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Issue 129 – March 25, 2008

Dear Andy,

I’m a District Advancement Chair and I’ve been told that for an Eagle Scout project, as the district representative who reviews the project workbooks, I should only look to see that the recipient of the project are from the approved type of organization and nothing else. Some troop leaders are saying that the Scoutmaster and troop committee have gone over everything, and that I’m holding the Scout up, and that if I do see anything else, I should just sign off and add a note on what the Scout should add to the project write-up, and that this should be done as soon as possible because the Scout’s 18th is rapidly approaching and delay will cost him his Eagle.

I feel that I should be checking the project’s write-up to see that these areas are covered in the plan: “Plan your work by describing the present condition, the method, materials to be used, project helpers, and a time schedule for carrying out the project, the estimated cost of the project, and how the needed funds will be obtained. Describe any safety hazards you might face, and explain how you will ensure the safety of those carrying out the project.”

I currently review the project with another person and, when we find something that needs revision, we give the Scout a sheet telling him just what adjustments are to be made, and after he has made these corrections to return the workbook to me and I will then sign off on the project.

Some projects have come to me for building a wooden deck or a wheelchair ramp and I knew that a building permit is required but none is included, so I asked for a correction to the plan to include it (as a professional engineer I’m charged by the state to insure public safety, so, I’m forced into this box).

My usual timing is two weeks, and I successfully make every effort to turn my review around in less time than that.

Am I missing the point of what a district review is? (Georg Dahl, District Advancement Chair, Tidewater Council, VA)

That’s a very important question and I’m delighted that you’ve asked it!

There has been a distinct and delineated evolution and progression to Eagle projects, both in their presence as a requirement for the rank and in the process by which they are approved. Let’s begin at the beginning, which is 1952 (from 1911 through1951 there was no Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project)…

The concept of service first appears in the ‘52 Handbook for Boys. It wasn’t a formal requirement, but this statement: “…do your best to help in your home, school, church or synagogue, and community.” Then nine years later, in 1963, the supplement to the Scout Handbook (6th Edition, ‘61) made this statement, as an official requirement: “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and carry out a service project helpful to your church or synagogue, school, or community approved in advance by your Scoutmaster.” (Note that, at that time, approval for the Scoutmaster was the only pre-requisite.) Two years later, in the 1965 Scout Handbook (7th Edition) continued this requirement intact: While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and carry out a service project helpful to your church or synagogue, school, or community approved in advance by your Scoutmaster.” It stayed this way for the next seven years.

Then, in the 1972 Scout Handbook (8th Edition, req. 5, p. 91), this subtle change (italics mine): “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to your religious institution, school, or town. This project idea must be approved by your Scoutmaster and troop committee before you start.” This, also, remained intact for the next seven years. In 1979 there was another refinement, this time, for the first time, bringing into play supra-troop review. The 1979 Official Boy Scout Handbook (9th Edition, req. 5, p. 537) stated (italics and underline mine): “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to your religious institution, school, or town. This project idea must be approved by your Scoutmaster and troop committee and reviewed by the council or district before you start.” So now we have a review at the district or council level, but not direct approval. That took eleven more years.

The Boy Scout Handbook of 1990 (10th Edition, req. 5, p. 596) stated for the first time (again, italics and underline mine): “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community…The project idea must be approved by your Scoutmaster and troop committee, and approved by the council or district before you start.” The Eagle service project as we know it today began to require approval above the troop level, and there has been no material change in this aspect for the past 18 years.

The only further refinement occurred in 1998, when the official project workbook was introduced. The Boy Scout Handbook (11th Edition, req. 5, p. 447) stated (italics mine): “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community…The project idea must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your Scoutmaster and troop committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Life-to-Eagle packet, BSA publication no. 18-927, in meeting this requirement.”

So yes, the District Advancement Chair (or designee) definitely does have final authority to approve the Eagle service project plan. In this capacity, your eyes would be the last ones to see the workbook and yours would be the final signature required before the Scout proceeds with the actual work. From what you say you look at, and what your do, I’d say you’re applying due diligence, which is your responsibility. It’s not, however, necessary for the person in your position to be an engineer by education or profession, but it does sometimes help—especially when your special knowledge ultimately assists the Scout in carrying out his project in accordance with local or state codes or ordinances, when there’s significant construction involved. But we must remember that this is, after all, a project by a teen-aged young man. We’re not building the next nuclear power plant here.

As regards timing, there are two factors to consider. The first is that it’s worth making sure that every troop in your district understands your role and the time involved to accomplish it. This avoids unpleasant surprises, as when a Scout approaching his 18th birthday hasn’t allowed for the turn-around time it will take for obtaining your signature. The second is, of course, the time-line on the process itself. You haven’t mentioned how your process works or what sort of time-line you generally operate with. For example, are we talking about, let’s say, a four-day turn-around: Scout mails to you, you receive and review on the same day, you mail back to the Scout a day later. Or is the process more like two weeks: Scout mails it to you, you get to it when you can, you mail it back when you’re able. Whatever time-line you use is the one every troop and every Eagle candidate needs to know about well ahead of time, so they can properly plan. And, you have to be consistent: This can’t be three days with one Scout and three weeks with the next.

Now there’s something else you haven’t mentioned, and that’s how you handle project concepts. What happens, for instance, if a full project plan reaches you and, in your judgment, the project idea itself doesn’t fit the standards for an Eagle service project? That is, regardless of how well the tasks are described, the project itself doesn’t hold up or can’t be deemed an Eagle project. For instance, a Scout wanting to do a fund-raiser for a local church is certainly admirable, but BSA policies simply don’t permit fund-raisers as the main thrust of an Eagle project, no matter how worthy the cause. When is this aspect caught and redirected? I’m hoping that it’s very early on, in a conversation between you and the Scout himself.

At any rate, I’d say you’re right on the money and you do have both the authority and the obligation to “sweat the details” for the ultimate benefit of the Scout and his recipient. I would say, however, that this should be a one-time back-and-forth: If the Scout does make the adjustments you suggest and then resubmits, that resubmission gets a sign-off (i.e., he’s not told to do yet another go-round).

In my own experience, which can be traced back to 1989 as far as district-level advancement approvals are concerned, a two-week turnaround is a bit long of tooth, but not unreasonable if we’re talking U.S. mail. (There are faster ways, of course, including using Internet emails with attachments, since the workbook is available online in a read-write mode.) However, so long as your consistent and everyone knows what to expect, this shouldn’t be problematic. Besides, if somebody needs really fast turnaround (18th birthday, weather, school break, some other time-line issue) they can always enclose a special note or, even better, arrange a time to meet with you personally and do it right then and there!

 

 

Dear Andy,

 

This week, our Council Advancement Chair came to our roundtable and, during the course of his talk, he said to all in attendance that the Scoutmaster actually has the final say on whether or not a Scout earns a merit badge (this sounds incredulous to me!), and said that since the Scoutmaster’s signature is required on the council advancement forms, where both ranks and merit badges are recorded by the unit and turned into the council for record keeping, the Scoutmaster can hold back his signature on the application if he chooses to. He said that this can be verified in the Advancement Guidelines book. Does this sound right? I thought the “Blue Cards” are the only forms needed for the council to record an earned merit badge. Why should a Scoutmaster have the final say over the Merit Badge Counselor, who might be someone whose profession is the subject-matter of the merit badge? (R.R., Council Name Withheld)

No one in that position—or any position of district leadership—has the right to be that wrong.

That unfortunate Council Advancement Chair is absolutely, totally wrong. The purpose of the Unit Leader signature is to indicate that the earned merit badge is duly recorded in the troop’s advancement records, and that’s it—That’s exactly what that means and that’s all it means. Moreover, the BSA is absolutely crystal clear that the sole and unassailable authority that a merit badge is completed is the Merit Badge Counselor and no one else. Moreover, no requirement of a merit badge may be subject to re-test or quiz or any other nonsense once the Merit Badge Counselor has signed the appropriate “Blue Card” stubs. All of what I’ve just described is written BSA policy and when somebody tells you something like that uninformed or misinformed gentleman did, challenge it right then and there. Tell ’em, flat out, “I need you to show me that in writing before I’m gonna buy what you’re saying.”

But there’s even more damage here: This gentleman made his erroneous statements at a roundtable, to how many other adult volunteers, and now they’re going to take this back to their troops and start doing this all wrong, and teach others that this can be done and damage untold numbers of Scouts not only right now but into the future as well. I’m urging you with all sincerity to immediately contact your Roundtable Commissioner and ask him or her to reach out to everyone who was there that night and set the record straight! This is exactly the sort of malarkey that takes on a life of its own if not stopped cold.

Andy, you’re awesome!

For my own records, can you direct me to the resource that shows that the counselor is the final authority on the merit badge, or, even more specifically, that the Scoutmaster’s signature on the Blue Card is solely to verify the merit badge was recorded in the troop records. Thanks again. (R.R.)

Please share the information I’m about to give you with the Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner, so that those who heard the incorrect information may now hear the correct information:

BSA Advancement Rules and Regulations, Article X, Section 1, Clause 13: “The responsibility for merit badges shall rest with the merit badge counselor approved by the local council and district advancement committee…The merit badge counselor shall prepare and qualify youth members. There shall be no board of review procedure for merit badges…” (refer to page 17 of Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures [Cat. No. 33088C]).

“A merit badge cannot be taken away once it has been earned…” (same book, page 24).

And now, the coup d’etat… The APPLICATION FOR MERIT BADGE (“Blue Card”) itself (No. 34124). Look at the back of the third (“Counselor’s Record”) stub: “A merit badge application can be approved only by a registered merit badge counselor” and “Turn in your approved application to your unit leader.” Now look at the bottom of the inside of the first (cover) stub: “Applicant will turn in this portion to his unit leader for record posting” (NOT FOR “RE-EXAMINATION”!). Now look at the “Applicant’s Record” and “Counselor’s Record” stubs, where the date to be written in by the Merit Badge Counselor is the date completed. Completed means just that. The work’s done. The badge has been earned.

Still need more? OK, how about the first stub again… At the top, it states: “The applicant…has met all requirements…” End of story.

Dear Andy,

I’ve read in your column that all merit badges, earned anywhere, count, and there will absolutely not be any re-testing by anyone. I’ve also read that the Merit Badge Counselor’s signature is the sole indicator that the badge is completed.

However, I remember attending a session for Fingerprinting merit badge, where I saw first-hand that none of the Scouts there actually took fingerprints (the very first requirement!). Instead, they simply stood there and allowed someone to squish their fingers against the inkpad and paper, after which they were sent back to their seat. So, if a Scoutmaster, let’s say, becomes aware of a Merit Badge Counselor simply pencil-whipping merit badges, there must be some method by which the unearned merit badge can be challenged. Of course, leaders can steer future candidates toward better MBCs, but if a Blue Card comes back signed as complete and the Scout simply didn’t do the requirements, the integrity of earned advancement is lost. If all merit badges, earned anywhere, count, what’s the correct course of action when the “no more-no less” directive is ignored? (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA policy is clear: No rank or merit badge, once earned (i.e., there’s a final sign-off signature) can be re-tested or rescinded. If you observe such mis-handling of merit badge requirements as you’ve described, your obligation is to report this to the district or council advancement person responsible for the quality of the Merit Badge Counselors, so that corrective action may be taken through the correct channel. But it’s absolutely not your responsibility to re-test, rescind, or in any way interfere with what a Merit Badge Counselor has done, once the Blue Card’s been signed. This applies to merit badges earned at summer camp, where you might question what’s been done. In the case of summer camp, your conversation is with the Program Director and/or Camp Director.

That said, there is something you can do, if you’re real subtle and non-accusatory about it… Here’s a brief story:

Scout comes back from summer camp with a “partial” for Swimming merit badge. Calls me up (I’m a Swimming MBC) to complete the “talking” requirements. Since my signature’s going to be the “final sign-off,” I want to see him in the water (Duh!). So we go to a pool. He jumps in and Aaaaakkkk! The only reason why this Scout can stay afloat is that he’s fat, and therefore buoyant! Stroke development is almost non-existent! So I have a choice. I can tell him he can’t swim worth a darn and I won’t “pass” him. Or I can say, “Hey, that’s pretty good, but I’ll bet you can do better… Why don’t we spend a few sessions here and ‘polish the chrome’ a little bit, and we’ll do the ‘talking’ stuff at the same time.” Couple of sessions later, he truly qualifies as the holder of Swimming merit badge. Epilogue: Several years later, I ran into him at a Gathering of Eagles, and he thanked me. Turned out he went out for Lifesaving MB the following summer, and was complimented by the camp counselor on his stroke development! HooHah!

Hey Andy,

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about parents who put pressure on their sons to advance in rank and get merit badges? For example, “If you get the X Merit Badge, I’ll buy you an iPod.” Obviously, what a parent does with his or her son is their own business. But I think educating the parents to let their sons advance on their own to make them feel the sense of accomplishment is the way to go. (Please leave my name and council out, as a parent may read it in your column and make the connection.)

I’ll leave your name off, but do you really think any parent who’s bribing his or her son reads my column!?! <wink>

“Bribe” is exactly the right word, by the way, and actions like these undermine the Scouting program, to say nothing about the permanent damage these misguided parents are doing to their own children. These people don’t get it that, especially in Scouting, the journey is the reward. The little cloth badges aren’t “rewards,” either. They merely symbolize the various journeys.

(Think you have “horror stories”…? I’ve seen parents promise their sons Beemer rag tops if they earn Eagle! And others tell their sons, “No drivers license unless you earn Eagle.” What absolute baloney! These parents should be taken out and shot!)

Start fixing this from the bottom-up. Got a new batch of Webelos parents whose sons are joining the troop? Sit the parents down, with their sons’ handbooks, and have a Scoutmasters Conference with them. For instance, “Turn to pages 12 and 13…That’s the Scout uniform, there on page 12, and that’s what we expect at every troop meeting. Any questions? No? Good. Let’s move on…” Then (here it is!), “Turn to page 14…last paragraph–the one that says, ‘…badges are not the most important part of Scouting…it’s what they represent…” And so on.

BUT, at the same time, if you’ve been guilty of telling your Scouts, “Show up Saturday morning for the town clean-up, and you’ll get service hour credit” you’re guilty of bribing too! (Not a joke here, my Scouting friend!) Here’s the thing: Scouts don’t show up to help out because they’ll get service hour credit; they show up and help out because they’re Scouts.

Dear Andy,

I have an acquaintance who’s a single mom. Her son tried Scouting, but was pushed out of the troop by his Scoutmaster because “he couldn’t do things like camp-outs without a dad.” This makes me very sad, and it also raises the “crusader spirit” in me. Should I do
anything along the lines of finding out the name and troop number (they live in a different district in our council) and “telling on” him? Or should I let it go? (Karen Stuteville, DL, Longhorn Council, TX)

Please tell your friend that that Scoutmaster handed her a load o’ baloney! Boy Scouting is not “dad n’ lad camping” or dad n’ lad anything else! It’s about boys hiking, camping, competing, playing games and learning with other boys, in order to nurture their innate desire for independence and self-confidence. She should definitely look for another troop around town—One with a Scoutmaster who “gets it.”

Dear Andy,

First, thank you for the time and effort you put into the Ask Andy columns—they’re a great resource for us.

In your March 12th column, Doug Swift asked about the a supposed requirement for the minimum square feet of tent space per Scout, and your response was that it was “made up.” I was puzzled by this, as I knew I’d read something similar. A bit of digging found the source. I’d like to point you to the “tent” page in the BSA Supply Division catalog, where a sidebar box says: “BSA Long-Term Camping Tent Policy. Long-term camping is defined as five or more consecutive nights of camping. The Camp Health & Safety standards of the Boy Scouts of America require that ‘each camper is provided with a minimum of 30 sq.ft. of sheltered space for sleeping and storing personal gear.’ Please note, some states may require more square footage per camper.” Maybe this just applies to long-term camping, but it seems like it could be the rule being sought. (Jay)

Yes, this refers to long-term camp environments (i.e., anything over 72 hours), which is why I omitted reference to it. For backpacking and even car camping tents, this is an enormous amount of space! Thanks for your sharp eyes and for writing!

Dear Andy,

I’ve searched the Internet for information on this but haven’t come up with anything and wondered if you would educate me. I’ve seen beads hung from leather holders on the belts of Scouters, and I’ve been told that troops used to award beads for participation in various activities. I want to reintroduce this tradition in my own troop, but want to learn more about how other troops incorporate this, more about the background of this tradition, where to find the leather holders to hang from the belt, just more about this in general. Any information would be most appreciated. (Connie Jones, ASM, Mid-American Council, NE)

For a short while time, perhaps a couple dozen years ago, the Boy Scouts briefly employed a “progress toward ranks” scheme that included a belt-hanger, leather thongs, and a series of colored beads signifying the various requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks. I used them in my own troop, in fact. The Scouts liked them, they instantly showed progress, and they were forever breaking and losing their beads. The last point is probably why the BSA abandoned their use. They were never intended for adults, nor for Scouts above the rank of First Class.

You can easily get some leather, thongs, and beads at just about any craft store, but if you do decide to introduce them, don’t say you weren’t cautioned – My own Scouts lost these faster than they lost their neckerchief slides!

Hi Andy,

I lived in America most of my life; now I live in Australia. I recently encountered a couple of Boy Scouts advertising their troop to bring in new kids, so I stopped to ask for information for my brother-in-law as he has a seven year old son. I also asked them about the derby cars and they didn’t know what they were, so I explained it to them and they gave me a card with their leader’s name and phone number. I called her and set up an appointment to meet. We chatted about the Pinewood Derby and I showed her the car my son had made when he was 8 years old, and the pins he had gotten for the activity. I also showed her some stuff on the Web and printed it off, and she was very interested in doing the derby here in Australia.

So now we need to get the spec’s on the cars and the track as well and a sample car kit. Can you please send me a sample car kit as well as a few samples of accessories to show the other troop leaders here in Australia? I’m sure this would be a big hit here if we can get it started. We just need a place we can get the materials from at a good price and the samples I’m sure would sell the leaders on the concept. The boys I talked to the other day were excited about this and want to give it a try. Thank you in advance for any and all the help you can offer. Cheers! (Josie Day, NSW, Australia)

A part of American Scouting in New South Wales? Brilliant! First, check out www.scouts.com.au/ because your brother-in-law’s son is eligible to be a Joey Scout right now, and a Cub Scout very soon! Then, go to “Google” or another search engine and do a search for “pinewood derby cars” and “pinewood derby track”—you’ll get lots of citations to check out and select from. Nowadays, most tracks are made by several excellent manufacturers. Find one that fits your price range (they’re pricey, but last forever!) and find out about shipping. Same with cars—make your selection from an independent manufacturer of kits or the BSA (www.scoutstuff.org) and arrange for shipping. There’s also a movie titled, “Down And Derby” that’s supposed to be pretty good (it’s a family-oriented comedy), that might acquaint your new friends with what it’s (sort of) all about!

Dear Andy,

I’m our troop’s committee chair. I’m relatively new to the position, but I’ve been active on the committee as outings coordinator and advancement coordinator for over four years. I’m also an Eagle Scout and Wood Badge trained (I used to be a Bobwhite). I attend as many of our troop meetings as I’m able to (at least seven out of ten), and most weekend outings. I have two sons in the troop: One is a Life Scout and the other First Class.

Despite being a 33 year old troop with a rich history, we’ve been losing Scouts for some time and we’re now down to just 14 from a high of about 25 a few years ago. Some have aged out of course, but others have just dropped out entirely and at least four have left ours to join a much larger troop (over 65 Scouts) nearby.

Our sponsor also has a Cub Scout pack, which should have been a natural “feeder,” but the pack’s last CC and his son graduated from the pack and joined the other troop (taking other Webelos Scouts and parent with them). They said their reason for making this switch was “concerns about our Scoutmaster.”

Our current Scoutmaster has been in place for almost five years. Most of the troop’s current committee members, the COR and a vocal group of our Cub Scout pack’s parents want him replaced. Since becoming the Committee Chair, I’ve worked to improve our troop’s meetings by giving them more structure (lack of structure was a complaint of the pack parents), improve the outdoor program (at least one outing a month) and improved intra-troop communications (new troop website with updated information on it for parents and Scouts). Our Scoutmaster hasn’t objected to any of these changes, but he really hasn’t helped implement them, either. He’s just sort of “there.” I’ve heard from more than one troop parent and several pack parents as well that the Scouts just don’t respect him. I’ve also learned that the Webelos parents and leaders in the pack where he was a Cubmaster (and his wife was CC) will not consider our troop for their bridging Webelos IIs purely because he’s the Scoutmaster here.

Although lots of folks want him replaced, no one’s is willing to take the job. Many have offered to be an ASM; but not Scoutmaster. I’m contemplating taking this position myself (the COR and parents are urging me to do this) but I feel I can have more influence over the troop as a very involved CC. On the other hand, if we don’t make a change, I think the lack of change will send the wrong signal to prospective Webelos II and other Cubs that our troop isn’t doing something to change. At the same time, I hesitate to “fire” a loyal and hard-working guy who simply seems to lack some intangible quality needed to effectively lead the troop and instill confidence in the Scouts and parents. Is a change warranted? If it is, should I become the Scoutmaster or recruit someone else? How do I recruit a new Scoutmaster among a group of hesitant parents? How do I stop the immediate bleeding in our troop, retain all our Scouts, and recruit five to ten new Webelos IIs each year? I could easily jump ship and run to the larger troop with my two sons, but I have a sense of loyalty to this troop’s sponsor (our family’s a member of the church) and its programs, and I want to turn this troop around and rebuild it to 30 to 40 Scouts within five years. (Name & Council Withheld)

The first thing I think I’d do in your shoes is reach out to your council and ask for Commissioner help, even if only for a “crisis intervention” limited period of time. This will put an ally at your side as your troop works through its situation here.

OK, you’ve known the present Scoutmaster for coming up on five years. Based on your own training (Wood Badge n’ all…) what’s the deal here? Is he really OK? Or is he really a dullard and you’re simply afraid to fire him? How can a guy simultaneously be “hard-working and dedicated” and “just there.” Which is it? Cause it sure ain’t both! Anyway, let’s move on…

As CC you’ve already been stepping into areas you really don’t belong, like troop meeting program and troop outing schedule, while the erstwhile Scoutmaster (who is supposed to be doing these things through the Patrol Leaders Council) sort of watches you knockin’ yourself out as he stands idly by. So, is this Scoutmaster actually doing his job correctly, by staying in the background while the SPL and PLs he’s trained actually run the troop and troop meetings? Or are troop meetings truly boring and unimaginative because the guy’s simply a dullard? (Understand, of course, that many parents with only Cub Scouting experience usually expect a Scoutmaster to do the same thing as a Cubmaster—you know: out front, runs everything, is the big cheerleader and emcee—and in this regard it means they have not the slightest clue about how the Boy Scout program works.)

The next thing I’d be tempted to do is to call a meeting (which you will “choreograph,” with that Commissioner at your side) of all the nay-saying parents who want the Scoutmaster replaced (especially the Webelos Scout parents!)… And then the first thing I’d do is get the WII parents’ assurances that, with a new Scoutmaster, their sons will join the troop. With that assurance, I’d do a little probing on just what it is that they’re expecting from a Scoutmaster (this is to make sure you’re all on the same page)—no “bashing” of the present Scoutmaster; only and purely a description of positive expectations. Once you have this nailed down, it’s time for the “money question.” Taking a Scoutmaster badge (which you’ve bought and brought with you) from your pocket, you hold it up and ask (exactly as I’ve written here): “OK, we’ve heard what you want, and we’re prepared to replace our present Scoutmaster, but we obviously can’t do this unless someone is willing to take over as the incoming Scoutmaster right away… Which one of you here this evening is willing to walk the talk?”

Then be quiet, as you watch the eyes of the “deer in the headlights” widen and glaze over in sheer panic… After a beat or two, you can, if you choose, say the following: “OK, no one. So, suppose I took the job of Scoutmaster… Would you all be willing to have your sons remain in the troop, or join the troop, as the case may be? Do I have your assurance on this?” If no, the party’s over.

If yes, then follow up: “I can’t do this alone and unassisted. We need a new Committee Chair, an advancement chair, an outings arrangement chair (and whatever else you need) and these positions need to be filled by you, here, tonight. Which positions are you willing to take?”

If you still get no responses, the party’s over. If you do get responses, tell ’em that this includes getting fully trained, no buts about it. When you get your commitments, the Commissioner with you should pull out a training schedule and get folks signed up right then and there.

If you do become Scoutmaster, your “sales pitch” to new Webelos II parents is this: “In this troop, because we’re smaller, I will get to know your son on a first-name basis. There’s no ‘sea of tan shirts’ here and your son won’t get ‘lost in the ocean.’ He’ll always get my personal attention, and I’ll be sure to keep an eye on him and his progress and help him solve any problems he might encounter along the way.”
OK, Andy, I hear you. A few things…

Our Unit Commissioner is well aware of the problems but doesn’t have much to offer in the way of assistance.

When I say the Scoutmaster is “there” but also “hard working” I mean he has the best of intentions and attends just about every troop meeting, outing, and service event, but he’s disorganized and doesn’t think more than one meeting or event ahead, if that. If left to his own devices, I believe, he’d run the troop week to week with no thought to planning for events, meeting programs, conflicting schedules with school, our sponsor, and so on.

I’m not afraid to fire him, but I’m hesitant to do so without knowing if we have a replacement.

I’d volunteer myself, but my work schedule often has me at night meetings, so I can’t commit to making troop meetings on a regular basis. I can normally attend weekend outings and service events, except when they conflict with Cub Scout activities.

I know I’m into areas where the CC’s not supposed to be, and I’d rather not be, but until the Scoutmaster’s replaced with someone who’ll do those tasks, what choice do I have?

Your idea of “positioning” our troop as one with more individualized attention is right on and I’ve already been thinking this way.

If I continue to get the complaints from the parents, I’ll take your advice for the choreographed meeting.

From what you’ve described, the present Scoutmaster does need to be replaced by somebody who understands that it’s not the Scoutmaster’s job to develop and run troop meeting programs—That’s the job of the Patrol Leaders Council, chaired by the Senior Patrol Leader.

With your troop committee, identify a parent in your troop who has the characteristics you’re looking for in a Scoutmaster… Ability and desire to mentor and guide youth leaders, even-tempered, sense of humor, understands (or has the capability of understanding) the Scouting program as it’s intended to be delivered, and so on… Next, identify your “number two candidate.” Then, two of you visit with your first candidate (at his or her home, preferably) and tell him or her what conclusion you’ve reached and that you’d like to hear a Yes in response to being asked to become the troop’s next Scoutmaster. Tell ’em it takes training (show the training calendar), too, and that this is an expectation. Then get the Yes. If that doesn’t happen, thank ’em and move on to candidate number two and repeat the process.

As soon as you have your Yes, inform the current Scoutmaster that it’s time to transition and you’d like him to take the position of (fill in the blank) next. And so on…

Make it happen. The boys you’re all serving deserve the very best you can muster; not the “most convenient” for you.

About your “nothing to offer” Commissioner: If this is truly what you’ve got, you’ve got nothing. Tell your District Commissioner in no uncertain terms that you want to be reassigned a Unit Commissioner who’s more than a mouth-breather with a pulse and red jacket.

Greetings Andy,

I’ve recently taken the District Webelos-to-Scout Transition Chair position. Having my son grow within Scouting from Tiger to now First Class has been a real rewarding experience, but the biggest revelation was the Webelos-to-Scout, and how the Scouting program goes from parent-child into adult mentoring-boy-led. Having availed myself of as much training as I could possibly get, I see possibilities that our district is lacking, particularly getting more Cub Scout leaders trained, and encouraging Scouts to become Den Chiefs.

When we were Webelos parents, we had the good luck to have a Den Leader whose oldest son was a Boy Scout and Den Chief, and she herself was very knowledgeable about what the boys needed to do to earn their Arrow of Light. But that isn’t always the case, and with my new position my goal is to get as many Scouters and Scouts trained up as best I can, to provide the best program possible.

So here comes the question… I wouldn’t send Scouts to Webelos Den Leader training (it would bore them silly), but when I can get a Den Chief training session started do you think it would be a good idea to involve Den Leaders? I think that this way the leaders can see how the program works and get a better idea of how to use it to the most benefit. What does your experience tell you? (Don Berger,

Transition Chair, Cascade Pacific Council, WA)

I couldn’t agree more! Den Chiefs are one of the very best ways to put a spring in the steps of the W-T-S transition! For Den Chiefs to be most effective (and have the most fun!) they need to be in place in September of the Webelos I year, if at all possible. Training is definitely critical! There’s the Den Chief Handbook, of course, and a training course as well (see Den Chief Training – BSA book no. 34450C). Stick with the idea—It pays off in spades for everybody involved!

Dear Andy,

In your March 12th column you responded to Scoutmaster Jim Lenell in Pacific Harbors Council, who questioned the types of service projects that would be acceptable. In my former troop (I served as SM and COR at different times) we encouraged the Scouts going for Life to do their community service hours helping on Eagle projects, either from our troop or even other troops, to give them an idea of what was to come for them. They would experience the makings of an Eagle project and possibly get some ideas for when they began doing theirs. Mind you, this was a suggestion; not a requirement. If no Eagle projects were around, any community service time would have been considered and approved. Our troop had two service projects built into the annual program: helping at the town’s annual July 4th fireworks beach party and the council’s Scouting for Food effort, which we help at the Food Bank collection station in addition to our neighborhood canvassing. (Les Sloane, District Committee Member, Los Padres Council, CA)

Terrific ways of doing things! Thanks for sharing these ideas!

Dear Andy,

In a couple of months my troop here is Wasilla, Alaska (just outside of Anchorage) will be having a once-in-a-lifetime Court of Honor, where fourteen Scouts will receive their Eagle Scout rank. We’re looking for a well-known Eagle Scout who is a dynamic speaker to address this event. Our first choice would be Astronaut James Lovell, or someone of that caliber.

My problem is that I don’t run in that circle and have no idea as to where to even start to make such a contact in a timely manner. We can’t afford the speaking fees these people normally receive, but we’re willing to pay his way (our Scoutmaster is a pilot and has offered to guide a fly-in float trip to some of the best fishing in the world).

Can you be of any assistance as to addresses phone numbers or contacts to speakers? (Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)

Wow! Incredibly impressive! The most I’ve ever seen at one Court of Honor was seven! Here are some suggestions to begin work on right away…

– Contact all newspapers that reach you and give them a heads up on this, including date and location, and suggest that this unique event might be worthy of sending at least a photographer.

– Same with TV stations that broadcast local news or are news affiliates, suggesting a video crew. (Perhaps there’s also a well-known and respected local TV personality who might fit the bill!)

– Contact your council’s Scout Executive and ask him if there are any Distinguished Eagles within striking distance (SEs have a “network” that’s pretty impressive).

– Reach out to your governor’s office and ask the Honorable Ms. Palin if she’d like to be the main speaker at the event.

– Same with your senators and congressmen, especially if they can bring American flags that were flown over the capitol!

Please let me know what happens here! And be sure to send me a photo that I can include in an early June column!

Hi Andy,

I’m a Den Leader with ten Bears. These Cubs are working on their weather academics pin. Not all have completed work for their Bear badge yet. Can they still receive their pin? (Luanne Matonik, DL, Northeast Illinois Council)

The Cub Scout Sports & Academics programs are independent of the regular Cub Scout ranks and electives. Recognition for completing any one of these happens as soon as all requirements are completed.

Dear Andy,

My two sons crossed over into a small troop with about seven other Webelos a few months ago. There were about ten Scouts already in the troop, in the 12 to 13 year old age range. We parents are finding that the older Scouts aren’t good examples of Scouting ideals and are too often a negative influence on the new Scouts. We “new Scout parents” are enthusiastic, the troop committee is supportive and active, and the Senior Patrol Leader and ASPL are OK. It’s our hope that we can turn the situation around. Our plan is to focus on working with the new Scout patrol more in a patrol setting, so we can encourage their efforts to advance and, at the same time, limit interaction with the older scouts. The hope is that the older Scouts will be positively influenced by the younger ones. But one of the stumbling blocks is that one of the problematic older Scouts is the Scoutmaster’s own son. Do you have any insight into our situation, and can you offer any pointers? (Jay Carpenter, ASM-in-training, West Central Florida Council)

The first cautionary note is that Boy Scouts isn’t like Cub Scouts. In Boy Scouting, parents and other adults definitely do not “work with the boys,” even under extenuating circumstances such as you’ve described. Virtually the only adult-to-youth connection is between the Scoutmaster and the Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, and Patrol Leaders. It’s the Scoutmaster’s primary responsibility to teach and train the youth leaders of the troop in leadership skills, including fundamental “decorum” and conduct. It’s then the jobs of the Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, and Patrol Leaders to impart a sense of correct conduct to the Scouts themselves. If you by-pass this structure, even for a short while, it’s no longer Boy Scouting. Yes, it’s that straightforward.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide more specific insights because “not good examples of Scouting ideals” and “a negative influence” are simply not tangible enough for concrete evaluation and recommendations. However, as parents, you certainly have the right to speak with the troop’s Committee Chair about your concerns, even to the point of requesting that the Scoutmaster take a more proactive approach to imparting proper behavior to the Scouts, through the youth leaders. However, it must be understood by all that, in a youth-led troop, there will almost always be less “decorum” than one might see in a situation where parents and other adults are in charge. So, you must ask yourselves: Do we truly have a significant negative aberration in attitude and/or behavior here, or is this as simple as 11, 12, and 13-year-old boys being boys?

Selectively reading sections of the Scoutmaster Handbook may help you all get through your present difficulties.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a “follower” of your philosophy ever since I found your columns a year ago or so. Without contradicting your advice about “change from within,” I’d like to offer an alternative point of view. I joined a troop as a committee member over two years ago, when my church took on sponsorship of the pack I’d been Cubmaster for, in order to bring it and a “brother troop” together. At that time, the troop, although some 70 years old, was at a low point and down to only about ten Scouts. The Scoutmaster was a trained, experienced and capable individual, but committee meetings most often were attended by only four people: the Committee Chair, Treasurer, Scoutmaster and me. There were plenty of other registered committee members who did show up when asked to sit on boards of review, but that about all they’d show up for. By last summer, the committee had stopped meeting entirely. In spite of this situation and the Scoutmaster working in survival mode, the troop remained mostly boy-led. Then, about four months ago—inspired by you, I might add—I decided to make a difference and get this troop pointed back toward Scouting’s True North.

The first step I took was to find (though the chartered organization) an effective COR who would show up. My recommendation was an active member of the sponsor (a church) who happened to have earned his Eagle (Double-Eagle, by the way) in this very troop 50 years before (his son made Eagle in same troop 25 years ago). He eagerly accepted, and I offered to step up as Committee Chair (make changes from the top, you said). Our COR felt that is wouldn’t be a good idea for me to be both Cubmaster of our pack and CC of the troop at the same time (pretty sound advice, if you ask me), so, instead, we worked with the current CC to take steps to rebuild the committee. Shortly, we had our first real parents-and-committee meeting, and fully 15 parents showed up! That night, we registered four new committee members: Secretary, Advancement Chair, Equipment Coordinator, and Outings Coordinator. Then we gained six more new Scouts from a nearby pack. We held elections, and the following weekend we conducted Troop Leader Training—for the entire troop! It was hugely successful! We have our Scouts back in uniform (again, thanks to your suggested methods); and—for the first time—we have a new Scout patrol as well as new patrol flags and patrol yells. Even the older (ages 15-17) Scouts have eagerly bought into the new patrols and are eager and interested again!

My goal in all this was not to take over the troop, but to facilitate bringing it to where it should be for the boys’ benefit. Along the way, I hoped to make the troop an attractive choice for Webelos crossing over to Boy Scouts. This is working, in large part, because the core adult leaders weren’t against change—They were just doing the best they could with the resources they had. I hope this will serve as an example to those who see the possibility of making a difference in their units—it can be done!

And keep doing what you do as well—inspiring others to make a difference. Thanks Andy! (I used to be a Buffalo…) (Doug Parker, MC & Training Coordinator, Gulf Coast Council, FL)

My point about “from the top” had to do with a corrupted situation (i.e., not delivering the Scouting program anymore; but delivering something else, instead). Fortunately, that wasn’t the situation with the troop you saved—It simply needed a transfusion, or infusion, if you will—there was no “cancer.”

The way you handled things is fabulous, and obviously worked! My hat’s off to you, the new COR, the Scoutmaster-who-didn’t-quit, and the new parent-volunteers who’ve stepped up to the plate! YOU ALL are where the rubber meets the road! Thanks for sharing this success story with me!

Dear Andy,

I read your column frequently and enjoy it. Most of the time your answers are exactly what I would have given. I’ve held several positions in Scouting over the last few years, and I’m currently the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner and District Training Chair, plus a Committee Member of both a pack and a troop. I represent our district at council meetings, and recently an issue has risen concerning Cub Scout camping. Our council’s Vice-President of Program and Assistant Scout Executive have informed a the district and council leadership of a new standard for Cub Scout camping.

Our council normally has a couple of week-ends in the fall set aside for “Cub N’ Partner” at our council camp. These events have always been for two nights. Now we’re being told that, according to new standards, if Cub Scouts camp for more than one night at a council- or district-sponsored event, that camp would no longer fall under BSA family camping standards. It would instead fall under resident camp standards and, if that happens, we’d have to have a National Camp School-trained Director for each weekend and that the camp would have to provide the meals (i.e., no more family or pack cooking). The council camping committee is going to make a decision soon as to whether the Cub N’ Partner weekends would remain a two-night event or be reduced to a single night, in order to avoid the resident camp standards. Our council camp is located a two-hour drive away from most participants, and reducing the nights to one will most likely greatly reduce participation (it’s been filled with advance reservations up to now). Is this new rule written? I’ve read the 2008 standards for family camping and resident camping and couldn’t find it. I’ve spoken with other Cub Scout leaders who have also read the standards, and they can’t find what’s being referred to. Our Assistant Scout Executive said that, in the past, the standards had grey areas. Now, he says, for the first time, national has put clear standards in black and white. I’d just like to know where that is. If the standards have changed, all that I ask is that they’re made clear to the volunteers in charge of scheduling and running these events, so that in the future these standards can be adhered to. Could you help me shed some light on this? (Amanda Smith, Cherokee Area Council, TN)

The BSA national standard and operational definition for long-term camping is any camping experience in excess of 72 hours. Two nights is 48 hours. This fact alone should make this whole brouhaha academic. If for some weird reason it doesn’t, then the council can get you all a NCS director and staff up the mess hall—simple as that!

Hi Andy,

In our troop there’s been lots of discussion about what “Scout spirit” is and how to apply it to advancement. If, for instance, a Scout isn’t wearing a complete uniform, or seems to regularly act up, or doesn’t seem to engage, or doesn’t attend meetings or campouts due to outside conflicts (sports, theater, work, etc.), how do we approach items like these as they apply to “Scout spirit”? Is there a rule-of-thumb that you’ve used to aid yourself or others in determining a Scout’s “Scout spirit”? This is so subjective, and with every Scout being a unique individual, we’re having difficulties seeing through the haze. (Kenneth Friedrichsen, ASM, Connecticut)

First, you need to know there’s no “Silver Bullet” here. But you can start by reading my December 2006 column.

Then, understand that boys are BOYS and that our job is not to curb them but to aim them. Their energy is boundless and when it’s aimed at the right target gets the job done faster than a New York minute!

B-P: “Any man who can’t make his point to a group of keen boys in five minutes or less ought to be shot.”

Andy: “‘Lecturing’ boys is about as useful and results-producing as trying to teach pigs to fly.”

Scouting is absolutely unique: It leads from the positive. Scouts wear their full uniforms when they see others getting rewarded for doing this; they show up at most all meetings when we give them exciting, interesting, challenging things to do at meetings; they “act up” only when they’re not being challenged (boredom doesn’t last too long with boys—If we don’t give them a way to use their natural energy they’ll make one up!); they grin when we grin, grouse when they see us grouse—They’re “taking snapshots” of us every moment and we can’t ever forget this, not for a second!

Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.

Show me an out-of-control troop and I’ll show you an adult who’s clueless about how to lead boys.

Show me boys “getting in mischief” and I’ll show you a troop that has no program imagination.

EVERY Scout is unique. The minute we find ourselves seeing just a “sea of tan shirts” — that’s the moment to hang it up.

Scoutmasters aren’t “Masters of the Scouts.” They’re men with the “boy-spirit” in them, who become not the surrogate parent, priest, pastor, rabbi, teacher, or even uncle—They become each boy’s Big Brother.

Every boy has Scout spirit already in him; our job is to bring it out in each boy.

 

 

Dear Andy,

 

We’re a relatively new pack, so our first program year ran from December 2006 to December 2007. We’re thinking about trying to get our planning calendar more in sync with the school calendar. Do most packs start their program year in June? September? Some other month?

 

Also, we (somewhat arbitrarily) picked March as the month to hold our Pinewood Derby both last year and this year. Is there a particular month of the year that’s the “traditional” derby month? (Terry Nani, CC, San Diego Imperial Council, CA)

Following the basic school calendar makes very good sense. Your Cub Leader editions of “Scouting” Magazine contain inserts showing how to do the themes for each month. You can also pick up a bunch of booklets titled “Cub Scout Program Helps 2008-2008” (No.34304C) at your local Scout Shop or through the BSA’s Irving, TX office—Cub Scout Division. For 2007-08, this booklet shows the Pinewood Derby being done in January; however, if February works better for your pack, you’re at liberty to switch themes around. February is also the traditional month for the annual Blue & Gold Banquet—Scouting’s “birthday party” at the Cub Scout level. The B&G is also the traditional time for Webelos II Scouts to have completed their Arrow of Light requirements (which also makes them eligible to be Boy Scouts) and many packs have both AoL presentation ceremonies followed by a Cross-Over ceremony for those joining a Boy Scout troop. The B&G can be the pack meeting for the month, or it can be an “extra” event for that month.

One of the reasons for a January Pinewood Derby is so that the Webelos II Scouts (who will be graduating out of the pack in February) have one last shot at a derby before they move on to Boy Scouting!

Dear Andy,

I’m relatively new to Scouting although I have attended most of the training for both Cub Scout leaders and Boy Scout leaders (I have sons in both) plus Wood Badge. We have some issues in our Troop that don’t seem to be getting resolved and I don’t know how to work around it.

Our town is small (about 2,000 population) but our Cub pack has 54 boys, making it one of the largest in the district. The pack has active parents, a great committee, and there are no problems. Our troop is small, however. It has about 14 Scouts and only a half-dozen of these regularly attend troop meetings. There’s no real troop committee, although some parents do help out. There are about four registered adults leading the troop, including the Scoutmaster. He’s a single dad, with no son either in the pack or troop. He’s dedicated to the Scouting program, but he has a job that keeps him from regularly attending meetings and outings. There are two problems with this. First, there’s no continuity of record-keeping for Scouts who are interested in advancement. The second is that, when he’s not there, some committee member will start making up his own “rules” about how requirements are done. Making advancement even more difficult, we have a woman on the committee who is the troop’s advancement chair, and she holds boards of review just once a month, instead of when Scouts are ready to advance.

Now my own son has worked hard and is ready to advance to First Class. For two weeks we tried to call the Scoutmaster to sign his handbook and schedule a conference. The Scoutmaster finally called, apologized for missing the last two troop meetings, and promised that he’d meet with my son to get the handbook signed and do a Scoutmaster Conference, saying, “Go ahead and get on the schedule for the next board of review and within the next two weeks we can finish the legalities of signing and so on.” Well, the Advancement Chair would hear none of this. “It has to be in the exact order as stated,” she said. “First, the handbook’s signed by the Scoutmaster, then it’s handed to me, personally, so I can record the information, and then, after that, I’ll contact your son and tell him when his board of review will be.” Where are the guidelines for following “strictly by the book” compared to using some common sense and being reasonable and being genuinely concerned about the Scouts? It seems to be by the book only with this advancement chair. How do we break this stranglehold on the process (if not the Scouts)? (Laura Hendrix, South Plains Council, TX)

I did some research and found three troops within reasonable distance of your town. I urge you and your son (and maybe some of his Scout friends, too!) to visit every one of these, and find one that’s delivering the Scouting program the way it’s intended. You, see, the problem with the troop your son’s presently in is that it’s not operating “by the book.” This is particularly apparent in the absence of communications between the Scoutmaster and the Scouts, and the Scoutmaster and the troop’s advancement chair (who is, by the way, an obvious pedant).

It’s the Scoutmaster’s specific responsibility (not the Scout’s or the parent’s) to schedule the boards of review for advancing Scouts by personally contacting the advancement chair in the troop and making this happen. So, in this situation, neither one of these two people is operating “by the book.”

If you want to be totally fair to this troop, reach out and ask for immediate Commissioner assistance and oversight. If that doesn’t straighten things out then it’s time to save your son. Don’t let him quit Scouting over this, but don’t try to “fix” these two or any others by yourself. Go out and find a troop that knows how to get it right, and transfer into it immediately. And get some of your son’s friends to do this too. And remember this: “Loyalty” to a troop that doesn’t know it’s elbow from an axhandle is misplaced.

Dear Andy,

Over the years I’ve earned several Scouting awards and the square knots that correspond to them, for wear on my uniform. Two of these I have earned twice, each time in a different Scouting position: The Scouter’s Training Award as a Scoutmaster and as a Boy Scout Roundtable Commissioner, and the Scouter’s Key as a Scoutmaster and as a District Committee Member. I’ve been told that since they are the same award I should only wear one of each on my uniform, but the only BSA-published information I can find on this situation is that each knot should be worn with the proper “device” to identify which position it was earned under. So my question is, which is “proper patch etiquette,”—to wear one of each knot, each with two devices pinned to it, or wear two of each knot with a device on each one? (Ken Stoll, Ozark Trails Council, AK-MO)

Wear just one knot for each, with two devices on each.

Dear Andy,

Are there any rules against taking Cub Scouts rappelling off a cliff? (Rhonda Hitt)

You’ll find the BSA policies on rappelling in the BSA publication Guide to Safe Scouting (Cat. No. 34416D).

Dear Sir,

In one of your replies a while back, you said: “Let’s begin by re-reading the BSA’s own Statement of Religious Principle, which can readily be found on every youth and adult application. There, it states with clarity that while a belief in God is fundamental to Scouting principles, the BSA is completely nondenominational and nonsectarian in all other regards and leaves all specific teachings to be done by others, including parents and religious leaders. So it doesn’t take a Clarence Darrow to figure out that any teachings that are specific to a particular faith or denomination of a faith have no place in a Scout meeting.”

There is a set of circumstances where your penultimate sentence, “…So it doesn’t take a Clarence Darrow…” fails to be true. When the Chartering Organization (“CO”) is itself a religious institution, the unit is considered an extension of that institution’s youth ministry, and the CO may include “teachings that are specific to a particular faith or denomination of a faith” as part of the Scout meeting. While the BSA is and remains completely nondenominational and nonsectarian, a unit chartered by the BSA may, when the Chartering Organization is a religious institution, include the specific teachings of that religion. (J.W.U.)

Nope. The bottom line remains: Specific religious teachings have no place inside a Scout meeting.

Hello, again Andy,

Pursuant to our prior conversation, I decided that the best way to address this, instead of arguing, was to inquire of the Relationships Division at National. Here are the relevant portions of the letter I received in reply to my inquiry: “To best respond to your question there are two sources to use. The primary source would be the Troop Chaplain/Troop Chaplain Aide manual, which is also located on www.scouting.org under Relationships. I would specifically refer to the section “Praying in a Group.” To summarize that section, it is perfectly legitimate for a church who owns the charter to not only pray specifically, but may include denominationally specific materials and thoughts. Many of our congregations do it… The Boy Scouts of America grants charters to specific organizations to accomplish the organization’s missions and goals. (Training the Chartered Organizations Representative; 04-113) You are wise to inform all potential new members of the way your church chooses to use the Scouting program. This way, should they choose not to agree with your program, they may be assisted in finding a Scouting program that meets their need.”

The second part of the reply refers to a portion of my original letter, which refers to the fact that our CO utilizes our Scouting programs to grow young men and women in the knowledge of our specific faith. We let potential members know this up front, but do not insist that youth members be a members of any church, nor that they become members of this church.

In sum, although in a Scouting unit not chartered to a religious organization it is proper and right to be inclusive of all beliefs possibly held by the youth members, on the contrary in a unit which is chartered to a religious organization specific religious teachings may and do have a place in Scouting.

I hope this helps clear things up for you, and trust that you will help clarify the issue through your excellent columns. (J.W.U.)

Thanks for being so thorough, and for writing again. Your quotations not withstanding, the teaching of specific religious principles is not permitted inside a Scout meeting. Period. Prayers are in a different category from teaching. Prayers have always been acceptable within Scouting events, whether they be Baptist or Baha’i, Methodist or Mormon, Catholic, Jewish, or Buddhist, Islam, or Zoroastrian. But this isn’t what we’re discussing. We were discussing the teaching of specific, denominational tenets, and this is not permitted. Moreover, when a church sponsors a Scouting unit, it’s part of their outreach program; not “youth ministry.” Youth ministry is served by the church’s youth group(s), separate from sponsorship of Scouting units.

In point of fact, whereas the duties of a Troop Chaplain (not a lay position, by the way), as described by the BSA, include providing a spiritual tone for meetings and camping experiences, providing spiritual counseling when needed or requested, and even encouraging Scouts to participate in the religious emblems program of their respective faith, the BSA is very clear that “at no time should the Chaplain proselytize.”

So please pray all you like and more power to you for doing so; but don’t subject the Scouts whom you serve to denominational teachings. That’s not what Scouting is all about. Moreover, your church, by its charter agreement with the BSA, has agreed to deliver the Scouting program as written; not its own subjective version of it.

Dear Andy,

In your March 12th column, George from Dan Beard Council was looking for a “Leader’s Minute” about how Scouts turn out in life. I believe what he’s looking for is titled “Out of 100 Boy Scouts” – I’ve attached my own modified and combined version. I hope this helps. (Ric Polselli, SM, Connecticut Rivers Council)

Thanks – This is terrific, and if other readers haven’t seen it, or seen it in a while, here it is…

Out of 100 Boys…

Out of 100 boys who join Scouting, statistics show that 30 will drop out in the first year. Some folks may regard this as a failure, but in later life all of them will remember that they were Boy Scouts and will speak well of the program. Of the 100, rarely will one appear before a juvenile court judge. Twelve of them will be from families who have no religious affiliation; but, through Scouting, these 12 and many of their families will be brought into contact with a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, and will continue to be active in their faith all their lives. Five will earn their religious emblem. Three will enter the ministry.

Each of the one hundred will learn something from Scouting. Many will develop lifelong hobbies and interests that they were introduced to in Scouting. Many will serve in the military and, to varying degrees, profit from their Scout training. Many will find their life’s work through the merit badge system and Scouting contacts. At least one will use his Scouting skills to save another person’s life. Many more will credit it with saving their own. Just over three of the hundred will become Eagle Scouts, and at least one will later say that he values his Eagle badge over his college diploma. Seventeen will later become Scout leaders and will give positive male leadership to thousands of additional boys.

A nationwide survey of high schools revealed the following information:

  • · 85% of student council presidents were Scouts
  • · 89% of senior class presidents were Scouts
  • · 80% of junior class presidents were Scouts
  • · 75% of school publication editors were Scouts
  • · and 71% of football captains were Scouts.

Scouts also account for:

  • · 64% of Air Force Academy graduates
  • · 68% of West Point graduates
  • · 70% of Annapolis graduates
  • · 72% of Rhodes Scholars
  • · and 85% of F.B.I. agents.

And…

  • · 26 of the first 29 astronauts were Scouts.
  • · 11 of the 12 men to physically walk on the moon’s surface were Scouts.

While only one in four boys in America will become a Boy Scout, it is interesting to note that, of the leaders of this nation in business, religion and politics, three out of four were Scouts.

Thanks to all the folks involved for all you have done, for what your doing and for all you’re going to do. Scouting truly does make a real difference. Let’s continue delivering the Promise!

 

Happy Scouting!!

Andy

Have a question? Idea? Suggestion? Thought? Something that works? Just write to me at AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com. (Please include your COUNCIL or your TOWN & STATE)

 

(March 25, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)

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About AskAndy

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

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

Read Andy's full biography

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