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Issue 86 – October 2006

Where are YOU right now as you read this column? Since this column started, folks from 221 BSA councils in all 50 states and Puerto Rico have written to me, plus Scouts and Scouters in Hong Kong; Mexico; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Okinawa, Japan; and, in Germany, Bonn, Frankfurt, and Mannheim. If YOU are reading right now from a unique location somewhere in the world, drop me a quick line—I’d love to know how far this little column has spread!

Mark Twain said it: “Rumors can travel around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.” For a great example of this, and a good lesson-in-reverse about what’s important to focus on and what we might want to try not getting our knickers in a knot over, this letter just in (this is the “short” version)…

Hi Andy,

In regards to the letter from Deborah Fahey about Bobcat at the Tiger level, the BSA really screwed up the implementation of the Bobcat move. To start with, it is my understanding that BSA made this decision in the spring of 2005 and quietly announced it. I learned about it in April 2006 through two Yahoo groups and the US Scouting Service Project mail group. I immediately went to our district advancement chair and she had never heard about it. She took it to the council advancement committee, who’d also never heard about it. Then we learned that the second printing of the 2005 Cub Scout Leader Book mentioned the change, but isn’t consistent and, worse, is vague. Another rumor came out last spring was that a new version of the Tiger Cub Handbook was coming out this past August to reflect the Bobcat change. That rumor was partially true. What occurred was the Bobcat section of the Handbook was moved to the front of the Handbook in the spiral bound edition only; not the soft-bound book. It appears that they actually cut out those pages and just moved them, as the page references don’t match—not even close—by over 100 pages! I even checked those page references in previous handbooks. They were still way off.

Another flaw in the change is with the Tiger Cub immediate recognition emblem. This is tearing apart the people in the Yahoo groups and USSSP mail group. The two versions of the latest Tiger Cub Handbook and Cub Scout Leader Book conflict as to when this totem is earned–before or after Bobcat. The three requirements to earn the totem are a part of the eight requirements for Bobcat. Now the BSA is duplicating rank requirements! I wrote to my district advancement chair and she wasn’t specific on an answer, and not to blame her, I eventually called the national office myself. I got bounced around the Cub Scout group. I think I ended up with the receptionist! She said that we should cut the Bobcat pages out of the back of the book and glue them into the front, but she was non-committal on earning or awarding the immediate recognition fob. She said they were more concerned to get everyone (Tigers and Wolves) to Bobcat before they addressed the problem.

The BSA really made this change haphazard. I see Cub Scout volunteers tearing their hair out over this. I discussed these issues with our Committee Chair (a former Cubmaster) as to how our Pack is to address this at the moment. We decided that for new Tiger Cubs and their new volunteer leaders we would take a one-thing-at-a-time approach; earn Bobcat, award the totem with Bobcat, then start working on Tiger Cub requirements. The good part is, by Thanksgiving, this will all be a bad memory, we hope. Thanks for your attention. (Dave Mountney, UC, Raritan Valley District, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

I’m sure everything was done with the best of intentions and with the welfare of your pack’s new boys and their parents in mind. This is, nonetheless, pretty good proof that while sweating the details is important, retaining one’s sense of balance is important, too. Read on…

Hi Andy,

As the manager of our council’s Scout Shop, I’ve had about 15% of our new Tiger families come in and tell me that their pack told them only to get the Tiger Cub Book and the orange tee shirt. I try to be diplomatic, and point out the uniform information in the book—By golly, there’s a sketch of an adult in an orange tee shirt and a boy in (you guessed it) the blue uniform. Not only that, but the first recognition they receive—the Tiger Track from the instant recognition kit—doesn’t go on the belt anymore; it buttons to the uniform shirt pocket button. Either these packs aren’t current in their training, or they’re deliberately disregarding the policy change, which was not just to sell more uniforms, but to make the Tigers more included in their packs! They may be well intentioned in trying to save the new families some money, but I’m concerned about these packs being able to keep these Tigers interested if they don’t allow them to wear the uniform. Of course, we can’t refuse to provide customers what they ask for, but the question is: Should we be asking which pack is telling them this, and advise the appropriate District Executive, or just let it slide?

In addition, some packs have told their new recruits that the World Crest is optional on the uniform. We politely advise new customers that the information they were given isn’t correct, and advise them to spend the extra $1.50. I think we are doing the right thing here, but I’d like your opinion. (Steve Hanson, Capitol Area Council Scout Shop, Austin, TX)

I think you’d be doing Tiger Cubs, their parents, and their packs a real service, to say nothing of demonstrating good teamwork spirit between council service center staff members, if you did let your DEs know which packs look like they might be off the mark. And I equally agree that your advice about the World Crest is right on!

NetCommish Comment: Dave – Too often problems get us polarized in a we-them mode. This is pretty natural when we get handed something that seems to be half-baked or at least not ready for digesting just yet. This change has not been the best to be sure, but we probably need to keep it in perspective and not get too fussed over the the fact of the quality assurance issues. And we need to think of how we can keep thinking all as part of the same team trying, even if imperfectly, to deliver the program.

If we step back, the program, while changed, is still serving the same goals with the same methods of Scouting. The main purposes of Scouting are not changed. Whew. That’s good news!

Now let’s look at the purpose of an immediate recognition award? What is it? It is to give positive reinforcement to a Scout immediately instead of waiting a month or two for a Pack meeting. It seems to me that the right thing to do is award the recognition as soon as the three requirements are complete whether or not the Bobcat has been earned. Generally BSA leans towards decisions that are consistent with its goals and methods and this seems to be the best way of interpreting. And I would go further and say award this at the Den level right away.

The issues with the book are probably already well-known in Texas, but one thing a lot of people don’t know or realize is that the folks at National Headquarters really do listen and they do a whole lot of it too. Several years ago I was asked to serve on a task force on Cub Scout Uniforming at National. We as volunteers worked very hard to get a lot of input and to provide the best possible recommendations. These recommendations resulted in changes that many local Scouters had been suggesting and discussing. Aside from the normal organized efforts to get quality volunteer input, the headquarters is pretty receptive to volunteers that put forth good ideas, especially when the suggestion offers alternatives or fixes instead of a carp or complaint about something. Perhaps the best way to look at this is to see this first effort as a shake-down cruise where problems can be identified and fixed.

Sometimes despite the best intentions, things don’t always go as planned or desired. Instead of pulling hair, pull out a pen or keyboard and make notes of things that are causing confusion, things that ought to be changed, and things that can be done to make it better. You have some good observations and you are on the front-line. Share ’em. Send your note to your Scout Executive first so that he/she knows the issues and is not blind-sighted. Most Scout Executives will provide feedback to National as part of their monthly reports. If he/she will pass it on, that is great. If not, you can then forward it on yourself. The volunteers that work out the details and help in the execution will use all the feedback to make recommendations and the national staff is going to pay attention too.

This leads to Steve’s example. By all means when you see something that is not working smoothly, work with the professional staff to fix things. It isn’t always easy, but we all have to pull together to assure that the Scouts get the best program we can offer.

Dear Andy,

I earned my Eagle as a Scout in Troop 1, Benton Harbor, MI, on February 21, 1951 – One month before to my 13th birthday. At that ceremony, it was mentioned that perhaps I was the first to become an Eagle at age 12, since the age for joining Boy Scouts had been changed from 12 to 11 in about 1948-49. (Andy McClintock)

That’s fabulous! I don’t know who is the absolute youngest Eagle, but you have to be pretty darned close! Here’s an excerpt from a little research I did on this subject, back in mid-November 2003:

“…If you use the “Google” search engine, you’ll find a half-dozen or more (young Eagle Scouts). They include Zac Bell in Gillette, WY and Brian Burns in Chicago, both of whom apparently earned their Eagle at the age of 12 years, 4 months. Others who were also 12, but no months specified, include Bill Martino, also of Chicago; Shawn Garner, of Halifax, NC; and Neal Fosseen, of Spokane, WA. Interesting to find a whole bunch of entries for L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer and later the founder of Scientology, who has been claimed to be the youngest. He earned his Eagle rank at the age of 13, it says, so this makes him definitely not the youngest, anymore. But that was in 1924, when a boy had to be 12 to just be a Scout, so we know he did it in no more than two years. But we also know that, in 1924, all a Scout needed to do was earn 21 merit badges after becoming First Class rank. So, the late Mr. Hubbard actually took about the same amount of time, it would seem, as those possibly younger Eagles who came later!”

Dear Andy,

Is a Scout’s merit badge sash worn over the shoulder loops or is it buttoned under the shoulder loops? (Tim Bornholtz, CC, Troop 516, National Capitol Area Council, Stafford, VA)

Technically, the merit badge sash goes over the shoulder loops, but let’s be a little practical here… If a Scout’s shoulders are such that the sash keeps sliding off, well, then, we know the solution…

Hi Andy,

In our Cub Scout pack, we have a boy who joined a year ago, at the beginning of the 2005 school year. He joined as a Bear at the same time my own son joined, also as a Bear. My son did earn Bear, and now he’s working on his first year of Webelos. He has been active all of last year. The other boy, meanwhile, attended a few meetings but then stopped coming because of other events in his life. But he’s come back at the beginning of this current school year, even though he hadn’t completed any of his Bear requirements from last year. Our Cubmaster that he’d first have to first complete his Bear requirements before he could go on with the other boys his age (and grade) into Webelos. He was very disappointed. Is this true? Does this boy have to do the Bear requirements now, before beginning Webelos, or would his prolonged absence from last year’s den and pack meetings be interpreted as having dropped out of Scouts and thereby make him eligible to be considered a new pack member so that he could begin working on his Webelos requirements? If he has to complete his Bear requirements first, won’t this cause him to have to complete the two-year Webelos program in a year or less, depending on how much time it takes him to complete his Bear requirements? We also have another boy who just joined the pack and is working on Bear requirements, even though, by age, he should be a Webelos. Are these the right ways to handle these types of situations? (Marsha, Cub Scout Mom, East Texas Area Council)

It’s real simple:

First grade = Tiger.

Second grade = Wolf.

Third grade = Bear.

Fourth grade = Webelos I.

Fifth grade = Webelos II.

In other words, the year/grade level that a boy joins (or re-starts) Cub Scouting (or Webelos Scouts) is the year and badge he works on. He doesn’t “go backwards.” If a boy is right now in the fourth grade, and joins, then he starts right in on Webelos I. No exceptions. This is absolutely not my “opinion” nor is it “up to the pack or pack leaders to decide.” This is the policy of the Boy Scouts of America. The reason for this is that the Cub Scouting advancement program is absolutely age-appropriate and age-specific. Tiger-level requirements are geared for first-graders, Wolf for second-graders, Bear for third-graders, Webelos for fourth graders and beyond. To insist that a boy “go back” and earn an earlier level badge is tantamount to putting an adult in diapers. That Cubmaster is completely misinformed. This must be fixed before it damages the boys he’s given incorrect instructions to. If the Cubmaster or any other pack volunteer doesn’t abide by this, there are two excellent resources for these boys’ parents: The District Commissioner and the District Training Chair—both volunteers. These two people should be sought out right away to help get this mess straightened out and put a stop to this nonsense.

Hi Andy,

What’s your opinion on weekly collecting dues? One of our Scouts just expressed to me his opinion that collecting dues every week is old-fashioned, and that our troop should give families the option of paying monthly or yearly instead. From a business perspective, I know we’ve experienced a change in how people pay for things in the past 20 years, so I find some validity in his comments. I’m torn between the goals of teaching boys the responsibility of bringing in their dues and looking for ways to make sensible changes that reflect today’s economy. Any thoughts? (Mike Borsos, SM, Troop 301, Gulfstream Council, Delray Beach, FL)

Great question! I think the central issue is an interweaving of both the philosophical and the practical. From a purely practical standpoint, if the parents simply wrote a check to the troop once a year, it would be an easily done deal. But what happened to the notion of “thrifty”? Sorta goes down the tubes, Huh? I remember bringing my money to my troop meeting every week, and getting embarrassed if I occasionally forgot it. It sure gave our Troop Scribe an important job, and maybe more of today’s troops might want to consider this! So, my personal leaning is toward regular dues-paying BY THE SCOUTS THEMSELVES—not by parents writing checks (even if the Scouts are their “delivery boys”–which is almost worse). But I’m sure your well-intentioned Scout doesn’t quite see Scouting’s “hidden agenda” on this subject, and that’s perfectly OK. Actually, he’s not necessarily supposed to figure it all out—The doing of such things as bringing one’s dues establishes a habit that can last a lifetime (I, for one, still keep a “piggy bank”). Now you could certainly compromise with this Scout by changing dues collections to monthly instead of weekly, but if you think about it, bringing in dues weekly also encourages weekly attendance at troop meetings! So, maybe what this Scout needs to learn a little more about is “tradition.” Tradition is important. Beyond Scouting, tradition is part of the fabric of our American culture, not to be abandoned blithely. Maybe you might encourage this Scout to think about other traditions that he regularly participates in… The Pledge to the Flag every school morning, singing the National Anthem before baseball and football games, having family meals together, celebrating Thanksgiving (a uniquely American tradition), trick-or-treating at Halloween… and what others can he think of? In this perspective, perhaps his mind will open to the idea that sometimes “old fashioned stuff” is perfectly OK, and that while there might be more efficient means of doing something, sometimes the old-fashioned way is better, simply because it is the old-fashioned way.

Dear Andy,

I’m sorry for writing again. This is (still!) about Camping merit badge, and the 20-night requirement. Our son’s Scoutmaster continues to insist that unless these nights are done on a troop campout, they don’t count. When I mentioned to him, myself, that my son needs merely one more night camping and every requirement for this merit badge will be completed, the Scoutmaster responded that “he’ll have plenty of opportunities to camp,” but offered no other encouragement. Apparently, there are a whole group of Scouts in the troop in the same situation as my own son—Just one or to nights, and the merit badge is completed. There seems to be some delay on the Scoutmaster’s part in getting campouts scheduled, but he still won’t let anything else count. Is this really a Scoutmaster’s “judgment call,” or can the Scout camp out on one or the other’s back yard and have it count? What should I, as a mother, do? We are just trying to finish up some merit badges so that, before my son changes troops, nothing will be lost in the process, which we are afraid will happen. (Name Withheld, TX)

The Camping MB requirement under question is as I’ve provided before: “Sleep under the sky (meaning, sleeping bag and ground cloth only) or in a tent you have pitched.” There are no further stipulations.

Your son’s Scoutmaster is adding to the requirement, and BSA policy specifically forbids this. That said, it would do no permanent good for you, as a parent, to argue with an obviously uninformed or intransigent Scoutmaster-cum-Merit Badge Counselor over this. I suggest that your son secure a different Counselor for this merit badge—one who better understands how the BSA requirements for ranks and merit badges are to be observed. Your son has absolutely every right to request another Counselor. Support him in this.

Dear Andy,

I’m writing to you to ask what are exactly the “15 points of leadership” that the Scouts now learn in the new youth training at Brownsea. My son went to Brownsea last year and is now in the process of writing up his proposal for his Eagle project. He was instructed by his Scoutmaster to put in the Brownsea leadership points. He was only able to find the original 11 points from his friends who went to Brownsea with him. But the Scoutmaster said that since he was in the new training, he needs to list the 15 points. Neither my son nor the Scoutmaster has been able to find any information about these new leadership points. Not even the Scouts that my son knows who took the new course with him know anything about the points being added or changed. Could you please help us??? (Debby Alarcon-Hopeful Mother of a possible Eagle candidate)

Congratulations to your son on reaching the level of Eagle candidate!

I’m right now looking at the NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) Staff Guide, Staff Development Guide, and Syllabus, and at the eleven (11) concepts in the “Toolbox of Leadership Skills.” They are:

1.Vision-Goals-Planning: Creating a positive future success.

2.SMART Goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

3.Planning and Problem-Solving: What, How, When, Who.

4.Assessment: SSC-Start, Stop, Continue.

5.Teaching EDGE: Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable.

6.Team Development Stages:Forming,Storming,Norming,Performing.

7.Leading EDGE: (same as above)

8.Conflict Resolution: EAR-Express, Address, Resolve.

9.Making Ethical Decisions: Right vs. Wrong, Right vs. Right, Trivial.

10.Communication: MaSeR-Message, Sender, Receiver.

11.Valuing People: ROPE-Reach out, Organize, Practice, Experience.

Dear Andy,

In your September column, you said that a camping trip cannot qualify for the Hiking, Camping and Backpacking MB—it can only apply to one. I have a point of correction and a disagreement.

Point of Correction: Hiking MB doesn’t require any camping, so that is a moot point. However, if on a campout, the troop took a 10-mile hike, that hike should count for the MB, assuming all other requirements were met.

Point of Disagreement: I agree with your point about gaining experiences; not grabbing badges. However, the requirements don’t specify that a camping trip for Backpacking may not count for Camping. Therefore, in my opinion as a counselor for both of these, a Scout may double-dip. Another counselor may decide otherwise, but in my opinion, that would be considered adding to the requirements, as such a requirement to not double-dip isn’t stated. (Bob Reeder, Moses Lake, WA)

You’re absolutely on the money that Hiking MB requires no overnight camping. However, the significance of this particular merit badge, as pertains to the question at hand, may be found at the very bottom line of its requirements (italics by the BSA): “The hikes of requirements 5 and 6 cannot be used to fulfill requirements for other merit badges.” Now if you happen to believe that this stipulation applies only to Hiking merit badge, and has no implications as to a general principle of advancement and requirement fulfillment, well, then I guess that’s that.

Dear Andy,

I’d like to know what the requirements are, to wear the Junior Leader Training patch. In our troop, we’ve been awarding this patch to Scouts as a reward and incentive for spending the whole training weekend (Friday through Sunday). The weekend includes working in the patrols, JLT (video and activities from JLT training manual), and the Scouts planning the six-month program. We’ve awarded the “Trained” patch to Scouts who only complete the JLT (video and activities from JLT training manual) portion of the weekend (as we know, Scouts have other activities besides their troops and patrols, and we’re flexible to have them come out part of the weekend). Are we violating any Scouting requirements or policies as far as how we award the “Trained” and “Junior Leader Training” patches? (Dave Lehman, SM, Troop 893, National Capitol Area Council, Centreville, VA)

At the national level, the NJLIC (National Junior Leader Instructor Camp) or NAYLE (National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience) shields would be worn on the right pocket by all Scouts completing one or the other of these courses. At the regional level, the YSDC (Youth Staff Development Course) patch would be worn in the same position. At the council level, the council’s JLT or the nationally developed NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) patch would be worn. At the troop level, the TRAINED strip would be worn on the left sleeve by all Scouts completing the syllabus for troop-level leadership training, as you and your troop determine what that should be, but using the BSA syllabus and videos.

Dear Andy,

Are committee meetings supposed to be private, or public (for all parents, registered or not)? Is there something in writing concerning this? (Ruth, MC, Hudson Valley Council, Middletown, NY)

It is a stated BSA policy that no Scouting meetings are ever held in secret, and this would absolutely include unit committee meetings. This statement is on every Scout application: “All Scouting activities are open to parental visitation.”

Dear Andy,

What’s entailed in creating a new merit badge? I’d like to see a Physics merit badge, and would even be willing to help with its development, but I don’t know where to start. (Chuck Garner, CC, Great Salt Lake Council, Bluffdale, UT)

From what I’ve seen, and I’m sure no expert in this, new merit badges appear to be developed by individuals and/or corporations or special interest groups. If you have some ideas, I’m guessing that a way to approach this would be to put them down on paper, at least in rough form, and then to contact the BSA national office in Irving, TX. Terry Lawson, National Advancement Director, might be a good person to start with.

NetCommish Comment: Your questions is one that we frequently see at the U.S. Scouting Service Project. The following advice is from

We’ve been asked on a number of occasions, questions like the following:

Does anyone know what the procedure is for suggesting a new merit badge?

A friend of mine thinks that offering a merit badge on _______ would be of interest to Scouts. But he doesn’t know what to do with the idea. He has some ideas as to what some of the requirements should be.

I think that the Cub Scout Sports program should include the sport of _____.

(Before you write, asking for a new Belt Loop for a sport, like Karate, Tai Kwon Do, or Tackle Football, please read our explanation why they are not included in the program.)

We’ve also been asked questions like:

I think the requirements for the ___________ merit badge or ______ rank should be changed. Who do I complain to, or where can I may a recommendation for a change?

The answer to the questions above is very basic. In either case, a letter should be written, enclosing the suggested requirements for the merit badge, or the suggested change.

In the case of a NEW merit badge, the letter should also contain a suggested design for the badge. However, you shouldn’t expect a speedy reply. The Program Division receives more than 400 merit badge suggestions each year, and they don’t act upon any of them for at least a year or two. Every two years, the Boy Scout Program Committee goes through the merit badge suggestions and recommends to the Program Group Director four or five merit badges; it then goes around to other parts of the Program Group for concurrence; and then finally, it goes to the Editorial Service to coordinate and compose the actual merit badge requirements. The BSA’s National Executive Board decides if the badge will go or not based upon the Program Group’s recommendation. The entire process takes about three to five years. On the other hand, if there are a lot of Scouts and Scouters that feel that this deserves a chance (by writing to National in support of the new merit badge) the process can go a little faster. Hope this helps out!

Bob Torkelson, of Woods Cross, Utah, was curious if the National Council published info from the advancement department about new MBs that were under consideration and ones that were rejected and why. He called the National office and was directed to Terry Lawson, the Director of Boy Scout Advancement, and staff representative to the committee that considers new Merit Badges.

Here some of the things Terry told him:

  • The committee that considers new MBs meets 3 times a year.
  • The new MBs need to promote a hobby or career interest and promote the aims of Scouting.
  • When submitting an idea, you need to include the rationale behind the idea, as well as potential sample requirements for the badge.
  • Nearly all of the ideas for new badges are turned down for one reason or another, very few get tabled for consideration. There are two reasons for this.
    • First, there are currently 121 MBs and instead of growing that number to 200 or 500 they want to keep it around 120, so if a new MB is considered another one is usually dropped. That total has remained fairly consistent for the past 20 years or more, ranging from a high of 124 to a low of 116. Here’s a table showing the changes since 1983:
      Period Added Dropped Total
      1983-1987 1 . 118
      1987-1989 6 5 119
      1989-1991 1 . 120
      1991-1995 4 . 124
      1995-1996 . 8 116
      1996-1998 1 117
      1998-2003 2 119
      2003-2005 1 120
      2006- 1 . 121
    • Second, it takes around $75,000 to introduce a new MB due to creating the badges themselves, printing of pamphlets, and updating and printing of the Requirement book.

Changes, of course, don’t require as complicated a process, but it still can take years for a change to be approved.

The letter should be sent to the Director of the appropriate Program Division, or the Advancement Committee, at the BSA’s National Office. The address is:

Director, Boy Scout Program Division
Director, Cub Scout Program Division
Director, Venturing Program Division
Advancement Committee, S209

Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
P.O. Box 152079
Irving, TX 75015-2079


Hi Andy,

Wow! A lot of uniforming questions recently. Good answers on the questions about how and when to wear OA & MB sashes. (Whoever answered that letter in the latest SCOUTING magazine missed an opportunity to including all the information you did!).

About that question on wearing the Wood Badge neckerchief, and the various “special” CSPs, the answers to these really get more into the area of tradition and purpose than uniform policy. In the “old days” of Scouting in both the US and the UK, ALL the members of a troop, from the newest scout to the oldest adult leader, wore the same troop neckerchief (scarf, in the UK), because this is how you identified yourself as a member of a particular troop. For someone to wear a different neckerchief was tantamount to being disloyal to the troop! So doing so was only allowed for special occasions. Thus, the wearing of a Wood Badge neckerchief was limited to only special, Wood Badge-related occasions. Nowadays, most troops don’t even have troop neckerchiefs. (In my part of the country, they’re rarely worn at all, and about the only neckerchiefs I see worn by adults are WB “Troop 1” or MacLaren neckerchiefs. So, yes, they can wear it whenever they want, but this is why some might still say that they’re only for special occasions.

As for all the various “special” CSPs—the Eagle Scout, FOS, Commissioner Staff, and so on—properly, these are NOT CSPs. The purpose of the Council Shoulder Patch (CSP) was to create a single patch that everyone in the council would wear to indicate their membership in the council. Then the BSA allowed for special Jamboree Shoulder Patches (JSPs) for contingents and staff (per policy, these should be removed six months after the Jamboree). Then, for various reasons, Councils have started to create a wide range of special CSPs. Most CSP collectors don’t even call these CSPs. They’re instead called SAPs, for “Shoulder Activity Patches,” and some call them “CSP-shaped” patches. Properly, these are not CSPs because not everyone in the council can get to wear an one (and if not everyone can wear them, how can they really be a CSP?). The “proper place” for these is in your memorabilia box. Personally, I don’t wear them and I don’t encourage others to wear them, but I’m not going to bother people who do. But people should understand that, even if their Scout Executive has approved them as a CSP, that they are not following the intention of what CSPs are for. I don’t care that councils make them, I just wish they wouldn’t encourage them to be worn. (Michael R. Brown)

Thanks for your thoughts, and for continuing to read! Glad you approve of my responses to the sash questions, and I appreciate your little history of Wood Badge neckerchief-wearing. As for CSPs, SAPs, JSPs, or whatever, I’m happy to say that personally I don’t care, so long as it’s on the correct sleeve in the correct place.

Dear Andy,

If a Pack Committee Chair is unable to attend a committee meeting, is it OK for him or her to appoint the Cubmaster to run the meeting? I’m working with a pack with a new Committee Chair who believes that he must be present at every committee meeting or they’ll have to postpone it unless the Cubmaster can run it for him. He also thinks that there’s no such thing as a pack leader meeting—that this is the committee meeting. What can I tell him to get this straight? (Diane Chidister, DC, Three Rivers District, Quapaw Area Council, AK)

No, Cubmasters don’t run pack committee meetings, even under special circumstances such as you’ve described. One good reason for this is that the Cubmaster isn’t a member of the pack committee. The second reason is that the Cubmaster reports to the pack committee, making it impossible for one to “report to him/herself.” It’s fine that a committee chair wants to be present at every committee meeting, but when his own absences stifle progress, then he needs to ask someone else to chair the meeting, and keep the meeting schedule intact. This can be anyone else on the committee, but not the Cubmaster and not any of the Den Leaders. How to “set him straight”? Simple! Get him to take some training!

Dear Andy,

A District Commissioner recently asked me why the “knot” for the District Award of Merit is an overhand knot, when all the other “knots” are square knots. There must be a reason…What is it? (Jack Orswell, Council Commissioner, San Gabriel Valley Council, Pasadena, CA)

The answer’s in my Mid-February 2006 column—The third one down.

Dear Andy,

Our troop’s sponsor wants only eleven committee members and wants any other adults to sign up as Assistant Scoutmasters. I disagree because I think this kind of setup is a representative committee rather than a democratic committee which allows a select few to establish troop policy, agendas, or events without necessarily reflecting troop opinion. What do you think of this? (Brigitte, MC, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

What do I think of this? I think it’s more silliness! Two ways. In the first place, it doesn’t take an egg-carton full of committee members to support a troop, although it might be nice, and it sure doesn’t take a bucketload of ASMs to assist the Scoutmaster—one or two usually do quite nicely, thank you. If some parents want to serve as committee members (and take the proper training, of course) and a couple would like to be ASMs to assist the SM (and also take the appropriate training), that’s just fine, because other parents can pitch in as needed without holding registered BSA volunteer positions (being in charge of refreshments for the troop’s Courts of Honor, for instance, doesn’t require being registered—just being helpful will do quite nicely).

It’s the second part that troubles me—That stuff about “establishing policy,” and “having agendas,” and “having events.” This is absolute nonsense. The BSA has already established all the policies a unit needs to be successful; nothing additional is needed. Having “agendas” and “events”… for what? The only agendas and events a troop has are for meetings and outings, and these are set by the Patrol Leaders Council (PLC), under the guidance of the Scoutmaster; absolutely not by the committee. The committee’s responsibility is to support the troop’s Scouting program as decided on by the PLC. In point of cold fact, the committee does not even get to “vote” on the PLC’s plans—They can make suggestions to the PLC, if they’d like, and the PLC can accept these or not, and that’s it. Do this any other way and you’re violating the purpose, intent, and goals of the Scouting program. Period.

Dear Andy,

I think your answer in your “MORE September” column about the Scouter with diabetes was at best incomplete. I could agree with your answer if you were to add a third criterion: Take the special needs into consideration. There are some cases where not taking the special needs into consideration could be very dangerous. A bad peanut allergy, for example, might be enough grounds to not allow peanuts on a campout or other outing (big risk for the Scout with allergies; little impact for the patrol or troop). Another example: We have a Scout of Hindu faith in our troop. We didn’t know (or make the connection) that one of the meals the patrol had made was almost completely inedible by this Scout, since he doesn’t eat beef or most meats (but as you correctly say, he does have personal responsibility to make his needs known.) But given that the patrol knows of his needs, they can then take his beliefs into account next time, reminding this Scout to bring alternative food. As a further example, we had a (somewhat) non-denominational religious service one Sunday morning while on a campout, and the leader spoke about Jesus during his remarks. I thought the short service was appropriate for a Christian audience in general, but I wonder if we didn’t treat our Hindu Scout with respect, since the service could have probably been made a bit more “generic” (not just Christian) given that we knew there was a non-Christian among us. Point being, I think, that an easy change with little effect on the program would have made a difference for this Scout. Of course there comes a point where these “easy changes” aren’t easy anymore and become a burden to accommodate. That’s perhaps when we should draw the line on accommodating every individual. But such is the challenge for Scouting’s youth and adult leaders. (Name Withheld)

I think the main point to focus on is that of individual responsibility. This would certainly be true of any Scout with allergenic reactions. Both he and his parents have an obligation to the troop as well as to the Scout himself to make sure that the troop’s leaders, both youth and adult, are aware of this sensitivity, especially because it can be life-threatening. But it is ultimately up to the Scout himself to protect himself. As for the Hindu Scout (Yes, I had one in my own troop, too), this religious preference would most likely have been revealed in a Scoutmaster Conference, and the troop’s sensitivity to this would spring from this conversation. However, it is absolutely not the patrol’s or the troop’s or any leader’s responsibility to “remind” any Scout to tend to his own, unique, personal needs. And if a Scout keeps stuff like this secret, the troop and its leaders certainly cannot and should not be held to harm.

Dear Andy,

Is it OK for an Assistant Scoutmaster to attend a (non-Eagle) Board of Review? Where is this in BSA policy? (Bob Moravsik, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Yup. And so can a Scoutmaster. Eagle or any other rank—Makes no difference. Of course, they’re observers only. They don’t ask the Eagle candidate questions, and they don’t “vote.” This is per BSA policy and is found in ADVANCEMENT COMMITTEE POLICIES & PROCEDURES.

Dear Andy,

I’m a former Scoutmaster with two sons in the troop. This past September the Scouts put in for troop leadership positions and after two weeks of delay the Scoutmaster told them that he and the Committee Chair would be appointing the troop’s leaders—There would be no elections, not even for patrol leaders. At the next Court of Honor, the Scoutmaster stated that “elections are popularity contests and, because of that, some Scouts won’t be elected, because they didn’t belong to the right clique or weren’t popular, so they needed to be appointed, and he and the Chair of the Committee would be doing this, for all leadership positions in the troop.” Would you be shocked to learn that the newly appointed Senior Patrol Leader is the Committee Chair’s son?! Now the Scoutmaster, meanwhile, said that he’d checked with “council” and was told that he could do this “if it improved the Troop.” I’ve never heard of such a thing, and of course I know what’s on page 26 of the Boy Scout Handbook, page 13 of the Scoutmaster Handbook, and page 11 of the Troop Committee Guidebook. The Scoutmaster before me (seven years between us) and I are appalled, in part because the troop is healthy and hardly needs “fixing.” I’m wondering how to remedy such a travesty of broken BSA rules and nepotism. My email to our council describing this situation, sent six days ago, and a phone call today, remain unanswered. Should council help our troop, or are they obligated to accede to the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair, while ignoring two past Scoutmasters? (I know this sounds Orwellian, but it’s really happening!) (Name Withheld, Twin Rivers Council, NY)

Of course troop and patrol elections are popularity contests! And guess what… The Scouts who smile, help one another, show up at troop and patrol meetings, go to summer camp and on campouts, advance in rank while helping their fellow Scouts do so, too, are going to be – you guessed it – popular! Duh! Scouts who want to but don’t get elected are counseled by their Scoutmaster so that, the next time around, they have a better shot at a leadership position. That’s Scouting.

This Scoutmaster and Committee Chair either have taken no training or, having done so, are flagrantly ignoring essential BSA standards. This is a Scoutmaster who fails to grasp that in becoming a volunteer Scouting leader, he established a covenant to deliver the Scouting program as intended, and as described in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK to the boys and young men in the troop he serves, and when he deviates from this he violates and breaks this covenant is the most fundamental of ways. His cohort is no better. They have, together, broken one of the keystones of the Scouting movement—a keystone that has been in place from the very beginning of Scouting some ten decades ago.

This is, however, a troop problem, to be resolved at the troop level. Neither the council nor the district has the authority to effect a change —the troop is “owned” by its chartered organization; not the council. The solution does not lie outside the troop.

What is called for here is for the sponsor and parents to seize control of the troop, to correct the Scoutmaster’s actions and if he refuses, to boot him out forthwith.

Ask for a Unit Commissioner to help you with this. Stop emailing and call a parents’ meeting. Describe to the parents how and why elections are fundamental to the Scouting program and convince them that they must demand that this be reestablished immediately. Involve key people from the troop’s sponsor, and educate them, as well. Be sure to emphasize that neither the Scoutmaster nor the Committee Chair has the authority to institute such a deviation. That this is no longer Scouting. That this is undermining the program at a seminal level. That regardless of who is appointed—be it sons or not—appointment of Patrol Leaders simply in anathema to the Scouting program and principles and this is not open to opinion or further discussion; it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Do not permit either of these two deviants to claim “authority” from “council” because “council” is superseded by BSA national policies and cannot be altered on whim.

Buddy up with the other Scoutmaster when you do this, and make it a team effort. Begin by developing alliances with significant other parents, and with the head of your chartered organization. Then call a parents meeting and expose these two anti-Scouts for what they are.

Dear Andy,

I’m a 1st year Webelos Den Leader. One of the boys in my den is unable to attend meetings for at least the first part of the year, and so his parent, who has been a Webelos Den Leader in the past, has asked to use the “honor system” so he can sign off on his son’s advancement. I’m are uncomfortable with this approach because many of the activities are group and team-building activities. This same boy often attends our meetings or outings only when his parent or brother is attending, so even then he’s not really being part of the den. This is awkward. Do you have any comments or suggestions? It feels as if they want to be part of the program without “being part of the program.”

Also, when it comes to signing off on Activities, Belt Loops and Sports Pins, what are our obligations as leaders? How do we verify that activities have taken place? Are there some policy guidelines that would assist us?

As Webelos Den Leader, you have every right—and the obligation to the other boys in your den—to tell this wayward, self-serving parent to go fly a kite. As a former Webelos Den Leader himself, he ought to know better, so I’d put this in the category of flagrant disregard of both principles and rules. Or, in short, No way, Jose!

You haven’t said why this boy can’t attend den meetings, and I don’t know what the deal is with pack meetings. Scouting is absolutely flexible when it comes to “either-or” conflict situations and will always make allowances for boys who have obligations elsewhere that are mandatory (CCD, confirmation classes, Hebrew school, some sports, and so on). But Scouting is equally inflexible when it comes to the advancement plan, standards, and policies. These must be followed to the letter. If not, nationwide chaos will reign, and this is unacceptable. This is not about “Scout’s Honor” or not. This is about the delivery of the Scouting program as intended by the BSA. In becoming Scouting leaders, we have a covenant to deliver the program as designed. Acceding to a deviation from this, such as this parent is attempting to inveigle, is a breaking of that covenant. Stick to your guns. If this feels awkward, it’s not because of your values and your understanding of how the program is supposed to work—It’s that parent who apparently wants his son’s cake and eat it, too, who’s creating the uncomfortable situation. Don’t “give in” just to make the awkwardness “go away,” because if you do, there will be more—I promise you.

Since the boy who will miss a couple of months is a Webelos I, the most he’ll miss out on is some activity badge work, but this certainly isn’t lethal and will hardly interfere with his overall Scouting “career.”

On your second question about the auxiliary Sports and Academics (belt loops and pins) programs, Scout’s Honor is certainly acceptable. Your job here, unless you’ve incorporated any of these into your den program, is record-keeping. On these, you can relax!

Dear Andy,

The question was raised how the Eagle Board of Review is to be held for a Scout with a mental disability, and if his father could be present in the review to give support? (Neil Hossler, Council Advancement Committee Chair, Black Swamp Area Council, OH)

My own call would be that good ole dad should stay out of the room, thereby permitting his son to fly on his own wings. That said, since at least some of the members of this Eagle BoR may not be familiar with this particular Scout and his capabilities, it would be more than appropriate for either his father or his Scoutmaster to address the members in advance of the actual review, so that everyone’s on the same page. Then, sit back and enjoy, because I’ll guarantee that this will be one of the most enjoyable and exceptional experiences in these board members’ lives! Wish I could be there myself!!!

Happy Scouting!


Got a question? Have an idea? Found something that works? Send it to me
(Please include your Council name or your town & state)

(October 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

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