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Issue 175 – May 26, 2009

Dear Andy,

Double-dipping’s a no-no, yes? I’m confused about the achievements and electives for Cub Scouts. Is it double-dipping for a creek clean-up as both Bear elective 15e and as an outdoor activity (5 or 6) or Leave No Trace 4 or the World Conservation Award req. 3? (Name and Council Withheld)

This is Cub Scouts; not the Army, Harvard Law School, or a Congressional hearing. At this age, you’re doing nothing that’s gonna put you in the “Scout slammer,” honest! Now don’t go overboard and start lookin’ for stuff, but it’s OK to tell a boy, “Hey, you did a clean-up and you did it outdoors with your den, so guess what…!” But, at the Wolf and Bear levels, let’s also remember that, unless the achievement or elective specifically says, “…with your den” or “…with your pack,” this is stuff these Cubs should be doing with their parents as Akela; not their Den Leader! Den Leaders aren’t invested with the responsibility of doing what parents are supposed to be doing!


Dear Andy,

Our son is a relatively new Boy Scout and about a half-year ago, my husband was asked to step into the Scoutmaster role in the troop. He agreed, and has been pouring his heart and soul into it: Making sure that the Scouts are advancing, mentoring the younger Scouts, and delegating to the Scouts’ parents, to create a synergistic troop. Unfortunately, he is constantly being challenged by a member of the troop committee, who has been making life difficult every step of the way, causing problems, changing the rules, and not giving my husband any support. Right now, there are people who think the troop should have a different Scoutmaster, and very soon the troop parents will be holding a meeting and they plan to offer support for my husband. Here’s my question: What rights does a Scoutmaster have? It looks like this is politics, plain and simple. What are the options? (Name & Council Withheld)

First, the BSA policy: The Chartered Organization Representative (aka COR or CR) holds all the cards: The COR has “hire-fire power” over every adult volunteer in a unit, and no one at the council service center (i.e., your District Executive, for instance) has a higher authority to reverse a COR’s decision. Immediately below the COR is the Committee Chair (aka CC), and the CC can have the same authority as the COR, especially of the CC also holds the COR position (this is the sole exception to the “one position in a unit” rule).

So, who appointed your husband Scoutmaster? I’m asking because whoever “hired” him has the right to “fire” him. However, a “vote of the committee” or “vote of the parents” or “vote by anyone” flat-out doesn’t count for beans. The organization of a Scouting unit doesn’t work that way, and can’t be bent to work that way.

If the COR and/or CC are on your husband’s side, then no one can overrule that. But if either isn’t, and your husband wants to remain Scoutmaster, then the person all those parents need to get to right away is the actual head of the chartered organization (aka sponsor). If you’re sponsored by a church, then it’s the senior pastor—Convince him or her that your husband should remain in place and this person overrules both the COR and the CC!

Now, from a different angle, what contact does a committee member have with a Scoutmaster or even the Scouts themselves? There should be almost none with the Scoutmaster and absolutely none with the Scouts! Committee members have no role or place in troop meetings; this is the province of the Scoutmaster, unless the Scoutmaster invites someone else into the meeting. So I’m getting the impression that this committee member got to your husband because, probably being a polite guy, your husband have him “air time.” It’s time to stop that. If a committee member has a “problem” with something a Scoutmaster does, it’s supposed to go to the CC and not directly to the Scoutmaster, because one of the CC’s jobs is to cover the Scoutmaster’s back! If the CC is on your husband’s side, then that undermining committee member can go dance in the woods to his heart’s content.

Nothing makes a bully back down faster than a firm and quiet, “No, I won’t… So stop it.”

 


Hi Andy,

At a recent troop meeting, I noticed a Scout with shoulder loops that were colored red-white-and-blue, with stars. What is this? Is it something that can be earned? (I did not ask the Scout, but no one else seemed to know. Is it for an Eagle Scout?) (Scout Mom)

This sure sounds like something “unofficial” by either the troop or possibly the council. You’ll need to ask locally, because there’s nothing in the national uniforming guide that describes these. So, how about asking the Scout?

 


Dear Andy,

We know that the BSA doesn’t allow secret meetings—even Order of the Arrow functions can be observed by a Scout’s parents, if they so desire. But what about a troop committee that wants to “go into executive session” when deciding about disciplining a Scout or an adult leader who may have broken the rules? What about when there’s a question about legalities affecting the troop and deciding how to proceed—who would be in attendance at a meeting like this? (Angelo Fusco)

Unit committees don’t “go into executive session,” if, by this, you mean that the meeting’s closed to all but the “in-group.”

If there’s a situation in which a Scoutmaster is in apprehension that a Scout may bring harm to himself or others, the Scoutmaster and the entire registered unit committee discusses this, and would want the parents present and involved, so that everyone can together work to develop a solution. And, if the solution is that the Scout needs to de-register from the troop, so as to not bring harm to himself or others, then you definitely want the parents to have absolute clarity on the decision and the reason for it.

As for an adult who has “broken the rules,” this would depend almost entirely on what “rule” he or she has “broken.” If it’s for instance, a regulated substance in use in front of youth, one warning and then out requires the offender’s presence, or you border on clandestine operations, and you don’t want that. If it’s something relatively minor, like a four-letter word one time, then immediate remedial counseling by whomever brought that person aboard is in order. But let’s not start doing clandestine meetings to talk over the future of a volunteer, for goodness sakes.

You mention “legalities” but of course I have no idea what you’re talking about. If this is something you’d like to discuss in greater detail, do write again! We can certainly keep it anonymous.

 


This column isn’t a forum. If I’ve made an error of fact, then yes, I want to know about it, and I’ll publish my error and the correction. But disagreements of philosophy or debates about clearly written BSA policies belong somewhere else; not here. That said, I’m making an exception, because I believe my readers may benefit from the P-O-V expressed, and—hopefully—from my response (which will be briefer that the following letter, which I’ve nevertheless shortened in the interest of your endurance).

Andy,

The two issues I disagree with you on are with respect to Scout leadership and the meaning of “active.”

You recently said, “The BSA, per actual policy, states that the ‘leadership’ requirement is fulfilled if the tenure requirement in the position has been met and the Scout has not been removed from the position short of completing the tenure.”

We all are faced on occasion with a boy working on Eagle who is not leading. Since one of a Scoutmaster’s most important jobs is to teach leadership, a boy is not doing the job, we owe it to him, and to his parents, to talk with him. I do not feel that you teach the right message if you give leadership credit for leadership not performed. In life, if a boy grows into a man and you’ve taught him that it isn’t really important to fulfill his obligations of leadership, then you’ve set him up for disaster. The truth is that in life if he doesn’t do the job he’s hired to do, he’ll get fired. If he’s hired to lead, and he fails as a leader, they won’t promote him after his poor performance.

What I do agree with you on though is that I really dislike it when I hear a scoutmaster has told a boy that he’s not going to count the boy’s leadership, when he never said anything to the boy during his leadership period or tried to help him make changes so he could do a better job. You can’t wait till the kid comes up for advancement to tell him you don’t like the job he did.

If a boy’s a Patrol Leader and he’s not showing up and he’s not leading, he’s impacting the Scouting experience of every boy he’s responsible for. You clearly need to tell him what he’s doing wrong (and right), and make sure he knows what he needs to do, to meet the requirements of fulfilling leadership. So, in a broad sense, I agree with you that the troop has a responsibility to teach the boy leadership. Still, if you have a Patrol Leader who doesn’t go on campouts, shows up at troop meetings rarely, and you’ve counseled him on it but he’s still not doing what you want him to do, then you’re not doing the boy a service if you say to him “that’s OK” and sign his leadership off as being sufficient when all he really did was get elected and wear the patch. Now you could “fire” the boy, but I’ve seen kids quit Scouting that got fired from their job, and once you fire him then you lose the opportunity to continue to try and reach him and perhaps teach him something. Instead, I think it’s better to continue to try and teach them, and encourage them, and try to make sure they know where they are letting down their patrol. But after its all done and you’ve done your best to teach the boy to lead, but he’s refused to do it, then I don’t believe the issue at that point is whether the Scoutmaster allowed them to complete his tenure or not. The real question, the real life question, is did the boy really do his leadership or not. To advance to Star, Life, and Eagle the 4th requirement is to, “Serve actively in a position of responsibility in your troop.” So, if you aren’t leading actively, then you aren’t meeting the requirement. That’s exactly what the Boy Scout Handbook says. When a scout blows off his leadership responsibilities, you’re sending the wrong message to a generation of boys if you don’t call them on it.

You’ve also said, “What ‘active’ means is now stated clearly in the latest edition of Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures. Refer to page 24. In brief, a Scout is considered active if he’s registered and dues-paid, hasn’t been dismissed from the troop for disciplinary reasons, and has been kept informed of unit activities by a troop adult volunteer. Notice, in the third condition, that the onus is on the troop; not the Scout.”

Well, yes and no. Like a lot of things in BSA literature, there are different, and sometimes conflicting, things written in a lot of places by different people for different audiences. Scoutmasters are always trying to figure out what to do with a boy who isn’t coming, and the truth is that as boys grow up and get busy in life they tend to get less active in their troops. Some troops try to put numbers on it (the infamous 50% rule, which as you’ve pointed out, isn’t legitimate). Still, it’s an attempt by a troop to put something in writing, so that there are clear guidelines on what is, and what is not, going to be acceptable to that particular troop when it comes to signing off a boy for rank advancement. While I agree with you that it’s not the right approach, I do feel that the message boys need to learn is that being active means something. Parents want a definition, because their son’s coaches do it all the time: “If you miss so many practices, you can’t play”—everyone gets that. So, setting clear guidelines can be useful, but the BSA has for many reasons not chosen to do that, and it may well be that they want the troops to decide what is, and what is not acceptable. The bottom line is that if the Scoutmaster is willing to sign off the requirement, then the boy can advance, and if he isn’t, then the boy can’t advance.

If you read the policy as it is stated in the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, it is, in theory, possible for a boy to tell his parents he is quitting Scouting, and stop going to his troop meetings altogether, but as long as his parents keep him registered, and pay his dues, and he doesn’t get in any trouble so he’s not dismissed from the troop for disciplinary reasons, then he’s still active under the definition you have chosen to use—and I believe that thinking is wrong, and I cannot accept it. If a boy doesn’t participate in the activities of his troop he is not active, period. I don’t think you can put a number on it, but I do think you can define it. Like every single requirement that a boy must do, the definition of being active is in the Boy Scout Handbook.

So, what do I think being active means? Well, I believe that if a boy expects his Scoutmaster to sign off that he’s active, then he needs to be present when things are happening. He needs to take part in the planning of his troop’s activities (is that a PLC meeting?), and he needs to be going on the adventures. If he isn’t doing those things, he isn’t active. I say that because the definition of what it means to “be active in your troop and patrol” is spelled out precisely on page 169 of the Boy Scout Handbook. Specifically, the requirement says: “To gain full advantage of all that Scouting has to offer, you need to be present when things are happening. Take part in planning activities, and in the fun of adventurers. If you’re there, you can do your part to make your patrol and troop a success.” “Be present when things are happening”—that’s what is says, and that’s what it means. (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks for sharing your views. You and the BSA are largely on the same page, so I’m going to just touch on a couple of aspects that bear further thinking, in sort of reverse order…

Isn’t it curious, by the way, how “what if…” scenarios invariably support the proponent’s P-O-V. This, however, in no way validates them or means that they’re real.

First, what you, or I, or Uncle Biff considers “active” is irrelevant. What matters is what the BSA national standards consider active, and nothing else. If the BSA has defined active, and forbids applying numbers or percentages, then that’s it, period. Neither you, nor I, nor Uncle Biff has the right, or the authority, to impose our own wills on a BSA national standard. If this happened in every troop around the country we’d have total mayhem, and that’s not what we’re here to do. Our responsibility is to deliver the Scouting program as it’s written.

Second, the quality of youth leadership is the direct responsibility of the Scoutmaster. If the Scout, after seven years in the program, doesn’t “get it,” then something’s gone wrong between the Scout and his Scoutmaster.

Third, participation, otherwise known as showing up, is important. This is, however, a non-issue in a busy, fun, active, engaging, challenging troop program. Scouts show up because the troop program has something to offer that they just can’t get anywhere else. Scouts don’t arbitrarily “blow off” troop meetings or patrol meetings or outings—they don’t show up because one or more of the ingredients I just mentioned is missing. Moreover, when we consider all of the work and tasks and interactions a Scout must complete in order to earn the necessary merit badges; put in the service-to-others time; camp and hike; develop, plan, and lead a major service project; and so forth; it’s virtually impossible for him to advance in rank by being “inactive.”

Regarding parents, unless they’re lax in some way, they don’t need to be brought into the picture. Child-parent “conferences” are something that goes on in school, and Scouting isn’t school. If parents are the ones driving their son’s participation, something is seriously wrong with the troop, or the family.

In the above regard, we do lose boys. While Scouting is for all boys, not all boys are for Scouting—the “fit” just may not be there. We have to learn to let go, in certain cases. We cannot and must not legislate participation.

That said, there are definitely times to talk with parents—but separately. Scouting isn’t about Mommy and Daddy anymore; it’s about Scouts, their peer relationships, and the adult role models such as the Scoutmaster and his assistants.

Got a patrol leader who isn’t leading his patrol? You don’t “fire” him, in the first place because you don’t have the authority to do that. No adult is responsible for the election or the appointment of any youth leader, period. Think I’m wrong? Better re-read your Scoutmaster Handbook. Here’s the point: The first ones to complain will be his fellow patrol members. I tell them: Talk to your Patrol Leader and tell him that if he can’t show up, that’s OK—you’re simply going to have a new election and he won’t be a candidate. To repeat: The Scoutmaster doesn’t “hire” or “fire” anyone—the Scouts themselves self-manage their leaders. Trust the Scouts—they’re almost always right.

Our job is to help these young men succeed.

(My father was a respected and deeply beloved high school math and science teacher. Yet he often said: “I don’t teach math or science; I teach young men how to think, and math and science are the tools I use to do this.” In Scouting, we don’t teach boys and young men how to tie knots or build a fire, we show them the way to self-reliance, self-confidence, ethical decision-making, and respect for God, country, family, and mankind—especially those in need. This is our job; the rest is details.)

So your job, and mine, and Uncle Biff’s, is not to ask ourselves which BSA standards we like, or don’t like and will change to “be better”—Our task is to ask ourselves: How can we make the Scouting program work for the young men in our care. That’s a pledge you and I and Uncle Biff made when we signed on… It’s right on the application we signed.

Final thought: There are no boys or kids in a troop: they’re Scouts.


Dear Andy,

My son’s in a high-achieving troop, with five to eight Eagles a year, great leaders, great program, huge fund-raising successes, friendly parents, and no complainers. He’s about to go on his third campout with the troop. In the first two, everyone cooked together—Scouts and parents. The very first one was a Webelos-as-guests, plus “electronics.” The second was a new Scout weekend. For these first two, it looked like the parents pretty much did all the cooking. When I asked who’s buying food for the adult leaders, for this third campout, I learned that the adults “scavenge” off the patrols that their sons are in. This is a new one on. What do you think? I’m really pretty unsure. (Bob White)

Here’s the deal about Boy Scouts and the out-of-doors: Boy Scouts hike and camp as Boy Scouts. This is not “Webelos III Family Camping.” Boys of this age need to grow, and to form peer relationships, to individuate themselves, and to gain a sense of competence and independence. This absolutely cannot occur in a “family camping” environment.

If parents come along, they should be camping separately from the Scouts–literally out of sight and out of ear-shot. If they cook, they cook for themselves, with their own food. They don’t “mooch” from the Scouts, or cook for them, or have any interactions with them. The Scouts and their Scoutmaster and an assistant (may be an ASM, a parent, or a committee member) are together, but any “extra” parents should be making themselves invisible.

A “Jamboree Troop” is a “model troop,” from which we can draw lessons. There are four patrols of eight, one Senior Patrol Leader, perhaps one or two ASPLs, and four adults: Scoutmaster and three ASMs. That’s it. Patrols cook and clean up for themselves, lead themselves, plan for themselves, and carry out daily activities for themselves. The four adults aren’t the “leaders,” they’re the wallpaper, or safety-nets, if you will. All troops need to be organized in this general fashion.

Parents stay away. They pitch their tents away from the Scouts and do whatever they do during the day away from the Scouts. This is not a “Dad n’ Lad” activity–That went the way of the buggy whips of Cub Scouting, and should no longer be present.

Any troop that doesn’t do it this way is ultimately crippling their Scouts by keeping them subservient and “small.” Boy Scouting cuts those apron-strings, and keeps ’em cut.

How “separate” should any accompanying parents be from their sons, while camping? (BW)

How separate? How’s this: If the Scouts and the parents don’t see one another from dawn till after dinner, that would be just about right. Boys and young men of Boy Scout age need to assert their independence and their reliance on one another without Dad and Mom “hovering.”

 


Dear Andy,

I’m looking for a Scoutmaster change-of-responsibility ceremony. Do you have one? (Ron Shake, Cascade Pacific Council, WA)

Nope, I don’t, and maybe this is a good thing! Make your “changing of the guard” ceremony personal, and there’s a lot more meaning to it! It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just so it tugs a little at the heartstrings and perhaps emphasizes that the Scoutmaster serves the Scouts and not the other way around!


Dear Andy,

My son is getting ready to do his Eagle Project, and since he’s also in Medical Explorers and is hoping to have a profession in the medical field one day, he thought he’d work with our local blood center and do a blood drive. We also have hemophilia in our family, so he knows that between his uncles, brother, and cousins our family alone has received thousands and thousands of dollars of free blood and services from the blood center. The local blood center was so excited they couldn’t stand it. He contacted the local YMCA where he works as a lifeguard, and asked them if he could use the facility to station the blood mobile and for him to recruit their members to give blood. He worked with the blood center getting four blood drives set up—he needed to sign up 80 people who were willing to give blood. His goal was to ask his fellow medical Explorers, and the members of the grange that he’s also a member of, and to ask his fellow Scouts to help him find people, along with recruiting out front of the YMCA. Then his fellow scouts would help him make phone calls reminding people of their appointments, as well as provide snacks and drinks, and help serve them at all four drives.

So, at what point does this not qualify as an Eagle project? Our local district won’t approve it, and when we asked our District Executive, his response was that that’s not his job. Is there a reason that BSA doesn’t support an organization that saves lives? (Name & Council Withheld)

From your description, I get the uncomfortable feeling that your son may not have followed the precise process for Eagle Scout Leadership Service Projects as described in the workbook of the same name (No. 18-927E). In this workbook, the specific steps to be followed, and the precise order of these steps, is laid out with clarity. For instance, once the Scout has conceived the idea, he will write a project plan and submit that plan for review and approval by no less than four people: The beneficiary of the service, the Scoutmaster, the unit committee (usually the Troop Advancement Chair), and the council or district advancement committee. All four approval signatures must be in place before any work can be started. To approach this any other way would be in violation of a long-standing stated process.

From your description, it sounds like possibly your son went straight to work. He contacted the YMCA, set up four drives with the blood center, signed up potential donors, and recruited fellow Scouts to assist, all before obtaining the aforementioned four approval signatures. If this is correct, he put the cart before the horse. Whoever was his adviser on this didn’t help, because the adviser’s responsibility is to keep the Scout on-track with the order in which things are done.

So, although blood drives as Eagle projects can be problematic, this may be far less about whether the BSA supports organizations that save lives, and much more about the ability and willingness of a Scout to follow a written set of predetermined steps.

Another consideration, albeit remote, is this: Is this particular blood center a not-for-profit operation? Some blood centers are for-profit commercial operations, and so no service to an organization in this category is ever permitted.

Finally, there’s the leadership element. Blood drives, by their very nature, are medical personnel-intensive, and these personnel are the ones “giving the orders,” so to speak, while those who assist, like Scouts, are subservient to them at virtually all times. This being the case, the question of “how is this Scout going to lead?” arises, and it’s a very important consideration, because without direct leadership there is no true Eagle project.

All this not withstanding, a decent and Scout-oriented district advancement committee will provide Scouts like your son with detailed insights, so that he can get it right. Your son needs to back to the chair of that group and ask for specific reasons why his project was not accepted. On this basis, he’ll be able to either tweak the project plan to meet the standards described to him, or re-think what sort of project he’d like to do that will meet the criteria the committee describes.

Again, despite your personal frustration, and of course your son’s as well, some ideas and method of going about them just don’t fit the process. It’s time to find out, and think about what to do next. This is not about “not helping a life-saving organization.” This is either about your son and his approach to the task, or it’s about blood drives simply not being viable as Eagle projects, despite their overall worthiness and need for service from time to time.

Thanks for your information. My son didn’t go right to work, but there needs to be some work done ahead of time to have that plan in place. He had to get the signatures in the book from the persons working with him and that would be the person at the blood center or whoever is receiving the service. So, he did input a plan to see if it was even viable. He did have all of the proper signatures and

his booklet was filled out. His adviser did ask what the Scouts would be doing, so why would he not have all of that in place when it came time to get this approved? So to confirm, he didn’t start the work, or do any drives before he want for approval, and, yes, this is a non-profit organization. The people at the district level just said, “We’re getting away from blood drives,” but no one would explain why.

Then, when we specifically asked at the council service center what our guidelines were, and what requirements needed to be met, for an Eagle project to qualify, all our District Executive said was that this wasn’t his job, and handed my son another Eagle project workbook.

He’s totally capable of doing a different project; he just was looking for something with a personal meaning and something in a field he’s interested in.

But, at least you’ve taken the time to give us some explanation, and for that I thank you. This has been very frustrating. Thank you so much for your time—This is way more information than my son or I received from our local people.

I can definitely appreciate your, and your son’s, frustration. If your son did get all of the signatures, then of course he’s free to go to work. But it sounds like one was missing: The district advancement committee’s. And that, of course, is the fourth one he needs in order to get underway.

Many, many councils—not just yours—are steering away from blood drives, for the reasons I touched on earlier. This doesn’t mean they’re not worthy, and it doesn’t mean blood isn’t important (I’m a 3-gallon donor, and a platelet donor too, by the way), and it certainly doesn’t mean that saving lives isn’t important. It has to do with the “…give leadership to…” language of the requirement, and the concern of many, many districts and councils is that, because the medical folks become ultimately in charge of the major aspect of this (i.e., the blood donation itself), the opportunity to actually give leadership is substantially reduced. This could be argued, of course, and your son has certainly put together a very complete plan, that would provide a compelling reason to reconsider, but I would have to say: Choose your battles. There’s just no point in shoveling this kind of water upstream! The current’s just too strong, I’m afraid, and this isn’t a good time to spend so much energy on the “battle” that there’s no energy left for the project itself!

The wise (and clever!) Eagle candidate will, at this point, simply choose another project to do. It doesn’t have to be a “no-brainer,” and it doesn’t have to be menial; it can still be significant, and one he can be proud of, on completion. But it will be one that has a better likelihood of getting approval from all parties. In this regard, I’d suggest that, instead of starting with that less-than-enthusiastic adviser, he go straight to the district advancement committee. Write up a one- or two-paragraph description of the project and tell the district advancement committee: “This is my concept. If the fundamental idea is acceptable to you, I’ll develop the full project plan for your approval. But if my concept is off the mark, please tell me now, so neither of us wastes precious time on the wrong thing.” If he gets concept approval, then he can get a fresh workbook and plug in the details, knowing that the idea isn’t going to get shot out of the water!

Oh, by the way, that District Executive was correct: DEs have absolutely no “jurisdiction” over Eagle projects! He doesn’t “out-rank” anybody, in this regard! Don’t beat up on him, please—His hands truly were tied. I’m just sorry he didn’t give you a more detailed explanation of why it’s not in his area of responsibility.


Dear Andy,

On the merit badge “blue card,” it asks for the Unit Leader signature. Is the Scoutmaster the only one that can sign these, or can an ASM or other leader in the unit sign? (Terry Gump, Blue Ridge Mountains Council, VA)

Use, as your reference, page 187 in the Boy Scout Handbook. As you’ll see, the purpose of the unit leader’s signature is so that the adults in the troop are aware of what Scouts are going for whatmerit badges. It’s not an approval process; it’s an information-gathering process. In that light, an ASM can certainly be the signer, because we assume he communicates with the Scoutmaster and will tell him that, for instance, Scout Fargus just signed up for Atomic Energy merit badge and I gave him the name of a local Merit Badge Counselor, and so on… This prevents Scouts running willy-nilly around town going for merit badges for which the troop’s adult leaders have no knowledge, and therefore no way to ask after in conferences with their Scouts.


Dear Andy,

Our small town has two troops and one pack. The pack wants to set policies on how and when the troops can interact with Webelos dens. For instance, if a Webelos Scout or his den wants to visit a troop’s outdoor activity (an Arrow of Light requirement), the pack committee must approve it, first. I’ve been trying to find some official guideline on how packs and troops interact, but the only thing I’ve found involving Webelos and troops always are “approved by parent” or “accompanied by parent.” Is there anything in writing by the BSA that can be used as a guide for reviewing this new pack policy with our troop committee, before we respond? (Name & Council Withheld)

That pack committee seems to be trying to set itself up as some sort of Supreme Court… This is nonsense, of course. One of the primary goals of Cub Scouting is to prepare boys for Boy Scouting. If this is diminished, legislated, or just plain messed with, whoever’s doing this is failing the boys in the pack! The whole object of the troop-to-Webelos den-to-troop connection is to assure that these boys become Boy Scouts! Anytime this is bound and gagged, the possibility of miscarrying the transition is raised. So, my approach, as a troop leader, would be to try to help these otherwise well-intentioned folks to see the larger picture, and if they don’t, well, then I guess it’s time for hard ball.

The Webelos-to-Scout Transition program and process has been in place for 20 years. This is hardly an appropriate time for them to stick out their feet and try to trip it up! See if you can get a Unit Commissioner as an ally, to help you educate these folks.

We do recognize the underlying problem, and we’re working with our Unit Commissioner to resolve this. Unfortunately, he’s trying to get us to compromise, and that’s why I’m looking for something in writing that we can use to get everyone on the same page and cooperating, instead of “we’re the pack committee, and you’ll do it our way.”

The Pack-to-Troop/Troop-to-Pack relationship is one of teamwork, openness, cooperation, and cordiality. After all, both packs and troop have the same overall goals: To keep boys in the program, so that they can experience Scouting’s values, for as long as possible. For your pack, the “seminal document” is the Cub Scout Leader Book, especially pages 14-2 and 14-3. As you all read the section titled “Pack-Troop Relationships,” you’ll notice immediately that there are no “rules” or “protocols” there; instead, this section discusses, with details, how packs help troops and how troops help packs.

The Webelos-to-Scout transition is hardly the time to start invoking “rules” or “committee edicts,” and it’s hardly the time for a pack committee to start “laying down the law.” This is no time for developing a false sense of importance. The operative words, as you’ll see, are “inviting,” “helping,” “providing,” and “assisting.” Packs and troops work together; they don’t throw up false and inappropriate barriers. You’ll see, in reading this, that the underlying philosophy is one of cooperation and coordination; this section is totally silent on “rules” and “mandates” and “approvals” and such.

It’s time for the people involved to step back and see the larger picture… The larger picture is fundamentally this: Packs and troops get along with one another. If, after, reading this, there are still people who resist cooperating, perhaps it’s time for them to find something else to do with their time.

If this pack committee refuses to cooperate, then it’s time for both troops to tell ‘em to go pound sand down a rat hole. They have absolutely no jurisdiction or authority over what a Webelos den does, so long as the den if following the BSA program, and they have neither jurisdiction nor authority over any troop’s invitations or interactions. End of story.

 


Dear Andy,

Do you mind if I reprint your columns in our council’s monthly Commissioner Newsletter? (Alan Simmons, Assistant Council Commissioner, Shawnee Trails Council, IN/KY)

Just the opposite: I’d be honored. I merely ask that I’m credited, so that interested readers can find additional columns here at the USSSP website.

Happy Scouting!

Andy

 

Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to AskAndyBSA@yahoo.com. (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(May 26, 2009 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2009)

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

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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