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Issue 150 – October 8, 2008

Dear Andy, After hours of research, I can’t find anything about a “recruiter strip” for adults. There’s plenty of information on these patches for youth (including local incentive patches), but I have a volunteer who insists she’s seen an adult wearing one, and she wants one, too. If anyone has information on this, please advise. (Doug Branson, ADC, Occoneechee Council, NC)

There are at least two different versions of “recruiter” strips that I’ve seen and they’re for Scouts. If your lady Scouter saw one on an adult’s uniform, that adult was wearing something he or she should have (but let’s not play Patch Police here), and so we’re not going to perpetuate the error. (Or, you can give her one on her firm promise that she’ll put it in a collection box, on a patch blanket, or anywhere except on her uniform!)

Dear Andy,

I’ve purchased at the Boy Scout store some pins for my son to wear on his uniform. But nowhere on the Internet can I find a layout or answer as to where these should be placed on his uniform. Do you think you might be able to help me out with this? Thanks. (Bree Latham)

Thanks for finding me, and for asking! The reason why you can’t find where they go is… They don’t go. In your son’s handbook, there’s a page or inside cover that shows where various badges are placed, but there are really no places for random pins. However, if you get him one of those red patch vests (find it at, you can put as many pins as you like on it! Enjoy!

Hello Andy,

Last year, my son started out in Cub Scouts and I was an ADL. This year, because our school district changed boundaries, my son picked a different pack to be in, with his school friends. But this new pack, based on my limited experience, seemed very lax and disorderly. Due to most of the pack’s organizers transitioning to Boy Scouts, we had no one to run it. I offered to help. They liked my energy and I was nominated for the position of Cubmaster. I was very honored, but told them that I’m new and I have only two more years to offer. The Committee assured me that I’d be great. So, as the new Cubmaster, found out that this pack is used to having just a monthly pack meeting; den meetings, if any at all, are totally sporadic. So I established a regular schedule for den and pack meetings, and this met with immediate resistance: Three Den Leaders quit on the spot. Although I’m trying to establish a program that’s both fun and also structured to the BSA program, I’m being called “too strict” with the program. After our first pack meeting this year, two of our remaining Den Leaders sent me email messages. Here they are, in part:

“I think our first pack meeting got off to a rocky start. Last year several parents complained to me about the chaos at the pack meetings. I know for a fact several parents dropped out for this reason. Last night I desperately tried to stop the boys from playing ball. I received no help. One parent did get hit with the ball as they entered the gym! We have to stop the running around at the beginning of the meetings. If I were a new member to the pack and saw that for 15 minutes children just running around then not listening , playing with flags and generally disrespecting the leader of the group, I’d ask myself, ‘I gave up my evening for this?’ Granted, the acoustics of that gym are terrible and I couldn’t hear even when the kids were quiet. It honestly seemed like Raphael’s voice just disappeared!”

“I agree and I know a lot of other parents are uncomfortable with the way the pack meetings are run. Perhaps we have an opportunity now to implement some changes early in the year so we don’t end up losing more people. I know most people sign up for Cub Scouts because the organization expects much from its members and requires good leadership. Perhaps we will need to reach out to our current families and discuss ways to share leadership if we are going to move on from here. I posed that to the Bear families and given the current lack of Den Leaders would consider combining that group with the Wolf Cubs, as many of the requirements are the same. There are great families in our pack. Let’s see if we can work together with more of them. I have to say the meeting room was a challenge with the acoustics and in regard to safety. That front door shouldn’t be open to allow kids to wander or dart out front near that busy road.”

So, how can I approach unruly and disorderly children at a pack meeting while being proactive? Do I approach the parent and have a talk? The problem is that there are many of them and the precedent was set well before now. Plus, even the current Den Leaders are resistive to the idea of structured den meetings at a fixed location. Thank you for any help that can be given. (Rafael Gonzalez, CM, Yankee Clipper Council, MA)

The bottom line here is that this pack you’re in got a “lifesaver” (you) to fill a slot they were desperate to fill, but unwilling to support. Three Den Leaders quit, the pack committee and Pack Committee Chair aren’t supporting you, the pack meetings are chaos and the Den Leaders aren’t managing their dens, there are virtually no den meetings (which is where most of Cub Scout activities happen—pack meetings are for the dens to “show off” and for the Cubs to receive their achievements). Here’s the bottom line: YOUR SON is the only important person here. Get involved in his den. Get that den to meet weekly, like it’s supposed to. Go to training with the Den Leader, so you can provide backup. Resign from the Cubmaster position immediately. Your reason: No support. You don’t have to be “nuzzled” back into re-accepting this position, and you absolutely cannot be accused of reneging, because it’s the pack’s ongoing leaders who let you down—not the other way around.

If you decide you’re going to “fix” this pack, and you don’t have 200% active support from the committee and chair, and 200% support from the Den Leaders and parents, you’re going to spend the next two years shoveling water upstream and getting no thanks for your efforts. I promise you that the physical and emotional toll will be greater than you could possibly imagine.

Dear Andy,

Since Webelos is an 18-month to two-year program, can a Webelos Scout earn the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award twice? If so, does he have to re-earn the Outdoorsman the second year?

Also, wouldn’t a Cub-N’-One, a Webe-O-Ree, or other camp count as a resident camp? If so, then a Cub can earn the award anytime of the year if he attends one of these events, yes? (Jeff Roddy, WDL)

Get yourself two books: Resident Camping for Cub Scouts (No.13-33814) and Cub Scout Outdoor Program Guidelines (No.13-631). All of your questions will be answered in detail. In quick brief: “Resident camping” for Cub Scouts means an overnight camping program operated by your council and supervised by BSA National Camping School graduates.

Regarding the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity Award, yes, it may be earned more than once. Boys may earn the award in each of the program years as long as the requirements are completed each year. The first time the award is earned, the boy of course, gets the pocket flap, for his right pocket. After than, he gets a pin each time he re-earns the OAA, and he attaches those to the flap.

For more information on the OAA, go here:

Greetings Andy,

I have a registered Committee Chair who holds a dual role as pack treasurer. How can I tell her that “No one may register in more than one position in the same unit”? But she’s not registered as a committee member-pack treasurer. I need help on this. (Sam Garcia, ADC, Shawnee Trails Council, KY)

In order to be in violation of a stated BSA registration policy, this person would have to be formally registered as both a Code CC (for Committee Chair) and Code MC (for Committee Member). If she’s not holding two such registrations in the same unit, then she’s not in violation of any BSA policy.

That said, the position of Pack Treasurer needs to be delegated to a member of the pack committee other than the CC. The reasons for this are both practical and procedural. In the first place, the pack treasurer “reports” to the CC, so we can’t have a situation where one is reporting to oneself. That’s like somebody being both a Cubmaster and a Den Leader—It just doesn’t work! There’s also a procedural reason for not being the CC and the treasurer at the same time: The treasurer reimburses other pack volunteers and parents who spend money on behalf of the pack’s programs, but only when approved and countersigned by the CC. In other words, there’s a fundamental short-circuit of process when the same person who approves an expense is the one who then writes the reimbursement check for it. If the CC can’t grasp this and remains reluctant to pass this responsibility over to someone else, then it needs to be brought to the attention of the entire pack committee, at a face-to-face meeting, so that they, as a group, can fix a problem that their chairperson hasn’t. If it turns out that the CC just can’t let go of the treasurer position, then the committee can ask her to resign as CC, keeping the treasurer job, and then they can pick a new CC.

Dear Andy,

In response to a district’s erring on the side of caution on the issue of power tools at Eagle projects, their position being that if there’s a motor, an adult should operate it, your answer was: “Use hand tools.”

In this case, perhaps you were too short in your answer. While I applaud you for recommending using traditional tools, I can’t help but wonder why not power tools? We allow for the proper education and experience in other hazardous activities, such as climbing, shooting and cooking, so why should we not use this opportunity to teach the boys and girls how to properly use a circular saw, power drill, sander, and other such tools? With the shift in formal education away from industrial arts, who will be responsible for passing down skills like these to our youth? Most of our leaders in Scouting are probably very capable of teaching about the proper safety and operation of power tools—I’d venture to say that most of us probably have a garage full of these hazardous things! Of course, no leader should teach anything they’re not educated in; but, I’d sure like a carpenter to teach a few youth the proper way to change a blade or operate a miter saw!

Please understand that I’m not saying to hand a 30,000 rpm Dremel to Jimmy Tiger Cub, to carve out his Pinewood Derby car! But, don’t restrict my 16 year-old Life scout from using a cordless driver to put up a mini-blind for his Eagle project. (His future wife will be much happier if he knows how to do it!) (Dan Bihary, Heart of Ohio Council)

The question I addressed by saying “Use hand tools” was about leadership service projects created, planned, and carried out by candidates for the rank of Eagle Scout. Consequently, my answer to your question, “Why should we not use this opportunity to teach the boys and girls how to properly use a circular saw, power drill, sander and other tools?” is this: A Scout’s Eagle project is absolutely, positively NOT the correct time to teach anything, including how to properly use power tools or anything else–This is a time of leadership by the Scout, with as little adult interaction during the course of the project as is humanly possible.

In the broader sense, and outside the realm of Eagle service projects, there’s not a thing wrong with power tools and every kid should be exposed to as many of these as possible, whether this has anything to do with Scouting or not.

Hi Andy,

Thanks. I’d not considered the idea of “no teaching” at a service project before: It does make sense! I can think of a few circumstances where there would be an adult leader doing the teaching, but in most cases I believe you’re correct. It just seems that I’m the only one in my council who thinks that Scouts need to know how to use power tools. I’m trying to convince other leaders of this, but I’m always met with resistance. I have a standing 20-buck reward for anyone who can show me the rule in the GTSS that prohibits power tools, and I still have my money! (Dan)

There’s no BSA policy that prohibits Boy Scouts from using “power tools.” There’s no BSA policy that prohibits Cub Scouts from using “power tools.” Or Venturers, Sea Scouts, or Explorers, either. Wanna guess why? It’s simply because the use of power tools is not a part of the Scouting program!

In particular, Boy Scouts learn how to safely and efficiently use woods tools like knives, axes, bow saws, and so forth; canoe paddles; PFDs and throw-lines; flint-and-steel; compasses and GPS devices because these are a functional parts of the outdoor program of Scouting. There’s nothing that a Boy Scout will ever have to do in the normal course of his Scouting “career” that will demand the use of power tools. If you want to show young people how to use power tools, be my guest. But you don’t need to do this under the “umbrella” of Scouting, because, despite it being a fine and noble idea, it’s simply unnecessary to the program.

Dear Andy,

Can you please clarify req. 9 of the Camping merit badge? As you know, it says to camp a total of at least 20 days and 20 nights. We understand that these days-and-nights must be at a designated Scouting activity or event. It also says you may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement, and that’s the part our troop’s having differing opinions about. Here are the specific things our Camping Merit Badge Counselor is telling us…

– Our 12 year-old Scouts go on a 5-day council-sponsored camp: This counts toward the 20.

– Our 13 year-olds go on a 5-day council-sponsored camp in their second summer with the troop: If this was counted when they were 12, the summer before, it doesn’t count again.

– When our Scouts go on an overnighter, it counts as one night.

– If our Scouts go on a 5-day, 50-mile hiking-and-camping trip, this is the same as a long-term camp, just like the council’s summer camp, and doesn’t count again.

Can you please clarify for us what does and doesn’t constitute a long-term camp? Thanks! (Stacy Knight, Utah National Parks Council)

That MBC is full o’ beans.

“Long-term camp” means, in 99.999% of cases, Scout summer camp—the council’s camp. Last time I checked, the total number of days and nights in a week is 7. So, go to camp for 5 days and nights and get credit for all 5. Go a second time for 5 nights and get credit for 2 of these, because this, when added to the prior 5, totals 7. Are we doin’ OK so far…? Let’s move on…

A 50-mile hike, whether it takes 5 days, 2 days, or 10 days, is not a “long-term camp” because “long-term camp” is a council summer camp. If the 50-miler means that the Scouts spent 5 days and nights pitching tents and/or sleeping under the stars, then of course all 5 of these days and nights get credited toward the 20 needed for Camping’s requirement 9(a).

A single-night overnighter counts as 1 day and night. A 2-day/night overnighter counts as…wanna guess?… 2 days and nights. A 3-day/night overnighter… Yer gettin’ this, yes…?

Go find another MBC, check to see if this is how he or she does it, and if the answer’s yes, then send your Scouts thataway — even if they have “partials” (a Scout does NOT have to complete a merit badge with the MBC he started with).

Dear Andy,

What is the age required to allow a Scout to fire a shotgun? I have a shooting outing planned with my brother who’s a Scoutmaster. He claims his son, a 12 year old Boy Scout, is old enough. My son’s also 12 and it’s not my intention or my understanding that he would be old enough, and he’s not interested in firing a shotgun anyway. My concern is over being around my nephew while he has a loaded shotgun in his hands. Is age 12 considered old enough to do this? (Joey Nobles, Fayetteville, NC)

According to BSA literature, a Boy Scout (age 11-18) may shoot a shotgun when supervised by a currently NRA-certified Shotgun Instructor and/or currently NRA-certified Range Safety Officer. A Boy Scout may not fire a shotgun under any other conditions, no exceptions. Furthermore, if your state has stricter policies, then the stricter policies supersede BSA policies. As for your own son, who apparently isn’t a Scout and therefore doesn’t fall under BSA policy, if he has no interest in shotgun shooting, then he needn’t be nearby while this is going on. And finally, as for yourself, simply stay with your son, elsewhere.

Dear Andy,

I’m getting back into Scouting and I want to be better informed. I have a Scouting background that will help me back on track—I’m a former Den Chief, PL, SPL, JASM, and OA Lodge Chief, and I’m an Eagle Scout (Class of ’88) and Vigil Honor. I’ve been an Assistant Scoutmaster and I’m interested in being a Unit Commissioner and taking on those challenges while my son is still young. I am excited about the training and I want to jump in, head first. I know it’s all about the boys and I want to help the parents, committees, and Scoutmasters remember that, via my help and training. Stronger units and better programs would be my goal. I want to get all the training I can, not only about being a Commissioner, but also as a Scoutmaster and troop committee member (and Cubs). This way, I can know both what I’m helping them do and the right way to do it first-hand. I own my own company and my time is mine, so I can devote a decent amount of time to this program that gave me so much. I want to do a quality job and not be pushed into handling more units than I can properly serve (if I do, I imagine burnout is possible). I’m getting all of the books and guidelines, and I’ve already finished all of the online fast-start training. Do you have any advice, as I head into these waters? I can’t seem to get the District Executive to call me back.

I have a son due in about three weeks, and I’m excited to introduce him to Scouts (sorry for the sloppy writing–long nights with my wife carrying our future Scout). (Name Withheld, Coastal Carolina Council)

If, by “due” and “carrying our future Scout,” you mean your wife hasn’t delivered yet, cool yer jets! This is absolutely not the time to start runnin’ out to Scout meetings! Be home. Be with your son. Be with your WIFE! Seven years from now, look into Tiger Cubs for your son.

Dear Andy,

I just received a “Baloo” badge and I’d like to know where to place it and if that’s the permanent place. Thanks. (John Grieves, New Jersey)

Without seeing it, but doing some educated guessing, the most probable “legal” place is right pocket, centered.

Dear Andy,

I’m just starting to work with Scouts on merit badges. I’m wondering if there’s a site where leaders can go to see completed worksheets. I read the merit badge pamphlets, and I sometimes have trouble coming up with what I think should be the correct answers. Any help or guidance would be much appreciated. (Dan Banagas, Orange County Council, CA)

Help me out first: What are the merit badges that you’re a duly registered Merit Badge Counselor for?

I’m a registered MBC for Communications and Citizenship in the Nation; however, I try to help out our Scoutmaster and Varsity Coach, who are registered for all the Citizenships and Emergency Preparedness (I only help with the worksheets for merit badges that I’m not registered for). (Dan Banagas)

Couple of thoughts for you…

– Merit badges don’t have “wrong answers.” Merit badges are about completing requirements; not passing tests.

– When we turn the earning of merit badges into anything resembling “Scout School” we’re doing EXACTLY what Baden-Powell DIDN’T advocate!

– Having counseled well over 1,000 Scouts on a variety of merit badges over the years, including the citizenships, communications, family life, all of the aquatics, and more, I can personally assure you that the fastest way to put the flame of Scout out is to start using “worksheets.” Merit badges are all about interacting with an experienced and wise adult; worksheets are the antithesis of this.

Dear Andy,

I have four sons: two Eagles, one Life, one Tenderfoot. My youngest son joined a different troop from my older two last spring, in order to be with a friend. We quickly learned that things were very different there. For instance, after duly obtaining a blue card, when my son called the troop’s Family Life MBC for a first meeting, so he could work on this merit badge over the summer, the MBC told him that Scouts in the sixth grade aren’t permitted to work on this merit badge. On learning of this, I called the Scoutmaster myself, pointing out that there are no age requirements on any merit badge, but he was unwavering in support of the MBC. Next, my same son was scheduled to cook for the troop on a campout, so he practiced at home all week to learn how to make all the meals. On loading day he asked his Patrol Leader if the cook box had all the utensils that the recipes would need, and he got a “yes.” But, at my insistence, he opened the patrol box to double-check and, you guessed it: nothing. As I watched this, one of the other adult leaders in the troop angrily came up to me and in front of my son and the other boys, ordered me to get out and leave them alone to handle things themselves, that I should not have suggested to my son that he check the box—this is how he “learns to improvise.” Later, the Scoutmaster told me the same thing. So, my bottom line is they set up Scouts to fail and they insult parents with any brains. What should I do? (Sandy McPherson, Simon Kenton Council, OH)

You have to know that this troop your youngest son chose is a mess. Question is, does your son know this? And does it bother him enough to want to switch troops, including getting his friend to switch with him? My own temptation would be to get him out of there in a heart-beat, and let the parents of his best friend know what’s going on, so that their son isn’t messed up by this troop, either.

Then, whichever decision your son makes, you respect it. And then, whichever decision he makes, you need to back away from his activities and not be there to save the day—this experience is for your son; not you. In the first place, our sons sometimes need to learn in ways that give us parents conniptions! In the second place, unless he has these experiences himself, without parent-as-rescuer, how can he make a Solomon’s decision about troops? So chill. Easy to say, tough to do: Chill. Until you son comes home from a trip and grumbles about how Scouts sucks. Then and only then should he have a little chat…with his brothers.

Thanks, Andy. My two older sons are in another troop that I think we’ll move our younger to. I know Lord Baden-Powell’s motto of “Teach them, train them, let them lead.” I feel my son is in the first and second part of this motto and not ready to lead yet. That’s why I make myself available to him like last week when he needed to check for the cooking utensils. He is in the training mode and how can you train without a coach? (Sandy)

If you want to be a parent-leadership trainer, that’s certainly a fine goal. But do this separately from your son’s Scouting experience. In Boy Scouting, boys learn mostly from other boy role models and from the Scoutmaster; not from parents. We actually cripple our sons in subtle ways when we step in and do things for them, especially things that they’re capable of doing for themselves, or—more debilitating—when we’re “rescuing.” Another B-P saying is: “Never do for a boy that which he can do for himself.” Your job, as a Scout parent, is NOT to keep your sons from messing up. Messing up is something Boy Scouts do—It’s part of the learning process. Please don’t short-circuit that process!

Dear Andy,

It never occurred to me that I may be the youngest person to ever attain the rank of Eagle, but after some random Googling, I think I may be. I’m trying to locate my Eagle certificate, but I’m reasonably sure that it’s dated December 1959. I was born March 24, 1948, which would have made me 11 years and 9 months old. I’m trying to make the numbers add up, because on the surface that seems impossible. There are a couple of factors that may have some bearing on it. First, I started Scouting in Hawaii, when it was a territory, and completed my Eagle requirements after it became a state. Secondly, I completed the fifth grade at age 10 years and 2 months, and was a Webelos Scout. Was I the youngest to make Eagle? (Ellis M. Jones, III; Memphis, TN)

It’s possible. Let’s begin here: In 1959, there was just one way to become a Boy Scout, and that was to be 11 years old. That means you would have been eligible on March 24, 1959. If your Eagle rank certificate indeed carried a date in December 1959, this means you would have had to complete all requirements in nine months. But at that time, whether you were using the requirements as printed in the Fifth Edition of the Handbook For Boys or the Sixth Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook, the tenures-in-rank for First Class to Star (3 months), Star to Life (3 months), and Life to Eagle (6 months) add up to 12 months, so that if the requirements were indeed followed, the earliest possible date for you would have been in late March 1960. However, this doesn’t take into account the time it would have taken you to complete the various requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks, so that it’s more likely, when all is said and done, that date you’re searching for will prove to be at least in December 1960, which would have made you 12 years, 11 months old. (I’m making educated guesses here, obviously.)

Check with the BSA National Council office… Call ’em up, give ’em your name and the time-line you think is correct, and they’ll find the date for you! They’re very helpful, so don’t hesitate. That’s the fastest way to clear up your “mystery.”

It may turn out that you’re the youngest, or it may not. I wouldn’t fret about it, either way. You see, Ellis, the most important thing is how you’ve lived your life by the Scout Oath and Law for the last half-century! Best wishes—and please let me know what you find out!

Dear Andy,

I know you’ve covered the issue of “Scout spirit” and “active” before, but the issue has now raised its head again in our troop. My son is being refused the sign-off on his application for Eagle and a board of review because, according to his troop, he’s not showing Scout spirit by actively going on 50% of the troop’s outings (actually it’s more because each night counts as a trip “point,” so summer camp, for instance, is a “6-pointer”). I’ve shown the Scoutmaster and committee what you’ve said in your columns and their reaction was: Who cares! Who is he, anyway?

There’s a time-limit operating here. My other son is coming in from Iraq next month (he’ll be here on leave) but must go back. His brother has everything done, but is now stuck by refusals to sign and review. Could you please help in this appeal process by stating your feelings again, how we can back this up, and a brief explanation of who you are. (Steve Tant, Daniel Boone Council, NC)

When people in Scouting—at any level—place themselves and their misguided if not misanthropic ways above the policies and procedures (to say nothing of the spirit) of Scouting, it’s time to move on. They will not be convinced by anything you say or I say because in their tiny minds there’s no room for any viewpoint but their own. There is nothing so pitiful as the tiny mind that cannot deviate from procedure; there is even more pity when that procedure is wrong.

Waste your time with them not a second more. Your son, with you at his side, can go directly to the district advancement chair (or, if there isn’t one, then the council advancement chair), describe the situation, and request an over-ride on signatures and a district- or council-level Eagle board of review. IT IS ABSOLUTELY HIS RIGHT TO DO THIS.

As to who I am: The only thing they need to know is that I’m a council-level Scouter who has personally reviewed 181 Eagle Scout candidates. If the dolts in your son’s troop can match that, we’ll talk; otherwise they can go pound sand down a rat-hole.

Dear Andy,

I don’t really know how to start, there’s so much going on in our troop that’s causing concern. My son and I have been trying to address issues from the inside, but after a year of butting heads with the Scoutmaster and the other leaders, I need some advice. The background is that about two years ago my son joined this troop and shortly after that the leaders approached my wife and me and asked if we’re going on what they called “stateline turnaround.” The dates conflicted with other plans we had, so we didn’t ask any more about what this was. Later, we learned that the troop’s “stateline turnaround” was their unofficial fund-raiser; the way it works is that the troop parents rent a bus and ride across the state line to Nevada, where they gamble, and along the way drinks and prizes are raffled off and the proceeds go to the troop. When I asked if they thought this was appropriate, they told me that they keep it separate from troop activities, and that it’s not affiliated in any way with the troop.

But what really shocked me was what came next: An adult leader showed up at a troop meeting “complaining” of still having a hangover from the trip, making these comments in front of myself and a few Scouts. When I told the Scoutmaster what had happened, and also told her that, from what I’ve read, no form of gambling is allowed in the BSA, including raffling, she agreed that the leader was acting irresponsibly and that she would “look into it.” Nothing happened, but then, a few months later, we received a troop newsletter—BSA logo and all—announcing, among other things, another “stateline.” I confronted the Scoutmaster again and found out that, of course, she hadn’t “looked into” anything, and when I pressed her on this, she said that this is the troop’s best fund-raiser! Then, I was approached by a Den Leader of our troop’s feeder pack, who asked if I’d help sell at that pack’s fireworks stand fund-raiser! What do I do? Since this all started, my son and I have been treated poorly. (Aaron Williams, State Unknown)

You live in one of these five states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, or Utah. I’d love to guess, but let’s cut to the chase. There are just two options here:

1. Find a way to become the troop’s Chartered Organization Representative, so that with that authority you can fire all of the offenders and preserve the salvageable remains, and recruit new volunteers, or

2. Go find a troop that welcomes your son and whose practices follow BSA policies.

In the interest of your and your son’s time, energy, and future, I recommend the latter. AFTER you have transferred out of this troop that treats you so poorly, you may wish to advise the District Executive serving that troop’s area, but don’t be shocked if a blind eye’s been turned for years. It’s not for me to further comment on this troop’s (and pack’s) activities, because they’ve obviously latched onto a “grey area” and I’m not going to go there, despite its danger.

Is what they’re doing wrong? I’d like to present the Scoutmaster with a definitive statement. (Aaron)

If, after having already pointed out to the Scoutmaster that “from what (you) have read no form of gambling is to be allowed in BSA, including raffling,” you’ve “gotten nowhere” in over a year and you’ve been “treated poorly” ever since (your words in all three cases), just what is it that you hope to accomplish here?

Insanity is defined as doing the same thing as you’ve done before, but expecting different results.

As a parent, you have only one job here: Find for your son the best possible Boy Scout program in the area, and then encourage him to join up.

I want something that comes from someone with more experience than myself, stating that these actions aren’t in line with Scouting guidelines. Once I have this, I’ll take it to the chartered organization and present it to them. Depending on their response, I’ll either let them handle it or I’ll take it to the next level. That being said, can you direct me to the overseeing body that governs chartered groups?

My son was taken back by your response, as am I. Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum. If there are enough notable exceptions, then protest reaches a critical mass. We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” (Aaron)

If you want to risk frustration, acrimony, and all-around ill will, be my guest.

The troop has, perhaps inadvertently, unearthed a “gray area,” and is, apparently, successfully capitalizing on it. The usual Scouting unit fund-raiser involves Scouts and selling something to the general public, and in this situation the BSA’s Unit Fund-Raising Application, which you can obtain from your own council service center, is clear that gambling in any form is prohibited. However, for a group of parents to proceed with their own “junket” and raise money exclusively amongst themselves is not covered by the BSA policies because it contains none of the elements I’ve just described.

As for fireworks, BSA safety policies may or may not apply, depending on exactly what’s being done and what the laws of your home state and community are.

Moreover, there is no higher authority than the troop’s chartered organization (unless there is a clear violation of a BSA policy, which doesn’t appear to be the case here), so that if the head of this group decides to turn a blind eye toward what he or she might consider an otherwise harmless activity, there’s virtually nothing more you can do except be a nuisance.

As for “notable exceptions,” you seem to be pretty much alone in your crusade. So, if we’re going to invoke quotes, try this: “Don’t try to teach a pig to fly. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

Finally, if you’ve been “treated poorly” for over a year, then unless there’s something about this treatment that somehow fulfills some need on your part, and your son’s, I cannot for the life of me figure out why you’d want to stay in this troop.

I do want to thank you for listening to a frustrated father. I thought that the fact that these questionable events were being promoted on troop letterhead with the BSA logo was a direct violation. It was my understanding that all leaders agree to the Scout Laws and Oath. To me, that means that they should adhere to the same rules. I just wonder how we can ask Scouts to act a certain way, when we don’t hold the leaders to the same standard. Once again thank you. I will consider the issue closed. (Aaron)

Remember, at the outset, you asked for my advice? I gave it. You always have the option of doing something else. But you need to know that in 20 years of Commissioner service and seven years of writing this column and responding to literally thousands of letters (many along the lines of yours) there’s little I haven’t seen. You situation isn’t unique. But it’s not life-threatening, either. Being right is OK; being righteous isn’t. The most important thing you, as a Scout dad, can do is INSULATE YOUR SON FROM ISSUES LIKE THESE–THEY’RE NOT HIS BUSINESS. And go find a troop where this sort of paternal angst isn’t pervading your son’s Scouting experience. You do recall what happened to the crusaders, do you not?

Dear Andy,

I’m involved in starting a new Cub Scout pack. How do I find out about the start-up process? It seems like the executives are all about the numbers anymore, and not about actually helping units. How do I get a checking account started for the pack? (Adam in Belleville, IL)

First, let’s dispel a myth: Professional Scouters (DEs and such) have absolutely no interest in getting a new unit chartered and then watching as it nearly as quickly evaporates. However, DEs and such aren’t babysitters, either. They expect new volunteer leaders to get themselves trained and to ask lots of questions of their trainers and fellow learners, so that those who have gone down your path before can help you along the way. One thing that will help you right now in the guidance department is to ask for a Unit Commissioner to be assigned to your new pack, to keep you from stumbling and to help you to not reinvent a wheel that’s already three-quarters of a century old!

Now, let’s get an answer to your question: I’m sure you or your pack committee’s treasurer has a favorite local bank and banker. Just go visit, tell ’em that you’ve just started a new Cub Scout pack and need a checking account, and they’ll take it from there—that’s their job, and they’ll know exactly what you’ll need to do! My recommendation is the Bank of Belleville because, being a local bank, they’re always interested in local folks like yourselves!

Dear Andy,

Some of my Scouts, seeing my hammock when our troop goes camping, have asked if they can do the same. My Committee Chair says there’s a firm rule that Scouts must camp two-per-tent at least, and so we can’t allow them to sleep in individual hammock. I don’t see anything about this in the Guide to Safe Scouting. Do you know of any BSA rule like this? I’d generally agree with the two-per-tent rule, following the Buddy System, but is it an iron-clad rule? Thanks. (Allan Green)

There’s absolutely no “two per tent rule” in Scouting. If your CC continues to insist on this, then you need to insist that he show you this in writing. Moreover, you don’t need “The Buddy System” when you’re in base camp! Duh!

Hammocks are a really cool idea! I remember using a hammock years ago, at a YMCA summer camp, when we went on an overnight hike. I really liked it! I’ll bet your Scouts will get a kick out of trying hammocks, too! Go for it!

Dear Andy,

A while ago, in response to a fellow Scouter who was asking about Eagle projects being “Scouting events” and therefore demanding two-deep adult leadership, you replied to the effect that anyone insisting on this was—your words—full o’ baloney.

I must respectfully suggest that, while your answer was entertaining, it missed the point. True, the requirement for two-deep leadership has nothing to do with an Eagle’s service project being an “event.” However, the rules of safe Scouting must be applied to all activities. Analyze the activity taking place in performing the service project. Does the activity constitute a “trip or outing?” For example, we have an Eagle Scout service project that’s an overnight backpacking trip to clear deadfall and saplings from wilderness trails, to reestablish access for equestrian use—a co-ed project involving participants from a troop and a crew, so in this case two-deep leadership is only one of several Youth Protection and Safe Scouting requirements that must be met. (Andris Ikstrums, Greater Alabama Council)

Thanks for the compliment about my being entertaining. I hope I can continue in this vein while imparting a few insights along the way…

Of course good sense must apply (not “common” sense–good sense). If an Eagle project is being done, let’s say, in a town park around the corner, “two deep leadership” probably isn’t the order of the day. But if chain saws are needed, then we revise accordingly! If a service project–any service project—involves clearing trails at, let’s say, a country park, two-deep leadership probably isn’t necessary, either. But, when—as in your case—a service project involves a significant trek into wilderness and an overnight stay under pitched tents and with on-the-trail meals, then two-deep leadership is certainly a major consideration. But, if carried out at the patrol level, it’s not required and is not in violation of any BSA safety or protection policy.

The other point is this: There are far, far too many myths and mistakes about Scouting floating around, so that when you hear something that just doesn’t seem to ring true, it probably isn’t true… But instead of “me” trying to find the BSA statement that proves it untrue I want to put the burden on the myth-teller to show me the BSA statement that backs up their baloney.

Happy Scouting!


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(August 30, 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.


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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