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Issue 143 – August 13, 2008

Boyoboy do I have a bunch of sharp-eyed readers! Remember that question in my last column, from a dad whose son was elected to the OA by his troop last spring but didn’t do his Ordeal and can’t do it in the fall, but there’s a bunch of Ordeal weekends running at the Scout camp he’s working at, and they’ve welcomed him to do this, but it’s not his home council? At the time, I’d said that I’d not heard of any national policy to prevent this, but clear it with both lodges—home as well as the council he’s presently working in. Well guess what… That big BEEEEEEEP! you’re hearing is me getting it wrong! Here’s what you all had to say about my gaffe…

Hi Andy,

If you check the revised 2008 version of the OA’s Guide for Officers and Advisers, on-line version, on page 23, it states, under the heading of Ordeals: “Candidates for membership in the Order must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted…by the lodge that serves the council in which the unit is chartered. Out-of-council Ordeals are not permitted except when religious custom and observance precludes attendance at the Ordeals of a Scout’s home lodge (e.g., Sabbath-observant Jewish Scouts). In this special case, the region Order of the Arrow chairman may be petitioned for an exception to permit the scout to be inducted by another lodge.” I think this is what that dad is looking for. (Les Houser)

Dear Andy,

Love your column, but in last one you gave bad information on the Scout who wanted to do his Ordeal at another lodge. National policy is quite clear that is must be done at the home lodge, with very limited exceptions. The National Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisors states: “Candidates for membership in the Order must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted in to the Order by the lodge that serves the council in which the unit is chartered.” Part of growing up is making choices. This Scout must choose which events to attend, and if he misses his Ordeal opportunities he can be re-elected the following year. (Mike Shavel, Lodge Advisor)

Dear Andy,

There is an official policy concerning Ordeals taken in the home lodge or not. The OA’s Guide for Officers and Advisors states the following on page 23: “Candidates for membership in the Order must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted…by the lodge that serves the council in which the unit is chartered.” (Bob Reeder, Past Section Adviser)

Dear Andy,

You were correct that he must complete the Ordeal within a year of his election. But there is a rule regarding where the Ordeal must be completed. According to the OA Guide for Officers and Advisers there is a rule regarding where an OA candidate completes his Ordeal. He must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted into the Order by the Lodge that serves the Council in which the unit is chartered. (John Pojman, Ta Tsu Hwa Lodge)

Dear Andy,

Unfortunately, I must disagree with your response about where OA candidates can do their Ordeal. There’s actually a policy pertaining to this situation. The current edition of the OA’s Guide for Officers and Advisers (“GOA”), page 27, says: “Ordeals. Candidates for membership in the Order must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted into the Order by the lodge that serves the council in which the unit is chartered. Out-of-council Ordeals are not permitted except when religious custom and observance precludes atten­dance at the Ordeals of a Scout’s home lodge (e.g., Sabbath-observant Jewish Scouts). In this special case, the region Order of the Arrow chairman may be petitioned for an exception to permit the Scout to be inducted by another lodge.”

Although it doesn’t appear to apply to Mr. Kotz’s son’s situation, the previous section of the GOA, on the same page, talks about another situation in which a Scout who has been elected as a candidate, but who has not yet attended his Ordeal, yet permanently relocates to a new Council, may take his Ordeal in the new Council: “Candidate status. Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, or adults remain candidates until completion of the Ordeal and Ordeal ceremony. If this period of candidacy exceeds one year, the candidate’s name will be dropped. To become candidates again, they must be elected/selected again. The executive committee of the lodge may extend the one-year limit if a candidate is ill or there are other unusual circumstances. If a candidate permanently relocates to a new… council prior to completing the Ordeal, the candi­date should immediately join a troop or team in the new council. A copy of the election report must be presented to the new unit leader to arrange induction in the new lodge. The candidacy period is not restarted or extended.”

IMHO, one of the primary reasons for the rule is that the election, call out, and Ordeal are all part of the same induction process that is, and should be, considered an honor to be recognized and witnessed by those who honor the candidate by electing him. You are correct that he must complete his Ordeal within one year of election. I recommend, as you do, having the conversation with the lodge chief and the lodge adviser to see if there are any accommodations that can be made within his lodge. If that fails, I recommend discussing this with his camp staff supervisor to see if he can be released for the one weekend the Fall Fellowship is being held. (Karl Kaszuba, Lodge Adviser, Kola Lodge #464)

Dear Andy,

This is from page 23 of the Order of the Arrow Guide for Officers and Advisors: “Ordeals. Candidates for membership in the Order must complete the Ordeal and must be inducted into the Order by the lodge that serves the council in which the unit is chartered. Out-of-council Ordeals are not permitted except when religious custom and observance precludes attendance at the Ordeals of a Scout’s home lodge (e.g., Sabbath-observant Jewish Scouts). In this special case, the region Order of the Arrow chairman may be petitioned for an exception to permit the Scout to be inducted by another lodge.” (Jeff Mawdsley, ASM, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)

Sincere thanks to these alert Scouter Arrowmen!

And, since we have so many fine Arrowmen reading these columns, here’s a question I’ve asked the OA national website several times in the past half-year, with no response. Perhaps there’s an answer among you on this one…

If an OA lodge does not provide an election team of Arrowmen, or lodge or chapter representative, to a local troop or team wanting an election, and that troop or team has—according to its own record-keeping—Scouts qualified for election into the OA, can that troop or team conduct its own election sans lodge or chapter representation, and thereupon submit the correct paperwork?


Since this column’s theme seems to be righting wrongs, it’s not inappropriate for another mea culpa here…

In my July 27 column, I answered a long-dedicated Scouter from Kentucky’s Blue Grass Council, who despite knowing that the BSA doesn’t permit “numbers” on “being active,” decided, in keeping with his own conscience, to do just that: He institute a metric—a “number scheme,” he called it—on “active.” He claimed that “It’s worked, but many of the Scouts think it’s a burden…”

Instead of responding, I reacted—in high dudgeon would put it mildly. Justified by being a died-in-the-wool straight-arrow Scouter? Maybe. But appropriate for a Commissioner? Absolutely not! Appalling, in fact—No tact, diplomacy, or much of anything except anger.

I owe this Scouter an apology for my conduct unbecoming a Commissioner. I’ve re-thought my answer and I’m about to correct it; I hope this Scouter is willing to re-think his position as well. Here goes…

Yes, the world has changed… Today more than ever the moral fiber of our youth is being challenged daily, in mass media, in theater, at rock concerts, in the streets, and even at the very schools that for so many generations before were virtual safe havens. Today, in the face of these threats to the future ethics of the coming generations of our countrymen and citizens, Scouting as a moral foundation is needed more than ever before.

Our primary responsibility, as volunteer role-models and mentors, is to help those youth whom we serve to see the path ahead that points to True North and then help them make the personal decision to aim at it to the exclusion of ethical distractions. We started doing this a hundred years ago; our goal is no different today. But it may be more important today—it may be, in fact, the most important thing we can do with our time, talents, and treasure.

Scouting is founded not on getting badges or even going camping or hiking – It’s founded on principles of thinking and behavior that lead to happy, productive, contributing citizenship. Those badges and campouts are parts of an overall method, but they are not ends in themselves. Part of our job is to assure that these don’t become the ends; that they continue to remain methods and nothing more. When we ourselves lose our focus, we begin to supplant the wrong things where the right things should be. Our job is to encourage advancement and the out-of-door life; not to set ourselves up as final arbiters of achievement—Because it’s ultimately up to the youth whom we serve to decide what they want to achieve, and then get out there and do it. We, meanwhile, keep our true goal to ourselves—This is how Scouting is, and remains, “Fun-With-A-Purpose.”

Youth seek fun—it’s in their very nature—plus adventure, challenges, team-spirit, and teamwork. Many activities available to them offer these things, including sports and sports teams, theater and performing arts, debate and forensics, music both instrumental and vocal, church and temple youth groups, and the list goes on and on. It’s always been this way. Sports have been a part of youths’ lives since “Day One,” as have most of all other activities. Perhaps the choices are greater now—more than the classic Football, Basketball, and Baseball, there’s now track and field, soccer, lacrosse, swimming and water polo, and on and on. But the essential pull-and-tug remains the same: Scouting for nearly 100 years has been the most flexible part of the milieu of youth—always there and always welcoming when the season’s over, the last race is run. This is as it should be, because Scouting isn’t an organized sport, or a “program,” or a “class” or series of classes. No, Scouting is a movement. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of living one’s life by a very particular set of fundamental values. Once caught hold of, it doesn’t “go away.” Why? Simple: The values of Scouting are as real and relevant today as they were a hundred years ago. And they “stick.” All we volunteers need do is give Scouting itself—it’s essence—room to work. We do this best when we follow the signposts to good Scouting; we interfere with this process when we begin to believe we somehow have the right and the authority to make fundamental changes in how Scouting works.

Scouting doesn’t choose youth; youth choose Scouting. “They” do not somehow “belong” to us; we belong to them. We have a covenant with the movement itself to provide Scouting as it is intended to be delivered; not our own particular version of it, no matter how justified or conscientious we might feel we’re being. When we ourselves slip from Scouting’s True North, the youth to whom we have made the commitment to provide positive and constructive role modeling receive less of what Scouting has to offer, replaced by our own idiosyncrasies. Let’s not do this. Let’s, instead, recommit ourselves to delivering what Scouting expects of us, and what every youth we serve deserves from us.

The difference between getting Scouting right and getting Scouting almost right is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.


Happy Scouting!

Andy

Send your questions and comments to:

AskAndyBSA@Yahoo.Com

(August 13, 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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