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Issue 133 – May 11, 2008

Dear Andy,

A question came up at a recent parents meeting about wearing the neckerchief when the Scouts are in their “Class A” uniform. I’ve always thought that a Scout must wear his neckerchief when wearing his Class A’s, I just forgot where it was written, to show the parent. The leaders have an option of wearing a neckerchief or not. Could you please help me to find where this information is, please. (Philip Hampton)

Neckerchiefs are a troop decision, as stated clearly in the BSA Insignia Guide. Ideally, this is a decision made by the Scouts themselves, which they’re certainly capable of. It’s also something that can be changed from time to time, based on the Scouts’ preferences.

 

Dear Andy,

I’m curious about getting requirements signed off. As a former Scoutmaster and now district advancement committee member, I see that there are a couple of troops in our district using Scouts to approve other Scouts for both rank advancement requirements and merit badges. Is there anything specific that allows or doesn’t allow this practice? (Howie Cullum)

While it’s perfectly OK for a Scout of higher rank to sign off on another Scout’s requirements for a lower rank (we’re talking only Tenderfoot through First Class, of course), it’s absolutely NOT OK for anyone but a Merit Badge Counselor to sign off on a merit badge. The latter is an inviolate BSA policy.

 

Dear Andy,

My son is a 12 year old Star Scout who has expressed interest in becoming a Den Chief. He’s asked his Scoutmaster, who in turn agreed to recommended him for Den Chief Training, and my son assumed that he’d become a Den Chief for one of the dens in the pack that’s chartered to the same church as our troop.

Unfortunately, many of that pack’s leaders believe that there’s a requirement stipulating that Den Chiefs to be 14 years old. I’ve tried to explain to several of the leaders that this decision should be based on the ability and maturity of the individual Scout; however, they continue to insist that Den Chiefs must be 14. One of them, interestingly, was open to having my son as a Den Chief before he’d heard about the alleged age limit. I think he’d still be open to the idea, but he doesn’t want to “break the rules.” I don’t want to try to force someone to accept my son against their will. I’d rather my son seek the DC position with a different pack that’s eager to have him. And I do think that the leaders in our allied pack think they’re carrying out the correct policy. Do you know of any reference that either lists an age or says that there should be no age limit for Den Chiefs? (David Latham)

There’s no specific age restriction, in either direction, for Den Chiefs. You can refer these unfortunately misinformed folks to page 4-15 of the Cub Scout Leader Book: “Cub Scout Den Chief Qualifications: An older Boy Scout…preferably a former Cub Scout, ideally at least First Class rank…”

From personal experience, I can tell you that being 12 and Star rank is the perfect combination! Your son is young enough to be able to relate well to the boys in the den and not too old as to have classic teen angst, and if he’s a Star Scout already this tells me he’s an achiever with energy and enthusiasm. I’d pick him in a heartbeat!

As far as the folks in that pack are concerned, they may not deserve your son, if they’re that misinformed and that calcified. Go help your son find a pack nearby that isn’t being so incorrectly pedantic.

Dear Andy,

Thanks for your reply. I want to make it clear that I don’t think any of these individuals are malicious. They’ve simply heard at some time in the past that there’s a minimum age and don’t know whether or not it is true. It’s the old problem of not being able to prove the non-existence of something.

I’m sure we’ll get everything worked out. By the way, since we last communicated I found another reference: The Scoutmaster Handbook says, in Chapter 3 under the description of the Den Chief position, “… Serving as Den Chief can be a great first leadership experience for a Scout.” (David Latham)

No, not malicious; just dumb. Here’s how to deal with myths like this: Instead of drivin’ yourself nuts trying to find a non-rule, tell them they need to show you in writing where the BSA says this, otherwise fuggetaboudit! The rationale of, “Well, I heard about it somewhere” just isn’t enough.

The Den Chief position can be fabulously rewarding, but it’s also one of the most challenging leadership positions for a Boy Scout in all of Scouting! Think about it: He’s not elected by his peers, he is under the direct “control” of an adult instead of another Scout, and dens meet weekly plus have monthly pack meetings, and in addition to his regular troop and patrol meetings, he’s expected to attend all of these as well—no “doubling up.” If that’s not a challenge, I don’t know what is! Simultaneously, in a den of Wolf or Bear Cubs, and with a Den Leader who’s both wise and knowledgeable, it can definitely be a place to learn leadership skills like no other!

Dear Andy

Our Scoutmaster doesn’t want to hold Order of the Arrow elections. He thinks that OA just takes away his best Scouts and doesn’t give back anything at all. We have a bunch of great kids in the troop and we think they should have the chance to participate. What’s the story on this? (Name Withheld)

Of course this mentality has been going on for decades. It’s usually rampant among troops with dull, boring programs and outings, or that have Scoutmasters who prefer to be dictators and/or “the world’s oldest patrol leaders.” Any troop or leader expressing that nonsense is denying Scouts the opportunity that they have a right to enjoy, and this is tantamount to hostage-taking. Run, don’t walk, away from that sort of troop as fast as you can!

NetCommish Comment:

The first obligation of all members of the Order of the Arrow is to their unit and support of the camping program. It is not a separate “fraternity” for older boys that removes them from the unit. Quite often membership has exactly the opposite effect. Scouts that would have left Scouting, frequently stay and in the process strengthen their units. You rarely hear the above quote from a unit with a quality program that is engaging the Scouts. You may hear it in a unit with a dull, boring program where the leaders mistakenly believe they need to keep Scouts hostage to the unit because they are afraid to let the Scout have the opportunity to do something exciting for fear that they won’t want to come back to the boring program. But chances are the Scout will leave that boring unit because there isn’t anything interesting or challenging. If the Scout gets to do more things that are interesting and challenging, chances are he will stay around longer and in the process help the unit.

Your best option is to work with the Committee Chair and your Unit Commissioner to help educate the Scoutmaster on what the Order of the Arrow is, how it works, and the benefits it offers the unit.

 

Dear Andy,

Per the latest Scouting magazine, there’s supposed to be a new edition of the New Leader-Specific syllabus. I’m unable to order it or locate it online. Is there some place I’m missing where I can order it? (Doug Merrill, Pack CC, Waynesville, MO)

Your best bet is going to be the Ozark Trails Council’s training chair, or Scout shop, in Springfield.

Dear Andy,

I’ve tried that route, but we still haven’t seen anything. No one at the council office has heard anything other than what was in the magazine. Have you found it available through any other source? (Doug Merrill)

If your council doesn’t have it yet, this means it’s not available yet, because the BSA doesn’t hide these — They get them out and in the hands of the local councils as fast as possible. Just be a little patient…

Hello Andy,

My son recently crossed over from Cubs to Boy Scout. In the pack, he wore his shirt and non-Scout shorts. We had the brown Boy Scout shirt, and changed all the patches. We were waiting until after the summer to purchase his $40 green shorts from the Scout shop. Why are they so expensive? Similar shorts in major stores are $20!

My son had Graves disease and is now hypothyroid, what that means his weight has fluctuated greatly—45 lbs. Or three pants sizes in just this past year—and we’re trying to see if he’ll grow more, or lose weight, before the end of summer.

I spoke with one of his troop leaders about this situation, and she suggested that we look through the “extras” the troop had on hand, and we’ll be able to do this next meeting; however, my son was disappointed because he couldn’t be a candidate for Patrol Leader because he didn’t have the right shorts. This sounds a bit over the top for just a meeting. Why is it so important to have the expensive shorts?

As a family, we’ve tried to instill in both our children that it’s not what a person wears that’s important, but rather what’s inside of the person that matters. This is the first time in my 11-year-old’s life that “the brand” matters. We’ve avoided $100 Nike’s and the like, but the pressure from the Boy Scouts is intense. Is it like this in all troops, or did we pick one that’s too upscale? (Tommy’s Mom)

First, let’s do a price check: Boy Scout uniform shorts cost $31.99 and the socks to go with them cost between $4.49 and $11.99, depending on the ones worn by the troop. “Switchbacks,” which have zippered legs and are therefore both long pants and shorts, are $39.95. (Right now, the BSA Supply Division has a special going on: Two Switchbacks for the price of one—and they don’t have to be the same size!)

That the troop offered your son the opportunity to check their “experienced uniform bank” is a wonderful gesture, and I hope you take advantage of it.

Boy Scouting has been a uniformed movement from its inception a hundred years ago. Uniforms are worn by all Scouts, in all countries around the world. The uniform levels the playing field—it leaves no room for “status brands” and such—and at the same time provides for individuality: Scouts wear their adventures and accomplishments on their shirts, as badges. The uniform helps the boy feel a part of the troop and patrol. The uniform helps the boy conduct himself in a Scout-like manner, by reminding him at all times that he’s a Scout. The uniform identifies him as a member of the largest and most influential youth movement the world has ever known–there are 28 million youth around the world, wearing the Scout uniform just as he is.

If you find the uniform too costly, or not to your personal liking, there’s little to prevent you from removing your son from Scouting and having him join a boys’ club in your town, instead. He’ll probably have a fun and positive experience, with no uniform for you to worry about. No, it won’t be Scouting, but that’s your choice.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Unit Commissioner. One of my Cub Scout pack Scouters asked my to verify the policy with regard to whether a Cub Scout can continue to work on the appropriate grade rank award over the summer if they’ve not finished the requirements during the school year. I believe that I was correct in telling them that it’s OK to allow the Cubs these few months to complete their Bear requirements and be awarded the appropriate rank badge, but I’m checking with you on whether my advice was correct or not. (Jim Costello, UC, Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)

For a pretty long while, I operated on the basis of the “new” Cub Scout rank level kicking in when school started up again in late summer/early fall, which would mean that a boy could continue working on his current rank’s electives (Tiger Paws, Arrow Points, etc.) until the pack got back in full swing with the ensuing school year. I recently read, however, that the changeover is to occur at the end of the current school year, so that in the same fashion as a 2nd grader becomes a 3rd grader at the end of his 2nd grade term, a Wolf becomes a Bear at that same time. The advantage to this is that the boys get a head-start over the summer in working toward their new rank, rather than having to wait till the fall. I agree. This sounds like the smart way to go!

Now more specifically, if a Cub hasn’t, as you said, completed the achievements for Bear (which, of course, means he’s earned no Bear Arrow Points at all!), there’s more than likely a problem inside that pack. Maybe the pack’s leaders haven’t been encouraging the parents—Wolf and Bear parents, in particular—to work with their sons and be their sons’ Akela. Or maybe there’s a “lock-step” approach to advancement in this pack. Or maybe something else. It’s worth the time to check this out in your capacity as their UC, because sluggish advancement is usually a symptom of a more pervasive and fundamental problem.

 

Greetings Andy,

Our Cub Scout pack recently lost our advancement ceremony candle holders and electric campfire. The candle holders were used in our advancement ceremonies, and they were made of wood (1’x6″) and (2’x2″) pieces. We had one each for Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Webelos, and Arrow of Light. Each holder had a piece in the back with two holes to accommodate a blue and a gold candle. I’ve searched the Internet to locate plans or blue-prints to replace these, to no avail. Is there any way you could send me in the right direction? (Normand, CM, Narragansett Council, MA)

You already have the answer. My impression, from the detailed description in your letter, is that you already know exactly what these look like, or certainly near enough to be able to work out the missing pieces. Just follow your own mental image, add a little trial-and-error, and you’re there! Besides, since there’s no “perfect” candle holder or electric campfire, whatever you create will be just fine, even if it’s not an exact duplicate of what you had before!

Dear Andy,

My question deals with National Summertime Award pins for individual Cub Scouts. In our pack we run at least a couple of pack-sponsored events in each of the months of June, July, and August. If a Cub attends at least one pack event in each month, clearly he’d qualify for and earn the award pin. But what if he attends more than three pack events, but is in attendance in only two of the three months (say only June and Aug, because he’s with his family on an out-of-state vacation in July)? Can he still earn the pin, because he’s attended three or more events over the summer? It seems like the intent of the Summertime program is being met, but I get different answers depending on whom I talk to at our Scout Shop. (Tony Steenkolk, CM, Ore-Ida Council, ID)

The BSA has spelled out the requirements for the NSA pretty explicitly. Just follow them and you won’t go wrong!

Hi Andy,

What’s the national policy concerning who should be appointed to the nominating committee for district committee positions? (Mark Winsor, ADC, Central Florida Council)

The BSA has a publication titled The District (No.3079A) and another one titled Selecting District People (No.34512C). Between these two, you should find exactly what you’re looking for, in detail.

As you read, you’ll note that the first of these books doesn’t specifically mention the district nominating committee. That’s because this isn’t necessarily a standing committee providing direct service to the units in the district. Rather, it’s an ad-hoc committee formed once a year to develop and propose the “slate” of district committee members for the coming year. Section VI of the second book described this process in detail, including how the chair of the district nominating committee is selected and appointed. You’ll also note in this section that members of the district nominating committee do not need to be registered members of the district committee, or even registered Scouters for that matter. The book explains why. Both of these books also point you toward further reading, which will further enrich your knowledge of the process.

Dear Andy,

Who has the ultimate responsibility for housing and maintaining troop equipment and assets…the committee, or the chartered organization? In a case of theft (our troop’s fully loaded trailer was stolen from behind the church where it was parked and all our camping gear, dining fly, tables, coolers, lanterns, stoves, patrol boxes, the works disappeared along with it), where does the buck stop? It boils down, from the way I see things, to the committee falling short to ensure that the stuff was secure and protected by insurance. What bums me out is that the fund-raising that needs to be done to replace this stuff falls back to the Scouts, when it was the adults (i.e., the committee) that failed miserably in their stewardship of the gear. I’m not trying to lay blame elsewhere (I’m a member of the committee), and I understand that this is a random act of crime that nobody could likely have predicted or prevented (“a lock will keep an honest man out”-Dad), I just need to know if I’m on the right track as I deal with my personal sense of failure. (Gerry Moon, MC, Central Florida Council)

Ouch! Who in the world would steal a Boy Scout trailer from a church parking area? Sick-o! Double sick-o! At least your local police have something large enough to maybe be able to find!

That equipment is, technically, owned by the chartered organization. Obviously, there’s some responsibility here, and probably some responsibility on the part of whatever genius decided to park a fully-loaded trailer in an easily accessible area. But there’s a choice here: We can try to fix the blame, or we can try to fix the problem. My vote would be for the second option.

Perhaps a combination of the chartered organization raising some money (or directly donating to the troop), the committee and other adult leaders chipping in, and a fund-raiser by the Scouts might all contribute to setting things right. I sure hope so, because good hiking and camping weather is finally here!

NetCommish Comment:

Believe it or not folks – theft of Troop Trailers happens frequently. Here’s a quick round-up of some Troop Trailer Thefts that have made it to the news:

If your Troop has a trailer here are some preventative tips for you:

1. Make sure that your chartered organization has your camping gear and the trailer insured. (Technically the chartered organization owns your Troop’s gear) Now’s a good time to check folks.

2. Next, talk with local police about the best way to secure your trailer and make it a less tempting target.

3. Finally, don’t store your gear in the trailer. Stow your gear in a locked building.

If the worst happens and you experience the theft of your trailer:

1. First and foremost contact local law enforcement authorities immediately and cooperate fully.

2. Look at online auction and want-ad sites. Chances are that the thief is going to try to sell the gear and/or trailer and may do so online. If you do find some of your stuff or your trailer on one of these websites, do not contact the seller yourself. Contact your local law enforcement and let them handle it.

3. If your local law enforcement authorities agree with it, post flyers around your area asking for information. A picture of the trailer really helps.

4. Again, if your local law enforcement authorities agree with it, consider going to a local TV station and asking the station to run a public interest story about the theft. Sometimes these stories will result in offers of assistance from people who are willing to donate funds to help the Scouts get new equipment.

5. Make sure you talk with your chartered partner about the theft. If the theft was on the premises of the chartered partner, the chartered partner’s insurance may cover the loss. Legally, it is their property and if it is covered by insurance, the chartered partner can file a claim.

Dear Andy,

Who’s in charge of a troop…the Scoutmaster or the committee? Can the committee dictate to the Scoutmaster how the troop is run, other than per BSA policies (for instance, discipline, etc.)? In other words, who’s the boss? (Rick Miller)

In other words, who’s the windshield and who’s the bug, right?

The Scoutmaster slot is an appointed position. In a correctly organized and administered troop, the Scoutmaster is appointed by the Chartered Organization Representative (aka “COR”) and/or the Committee Chair. These two positions have “hire-fire authority” regarding all adult volunteer positions in a troop, with the COR ultimately superseding the CC (if it actually ever came to that—which should, of course, never happen). There is no “committee vote” or “parents’ vote” on any adult volunteer—these are appointments, simple and straightforward.

The Scoutmaster is responsible to the committee with regard to troop program and youth leadership training—The SM’s two most important tasks. The committee, headed by the CC, is responsible for supporting the troop (including the SM, Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leaders and the rest of the youth leaders and Scouts) by providing advancement recording, finances, general record-keeping, and so on. When the SM reports the Patrol Leaders Council’s program plans to the committee, the committee may make suggestions but absolutely does not have “veto power.”

The Scoutmaster may certainly request and receive advice and counsel from the CC, or any committee member for that matter. However, the Scoutmaster’s judgment must prevail when it comes to the Scouts in the troop, because only the Scoutmaster (and any registered ASMs, if the Scoutmaster needs and requests ASMs) has direct contact with the Scouts on a regular and ongoing basis. Neither the CC nor any MCs have direct contact with the Scouts except as needed to record membership, record advancements, and in the conducting of boards of review.

If the CC and SM aren’t seeing things eye-to-eye, but the SM isn’t in violation of BSA policy (i.e., the discussions are about differing judgment on how to mentor/guide/develop Scouts) the wise CC will, to put it simply, shut up and get back to what he’s supposed to be doing, which is making sure the committee’s performing as needed. If, however, the CC and SM just can’t seem to get out of each other’s way, then the COR has to think about playing Solomon, for the good of the youth you’re all there to serve.

Dear Andy,

I have a Cub Scout who is now a Bear, and my question pertains to gold Arrow Points. I know after ten electives a Cub earns his first gold AP and then after that each additional ten electives earns the silver AP. How many gold APs can he earn and, if more than one is allowed, what does he have to do to earn a second gold. (Jennifer)

Only the first Arrow Point per rank is gold; after that one gold one, per rank, they’re all silver. So, if your son earns, say, ten Arrow Points as a Bear, then one is gold and nine are silver.

This is because, in Scouting, silver is higher and means more than gold, so gold just means he’s started on the Arrow Point trail, whereas silver means he’s really on his way!

Hi Andy,

What should Webelos Den Leaders and other pack leaders be doing to get boys ready for the Webelos-to-Scout transition and to help them stay in Scouts longer? I’ve asked this question locally in our district and received a lot of good feedback. I’ve also asked it of fellow Wood Badgers. And I’ve looked at articles in the Scout magazines that another Wood Badger had pointed me towards. Now, another route for information is you, maybe something someone else has done that’s worked. (Brent Billerbeck, Yukon, OK)

I’d love to tell you there’s a “magic bullet.” Or “national secret.” And, actually, maybe there is, but it may surprise you… The magic-secret is this: FOLLOW THE PLAN AS WRITTEN. That’s right: DO WHAT’S IN THE WEBELOS LEADER GUIDEBOOK. Don’t try to re-invent it, short-cut it, or do it “better.” Do what’s there, exactly as described. In particular, STICK TO THE 18-MONTH PLAN. This is the winning plan!

A bunch of years ago, I volunteered to be the Webelos Den Leader for my son’s den. At the time, not knowing much about the Webelos program, even though I’d been a Cub Scout myself (and earned the Arrow of Light), I relied on “the book” rather than just makin’ it up as I went along. After 18 months, I graduated every one of my eight Webelos Scouts into a Boy Scout troop, where they formed their own patrol, elected their own patrol leader, and stuck together. Five reached the rank of Eagle well before their 18th birthdays, and six stayed with the troop for the entire seven years!

A few months ago, my son, who was in that den, got married. He’s now 28. Three of his former den/patrol mates came to the wedding. Their “personal reunion” brought me to tears—They’d brought with them the arrows I’d presented to them at their Arrow of Light ceremony, almost 18 years ago!

Does the program—as written—work? You tell ’em, Tenderfoot—You’re a Scout!

Dear Andy,

Where can I obtain a uniform inspection sheet for Cub Scouts? (J. Johnson, Oregon Trail Council)

Depending on your needs, a description of the uniform, including badge placement, is in every Cub Scout handbook, or your council also has the form you’re looking for (just ask the service center folks), or go here: www.scouting.org/CubScouts/Uniform.aspx

Dear Andy,

I read with interest about the Troop Committee Chair who had concerns that an Assistant Scoutmaster from another sponsoring institution came into his troop’s “feeder pack”—to a meeting of their Webelos den—to give a vigorous sales pitch, and I was a bit surprised with your answer: Don’t ban this new approach – Praise it for somebody finally thinking outside the box! Get your own troop to step up its recruitment plan and polish its own pitch. Let the incoming and progressing WDLs in every pack know that they should encourage all troops to send representatives to visit with them, if they wish…”

I have a question… Did this Assistant Scoutmaster ask if he could visit that meeting? Did the Den leader invite him and his Scouts? Apparently, the Committee Chair was a bit surprised by the visit. Another question… Did this Assistant Scoutmaster ask the COR it if was alright to solicit their troop to one of its pack’s dens?

Have you given any consideration to the sponsoring institution? Here’s a scenario to ponder…

Let’s pretend that you are the Christian education chair for your church. You are charged with overseeing all the Sunday school classes for your church. You work close with the minister in ensuring that the church can provide a quality Sunday school program for all of its Sunday school classes. One Sunday morning, you find yourself in your own Sunday school class. (Perhaps you are at your temple or perhaps you are partaking in Mass) You get the idea. So back to our pretend Sunday school…

During class, there is a knock on the door. A group of members from the church down the street enter your class to make some announcements. They bring with them pictures and information about their church down the street. The leader of the bunch proclaims that their church offers better services, better sermons. In fact they also have Sunday school classes. The leader tells you and your group that their church has better facilities and a better minister. So why don’t you come down and check us out. And then they leave. It’s quite a sales pitch. Your Sunday school teacher announces that she was the one who invited the guests for their presentation, and then proceeds to tell the class that there will be more guests every week from other churches in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the Sunday school teacher failed to ask you, the Christian education chair (Compare Scouting – in essence, the COR) if this was ok to do. Furthermore, the minister (Compare Scouting – the head of the sponsoring institution) was also never asked nor did he even know that other churches were being invited in to recruit new members from the church. And now for the kicker; many of your fellow parishioners do decide to check out the church down the street and find they like it and end up joining that church. Then one Sunday you find that you no longer have a Sunday school class. Later when you go to the main service, the pews are sparsely filled. The minister wonders where the congregation is. And a short time later, the church finally ends up shutting its doors due to a lack of members.

Is there a problem here? Perhaps not, the former members are still worshiping God aren’t they? (Compare Scouting – what about the District Commissioner who is supposed to support all units in the district? How can the District Commissioner say he is supporting all the units in his district when troops are allowed to infringe on other troops by recruiting members from Packs belonging to other sponsoring institutions than their own?How can the Unit Commissioner help your troop when your church’s Webelos are being enticed to join the troop down the street? Boy the commissioners now seem to have a bit of a dilemma on their hands.)But who cares if one church closes its doors? But hey there is a vacant lot across the street. Maybe another group of people will buy the lot and build another new church. (Compare Scouting – Part of the District Executive’s job is working to form new units; but what is the DE doing to maintain the units she already has? Does it not concern the DE that some of her units are being destabilized by other units in the district? Shouldn’t the DE concerned that some of her district Troops are dying because they are no longer getting its Cub Scouts from their sponsoring institution’s Pack? Does she not have an obligation to serve those troops who are losing members to another Troop?)And since nobody cared about the church dying across the street eventually the church is razed and a new shopping center is built in its place. (Compare Scouting – and a long established Troop with many traditions eventually dies. But who cares? The DE is concerned with starting new units; kids will be signed up, pay their $11. New leaders will be recruited and a new unit is formed. But should the new unit fall apart soon after its inception, so what? For the record, that unit is still considered a registered for the charter year and the district can still get its quality award.)

This new policy overlooks one important point: It is the sponsoring institution that actually owns its units. Has Andy forgotten to consider that some of these owners may not be happy to find that their Boy Scout Troops are beginning to falter because the Webelos from their Cub Pack are not joining its Boy Scout Troop?

You would think that if Troop leaders have a desire to recruit from a Pack from another sponsoring institution – which already has a Troop of its own, would abide by the fifth part of the scout law by being courteous first to ask the COR if it is alright to visit the Pack. Quite frankly without asking, this other Troop was not invited.

It needs to be made perfectly clear that a church or any other sponsoring institution is in fact the owners of its scouting units. And when something is owned, the owner usually wants to take care of its investment. And in scouting, the BSA is supposed to lend its support to all units in all sponsoring institutions. Or is the sponsor simply there to be used for its facilities? Do the cubs and scouts not have to be loyal to their benevolent sponsor?

The spirit of this new recruiting policy may be the cause of new problems. Animosities may be formed between once friendly Troops. Scoutmasters may not be friendly to one another at district activities. Klondike Derbies and Camporees may not be as fun anymore because of hard feelings between leaders. Units may want to change districts because their current district is not serving them well and they know they know the district down the street has more to offer. It may cause Troops to go to other council’s summer camps because their council camp has a substandard summer camp program and broken down facilities. Units may die. Where is the loyalty? But hey it will be ok. The scouts do deserve the best program don’t they? We shall see.

So let us take the spirit of this policy further. Let’s say that your unit is in a district that does not support it. The district has never had any activities for the Boy Scouts such as Klondike Derbies or Camporees. The district has never come through with commissioner service to some of the district’s units. In essence, units are not being served. Yet the district has received the honor of being labeled a “quality district”. So what are you to do as a unit if you are not receiving any service from your district? How about talking to some other troops in the district and decide to participate with the district down the street because that district has Boy Scout activities. It is a far superior district with many more troops. And the districts service is exceptional. Perhaps your unit should be allowed to transfer to that district because it is tired of beating their own dead horse district. Hey why not? It is the scouts who will benefit the most going to a better district.

Of course, the spirit of this policy can be taken further still concerning scout councils, but I hope I have made enough impact already.

I disagree that the bar has been raised. In fact I believe it has been lowered enough where some troops may be clotheslined in the process. (A concerned COR)

Of course I’ve given consideration to the COR and the chartered organization. In the first place, there was nothing in the letter you’re referring to that suggested anything untoward on the part of the visiting leader, and the visit itself was quite obviously made with the prior agreement of the visited unit. Moreover, all troops are available to all graduating Webelos Scouts—”feeder pack” or not! In the same vein, a troop with a feeder pack is under no restriction to limit its recruiting to just that pack.

Funny thing about scenarios and “what if’s”… They always seem to fit the purveyor’s point-of-view. So, I’m going to pass on those conundrums because they only augur for me setting up some what if’s of my own, and away we go, further and further from reality!

So, scenarios and what if’s aside, the bottom line is this: Scouting is largely an “open” movement, with very few actual requirements for youth membership, to the point where, in the chartering agreement itself, the chartered organization agrees to accept any qualified youth, whether a member of that organization or not. Implicit in this, and in concert with the spirit of the movement, is the further principle that, so long as a youth remains in Scouting, whether he graduates or transfers into another unit sponsored by the same chartered organization or not becomes virtually a non-issue. The chartered organization may “own” the unit; it does not own the youth members.

Hi Andy, I’m a new Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner. Over the last two years or so before I agreed to wear this “hat,” roundtable attendance had dwindled to almost nothing, so I’ve had to start from scratch after our previous Commissioner left with little to no warning. I’ve used the Roundtable Guide along with Program Helps and a lot from Baloo’s Bugle, but I’ve received feedback from only one or two that they think it’s hokey and they’d like to have more information along the lines of what they get during the breakout sessions. I’ve emailed all of the pack leaders in our district and asked for suggestions and the like, with no responses at all. Do you have any ideas on how I can improve my roundtable and provide a well rounded and informative gathering? (Vicki Padgett, Central Florida Council)

The sort-of good news is that yours is not an isolated problem. Roundtable attendance has generally been on the wane for decades, and while it’s not impossible to reverse that trend, it’s not an easy task. The usual excuse for not attending, of course, is “I just don’t have the time.” Well, guess what… nobody just has the time! Everyone needs to make the time! But, to do this, folks need a compelling reason to devote a night away from home (and the comforts of couch and remote!).

Among your general considerations, have you considered your location? Is it in the general vicinity of the center of your district? How about the night of the week? Is it on a night that more often than not conflicts with something going on… Pack meetings, local events, a particularly popular TV show, something else…you get the idea. Then, what about the start and end times? Are you running from exactly 7:30 to exactly 9 o’clock, let’s say? Or are these rather lax? (If they are, button them up!) Do you have simple refreshments, like hot and cold beverages and maybe some cookies (get your District Executive to give you a budget), or are these “dry” meetings? Finally among these general considerations, are you and your team fully uniformed, or do you sorta “go halfway”? If the latter, you all look less-than-committed, yourselves! Gotta sharpen up!

Now, some specifics… If you have folks telling you they like sharing ideas and solutions in breakout sessions, then give ’em more of what they want! If they want less “party line” stuff, then (at least temporarily) give ’em less of that stuff. Do you have actual opening ceremonies? Do you bring in lots of special speakers–a new one each month–or are you the “lecturer” for the whole evening? (The latter can be boring and ultimately deadly, no matter how good a presenter you are!). Do you have an arrangement with your District Executive to the effect that information that’s given out at the roundtables isn’t available any other way, or does your district send out mailings and email “blasts” that gives people what they want or need anyway? If you stick with the former and stop the latter, people will start getting the message that it’s show up or lose out!

Once you’ve evaluated your “menu” and chosen what your “audience” wants to eat instead of what your district wants to feed ’em, you’ll be on the right track. Now, how to get the word out… You say you’ve emailed “all the leaders of the packs.” Does this mean the Cubmasters only, or does it include every single registered Cub Scout volunteer? Maybe for a while, it needs to be everybody, otherwise, you’re depending on others to pass the word through. But certainly, you’d want to get the message out to every CC, CM, and DL, regardless! And maybe email isn’t all it’s cracked up to be! It’s easy, cheap, and simple for the sender, but it’s also way, way too easy to hit “shift-delete” at the receiving end! Maybe paper mailings need to be resurrected, at least for a while!

Finally, what do other CSRTCs in your council have to say? What’s worked for them? How are they succeeding? Maybe you need one or two roundtables of just RTCs!

 

Hi Andy,

I’d like to know the correct order for the square knots on an adult uniform, please. I have these knots: navy blue background with silver knot and silver edging light blue and white square knot purple square knot with silver edging white and green square knot green square knot. I know the light blue and white is for Silver Beaver, so am I supposed to put that one in the middle of the bottom row above the pocket, or not worry where the other square knot patches are arranged? (Auntie Petersen- Sewing Helper for Scouts)

Here’s the good news: ANY order is OK! This is at the wearer’s discretion entirely! Yay!

Hi Andy,

That’s the best news ever! Thank you! With all of the other correct patch work, I didn’t think this would be your answer, but it’s great! (Auntie Peterson)

Dear Andy,

I have a question that I’ve been unable to get an answer to from anyone I’ve asked…

Our troop maintains that “all adults are members of the Troop Committee, whether registered with the BSA or not,” and they include the Scoutmaster, the Assistant Scoutmasters, and basically everyone who shows up to a committee meeting as voting members of the committee. I’m trying to determine if that’s actually allowed under BSA policy.

The Troop Committee Guidebook sort of hints that committee members should be registered, and that the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters aren’t on the Troop Committee, but it doesn’t come right out and state it explicitly.

Do you know of anything that does clarify this, per BSA policy? If what they’re doing is allowed, that’s fine by me. If it’s not, I’d like to bring it up to them, but I’d need something to support me officially. (Rick)

This one’s a “no-brainer.” Just look at the application for adults: This is where adults apply, are approved (or not), and become registered in their volunteer positions with a Scouting unit. All those who aren’t duly registered aren’t members of anything—They’re parents. Period.

Next, look at any troop organization chart (it’s in the Scoutmaster Handbook and a bunch of other BSA publications and literature). This shows a clear separation between the Scoutmaster and ASMs and the Troop Committee. Tie these two together, including the mandate on the application that a person can hold only one position in a unit, and the show’s over.

Remember that the BSA’s policies almost invariably describe what is, and not what isn’t. So, when some yahoo says something like “everyone’s on the committee whether they’re registered or not,” simply ask them to show you this in writing. When they can’t, or refuse to, or lamely say, “Well, I heard that somewhere,” or “Well, we’ve always done it that way,” you can tell ’em that unless they can find that in writing somewhere it’s gonna change.

That said, DO NOT try to change this troop “from within.” It’s easier to teach pigs to fly! However, if you can become either the Chartered Organization Representative (best) or Committee Chair (second-best), you definitely fix this nonsense overnight, if you choose.

Hi again Andy,

Thanks for your help. I’m “just” a Committee Member, but I’m also on the troop’s by-laws review committee, so I at least have a good reason to bring it up—assuming we ever meet: The ASM who volunteered to chair this committee has already said that he doesn’t think we need any changes, and hasn’t called a meeting in the three months since the committee was formed!

I agree that it should be a “no-brainer,” both from the adult application and from the mention in the Troop Committee Guidebook, but obviously, to some at least, it’s not. And if I’m going to even suggest they’re doing it wrong, I do need something official to back me up, so thanks for the information. I’ll have to get a copy of the Scoutmaster Handbook (I’ve already got a copy of an adult application). The problem’s been trying to find something that actually says that “only adults registered as troop committee members are members of the troop committee” or something to that effect. Everything I’ve found so far only implies it. Having an application to be a ” BSA registered” troop committee member doesn’t explicitly forbid non-registered troop committee members. To me, it’s clear enough that that’s the intent, but intent is hard to prove.

I don’t know if I’ll get them to change whenever we do finally get to reviewing the by-laws, but I’m a firm believer in doing things correctly, particularly when there’s a clear “right way” and “wrong way” (not “my way” and “their way,” but an official “right” and “wrong”). If I can show them proof of the official right way, that’s what I want to do. If the majority decides to continue doing it the wrong way, then, as you said, there’s not much I can do about it. (Rick)

In the first place, my Scouting friend, Scouting units have no need of “by-laws.” The Scouting program is spelled out in exquisite detail, so that no unit needs to invent or re-invent what’s already been in place for nearly a hundred years.

Moreover, at the risk of repeating myself, the BSA’s policies almost invariably describe what is, and not what isn’t, so that the reason why you won’t find precisely what you’re looking for is that somebody was wise enough to think, “Only an idiot can’t figure out that it takes registering to hold a position in a unit.” In other words, when it’s so obvious what’s right, the BSA doesn’t waste time pointing out what’s not right. But, unfortunately, even when you make something idiot-proof, somebody else will invent a better idiot.

So just stick to this: If some clown says “Anybody can be on the committee, even if they’re not a registered BSA volunteer,” ask ’em to show you that in writing, and if they can’t then they can quit talkin’ through their hat and makin’ stuff up!

Dear Andy,

My son has been nominated for Assistant Patrol Leader for a second time, and he’s really quite happy, but there seems to be a problem—at least to me. You see, in order for him to advance in rank, the handbook states that he must serve in a position of leadership; however, Assistant Patrol Leader isn’t listed. Surely he has more leadership responsibilities than the troop’s Scribe, Librarian, or Historian, yet those positions are. Am I missing something? Our Scoutmaster is terrific, but when he brought this to my attention I just felt like my son is somehow getting the short end of the stick. He’s a Life Scout working on Eagle, and this is probably one hurdle he could use some help solving. (Randy Slaybaugh, Panama City, FL)

Your son and you have read the requirements correctly. Assistant Patrol Leader is not among the leadership positions qualifying for Star, Life, or Eagle rank advancement. This is not likely to be changed by the BSA anytime soon (it’s been in place for decades) and it cannot be overridden or circumvented. If your son needs and is interested in a leadership position that qualifies for Eagle rank advancement, and all elected positions in the troop (e.g., Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader) are presently occupied, then he needs to select one or more non-elected positions (Troop Guide for a new Scout patrol, Instructor, OA Troop Representative, Troop Scribe, Chaplain Aide, etc.) and request of his Scoutmaster that he be assigned one of these.

Now here’s a question to consider: The Assistant Patrol Leader position is the lowest-level Boy Scout leadership position there is, and I’m sorta wondering why a Life Scout would be content with this? Maybe it’s time to step up to the plate?

Dear Andy,

In the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook, there’s a place for the Scoutmaster to sign, signifying that the project’s been completed. But what if the Scout fails to show his own leadership on the project, and the actual leadership during the project has come from someone else? Does the Scoutmaster have the authority and/or duty to not sign? (Name & Council Withheld)

The Scoutmaster’s signature signifies that the work was completed. In signing, the Scoutmaster is making no judgment as to the manner in which the work was completed; simply that the work was completed. As to the quality of the project and the manner in which leadership by the Eagle candidate was present or not, and to what extent, this is the responsibility of the board of review. It’s incumbent on the members of the board of review to determine the extent to which the project, as carried out, was done per the stated goals of the requirement (i.e., the manner in which it was carried out). This is not my “opinion.” This is how it’s done, per BSA advancement policies and procedures.

Thanks for asking a very important question!

 

Happy Scouting!!

Andy

You can write to me about any Scouting-related subject or concern at:

askandybsa@yahoo.com

(May 11, 2008 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2008)

Letters to AskAndy may be published at the discretion of the columnist and the editor. If you prefer to have your name or affiliation withheld from publication, please advise in your letter.

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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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