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Issue 192 – October 14, 2009

Dear Andy,

Can a Scoutmaster eliminate all youth leadership positions in a troop except for Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, and Patrol Leaders? It would seem to me that doing this would prevent Scouts from advancing due to the limited number of leadership positions available. (Name Withheld, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

Of course not—It’s absurd! There’s absolutely no rationale that would support this sort of nonsense. It belies everything the Boy Scout Handbook tells the Scout, and runs counter to the teachings of the Scoutmaster Handbook as well. Any Scoutmaster who isn’t prepared to do a “180” on this immediately should be fired.

Another thing this particular Scoutmaster has done is refuse to sign off on the Scouts who have held the “designated” leadership positions (SPL, ASPL, and PL) because he “it’s up to the Scouts to learn to improve themselves” and he “didn’t like their work.” Any thoughts you would share on this could be helpful.

This guy’s poison. Fire him (B-P would have said, “Take him outside and shoot him”). Here’s the statement in the Scoutmaster Handbook: “Training youth leaders to run their troop is the Scoutmaster’s most important responsibility” (italics mine). Obviously, you have someone who just doesn’t get it. Unless he’s willing to reverse himself immediately, and also sign off on the Scouts who held their positions, he’s history.

In the meanwhile, it’s appropriate, in this sort of situation, for someone else (e.g., the CC or troop advancement coordinator, or an ASM) to sign these Scouts’ books, before they get fed up and walk out. I hope you’ll make it happen.

Dear Andy,I’m currently serving in the U.S. Army. As a Scouting volunteer, I was awarded the MOVSM from my Battalion Commander. No one at the BSA council service center has any information on where or how to obtain the “square knot” for this. Can you help? (Randell Moody, Coastal Empire Council, GA)

THANK YOU for your service to our country, and congratulations for having received the MOVSM! Pick up the phone, call the BSA national office at 972-580-2000, ask for the Relationships Division, then describe your situation. I’m sure they’ll tell you precisely what you need to do in order to receive the square knot you so justly deserve.

Dear Andy,It’s been our pack’s tradition to graduate our Webelos II Scouts into our “big brother” Boy Scout troop in February, in line with the 18-month Webelos program (having read your “Bridge to Nowhere” column, I understand why this is the BSA-recommended practice and the sound reasoning behind it).

However, a current Bear Den Leader has made it know that he plans to fast-track the boys in his den through their Webelos and Arrow of Light in eight months, starting next year. Interestingly, this Den Leader is also the Scoutmaster of the troop our boys traditionally join when they cross over, and that troop is apparently losing Scouts and adult volunteers alike at a rapid rate. (Speculation, of course, is that he’s trying to shore up the troop by, in effect, shanghaiing Cubs prematurely.)

As Cubmaster, I feel this is not only destructive to the pack but potentially sets a bad precedent. Can you give me any “ammunition” on this, in order to deal with a fellow volunteer who might play on his length of service (and experience), which at this point exceeds my own? (Name & Council Withheld)

The Webelos program is 99% an 18-month program. It is age/grade-specific. It is not to be messed around with. If this current Bear Den Leader is insistent on doing what he says, he needs to be fired and replaced. He is planning to “short-change” the boys in his care and start them into Boy Scouting when they’re way too young. Besides, he will have to violate some of the written requirements for Arrow of Light in order to do what he has in mind: Webelos Scouts earning the Arrow of Light are expected to have completed the fourth grade (i.e., they’re now in fifth grade) and his so-called plan is to have these boys complete all requirements by the middle of their fourth grade year–this is clearly a violation of AoL requirement 1 (read page 63 of the Webelos handbook).

DO NOT attempt to deal with this individual by yourself: You definitely want to “un-level” the playing field, and you do this by aligning with your Committee Chair and COR and then all three of you together tell this yahoo that pirating is something that happens in the movies; not in Cub Scout packs—end of story.

Dear Andy,I totally enjoy your columns every time you publish them—they help give me focus.

I don’t want to sound like a nit-picker, but at a recent Eagle court of honor, some statistics were presented that make me say, “Huh? No way!” On page, theScouting’s Bottom Line link says that “85% of student council presidents were Scouts, 89% of senior class presidents were Scouts, 80% of junior class presidents were Scouts, 75% of school publication editors were Scouts, 71% of football captains were Scouts.” Where were these statistics compiled and how accurate can they be? It seems like at least 30% or more class presidents in 2009 are actually female. Just wondering. Thanks. (Eric Hothem)

The larger point, which is the one we don’t want to miss, is that Scouting helps young people learn to become leaders in life. Focus on that aspect and take a deep breath.

Dear Andy,How often does a Merit Badge Counselor need to register—one time and that’s it, or is it every year? I’ve read that MBCs need to complete the BSA adult application for the MBC position even if they’re registered for another position. I also believe I’ve seen somewhere that a person only interested in being a MBC only pays a $1 application fee. I’m trying to determine if some of our troop’s MBCs who haven’t registered for several years are really qualified to be Counselor or not. Also, should there be “two-deep leadership” when a MBC is working with several Scouts? (Bill Yoder)

All MBCs complete the BSA Adult Volunteer application and also the NBC application, listing the merit badge(s) they wish to counsel and their qualifications for same. For MBCs, there is no initial or ongoing registration fee (however, if this is the only position held, “tenure” doesn’t accrue). The council is then responsibly for re-registering all MBCs, every year until a MBC notifies the council that he or she is stopping. Even so-called “troop MBCs” are registered in this fashion. Anyone not registered this way is not a legitimate MBC and is not authorized to counsel Scouts.

A MBC doesn’t need to practice “two-deep” so long as the Buddy System is utilized. In the regard, the “Buddy” does not need to be another Scout—it can be a parent or other relative, guardian, sibling, or friend. The idea here is to not have a “one-on-one” situation.

Dear Andy,Do Den Chiefs earn service hour credit, since it’s outside the troop? (Chris Savard, Annawon Council, MA)

No, this isn’t “service time”—this is leadership time.

Dear Andy,

What is the proper way to report the misconduct of an Assistant Cubmaster? (Name & Council Withheld)

Without knowing the nature of the “misconduct,” the persons you should be speaking privately with (no emails!) are (a) the Cubmaster, (b) the Committee Chair, and (c) the Chartered Organization Representative. You would not have a conversation with the BSA district or council, because the sponsor of the pack (aka “chartered organization”) owns the pack and has jurisdiction over all adult volunteers.

Dear Andy,

Love your frank answers and enlightenment on Scouts! I think I’ve read all your columns, and enjoyed all of them. It really has helped me through the years. My reason for writing is because of my husband’s troop and my own pack—he’s Scoutmaster and I’m a Webelos Den Leader and we both have full training including Baloo, Owl, and IOSLT. There are some committee members who want to keep the troop adult-run like it was before my husband arrived (he changed it to Scout-led and is fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way) and have convinced some new parents that the Scoutmaster doesn’t know what he’s doing. So these committee members and parents took it upon themselves to have a campout with my Webelos den, but without the Scoutmaster. The problem is that none of the parents or committee members is trained. (Luckily, only two Cubs went, because the parents didn’t like the lack of training.) So, to nip this one in the bud, he invited our District Executive to the pre-campout meeting, to let everyone know BSA national policy as it was told to us when we did the training. But all the District Executive said was that it’s OK as long as there’s two-deep leadership and someone’s youth protection-trained, and that other training’s nice but not required. So my question to you is what is national’s policy about campouts with troops and Webelos concerning trained leaders? Were we told incorrectly? I still will insist Den leaders to be Baloo and Owl trained before any campout, more to keep everyone safe, even if national doesn’t require it which I personally think they should, because no child or adult should go on any activity without someone skilled in what they are doing. Please guide us with this one as apparently our own council isn’t even sure. Thank you for all you do and trying to keep some of us sane! (Name & Council Withheld)

First, the GTSS book points out that trips or outings require either two adult (registered) leaders or one adult (registered) leader and one parent of a participating Scout. The BSA is silent on training required of these adults; however, a local council may, at its discretion, add specific training as a further requirement for the purposes of safety. For a campout (i.e., “overnight”) by boys in the Cub Scout program (which includes Webelos Scouts) there must be one parent or guardian per boy. The BSA is silent on training required of these parents or guardians. Again, your local council may add requirements of training, as it sees fit. If the local council has not adopted any specific policies regarding training, then this can’t be enforced arbitrarily.

If, however, no Local Tour Permit was filed for this campout, then there is a violation of policy and had any accident occurred, BSA insurance would likely have not applied; however, if no accident occurred, then these folks successfully “dodged the bullet.”

For a pack overnighter, the GTSS states that at least one adult must be BALOO-trained; however, the campout you described wasn’t a pack event, so this policy doesn’t apply.

As for a Scout-run troop, your husband is to be applauded. There’s a liability, though, when a troop is turned more or less upside-down and responsibilities are taken away from adults—the adults will squawk! Yes, it’s silly and inappropriate, but it happens, nonetheless. Your husband needs to stick to his guns, or resign—there’s no “happy middle ground.”

(As a Scoutmaster who had to do the same thing, I used to carry a spare “Scoutmaster” badge in my pocket. When some belligerent parent confronted me with how I “ought” to be running the troop, I’d take the badge out and hold it at them in the palm of my hand: “You want this job? Take it,” I’d tell ’em. When they faltered, I’d put the badge back in my pocket and walk away. That would usually be the last time they tried to play games with me or get me to knuckle under.)

Dear Andy,Here’s a suggestion for that Scouter looking for a possible badge-related requirement that could be tied to a computer rebuilding project. How about donating the rebuilt computers to charitable or youth organization that could actually use them, using the rebuilding and delivery as a den service project? (Paul Silich, WDL, Northeast Iowa Council)

Good idea! Thanks!

Dear Andy,

Is there an American Heritage medal that Scouts can earn and wear? (Sandy Scharpenberg)

There may very well be such a thing, probably available through a third party (i.e., not the BSA), such as the National Parks, etc.

If the Scouts earn it, can they wear it? It’s through Nations Trails, I believe.

I wouldn’t want to be the one to say not to, especially since the religious award medals aren’t BSA either, and they’re sure OK!


Hi Andy,Thought this might clear up some confusion about the new Scout leadership position: Troop Leave No Trace Trainer. We’ve received this information from Eric Hiser, Chair of the BSA Leave No Trace Task Force:

1. This is an appointed position.

2. The Scout will complete a LNT Trainer Course conducted by a BSA LNT Master Educator. (This is a 16-hour weekend course with both class and hands-on instruction.)

3. The minimum age set by the BSA to take this course is 14.

4. Although this position isn’t listed for Eagle in the new handbook, it does qualify—It was accidentally missed by the proof readers and will be corrected in the second printing.

I hope this answers some questions, especially about the training. (Rodger Phillips, LNT Master Educator & Outdoor Ethics Advocate, Erie Shores Council)

Thanks a bunch!

Dear Andy,Is it appropriate for Scouts to wear the “Trained” patch on their left sleeve? If so, what are the requirements to earn this patch? (Jim)

Some district and council training courses offer the “Trained” patch to Scouts who complete NYLT, Den Chief training, etc. It’s also available for Scoutmasters to give to youth leaders who have completed troop-level leadership training (it’s actually shown in the Scoutmaster Handbook).

Dear Andy,

My 16 year-old son is a Life Scout who’s on his last merit badge for Eagle and is looking for a project. He goes to a boarding school, and he’s having trouble getting a leadership position in the troop because, living at the boarding school, he can’t attend troop meetings regularly. He does still go to some weekend troop events, and this past summer he was a counselor at Scout camp. I’ve read in Scouting magazine about a new position called Webmaster, and I’m thinking this might be perfect for him and a good way for him to stay in touch with the troop, but I can’t find it listed as a position of responsibility on the new Eagle requirements. Will Webmaster be acceptable? Or, if not, do you have any ideas on how he could meet the leadership requirement for Eagle? (Melanie O’Neill, Advancement Coordinator, Bucks County Council, PA)

This area is something your son (not mom or dad) needs to discuss with his Scoutmaster and/or the troop’s Eagle candidate advisor, and I’m sure that, between them, they can arrive at a solution. He can best do this in-person at a pre-arranged time during a regular troop meeting, or by phone, or even at a weekend campout. (I wouldn’t recommend email because there’s too much back-and-forth with a subject like this.)

They’ve discussed this. The Scoutmaster is fairly new, and he wants to do it “right.” Maybe I’m just interfering, but I’m worried that national won’t accept something on the Eagle application. If the Scoutmaster gets the final word, then we’re all set.

If your son and his Scoutmaster follow the requirements, as stated, they’ll be “doing it right.” (Webmaster, by the way, probably won’t become an “official” leadership position till 2010, so if your son doesn’t mind waiting a bit, that could be a good fit, but this is still a conversation between the Scoutmaster and him.)

Hello Andy,Your column has helped me enormously to understand and reaffirm BSA policies, and sometimes (admittedly) to get myself back into BSA reality. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any specific advice concerning yet another take on service projects, and while I hate to split hairs, this question was raised by both myself and a few of our committee members at a recent board of review.

Can “altar server” hours be used towards “service projects” for Second Class, Star, and Life ranks? My stumbling point is “service project,” as it’s stated in the handbook. There’s certainly growth that can be obtained by being an altar server, and I want to make sure we encourage religious participation, but should it count toward a Scout’s service hours?

(After a bit of deliberation and discussion with the Scoutmaster, the board of review was successful, but we’d like to have it sorted out for next time. (Chris Boix, CC, Connecticut Rivers Council)

Here’s how the BSA defines “service projects”: “…service projects shall be meaningful service not normally expected of a Scout as a part of his school, religious, or community activities.” My own thinking here is that being an acolyte is both “meaningful” and “not normally expected.” “Meaningful” is hardly at question, and since being an acolyte is voluntary beyond being merely a parishioner or congregant, the “not normally expected” aspect is met, as well, it would seem to me. “Splitting hairs” isn’t what we’re here to do—serving youth and recognizing their accomplishments and their contributions to society is. Let’s focus on the positive!

Dear Andy,You recently commented, in response to a question about a Scoutmaster’s “authority” to deny a Scout the opportunity to start a merit badge, that a Scoutmaster “has neither the right nor the authority to be acting as a merit badge ‘gatekeeper’,” and you cited Boy Scout Requirements-2009 (p. 22): Any Boy Scout may earn any merit badge at any time.

When a Scout comes to the Scoutmaster expressing a wish to work on a merit badge, it may be an excellent time for a mini-Scoutmaster conference. This is especially true for the new 11-year-old who probably doesn’t quite “get it” yet. There are merit badges that are age- and experience-appropriate, and the Scoutmaster should take a few minutes and explain all about merit badges, how you work with a Counselor, which are required for Eagle, and so on. Encouraging Scouts to work together would fit in here, too. After all that, if 11-year-old Jimmy still wants to do Personal Management merit badge, the Scoutmaster can’t say no; however, he could contact the Merit Badge Counselor and let him or her know who’s coming along. (Bill Ewing, Great Southwest Council)

First, I’ll stand by exactly what I’ve consistently maintained, per BSA policy: The Scoutmaster is absolutely not the merit badge “gatekeeper”—Any Scout can go for any merit badge any time he wishes. In this regard, you and I are on exactly the same page!

However, one of the two “missions” of the Merit Badge Program is for Scouts to learn how to stand on their own two feet, and this is imbued by the procedure that it’s the Scout and no one else who makes first contact with the Merit Badge Counselor. This means that I, as a MBC, should get a phone call from just one person: The Scout himself. When Mommy (when it’s not the Scout, it’s almost invariably Mommy) calls and asks me how her son gets started with a merit badge that I counsel, I have only one reply: “Hang up the phone now, give my phone number to your son, and suggest that he call me.” He does, and we proceed.

Moreover, there are no merit badges at all that are “age- and/or experience-appropriate.” The structure of the requirements for all merit badges is such that any normal boy, from 11 through 17, can meet them with counseling and coaching from a competent MBC.

As a personal aside, I counsel Scouts for the aquatics merit badges, among a few select others. Sometimes, I get a Scout for Swimming who’s all flailing arms n’ legs, and still sinks like a stone. It’s my ingenuity in coaching that gets him to a point of swimming competency, and this is my reward! His, too! If some all-knowing, all-seeing Scoutmaster had arbitrarily kept this young man from calling me, the loss would have been the Scouts, while the Scoutmaster’s ego would have created the need for a larger hat. So, having a “gatekeeper”—no matter how well-intentioned—interferes with Scouts’ interest in going for merit badges and ultimately limits what they’ll learn and do in the Merit Badge Program.

I began counseling over 40 years ago; I’ve never, ever had a Scout fail to complete all the requirements, exactly as written. This is what I do, and I’ll be gosh-darned if I’m going to knowingly let some yahoo of a Scoutmaster keep enthusiastic Scouts away from me by employing his infinite wisdom at precisely the wrong time! (Not that I have an opinion on the subject, BTW!)

Dear Andy,Can you tell me how long adult training is valid? Does it ever expire? I am specifically looking at Scoutmaster Specific. Also, have you ever heard of an old adult course called Scout Leadership? If so, what is it, and would it be a replacement for Scoutmaster Specific? (Name & Council Withheld)

Some training courses do have “expiration dates,” which often vary from course to course, while others don’t. Begin by reading the card you were given, to see if there’s an expiration date on it. If you don’t find one, consider calling or writing to your district or council advancement committee chair and asking. If you go this route, be as specific as you can about what course you’re inquiring about.

As to the current “Scoutmaster-Specific” training, at least one of the prior names was “Scoutmastership.”

Dear Andy,


This summer my son worked hard earning eightmerit badges so he could complete his Star rank. A week ago, with all other requirements signed off in his handbook, he completed his Scoutmaster conference, followed by a successful board of review. But now, a week later, the Scoutmaster came to me and said that my son was short his leadership time (he was a Patrol Leader and is now the troop’s Quartermaster) by nine days at the time of his board of review, so he won’t be receiving his Star rank at the court of honor next week; instead, he’ll have another board of review a month from now and then he’ll get Star at the next court of honor—six months away.


He was a Patrol Leader in March, April, and up to mid-May when the troop suspended activities, but then he was Patrol Leader again for a week at camp and then for a four-day “mini-adventure;” however, the Scoutmaster refused to count the two summer events toward leadership tenure. Then, in mid-August, he became Quartermaster, and held that position until his board of review about two months later.


I took this up with our Committee Chair and Chartered Organization Representative, pointing out that my son had, in aggregate, held qualified leadership positions for well over four months, but they backed the Scoutmaster. I’m concerned that, if I make any more of a fuss over this, my son will never get another leadership position.


I don’t know how to tell him he won’t be getting his Star rank this week. Help! (Name & Council Withheld)

There are so many glitches here, it’s hard to know where to begin, but the biggest one is that you don’t tell your son: This is clearly the Scoutmaster’s responsibility. As for the rest…

1. Your son became a Patrol Leader at the beginning of March, and either still holds that position (unless there’s been a troop-wide election of Patrol Leaders since then), or he resigned it in order to take on the new position of Quartermaster in mid-August. Therefore, on the date of his board of review, he’d held a qualifying leadership position for 6 months and 19 days, which is more than enough for Star rank (this rank requires only four months).

2. This nonsense about “you’re not a Patrol Leader (or any other position) once summer starts” is just that: Sheer nonsense. Tenure runs till either the Scout resigns, is removed, replaces one position with another, or there’s the next troop elections. Since none of these apparently happened, his tenure counts. End of story. (No troop in its right mind does anything else!)

3. If these people still don’t understand the principle operating here, let’s add up the tenure they say he has: Patrol Leader=2 months+14 days; Quartermaster=1 month+5 days; “summer Patrol Leader”=11 days; and all of this adds up to exactly the four months he needed at the time of the board of review. Therefore, on the date of his board of review, even by their distorted method of “counting,” your son met Star rank requirement 5.

4. When a unit’s adults—in this case, the Scoutmaster who held the conference with your son and then the troop committee that held a board of review for him—mess up, it’s time for them to fess up and make things right. They can either tell your son that they made an error, apologize to him, and hold another board of review immediately, OR—and this is what they’ll do if they’re really wise and boy-minded—they’ll let their alleged “erroneous” decisions stand. They’ll choose this latter option because they understand that their big goal here is to grown boys into responsible, happy citizens; not to “ding” boys for errors they, the adults who are supposed to know better, have made.

Finally, when a board of review is successfully completed, that Scout is to receive his new badge of rank as rapidly as possible—he does not sit around waiting for the next court of honor!

All of what I’ve said here can be found in BSA literature and training—none of this is my “opinion,” including the very first point about the Scoutmaster taking responsibility.

Hi Andy, Our son is an overachiever and he’d like to start on his Webelos program by himself, with my husband and me signing off for him, but is told to wait for den meetings and not to do anything on his own. He’s home-schooled and so is accustomed to grabbing an assignment and completing it on his own. This seems disappointing for him and at this point he’s considering leaving Cub Scouts because of this. He’s earned 39 belt loops in his first year as a Bear and thought he could earn the academics and sports pins but again was told he’d have to wait for those as well. As a parent I thought it was a great idea to incorporate Cub Scouts with home-schooling, but now I don’t dare to, because I am afraid to cause friction with the Den Leader. It has also been mentioned to him that he’d have to re-earn his belt loops because some of the boy in his den hadn’t earned them yet and this was part of some of her den meetings (I’m not talking about the belt loops that are needed for the Webelos program but the belt loops that are extra and not specifically needed for Webelos). Does he have to wait for the other boys to catch up before he gets his Webelos badge, or can he get his rank separate from the other?

Also he’s nine years old and has already completed 4th grade and so technically he could get his Arrow of Light in about eight months, but he’d still be a Webelos 1—does he have to wait for the others to catch up to him? (Name & Council Withheld)

The most important thing here is the Scouting doesn’t teach boys that, when they don’t get their own way, they quit.

If you’ve read the parents’ guide in the front of your son’s new Webelos book, you’ll immediately see that this advancement program is markedly different from Wolf and Bear. In those earlier programs,Mom and Dad were “Akela,” and signed off on completion of achievements and electives. Not so in the Webelos advancement program. Here, the Webelos Scout is signed off by his Den Leader only—not Mom or Dad any longer—and that’s deliberate, to prepare boys for Boy Scouts. You’ll also notice that many of the activity badges are earned in den meetings; not “solo” or at home. So, all of this means that your son will be participating with his den, and earning activity badges and completing other requirements with his den friends. This is important to the overall development of the boys, at this age and grade level, and it would be a huge mistake to attempt to deviate from the program as written. This isn’t about “friction”—this is about doing things as they’re supposed to be done.

We’ve read the requirements and hadn’t planned on signing off on anything. So, are you saying that that all Webelos Scouts progress at roughly the same pace? What if the group is sluggish in nature? Is it expected for my son to achieve only the bare minimum, as set forth by his Den Leader? I was under the impression that Webelos Scouts were encouraged to pick up the book and have at it, knowing that the Den Leader would approve completed requirements. Being home-schooled, my son has been trained to progress at his own pace—one that he has set. Because he’s far ahead of the school system, we put him in a Bear den last year because of his age and he completed all electives but one and all belt loops but one, and that was his choice, not ours—he set up a schedule, and we encouraged him by going on-line to see which local places offered the facilities (gyms, roller skating rinks, golf courses, etc.).

As we speak, I have a boys sitting here looking at his Webelos book and planning out his year, but here we are, a month in, and he’s still awaiting an assignment. I’m told by the Den Leader that he can’t just go forth, but yet he sees in the book so many opportunities that say “…with your Webelos den or family” complete this assignment. Why can’t those be done, at least? In our frustration, we came across the term, Lone Scout, and in reading the requirements it seems like we’d fit in. We know that being with other boys is supposed to be a positive thing, but how long can we expect our son to carry the burden of the others? He leads in popcorn sales, awards, and beyond; he’s there to decorate for pack meetings because all the other boys are in school but, as a home-schooler, we arrange his schedule so that our family can go decorate. He’s there to organize different functions when everyone else is making excuses not to attend. Please help frustrated parents and son!

Just so we’re on the same page… I know what it’s like to be the parent of an energetic, precocious child. One of my sons was a teacher’s aide for high school Calculus, as an eighth-grader. These children are simultaneously a joy and a unique challenge.

Sit down and talk with your son’s Webelos Den Leader: This may be the most important thing you can do!

Meanwhile, do pay very close attention to the parent’s section of your son’s Webelos book—the Webelos program is, after all, preparing your son to be a Boy Scout, where he will do virtually everything away from hearth and home, and will interact not with you two but with his fellow Boy Scouts and his Scoutmaster.

Refer, for instance, to pages 10-11: “In the Webelos den, the emphasis is on having fewer Cub Scouting experiences to do at home and more to do with the den.” This means that participating alongside his den friends is what he will focus on, and you—as parents—will want to make certain that he understands this and looks forward to it. On these pages, it also says, “The Webelos den uses activity badges as their monthly program themes.” Here, you’ll want to make certain that your son understands how working together as a team helps everyone achieve their goals.

Page 15 advises that “much if (your son’s) work in activity badge areas and for the Webelos badge and Arrow of Light award will be done in the den.” Help your son understand that den meetings will likely be far more exciting and interesting than in the past, and possibly more challenging, too.

Now turn to page 16: “A main focus of the Webelos Scout program is to prepare boys for Boy Scouting by moving from more home-based activities to more den-based activities.”

Review these with your son. Then, review together with him his own beginning section of the book, starting on page 25, and especially focusing on page 27. But also notice that page 35 refers to “…at home with your Den Leader’s approval” but he needs to understand that, just as with you both, he needs to obtain that approval first; not after he’s done whatever it is he wants to do. (It’s identical to the usual parental preference that he ask, “Can I go out and play with Johnny next door?” first, and not after.)

After you’ve done these things, turn to the Webelos badge requirements, beginning on page 49. Discuss with your son how you’ll do req. 1 with him after he’s completed req’s. 2 through 7 with his den, and how you’ll also do req. 8 with him. Then, discuss with his Webelos Den Leader how the requirements for the Fitness and Citizen activity badges will be handled—which requirements will be done in the den, and which at home.

As for the Cub Scout Academics and Sports program, notice that, in addition to belt loops, there are even more activities available for earning pins—which are quite a bit more challenging than the belt loop requirements and should, therefore, have great appeal to a boy like your son! (Yes, some belt loops may need to be re-earned as a Webelos Scout, and that’s simply the nature of the program.)

The key to this is for your son to work as a team-member with the other boys in his den. This is in the category of “life lesson.”

Hi Andy,The other night, I attended meeting of one of the packs I serve as a Unit Commissioner—it’s a healthy pack with 70 to 80 Tigers, Cubs, and Webelos. During the meeting, I was talking with one of the Den Leaders and in the course of that conversation he mentioned that there were three Eagle Scouts as leaders in the pack: Himself and two other Den leaders. Then he noted that only I was wearing the Eagle Scout square knot, and went on to say that all three Den leaders were afraid to wear their Eagle square knot because they may be asked to do more. When I mentioned that wearing that square knot sets a good example for the boys in the pack, he still demurred, believing that wearing any insignia indicating past achievements would lead to being asked to do more.

What is it in Scouting today that makes an adult Eagle Scout, or maybe a Silver Beaver or others so afraid to wear such insignia? What can we, as fellow volunteers, do to take away such fears, including, perhaps, the fear of repercussions or recriminations when one says no thanks, not now? (Dave Mountney, UC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

What you’ve described is pretty unusual, at least in my own experience… Most Eagle Scouts seem to reflect upon their accomplishment more with humble pride than with fear of being put-upon. Eagles are, after all, generally a pretty stalwart group of guys!

Perhaps we might characterize these three as possibly more reluctant than “frightened”? This would, of course, be despite the plain fact that their devotion to their sons and the Cub Scouting program belies reluctant and frightened both.

I’ve heard in places it shouldn’t be, “Pay-back time!” “Arm-twisting” “Well, what have you done lately?”…and, invariably, these are the insensitive comments made by non-Eagles. The answer to such bull-in-the-china-shop comments, of course, is a simple, “Thanks for asking me, but I’m wearing enough Scouting ‘hats’ already.”

Dear Andy,

I like the appearance of the new Boy Scout uniforms, but the quality of the Chinese-made garments isn’t up to standards. For example, I’ve now washed my new uniform shirt just three times and already find that I’m no longer a member of the Boy Scouts of America but, instead, I am in the “BO OUTS”! My son’s uniform shirt’s been washed about the same, and he’s now an “ OY SCO TS”—maybe a Jewish clan in Scotland?—and the troop numerals have raveled! I took these to our local Scout Shop, and they told me that a lot of the uniforms are having these problems. I know the uniforms have been outsourced overseas to save money, but if we have to replace them, or patches, every few months, where’s the savings? (Bob Hendrick, SM, Circle 10 Council, TX)

Oy Vey! Don’t that put a rock in yer sporan molach!

Yeah, the new stuff leaves a bit to be desired. The best thing I think you can do is to continue to show the actual shirts to the Scout Shop manager and ask him or her if they’d be willing to communicate this unhappy situation “up the line” so that maybe some action will be taken.

Hey Andy –

Everything sold by any Scout Shop has a lifetime satisfaction guarantee. Bring any defective item back for an exchange or refund. We’ve only seen a few shirts where the lettering came off, but I had the same impression you did at first glance. We did have a few where the lettering was upside down—the backs of the letters were flat and the tops were rounded—it looked odd, so I sent ‘em back to National Supply. I understand the hassle factor isn’t a good situation. We do let the staff in Customer Service in Charlotte (NC) know when there’s a problem. Sometimes the problems take a while to fix. (Steve Hanson, Scout Shop Manager, Capitol Area Council, TX)

Thanks and a tip o’ my Commissioner’s cap for your straight-shooting!

Thanks! I’m actually a rotten salesman, because I tell it like it is. For example, have you seen the new Scout shorts? Well, they have a mesh liner, a drawstring, and a waterproof pocket pouch. National Supply calls them “shorts,” but they’re suspiciously more like swim trunks… and that’s what I tell my customers! (We must be doing something right, though because our total sales are up 12% over last year!) (Steve Hanson)

Boy, I wish you could clone yourself—one of you for every council in the country! Keep on keepin’ on!


Happy Scouting!


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

(October 14, 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

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