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Issue 187 – August 3, 2009

Dear Andy,

Can Webelos and/or Cub Scout camping nights count towards the 20 days and nights of Scouting-related camping required for Camping merit badge? (Constantine Vlavianos, ASM, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

Nope! Gotta be a Boy Scout before you can even start a merit badge!

Dear Andy,

Must a Scout first complete the 20 days and nights of Boy Scout-related camping before he begins working on Camping merit badge? That is, are these 20 days and nights prerequisites for this merit badge? Can a Scoutmaster, for instance, require that a Scout first complete 20 days and nights of camping before granting that Scout permission to begin working on Camping merit Badge? (Name & Council Withheld)

Refer to page 187 of the Boy Scout Handbook. For Camping merit badge, the days-and-nights camping are absolutely, positively not “prerequisites”—to make them such would completely defeat the purpose of the merit badge, which is to improve camping skills in a learning-by-doing frame of reference.

A Scoutmaster has nothing whatsoever to do with the requirement of this or any other merit badge unless he’s a registeredMerit Badge Counselor for same, in which case he’s not functioning as a Scoutmaster; he’s functioning as a Merit Badge Counselor. This is why it’s not a wonderful idea for a Scoutmaster to be, simultaneously, a Merit Badge Counselor: It confuses the Scouts, if not himself as well, and it defeats 50% of the goals of the BSA merit badge program.

For a Scoutmaster to be demanding that any “prerequisites” be done before giving a Scout the application (aka “blue card”) for the merit badge the Scout has expressed interest in is totally, utterly over-the-line. In the first place Merit Badge Counselors have sole and exclusive authority over merit badge requirements and completions. In the second place, not one, single merit badge out of the more than 120 available has a “prerequisite.”

Moreover, since it’s a BSA policy that any Scout can go to work on any merit badge any time he chooses, neither the Scoutmaster nor anyone else can withhold a “blue card” from a Scout who expresses interest in a merit badge—regardless of the Scout’s age, rank, grade in school, activity in the troop, mental or physical abilities, or anything else for that matter.

Understand: What you’ve just read is not my opinion; it’s BSA policy. Therefore, these points are not open to further discussion or exchange of opinions, nor are they to be considered “guidelines” that may be accepted or not. These are the way it is. Period.

Thanks for your response. Your answer is exactly what I’d hoped for (and expected). Unfortunately we had an incident at summer camp several weeks ago where our Scoutmaster “pulled” some Scouts out of Camping merit badge sessions, insisting that they didn’t meet the “prerequisites” of already having 20 days and nights of camping before starting the merit badge. I suspected that the Scoutmaster may have overstepped his bounds in doing this. We now have a very “sticky” situation to address. (N&CW)

Yes, that Scoutmaster—although perhaps meaning well—definitely did overstep his bounds. It is, quite simply, not in his purview to “decide” who is qualified or not to work on any merit badge, because any Scout can work on any merit badge any time the Scout chooses to.

Since the Scoutmaster reports (yes, reports, in the absolutely literal sense of chain-of-command) to the Committee Chair, it’s up to the Chair to correct the Scoutmaster, so that nothing along these lines ever happens again. This should, of course, be done in private. It should also be pointed out to the Scoutmaster, if necessary, that this isn’t open to discussion or debate: This is the way it will be from now on, because this is BSA policy.

If done well, and privately, the Scoutmaster should accept this as instructive and a “learning experience” for himself. If he doesn’t (i.e., if there’s any reluctance or belligerence, or anything else along these lines), then he’s the wrong guy to have as a Scoutmaster.

Finally, if we’re worried about his “hurt feelings,” how about we first consider the feelings of the Scouts he arbitrarily and improperly yanked out of that merit badge opportunity!

Dear Andy,Our troop has a question about flag retirement ceremonies… With new flags now made out of synthetic materials, can you still cremate them, or are the fumes or smoke toxic? Is there an alternative method of retirement if this the case? (Paul Racine, Rocky Mountain Council, CO)

Just stand back a bit… No need for gas masks! And do remember that the only “requirement” for retiring a flag is that it be done “in a dignified manner”–there’s no edict that says burning is the only method available.

Dear Andy,Our troop has a question as to how our troop and a newly-formed Venturing crew could or should interact. The crew and the troop will have the same chartered organization, and may share committee functions. What typical or recommended interaction would there be, between the troop and the (co-ed) crew. For instance, should they both meet at the same location on the same night? Or, should the crew go camping with the Troop?

The crew advisors want to blend with the troop on campouts in order to share resources and build momentum, but others feel that the female Venturers may be a distracting element on such campouts, especially among the older Scouts. Any insights? (Kevin Hutzel, ASM, Old Colony Council, MA)

Boy Scout troops and Venturing crews are different programs within the Scouting “umbrella” and are about as different as Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. You probably wouldn’t be all that comfortable with a Cub Scout pack meeting at the same time and place as your troop, and the troop and the crew share a similar disparity. So, no: It’s not a wonderful idea for the troop and the crew to meet at the same day and time, at the same location.

Besides, if you’re planning to have some committee members do “double-duty” this suggests that you have some Scouts in the troop who are or will be members of the Venturing crew. If so, which unit do they meet with? After all, they can’t be running back and forth between both! And you really can’t have both meetings going on in the same room, either, because the construct of the meetings bear absolutely no resemblance to one another.

Further, Venturing crews don’t “tag along” with troops, on outings and such. Venturing crews, because they’re made up of older youth and are often co-ed, establish more rigorous programs and events for themselves, and so would have little interest in 11- and 12- and 13-year olds hangin’ around!

So, just as a pack and a troop have entirely different programs, so do troops and crews. Oil and water don’t mix.

Dear Andy,My son is working on finalizing his Eagle project plan. The estimated cost of the project is going to be about $600. His troop has Scouts’ accounts consisting of funds they’ve earned from various fundraising opportunities that each Scout has participated in while members of the troop. He’s therefore asked the Committee Chair for some of his earned funds so he can buy the supplies he’ll need for his project. But the Committee Chair has refused to release any of his funds to him. Is this a BSA rule, or is it something that can be determined by a troop? (I’ve read our troop’s guidebook and found no such reference.) I might add that, in addition to wanting to use some of his own money, he’s pursuing alternate fundraising as well. (Name Withheld, Northern Star Council, MN)

There’s nothing in any BSA literature about funding an Eagle project except the notation that the primary purpose of an Eagle project can’t be solely fund-raising. There’s also nothing that says a Scout who needs to buy materials for his project must do a fund-raiser; the money can come from any source: donations, his own savings account, and certainly any account he has in which his troop is holding his money (it is, in fact, his money, not theirs, and we all need to keep that point clearly in mind).

So, a very legitimate question to the troop’s treasurer is, “What is your rationale for withholding my son’s money from him?” And a follow-up question is, “Where is it written that the Scout cannot decide what he wants to do with his own money?” If this continues to be road-blocked, I’d be very tempted to go straight to the head of your sponsor and tell him or her that the troop’s leaders are refusing to give my son money he’s earned–they’re “holding” it for him, they say, but it’s more like they’re keeping it from him, and this is not right.”

(In his pursuit of further funding, has your son considered your local Rotary Club? You’ll find it on-line and yes, a well-written letter explaining the project, who it will benefit, and how much money needs to be raised and what it’s for, will often produce a very nice contribution. And, if he wishes, your son shouldn’t hesitate to ask for a specific amount.)


Dear Andy,I do know that merit badge “classes” aren’t supposed to be done in troop meetings, but what about outside of troop meetings? It seems that some people here think that if a Scout wants to work on a merit badge, it’s OK if he calls a Counselor and then brings six or eight “buddies” with him, all from our troop, and usually with a Counselor who’s also a leader in the same troop. I know all the reasons it shouldn’t be done that way, but I can’t use the usual “show me where it’s written” because the number of boys being buddies is never addressed in any publication I can find.

As a Merit Badge Counselor myself, I’ve met with several Scouts together when they all called me within a short period of time asking to work on the same merit badge—I just meet with them the first time, in order to go over what’s expected, and then it’s up to each Scout to get together with me on his own (meaning: he calls me, we get together with his buddy). I don’t like the “class” thing because you can’t get a real feel for what each Scout actually knows.

What are your thoughts on merit badge classes? Do you have any official references that say they’re no good? (Name Withheld, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)

In or out of troop meetings, we in Scouting want to avoid “classes” at all costs. “Classes” are artifacts of schools; Scouting is deliberately not a school. It is a system of education, certainly, but it is a system of learning-by-doing. It is visceral, kinetic, and hands-on. Anathema to Scouting is the seer or “all-wise-one” expounding on his or her subject, in stultifying lecture-style, while the Scouts sit numbly listening. Scouting’s about action and interaction. Work with your Scouts in a discussion-and-debate mode, or show-and-tell mode, where they’re doing at least half the talking (the greater the proportion, the better!) and showing and doing, and you’re asking questions to give them the opportunities to show and tell their stuff! That’s how to be on your way to lasting success.

I’m saying all this as a Merit Badge Counselor who’s worked with over 1,000 Scouts, in groups as small as two buddies and as large as 20 to 25, and in all cases I never, ever turned this into what could even remotely be called “classroom-style.”

You’re absolutely right that the “classroom-style” approach may be just fine for teaching, but it’s lousy for educating and counseling! Moreover, there actually is something in writing about this: The BSA specified that while “group learning” may be done for merit badges, the Counselor must assure that each Scout, individually, has learned the skill, gained the knowledge, or carried out the requirement(s).

Dear Andy,Are there any restrictions on Boy Scouts shooting BB-guns? And, what training, if any, is required to become a Rifle-Shooting Merit Badge Counselor? (Doug Heuer, ASM, Blackhawk Council, IL)

Yes there are, and you can find the details at the BSA’s website ( and then find the Guide to Safe Scouting. Check with your local council about qualifying as a Merit Badge Counselor in your area of interest.


Dear Andy,I have Scouts of various ranks who just came home from summer camp. Many of them returned with signed blue cards showing their merit badge work as completed, yet they didn’t go to camp with the prerequisites in hand as arranged. I know this because of either their statements to that effect or the fact that they lacked a letter from me stating the completed prerequisites. I’d planned to make an example of them for their lack of preparation and attention to detail. I’m most uncomfortable awarding merit badges—especially Eagle-required ones—under these conditions. What course of action is available to me? (Bob Grow, SM, Bucks County Council, PA)

The one and only course of action available to you is to recognize these Scouts for having completed the merit badges for which they turned in signed blue cards. You see, the Merit Badge Counselor has absolute and final say-so regarding requirement completion, so that once the card’s signed, that it: End of story. Neither the Scoutmaster nor anyone else except the MBC is a “gatekeeper” here.

If you have a bone to pick, it’s not with these Scouts. Maybe it’s with the camp staff approving the completion of these merit badges, but that’s it.

Once those cards are signed, it’s done. Moreover, you’re not “awarding” anything—You’re recognizing work signed off as being completed.

Besides, not a single merit badge has actual “prerequisites.”

Last and maybe most important, in Scouting we never, ever, not under any circumstances “make examples” of Scouts. This is, quite literally, emotional abuse. Don’t even consider this as an option, ever, for anything. The Scoutmaster’s mantra is, very simply: Praise in public; correct in private. And in the cases of these Scouts, there’s nothing to correct.

Hi Andy,

As a frequent reader and writer; thank you for your insights and guidance! My son, now a Boy Scout, earned both the Light of Christ and the Parvuli Dei Catholic religious awards while in Cub Scouts. He and I have noticed that the Senior Patrol Leader wears these as well as the Boy Scout Ad Altari Dei Catholic award medal on his uniform; however, when my son went for his first (Tenderfoot) board of review, he was told that he shouldn’t wear his medals. This is, obviously, confusing to both him and me. (Scout Parent, Council Withheld)

In general, medals are worn at courts of honor and the rest of the time kept in the memorabilia box at home.

So how about asking the Scoutmaster, very directly and politely (after all, this isn’t a witch hunt), what’s going on here? Your question wouldn’t be out of line and might shed some light on the confusion—and there’s certainly reason for confusion!

Dear Andy,What’s the proper way to retire plastic American flags? They don’t burn; they just melt, emit fumes, and make a real mess. (Laurie Austin, Past SM, Central Florida Council)

A shredder, perhaps?

Seriously, I’ve never seen a “plastic” American flag except maybe for those little table-top do-dads, and they hardly qualify for a “retirement.” But if you want to pursue this further, check out this

Hey Andy,

On the back of the new, full-color merit badge pamphlets, there’s a photo of a Scout man in uniform with his merit badge sash. From looking at his rank badge and his sash, he has enough merit badges to be an Eagle Scout… But why does he have two Camping merit badges on the sash? (Nigel Andrews)

Probably because he’s a model, this is a staged photo, the photographer’s a pro (but not a Scouting pro), there was no technical adviser, and thegraphics design company that produced the cover didn’t check with the BSA before going to print—or the BSA editor simply didn’t have your sharp eyes. In this same regard, wouldn’t you also think they’d put this model in a new “Centennial” shirt, with green shoulder loops? Or at least a short-sleeved shirt? (How many Scouts do you know, wear the long-sleeved shirt? Not a lot, I’ll bet.) Also, notice on the inside front cover how CSP the Scout in the foreground is wearing doesn’t match theCSPs worn by the other Scout or the adult leader? Same reason, I’m guessing. Just like the two Scouts on the back cover who are portaging a canoe while still wearing their PFDs. Stuff happens. Is it sorta dumb? Yeah, I suppose. Is it “lethal”? No.

Dear Andy,I was just reading your column about the parent who was pondering being a Webelos or a Tiger Cub Den Leader. Last year, when my son was a Bear, I volunteered to be “Akela” for a Tiger whose mom needed to take a second-shift job, and I can tell you that I had so much more fun as “Akela” than as a Den Leader. Also, the Den Leaders for the Tigers were new to Scouting and our pack, so when they needed help, I was right there to answer questions for them. I thought the whole thing worked out really nicely that way. This leader also needs to consider the opposite—that the den he’s been with might be bummed out if he left them for the Tiger Cubs. (Jen Haubrich)

Good thoughts. Thanks for writing… and for being a loyal reader!

Dear Andy,As a PADI instructor, I’m currently teaching my grandson SCUBA. Where can I go to get the criteria and the required documentation to assure that he meets all BSA requirements for the SCUBA badge? (Rick Norris, National Capital Area Council, VA)

You’ll find all 16 requirements on pages 229-230 of the BSA book, Boy Scout Requirements (2009 Edition). If he doesn’t have a copy, you might want to get this book for your grandson, because it also has all requirements for the BSA’s more than 120 merit badges in it!

Dear Andy,The second part of the First Class rank req. 8d. asks that the Scout “Explain the steps (procedures) in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)” and the handbook’s reference page number is provided. However, go to that page and the information’s not there! Now it’s not a matter of finding the information elsewhere—all our adult leaders are CPR certified. I’m just wondering why this information wasn’t included in the handbook. The procedures for rescue breathing are laid out, and the handbook states that a Scout may ask his Scoutmaster or other qualified person to receive training in CPR. Was this intentional? (I do know that CPR procedures have changed recently.) Also, I’d like to know if this information will be in later editions of the handbook, or maybe that requirement will change? (Rob Adams, ASM, Gulf Coast Council, FL)

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head… The BSA doesn’t presume to be experts in CPR, when others are. Plus, as you note, CPR techniques and methods change (improve) periodically. So, by referring the Scout to known (often certified) experts, the BSA is assuring that the very latest methods or techniques are learned, at the time they’re learned. (Remember that the current handbook was actually written some eleven years ago, and the writers at that time had the foresight and wisdom to realize that a specialized and ever-evolving technique like CPR would change over time!) So let’s tip or hats to those writers of more than a decade ago as we today teach our Scouts the very latest!

Hi Andy,We have about 40 Scouts in our troop and have had some nice growth over the last few years. But I’m seeing dismal response from our Scouts to our Patrol Leader elections. Previously, this troop was a bit top-heavy (read: adult-run), but with the recent growth, we’re trying to move more toward being a Scout-run troop. The Scouts, however, don’t seem to want to take this step. We’re swaying between adult-organized and led activities for the Scouts, but without actual youth leadership, or letting the troop flounder until the Scouts pick it up. Any suggestions? (Kevin McKay, ASM, Rocky Mountain Council, CO)

With about 40 Scouts, your troop should have about five to seven patrols. These can’t be your troop’s very first elections, so what’s happening now, that’s causing such a problem? Maybe your Scouts are smarter than they’re being given credit for. After all, if up until now the adults have planned everything and done everything, and all the Scouts needed to do was show up for the party, why give up all that freedom? Especially if the troop hasn’t really had “standing patrols”—like, maybe whatever Scouts showed up for a hike or campout were just whacked up into “patrols of convenience” until the event was over?

Maybe it’s about time for the Scouts to start the process by forming permanent patrols—and do set it up for the Scouts to do this, and not you adults. (I’ve written about how to do this in any number of columns, but if you need it and haven’t found it, write again and I’ll give you the step-by-step for accomplishing this.)

Then, once there are permanent patrols, instead of immediately asking them to elect Patrol Leaders, give ’em all a small task instead (make a patrol flag, play an inter-patrol competitive game, etc.) and just observe who emerges as the natural leader of each patrol. After you’ve done a couple of these tasks or games, then (and only then) ask the patrols to elect a Senior Patrol Leader (first) and then pick their Patrol Leaders for the next six months. But explain how the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders will be running the troop, including deciding on where all hikes and campouts will go, deciding on special events like courts of honor and such, and running all troop meetings. Explain how they’ll get to go on their own special trips, and how they’ll have a Saturday where they’ll all take training together (including snacks and pizza!).

Also, make it clear to both the Scouts and adults that ADULT INVOLVEMENT WITH ACTUALLY RUNNING THE TROOP STOPS NOW. The only adult contact the Scouts or the SPL or PLs will have is with the Scoutmaster, and that will be minimal—This is THE SCOUTS’ TROOP; not the adults’.

If that doesn’t do the trick, I’d be shocked!

(Footnote: Size, per se, is absolutely irrelevant to how a troop is run. If you have adults who still insist on being “the world’s oldest Patrol Leaders,” fire ’em—They’re killing the Boy Scouting program!)

Hi Andy,

In a recent column, you referred to a square knot badge for the Honor Medal (only). Actually, two others in the realm have square knots, too… In addition to the Honor Medal, so does the Heroism Award and the Medal of Merit. (Michael R. Brown)

Yup, all three have square knots. My first source didn’t show this. Further research confirms it. Thanks for your sharp eyes.

Hi Andy,

I’m the Advancement Chair for our troop; a position I’ve held for three-and-a-half years now. For most all of this time, our Committee Chair has made it seem like every board needs to be approved by him and that he needs to be on any board that’s beyond Tenderfoot rank. I’ve recently taken theBSA Board of Review Training. Nowhere does it say that the Advancement Chair (or Coordinator) run boards on his or her own. But whenever I try to schedule a review (above Tenderfoot) when the CC is unavailable, he tells me that he wants to be on it and for me to reschedule it for when he’s available. Does the Committee Chair always have to be on every review? To be completely honest, he’s making me feel like I’m incapable of handling my position. I have been involved in the Boy Scouts since 1996, when we started our first son in Cubs, and have since seen him through to Eagle, my husband is the Scoutmaster, and we have two other sons in the troop. I feel that I’m more than comfortable and capable of handling my position, and have had lots of experience over the past several years. Any thoughts? (Name Withheld, Mt. Diablo Silverado Council, CA)

Reading and training are often the keys to successful troop organization and management. Perhaps if you print out the BSA’s online Board of Review Training (the PDF file) and also get your hands on a copy of the Troop Committee Guidebook (No. 34505B), you can show the Chair and, in fact, the entire Committee and Scoutmaster, too, that…

– Nowhere does it say that it’s mandatory that the Committee Chair a member of a board of review.

– The troop’s Advancement Coordinator (you) is responsible for arranging boards of review.

While it’s certainly a credit to your Committee Chair to want to be involved, if the Advancement Coordinator has scheduled a board of review and has at least three committee members (which can, of course, include you, the Advancement Coordinator) committed to being present, then the Chair’s presence is hardly essential or demanding of rescheduling.

It’s certainly a thoughtful and courteous gesture to invite the Committee Chair, but if he’s unable to attend, then the board simply carries on—there’s no rescheduling. Why? Because boards of review are intended to serve the Scouts who are advancing in rank; they’re not for the pleasure of any adult volunteer. Adult volunteers serve the troop and its Scouts; not the other way around.

By the way, Tenderfoot is one of the most important ranks in all of Scouting, because it’s a boy’s first significant step into the troop and the Boy Scout program. This is the board of review that can and often does set the tone for entire remainder of a Scout’s next seven years in the program! So, let’s not give it short shrift and let’s be sure that the Scout enjoys a positive experience from it!

Hi Andy, I’m 16 years old, and I’m a little bit sad that I only have two years left as a Scout. I’m wondering if there’s a way to continue being active in the way that I currently am, after I’m 18, or do I have to follow the two-deep adult leader policy and no longer hang out with my fellow Scouts the way I do now. (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)

Have you heard about Venturing? Venturing crew members can stay in the program until their 21st birthday! Also, if you’re at least First Class rank, you can work on Boy Scout advancement all the way to Eagle right up to your 18th birthday, just as if you’re in a troop! Check it out—

Dear Andy,My reading of BSA literature tells me that once a Life Scouts has completed all Eagle requirements, including the Scoutmaster conference, arrangements must be made for his board of review to take place within the next 90 days.

In our troop, the leadership bends over backwards for some Scouts (doing Scoutmaster’s conferences up to midnight before their 18th birthday, approving projects for Scouts who haven’t been seen in years, etc.) depending on whether or not they’ve taken a liking to the Scout somewhere along the way. My own son, who attends every meeting, takes on leadership positions even when he doesn’t need to for rank advancement, helps the younger Scouts, is active in the OA, and on and on, yet can’t seem to get this review. His Eagle Scoutmaster’s conference was 95 days ago, and still not a word about a board of review (in our council, they’re done at the troop level, with a district/council representative in attendance). The Scoutmaster, Committee Chair, and Advancement Coordinator have all held these positions for years, and they’re also involved at the council level, so it’s really hard to know where to turn. I just want him to have a review in time to earn three palms and hopefully have a Court of Honor before the snow flies, and before more of his spirit is worn away.

I like your column very much and when I first found it, I stayed up till three in the morning reading every one! You have a wealth of information and if I’d found it years ago, I probably would have looked for a different troop for my son. (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re right on the money: Once a Scout completes his conference with his Scoutmaster and all paperwork’s taken care of—like the application is checked at the council service center, the references are contacted by the troop or district advancement coordinator, and so forth—it might take a few weeks for these other folks to get their tasks completed. But if, as you say, all that’s been done, I’d seriously begin to wonder what’s going on here… A board of review might take a week to set up, but not a month or three months or more, in ordinary circumstances.

It’s fair for you to ask: Where’s is the bottleneck? The troop Advancement Coordinator can and should be asked, and it’s OK for you, as the Scout’s father, to be doing the asking. Fact is, we adult volunteers are supposed to be here to serve our Scouts; not the other way around. In any case, this is definitely not something the Scout himself should have to do, so start making some phone calls (no email!) and don’t be shy.

You see, this sort of time-suspension baloney is unconscionable. They have just one job: Serve the Scouts. If you don’t get satisfaction at the troop level, it’s time to talk to the head of your sponsor and tell him or her just what you’ve told me—that these people just aren’t getting the job done.

Dear Andy,I’ve been asked to serve on the District Committee. What does this committee do, and what am I being asked to volunteer for? I’m a Den Leader—am I allowed to do both? (John M.)

That’s a question to ask of whoever asked you. Get all your questions like these answered up-front: Who’s on the committee, how often does the committee meet, what specific position on the committee are your being asked to fill, what are its responsibilities, who will you be working with, what sort of time commitment is involved, what’s the “term” or “tenure” of the position, and anything else you can think of! This is the only way you’ll be able to determine if this is something you want to do, and have the time and energy for!

As far as holding two Scouting positions like this, yes it’s Kosher, but if your son is in your den, be sure you’re not short-changing him and his friends (to say nothing of your wife!).

A Scouter, in a longer message, recently said this to me…

“…like you so frequently point out, with the exception of advancement requirements, everything else is guidelines, so you can modify them to fit your exact situation…”

Hmm… Just where do I say that? I sure don’t say it when I talk about how The Patrol Method is the only way to run a troop: There are no acceptable alternatives. I don’t say it when I talk about Den Leaders stopping doing Wolf and Bear achievements and electives in den meetings and put that responsibility with the parents, where it belongs. I don’t say it when I talk about electing, not appointing, Senior Patrol Leaders and Patrol Leaders, or maintaining standing patrols on campouts and not making up patrols of convenience, or wearing the uniform (which is worn in full; not in parts or pieces), or that neither the Scoutmaster’s conference or the board of review is an opportunity to test or quiz a Scout, or that deviating from the fundamental methods of Scouting is one huge no-no. So I’m confused… Just where is it that I supposedly say this? Or maybe you didn’t mean it the way it came out in email writing, which can certainly happen. Bottom line: Our responsibility as volunteers is to serve the youth of our Scouting units by presenting the Scouting program as written; not to “invent” it on whim and certainly not to play fast and loose by calling policies and program goals “guidelines” so that they can be arbitrarily altered.

Dear Andy,I am wondering if you think Scouting could be of benefit for children in Afghanistan. Do you think there would be a religious conflict? There are so many orphans there—would not Scouting provide a safe haven? (I am originally from South Africa, and was a Scout in 1976.) (Ouida Smit, Rome, Italy)

Thank you for finding me and for writing! First, I’m thrilled to tell you that in Baghdad, Iraq, military and non-military American volunteers are bringing Scouting to the children there, using their off-duty time and resources! In this area of the world there is no “religious conflict” whatsoever—Every child, as always in Scouting, worships his or her own god by whatever name called and in whatever way chosen! For Afghanistan, I’m equally thrilled to tell you that Scouting is already alive and well! There are several websites to look at—just Google “Scouts Afghanistan” and see what happens! Here’s one:
Happy Scouting!


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(August 3, 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.

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