsibility for their own personal needs. Consequently, it would be not only inappropriate but also unnecessarily burdensome to expect a troop or other Scouting unit to begin to attempt to provide accommodation for all of the various dietary needs and idiosyncrasies of its members. The opportunity for mayhem is rife.

Regarding the “old” Wood Badge and its foundations, if you simply Google “wood badge history” or “wood badge beginnings” you’ll get a whole bunch of references to check out!

Good Morning Andy,

Can you tell me who is authorized to hold and properly retire US Flags? Also what’s your feeling if a Scout would like to do this as an Eagle Project? (Bill Mollica, Monmouth Council, NJ)

The US Flag Code simply states that when a flag is too worn for further use it should be “retired with dignity.” Usually, the procedure is to burn the Flag in an honorable, respectful manner, even if just one person attends this “ceremony.” Any person may do so—There is no special claim on this, although various Scout units around the country, and various American military veterans organizations (American Legion, VFW, DAV, etc.) will frequently and sometimes annually do something along these lines. If your own troop has a flag that’s to be retired in this fashion, a campfire while on an overnight is entirely appropriate, perhaps also with a little history about the flag—when it was acquired, how many Scout have carried it, how many parades it’s been in, how many Eagle Courts of Honor have been held under its colors, and so on as best as you can recall.

As far as an Eagle Project involving the retirement of American flags, this is certainly an honorable idea. It would probably need a little more to it, such as the collection of all unserviceable flags throughout the Scout’s community and a significant public ceremony where all those who bring flags to be retired will receive a new one. The new ones can be purchased with funds that the Eagle candidate and his helpers earn in one or more fundraisers, and the notice of the event can be likewise distributed to all homes and government offices in the community by the candidate’s helpers. I believe it would take at least this much to meet the criteria of “significant, meaningful, and worthy of Eagle-level.”

Dear Andy,

For the Webelos badge, specifically the religious requirements, what is the best way to handle a “mixed” den—that is, families from traditional religions and families from non-traditional religions such as Native American or some of the lesser known religions of Asia or agnostics or those who believe in God but don’t participate in organized religion? (Bill Birch, WDL) Den leader

The best way to “handle” the Faith requirements for earning the Webelos Badge is to review the requirements with the boys and their parents, which may or may not include the need for you to inform them that the BSA permits neither substitutions nor changes to any advancement requirement.

It probably won’t be necessary to remind parents that the application for their son’s membership in the BSA that they signed when he joined contained this statement (in part): “The BSA maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, therefore, recognizes toe religious element in the training of a member (i.e., their son), but is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training…Only persons willing to subscribe to this Statement of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the BSA shall be entitled to…membership.”

Note, further, that where the Webelos Badge’s optional (“e”) Faith requirements refer to “religious leader,” the designations pastor, priest, rabbi, shaman, monk, sachem, and such are totally absent, such that a boy’s “religious leader” may well be his own parent or other relative. Note further that “God” is not further defined in any way.

Having been a Webelos Den Leader, I can with considerable assurance tell you that while this is certainly not a requirement to be dodged or one to walk small around, it should equally prove non-troublesome… In my den we had boys who were Christian (both Protestant and Roman Catholic), Jewish, Buddhist, Hindi, and totally unchurched, and they all successfully completed this set of requirements.

Hello Andy,

Our troop committee wants to remove a member who is seen by some as uncooperative. This committee member hasn’t violated any BSA policy, but consistently asks the committee to join in council initiatives, support FOS, and sell popcorn, and also continues to encourage the Scoutmaster and ASMs to get trained (currently, none has completed the required training and not all have completed Youth Protection Training). Except for this lone member that our committee wants to expel, none of the other committee members has completed training (although most are Youth Protection Trained). All these requests are seen as “counter-productive to the progress of the troop.”

You may have guessed that the head on the chopping block is mine. I’ve been a committee member for six years. During most of this time I’ve been the lone voice for the BSA “rulebook.” For a short while we had a Chair who tried to right the ship, but she was intimidated off the committee in a very unceremonious way, that included the presence of our own Unit Commissioner! I’d like to stand stronger; I feel this is the only hope for our troop in the long run.

I’ve reviewed the Troop Committee Guidebook. I don’t find any information about the procedure for impeaching a committee member. What are the proper steps that should be followed before I can be formally expelled from the committee? Thanks! (Rochelle Ray, MC, Hassanamisco District, Mohegan Council, MA)

Instead of giving you the answer you want, I’m going to give you the answer you need…

Any misguided or corrupt or off-True-North organization or group absolutely, positively cannot be changed from the inside. Attempting to do this will only lead, as it has in your case, to frustration, animosity, rancor, and retaliation by the corrupters. My admonition: STOP.

Insanity is often described as doing the same thing again and again, but expecting different results. My admonition: STOP.

Mark Twain said it best: “Don’t try to teach a pig to fly. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Unless you are the chair of the troop committee (which is not likely to happen in your lifetime) and you and the Scoutmaster share precisely the same vision for the troop, defeat is certain.

Von Clausewitz, who famously wrote a seminal manual for doing battle said it this way: Unless victory is certain, do not engage the enemy.

Churchill defined the difference between the enemy and the opposition in Parliament: “The opposition sits across from you; the enemy sits behind you.”

Are you getting this? Good, because if you want to be happy in your Scouting volunteer position—and I certainly hope you do—then you need to find a place in Scouting (perhaps as a trainer) where you can accomplish things with people of like mind and vision.

Hello Andy,

You are correct…not the answer I wanted but I hear you! Given that change can’t happen from within, I am interested in what you suggest. Since the troop is knowingly violating policy and procedures, aren’t the chartered organization and committee members, as well as the Scoutmaster and ASMs, accepting a lot of liability should something disastrous happen? I can’t see in a huge claim that the BSA wouldn’t find a way to not accept responsibility and not stand behind a troop that didn’t follow proper procedures. Or am I mistaken? (Rochelle Ray)

The only policy violations that can get a unit in serious trouble are those related to youth protection and the Safe Scouting Guidelines. But, stop yourself right now—You do NOT want be become known as a whistle-blower. If you do, you’ll find any future opportunities as a volunteer in your district and council severely limited. Also, don’t be the troop’s finger-wagger—This will also get you nowhere. The only one who might have a shot at fixing this troop, over a long period of corrective suggestions, is a Unit Commissioner, and only if he or she has the stomach for it!

Best solution for you? Take a deep, cleansing breath and move on…

Dear Andy,

As a Counselor, I have two groups of Scouts working on the Citizenship-Community merit badge and the Communications merit badge. Both of these require that the Scouts attend a city council (or similar) meeting. Keep in mind that the badges require the same thing—Not a variation. My question is: Do they have to attend two separate meetings, or can one meeting count for both merit badges? (Michael Walsh, MBC, Baton Rouge, LA)

Although there’s a slight difference in type of meeting that the Scout would attend (for Cit-Comm it needs to be a governmental meeting of some sort, while for Communications it can be an open debate even if not governmental), my own thinking says that it’s not the attending that’s the important factor here, but what happens next. In the case of Cit-Comm, the Scout’s “post-meeting” task is to “take sides,” so to speak, on one of the issues that arose, and describe his point-of-view to his Counselor; in the case of Communications, the task is to closely and carefully observe and listen to the various points of view expressed, taking copious and detailed notes, and then reporting on this to his Counselor. To my way of thinking, if a Scout is capable of “multi-tasking” this, then whether he attends one or a dozen meetings isn’t the key—It’s what he’s able to do with what he’s seen and heard that makes all the difference!

So what about multi-tasking? Is this do-able? Well, if a Scout is given the two tasks of cooking a slab of liver and making rice pudding, and he does both at the same time, in the same frying pan, well, technically, he’s done both tasks. But if there’s a “hidden objective” that’s looking for him to serve a tasty meal, he’d probably be better off not trying to use the same pan (read: venue).

Bottom line: It’s a judgment call, and you’re the Counselor. So make the call, my friend! If you go with your heart, you’ll never be wrong.

Happy Scouting!


Got a question? Send it to me
(Please include your Council name and home state)

(More-September 2006 – Copyright © 2006 Andy McCommish)


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

Comments are closed.