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Issue 219 – June 12, 2010

Hi Andy,

I’m acting as a temporary Den Leader for my sons Tiger Cub den. I didn’t realize until I found this website that theres a new Video Game belt loop being offered for Cub Scouts. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I didn’t earn that rank by sitting on my butt playing Pac-Man and Donkey Kong! I’m very troubled and disturbed by this. I think you guys are lowering the expectation level. I think its a joke. I understand were only talking about young kids here, and everyone says you have to change with the times, but this is ridiculous. (Tom Riley, Pine Tree Council, ME)

I hear you loud n’ clear. It may help a bit to recognize that the Cub Scout belt loop and pin programs are supplemental, only. They’re not mandatory in any sense, and all Tigers, Wolves, Bears, and Webelos will focus first on the achievements and electives in their handbooks. Then, if there’s time left over and they’ve already earned their rank badges and a bunch of arrow points and so on, they might consider tackling a few of the academics and sports offerings in this supplemental program. They’re simple, harmless, and many of them can be knocked off in a single den meeting or outing. In other words, it’s no biggie.Don’t fret… Regular ranks and their requirements in both Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts haven’t been dumbed-down. Honest!

Dear Andy,

Why is the order of the Eagle Palms: Bronze, Gold,and then Silver?Logically, one would think the order would be Bronze, Silver, then Gold. I’m sure the BSA must have a reason for this and I’m curious to know. (Dave McMann,Blue Ridge Council, SC)

Great question, and the answer’s available with just a little bit of on-line research: The BSA follows the military order, whereby silver supersedes gold (or brass). One citation gives us this tidbit: Although gold is worth more than silver, silver outranks gold, because in 1832 the U.S. Army decreed that infantry colonels would wear gold eagles on an epaulette of silver while all other colonels would wear silver eagles on gold, but when majors and lieutenant colonels received the leaves, this tradition couldn’t continue, so silver leaves were designated to represent lieutenant colonels, and gold, majors. This tradition was borrowed from the British military tradition, so, since our founder, Robert S.S. Baden-Powell, had been a British Lieutenant General, he transposed the tradition to the Scouting movement.

So, where the common expression is “go for the gold,” in Scouting we go for the silver. This also tells you why the “eagle” itself is silver and not gold. Also, the badges of the highest-level council staffers (both volunteer and professional) are also largely silver, and as “ranks” move closer to the unit level, more and more gold color is introduced. Also, where the old Scoutmaster emblems were silver, those of Assistant Scoutmasters were gold and Junior Assistant Scoutmasters were gold-and-brown.

Now some sharp-eyed readers are sure to wonder why the shoulder loops of regional and national Scouters (both volunteer and professional) are gold, while those of council staffers are silver. I can only speculate here. My guesses are that either (a) somebody goofed or (b) somebody wisely realized that regional and national Scouters serve largely as support to our council folks (and don’t actually “out-rank” them), so gold would be more appropriate. I’d like to believe that the latter of these two guesses is more accurate.

Dear Andy,

I’m a fairly new “Scout Dad” in the troop my son transferred to when our family moved. I’ve just become advancement coordinator for a troop whose predecessor to me in this position held it for some 20 years. As I’m going through troop records and learning from some of the more seasoned volunteers in this troop, I’m picking up some stuff that just doesn’t feel right. For instance, we have an Eagle rank candidate who just completed all requirements and his Scoutmaster conference, and I’m being asked to set up his “preliminary” board of review. When I asked what this is, the other troop leaders told me that, for Eagle, we do a “full dress rehearsal” with the Scout, so that he knows how to answer all the questions when we do the “real’ board of review and the council advancement committee representative is present, so that the “real” one goes well, with no “glitches,” they tell me. Then there are the “skills reviews” for the other ranks. Here, it seems that, each time a Scout advances, he’s tested on almost all knowledge and skills he’s supposed to have acquired since first becoming a Scout—from knot-tying to first aid procedures to compass-reading, to re-re-explaining what each point of the Scout Law means, etc. When I mentioned that this sounds like re-testing, which isn’t permitted, according to BSA advancement policies (I’m not exactly a babe-in-the-woods here, although some think I am—I held this same position in my son’s first troop, before we moved here), they dodge this by claiming “it’s only a ‘review’—it’s not a ‘re-test,’ so it’s legal.” (To me, the notion of calling a pig a swan doesn’t change the fact that it’s hairy and wallows in muck.) The other thing I’ve noticed, in reviewing this troop’s “Eagle Wall of Fame” is that almost every one of the Scouts who made it to Eagle rank were within months (actually, usually weeks) of their 18th birthdays. When I asked why this was, the answer was that the person who had this job before me didn’t believe that a Scout could fully understand the meaning and significance of the Eagle rank till he’d matured, and so most Scouts were stalled or otherwise held back from advancing until they’d “properly matured,” in this guy’s eyes.

So, I guess my question is: What now? Do I go along with the “traditions” of this troop, or do I try to make some changes (and maybe make some enemies along the way)? Even the current Scoutmaster, who was a Scout in this troop, thinks that what my predecessor was doing was, as he put it, “maybe not perfect, but what’s the harm?” (Name & Council Withheld)

What you seem to be faced with is a situation of advancement mis-handling that is several Scout-generations deep. If what you’re telling me is even half-accurate, this troop has been off-the-mark for years, and the pity is they don’t even seem to know it! I believe your best bet to get things right after so many years is to move slowly and gently. On things like those “preliminary” Eagle reviews (which I’d call stupid, because they totally take away from the Scout himself any sense of spontaneity and conversation) and those “skills reviews” (which you’ve correctly branded as totally illegal), I’d probably suggest something along the lines of “let’s just try to do without, this time, and see how things go…” You might also want to be sure that you sit on every single board of review, from here on out, because you have no idea whether or not the Scouts are being “grilled” and you’ll need to cut this off instantly in the review. Finally, on the “maturing” thing, this is endemic and will take a long time to get fixed, but if you keep current requirement-by-requirement—by-rank records, you’ll be able to “alert” and encourage the Scoutmaster to conference with the troop’s Scouts as soon as you see that their other requirements are done, so that you can then schedule their boards of review without any delay.

You don’t have an easy job, but at least I hope your predecessor’s no longer involved actively with the troop, so that he can’t try to undermine you, blind-side you, bad-mouth you behind your back, or decide to have a confrontation. In mean-spirited confrontations like that, there are no “winners”—only survivors. Good luck –

Dear Andy,

My troop recently marched in a Memorial Day parade. One of our Scouts wanted to carry one of the parade rifles. One of the parade leaders informed this Scout that he’d need to be properly trained in how to carry a rifle before he’d be permitted to do so, but another leader said that it’s against BSA policy for a Boy Scout to carry a rifle during a parade. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. So, what are the BSA policies, if any, with respect to Boy Scouts carrying rifles during a parade or similar activity? (Rick Brewster, ASM, Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Excellent question, and here’s your answer, straight from the Special Regulations section of the BSA Insignia Guide (No. 33066): “The wearing of special helmets, scarves, gloves, unofficial leggings, and the carrying of ceremonial guns or swords…is in violation of the Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Hi Andy,

One of our committee members says that it’s against BSA policy for a Scout to use the left-handed handshake with a committee person who is not in uniform.But we can’t find any written reference to this. Do you know where we’d find it? (Alice Reno)

Stop looking and make that Yo-Yo find it and show it to you. Why? Because it’s unadulterated horsepucky.Anyone who is a Scout or Scouter and wants to get it right will use the left-hand handclasp, just like the rest of the 30 million Scouts and Scouters on this planet.Whether in uniform, in “civvies,” or wearing cowboy boots and a thong with a buffalo-horn headdress, the left-handed handclasp between Scouts and Scouters (or any combination thereof) is never wrong!

Dear Andy,

I’ve searched high and low on a variety of online resources, and discussed this issue with numerous Scouting leaders, and can’t seem to get an answer… My question is this: Can a Scout perform a project and have that project count for two or three different requirements, for different merit badges? Now on the surface, most would say no way, but hear out the scope of the project to see if there is any variance on your thoughts...

Having being raised around IT (Information Technology) my son set out to do req. 4 or 5 of Family Life merit badge and req. 7b of Communications merit badge, which in a somewhat related way, a Scout could also satisfy nearly allrequirements for Computers merit badge.

His project is to plan, design, implement, and maintain an open-source home inventory system. The resources requiredinclude a computer tower with a CD-ROM drive, monitor, keyboard, mouse, power cords, power strip, data cables, blank writable CDs / DVDs, and notepad. Work details: assemble computer parts into a functioning machine, research best open-source OS distribution for the project, download ISO-type file, use CD/DVD-writing software to transfer ISO file to usable DVD, install operating system onto project computer plus database, web server, PHP, and inventory system software, configure security, then configure all to function properly together, testing with item entry. Finally, customize/personalize web entry/lookup pages and perform phased entry of items into system, then create backup database locally, to another computer, or to writable CD/DVD. So, with this potentially many-week to many-month project, could any, in part or all, satisfy requirements across the merit badges I’ve mentioned? Thanks in advance for your insight, and reference to any rules/regulations that might apply here. (Arby Davis, ASM, Las Vegas Area Council, NV)

This Scout should absolutely not proceed with this idea before speaking with each individual Merit Badge Counselor.

To your question, you won’t find a BSA policy for what you’re looking for, because there isn’t one. Acceptance and approval of such projects are the specific province of each individual Merit Badge Counselor. One or more might give a green light; others may not. It all depends on whether or not the individual Merit Badge Counselor sees the project as fulfilling the letter and intent of the requirement at hand. So, this Scout would serve himself well by obtaining a “Blue Card” (i.e., Merit Badge Application) for the merit badges he’s interested in and then, in meeting with the particular Merit Badge Counselor for each one, describe his project and ask the Counselor for approval. The Counselor will decide.

Beyond your question, the BSA-prescribed process for earning merit badges is to first obtain the Merit Badge Application (aka “Blue Card”) and then meet personally with the specific Counselor to review the requirements and begin fulfilling each of them under the guidance and expertise of the Counselor’s watchful eye. To work on requirements in isolation and in advance of actually starting the merit badge (the BSA states that a Scout has started when he has his first meeting with the specific Counselor) is highly uncertain and dangerous, because if the Counselor doesn’t consider the work appropriate to the letter and intent of the requirement, it won’t be counted, meaning that the Scout has done unnecessary work in the absence of direct guidance.

So, the very best thing this Scout can do is get his Blue Cards, get the names and contact information of the Counselors he’ll be working with, and then arranging a meeting with each one. This is how the earning of merit badges progress, as described in the Boy Scout Handbook.

Dear Andy,

Our troop recently observed Scout Sunday at a Congregational Church.I thinkit’s true that Scouts can haveScout Sunday any date they want, but why do they expect Scouts who aren’t of this denomination to attend a church that’s not of their own faith?(Name & Council Withheld)

On Scout Sunday, the entire troop goes to their chosen church, temple, synagogue, meeting house—it really doesn’t matter which. The pastor, priest, rabbi, or other religious leader should be collaborated with in advance, of course, so that he or she can gear the sermon to this unique annual event. “A Scout is reverent” means that he respects the religious believes of all, and so any Scout can quite easily attend a service or mass outside of his own particular faith or denomination with impunity. It’s, that the very least, a unique and friendly learning experience. In short, there should be no hesitation whatsoever. As far as the month the troop chose, consider next year getting it a little bit closer to when it’s actually supposed to be, which is the Sunday immediately before or on February 8th.

Dear Andy,

Over the past several years, our troop has instituted series of “participation requirements” required for rank advancement. This list includes: (1) attendance of at least 50% of the troop weekly meetings, (2) participating in a minimum of 3 troop or selected OA campouts during the prior 6 months or 5 troop or selected OA campouts during the prior 12 months (each week of summer camp may count as one campout; a Jamboree counts as one campout; Philmont counts as two campouts; cabin camping qualifies), (3) participation in a minimum of 6 hours of troop community service during the prior 6 months, (4) participation in a minimum of 3 hoursat the annual troop wreath sale fundraiser, and (5) at least 3 hours participation at other troop fund-raising events during the prior 6 months, if applicable.

Clearly, theres some overlap with official BSA national advancement requirements, andthis list is couched in terms of “participation.” But don’t these additional itemsviolate the BSA rules byeffectively establishing many more requirementsfor rank advancement than the BSA stipulates? Its certainly putting a damper on the spirits of many long-term Scouts who have been working toward advancement! (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m honoring your request for anonymity but I’ll tell you now in complete honesty: I want to publish the number and location of this awful troop, so that all boys and parents considering the Boy Scout experience will STAY AWAY.

This is total, unadulterated nonsense. That’s not my opinion; that’s the standard of the BSA and there’s a policy for it. The BSA clearly states that units may not apply percentages, numbers, or anything else to “participation” (which is merely an attempt on this troop’s part to “loophole” out of BSA “active” regulations, and shame on them for trying). Moreover, this constitutes adding to requirements, which is also strictly prohibited by BSA national policy.

Unless they’re willing to follow BSA standards, get your son out of that troop and into a troop that delivers the Scouting program the way it’s intended to be delivered. What these people are trying to do has a parallel: “The floggings will continue till morale improves.”

The true “volunteers” in Scouting are the Scouts themselves. No “participation legislation” will ever make up for a weak, boring, dull, or non-challenging program.

Thank you. It’s really helpful to get some guidance. I wish I’d written to you sooner. I’m going to talk to the leadership, as I believe that they will listen. (Your column is invaluable!)

I hope they’ll listen, and come to their senses. If the BSA wanted such strictures put on “active” or “participation” the BSA would have written this stuff into the requirements, so that fact that the BSA hasn’t done this is your very best guidepost. Beyond this, the very idea of thinking that a troop (or anyone) can arbitrarily play fast and loose with BSA national requirements isn’t just off-base; they’re not even in the ballpark.

Hi Andy,

Can you tell me who can give, or where we can get, the official interpretation of a specific merit badge requirement?It’s been my understanding that the role of a Merit Badge Counselor is that of coach; not inquisitor. I’ve also never presumed that it was ever the Merit Badge Counselor’s place or authority to determine which options a Scout chooses to use, to complete the requirements for a merit badge, or which options within a single requirement a Scout chooses. Have I been missing the target all these years?Here’s an example of what I mean: For Citizenship in the Community, requirement 8 says: “Stage your presentation in front of your Merit Badge Counselor or a group.” Is the “or” at the discretion of the Scout, or the Counselor? (Greg Robinson, Ozark Trails Council, MO)

Let’s first agree that “interpretations” of merit badge requirements are rarely if ever actually needed. Most all requirements are written to be specific and without vagueness or guile. For instance, when a requirement saystell…” it means tell; when it says “describe…” it means describe; when it says “deliver a 5 minute speech…” it means a speech, not a “talk” and it’s to last 5 minutes, not 4 or 14 or some other number; when it says “demonstrate…” it means show, not talk about or write an essay about; when it says “improvise a natural shelter…” it means don’t use a tarp or tent; when it says “prepare a first-aid kit…” it doesn’t mean go out and buy one; when it says “demonstrate your ability to jump feetfirst into water over your head…swim 25 yards on the surface, etc….” it doesn’t mean dive in and swim underwater for 15 or 50 yards.

Second, the role of a Merit Badge Counselor is that of an expert who not only knows the requirements but has the experience and ability to teach beyond them; however, without ever demanding that a Scout do more (or less) than what is stated; and who can instill in the Scout an appreciation for the subject matter in such a way that the Scout may choose it as a hobby or life-long interest, or even career.

Third, when a requirement offers an option, such as the one you cite“Develop a public presentation…Stage your presentation in front of your Merit Badge Counselor or a group, such as your patrol or a class at school”—since this is the Scout’s merit badge it’s the Scout, in consultation with his counselor, who gets to choose which option he’d like to use.

If a Scoutmaster receives feedback from any Scout that a Merit Badge Counselor is not following these and the other guidelines provided by the BSA for Merit Badge Counselors, he would be wise to investigate, and then not only inform the district or council advancement committee but also find an alternate Merit Badge Counselor for his Scouts. Conversely, if a Scoutmaster learns of a Merit Badge Counselor who is getting it right, and Scouts describe him or her with enthusiasm, then this is exactly the sort of person the Scoutmaster would want to encourage his Scouts to contact and work with.

Dear Andy,

Where did the terms “Totin’ Chip” and “Firem’n Chit” originate? These terms are hard to remember and pronounce, even for us leaders! (Brian Glanz, ASM, Lincoln Heritage Council, KY)

The Totin’ Chip started around 1950, as a simple way to assure that Scouts had a decent knowledge of edged tool safety before we sent them out there to hack up the woods (and themselves!). The Firem’n Chit came later, for similar reasons (helps prevent having to call in smoke-jumpers!). “Totin'” is pronounced just the way it’s spelled; “Firem’n” is pronounced “fireman” (and we don’t have to bow to “PC” addicts here, because it’s BOY Scouts).

Thanks! More specifically, I’m often asked what a “chit” is, as in Firem’n Chit.” Any ideas?

“Chit” is in most any dictionary… It’s a voucher, usually an informal one. So, from now on, just tell anyone who asks you to do a bit of homework first, before asking for an answer they can easily get for themselves.

Hi Andy,

Why is the “Whittlin’ Chip” patch shaped like a pocket flap patch, if it’s not meant to be worn there? (Rick Hautekeete, Transatlantic Council, Basel, CH)

I’ve seen both Whittlin’ Chip and Totin’ Chip patches shaped like flaps and, in my not-so-humble opinion, they belong in a bucket labeled “Dumb Patch Ideas.” Of course they don’t belong on uniforms, and certainly not on uniform pocket flaps, which are specifically reserved for Boy Scout Order of the Arrow and Cub Scout Outdoor Activity flap-patches. Some genius, I’m guessing, had the idea that there should be a patch for everything, from Pinewood Derby participation to “I Wiped Myself Clean to “Spinach-Eating Hero to “When I Up-Chucked I Missed My Tennies,” and on and on… and the unfortunate thing is that these repudiate a fundamental tenet of Scouting: That we do something for the doing of it and not to get a patch. I’ve seen these silly things even sewn on the backs of uniform shirts, which practice I personally consider about as nonsensical as one can get! Patches like these are fine when put in a memorabilia box or album, or sewn on a Cub Scout’s red patch vest, or even on the back of a Boy Scout’s merit badge sash (yes, they’re legal there), but to slap ’em all over a perfectly serviceable uniform shirt is about the height of dumb, if not desperate.

Dear Andy,

One of our Scoutsjust asked me for his Scoutmaster Conference prior to his completing his Eagle project. His father claims that the Scoutmaster Handbook says that a Scoutmaster Conference for Eagle can be held at any time, and is asking that I do it when his son requests it.When is the proper or best time to hold a Scoutmaster Conference, for Eagle or any rank? (Allen Beaman, SM)

The Scoutmaster Conference is always the last of all requirements to be completed. This is so that the Scout has the opportunity to review with his Scoutmaster the requirements he’s completed, in the dimensions of how well they went, were there any problems, and what he might suggest for other Scouts coming along behind him. It’s also an opportunity for the Scoutmaster to learn from the Scout how well he believes the Scouting program offered by the troop as a whole is going and what might be improved. Finally, it’s an opportunity for the Scoutmaster to help the Scout prepare for his rank boards of review, which will be shortly coming up. Therefore, to carry out a Scoutmaster Conference before all other requirements are completed is about the same as getting ready for a prom by putting on your dancing shoes but leaving your tux at home!

To correct a misimpression, thereby averting future difficulties in this area, you’ll want to ask that father to show you the page and statement in the Scoutmaster Handbook that says a conference can be conducted at any time. He’ll show you this, on page 120: “The Scoutmaster conference can be used as a counseling tool at any time and for a variety of other reasons.” This is precisely where this father, although I’m sure well-intentioned, is mistaken. This particular statement points out that in addition to conferences preceding rank advancement, the Scoutmaster conference can also be used for other purposes and, therefore, would be conducted as needs or situations unrelated to rank advancement arise.

Dear Andy,

Can a person be both a Cubmaster and a Scoutmaster at the same time? I can’t find any BSA guidelines for this. (Bill Errico)

Anyone may hold more than one unit-level position, just so long as the positions aren’t in the same unit (the sole exception being CR-CC, which is permitted by the BSA). So, in the case of a person who wishes to be both a Cubmaster of a pack and Scoutmaster of a troop, there’s no BSA policy that prohibits this. Whether it’s a sensible idea or not is another matter, and that’s for the individual and his or her family to decide.

Hi Andy,

We have a young Scout in our troop who’s is looking to keep busy this summer with merit badges (his parents offered him a choice of brushing up on school subjects or working on merit badges—easy decision!) He’s requesting“blue cards” for four Eagle-required and six elective merit badges. I’ve suggested that he pace himself and try a few at atime—complete two and I’ll give him more blue cards—in an attempt to set him up for success. However, his parents strongly disagree, pointing out from the Boy Scout Handbook that a Scout works at his own pace and that I can’t limit how many he works on at any time. Do you have any advice here? (Kevin Lynch, Troop Advancement Chair, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)

In life, we’re limited by only two things: What we believe we can’t do, and what others believe we can’t do. There are no other limitations.Our jobs, as Scouting volunteers, is to help the youth we serve spread their wings and fly… It’s not to tell them, in our infinite wisdom, that we don’t think they’re ready yet. This young man’s Scoutmaster (not advancement coordinator) needs to give him exactly what he’s asked for, along with the names and contact information for at least one Merit Badge Counselor for every merit badge he’s expressed interest in. There is no second option.

Its not our job to “set Scouts up for success” by applying limits on their ambitions. It’s our job to help them devise, initiate, and follow through on their own goals…which lead to successes. We can stand behind them, stand at their side, but never stand in front of them—We risk blocking their vision. You already know what needs to be done here, and I sincerely thank you for writing to me to confirm it.

Dear Andy,

I’m a Camping Merit Badge Counselor and have a question... If a Scout started this merit badge three years ago and hasn’t finished it (yet), does he need to complete it now using the new requirements, or the old? (SandyScharpenberg)

The last time the requirements for this merit badge were revised was on January 1, 2007; so that the Scout you’re asking about must have started in 2006 in order to be affected by the two relatively minor changes—one having to do with using a GPS and the other stipulating that the 20 days and nights of camping be Scouting event-related. There’s usually a one-year grace period when merit badge changes like these are made, and this would have expired some two years ago, with the result that, today, a Scout would obviously use the current and not three years out-of-date requirements. Since the changes are, as noted, minor, they’re hardly burdensome for any Scout.

Dear Andy,

I’m a new Scoutmaster, having only been with the troop for nine months and in this position for the last six. Right now, we have 11 Scouts—they’re mostly from a group of boys who came up from Cub Scouting with the same leader the entire time and, when they were about to cross-over to Boy Scouting, our sponsor chartered this troop. Up to now it’s been mostly just a “hang-out” for the boys; not much in the way of Scouting has ever been done. There’s no patrol method, no real leadership positions, in general no responsibility on the boys’ parts for anything. Their (former)Scoutmasterdid all the meeting and trip planning, cooking, and everything else, and the boys just sort of showed up (or not). When my own son crossed over, I talked the Scoutmaster into stepping down and letting me take a shot at it, and the committee agreed. So what we have right now is a group of 13-14 yearold boys who have no interest in Scouting as it’s supposed to be, little discipline, and not a lot of enthusiasm for doing anything themselves. I’ve tried to get them excited about Scouting by telling stories of own my adventures as a Scout, but the former Scoutmaster (who’s now the ASM) still doesn’t want to get with the program. His wife is the Committee Chair, and she’s said that she doesn’t want the position—she’s just there to satisfy the chartering requirements. Then there are a couple of hand-picked committee members who don’t do much other than agree with this couple.Im not one to give up easily or complain very much, but Im feeling like I’m hitting a brick wall and feel like I should encourage my son to visit other troops. I really don’t want to give up on these boys.I do like to end things on a positive, so I will. We have filled some key youth leader positions with elections, and these boys seem to be on the right track. I’m continuing to coach them to help them stay focused, but I can see them wanting to give up. We’ve started having monthly campouts. And, for the first time in the troops history, records are being kept—even though they’re only by me. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. (Name & Council Withheld)

Essentially, what seems to have happened is that the former Cub Scout leader created a “Webelos 3” den instead of a Boy Scout troop, and has subjected these boys to something that has absolutely nothing to do with Boy Scouting for the past several years. In all candor, it may be too late to change these “old Webelos Scouts” into true Boy Scouts… their off-the-mark activities and habits have simply become too ingrained for you or anyone else to overcome in the short- or even medium-term.

Even though you’re the Scoutmaster at present, I’d say that your primary responsibility is first and foremost to your own son. On this basis, I’d immediately check out neighboring troops, find one that’s delivering the Boy Scouting program as it’s supposed to be delivered (or, if not “perfectly,” at least a lot closer to True North than the way this unfortunate lot of boys have been mishandled!) and give your son the option to transfer over right away.

Now you might consider this “abandonment” of your current troop, so you’ll need to keep firmly in mind that even the most vigilant and heroic of sea captains reaches a point where he knows his ship is not going to stay afloat, and he orders his crew and himself off and into the lifeboats—he does not “go down with his ship!

I wouldn’t be saying this if youd told me that the committee, other adult volunteers, and sponsor are behind you 110% and the boys were eager to become true Boy Scouts. But none of these things seems to be happening and, in many ways, you’re repeating what the former “World’s Oldest Patrol Leader” was doing—just with better intentions. There comes a point where we need to decide whether we put our energies into our own children, or others’ and I opt for my own. Your choice is yours. If you decide to stay and “fight the good fight,” that’s your decision. I hope, however, that you’ll let your son clearly know that he can go and join another troop regardless of what you decide.

Dear Andy,

Can you post a picture of how Eagle palms are wore on the Eagle Scout medal and how the medal’s worn on the uniform? Thanks! (Aaron Hothem)

Go here: This is a good description from “Black Eagle,” a Scouter who’s also a military officer, so he’s pretty buttoned up on this sorta stuff!

For how palms are worn try:

Dear Andy,

How many merit badges can you complete at the Jamboree if youre prepared and if youre not prepared? How many days do they give you to work on merit badges? (Andrew Duncan, Star Scout, Circle Ten Council, TX)

There’s a whole bunch you can go for, and a lot don’t make you have stuff done first… There’s no exact number, because each Scout’s different and will have a different set of patrol and troop responsibilities, and there’s lots and lots of other stuff to do at a Jamboree, too! Be sure to check out the ACTION CENTERS! This is much bigger than a “merit badge fair”! My suggestion would be to find unusual merit badges—stuff you wouldn’t find back at home, like Railroading, Textiles, Weather, and stuff like that. And, be sure to pick a “buddy” and do ’em together—It’s a lot more fun that way, and you want to come home with “completes;” not “partials.”Have a BLAST!

Happy Scouting!



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

(June 12, 2010 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2010)

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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