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Issue 87 – Mid-October 2006

Wendy Duprat is a new Assistant Webelos Den Leader in the Daniel Webster Council, Nashua, New Hampshire, USA. She’s thinking that it might be fun and educational for her son’s Webelos Den to write to other Cub Scouts around the world and exchange life experiences, where they go to school, their sports and other interests, share photos, and maybe even exchange council patches. Having done this myself, for my den, when I was a WDL, I can say from first-hand experience that it’s one of the more rewarding and vision-stretching things boys of Webelos age can do! So, if you’re leader of a Webelos Den somewhere around the country or beyond (I’m thinking Transatlantic, Direct Service, and Far East Councils), please get in touch with Wendy directly at cod3uros@msn.com. I promise you all—You won’t regret this one bit!

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Boy Scout, not yet a Tenderfoot, and there are some things I can only get done when I go to my bi-monthly (sic) troop meetings, and my parents usually always have something planned already. What should I do? JS)

Being a Boy Scout means SHOWING UP. Scouting isn’t much fun if you’re not there. Not being at your troop meetings means not knowing when hikes and campouts are going to happen, not being a part of a patrol, and not doing the things Scouts do. Most troops meet every week, not just every two weeks, so if you stay in that particular troop, you’re already missing out on half of Scouting! Maybe you need to find a troop in Lakeland that meets every week? Troop 104 meets every Monday night starting at 7 o’clock, at the Lakeland Presbyterian Church, and Troop 760 meets every Wednesday evening starting at 7 o’clock, at the First United Methodist Church. But here’s the most important thing you have to do: YOU HAVE TO TELL YOUR PARENTS THAT YOU DON’T WANT THEM TO SCHEDULE STUFF ON THE SAME NIGHTS AS YOUR TROOP MEETINGS. Then, they have to be willing to listen to you and make sure they get you to your troop meetings. If this doesn’t happen, you’re not going to be a Scout for much longer, and that would be a shame!

Dear Andy,

I’ve always been told that the Texas flag is the only state flag that can fly level with the American Flag, because Texas was a country unlike the other states, which were territories. The “know it alls” whom I work with have different takes on this. I’ve searched on the Internet under rules, etc but still cannot find any hard writings that state this. I believe that any state can fly level as long as the American flag is first risen and last down. Which is the truth? I thought about writing to our Politicians, but I knew the Boy Scouts of America would know the REAL answer. Thank you and God Bless (Susan Marr, Texas)

Thanks for asking a Scout! The answer, as you’ve probably guessed, isn’t a “Boy Scout answer”—It’s found in the U.S. Flag Code adopted by Congress and a part of the Congressional Record.

By way of a bit of history, both Texas and California were independent republics before they became American states–They’re the only states, in fact, that can claim that distinction! Now, take a look at the flags of these two states… Notice that they both have single stars. Texas was the first to do this, when admitted to the Union as a state in 1845, and California respectfully followed Texas’ lead five years later.

Anyway, the rule applying to ALL states, regardless of their “prior lives” is that they fly lower than, or to the left of, the American Flag. And, Yes, you’re correct that the American Flag is always the first up and last down. Going up, it’s raised briskly; when lowered, it’s with measured pace.

To be even more clear, NO STATE FLAG can ever fly higher than the American Flag; but a state (any state) flag and the American Flag can fly at the same height so long as the American Flag is on it’s own right side, as in…

American Flag State Flag State Flag State Flag

o o o o

(audience)

(Note that the American Flag appears to be on the extreme LEFT when you look at, but from ITS point-of-view it’s on the RIGHT.)

Dear Andy,

In your October 2006 column responding to a letter from a Scout Ship employee about uniforming, you said, “…I equally agree that your advice about the World Crest is right on!”

Check your uniform guide again. The World Crest is NOT a mandatory patch. The guide uses the word “may” not “must”.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wear it in support of the world brotherhood of scouting–just that it isn’t required.

Your column is excellent. You provide factual information tempered with great advice. Your willingness to say you don’t know or admit errors is very refreshing and helps educate us even more! (Michael Marks)

Yup, you’re right. The World Crest isn’t mandatory. So any Scout or Scouter who doesn’t wish to support the concept of the World Brotherhood of Scouting need not wear this universal badge, which, by the way, is worn around the world by over 25 million non-American Scouts and Scouters. J

Dear Andy,

Our troop has a very disruptive and accusatory parent. At our last troop meeting, she accused our Scoutmaster of hitting a Scout (his own son) and then his ASM of refusing to provide an aspirator for an asthmatic Scout who neglected to bring his own on a hike. Both times she is WRONG. Fully four adults and many Scouts stated that the alleged striking incident never happened, and as far as the asthmatic Scout is concerned, it’s hardly necessary to provide an aspirator to a boy who can continually yell, at the top of his lungs, “I CAN’T BREATHE! I NEED MY BREATHER!” (which he forgot to bring with him), but then, when he saw the other Scouts catching fish for dinner, wanted to join right in instead of resting, as our leaders had instructed him to do.

She also bad-mouths to her own son, telling him about “this stuck-up kid,” and “that no-good kid.”

We leaders are getting really tired of having to listen to this one person stir up trouble so often, and we’re really hoping there’s some legitimate way to deal with this. She sits in on all troop meetings, so I’m thinking about having a Scoutmaster’s Minute that tells a story about the consequences of spreading rumors and making false accusations. I’m also thinking of stating: No untrained adults are allowed to sit in on troop meetings.

I don’t want her to pull her son from the troop—he’s a good and really reliable kid, but his mother is killing our troop with all this extra stress and drama. What can we do? (Name Withheld)

Some day, I might figure out why parents, often mothers, feel the need to intercede themselves disruptively in the business of boys, their peers, and their role models. It’s almost as if they’re unable to back away from being 24/7 parents and take a breather for a little while, while their son and his fellow Scouts work things out for themselves. Problem is, I don’t think that day is just around the corner… So, what to do in the meanwhile?

Poisonous accusations after-the-fact are—there’s just one word for it—pointless. This incident is passed and whatever perceived crisis there may have been is also now history. This holds true regardless of the accuracy of the accusations.

This makes me wonder what the motivation behind the accusation might be. Is it to seek justice? To raise controversy? To capture some needed personal attention? Something else? The question usually always remains: What’s motivating this person to cause disruption and possible rancor now, when it’s too late to take direct action?

Maybe its nothing more than a lack of understanding of the differences between the Cub program, in which Den Leaders always controlled everything, and Boy Scouting, where in the right sort of troop, there’s vastly less adult control minute-to-minute, and it’s supposed to be this way. Boy Scouts is so much more than merely “Cubs in tan shirts”!

Sun Tzu’s classic writings, crafted circa 410 BC in China, on The Art of War stresses that the warrior’s goal is not to kill his enemy; it is to disarm him. A disarmed enemy is no longer a threat. “To subdue the enemy without fighting is the supreme excellence.” “Policy backed up by strength is superior to strength in the absence of policy.” In The Book of Five Rings, written by Miyamoto Musashi, a samurai and ronin, in the early 1600’s AD, teaches us to “listen to your enemy’s threats so you will know his (or her) greatest fears,” and to “always provide a way of escape for your enemy, so that he (or she) will not feel impelled to fight to the death.”

These observations may be useful in dealing with this woman. Listen to her, but only alone and away from the Scouts, and you will take away her weapon of shouting and ranting. Listen without interrupting her until she has nothing more to say–she is now disarmed. Instead of directly confronting her accusations, re-describe to her what you believe she has just said to you, and ask if you have that right. When she agrees, you cannot be subsequently accused of not listening to her–she is further disarmed. Now, instead of defending or re-casting whatever situations she’s described, instead describe the way the Scouting program works, including its methods and why those particular methods are employed (to reach specific goals). By doing this, you will have removed the emotional baggage from the conversation and put all issues on an objective, non-personal plane. Once at this place, you may ask her for her suggestions as to how future situations such as this might be prevented, avoided, or alleviated, and then listen to her response. Finally, thank her for her insights and return calmly to the meeting room, but not before you have invited her to seek you out for a private conversation should anything else trouble her in the future, and receive her firm agreement to this. (This last step provides the underpinning needed for you to remove her from the meeting room should there be any further outbursts.)

Follow this plan as I’ve described it, in the order laid out, and I’m willing to guarantee that your problem parent will no longer disrupt your troop.

Dear Andy,

My son wants to do his Eagle project. We live in one town and he goes to a different town’s troop that is also in a different council. Which place does he need to do his project? In the town he lives in, or in the town his troop is in? (Donna Lander, Unadilla, NY)

This is an excellent question. I’ve been struggling with how to put this in a way that doesn’t risk your feeling offended, and I’m likely to be unsuccessful, but here goes, anyway: This is a question for an Eagle candidate to ask. I hope you’ll suggest to your son that he write to me.

Hi Andy,

I’m now Assistant Council Commissioner. The District Executive that I help out with advice from time to time has a new Key 3 and they’re having a problem with a pack Committee Chair and Cubmaster butting heads. That De has asked me to help resolve this problem, since both the District Commissioner and District Chair are inexperienced with this type of problem. We sat down with the CM, who says the CC is regimented and domineering, which is causing disharmony among both the pack committee and the den leaders. The CM wants the CC removed and is trying to get the district or council to do it. I’ve told him that the pack’s Chartered Organization has the say-so on pack leaders—not the district or council—but the Chartered Organization Representative is apparently washing his hands of the problem, expecting the CC and CM to work out their own problems. I’ve given the Key 3 my opinion, and I’m wary of involving a council-level commissioner (me!) in this dispute. But I do feel that if something isn’t done soon, this pack will have a major upheaval and someone’s head will roll, which could, in turn, result in disgruntled leaders and possibly a failure of the pack as a whole. I know there isn’t enough space to explain all the issues, but when all three of a district’s Key 3 ask for my help, I can’t walk away from this. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks! (Ty Roshdy, ACC, Golden Empire Council, CA)

Your CC-CM at loggerheads situation is not that unusual. We volunteers do seem to have a habit of butting heads with the very people we’re supposed to be on the same team with! This is definitely a pack-level problem that needs to stay inside the pack and not get escalated. I think what’s needed is a facilitator-mediator who can bring these two warring guys together (with no one else around!), find out what the beef is, and guide them to resolving their differences for themselves, without taking sides (but also well-versed in BSA policy, in case there’s some sort of policy transgression afoot). Ideally, this should be the pack’s Unit Commissioner. If there isn’t one, then the job falls to their District Commissioner. In your shoes, I don’t think I’d let it go beyond that, and I wouldn’t take on the job myself UNLESS I knew these two guys personally. Except for that, this sure isn’t something an ACC should get involved with, if only because you don’t want these two warriors to get it in their heads that their personal issues are “important” at a council level! So, if the District Commissioner doesn’t have mediating-facilitating experience, get him or give him some good coaching right away, so he can do his job successfully!

Dear Andy,

Our troop is changing Chartered Organizations and the new CO is asking about the details of the BSA’s insurance policies. I’ve looked and looked online for copies of the policies (which I think would best provide answers to our new CO’s questions) but can’t find them. Do you know where to find the policies online? (John Woughter, Transatlantic Council, Bonn, Germany)

The BSA has self-insurance policies, are administered by the national council office in Irving, Texas. If your new CO or COR needs answers to specific questions, these are best obtained from your Transatlantic Council service center; however, they shouldn’t be expecting to see the actual policy.

Dear Andy,

This is interesting… I think it’s reasonable for our new CO to inquire about details of the insurance policies, since they could be liable, and I’d personally be a bit skeptical with a “Trust me, you’re covered by insurance,” statement. I don’t think this will be a make-or-break item, but do you have any advice on how to respond if the CO presses for further proof of insurance? (John Woughter)

I understand your point of view completely, and there’s certainly no way that you, personally, should be put in the position of having to address this particular issue, so my best suggestion is that, for further information on insurance, you refer the new CO to an appropriate paid employee at the service center.

Dear Andy,

My son wants to work on some merit badges in which he and I have similar interests. So I contacted our council and requested a merit badge counselor list. On receiving it, I noticed that a few of the merit badges he wanted to work on didn’t have any counselors anywhere in the entire council, so I personally signed up to be a MBC for ten different merit badges that I’d like to counsel scouts on, some of which were the ones my son wanted to work on. My son and I then took the “Blue Cards” to his Scoutmaster for signature. But he told us, first, that the troop doesn’t use Blue Cards (they use the “worksheets” from meritbadge.com), and, second, that since I’m his parent, I can’t counsel or approve my son for any merit badges unless I teach it in a group setting (this is despite my being the only MBC for several MBs in the council!). Now I’m perfectly OK with him going to MBCs other than me if that’s an option in the council, but when I’m the only one, this “group” rule seems out of line. I took these issues our Committee Chair and Troop Advancement Chair, and they supported the Scoutmaster’s point of view. Along the way, I’ve discovered that the Scoutmaster manages all of the advancement, and that the Troop Advancement Chair is really only a title—he doesn’t do much of anything. So here are my (pretty obvious) questions…

Can a Scoutmaster really deny a Scout a merit badge because his parent was the MBC?

Is there any concern about a troop’s not using “Blue Cards”?

Who is supposed to manage advancement records?

What are your feelings on having group lessons at weekly troop meetings to earn merit badges?

Thanks for your help and sorry for being so long-winded. (David McMann)

Go here right away: www.usscouts.org/boyscouts/MBCounseling.html and read everything that’s there. Then, using your son’s Boy Scout Handbook plus Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (which you’ll go and buy at your local Scout Shop, or at scoutstuff.org), plus the Troop Committee Guidebook, follow along with me, because I’m going to try to sort through the mess you’ve described. Everything I’ll say first is a BSA POLICY or PROCEDURE unless it’s italicized, in which case it’s a personal insight…

In your son’s Handbook, page 187 describes how a merit badge begins. It starts with the Scout (not his father!) asking his Scoutmaster for the name of a counselor (which certainly can be you—his own dad) and for a signed merit badge application (“Blue Card”—more about these in a moment). Earning a merit badge starts with a Scout and Scoutmaster, not with the counselor. It takes the Scoutmaster’s signature to get underway. If your son doesn’t have that up-front Scoutmaster’s signature, he shouldn’t be working on the merit badge. That said, if the Scoutmaster’s signature is missing but your son’s inadvertently completed all the requirements, then your son (not you!) should just go get a signed “blue card” for whatever merit badge we’re talking about, and then you, as counselor, fill in the “completion date” and sign it, so your son can turn it in.

There is no limit to the number of merit badges a Scout can earn from the same counselor.

There is no “relationship restriction” on counselor-and-Scout: A parent is absolutely permitted to counsel his or her own son.

“Group” merit badge “classes” aren’t required in the above or any other situation.

The buddy system applies to merit badges. The buddy may be another Scout or other adult, except in a parent-and-son situation, where no buddy is required.

No person, unit, district, or council has the authority to alter any BSA National advancement requirement, or to add a stipulation that in any way supersedes the BSA National Council.

The merit badge application (“Blue Card”) is the official BSA merit badge application, common across every one of the BSA’s 303 councils. There is no substitute.

While the “worksheets” found at meritbadge.com are nice as just what they’re stated to be—worksheets—they’re totally inadequate as permanent records of merit badges earned. What’s more, they turn what would otherwise be a healthy interest in self-directed learning on the part of boys into a stultifying “Scout school.” As a counselor myself for several thousand Scouts over many years, I wouldn’t use those things if my life depended on it! Bluntly, they’re awful!

Once properly earned, no rank or merit badge can ever, EVER be taken away from or denied to a Scout. In the case of merit badges, there is no “Board of Review”—The counselor’s signature indicating that the work is completed is final.

The unit’s committee member responsible for advancement (usually called “advancement chair”)—not the Scoutmaster—is responsible for maintaining the advancement records of the youth in the unit.

No counselor can be forced to use the “group method” of counseling if he or she prefers not to do so. “Group merit badge ‘classes'” in troop meetings is about as dumb as it gets.

There’s absolutely no provision for “group merit badge lessons” in the Troop Meeting Plan as published by the BSA and used by troops for decades. That’s not to say that a merit badge counselor on some subject area can’t visit a troop to promote his or her subject—but not to “teach” it!

So, first get your own act together, then make sure your son’s following the procedure stated in his Handbook, and then go ahead and counsel away! If the troop continues to have a problem with this, go find another troop and lose these misinformed people!

Dear Andy,

My scout store is out of merit badge cards to award with the merit badges at our upcoming Court of Honor! Can I create my own cards? (Ron Hepler, Troop 125, Williamson, NY)

Don’t worry about those cards. They’re not needed for a Court of Honor, anyway! They’re supposed to have been given to the Scouts, along with the cloth merit badges themselves, at the very next troop meeting after they turned in their completed Blue Cards. Merit badges, ranks, and other achievements are never, ever held back till Courts of Honor. They’re presented to the Scouts who earn them at the absolute earliest opportunity. A Court of Honor is the place to publicly announce each Scout’s advancements since the last CoH, but it’s not where the badges are presented (unless a Board of Review for something was held just the week before). So, go ahead and present the cloth badges, and then give the Scouts their cards when your Scout Shop gets them in. In fact, get a bunch of them ahead of time, so you always have them “in stock” for your troop!

Hi Andy,

I’m looking for a permission slip that I can use generally. The purpose is to carry it in the main transportation car, along with the tour permit. My initial thought was that I’d find it in the Safety First guidelines, but I didn’t find that true. It’s also not on the “forms” site on websites. In looking around, I found you. Can you help? (Jean Broese, Weblow Leader, Pack 595, Redondo Beach, Los Angeles Council, LA)

Thanks for looking around and finding me. I hope you become a regular reader!

You’ll find an absolutely excellent permission slip in the back of the BSA book, Guide to Safe Scouting. Just copy it as many times as you need (that’s what it’s there for), or use it as a template to create your own.

Oh, yeah… One more thing: It’s WEBELOS (both singular and plural).

Dear Andy,

I volunteered to make the troop banner for my son’s den. What do they look like? (Lisa Tomaino, Santa Clara County Council, San Jose, CA)

I know what a troop flag looks like, but I sure don’t know what a troop banner looks like. But…you refer to your son’s den, which suggests he’s a Cub Scout; not a Boy Scout (Boy Scouts are members of patrols and troops; Cub Scouts are members of dens and packs—patrols are parts of a troop and dens are parts of a pack). So maybe you mean den flag? These are inexpensively purchased at www.scoutstuff.org – go there, and then click on “flags and ribbons” and you’ll see a den flag right in the middle of the screen.

Hello Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster with some Scout discipline problems. My immediate situation is that I have two Scouts who are 16-year-old stepbrothers who are an almost constant source of trouble in the troop. They both seem to be essentially good kids with a lot of potential for greater things; but when they have “free time” they start to feed off each other and their horsing around often leads to the destruction of somebody’s property or, as in the most recent case, personal injury. The event that happened is hearsay only—I didn’t personally witness the incident—but given these boys’ past history I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened. It seems that, while cooking lunch over a propane stove, one of the brothers heated a knife over the flame and then touched it “accidentally” to the back of a 13 year old patrol member’s hand, resulting in a three inch long second-degree burn. When I questioned the victimized Scout, he was certain that this was done on purpose, while the perpetrator (no surprise here!) claims that it was accidental. Personally, I don’t believe that this kid knew the extent of the damage he’d cause with the knife, but there’s very little doubt in my mind that it was intentional. The victim’s dad is furious and ready to file assault charges, while the perpetrator’s dad is standing by his son, equally furious that “intention to do harm” would even be suggested. Do you have any advice? These boys need to be reined in somehow, but I don’t want to lose them, because I do think that they both have great potential. Then again, I believe that I’m at risk of losing our troop’s younger Scouts, whose parents are concerned about their sons’ safety. My normal response would be to chalk it up to “boys will be boys,” but when it comes to personal injury, I have little to no tolerance.

My question is: How do I let these brothers, and their dad, know that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated, without losing them, or do I have no choice other than expulsion? I’ve already tried talking to their dad, but got nowhere. (DA)

Boys are rockets. Our job is to aim them. If we don’t, they’ll find their own courses, and this usually leads to collisions. So, here are my suggestions…

“Boys will be boys”… until they injure someone. One of them injured a fellow Scout. There must be accountability and consequences here. A 16 year old knows exactly what happens when metal is put in a fire and then touches skin. No excuse, accidental or otherwise, is acceptable. Do you use Totin’ Chips and Firem’n Chits? If not, start now. If you do, pull both of them from the offending Scout, but privately (praise in public, correct in private).

Expulsion isn’t needed, or warranted. Taking responsibility and being accountable for one’s actions is. The understanding that our actions have consequences is equally important. The offending Scout owes the injured Scout the sincerest of apologies, at the very least. He should also be asked what he thinks would be a reasonable consequence to him for having burned a fellow Scout. Perhaps a fire-related service project. Perhaps sharpening every ax the troop owns. Get him to come up with something significant, and then make sure he carries it out.

As for the father who wants to file charges, he appears to be within his rights to do this—against the Scout, of course, not the troop or you, personally. If this is what he believes is the right thing to do, do not attempt to dissuade him.

Remember this: These boys are at an age where they will test every boundary to see if it holds fast or not. You’d better have boundaries, and enforce them. If you don’t, they’ll walk all over you and the rest of the troop. When you enforce the boundaries that they’re testing, you instill in them confidence, because they have a terrible need to know where the boundaries are, and an equal need to know that these boundaries are inviolate.

Immediately, get those two brothers into different patrols. Then, get those patrols to camp as far away from one another as you can, reasonably. Next, alert their Patrol Leaders that they have to keep these two busy and on-task and challenged. It’s the Patrol Leaders’ jobs to aim them—Not yours, or you’ll be sacrificing the entire troop for just two Scouts, and as Scoutmaster you can’t afford to do this.

Dear Andy,

My son is a Boy Scout and he is reaching an age (he is 13) where he could be losing interest in the program. It doesn’t help that his Troop made some updates to policies, and what he was told were going to count as activities, were later changed to non-activity status. Now he needs just a few more things to complete his First Class, but he doesn’t need any more service hours. That being the case, can’t he continue to earn service hours to apply to a later rank? He was told that any service hours he earns right now won’t count toward his next rank because he hasn’t completed all his First Class requirements yet, and he can’t “roll over” his additional service hours to the next rank. (Adam W.)

Your son needs to re-read his Boy Scout Handbook. In the section on Star rank requirements, for instance, it states: “While a First Class Scout, take part in service projects…” (italics mine). This means that, unlike cell phone minutes, he’s not supposed to be “banking” or “rolling over” extra time. At the same time, it’s equally important for him to understand that not everything he does in Scouts is for advancement. There are things he’ll be doing just to do them. Helping others by giving service is one of these. We help other people because we’re Scouts, and this is what Scouts do.

He needs to understand (and maybe you, too) that it’s not true that additional service hours “don’t count for anything.” They have lots to do with a little thing called “show Scout Spirit…”

Dear Andy,

At a recent Roundtable, a fellow Scouter took the position that youth leadership is just an optional feature of Scouting, because it’s not required by a BSA policy. He went on to claim that only those things required “by policy” are mandatory, and everything else is just “methods” or “program elements” to be employed or not as a unit’s adult leaders see fit.

I’m aware that the language in the Boy Scout Handbook, the Scoutmaster Handbook, and in Fast Start training says, to me at least, that youth leadership is an essential and required aspect of Scouting. But no, I can’t find a “policy,” thus labeled, that requires youth leadership. This same guy apparently isn’t impressed with our District Executive’s opinion, or the Baden-Powell quote that appears at Scouting.org to the effect that the patrol method is the only method, because he sees “methods” as optional—take ‘em or leave ‘em. Now, he’s managing to convince some of the other Scouters that he’s right, because he speaks with not a shadow of doubt and backs this up with his more than 30 years in the program. Do you have any insights into authoritative statements on this issue? (TL)

Oh, I just love these guys. The thing to tell this doofus is just this:

“Go ahead and find some written policy that says you can run things any darned way you like and still call it Scouting. Until you can do that, shut your pie-hole! You know darned well what’s right, but instead of doing what you know you’re supposed to, you’re attempting to violate and undermine the Scouting program. We’re not going to stand for it, and neither should the Scouts in your whacko troop! Unless you’re prepared to get it right, you can take yourself and your years of misbegotten experience out of here.”

The fact is, this guy is either too stupid to understand that our job, as volunteers, is to deliver the Scouting program as described in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK to the boys and young men in our care, or he’s deliberately attempting to refute and undermine the essentials of Scouting.

Hello Andy,

I’m looking for a “chant” or spiritual saying… Some of the words are, “May the great Scoutmasters meet with us until we meet again.” I’m not sure what the name of it is. We were with another troop at the time, and they’d say this at the end of every meeting. Everyone would “circle up” and recite this together, then the meeting would be dismissed. Can you help me? (Cheryl Trent, SM, Troop 493, Springcreek, VA)

You’ve got it almost right! It’s called The Scout Benediction. Here’s how it’s done: All Scouts form a “brotherhood circle,” with their arms around each other’s shoulders, and then in unison say, “And now, may the great Master, of all Scouts, be with us, till we meet again.”

Dear Andy,

I’m the immediate past Scoutmaster of a troop, with two sons in it. Recently, our Scouts put in for troop positions, as always, but this time their (new) Scoutmaster told them that he and the Committee Chair would be appointing all youth leader positions—there would be no elections this time, not even for patrol leaders. Then, at a subsequent Court of Honor, the SM made the public statement that elections are merely “popularity contests,” and because some Scouts don’t belong to the right clique or weren’t popular, they don’t get elected, and so he and the CC were going to “fix” that by appointing all troop positions. It was not surprise that the newly appointed Senior Patrol Leader turned out to be the CC’s son! Then, the SM claimed that he’d “checked with council,” and “council” said he could do this “if it improved the Troop.” I’ve never heard of such a thing (!) and of course I know what it says on page 26 of the Boy Scout Handbookok, page 13 of the Scoutmaster Handbook, and page 11 of the Troop Committee Guidebook.

Both I and the Scoutmaster before me (we’re both still involved in the troop) are appalled. The troop is extremely healthy, and hardly needs “improvement.” But what to do to remedy such a travesty? To say nothing of blatant nepotism! My attempts to get help from our council service center go unanswered. This may sound Orwellian, but it’s really happening. These people—the SM and CC—are my friends, which makes this an awful burden for me to carry. (DP)

Here we have 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.

If the Scoutmaster and CC are your personal friends, how about speaking with each one, personally, with the BS Handbook and the SM Handbook pages that describe the leader election process pre-marked? Have your other former Scoutmaster at your side when you do this, so that you’re not outnumbered. If these jerks still don’t get it, and agree to fix it immediately, then it’s time to bring out the heavy guns.

If they refuse to self-correct, then they must be corrected. The troop’s sponsor and parents need to seize control of the troop and, if the CC and Scoutmaster still don’t “get it,” to boot them out forthwith.

Stop emailing. Ask your district for a Unit Commissioner to help you. 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 no matter who is appointed—be it sons or not—appointment of Patrol Leaders is anathema to the Scouting program and principles and this isn’t open to opinion or further discussion; it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Don’t permit these two deviants to claim “authority” from “council” because “council” is superseded by BSA national policies and cannot be altered on whim.

Hi Andy,

You’ve touched on what an 18-21 year old can do “officially” in Scouting, such as ASM, ACM, etc. But I haven’t heard anything recently about theCollege Scouter Reserve, which allowed young men and women to stay registered in Scouting and to either help their old units or volunteer in units, districts, camps, etc., according to their availability, while away at school. As a Hispanic Outreach worker, we sometimes hired from this pool for part-timers, too. By the way, some councils will register former leaders as Scouter Reserve. I’ll bet this could be a great untapped source for commissioners, merit badge counselors, etc., in districts and councils across the country. (Dean Whinery, “I used to be a Beaver…”)

Why not simply recruit and register these folks as Commissioners, Merit Badge Counselors, District Committee members, and so on, rather than even deal with the amorphous “Scouter Reserve”? Also, since 1999, a Boy Scout who turns 18 can simply transfer into a Venturing Crew for the next three years, and continue to enjoy the Scouting program (maybe with his girlfriend, too?)!

Hi Andy,

I’m working on my thesis for Commissioner Science Doctorate, and I’m having trouble finding literature on my topic: “The Two-Hats Commissioner.” Can you explain to me what it means, and definition of a “two-hats Commissioner”? I tried looking at all the BSA sites I could find, and can’t come up anything on it. I’d like to put something together if I can, but I need a little help. I’d be grateful for any help you can give or advise. (Donna Rowe, UC, Otschodela Council, Burlington Flats, NY)

Who originated the “two-hats commissioner” expression? Was it you? If so, you’re really the only one who can define it. If someone else, go ask ’em!

My own take on that expression is simply a volunteer who is wearing more than one Scouting “hat” — Commissioner (or some other position) and something else. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of this, myself. I’m a Commissioner, and I’m also a District Committee Member. I probably shouldn’t be both (unless I either have entirely too much time on my hands, or I have no personal life–neither of which is true), but we Scouters tend to stack up hats on our heads, trying to “multi-task” when we should really be concentrating on just one “job” and doing it with excellence.

There is one BSA policy regarding Commissioners in particular, and that’s that no Commissioner may simultaneously hold a unit leader position.

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful.

Dear Andy,

My son attended an Emergency Preparedness Merit badge camp and still likes step 8—the Troop Mobilization Plan. I approached the leaders of our troop about this and was informed they didn’t have a plan and had never had a troop mobilization. I then asked how the other Scouts in the troop could have completed this merit badge without having to do this, but this produced no straight answers.

So, my son needs to know what a plan consists of and how to go about getting a troop mobilization going. In fact, I was approached to be the adult leader and see that this gets done, but I can find no information on it. The only thing I know is that a plan needs to be written and a troop mobilization needs to be done. I can’t find any information on how to do this or what the plan and mobilization consist of. I’m a fledgling leader and
want to do good, but I personally think they gave me this responsibility because I asked to many questions! I just want to get this done so my son can complete this badge. He’s 13 and works very hard. He loves Scouts. HELP! (Mike K)

Yup! I’ve read the requirement for Emergency Preparedness and an actual troop mobilization is definitely needed in order to complete the requirements! OUCH!

Check the Emergency Preparedness merit badge pamphlet for how to do this, or Google “troop mobilization plan.”

SCOUTMASTER ALERT! You need a aTROOP MOBILIZATION PLAN! Right away!

Wow! Mea culpa! Even when I was a Scoutmaster, I didn’t know this! Didn’t read the requirements for this merit badge till you asked the question (there are probably more than a hundred others that I’ve never read up on, too!), but now that I have, I can sure understand why that requirement’s in there… It’s a way to assure that most if not every troop in the BSA has a mobilization plan. Recent events like 9/11, Katrina, the California fires, tornadoes, the current mid-western floods, and a host of other urgencies augur for this being created and put in place TODAY!

Now, I’m going to make a promise to myself, and to you and all of my readers: I’m going to bone up on every one of the “Eagle required” merit badges, and I’m going to do this on a one-a-week basis till I know them all!

Dear Andy,

What’s required for you to wear with your uniform when you wear a long-sleeved uniform shirt? (Susan Martin)

A long-sleeved uniform shirt is worn in exactly the same way as a short-sleeved one, with all patches/badges in their proper places, plus Scout Cap or hat, belt, pants, and socks. Neckerchief-and-slide are at the discretion of the troop.

Hi Andy,

Long-time reader, first-time writer! J Seriously, though, my son’s troop has an issue that’s tearing it apart. His troop is located in a district and council where a certain religious organization’s troops outnumber the “community” troops ten-to-one. While most district campouts and Camporees run fairly smoothly despite this imbalance, out winter Klondike Derby has had issues for the past several years. In a recent PLC annual program planning meeting, the Scouts decided that they didn’t want to do the Klondike anymore because it just wasn’t fun anymore. We’ve since heard from other folks in the minority “community” troops that they actually want to organize an alternative Klondike, to be held the same weekend. They even reserved the council campground for this, and have lined up several activities that would be a lot of fun and would offer the opportunity to learn a lot of new skills. Unfortunately, the Chartered Organization Representative for our troop is also an Assistant District Commissioner (for Cub Scouts), and she’s totally against any division between our “community” troops and the religious organization’s dominant troops. At a recent troop parent meeting, she made it VERY clear that, as our Chartered Organization Representative, she would not allow our troop to attend the alternative event, because, to her way of thinking, participating in such a “rebellious” activity would ruin our troop’s reputation. As a result, the troop committee vetoed the PLC’s plan to attend this event. But then, as more information on the event because available, our Scoutmaster began to champion the idea of going to the new alternative event. Unfortunately, when this topic was brought up again, it was shot down, mostly by mothers who also work with the ADC in Cub Scouting. So as not to incur her further wrath, the Scouts who still want to attend the new event are literally sneaking around to get the information about it, so they can go as “visitors,” and not as a troop. At a recent Roundtable, notes were being passed around like in a junior high classroom. And, as it turns out, our troop’s newest “reputation” is that we’re under the dictatorship of this COR-cum-ADC (even though she’s not our ADC!), and we’ve become a district joke. As a parent, I want my son to have fun and learn skills as they are offered. The politics of this should have nothing to do with my son, and I’m livid that it has gotten to the point where his Scouting activities are becoming stultified for no good reason. So, I’m asking for those who feel the same as I do… Does a COR really have that much power, that he/she can dictate which events the troop attends, and which it doesn’t? Does a troop have any recourse if they feel the COR is too controlling, or controlling in areas where he/she shouldn’t be? If so, what steps can be taken? Lastly, what do you do in a parent meeting when one gender outnumbers the other gender, and then starts dictating what the Scouts can do and not do, despite the wishes of the actual leaders of the troop (like the Scoutmaster) and the Scouts themselves? Your response would be greatly appreciated. I’m seriously thinking of removing my son from this troop because of the COR and the other members who fail to put the Scouts’ needs and desires first. I’m hoping to find a way to resolve these issues though before I make such a drastic move. Thanks in advance and sorry this is so long. (Name Withheld)

Let’s begin at the beginning: Scouting is a movement more than an “organization” in the corporate sense, and when its program is carried out largely by volunteers and not employees, the “chain of command” and other corporate structural-type standards can become muddled. But the bottom line is this: Scouting’s not about camping or Klondike derbies or such—those are its tools, but not its goals–it’s about gently and positively teaching life lessons, largely by example, while boys are having fun together in small groups (we call these boys Scouts and the small groups patrols). When this aspect is lost, gets muddled, or becomes subverted, it’s not Scouting any longer; it’s something else entirely. You’ve told me not about one problem, but about many, and I’ll try to deal with all of them, beginning with the Klondike derby…

A Klondike derby, like ALL other Scouting events that bring Scouts together—whether from several patrols within the same Troop or many patrols across many Troops—should most importantly be fun. If an event, like what’s become of your District’s Klondike, isn’t fun anymore, the Scouts should absolutely “vote with their feet” and either (a) not go at all, or (b) attend another district’s Klondike, or (c) have an event of their own, which CAN be fun. Your Troop chose the third option, and there’s no reason in the world why they shouldn’t proceed with it. BUT, at the same time, the adult volunteers in the Troop should be voicing the Troop’s discontent with how things are being handled at the Klondike, so that perhaps some changes will ultimately happen to bring the fun back. The venues for this include conversations with your Troop’s Unit Commissioner, or your District Commissioner, or even your District Executive, your District Roundtable meetings, and so on. This way, it’s out in the open and there’s no skulking around the back alleys.

As for your COR, she’s clearly overstepping her role. BSA basic training literature says this about the role of the Chartered Organization Representative: “The representative supports the needs of the troop as they (that is, the troop) carry out a planned program.” Nowhere does it say that the COR influences, much less controls, the Troop’s program itself. Clip her wings, fast!

Continuing with Scout leader training fundamentals, the Troop’s program is decided by THE SCOUTS—The Patrol Leader’s Council (made up of the Patrol Leaders, with the Senior Patrol Leader in the role of Chairman, and the Scoutmaster sitting to one side as an advisor)—AND NO ONE ELSE. The PLC generates program ideas, makes decisions on what activities the Troop will engage in, and places these events on the Troop’s annual calendar. The Scoutmaster then brings this plan to the Troop Committee, not for their “vote” but for their support by filling out tour permits, making reservations, providing transportation, collecting any necessary monies, securing the necessary equipment, etc. Further, in a BSA booklet titled d TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK, it is clearly stated (the italics are in the book!): ” The Patrol Leader’s Council, not the adult leaders , is responsible for planning and conducting the Troop’s activities.” This book further states that, when the PLC, through the Scoutmaster, submits its plans to the Troop Committee, the Committee “approves the plan or makes alternative suggestions for the PLC to consider”. Notice that is absolutely does NOT say that the Committee can “reject” or “veto” a plan; only that it can offer suggestions. As for parents in general, who aren’t registered volunteers with the troop, they have no say-so at all. Period.

So, not only is your COR way out of line, but your non-registered parents need to button their lips, and the Troop Committee needs to grow a spine (so does your Scoutmaster, too)! Moreover, if your COR’s trying to throw her weight around by wearing her Assistant District Commissioner hat as well, the Troop Committee needs to remind themselves and her that commissioners have absolutely no power or authority over units—the role of commissioner is purely that of support and counsel; it is a diplomatic role only. Units do not “report to” commissioners. Ever. No exceptions. A commissioner can advise and counsel, but that’s all. And, if a unit, for whatever reason, chooses to reject that advice, that’s the end of the story. Units are autonomous. So, who gives a flying fig about “incurring the wrath” of this woman! How darned lily-livered is this Troop Committee of yours! Think about it this way: When you deny these Scouts something they really want to do, because one person is buffaloing a bunch of adults (including the Scouts’ primary role model, the Scoutmaster), what life-lesson are you all teaching these impressionable boys and young men? (And don’t think for a minute that they haven’t figured out what’s going on.)

One little wrinkle you didn’t mention: Are these other mothers, who sided with your COR, registered members of the Troop Committee, or are they “involved parents”? If the latter, then I repeat: They have no say-so at all! If the former, then maybe you need to change the composition of the committee and get some folks with spines in there!

Hi Andy,

We spoke with the District Executive about this situation and he’s standing behind the COR. His interpretation of the Troop Guidelines is that the COR is acting within her rights to o “guide you on the organization’s policy,” and suggested that if the committee feels strongly about it, they could contact the head of the Chartered Organization to see if he thinks the COR stepped over the boundary. So basically, I don’t see anything changing in the troop unless more than one person stands up and demands that the troop be run properly. (Name Withheld)

Well, this is a fine kettle of poisson! I agree with you that one voice in the wilderness isn’t enough, and I know from experience that, when the organization’s been corrupted, it can’t be changed “from the inside.” It can only be changed from the top. Anything else is an exercise in futility. The best bet, it seems to me, is for the Scouts themselves to “vote with their feet” and attend neither the Klondike nor the campout till this starts resolving itself.

The DE’s point, and his suggestion, are both mistakes, based on what you’ve described to me. This really isn’t about anyone else’s “interpretation” of a COR’s role; it’s about the cold fact that this particular COR has singlehandedly squelched something that the Scouts themselves wanted to do, that was unassailably a Scouting activity. If your poor excuse for a DE happens to read this, he’ll know first-hand what little I think of his wrong-headed response—tantamount to dereliction of duty.

Hi Andy,

My question is about finding information on a ceremony for presenting a religious award. My Webelos Scout son earned his God and Me religious emblem, and his pastor is looking for a short presentation. Is there anything “out there”? (Cathy Heath WDL, Pack 327, Glaciers Edge Council, Delavan, WI)

Congratulations to your son! He can wear a special “square knot” on his uniform (and carry it over to his Boy Scout uniform!) for this! I haven’t seen a particular “ceremony” or “presentation” for this, but I’m sure if the Pastor briefly reviews what earning this means, and involves you and your husband in the “pinning on,” (one of you pins on the medal and the other pins on the square knot badge—use a safety pin) that that will do the trick very well!

NetCommish Comment: Here’s a sample ceremony we wrote awhile back:

 

SAMPLE RELIGIOUS AWARD PRESENTATION CEREMONY FOR PACKS

Ladies, Gentlemen, Scout Leaders and Scouts, we have just concluded our Pack’s awards ceremony where we have honored those Scouts who have demonstrated achievement by earning Scouting awards. Tonight, we also want to recognize a Scout who has demonstrated his commitment to the Cub Scout Promise and have a very special presentation to make.

Dim lights and light a candle in front of a large replica of the religious emblem square knot (can be made with purple felt and rope painted silver).

Cub Scout ___________ please escort your parents to the front of the room and then turn to face the pack.

We are very proud of ___________. For the past ___ months he has worked with both his family and his religious advisor to learn more about his religious faith and his duty to God. After much hard work and personal growth, he has received the right to wear the religious emblem of his faith on his Scout uniform and was presented with a medal by his religious advisor ___ weeks ago. ___________, like all Scouts who have received a religious award, he may now wear Scouting’s universal religious award square knot on his Scout uniform and may continue to wear it as a Boy Scout, Explorer or Adult later in his life.

We now take great pleasure in presenting the religious emblem square knot to his parents, Mr. and Mrs. ___________ in recognition of the role they have and will continue to play in his religious growth. Mr. and Mrs. ___________, will you present your son with the religious emblem square knot?

___________, we know you will wear this square knot centered over your left pocket with pride. Congratulations on your accomplishment. You have lived the Cub Scout promise well. Please escort your parents back to their seats.

Almost every religious body in the United States has a religious emblems program open to Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and Campfire Incorporated. We encourage all Scouts to consider participating in this program. If any other Scouts in this Pack are interested in working toward the religious award of their own faith, please see ___________________ (Awards Chairman) at the end of this meeting. He/she has information on the emblems and will make it available to you.

SCOUTERS PLEASE NOTE:

You will notice that this ceremony did not mention what the Cub Scout’s religion was or the name of the church, temple, synagogue, mosque or other religious organization where the medal was presented and only referred to the universal religious emblem square knot. There are three very good reasons for using a non-denominational ceremony:

1) This method avoids creating a situation where another Scout may believe he has to belong to a particular religion (and may even think he should join another faith) just to participate in Scouting;

2) This method encourages other Scouts to consider earning the religious emblem of their own faith, so they can get the same award (the knot) as Jimmy; and

3) This method allows a Scout leader to give the same level of praise to each Scout earning an emblem using the same ceremonial props. The leader doesn’t have to know a lot about each religion, doesn’t have to create new props, and doesn’t have to worry that any Scout might think a certain religion is favored.

 

Dear Andy,

It seems that the Scouting program has gotten away from some flag etiquette. When I was a Scoutmaster some 20 years ago, when the American Flag was presented, you saluted until told “two,” and you then placed your right hand over your heart with your fingers formed in the Scout Sign, and repeated the Pledge of Allegiance. According to the American Legion, that’s the proper way of doing it. But the Boy Scout Handbook teaches that you give the military-style salute when saying the Pledge of Allegiance. How can this be corrected? (Richard Barden, UC, Glaciers Edge Council, Madison, WI)

I first joined Scouting in 1950 and in all the time from then till now I’ve never heard nor come across the type of “salute” you describe. Members of both Boy Scouting and the military, when in uniform, salute with the right hand to the brow (or cap-brim, as the case may be) and the hand remains there through the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ve also looked through every y Boy Scout Handbook and Handbook For Boys that I own, going back over 90 years, and no such “salute” as you describe is in any of them. So, I did a little more research. Here’s an excerpt from the official U.S. Flag Code (boldface mine):

“The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag…should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should… render the military salute.

So, I’d have to say that the Boy Scouts’ “flag etiquette” is just fine, and whatever it was that you may have been shown 20+ years ago may have been a bit off the mark.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

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

(October 2006 – Copyright © 2006 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.

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