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Issue 155 – November 20, 2008

Hi Andy, The son of a friend and co-worker is currently serving in the 82nd Airborne, in Iraq. His military unit is stationed in an Iraqi village where some American Girl Scout volunteer leaders have started up a troop for the girls of the village, complete with the famous Girl Scout cookies! My friend’s son and his fellow soldiers bought the cookies, of course, and then they donated them back to the other children of the village! As you might guess, many of the men in this unit were Scouts themselves—some Eagles—and they’re still living according to the lessons learned as Scouts! (Peter Kappas, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)


Hi Andy,

Greetings from the Transatlantic Council. Here’s a story you might enjoy… We sent a contingent of American Scouts, based in Germany, to the 2005 National Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. During the first few days, nobody would trade for our JSPs (Jamboree Shoulder Patches). But then, in the last few days, after word had gotten out that there were “German Scouts” at the Jamboree, we had many Scouts coming to our campsite to trade JSPs for patches, and to meet us German Scouts. We kept explaining that we were a BSA council Jamboree troop, just living in Europe—We were BSA and American citizens, just like them, and that they’d need to go to the International Scouting booth at Midway Plaza to locate where the actual Pfadfinder Scouts were. Despite all this explanation, most of the young Scouts just stared at us in awe, and couldn’t understand why German Scouts wore the same BSA uniform they did, and how we spoke such good English! (Dave Sears, ADC, Barbarossa District, Transatlantic Council)

Great story! Thanks!


Hi Andy,

A while ago, one of your other readers asked about the American Indian Scout Association (AISA) and noted that he was having some trouble tracking them down. Their official website, with a lot of good information and forms is http://americanindianscouting.org/ I hope this is useful. (Craig, Jersey Shore Council)

Absolutely! Thanks!


Hi Andy,

The Outdoor Activity Award states that if a Scout earns it a second year he should receive a “Wolf Track Pin” to pin on the originally-earned patch. I can’t find any information on this pin. Can you help? (Blair Piotrowski, DL, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)

For a full description of the Cub Scout Outdoor Activity program, go to http://www.scouting.org/cubscouts/resources/13-228/index.html

The “Wolf Track” pins are item no. 14236 and sell for $1 each. Contact your local Scout Shop to purchase them.


Dear Andy,

This is one of those “I just had this information and now I can’t find it!” problems. Where can I find specifics (examples) of skits and stunts that are no longer permitted? I’m looking for things like the “J.C. Penney” skit is now on the No-No list, and (my personal favorite) the “Millipede” skit is also on that list, because squirting water on the unsuspecting is not longer condoned. Any directions? (Paula Berghauser, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)

Doug Fullman, Associate Program Director of the Northeast Region-BSA, wrote a fine piece on this. It even provides a “solution” to the J.C. Penney skit! Here’s what Doug has to say (which I support 110%):

“Scouting’s program is designed to develop boys in character, citizenship, and fitness including mental, moral, spiritual, and physical fitness. Activities, meetings, camp programs, and campfires all contribute to Scouting’s aims. Therefore, some items that may be acceptable in other segments of society are not part of the Scouting program.

 

“One of the important elements of Scouting is FUN. In our attempt to use humor and fun activities, we must continually remind ourselves that these amusing and entertaining programs are excellent opportunities to teach the values of Scouting, and must not detract from, nor contradict the philosophy expressed in the Scout Oath and Law.

 

“Although many leaders are able to determine the appropriateness of most program choices, there are certainly numerous songs, stories, skits, and stunts that force the leader to make decisions. To add to the complexity of the decision is that in many cases it is not so much what is done, but how it is done that makes the difference. The areas that fall between the inappropriate and the absolutely acceptable, we call the gray area.

 

“Just because a skit, song, or story falls in one of the gray area categories does not, in itself, establish that it may not be done. At the same time, if an item is in the gray area, then a leader must exercise his judgment concerning not only the subject matter, but also the performers and their sensitivity to the values and ideals of Scouting. The final decision must be the impact the item has on developing character, fitness, and citizenship or setting the wrong example of what Scouting is all about.

 

“The following Gray Areas should alert leaders to exercise their very best judgment:

1. Underwear: Concerns: Nudity, natural modesty of teens, mental fitness, and cleanliness. Judgment Note: The J. C. Penney Skit can be done in swim trunks as an example.

2. Water: Concerns: Victims (self-worth/self-esteem) Persons may be hurt physically and emotionally. Equipment/clothing damaged.

3. Bodily Functions: Concerns: Skits, etc., portraying urination, sexual acts, or defecation do not contribute to developing Scouting’s Ideals and Values.

4. Toilet Paper: Concerns: Bodily Functions (see above) and Toilet Humor. Judgment Note: “The Viper is Coming” can have a person with paper towels and Windex to clean someone’s eyeglasses.

5. “Inside” Jokes: Concerns: Only the participants or those “in the know” can appreciate the humor. Don’t bore, or even worse, ignore the rest of us in the audience. Judgment Note: Staff Banquets, and Last Will & Testaments, are OK uses of inside jokes because most of the participants are “in.”

6. Alcohol/Drunkenness: Concerns: BSA’s Unacceptables. Alcohol is the most abused drug, especially within the age group Scouting is trying to serve. Drunkenness=Making fun of people. Courtesy. Self-esteem and self-worth.

7. Cross-Gender Impersonation: Concerns: Bodily Functions and excessive, inappropriate exaggeration of body parts. Embarrassments. May become a form of sexual harassment. Judgment Note: Can be great fun. Area that most probably fits into the “not what is done, but how it’s done” category.

“This guide has been prepared with the sincere desire for wholesome fun, recreation, and enjoyment for all at Scouting activities, especially campfires. Hopefully you, the leader, will find these guidelines helpful as you thoughtfully approve these activities, guide boys in making the right decisions, and personally set the example for Scouting at its best.”

 


Dear Andy,

Can you tell me who actually does the Eagle court of honor for our son? His troop doesn’t want us to be involved at all, it seems, and there have been several Eagle Scouts who are now grown men who would like to be speakers and to present my son with his Eagle ring that we’d like to add to the court of honor. (Rick Parrish)

Courts of Honor are most typically troop events. Usually, there’s an event chair—typically a troop committee member. I’m sure that, as parents, you’re proud of your son, and you’re more than justified in this regard. However, courts of honor, even for Eagle Scouts, are not coronations. That said, if the troop’s plan for the court of honor program doesn’t include all of your wishes, there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t hold a private party, of sorts, for your son, afterwards (never beforehand!), where people can make additional speeches and your son can be presented with a ring and other Eagle paraphernalia, as you (and he) desire. If you do this, cake and light beverages are always a nice touch!


Dear Andy,

I have been to my local council with these questions in the past and haven’t received an answer. What do I need to do? If things keep going the way they are, we won’t have a pack before long. I have 36 registered boys in the pack, and an average attendance of between five and eight.

As the Chartered Organization Representative, what actual authority do I have the over the pack committee? Who has a right to set pack policies? What authority does the church (the chartered partner) have with regard to the pack? The pack committee is telling me that neither I nor the church has any authority over the pack and how it’s run or what its policies are. Effectively, we’re being ignored as far as making any decisions for the pack.

One of our specific problems is that we have several Webelos II who, if their parents and leaders would just put in the time with them, could qualify for their Arrow of Light rank, making them eligible to cross over to Boy Scouting when they’re supposed to (February, or March at the latest). In a conversation with a fairly knowledgeable Scouter, one suggestion was that we could hold off on the cross over till June, thereby allowing time for the boys to earn AOL rank. I did point out that, without the AOL, these boys can’t cross over to Boy Scouts until they’re age 11, but with the AOL they could cross over before their 11th birthday, and the pack committee went along with this.

But, overall, the pack committee, in my opinion and the opinion of several of the parents, isn’t looking out for the best interests of the boys. I’ve talked with several parents who had been very active but now have stopped because of the committee and some of its members. Can I override the committee if I feel that a decision is not in the best interests of the boys? I usually attempt to get the opinions of several people before making a decision. Do I have the authority to remove any leader and recommend new leadership instead? Does this include the pack committee members? I’m concerned that they’re going to run the pack into the ground until we don’t have one. (Bob Rice, COR, Alapaha Area Council, FL)

Let’s do the easy one first: A boy is eligible to become a Boy Scout (a) on his 11th birthday, OR (b) on completing 5th grade, OR (c) earning the Arrow of Light. My question, however, would immediately be this: Why is it taking till June for these boys to complete the requirements for Arrow of Light? The 18-month Webelos program was introduced nationally in 1989, and has been successfully transitioning boys into Boy Scouting by late winter for the past 18 years! Your pack needs to play catch-up real fast!

Now, on to your sticky wicket… A Scouting unit is chartered to a sponsor (nowadays called Chartered Organization, or “CO”), and that sponsor has agreed to deliver the Scouting program in partnership with the local council and the BSA. But neither the local council nor the BSA (national office/organization) “owns” the unit. The CO owns the unit. Outright. No exceptions. The unit exists because the CO permits it to exist by re-chartering it with the council each year. There is no alternate arrangement. Every Scouting unit in America exists in this way, and only this way. So, if the CO “owns” the unit, who is ultimately responsible for it and its members and adult volunteer leadership? The CO of course. Again, no exceptions. So, if the CO has ultimate and final authority over the unit, who—that is, what person—is ultimately the final authority? The head of the CO, of course. If the CO is a church, then it’s the pastor or senior pastor if there’s more than one, or youth minister if the church decides to do it this way. Can that pastor delegate authority to someone else? Yes. Guess who: The one person to whom this authority may be delegated is the COR—the Chartered Organization Representative. Then, just as the Cubmaster of a pack or Scoutmaster of a troop or Advisor of a Crew serves at the pleasure of the unit committee and its chair, the unit committee, through its chair, reports to the COR. That is the “chain of command”: COR->CC->CM. In this chain of command, there is no “going around” the COR to the pastor, anymore than a Cubmaster would “go around” the committee chair to the COR.

As COR, you have ultimate say-so as to the volunteers in your church’s pack. If someone is not following either the precepts of the church or the policies of the BSA, you have the obligation as well as the authority to invite them to change or resign, and, if they do neither, to fire them outright.

That said, the best way to get everyone facing in the same direction here is for you all to GET SOME TRAINING—TOGETHER!

I agree with you on the training. This is the first year of all of our Webelos II Den Leaders and our pack committee is made up of people who have just one interest—to get boys into the Boy Scout troop (the troop has a different sponsor) by any means available. We are now set to have the cross-over next April; however, I feel that we’re short-changing these boys by not giving them the opportunity to earn their AOL. So, do I just say, OK, this year all who are 10 and will finish the fifth grade this year can cross over and then add that, starting with this year’s Webelos I Scouts, they have to meet all AOL requirements to cross over?

Now, what about this pack committee? I actually had parents who refused to come inside because of them and the way they do things and treat people. I have several boys who love Cub Scouts, so their parents make arrangements to get them there. Most of the time they’ll have someone else bring them to the meetings. However, when they have to come themselves, they’ll just sit in their cars and wait. I talked with several last night and tried to get them to come in; they just refused based on many prior experiences with the pack committee members.

Last night at a pack meeting, while a Cub was giving a presentation, the Cubmaster was sitting at a table with two committee people just talking and having a good time. At one point the CM was talking on his cell phone, so while the boy was giving his presentation you heard beep-beep-beep, talking, beep-beep-beep, more talking—this went on almost the entire time the boy was giving his presentation. They, the adults, were sitting four tables from me and I could hear every word they were saying, including language sh** and a**hole and so on. Some Boy Scouts were at another table and if one of them so much as moved in their chair and it made a noise, or if they talked any little bit, the committee people were jumping up and running back there snapping her fingers and pointing at them telling them they needed to “shut their mouths” or just to “shut up”, in a very loud voice.

What kind of example are these adult “leaders” giving? Eighty percent of the pack’s problems are the committee itself. What do I need to do with them? I’ve been the COR for two months now and have not been able to get any control over this pack and get things moving in a positive way. I am challenged at every turn. I’m the only one of the leaders in the pack who was a Scout and has other adult volunteer experience in Scouting. I don’t mind being disagreed with; I’ve been wrong on things and will be wrong again. I’m just tired of being questioned on everything, having to prove myself, and being told that neither I nor the church has any authority over the Scouting program here.

The pack committee is also the troop committee, but the pack and the troop have different sponsors. (Bob Rice, COR)

The key to your problem is finally obvious: To the members of the pack committee, the pack is nothing more than a well from which to draw Webelos Scouts to support the troop that they’re vastly more invested in. Shut down this supply, or fire the hostage-takers.

Long experience teaches us that corruption cannot be fixed “from within.” It can only be fixed from the top, down. Like zits, hoping they’ll go away of their own accord doesn’t work, covering them up means they’re still there, just buried a little, and the only way to fix the problem is to remove them. Period.

Don’t try to teach pigs to fly. It wastes your time and annoys the pigs.


Dear Andy,

I would ask you to reconcile the guidance from the BSA National Advancement Committee relative to that provided in the Scout Handbook, Scoutmaster’s Handbook, and Advancement Committee Guide regarding Eagle requirement 1.

By way of background I currently serve as (Council & District Name Withheld) Boy Scout Advancement Chair and participated in the appeal board that withheld Eagle rank from Scout (Name Withheld). I believe you are familiar with the specifics of this matter, since letters reported to have been written by you were presented on the Scout’s behalf.

My sense of the BSA National Advancement Committee’s decision that reversed my council’s appeal board decision is that it was based on the position that listing on the troop roster means active for the purposes of advancement. The letter from the BSA appears to lay fault on the troop for not policing its own roster. A less than rigorous survey of troop web sites indicates that a fair number include in their bylaws minimum criteria to maintain active status in the troop; not as an additional requirement for rank. This seems to comport with BSA guidance, as these troops have established membership criteria, not added to a rank requirement (one cannot advance if one is not on the roster). As to removal from troop membership, the Advancement Committee Guide seems to anticipate this situation by defining the term separated-registered; which I would take to mean appearing as paid on ScoutNet, but removed from a troop membership roster. Therein lies the rub. What latitude, in your opinion, does a troop have in establishing minimum criteria for membership? Can one assume anticipated Centennial Quality Unit Award Commitment levels of 70%, Unit Commissioner guidance of 60%, a Scoutmaster’s sense of present more often than not, are enforceable minimums? Is any quantifiable standard sustainable at the national appeal level? Am I laboring under the illusion that something more should be expected beyond checking off the boxes for Eagle rank? I would appreciate a response at your earliest convenience. (Name Withheld)

Scouting is a volunteer movement. The primary volunteers are the youth themselves, and we adults who have chosen to serve them serve at their pleasure; not our own. Our responsibility as is to deliver the Scouting program, as written, to the very best of our abilities, always seeking to improve and enhance our delivery and always striving for the ideal.

Although, to borrow an oft-used quote, eighty percent of success in life is the result of showing up, it is in no way mandatory that a youth do so, in Scouting. It is often said that “Scouts ‘vote’ with their feet,” and they will walk away from a Scouting unit that under-delivers or mis-delivers the Scouting program as described to them in the Boy Scout Handbook. Exit interviews with youth who have disengaged from Boy Scouting reveal that the majority have done so because the troop they joined either under-delivered or mis-delivered what they were told they’d be getting, per descriptions of how their troop and patrol would be functioning, the role of their elected leaders and Scoutmaster, and so on, in their own Boy Scout Handbook.

Let’s for a moment step back and take a broad view of a Scout who has become a candidate for the rank of Eagle, and his troop. We’ll consider a pretty much “average” Scout, in a troop that pretty much understands how they’re supposed to be delivering the Scouting program. As a Life Scout on the cusp of Eagle, this young man is about 16 years old, and has been a Scout for about five years. In this time, advancing through the ranks of Tenderfoot through Life and on to completion the requirements for Eagle, he’s taken at least one camping trip for Tenderfoot, participated in no less than five non-meeting activities for Second Class, then a total of ten by the time he’s First Class, then at least six hours of non-meeting service time for Star and another six for Life, and then perhaps as many as 100 or more for his own Eagle service project. In addition, in the earning of no less than 21 merit badges, he’s met with his Scoutmaster an equal number of times to secure signed merit badge applications, plus another 21 times turning in his “blue card” stubs for recording. In the course of earning these merit badges, he’s met with his merit badge counselors, on average, at least four to six times per badge (almost none can be earned in single meetings), for a total of, on average, over 100 non-troop meeting-related meetings, plus his hours spent independently to fulfill the requirements of these merit badges. Moreover, in the course of earning the twelve required merit badges, he’s at a minimum done these things: Attended two town council or school board or court sessions, interviewed a government employee or elected official, carried out eight hours of non-Scouting related service, prepared and delivered a public presentation and a public speech, visited a national landmark, toured a state or the US capitol, toured a federal facility, participated in an international event, written an issue-based letter to an elected official and to a news media editor, planned and conducted a personal interview, planned and led a troop court of honor or campfire, had both a physical and a dental examination, carried out a comparison-shopping trip, participated in two family meetings, carried out an emergency service project and a troop mobilization, visited an environmental study site on at least four separate occasions, camped overnight for 20 days and nights, and either taken six hikes covering a total of 70 miles or seven cycling trips covering 150 miles. This is, of course, to say nothing about his activities in pursuit of the remaining nine merit badges he needs for Eagle. He’s likely gone to summer camp between three and five times, accounting for, on average another 30 or so days and nights, plus another perhaps dozen for camping merit badge alone. As a youth leader in the troop for a minimum of 16 months, he’s both led his patrol and/or troop and met with is Scoutmaster on numerous occasions for the junior leader training that is the mandate of all Scoutmasters to provide. He’s had no less than six Scoutmaster Conferences, in which expectations for his advancement, involvement, leadership, and so on have been discussed. He’s participated in five boards of review, with similar discussions ensuing.

We know, from the procedures described in various authoritative BSA literature, that had this Scout fallen short of BSA standards in some way, revealed either through any of his six Scoutmaster Conferences or his five boards of review, or in his junior leader training conferences with his Scoutmaster, he would have received a written description of the shortcoming(s), instructions for correction, and a time line for successful conclusion. Receiving none, he would naturally have no reason to believe he is falling short in any way.

Now if Eagle Scouts have one thing in common, it’s that they’re not just involved in Scouting; they’re involved in many things. In addition to their Scouting activities, Eagle candidates are likely to be seriously involved in their religious institution and its youth group, at least one if not several sports programs, school clubs such as debate or mathematics or language or chess and so on, service clubs such as Rotary International’s Interact Clubs for high school students, student government, and the list goes on and on, in a variety of combinations, so that Scouting represents hardly the whole of their non-academic away-from-home lives.

From these perspectives, let’s now return to our “average” candidate, as he’s conversing with the members of his board of review for Eagle. Here, he now discovers that his level of activity as a Scout is being called into question, despite all of the foregoing. In light of his multiple and multifaceted activities in pursuit of the Eagle rank, this might well be a shock to him, even more so because there have been no less than eleven prior opportunities for his Scoutmaster and the troop’s committee to bring up this subject, and that hasn’t happened. This being the case, he certainly has every right to seek remediation and recognition through the channels the BSA has established for him to do so.

If you have read my columns, you already know that I virtually always support and endorse the judgment and decisions of the BSA National Director of Advancement and the BSA National Advancement Committee. I believe it is incumbent upon you to do the same. Troop problems are NOT solved by punishing Scouts.

Thank you for your response but I find it a tad oblique. The National Advancement Committee, not the Director of Advancement (a professional liaison) determines national advancement policy, or so have I read. Volunteer Scouters, as are we all, rely on published guidance as dictum. It is hoped one could understand that the decision to reverse a difficult Council Advancement Committee decision based on de facto guidance would not be well received. The Scout endured circumstances perhaps not deserved, and the honest Scouters involved are now subject to castigation. National guidance directs that a Scout is active if listed on the troop roster (as opposed to the national paid roster). The question put was to what extent, in your opinion, may a troop police its own roster as anticipated by the unpublished directive. Please be advised that I take umbrage at your suggestion of my disloyalty to the movement. I look forward to your response. (Name Withheld)

Take all the umbrage you like. If you found my response not directly to your point(s) perhaps you’d care to remove the obfuscation from your initial message and describe the actual facts of the situation that you have thus far approached sideways at best.

As for disloyalty, I haven’t the foggiest idea as to what you’re referring. Nothing in my own message even referred to you.

As regards membership, the Scouting movement is intended to be a magnet that attracts youth; not one that finds obscure and arbitrary ways to exclude them. As regards advancement, the Scouting movement is for the purposes of encouraging young people to improve themselves, to become happy, productive, responsible, ethically-directed citizens; not for finding ways to impede or repudiate their personal growth.

Regarding “published guidance,” show me BSA text stating that a troop may, of its own accord, find ways to arbitrarily terminate Scouts and/or withhold from them what they’ve rightly earned. When you’ve done this, we can talk some more. Until then, this conversation’s over.


Hi Andy,

I’m a new District Commissioner in a district that’s in a major rebuilding mode. I accepted the position just as the re-chartering process had begun. We’re in process of rebuilding the Commissioner staff and also our district committee. Our major problem appears to be in a corner of our district where there are three troops that are in major shambles.

As I’ve dug into the situation, apparently a husband-and-wife set of leaders have been connected at one time or another with all of these troops. They seem to spend about a year or two at a Troop, then quit and walk away. Their net impact, in three cases now, is a damaged troop with shrinking numbers. The last troop they ran had 22 Scouts three years ago and just re-chartered with five. A troop they ran before this one literally closed its doors a few years back. As we continued to check things out, one horror story after another came to the surface. I just learned from a COR that they’re considering removing this pair from leadership in their troop. Should that happen, that would still leave them connected to a Venturing crew.

I feel I need to meet with the COR who wants to remove them, but should I also contact the Venturing crew COR and review the past “situations” with them as well? Or, do I continue to “investigate” what’s going on and proceed to my council about revoking their membership? I don’t feel I can allow this pattern to continue, if we’re to have any hope of rebuilding the Scouting programs in this area. (Name & Council Withheld)

The couple you describe sounds really scary! This pair is obviously poisoning units in some way, and alienating just about everyone they come in contact with. Yes, the COR and head of the CO are the key people you need to speak with, because they, not the council, have both complete and immediate authority over the adult volunteers in their unit(s). As for the Venturing crew, perhaps the best course of action would be to have the troop’s COR speak with the Venturing crew’s COR, rather than you. Then it would not be “hearsay” and is less likely to come back and bite you or your council. (People such as you’re describing won’t take their removal lying down—they’re more likely to create a firestorm—so be sure to alert your Scout Executive and District Executive in advance, so that they don’t get blind-sided.) BTW, Yes, I’ve “been there” and, like a cancer, this has to be zapped; playing patty-cake with killers doesn’t work.


Dear Andy,

In one of your columns a while back, you received a letter about a Scoutmaster who had adamantly decreed that no Scout may work on a merit badge until he completes First Class rank requirements, on the theory that the Scouts will continue earning merit badges, but won’t be interested in advancing in rank, and you recommended: “Give that dunderhead Scoutmaster a kick in his adamant rear end…that this Scoutmaster is violating a BSA national policy by insisting on his misguided decree. This isn’t a matter of opinion nor is it open for discussion. This has to change instantly or he’s history.”

And I find that I disagree with you, slightly. Yes, a Scout may work on any merit badge, but before he can earn the merit badge, any such related requirements for First Class or below must be completed. Thus, for example, the swimming sections of the First Class and Second Class rank must be completed before swimming merit badge can be signed off. Or the appropriate first aid portions of Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class must be completed before the first aid merit badge. And also, remember that during the years starting in about 1972, First Aid merit badge was required for First Class rank; therefore, requiring a Scout to earn a merit badge before finishing First Class. In the troop where I hang out, we find that it works very well to start the Scouts right off on First Aid merit badge, and on the path to it, the earlier requirements are done by the merit badge counselor. This usually starts around the second meeting after crossover, as the first is devoted to doing the first of the month long sections on physical fitness, so the clock starts ticking right away on Tenderfoot. Oh, and even way back when, when I got my first merit badge as a Second Class scout, Radio merit badge, which at the time required taking Morse at five wpm. Not to be questioned as the only counselor in the district, my father required me to pass my novice Ham radio ticket to pass that requirement, thus the test was administered by the FCC. Overall though, for that Scoutmaster, I do agree with shape up or ship out! (James Eager, ASM & District Advancement Chair, Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO)

You and I don’t disagree at all! Of course some merit badges have prerequisites, and some of these tie into requirements for the fundamental ranks. But that wasn’t the point. The point was that this doofus of a Scoutmaster wasn’t even providing “blue cards” for even Underwater Basketweaving or Dustbunny Collecting, which have no such prerequisites! So, your bottom line and mine are right on the same page!

Sorry your dad didn’t stick to the requirements (you already know how I feel about that stuff!), but that probably “toughened you up” anyway, and did no irreparable damage! Just to show how times change, as a Scout, I learned Morse Code also—for the First Class rank! (No speed was required, but we did have to send and receive a message of at least 20 words and 100 letters, with no more than 5 errors, and none that would destroy the sense of the message.) -. -. –.-


Dear Andy,

A while ago, there was a letter in one of your columns about the “Cache to Eagle” geocache series in the Hiawatha-Seaway Council. This is actually part of a larger effort that started in Marion County, California to establish a series of geocaches at Eagle Scout projects— twelve of them in each district of each council! There are certain guidelines to follow, and yes, there’s a patch that may be purchased. Information on this program and on using geocaching in Scouting can be found at www.geoscouting.com/index.html. The person who developed this is involved with the geocaching training that the BSA has made available at the national website, and with the geocaching class at Philmont Training Center. There are many Scouting-related geocaches out there. Some are set up by Scout units. Some are located near or on BSA property. Some follow a Scouting theme, such as the series in my area built around the Scout Law. I’ve bookmarked many of these at www.geocaching.com, so that others can check them out. My bookmark can be accessed at: www.geocaching.com/bookmarks/view.aspx?guid=a2299dc2-6e29-4de1-b3bd-3347eb0605fc (you’ll need a geocaching.com account to access it). (Michael R. Brown)

I can always count on you for great background and detail—Thanks!


Dear Andy,

What’s the procedure for asking for a den leader’s resignation? (D.D., Tidewater Council, VA)

That’s a pretty heavy-duty question! The head of your chartered organization (sponsor) or the Chartered Organization Representative (COR) can do this at their discretion. But before this is carried out, consider these questions…

– Is the person doing (or not doing) something so grievous as to truly warrant removal? For instance, is this damaging boys, or merely a “nuisance,” are BSA policies being violated, etc.?

– Are we dealing with an ongoing problem or a one-time error? If the latter, what are the odds that it may be repeated?

– Is the problem behavioral or attitudinal?

– Has there been a specific discussion with this person, to make sure that the problem—whatever it may be—is understood by all?

– Is this correctable through counseling or training, or not?

– Has this person been given the opportunity for self-correction?

– Is there a replacement, ready to step into the job with no or minimal loss of continuity for the boys?

Good luck –


Hi Andy,

My reason for writing is that I don’t agree with you about “Eagle reference letters.” Nowhere on the Eagle Scout rank application does it require reference letters. As you often state, we, as leaders, can’t add to or take away from a requirement. It does ask for references, and letters are nice, but they’re not required. If there’s an issue about a Scout’s character, then the troop committee needs to contact those references before the board of review and have those people either show up to vouch for the Scout in person, or send a letter. And, as you said, with all those previous reviews and Scoutmaster’s conferences, duty to God surely has been addressed, along with any other issues that are just as important to a Scout on the Eagle trail. (Matthew Stewart, SM, Pennsylvania Dutch Council)

For the recommenders of the Eagle candidate, no actual letters, per se, are required; however, it is expected that the references will be contacted in some fashion (see the Eagle Scout Leadership Project Workbook), among which letters are one of the options. It’s also expected (but not mandatory) that as many of those blank lines on the rank application as possible will have a name and contact information on them.

The wise Scout contacts his preferred references in advance, describes what he’s doing (that is, he’s nearing the end of his journey to the rank of Eagle Scout), and he asks for their endorsement, explaining that they will be contacted by someone on his behalf. Securing their agreement, he adds their name to the list. This way, there are no unpleasant surprises and no one gets blind-sided.


Dear Andy,

We’re planning on talking about knife safety and proper pocket knife use with our Bear den in an upcoming meeting, but now I’m puzzled, because another Den Leader was talking about the “Whittlin’ Chip test” and how some of his Cubs didn’t earn their Whittlin’ Chip because they didn’t turn their test in. I don’t see a test in the book. Am I missing something? This Den Leader normally does everything by the book (we went to training together). (Jen Haubrich, DL)

There’s no “test” and this guy’s starting to write his own book instead of sticking with the one the BSA’s already written for him! Besides, hasn’t he figured out yet that there’s absolutely nothing in any BSA program that sets a boy up to fail? Just out of curiosity, you may want to ask him what he’s doing, or what he thinks he’s doing, but don’t for a minute think you should be buying into his off-the-mark notion.


Dear Andy,

I noticed in your November 1st column that there was a Scoutmaster concerned about a Second Class rank requirement for a D.A.R.E. or D.A.R.E.-type program. In our troop, we had a problem when we had boys who had met all of the Second Class requirements except this one because their school hadn’t taught it yet. So I contacted my council and they sent me Drug Abuse Task Force pamphlets (enough for all the Scouts) and one of my Assistants took part of a meeting with all of our younger Scouts and they went through the pamphlet. This met the requirement. In case it would be useful to someone else, the address on the back of the pamphlet is: Drug Abuse Task Force, S202, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, P.O. Box 152079, Irving, Texas 75015. (Greg Maus, SM, William D. Boyce Council, IL)

Great way to make a possible “mountain” just melt away!


Hi Andy,

Our Troop is considering placing a uniformed leader into a dual role as Assistant Scoutmaster and parent liaison committee chair. Is this a conflict of interest? Please advise. (Doug)

It’s not a conflict of interest; it’s impossible. An individual can be registered in only one position in a Scouting unit, so an ASM can’t be a committee member, too. Simple as that.

Assistant Scoutmasters help the Scoutmaster and sometimes take on special “jobs” that are Scout-related. ASMs don’t hold that position so they can interface with parents. So, if this present ASM really wants to do this new job, then he or she simply changes registration–drops ASM and joins the troop committee.

Trying to “double-up” gets confusing. That’s why the BSA doesn’t permit it.


Dear Andy,

In the neighborhood we have two large Cub Scout packs; each pack recruits out of two schools. Our district is looking at splitting them up into a pack for each of the four schools. The packs themselves aren’t thinking or talking about anything along these lines. What’s the best way to approach this with these packs? How do we end up with four strong and happy packs? Thank you! (Rae Schwartz, UC, Gulf Coast Council, FL)

First, do your homework: If the packs as they’re formed right now were divided according to the four schools attended, how many boys would be in each of the four packs? In most states, schools themselves no longer sponsor Scouting units and PTAs and PTOs abandoned Scouting units more than a dozen years ago, so who would be sponsoring the two new packs? And how would the two current sponsors feel about this mitosis? What about leadership… How many additional committee members and Den Leaders, to say nothing about needing two more Cubmasters, would need to be signed up in order to make this work? Finally, the biggest question of all: If this mitosis is successful, whose goals will have been met—The packs, who haven’t considered it (suggesting a possibility that the way things are may be working pretty well), or a District Executive or district membership chair who needs to show unit growth this year?

Thank you, Andy!

As you guessed, this is a district idea. You’ve expressed the same concerns that I’ve had. So far, both packs are coping well with the increased numbers, and are slowly acquiring the delegating skills needed for large pack leadership. The two sponsoring organizations would be fine with a split, so long as they each retain a healthy pack, because neither is overly involved, and meeting space is starting to become a problem for both packs. Finding new sponsors wouldn’t be difficult. I’d much prefer the idea of splitting to come from the packs themselves. With your thoughts in mind, I do feel more comfortable in continuing that stance. If the district does bring it up again, I think the best thing would be to encourage the packs to mentor leadership so that each new unit would have experienced leadership. Thanks for helping me to clarify my thinking! (Rae Schwartz)

You’re welcome! However, you bring up one point I hadn’t thought of: Pack size relative to meeting room size. Maybe you take this one pack at a time. If one is experiencing a problem that has only two realistic solution possibilities—divide, or find a larger meeting space—perhaps they could be approached to see if, assuming an additional sponsor, with space, is available, they’d be interested in splitting themselves into two packs, to make meetings more manageable and easier to fit into the space available? For the “foundation pack,” there’s probably little to no manpower problem; for what would be the offspring pack, some recruiting might need to be done, but if it’s an active pack anyway, this may be simpler than most, since everyone would already have a pretty decent idea of what each job that would have to be filled entails (compared to creating a 100% brand-new pack, this one might be a no-brainer).

If it can be choreographed to happen this way, then maybe you just sit back till the other large pack starts saying, “Hey, did you see what those other guys did?”


Hi Andy,

I understand that for the past couple of years our national council has been trying to track down all of the Eagle Scouts in the country, and has been putting together a document that lists their names and where they can be found. I am trying to get the list of these men who live in my district—I’d like to invite them to a meeting called “A Gathering of Eagles.” The intent would be to show them a couple of good slide show presentations that’ll remind them of the good times they had when they were Scouts, and then remind them of the commitment they made when they became Eagle Scouts, to “give back”. Since these men probably won’t have sons in Scouting at this time, my intent is to try and get them to become Unit Commissioners or involved in district events. Any thoughts as to how best to bring these men back into the program? (Bill Casler, UC, Greater Alaska Council)

First, you need to know that your Scout Executive receives, each year usually in January or so, a list of every known Eagle Scout residing in the council’s service territory, and this can usually be sub-divided into district territories. You may want to get started with the 2008 “edition,” knowing that 2009’s just around the corner.

Now, how about an Eagle Scout Alumni Association? Maybe don’t try to nail folks to the wall the minute they step into a room… How about just asking them, now that they’ve met (be sure to have name tags and they put their name and Eagle year on them) if they’d like to meet a few times a year, and start up an “alumni association.” Doesn’t have to be formal, although that’s nice. Could even have a newsletter (quarterly if not monthly), and maybe sponsor a dinner for each year’s new Eagle Scouts (Buddy ’em up with a new Eagle—the “old” one pays for both dinners and they sit together to get to know one another). Or maybe an Eagle day at camp (outside the normal season) and take out the boats, canoes, rifles and shotguns, and open up the dining hall for a “camp meal of steak, beans, salad, and BUG JUICE! (Followed by coffee, cocoa, and tea, of course!) Just some random thoughts… Put together a “committee” of guys like yourself and brainstorm —remember, no initial idea is a “bad” one or has to be “justified”—just get every possible idea out on the table and written down, then take a break and come back and decide which ones you want to implement right away and which go on the “back burner” list (but don’t get tossed!). You’re on your way!


Greetings Andy from the great State of Texas,

Our son just completed his Eagle board of review and we’re excited to say he’s an Eagle pending approval of his paperwork by the national council. He may be interested in staying with Scouts for a while, to earn his Gold Palm. We think we understand most of the requirements, except we’d like clarification on requirement 3 (“Make a satisfactory effort to develop and demonstrate leadership ability”). Does the leadership requirement listed there pertain solely to Scouting, or can a young man demonstrate leadership in other venues, such as church or school. Our son’s president of his Frosh high school class of approximately 750; he’s also very active in Student Council and the school soccer team as well as a club soccer team, where he also demonstrates leadership. Will these meet the requirement, or must he specifically hold a Boy Scout leadership position in the troop? Thank you in advance for you assistance in this matter. (Jan Harris, Sam Houston Area Council)

Congratulations to your son! And I truly hope he doesn’t think that Eagle or even palms represent “the end of the Scouting trail”! They don’t! It’s a landmark, definitely, but hardly the end! There’s even an outfit in California that does a special trek called “Quest Beyond Eagle” and it’s been filled every year for a whole bunch of years! When I was a Scout, I earned Eagle at 15, and you can be darned sure I stayed in Scouts for another three years!

On to your question… Leadership can take many forms, and one of the advantages to being an Eagle Scout is that you can apply what you’ve learned about leadership in your troop to other situations, too—Like school, church, sports, and so on. If your son’s wondering about this, the two best people for him (not you) to talk it over with are his Scoutmaster and his troop advancement person. This way, they can all be absolutely clear on what’s going to happen over the next three months, and the three months after that, and so on! This way, there are no “surprises” 90 days from now!


Dear Andy,

I just started reading you column and I’m finding it very informative (and funny at times). I’d like to comment about a recent question about advancement. I’ve been in Scouting about ten years and have been troop committee chair for seven of these. We have an eight-member committee and we’re all active with the troop. Most of us are also active with our district and council. I go on most campouts, I’m a Merit Badge Counselor, and sometimes I give presentations at troop meetings. I do sign off rank requirements, as do other adults besides our Scoutmaster—we have a good working relationship with him and if there’s anything in question we will defer to him. My goal this next year is to have our new Scout parents join our committee. New ideas are always welcome. I will now be a regular fan of your column! (Tom Hill, Erie Shores Council, OH)

Welcome aboard! I’m delighted to have you as a new reader!

As for signing off on requirements, so long as the Scoutmaster has reached out and asked you to do this, that’s great! I appreciate that you’ll defer to him, because Scouts need one central role model to focus on, and you’re helping that happen when you do this.

A successful medium-sized troop I serve as commissioner has a fundamental way of handling parents. When a new Scout is about to join, the Committee Chair sits down with the parents and straight-from-the-shoulder asks: Which one of you is going to join the troop committee? If the answer’s along the lines of well, we’re both awfully busy, or we’ll get back to you on that, or we can’t do that, the CC simply invites them to check out other troops where they may be happier, because in this troop every family gets involved.

A successful large (60-70 Scouts) troop I also serve take a similar approach; however, they don’t need more committee people. So, instead, the CC has a list of “jobs,” including one or more specific committee roles, ranging from “troop trip driver-4 times a year” to “troop Christmas tree sale,” to “court of honor refreshments,” and so on.

A largely hiccupping-along troop I also serve never asks parents to do anything and complains that nobody ever helps out. Go figure… 😉


Hello Andy,

I’m wondering if, for the Sportsman activity badge, does the Webelo have to earn two more belt loops that he’s never earned before, or can he just re-earn ones that he earned as a Bear or Wolf? (Jamie Kennedy)

First, let’s fix a word… It’s Webelos whether we’re referring to one Webelos or a dozen Webelos. The “s” is never dropped.

Belt loops are virtual slam-dunks! There’s absolutely no reason to re-earn something that’s already been earned. This isn’t what Scouting’s all about. Scouting’s about learning and doing new stuff; not repeating what you already did!


Dear Andy,

Can a boy who can’t perform the requirements for the Aquanaut activity badge still get it? I’d think that unless there’s a medical problem, not performing the requirements means he can’t get the badge. Is this the case? (Michelle Cabon, Webelo I Leader)

Simple answer here: Requirements need to be completed to get the badge; no exceptions except verified permanent mental or physical disability.

That said, there’s a belt loop that’s a virtual no-brainer. Yes, he still has to do some in-water stuff, but it’s not nearly as rigorous as the activity badge!

And, just in case, do not give in to parents who play the “inclusion” and/or “self-esteem” card.

Finally, let’s fix a word: It’s Webelos whether we’re referring to one Webelos or a dozen Webelos. The “s” is never dropped.


Tim Millen, a Scoutmaster in Three Fires Council, Illinois, recently asked who should be holding on to merit badge applications (“blue cards’) in the time between obtaining one and completing the merit badge, and I suggested that, since the Scout presents this to his Merit Badge Counselor at their introductory meeting, who holds it while the Scout’s completing the requirements is decided between these two; then, when the work’s done, the MBC signs and dates it, keeping his portion, and the Scout gives the remaining two portions to his Scoutmaster, who signs that he has received it and gives the “applicant’s portion” back to the Scout right then and there, turning the final third of the card over to the troop advancement chair for recording on an advancement report, submitting it to the local council, and obtaining the merit badge and merit badge card for the Scout. Tim writes again…

Hi Andy,

Thanks. As far as the troop advancement chair part goes, after summer camp our Scouts often have partially completed badges. We give the cards to the troop advancement chair to record, and he keeps the cards in a binder for safekeeping. Periodically, he issues updates on rank advancement and merit badge incompletes. You’ve been a big help. My Assistant and I love your column and are trying to follow your advice as often as circumstances will permit, given the group dynamics of troop leadership (old guard-new guard). (Tim Millen)

I understand your desire to keep individual records in a “universal” binder and maintained by an adult, for safekeeping. However, how does this help Scouts learn the application and value of personal responsibility? Yes, I know it could be very disconcerting if a Scout lost one of his “partials” and as a consequence had to track down the counselor and get a replacement, or even repeat the requirements with a counselor, but I’ll guarantee you this: That young man will make himself a private promise to never, ever lose anything again, and this will stick with him for the rest of his life. Given that merit badges and even rank requirements aren’t “live-or-die” sorts of things, they represent superb ways to inspire young men to take responsibility, and the best part is that finger-wagging and lecturing and “I told you so’s” don’t ever have to be a part of the lesson. This is what sets Scouting apart from all other educational methods, organizations, and movements!


Dear Andy,

Is the Eagle Scout board of review done with the troop or with the council? Thanks. (Trevor Pisco)

That depends on your council… Each council can choose which way to do these. Contacting your district advancement chair and asking will be your best bet.


Dear Andy,

Our troop’s Committee Chair seems to think he has the authority to hire or fire our Scoutmaster. He’s been CC for eight years and I think he’s given himself more authority than his position states. Is there any truth to his claim? (Kim Beyer, ASM, Circle 10 Council, TX)

Yup, that’s the truth. It’s on page two of the adult application, and it’s the BSA national policy.


Dear Andy,

I’m 75-year young troop Committee Chair. Question: When did the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts take the “S” out of WEBELOS? I’ve been involved in Cub Scouting since 1960, before the current WeBeLoS program. It was Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion, and then Scout. When WeBeLoS came in, the “S” was for Scouts. Our leaders have forgotten the “S” and I get upset when they leave it out. How do I impress on leaders today that this is an important part of Scouting? Could this be brought up in “Boy’s Life” or “Scouting” magazine? I think, today, Cubs and WeBeLoS aren’t taught this—Maybe this is why so many don’t bridge to Scouts. Help! We Need Loyal Scouts. Thank you. (Etta Dougherty, CC, East Carolina Council, NC)

Of course, the BSA has been strongly emphasizing the 18-month Webelos program and the late winter Webelos-to-Scout transition since 1989 (prior to this, it was a two-year program, but still emphasized the transition to Boy Scouting).

We do know (see those “Webelo” letters above), that there’s a fundamental spelling problem. Even though it’s clearly spelled out (pun intended) in the Webelos handbook, many people think “Webelos” is plural, and so think that “Webelo” or “Weblo” is singular. They don’t understand that the spelling’s the same whether we’re talking about one Webelos or a dozen Webelos.

As to “WE‘ll BE LOyal Scouts”, this has never gone away. I remember learning it more than 50 years ago, when I was a Cub Scout!

There are, however, several problems that I’ve seen develop over the past couple of decades that I believe interfere with the Webelos-to-Scout transition….

One of these is the emphasis on Cub Scout camping. In the original relationship between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, camping and significant outdoor activities were the exclusive province of Boy Scouts—This was one of the key program features that made this program unique and made Cub Scouts desirous of becoming Boy Scouts. As more and more camping is infused into Cub Scouting, this aspect of Boy Scouting becomes less and less unique, special, and aspirational. Even parents—the ultimate gatekeepers—ask, “Why should my son be a Boy Scout? He already knows how to camp!” If ever there were a self-defeating aspect to the program, this may be it.

Another problem, as I witness it, is the lack of understanding on the part of Webelos Den Leaders that their number one priority is to graduate their boys into Boy Scout troops. Either they miss this in reading and/or training, or it’s not emphasized in training, or they’re too timid to truly promote this goal and hide behind a laissez-faire approach or a “Let’s be fair and let the boys decide” façade.

The third impediment to transitioning is troop ennui or inertia. Not all, certainly, but many troops give lip-service at best to the idea of targeted and intensive recruiting. They don’t approach one den at a time; they don’t make the Webelos visit special; they don’t assign an Assistant Scoutmaster to a liaison position; they don’t provide Den Chiefs; the list goes on and on. Troops also often fail to “pitch” the Webelos parents! If you get the boy, it’s often still an uphill battle to get the parents (who just love to offer “options” like “sports or Scouts, take your pick”), but if you convince the parents, you’ll have an easier time getting the boy!

There are more hiccups, of course, and there are solutions to all of them. But enough for now. Stay young! Getting’ older ain’t fer sissies!
Happy Scouting!

Andy

Send your questions and comments to:

AskAndyBSA@Yahoo.Com

(November 20, 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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