WE HAVE 7 QUIZ WINNERS!
They are, in order of arrival, Dale Wilson, Chehaw Council, GA; Clarke Green, Chester County Council, PA; James Eager, Gulf Ridge Council, FL; Jack Boyle, Northern New Jersey Council; Georg Dahl, Tidewater Council, VA; Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council; and Brian Buck, Aloha Council, HI. Congratulations and an Ask Andy Pin to each one of these dedicated Scouters for getting that Board of Review quiz right on the money! (Check out my June 3rd column if you missed it, but read no further till you do, ‘cause a spoiler’s comin’ your way…)
The three statements that seemed to give folks the most trouble were…
2. It’s the responsibility of the Eagle rank Board of Review to approve the manner in which the candidate’s service project was carried out.
TRUE: In fact, the Eagle board of review is the only place where the quality of leadership is assessed. The signature for “completion” only confirms that the project was done as planned; there’s no leadership assessment at that point. This is one of the review’s most important responsibilities!
13. Scouts must be in full and correct uniform in order to participate in a board of review.
FALSE: While a complete and correct uniform is desired, uniforming is a method of Scouting and not a requirement in and of itself. Uniforming is to be encouraged and supported, but it cannot be mandated or legislated.
14. A board of review represents an opportunity for the troop’s committee to learn how well the troop’s adult leaders are delivering the Scouting program to its youth.
TRUE: This is really what boards of review are all about! They’re certainly not “re-tests” of any requirements, for any reason. They’re definitely conversations, and much of these conversations needs to focus on the kind of experience the Scout is having, and how well the troop is delivering the Scouting program as written.
I went on my first camping trip with my son’s troop this weekend and I had no idea there were so many rules for the trip. He was not allowed to sit by me or eat the food that I had brought with me. Is there a guide that I can get that would show me all the rules for camping with your Scout? (Name Withheld, North Florida Council)
This is one terrific question and the short answer is: In Boy Scouts, parents don’t camp with their sons. This is not “Webelos III”!
Here’s the longer answer…
One of the main purposes of Cub Scouting is to strengthen the natural bond between a boy and his parents. Thus, many activities (all of them at the Tiger level, in fact) are of the boy-and-parent type, and up through Bear rank and arrow points, the parent is “Akela”! Only at the Webelos level — the transitional program — do parents begin to take a background role and the Den Leader comes to the fore, but even then camping is still of the “family” variety and boys do not camp without a parent. This is because, across the ages of Cub Scouting, boys are still largely in the “dependent” mode of their maturation.
By Boy Scout age, however, boys will naturally begin to seek more independence — this is a normal progression of the maturation process through which they will ultimately become productive adults. Recognizing this need for independence and individuation from one’s own parents, the Boy Scout program is geared differently from Cub Scouting. In Boy Scouting, the focus is on independent choices and actions, boys leading boys, peer relationships, and minimal parental contact, especially while on hikes and camping trips. This minimizing of parental contact is neither arbitrary nor accidental; it is deliberate and purposeful, based on studies of the male maturation process by the BSA over the past 98 years.
Your son’s troop seems to be following the proper format quite well. Parents, if they attend campouts with the troop, are definitely to be kept separate from the Scouts. If they aren’t kept separate, there’s simply no Boy Scouting going on — It devolves to “Cub Scouts in tan shirts.” The more a troop keeps parents and their sons from interacting while camping, the better the troop is in delivering the Boy Scout program.
If you like “family camping,” by all means please do this! It’s fun, and it’s a nice thing to do with your son, because you give him the opportunity to “show off” how much he’s learning in Boy Scouts! I heartily encourage you to continue camping with your son! But, when it comes to his troop, and camping as a Boy Scout, the greatest gift you can give your son is to wish him well, give him a big hug, wave to him as he goes off on another new adventure with his troop, and then welcome him home again with a big hug when he returns!
I was just told that a merit badge must be finished within 12 months. I can’t find this written anywhere. Please advise. (Wesley Cowan, CM, Three Rivers Council, TX)
Wanna guess why you can’t find anywhere, where it says that a merit badge must be completed in 12 months? Cause it’s HORSEPUCKY! Merit badge requirements can be worked on right up to a Scout’s 18th birthday and even so-called “partials” are good right up to the 18th birthday, and that’s the straight skinny from the BSA! Whoever told you that nonsense needs to be straightened out fast, and everyone he or she told needs to get the word, too, so you all can put a stop to this mis-information before it spreads further.
Hey. Next time some yahoo spouts off about something that just doesn’t sound right, or doesn’t fit with what you know about how Scouting works, CHALLENGE ‘EM! Stop takin’ it on the chin! “Sez who?” is always a great start! So is, “Show me where that’s written.” We can stop the “baloney invasion” if we stop folks from cuttin’ their own slices offa it!
About a year ago, our old Scoutmaster stepped down and a new one stepped up. It was a nice, orderly transition, and everyone was happy. The old Scoutmaster’s whole family had been very involved in the troop (his wife was a committee member, his oldest son is an Eagle and former SPL, middle son was ASPL at the time, and youngest son was a Star). The family, especially the parents, did a lot for the troop. In retrospect, they may have been doing too much. The post-transition “honeymoon” lasted only a few months. When things got tough for their middle son, they got pretty vicious.
The middle son was elected Senior Patrol Leader. But it became quickly clear that he and the new Scoutmaster didn’t see eye to eye. The new SPL missed most troop meetings because of sports and ran ineffective PLCs. The troop meetings, and consequently the Scouts, really suffered. The PLC didn’t plan scouting activities for the meetings, and they turned into week after week of cleaning chuck boxes, assigning tent buddies, and useless planning sessions, with some occasional scout stuff thrown in. The SPL refused to make sure Patrol Leaders prepared for troop meetings. He was cocky and rude to the troop’s adults. When he actually came to meetings he hung out with his buddies and disrupted the other patrols. The Scoutmaster let the PLCs and meetings suffer because “this is a boy-led troop.” At times, it really seemed like the SPL was intentionally making the troop stink just to prove a point about the Scoutmaster, who in turn was letting it stink just to prove a point about the SPL.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the new SPL’s parents and some committee members were busy in the background undermining the new Scoutmaster and the program. They connived to get one of the less active ASMs elected as an adult OA member instead of the Scoutmaster. The way it went down, and the comments afterwards, made it clear that the OA election was meant as an insult. They told parents that the new Scoutmaster was making the troop dysfunctional. They threw nonsensical readings of the Guide to Safe Scouting at the Scoutmaster and ASMs, accusing them of running unsafe outings, even though it always turned out that everything was being done per safety policies.
The Committee Chair started shopping around for a new Scoutmaster. The COR got involved, started asking questions, and concluded that the Scoutmaster wasn’t doing anything wrong at all (other than not getting along with the former Scoutmaster’s son).
The Committee Chair called an alleged “all-parents” meeting, and—unannounced—the Unit and District Commissioners showed up, and the meeting turned into a three-hour “Scoutmaster bashing session.”
The Committee Chair then announced that he wanted to step down immediately, but as soon as another parent stood up and said he’ll take the job, the CC reneged.
I was on the fence about who was really at fault here—the Scoutmaster or the CC and committee or this family—until our troop held elections a few weeks ago. The SPL and his brother actively discouraged other Scouts from running for SPL or PL; their mom tried to interfere by inventing some BSA policy about an age requirement; and now there’s a rumor that she also tried to discourage some Scouts from running. At the parents meeting, somebody brought up her son’s actions in discouraging other Scouts, and she responded that if they succeeded it just showed what good leaders they were. It really seems like we have a very aggressive, strong-willed family that’s making conscious decisions to hurt the troop. It’s a mess. Have you ever heard of anything like this?
Yup, I run into situations like this every week! They’re all over the place! And what an awful shame that folks have forgotten why they got involved in the first place, and use Scouting as a feeding ground for their angst, personal vendettas, and all sorts of other nonsense that has nothing to do with growing boys into responsible men.
Unless he’s supported 110% by the COR, Committee Chair, and committee, the current Scoutmaster is best off walking away from that troop, because there’s so much stupid stuff going on that unless the present volunteers make a unified and concerted effort to stop it all, at once, this is a losing battle. And stuff like this just isn’t worth falling on one’s sword for.
If you have a son in this troop, get him out and into a healthy troop right away, because this one’s about to chew itself to pieces (if it hasn’t, already). And get your son’s friends to go with him! This is a “lifeboat” situation. Save as many as you can.
Now I could tell you to “fight the good fight” and “be the white knight” and all that, but I’ve come to the conclusion after hearing about situations like this over the past seven years of writing this column that it’s rarely if ever worth the time, energy, and emotions — unless you’re the COR or Committee Chair. If you hold either or both of these positions, you can clean house immediately and restore order almost overnight. But try to fix this “from the inside”? Not a chance! Corrupted organizations like this troop can only be de-loused from the top.
In order for a Boy Scout to earn a badge, is it a requirement that the badge is taught by a registered Merit Badge Counselor, or is that just a recommendation…so long as the Scout knows the badge and the adult is registered with Scouting (in some capacity). Is having Merit Badge Counselors a requirement or recommendation? For example, would a Scout lose his badges if they were signed by the Scoutmaster and not a Merit Badge Counselor? (K.R., Denver Area Council, CO)
Yes, a Boy Scout must earn a merit badge by working with a registered Merit Badge Counselor (the only exception to this is, of course, while at Scout summer camp, but even there the final signature must be that of a MBC). This is a BSA policy and it’s not subject to alternate methods. “Registered Merit Badge Counselor” means an adult who is registered as an adult volunteer with the BSA as a Merit Badge Counselor for one or more specific merit badges (meaning that merely being registered as a MBC doesn’t automatically give one “permission” to counsel on any old badge one chooses).
A Scoutmaster’s signature in place of a Merit Badge Counselor’s signature is not permitted; it’s meaningless. No one except a registered MBC is permitted to sign off on a merit badge as completed.
A Scout, however, does not “lose” a badge because an adult Scouter messed up. But shame on him for not getting trained, so that this stuff doesn’t happen! And shame on the troop’s advancement person for not catching the FUBAR!
I’m a First Class Scout and I’m wondering if I did both the Swimming and Cycling merit badges, can I choose another required merit badge to be dropped? (Name Withheld, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)
Nice idea but nope! Required means just that. Some required merit badges do have alternates, and if you earn an alternate you can use this in the “elective” category. But you can’t side-step a required merit badge except with an alternate required, if it has one.
Who has the authority to remove a volunteer from a unit? Not removing them from the BSA, but just simply asking them to leave a particular unit because of problems that just continue on and on (e.g., dissention among the ranks). Our Scoutmaster was the one who asked a volunteer to drop out of the troop, but our District Chair says no, a Scoutmaster can’t do that. Since I’m the Committee Chair, I was going to wait, but the Scoutmaster got to do this before I did. As Committee Chair, I felt that if it’s going to be done, then I’d be the one who would have to do it. Since I’m required to sign all adult applications along with the COR, it would come down to one of us, but which? (G.N., CC, Flint River Council, GA)
The responsibility for appointing and removing adult volunteers in a Scouting unit falls to the COR and Committee Chair, in collaboration. This is your job, side-by-side with your COR. If there’s a difference of opinion, the COR’s supersedes the CC’s. The Scoutmaster has absolutely nothing to do with this process. The Scoutmaster is, in fact, appointed by the COR-CC collaboration. The Scoutmaster can make requests, recommendations, or suggestions, and that’s it.
So, fire and replace whom you need to, and move on. Do know, however, that your unit-level decision absolutely cannot be altered, changed, or rescinded by anyone—paid or volunteer—at either the district or council level.
Can a Venturing crew earn the Boy Scout National Camping Award? (Rob Hersh)
Just like it says, that award’s for Boy Scouts and Boy Scout troops.
Does a Scoutmaster out-rank a Cubmaster and Troop Committee Chair? (D.W.)
Questions like yours usually mean there’s “trouble in paradise”! The Scoutmaster Handbook will tell you precisely where the Scoutmaster fits with regard to the troop committee and the Committee Chair, and the Cub Scout Leader Book will do the same for where the Cubmaster fits with regard to the pack committee and the Pack Committee Chair. There are no provisions in the BSA for altering these fundamental structures.
On the Camping merit badge, it says: 9. Show experience in camping by doing the following: a. Camp out a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights. The 20 days and 20 nights must be at a designated Scouting activity or event. Sleep each night under the sky or in a tent you have pitched. You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement. If the camp provides a tent that has already been pitched, you need not pitch your own tent.
A question in our troop has been about counting more than one week of camping trips. I always understood that if you go on a week-long camping trip every year, you can only count all of the nights camped for one of the weeks camping toward the Camping merit badge? So, you can only really count one of the week-long camps nights, and the rest of the week-long camps would count as one night camping, correct? (Brandt Hellstern)
Nope, not correct.
What the requirement says is that only a maximum of seven days-and-nights may be used as “credit” toward the 20 d/n total. The rest (the other up to 13 d/n) must NOT be at a long-term camp, which means they must be with a Scout’s troop or patrol (like, weekend camping throughout the year). Got it now? Good!
In the Camping merit badge, there’s a statement as follows: “You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement.” What is the actual definition of “long-term camp?”
Also, given the following scenario, how many nights would count towards the camping merit badge?
2 six-night camping trips (troop summer trips),
1 five-night camping trip (NYLT),
1 three-night camping trip (troop weekend trip),
1 two-night camping trip (troop weekend trip), and
6 one-night camping trips (troop weekend trips).
(Diane Nicholson, Advancement Chair, Great Salt Lake Council, UT)
– Resident camping at a BSA summer camp or equivalent BSA camp (e.g., NYLT).
– Looks to be 28, but can’t be sure. Might be 17. “Troop summer trips” is vague.
I just finished reading what you said about letters of recommendation for Eagle candidates. Your answer is misleading. You need to review the point number 6 on the back of the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook, which says: “…candidates should not be involved personally in transmitting any CORRESPONDENCE between persons…” The key word here is CORRESPONDENCE. If you look it up in the dictionary, you’ll see that it clearly implies “written” communication between parties. Therefore, I believe the intent from National is for letters of reference or recommendation to be supplied in writing, not merely a conversation with a board of review member or district representative. You might want to put something up on your web site to clarify this point. (Roy Corbeil , COR, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)
Yup, your logic looks sound. There’s just one teensy little problem… This is the statement regarding references that appears in Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures: “The council advancement committee or its designee contacts the person listed as a reference on the Eagle Scout Rank Application either by letter, form, or telephone checklist. The council determines the method or methods to be used…”
We have a guy who chooses to wear (flaunt?) his yellow shoulder loops as a regional camp inspector, even though his main primary position is District Commissioner. He chooses not to change them and has even posted his picture on our district website wearing these yellow ones. Per the Insignia Guide, he should be wearing silver because that’s what corresponds to his primary registered position, but we can’t seem to get this message through to him. Any suggestions? I’ve told him that if he wants to wear those yellow shoulder loops, he needs to be registered as a regional Scouter. It’s changed nothing. What more can we do? (Steve Shuga)
In the first place, being a member of a regional camp visitation team doesn’t give anybody license to start wearing yellow shoulder loops—it takes being registered with the BSA in a regional-level position. The temporary annual job of visiting camps doesn’t qualify.
A District Commissioner serves at the pleasure of the District Chair, who is the highest ranking volunteer in the district. If he or she has a mind to, the District Chair can tell this guy to change to silver shoulder loops in order to be consistent with his district-level badge of office, and if he refuses then he can kiss the District Commissioner position good bye. That’s the hard-line approach, of course. The other approach is to just feel sorta sorry for someone whose ego is so tiny that he needs these shoulder loops in order to feel important, while in fact they reveal him to be a sort of jerk about the whole thing. I’d suggest keep smilin’ even though it legitimately bugs you — there are bigger fish to fry!
My youngest son just became a Webelos Scout, and I’d like to know if he needs to do the Aquanaut activity badge requirements at a BSA camp or what the requirements are for a Red Cross-certified life guard to sign off on the requirements as he completes them. Or does it need to be a BSA-certified life guard? Thanks! (Mom in Susquehanna Council, PA)
The Aquanaut activity badge, along with lots of others, will be earned with his Webelos den, under the guidance of a counselor selected by his Den Leader.
Our troop’s advancement chair has hit upon a great scheme to slow the pesky advancement of our Scouts (no, not a joke!). Recently, a new and mysterious board of review policy appeared on our troop calendar. Up to then, reviews were quickly scheduled the week or at the most the next week after the Scoutmaster’s Conference. But with this new policy, there are only three reviews a year: in September, January, and June. Note how these have been carefully planned, so that a Scout advancing to, say, Star can’t possibly get to Life by the next scheduled review! Then, this was revised even further, so that now there are just two reviews a year—in September and the following June. So if a Scout makes Star in September he has to wait nine months to make Life and if he misses First Class in September, he misses the merit badge college that year, because it’s only open to Scouts who are First Class or higher in rank.
We have another dandy rule, too: Scouts are forbidden to go to merit badge colleges in adjoining councils (even though they’re welcomed).
My own son’s last review board was made up of the troop advancement chair, one committee member, and two non-registered parents, even though there were other committee members present at the troop meeting that evening who could easily have been asked.
The story around the troop is that the advancement chair can run things any way she wants, with no one blowing the whistle on delaying reviews, “stacking” them, involving non-registered people, or manipulating access to merit badge opportunities. One of the arguments that the troop committee also swallows is that even though BSA policy says that Scouts should get to First Class in a year, there’s nothing to prevent a troop from deciding not to let certain scouts earn merit badges if they’re less than First Class or advance beyond First Class if they choose to.
I’ve brought these weird things up, but the party line is that no one can do anything about these policies if that’s what the advancement chair has decided, because she can run her position any way she wants (this is “individual responsibility,” which the committee as a whole says it believes in).
One of our Scouts was recommended for Eagle, just before his military family was re-stationed. This Scout has already served as Senior Patrol Leader two years beforehand, as a Life Scout, and so qualified for the tenure-in-leadership-position requirement, but the advancement chair fought his making Eagle every inch of the way. Why? Simple: The Scout’s a sophomore in high school and she believes all Eagles should be 18—that it’s “just too embarrassing” to award Eagle rank to Scouts who are only 15 or 16.
Any thoughts? (Name & Council Withheld, Duh!)
If even half of what you’ve just described is accurate, what a perversion of the advancement process! What a witch! What a bunch of pantywaist wonders on the troop committee, to say nothing about the waste-of-space Scoutmaster they’ve got!
Get your son outa that troop!
A corrupted organization cannot—absolutely cannot—be “fixed” from the inside. Teaching pigs how to fly will happen sooner. If you try, you’ll only antagonize these dunces, which could backlash on your son, and you’ll spend a lot of useless time and energy accomplishing nothing except possibly endangering your son. So: GET YOUR SON OUTA THAT TRAVESTY OF A TROOP! And see if you can save some of his buddies, too!
Our family has been in Scouting a long time. I’ve been a Cub Scout leader, Webelos leader, and committee member; my husband is on the council executive board and has also been a leader multiple times. My oldest son is an Eagle Scout and my youngest son, age 14, received his Life rank about four months ago. We recently left a troop because of a financial issue: When my son as well as others from my Webelos den crossed over, they brought with them money from their pack fund that they’d earned, and turned it over to the troop, but then even though we kept asking for over a year for a statement of my son’s account each month, we only got a piece of paper twice stating the balance of what was the total in his account, and we got concerned when we found out that not every Scout participated in troop fundraisers, and yet these same Scouts had their camp fees paid by the troop general account. We also found that certain activities cost more to participate in if certain Scouts didn’t attend. It came to a head when we asked that the troop books be available to see. This didn’t go over well, so we asked for our son’s money in his account so he could change troops. Since then, we’ve met with one other troop, and they denied my son’s ability to join because they’d heard that we’d “stirred up trouble” in his previous troop. Is this allowed for a Scout who’s received over 29 merit badges, earned his religious award, participated in multiple community service projects and is a straight-A student? Because if it is, I’m questioning my support to Boy Scouts since my son has asked what did he did to deserve this. I feel my son is being blackballed! (Name & Council Withheld)
With the depth of your family’s Scouting background, you already know that nothing untoward is going on with that new troop. They do, however, seem to be concerned about something, and I don’t know whether they have reason to be or not, but fear is emotionally-based and so it will always win over logic. If that troop’s leaders used the term “we” with reference to your son and your family both—more or less lumping you all together—this suggests to me that they may have no problem accepting your son, but may be concerned about how deeply his parents will involve themselves in the troop. Do they have cause for concern? I don’t know. But, maybe a conversation between just you and your husband together, face-to-face with the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster, could go a long way toward getting things out in the open and between the four of you determining the best course of action. If you choose this route, don’t spend a lot of time re-living the history of your involvement or the financial woes of your more recent past. Instead, focus on your son’s desire to continue in Scouting and contribution to his new troop, and the extent to which you two see yourselves involved directly, or not, with that troop.
What’s the procedure for barring a Scout from a troop?
We’ve had a real bit of difficulty with one of our Scouts. The last straw for me was when he told me on the last night of summer camp that I couldn’t tell him what to do and I wasn’t the boss of him—dropping the “F-Bomb” along the way, more than once. I was trying to stop him from instigating a fight with another Scout, and I told him the best thing he could do for the situation was to keep his mouth shut. It was right after that that the Scoutmaster called his father to drive the hour out to camp and pick his son up.
This Scout has been a real challenge, and he’s systematically managed to alienate each of the adults who have tried to help him reach Eagle, including our Scoutmaster, the other Assistant Scoutmaster and myself, our Chaplain, and several others. We’ve tried to reach him, but the real problem is that it’s his mom and step-dad who really want him to reach Eagle. We’ve tried everything to give him a sense of Scout Spirit, but we just can’t seem to get it to take. Now he’s 41 days from his 18th birthday, with a project to plan and execute, plus being only half-way through Family Life MB (with my wife, the Chaplain, no less!) and one more as-yet undecided merit badge. Needless to say, he’s also setting an incredibly poor example for our younger scouts.
The Scoutmaster and I felt it’s a decision best left to the committee as to whether or not we retain him in the troop. Regardless, this issue will sort itself out in 41 days. But it’s caused me a lot of pain in my soul since I just haven’t been able to reach him. We’re his second troop. His previous troop asked him not to come back after he (literally) threw another Scout across a cabin at a previous summer camp (he’s a wrestler and can be very aggressive when provoked and intimidating even when not). I don’t feel it’s safe or wise to have him around other Scouts, but I absolutely hate not being able to fill every Scout with the Scouting spirit. What’s the next step? (Brian Buck, Transatlantic Council)
The next step is for the Troop Committee Chair and the Scoutmaster (together, and with the full knowledge of the troop committee) to conference with this young man’s parents. They must be told in no uncertain terms that because their son has demonstrated the capability and the will to bring bodily harm to others, despite special attention and counseling by several of the troop’s adults, the only remaining solution appears to be his removal from the troop forthwith, for reasons of the safety of others. Then ask the parents if they can suggest any other solutions to what has been demonstrated to be an ongoing problem with physical harm to others as the outcome. If they offer a viable option that you all can live with, then at the conclusion of the conversation state your agreement to keep the Scout, but make it crystal clear that even the hint of a further incident will result in his immediate de-registration from the troop, and there will be no further discussion.
As for advancement, the handbook tells every Scout that he can progress at the pace he chooses. Don’t put pressure on this Scout, or resort to any finger-wagging about how time’s slipping by, and certainly don’t “bend the rules” for him. He’ll either do what he needs to do on his own, or he won’t, and that’s entirely up to him!
We can mold boys into men; but we can’t fix ’em if they’re broke. That’s just not our profession.
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(July 7, 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.