Author Avatar

Issue 177 – June 1, 2009

Dear Andy,

Our district recently appointed a training chair who, despite more than 20 years of involvement in Scouting, has never taken a single training course…for anything. One of the first courses he was responsible for was Den Chief Training. Shortly after that course, he bragged at a district committee meeting that although he’d never so much as seen anyone deliver this course, and never having been a Boy Scout himself, he’d “done a little reading” and did it all himself. Now, he sees himself as an expert in Den Chief training, among other courses that he’s never taken or seen, and has made plans to do this from now on. Any thoughts? (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s begin with whoever appointed him. Was there any sort of label on whatever he or she was smokin’ at the time? Or was this simply one of those “desperation appointments”—You know: When we have no one in the position, we’ll take anyone who can fog a mirror. Obviously, a self-important know-it-all who in reality knows beans is about the worst sort of doofus to appoint to anything. But the deed’s done. I don’t know your position, but if you’re a Scoutmaster, you’d be well-advised to keep your Scouts away from anyone who considers having no formal training a “plus.”

Dear Andy,

Assume for a moment that a Scout has completed all Eagle rank requirements (1 through 6)—in actuality everything except his board of review, on the day before his 18th birthday. Now assume that this same Scout is unable to file his Eagle rank application at the council service center before they close for the day, so the Scout, instead, files his application the very next day, which is his 18th birthday. Can this Scout still qualify to have his board of review for Eagle, or is he out of luck? Stated differently, is the filing of an Eagle rank application a requirement that must be performed prior to one’s 18th birthday, or is this a paperwork function that can happen on or after a Scout’s 18th birthday, so long as all dates of completion are before his 18th birthday and the application is filed promptly, if not on a precise day?

I’m asking because our council has recently stated that filing the Eagle rank application is a requirement that must be performed by the Scout prior to turning 18. As described, the only thing that can be done after a Scout turns 18 is the board of review, and the act of filing the application is an essential step that must be performed before the 18th birthday.

My concern is straightforward: I can’t find anything in writing by the BSA national office that supports this council’s position. In fact, the BSA booklet, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures (p. 28), states: “Scouts who have completed all requirements for a rank prior to their 18th birthday should submit their application and be reviewed and recognized within three months after that date.” This statement neither states nor implies that filing an application by one’s 18th birthday in any way mandatory. Yes, Item 3 in “The 12 Steps from Life to Eagle,” which is part of the official Eagle project workbook (p. 31), states that “…the Eagle Scout Rank Application must be completed and sent to the council service center promptly.” Does “promptly” mean before turning 18, or does it mean some reasonable time after turning 18? Your comments, including citations to any supporting references, would be appreciated. (Mark Schneider, CC/COR, Detroit Area Council, MI)

I’d have to say that that council, or whoever made that edict, is completely, totally, 100%, unequivocally, stupendously out of line. It’s the requirements that must be completed before a Scout’s 18th birthday; filing the paperwork is just that—it’s paperwork; paper-pushing, in fact. All of the dates and the dates next to the various signatures will show perfectly clearly that they occurred before the Scout’s 18th birthday, as will the “completion” date in the project workbook. The date on which the application itself reaches the council service center is largely irrelevant. Moreover, it’s not the Scout who is responsible for turning in the application; it’s the adult leaders of the troop. Therefore, such an edict would jeopardize a Scout if one or more of the adults happened to miss that imposed deadline.

Typically, the rationale an edict like this is, “Well, what if the dates are ‘made up’? This prevents a Scout and/or his leaders from ‘cheating.'” My response to that is simple: This is Scouting, and in Scouting we expect the best, we’re positive role models, and we’ve been telling young people since age 7 that their responsibility is to Do Your Best, and this ridiculously paranoid edict flies in the face of everything Scouting stands for.

But here’s the problem: It’s unlikely that this problem can be made to go away, because it’s actually a symptom of a deeper problem, and although we’re on the threshold of ridding the world of Polio and we’re making huge inroads against cancer, there’s just no cure for stupid.

Thank you, Andy,

Is there someone at the national office whom I can write to about this? It would be good to have this point specifically addressed and clarified in a future edition of the ACP&P booklet. I can only imagine how crushed a Scout would be if, at the last minute, he lost out on becoming an Eagle Scout despite having fulfilled every single requirement! (Mark Schneider)

The very best way to handle this, of course, is to encourage all Scouts who set a goal to earn Eagle to do so well before their 18th birthday! There are several huge advantages to being an Eagle Scout at age 13, 14, 15, or 16, including you get to actually wear the badge on your uniform! It also allows you to just randomly pick merit badges to work on that you think might be fun or interesting, without any pressure from anyone about “you’d better check to see if it’s Eagle-required!” Third, you’ve eliminated a huge “pressure-sensitive area” between your parents and you. Fourth, when you go to Philmont, Sea Base, Northern Tier, a national Jamboree, overseas, or wherever, you’re going as an Eagle—and don’t think that doesn’t count! Fifth, you can add it to your “resume” for class elections in high school, and on your college applications, if you’re heading in that direction; and if you head for the military, they absolutely pay attention to your being an Eagle, and when you earned it!

I’ve sat on reviews of nearly two hundred Eagle Scout candidates, and I’ve made it a point of asking those who are 17 and 18 what advice they’d give to an 11 year old Scout who wants to be an Eagle. They all say exactly the same thing: Get it done before your sophomore year of high school!

The other thing you should know, and pass on to every troop you know, is that if any Scout is “rejected” by your council because of this illegal sunset clause, they can and should immediately write to the National Advancement Director at the BSA national office, describing what happened and requesting a national board of review. I guarantee it will be granted, and this council will wind up incredibly embarrassed and likely soundly chastised.

In fact, if this is pointed out to the Scout Executive, it’s likely that the person who made up this idiotic “rule” will be overturned (and hopefully he’ll be sent packing).

Dear Andy,

Do you know of any ceremonies for a Scoutmaster “changing of the guard”? (Ken Goucher, Quapaw Area Council, AR)

‘Fraid not, but that’s OK… Scoutmasters are unique, and each troop has a unique experience with their own. You can make up something that fits your own guy. One thought: Maybe take a troop neckerchief and have all the Scouts sign it with a permanent marker, as a presentation piece along with a plaque noting his years of service? Also, consider the Senior Patrol Leader as the main speaker, since he’s the Scout who’s worked most closely with your outgoing Scoutmaster.

Dear Andy,

For a Scoutmaster who’s retiring from that position, if he doesn’t already have the Scoutmaster Award of Merit, consider that. The nomination is from the troop committee and the Senior Patrol Leader, so it can be a surprise. Be sure to also get the jacket patch—it’s pretty impressive.

I passed the torch to our new Scoutmaster just last week at a Court of Honor. They presented me with the Scoutmaster Award of Merit and a print of Norman Rockwell’s “The Scoutmaster” with the mat signed by all the Scouts. Then, I gave my last “Scoutmaster Minute” and our new Scoutmaster gave his first. (Walter Underwood, ASM, Pacific Skyline Council, CA)

Fabulous way to do it! Thanks!

Hi Andy,

We’re having trouble understanding the BSA definition for “active”—for rank advancement. Our troop uses percentages of attendance at meetings and outings in order to meet this requirement for each rank from Tenderfoot through Eagle. Are there actually different degrees of “active”? Do the standards or percentages actually increase from one rank to the next, and is this actually in writing by the BSA?

Also, what’s the official BSA definition of “…demonstrate Scout spirit in your everyday life”? Is this also a layered or tiered requirement? Is this a “judgment” requirement, or is there a clear definition? If it’s “judgment,” whose? (Name & Council Withheld)

There should be no trouble at all understanding the BSA’s definition of “active.” It’s published on website and written in the most current edition of the BSA book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures. Just do some reading; it’s right there.

Meanwhile, any troop that tries to apply a number or percent or anything else like that is violating BSA policy. Moreover, there are no “degrees” of active. The same BSA policy for “active” applies equally to all ranks, from Tenderfoot through Eagle, and beyond the ranks to Eagle Palms; the only variation is tenure. Anyone who attempts to change the definition of “active,” based on rank, is in violation of BSA policy.

Simply put (and this is a paraphrase; not my opinion), if a Scout is duly registered in the unit and his dues are paid up, he’s considered active. Period. Why? This is philosophical: We adult volunteers are to be “positive role models” for the youth we serve, and the underline is on positive. We see the best in youth. We catch ’em doing it right, and praise that, to reinforce the positive. This what separates Scouting from everything else in a boy’s or young man’s life. In school, for instance, he’s told how many test questions he got wrong, and where he’s failed. In Scouting, a Scout can never “fail” a requirement…he works on it until he completes it. That’s just one comparative example; there are many others.

As far as a Scout “living the Scout Oath and Law” in his daily life, his Scoutmaster actually gets to see about 2% of a Scout’s actual “daily life,” and so a Scoutmaster is hardly qualified to pass judgment on this. Who, then, is the best judge? Why, the Scout, himself! Ask him: “How are you doing with this?” He’ll tell you. And then you can discuss how there’s always room for doing even better! To do otherwise is the height of conceit and self-importance, and this is absolutely not how we want ourselves to be, if we truly believe in the principle of positive role-modeling.

Finally, if there are adults in your troop who don’t or won’t understand these fundamental principles, it’s time to find those who do, and ask them to replace the ones who want to wear black robes instead of Scout uniforms.

Dear Andy,

For the service requirement of 50 Miler badge, is that 10 hours per individual in a group, or 10 hours per group? (Dianna Franzen)

Here’s the requirement: “…each qualifying individual (will) complete a minimum of 10 hours each of group work on projects…” So, the 10 hours are per individual, while participating with the group he’s with. These 10 hours do not, however, need to be all on the same project; the group may complete a portion of that total while “on the trail” and the balance back at home (on a related project).

Dear Andy,

At a recent memorial service, my Scouts participated in a flag ceremony along with some Girl Scouts. My Scouts wear the full uniform, cap included. The leader of the Girl Scouts said that my Scouts couldn’t wear their caps, because this would be disrespectful to the flag. I told her she was wrong and that, in a flag ceremony, if they’re wearing a full uniform, they salute with the cap on because it’s part of the uniform. She didn’t feel this was right, since her Girl Scouts didn’t have full uniforms. My dad was in the military for over 20 years. I think I’m right. (Carol Smith)

Was this outdoors or indoors? If outdoors, hats or caps on Boy Scouts are perfectly OK and show no “disrespect” to anyone or anything, including the American flag. If indoors, however, hats and caps come off, which is a common courtesy with all hats and caps, with this sole exception: The color guard may wear caps while they are the color guard; however, when that duty is completed, they remove them if indoors.

What concerns me the most, of course, it that another volunteer leader of youth chose to squabble over something that’s hardly worth the energy and does nothing to build accord between two separate, independent groups that hold to largely the same fundamental ideals and goals.

The ceremony was held at the cemetery, outdoors. According to what I’ve been told, the Scouts can choose their own cap or hat, and whatever they choose becomes their “official” headgear. The Scouts picked a camouflage “boonie” this year instead of the regular Scout hat or cap. When we first got out of the car, the Girl Scout leader asked me if we were going to wear the hats, and I asked if there was a problem. This is where she said that, by wearing their hats, the Scouts were showing disrespect to the flag. I pointed out that these were part of their uniform and that we were to wear a hat and salute the flag wearing the hat. Her Girl Scouts don’t wear uniforms, so they do the “hand over the heart” salute, and she wanted us to do that, too. I refused. Now, I’m headed to the council service center, to pick up the book, The Flag, which has etiquette in it and, I’m going to give her acopy. As far as the hats off inside, I think and may be wrong that it is OK unless religious preferences are involved. Seems like I read that somewhere. (Carol)

Hats off indoors isn’t a religious thing; it’s a common courtesy thing, even when in uniform—any uniform—just as I described (you can check if you like, but this isn’t my “opinion”).

I didn’t know the BSA made “camo boonies.” (You do know that non-BSA headgear, shirts, pants, belts, and so forth shouldn’t be worn, yes?)

As far as escalating this brouhaha into sending your GSUSA counterpart stuff, please let it go… This just isn’t Scout-like in the first place, and in the second place there will be no “winners,” I assure you!

Hi Andy,

Can Cub Scouts wear the centennial unit numerals, or are they just forBoy Scouts? I have to replace both my own and my son’s uniforms, and don’t know if we should use the new Centennial numerals or the red-and-white ones. Our local council’s shop had no answer; they said they weren’t really sure and didn’t know when they’d have an answer. I think I’ve read that all Scouts and Scouters are supposed to wear the Centennial unit numerals, but I can’t remember where I read it. (Ray Cradit, DL, Lake Huron Area Council, MI)

Not to be too much of a fashionista here, but wouldn’t you agree that those greenish new numerals would look pretty sick on a blue uniform shirt? Besides, no BSA uniform or uniform part is ever considered expired or obsolete—so long as it’s in decent repair, it’s perfectly OK to wear it. So, if you’re getting a new tan shirt, sure, fine, go with the new numerals; but if your son’s getting a new blue shirt, I’d simply take the numbers off his old shirt and sew them on the new one, or buy new red-and-white ones. (BTW, I sure hope your pack has an “experienced uniform exchange” for families!)


Dear Andy,

Our Scoutmaster has been in this position for three decades; he’s in his mid-70’s now. Over the years, he’s been a good Scoutmaster, with definite “boy involvement.” Maybe he’s been a bit too good, because he has a tendency to do everything rather than delegate to the troop committee. In effect, he’s a one-man show, and everyone lets him do this (they claim, “well, he gets it done,” but the fact is, it’s made everyone else pretty lazy).

Now, the problem. We have a Scout with Asperger’s Syndrome. He joined the troop about four years ago, and things actually started off pretty badly and his parents needed to almost constantly be there to monitor and direct his behavior. But, with proper parental involvement, monitoring, psychiatric counseling, and supervision, plus special aides in and out of school, he’s come a long way. Far from perfect, but a long way.

Over time, he’s matured. His “meltdowns” are infrequent now. He’s actually gone on several very strenuous mountain hikes, and even completed a Philmont trek (he earned his “Arrowhead”!). He went to summer camp with the troop for a full week last year, without his parents, and no harm came—a big step for him, and us all.

Unfortunately, the Scoutmaster formed a negative opinion of this Scout four years ago and hasn’t modified it—he neither understands nor accepts the symptoms of Asperger’s and simply considers this Scout nothing but trouble. When he denied this Scout Life rank because, in his estimation, the young man hadn’t “shown leadership,” the Scout’s mother went straight to our council’s Scout Executive, and the Scoutmaster was ultimately told that he can’t hold back any Scout who has completed all requirements, just because he considers the Scout “trouble.” Needless to say, this hasn’t built any bridges of harmony between the Scoutmaster and this Scout, or his parents, either.

Now, we’re on the cusp of Eagle. The Scout wrote up and gave to the Scoutmaster his project plan. After some delays and petty issues that he found fault with, the Scoutmaster finally approved the project. The Scoutmaster simply doesn’t “believe” that this young man “deserves” to be an Eagle Scout. He’s actually articulated his plan to keep this from happening: He intends to truncate this Scout’s tenure-in-position, so that he’s short the full six months he needs to fulfill Eagle requirement 4.

Needless to say, the Scout’s parents want the troop committee to remove the Scoutmaster or, short of that, assign someone else to work with their son—someone who isn’t steadfastly (if not relentlessly) prejudiced against him. They’re right on the edge of going directly to the Senior Pastor—head of the Chartered Organization—to demand that this Scoutmaster be removed, unless the committee takes action of its own accord.

The troop stands to lose much if the Scoutmaster is removed, yet the Scout should be treated fairly. While the parents are being relentless, they are the parents, after all, and this is their son. And the Scoutmaster does seem to be at fault, perhaps especially when the stance he’s taking is, “I’ve been Scoutmaster for three decades and I know better than anyone whether a boy is deserving or not!” He also claims that “requirements shouldn’t be bent for anyone” and since the Scout’s not designated as a “special needs,” he gets no special treatment.

I’m the Chartered Organization Representative, so this “Solomon’s Decision” may fall to me. Any thoughts? (Name & Council Withheld)

What a bloody disaster! The parents may well be over the top, but that Scoutmaster should be fired for lacking Scout spirit and being mean-spirited enough to actually consider throwing a grenade in this Scout’s path. And the troop committee members need to grow spines and do what should have been done a couple of decades ago. However, congratulations to the Scout for having the courage, gumption, and perseverance to survive all of them.

Let’s begin…

There are alternate requirements available to Scouts with disabilities such as Asperger’s, and the wise troop and parents would have followed this path from day one. If this Scout has taken the regular path, and has fulfilled every requirement right up to Eagle, this is a cause for celebration.

No rank is subject to anyone’s “judgment”—and certainly not a Scoutmaster who has confessed to thoughts of actual sabotage of a youth. This alone is grounds for immediate dismissal.

Regarding ranks, if the requirements have been completed, that’s it. It’s a done deal. No one, NO ONE “passes final judgment.” Fire the Scoutmaster instantly, on grounds of being a jerk.

It is not mandatory that the Scoutmaster’s signature be on the Eagle rank application in order to hold a board of review for the young man. Hold it. Make it successful—which it should be, anyway.

If you’re the Chartered Organization Representative, it’s your duty to see that the youth of this troop are provided the very best adult leadership and role-modeling available. You have “hire-fire” power over every adult associated with the troop in a registered position. It’s time for you to exercise your responsibility. Begin by cleaning house. This may need to include spineless committee members, too.

To make it easier to replace the Scoutmaster, first, whittle his job down to size. Start demanding that committee members and ASMs start doing some of the stuff he’s been doing (don’t think for a minute that he’s not doing all this stuff as a subliminal way to hold the whole troop hostage), and make it stick. Then, fairly quickly, his “job” becomes of reasonable size, so that he can be replaced without someone having to put the entire universe on his shoulders. The other approach is, of course, to fire him on the spot, and simply divide up his responsibilities right then and there.


Dear Andy,

A Life Scout in our troop recently came up with an Eagle Leadership Service Project that involves building an outside seating area for patients at a local nursing home. On the surface, it seems like a fine project; however, we’ve learned that this nursing home isn’t a not-for-profit operation; it’s a commercial business—part of a chain of nursing homes that are in business to make money. Despite this wrinkle, our district advancement chair approved the project on the basis that it benefits the patients. We in the troop are having second thoughts, because of the commercial nature of the facility. Can you provide any guidance? (Name & Council Withheld)

Once again, the guidance on this isn’t my opinion; it’s direct from the BSA itself and it’s a policy: No Eagle service project may be performed for a for-profit business. Yes, I do understand that the patients will benefit, but so will the business, because its physical plant will have been improved, and this is something that it should be doing for its paying patients, from its own revenues. To verify this, ask them what their “501 status” is, and if they’re not a 501(c)(3), then they’re a for-profit operation. I’m sure this will throw a bit of a damper on the Scout’s ambitions; on the other hand, it’s a good lesson in “do your homework first.” This also doesn’t negate the concept itself; it simply means that a change of venue is in order.

Dear Andy,

I’m trying to advance to Second Class rank, and I need to learn “The Three R’s of Personal Safety.” My Scout Handbook doesn’t have that information, and I haven’t found it at on line. Can you help me? (Scout’s Name Withheld, San Diego Imperial Council, CA)

Here’s what you’re looking for:

The Second Class requirement 8b is new since your handbook was printed: “Explain the three R’s of personal safety and protection.” The three R’s help ensure your personal safety and help you protect yourself. This requirement is described on pages 108 and 378-379 of the 2008 edition of the Boy Scout Handbook.

First, RECOGNIZE that anyone could be a child molester. Child molesters can be very skilled at influencing children, so be aware of situations that could lead to abuse.

Second, RESIST advances made by child molesters to avoid being abused. Just say no, and don’t be embarrassed to run away, scream, or cause a commotion.

Third, REPORT any molestation or attempted molestation to parents or other trusted adults. Anytime someone does something to you that your instincts tell you is wrong, or that makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable, tell someone you trust. It’s OK to ask for help.

Most relationships with others can be warm and open. That is because they are built on trust. A pat on the back, a hug of encouragement, or a firm handshake are ways we can show people we care about them. However, it is a sad fact that some adults and teenagers use their size and their power over others to abuse them. You need to know about abuse so that you will understand what to do if you are ever threatened. Those who abuse young people know they are doing something wrong. They usually try to keep their actions a secret from other adults. They might frighten their victims to prevent them from telling anyone what is happening. They might try to make the abused person feel that he or she is to blame. No one should live in fear of abuse. You do not have to let people touch you in ways you find uncomfortable. If you are ever asked to do something you know is wrong, you have the right to refuse.

Most sexual abuse can be prevented if young people know and follow these three R’s: (1) Recognize, (2) Resist, (3) Report.

Recognize. Recognizing a situation that could become sexual abuse can help you get away before you are in serious danger. People who sexually abuse young people are called molesters. Most often, the molester is known by his or her victim. The molester might be anyone—a family member, schoolteacher, religious leader, or youth group leader. An adult attempting sexual abuse might being by touching you in ways that are confusing. He or she might try to touch your groin area and pretend it was an accident. You might be asked to pose for photographs in your underwear or swimming suit, and then in no clothing at all. Some adults or older youths might try to use your natural curiosity about sex as an opportunity to attempt sexual abuse. Sex is a normal bodily function you need to understand. Be on guard around anyone who makes it seem dirty or secretive.

Resist. If anyone ever attempts to do something to your body that makes you feel bad or that you know is wrong, you have the right to stop them. Run, shout, or make a scene in public to protect yourself. Faced with resistance, most molesters will back off.

Report. Anytime you believe that someone has tried to abuse you or someone else, report it. Talk to a trusted adult or call an abuse hot line–you can get the number from the phone book or by dialing an operator. Abuse is an adult-sized problem. By talking about it with adults, you can let them solve it.

For more information on dealing with abuse, you and your parents or guardian can read together the pamphlet How to Protect Your Children From Child Abuse: A Parent’s Guide, found inside the cover of your Boy Scout Handbook.

(NOTE TO READERS: When I responded to this Scout, I sent a copy of the entire conversation to our USSSP Webmaster, so that there would be a third-party witness; then I recommended to the Scout that, whenever he communicates via email with an adult, he should copy his parents, as well.)

Dear Andy,

My son has completed all requirements and successfully completed his board of review for Eagle Scout rank. Per troop tradition, he is now creating the program for his Court of Honor. He would like his closest friend to deliver the “Eagle Charge,” and although that friend recently moved away, he’s prepared to travel some 1,200 miles to be there for my son.

The Scoutmaster, however, is claiming the Eagle Charge as his own, and is refusing to have anybody do this but himself. He says that he’s done all 16 Eagle Charges for the troop’s prior Eagles Scouts, and he’ll be doing this one, too, regardless of what the Scout or anyone else might want.

What do we do? (Eagle Scout Mom)

Of course, your son’s Scoutmaster is guilty of arrogance, inflexibility, and lack of creativity. But I would have trouble believing that your son hasn’t seen these characteristics before now. This means that your son’s hardly the “innocent party” here—He’s requesting something that he had to know was somehow sacred to his Scoutmaster, and he’s asking his Scoutmaster to give something up that he’s never given up before. Meanwhile, as a role model, the Scoutmaster’s throwing a three-year-old’s temper tantrum, which is not what a Scoutmaster is supposed to be modeling for the Scouts in the troop he serves. So, step one is for your son to find something else for his friend to do, that won’t get the Scoutmaster’s knickers in a knot. And the second thing that should happen is that the Scoutmaster should be fired the morning after the Court of Honor, for conduct unbecoming. Yes, I’m dead serious—No troop needs a Scoutmaster who puts his own ego trip in front of the Scouts he’s supposed to be serving.

Dear Andy,

What are the right dates that are supposed to go on the merit badge applications? (John Dobbs, SM, Tukabatchee Area Council, AL)

There are four important dates on a Merit Badge Application (aka “Blue Card”). The first is, of course, the date the Scout told the Scoutmaster that’s he’d like to work on the merit badge (see page 187 of the Boy Scout Handbook for the procedure), and the Scoutmaster gave him the Blue Card. The second is the date of requirement completion, which is written in by the counselor when he adds his signature to the first two stubs (the MBC keeps the third tub). The next and third is the date the Scoutmaster gives the first stub to the troop advancement chair for recording (either one can initial it). The fourth and final is the date the merit badge and card are given to the Scout (not a Court of Honor, by the way).

Dear Andy,

As a trainer, I’m admonished to teach only what’s in the official BSA literature lest I “confuse the Scouts.” In the case of some safety issues, I’m specifically told to teach only what’s in the handbook. What do I do when or if the BSA literature is incorrect on a health or safety issue? Do the values of Scouting outweigh the “teach only from the book” rule? For instance, the dishwashing procedure in the handbook is contrary to the guidelines of the FDA and every other health authority I can locate on the Internet. And why would the Scouts be confused? If they go to Philmont, they’ll be shown a dish-washing method that’s not what’s in the handbook. Youth of this age are used to constant change, and the “current” handbook is now eleven years old—that’s older than dirt in their eyes. (Tom)

Of course, I have to wonder why you’re doing all that wandering around on the Internet… Are you on a mission to find discrepancies? Well, anyway… It took till I got to high school before a very wise teacher finally said to us, “These textbooks aren’t perfect; you may find mistakes and errors. Why? Simple: They were researched, written, edited, proofed, and printed by human beings, and human beings can make mistakes. So, if you spot something that doesn’t seem to make sense, speak up! We’re here to learn and understand; this is not a class in blindly memorizing. We’ll talk it over; not to find blame, but to findtruth.” That was the second of the two wisest things I learned in high school. Nuff sed?

I’m in total agreement. Unfortunately, there are some training course directors who absolutely prohibit talking about anything that’s not in the official BSA syllabus—even when they think it may be incorrect. For instance, a First Aid instructor noted that the BSA description of CPR was incorrect, but she had no choice but to teach it that way so as not to confuse the boys. Sigh! (Tom)

There’s only one way to deal with people like that… Stay away and don’t get caught up in their particular shtick, and absolutely don’t argue with them!

Dear Andy:

My wife and I are advisors to a co-ed Venturing crew of about 30, primarily made up of youth who are “special needs,” including mentally impaired, deaf, learning disabilities, etc. We just went to a council-wide campout where our crew members were permitted to participate in the merit badge courses offered to the Boy Scouts, since there were no Venturing-specific events or activities offered. None of the Venturers is or has ever been a Boy Scout. The Boy Scout leaders signed a blue certificate indicating completion of these merit badges. What’s the proper way, if any, to formally commend our Venturers for completing these merit badges? (Chris Sears, Buckskin Council, WV)

Just to get this said, you do know there’s a standing BSA policy that unless a Venturer has earned the rank of First Class as a Boy Scout, pursuit of further Boy Scout advancements (both ranks and merit badges) is a no-no. So, the council folks who told these young people that they’d completed merit badges made a mistake: What they did shouldn’t have happened. But it did happen, so now what? My suggestion would be to go and buy the actual cloth merit badges that they’ve earned, put them in shadow-boxes—one shadow-box for each Venturer—and present them to these young people at an upcoming crew meeting. They can take their shadow-boxes home, mount then on their walls or put them on their bookshelves at home, and enjoy having earned them, but simultaneously obviating any placement of them on uniforms (which would be most inappropriate).

Then, for the future, develop activities for your Venturers that relate to the various awards are indeed are actually available to them, including, Ranger, Silver, Quest, Gold, and Trust. This way, you’re helping them along paths that can definitely be recognized and rewarded for this program group!

Dear Andy,

There’s a disagreement going on between myself and another Wood Badger. She’s claiming that Scouters can wear our Wood Badge “critter” emblem (not the patrol patch—it’s the one that shows the patrol animal or bird with the thongs and beads) on our uniform shirts in the position where a Jamboree patch would go—above the right pocket and flap, and I’m disagreeing, since, in the first place the patch itself is unofficial and in the second place that location is reserved exclusively for Jamboree patches. Who wins? (I just need to prove to her that Beavers are smarter than Foxes!) (Tom Williams, Anthony Wayne Area Council, OH)

Tell your misguided vixen that an Owl (“The other white meat”) says no way, Jose! Check the Insignia Guide (which is available online, by the way). Foxes may be smart, but Owls are wise, and Beavers don’t give a dam!


Dear Andy,

Why is the American flag worn “backwards” on military uniforms, but not on Scout uniforms? (Rebecca Meek, MC, Montana Council)

Wonderful question! The flags “fly” in different directions based on two different schools of thought. In the BSA, the field is kept to the top-left, as per the U.S. Flag Code. In the military, the flag appears as if it’s flying (as on a flag pole or halyard) as the person wearing it is moving forward.

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)(June 1, 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..


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

Comments are closed.