Following up on your “Laws,” try this: Never wrestle with a pig; you both get dirty and the pig seems to like it. (Robert Schleich, SM, Occoneechee Council, NC)
Yup, been there!
Lots of letters about Afghanistan Scouting! Here are two. Do feel free to follow up directly, on your own –
Thanks for the story about the Afghanistan Scouts. When I saw that article and photo, it made me really proud not only to be an American but to be an American Scouter! Based on it, I’ve made a promotional piece (with your permission) and presented it at my Wood badge course. I’m going to present this again at our council’s fall Camporee, too. (Shawn Stiner, Scenic Trails Council, MI)
I’d like some information about Scouting in Afghanistan. I’ve supported both of the councils in Iraq—Green Zone and Victory Base—and I’d like to support this effort as well.
BTW, on the final night of the Jamboree, the Rappelling and Climbing staff of Action Center A had a final get-together, and the last thing we did was sing Scout Vespers (“Softly falls the light of day…”). If you saw the interview of Mike Rowe by a couple of Scouts, we used to sing “The Paddle Song” (“our paddles, keen and bright, flashing like silver…”) song all the time on camping trips. We’d start off softly, then build up louder, and then fade away… (Dave Pederson, COPE/Climbing Chair, Occoneechee Council, NC)
You can reach out and contact Captain Glenn Battschinger directly. His email address is: Glenn.Battschinger@afghan.swa.
Captain Battschinger would like to create a “buddy plan” in which a BSA troop here in the U.S. would buddy up with an Afghan troop, and create their own international dialogue, and maybe to help with supplies, too! For instance, Cpt. Battschinger tells me that a 1,000-foot length of quarter-inch rope will cost about $50, and, in Afghanistan, $50 is more than a month’s wage and where can you find the rope! So, actually, rope shipped is more important than money! He can give you an APO address to ship to – Please consider helping our fellow Scouters who are doing this all the while in harm’s way!
Here, in case you didn’t see that earlier column, are young people of Afghanistan learning the Scout Oath and Law for the very first time.
We have a Webelos II den that, right now in September, is finishing up their last achievement and all will earn their Arrow of Light in just a few days. Our original plan was to invite these new Arrow of Light Scouts to cross over and join our troop at an upcoming week troop outdoor event, but their Cubmaster and Committee Chair don’t want them to cross over until February. How do I explain to the pack that they really don’t have a say in this without alienating them. These boys have done the work, they’re right on the edge of being eligible to become Boy Scouts, we’d like them to join the troop, they want to be Boy Scouts, and I can’t see any good reason why they should be held back. (Coleman Cain, SM, Transatlantic Council, Berlin, Germany)
Well the first thing we need to remind ourselves is that we can’t prevent folks from getting bent outa shape, if that’s what they’re determined to do. We also need to remember that “appeasement” is like being nice to the tiger in hope that he’ll eat you last. Being truthful and direct may not win points with these folks, but this isn’t why we do what we do in Scouting. This is about boys who want to be Boy Scouts, and can.
These boys are absolutely qualified to become Boy Scouts. So if this is what they want to do, it’s a done deal. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would want to hold ’em back, especially since the whole idea behind the Webelos program is to cross boys over into Boy Scouting. These folks need to stick their noses in the Webelos Leader Guide Book for a bit.
When we make “the unit” more important than the boy, it’s time to hang up our six-guns and get a plow and a mule.
Can a Scoutmaster hold up an Eagle candidate by not signing his handbook or his application? Our troop’s Scoutmaster wants one of the Scouts to wait another month before signing him off for his Eagle board of review, because he wants the Scout to finish out his Patrol Leader tenure. As the troop’s advancement coordinator, I’ve already pointed out to the Scoutmaster that this Scout has been a Life Scout for a year and a half and has held leadership positions this entire time; he doesn’t need this Patrol Leader position to qualify for Eagle. What do I do next? (L.B. Wilson, Greater Yosemite Council, CA)
You’re of course correct: If the Scout has completed all requirements, including tenure and tenure-in-position, there’s no valid reason for delaying his Scoutmaster conference and board of review. In fact, the wise Scoutmaster will do everything possible to keep this Scout moving forward—there’s just no point in stalling him, especially now! Moreover, just because he’ll advance to Eagle doesn’t mean the Scout is going to abandon his Patrol Leader position. Instead, there’s every reason to believe he’ll do an even better job! As advancement coordinator for the troop, it falls to you to advise the Committee Chair of this hiccup, so that you both can have a brief sit-down with the Scoutmaster and point out to him that the board of review can proceed whether he signs off or not, but that that’s not your preference. (If he continues to refuse, it’ll be patently obvious that the wrong man is Scoutmaster,)
Is there a list of what counts for Scouts’ service hours? (Mark Cicotte, Greater St. Louis Area Council, MO)
What constitutes a service project? I don’t mean for an Eagle project, but for younger Scouts, for their rank to move up. For instance, is helping out a high school band a service project, or carrying a cross every Sunday at your church? (John Lackie, SM, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)
There is no “official list,” and we don’t really need one. Being an altar boy or acolyte, for example, is a volunteer commitment to one’s church and is therefore definitely service and would count for the Second Class req. 5, or Star or Life req. 4. So would assisting the high school band, or carrying out a service project for the high school Interact Club or Key Club. So would cleaning up your council’s summer camp property over a work-weekend, let’s say. So would making or serving food at a soup kitchen for the poor or homeless. So would participating with a group in a town clean-up day. There are lots and lots of ways to give service to others… The wise Scoutmaster will ask the Tenderfoot, First Class, or Star Scout what he intends to do, to complete req. 5, or 4, respectively, and see what the Scout has in mind. Keep in mind that this is a few hours by a Boy Scout; it’s not a multi-year commitment by a Peace Corps. candidate! The big idea here is instilling and cultivating the concept of service to others; it’s not about generating “free labor.”
Do the four “historical” merit badges actually count as real badges towards Eagle? Our council says they do, but I’m not so sure. If they are, are they considered “required” or “optional”? Or, are they considered to be activity awards, like Kayaking or Mile Swim? (Jacqie LaRock, Chippewa Valley Council, WI)
The BSA calls ’em merit badges; not “activity awards” or anything else. Scouts must earn them by working with registered Merit Badge Counselors. These facts tell us that these are absolutely real merit badges. As such, they would count toward Star, Life, and Eagle ranks—as optionals, of course.
Our troop routinely permits Scouts to advance two ranks at a single court of honor, but only through First Class rank. Our present Scoutmaster wishes to discontinue this practice and set a standard for advancement of only one rank per court of honor. Which practice is correct? Is it up to the advancement coordinator? Is there a BSA policy on this?
Also, we do not award the Scout badge; it’s been our policy that new Scouts will go right to Tenderfoot. Again, the Scoutmaster is considering changing this so that Scouts must earn and receive the Scout badge before moving onto Tenderfoot (at a subsequent court of honor). Is this correct/appropriate? (John Reed, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)
On your first question, neither of your troop’s practices—old or new—is correct. In fact, the BSA does have a statement about what courts of honor are for: They are to recognize all of the Scouts’ achievements since the last court of honor. This means that it is entirely possible and totally appropriate, depending on how often your troop’s courts of honor are held, for a Scout to be recognized for multiple ranks and a boatload of merit badges all at the same court of honor. To hold back recognition of what a Scout has legitimately achieved is, in a word, deplorable.
The court of honor is absolutely not the date that the Scout earned the rank; he earned it at his board of review and received bother the badge and the card at the very next available troop meeting… If you’ve a troop that abides by BSA procedures, that is. (Check your Scoutmaster Handbook if you’re having any doubts about what I’m saying here.)
As for the Scout badge, it isn’t a rank; it signifies “joining.” The first rank in Boy Scouting is Tenderfoot. The Scout badge can be begun in a troop meeting this week and concluded next week with a presentation of the badge to the newly minted Scout!
Can a Scoutmaster hold back a Scout from rank advancement if, despite the Scout having completed all the requirements, the Scoutmaster feels that the Scout had to be “nagged” into completing some of them? (William Segard)
This sort of practice actually encourages a young man to abandon any hope he might have of advancing on his own… Take a good look: He’s “nagged” into advancing, so he complies, and now that he’s complied with the nagging and has advanced, he’s road-blocked. If ever there were a “Catch-22,” this is it. If this nutty scenario persists, this young man will soon leave the troop, and he’d be right in doing so. This is not how a wise Scoutmaster treats the young men in his charge.
When Scouts wore garrison caps, would they put things, like patches or other small items, in the folds? (Kyle Mountney, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)
I’m old enough to have worn the now-famous Garrison (or “overseas”) cap as a Scout. Boy, were they convenient. Went indoors, just folded it flat and draped it over our belts (in front, to the right of the belt buckle). Outdoors, it pretty much stayed put and was virtually indestructible. No, it wasn’t common to use the folds for keeping stuff, because the cap came off indoors, and we didn’t want to risk having anything drop out. Besides, we had shirt pockets for that stuff!
Here’s a Venturing question for you, about a core requirement for the Outdoor Bronze Award… A member of the crew I serve is taking a required speech class in school. Can this count for req. 2a? I want to be sure I’m not reading anything into it that isn’t there. The class he’s taking well exceeds the 15 hours, and I didn’t see anything that says a required class doesn’t count, but I thought I’d bounce this off you. Should the Crew Advisor be OK with signing off this requirement? Here’s what it actually says: “Communications: (2a) Take a communications-related training class that includes at least 15 hours of training. This could be a non-required course at school such as creative writing, technical writing, American Sign Language, or film production. It could also be a commercial course such as speed-reading or effective presentations.” Thanks. (David Olson, UC, Northern Star Council, MN)
To me, this looks absolutely OK! As you’ve already seen, there’s nothing in the requirement that makes any sort of delineation between “required” and “non-required.” I’d sure say go for it!
Why isn’t Assistant Patrol Leader one of the leadership positions for advancement? (Sam Hencey, UC)
Observing that it’s never been a leadership position for advancement, per BSA requirement parameters, it’s always been pretty clear to me that (a) it’s not an elected position, (b) it has virtually no input or influence on the overall running of the troop (via the PLC, for example) except as an occasional fill-in when the Patrol Leader who appointed him is late or absent, and (c) it’s not an appointed position that has any scope beyond the immediate patrol.
First, are there any national BSA rules or policy that would restrict a District Commissioner to a two-year term? And, if not, then can a council set such a policy? (Ray Crouch, Sr., ADC, Middle Tennessee Council)
To your first question, not that I’ve ever heard of—the usual term of office for all volunteers is, of course, one year at a time. As far as setting a term, yes, councils can, and often do this. Most often, I’ve seen three-year terms for Commissioners; that is, three consecutive one-year “commissions.” Three years for this or any position usually make sense because the first year, you’re trying to figure out the job; the second year you’re doing it pretty well; and the third year’s when you decide what personal innovation or legacy you’re going to leave behind, as your imprint, when you move on.
We have a Scout who’s been working hard towards Star rank. Because of how we schedule our boards of review, he will have his Scoutmaster conference four days before the end of the four months’ tenure requirement (all other requirements have been completed); however, the board of review scheduled for him will be three days after the tenure completion date. Is this OK? From what I’ve read, I think we’re doing this correctly, but thought I’d double-check. (Jim Wells, SM)
If your concern is that the Scoutmaster’s conference will be three days before tenure’s completed, unless you expect this Scout to somehow decompose while his evil twin appears, some time between the conference and his review <wink> I wouldn’t give it a second thought!
But if this continues to trouble you, then simply have your conference with the Scout immediately in front of his board of review—takes only about 10-15 minutes, so shouldn’t be a problem!
Meanwhile, thinking about those once-a-month boards of review, have you considered conducting them on an as-needed basis, as Scouts complete their rank requirements and have their conferences? After all, you need only three registered committee members to do this, and if you have six or more committee members present on any troop meeting night, you can actually do concurrent reviews in separate rooms! Except for Eagle rank, which might take a half-hour give-or-take, you’re only talking about five to maybe 15 minutes, depending on the rank!
The adult volunteer in our troop who handles re-chartering and registration, advancement, and so on, believes that the Chartered Organization Head (for us, the pastor of the church) needs to be registered with the BSA. Is this correct? (Scott Watson, CR, Shawnee Trails Council, KY)
No, the “executive officer” (that term comes from the BSA’s unit chartering roster heading page) of the chartered organization is not required to be registered with the BSA. In fact, there’s no registration code for that position!
Three years ago when I because Scoutmaster of this troop, it was a very much an adult-run program: the Scouts were just along for the ride. I’ve slowly but surely brought the troop back to being Scout-run, and that makes some of the other adult volunteers uncomfortable. They complain that the Scouts don’t plan well enough to be in charge of their own destiny. My firm belief is that is what the Patrol Leaders Council is for, and that while errors will be made, the Scouts will learn from them and if they don’t get the chance to make mistakes safely, they’ll never learn how to succeed. Still, we have both committee members and Assistant Scoutmasters who put the roadblock up if every contingency isn’t thought of and planned for in advance.
I’m experiencing similar problems in the Cub Scout pack I’m a Den Leader with. One of the boys in my den is the son of the (married to one another) Cubmaster and the Committee Chair. This particular boy has a slight learning disability (sometimes a little difficult, but mostly nothing that can’t be worked with) and almost all the den meeting plans I present to the Cubmaster and Chair are shot down because of their own son’s problems. Now I’ve worked with this boy for the past two years, and I’ve learned his limits, and I know how to stretch them (basically, when I can separate his parents from hovering over him, he’s just fine!). But, on a larger scale, all pack meetings and activities are geared to this one boy’s capabilities, and this has ultimately caused other parents to walk away from the pack.
I’m not happy. The committees that I work with in both the pack and troop have become monolithic and impossible to work with. This attitude scares off new volunteers that I’ve worked hard to recruit, and new initiative that I suggest is shot down if it looks like the committee (either one) might have to do any work. Plus, when I try to get our units involved in activities beyond our own gates, like Scout Camporees or Cub Family Camping, these committees refuse to provide any support of any kind.
Needless to say, both the pack and the troop are shrinking in size, fast.
I know that if I leave either or both of these units and connect with others, there are boys and their families that will follow. But is this really a solution? Despite this, unless things start turning around soon, my leaving these units is going to happen. I know every story has three sides—mine, theirs, and what’s really going on—and looking at it with as coldly impartial eyes as I can, I’m wondering if the common point of failure for both units might be me. I’ve read your columns for years, and I recognize that you’ve given advice to parents many times to just get out of units whose adult volunteers just don’t get it. Do I do that now, and try to rescue as many as I can in the process, or do I stick to my guns and keep pushing this rock uphill? (Name & Council Withheld)
There are two fundamental “rules” for Scouting volunteers… The first is that our overall effectiveness is inversely proportional to the number of volunteer “hats” we wear, and the second is that if it ain’t fun, stop doing it. Going back to the first one, in total seriousness, pick the things you really, really enjoy and focus on these, then correct the “Scouter’s speech impediment” and learn how to say no, but thanks for asking. For the second one, yes, I really mean it. When it stops being fun, it shows… It pervades everything you do and interferes with your relationships with the people around you, including your own kids and wife (and don’t begin to think for a second that they’re insensitive to this!).
As a volunteer, you do have the right to walk away, and you also have the right to tell people you’re unhappy and that they’ll need to get someone who’s willing to put up with this nonsense, because you’re not, any longer (understand: this isn’t some sort of threat, in the hope that they’ll make everything peachy keen and you’ll stay—this is truly your gettin’ off the train speech).
Meanwhile, couple of things you might consider before moving on…
There’s a brand-new den program book available, that corresponds with the new method for delivering the Cub Scout program. Simply follow it, week-by-week, month-by-month, for your Cubs in whatever level they’re at this year. By following what the BSA’s laid out, you don’t need to get the Cubmaster’s “approval”—you simply follow the book’s plan, just like every other Den Leader’s supposed to be doing. I’m familiar with the learning disability you’ve noted and I have to say you’re pretty brave for being willing to be inclusive—you’re a hero!—just don’t get buffaloed by the parents! If the parents are having a problem, then they’ll need to deal with it, not you. You’re a Scouting volunteer; you’re not their manservant, care-giver, or hired therapist.
While wearing your Scoutmaster’s hat, you need to suggest to the troop’s PLC that they stretch themselves and consider things to do beyond the troop, like Camporees, Klondike Derbies, annual OA elections, merit badge conclaves (or whatever they’re called in your council), and more. Then, when the PLC puts activities like these on their annual calendar, you—as Scoutmaster—show it to the troop committee, but not for their “approval”—they don’t have veto power here! Yes, they can make suggestions, through you, to the PLC, but they absolutely do not have the right or authority to squelch anything that the PLC has decided to do. Nor can they tell you or the PLC that they won’t “approve” it till it’s fixed and resubmitted. They get one shot to make positive suggestions, and that’s it! The committee’s job is to support the troop’s annual program; it’s not to either make up one, themselves, or “vote” on the on the Scouts put together. (All this is in the Scoutmaster Handbook, by the way, so don’t hesitate sticking their noses in the book and telling ’em to get read-up on their job, here).
If this doesn’t work, then you have two choices: You can re-train the committee or you can get out there and find a troop for your son and his friends that isn’t living on some moss-backed, murky planet. As you consider which way to go, consider Mark Twain’s admonition: Don’t try to teach a pig to fly… It wastes your time and annoys the pig. Good luck!
My son went to summer camp and worked on Emergency Preparedness merit badge. When he returned home, he needed to earn First Aid merit badge in order to complete the requirements for Emergency Preparedness. As he was asking his Scoutmaster for a “blue card” so he could start First Aid, an Assistant Scoutmaster butted in and said he can’t start First Aid because he’s too young and he’s not First Class rank yet. When my son told me about this, I got out the book and read the Emergency Preparedness requirement, which states: “1. Satisfy your counselor that you have current knowledge of all first aid requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks.” My son is Second Class and has also completed First Class requirements 8a-d (the first aid-related requirements). Is it even the Scoutmaster’s or Assistant Scoutmaster’s job to check on merit badge requirements? I thought that was the job of the counselor. (Dave Bennett, Great Sauk Trail Council, MI)
Scouts’ completing requirements for merit badges is completely and exclusively the responsibility and authority of the Merit Badge Counselor and no one else. This is in the BSA rules and regulations and, as such, is inviolate. That ASM was incorrect in his assessment of how First Aid merit badge requirement 1 may be completed, and he was even more wrong when he stuck his nose where it didn’t belong, because it is also a BSA policy that any Scout, of any age or rank, can begin any merit badge, any time the Scout (and no one else) chooses.
The Scoutmaster should absolutely give your son a “blue card” for First Aid, along with the names and contact information for a couple of nearby Merit Badge Counselors.
Our scouts want to go on a campout with shooting sports as the theme. From the Guide to Safe Scouting, I see that the troop needs to have any shooting sports activity supervised by an NRA -certified shooting instructor, and that the range needs to be supervised by an NRA-certified range safety officer. Currently, our council doesn’t have any training courses for these certifications scheduled for this calendar year. Our Committee Chair believes that we must get this training through the council or district. I’m thinking that since these are NRA certifications, can we go straight to the NRA for the training. Am I on target here? What other BSA publications should I look into for more information? (Allan Green, Indian Nations Council, OK)
Yes, you can certainly go to the NRA to train for or to request the kinds of certified people you need. There is, I believe, also a stipulation about where shooting sports activities may take place. Check the Guide to Safe Scouting for more details and don’t hesitate to reach out to your own council’s risk management or health and safety committee!
I know that Scouts are encouraged to do as much as they can as a patrol, especially hiking and camping. So if a patrol wants to have its own patrol hike or campout, what amount of adult involvement is required? If I read it correctly, no adults are needed on a strictly patrol campout. If I have it wrong, then adults are required and youth protection training, also. Which is correct? (Tim Millen, SM, Three Fires Council, IL)
You read it correctly.
Is there a specific BSA policy that says an Eagle court of honor must be a separate ceremony from a regular troop court of honor? May a Scout and his parents choose to have his Eagle court of honor as part of or an extension of a regular troop court of honor? (Wendell Watson, MC, Longhorn Council, TX)
For decade after decade, courts of honor included Eagles right along with all the other Boy Scout ranks. In many, many troops, this is still done today, without hesitation. But somewhere along the way, in the past bunch o’ years, these Eagle-only “coronations” (IMHO) have become popular (and least among some parents) and so have happened separate from the rest of the troop. However, if we stick with fundamentals, that the purpose of a court of honor is to recognize the advancements of all Scouts in the troop since the last such event, then of course new Eagles will be recognized, right along with new Life scouts, new Star Scouts, and so on. It’s the most natural thing in the world, to start a court of honor with Tenderfoot and finish with the highest rank achieved.
Our troop has a prospective member who had been with the troop before taking time off for a while and is now looking to return. As a guest at a recent campout, this boy demonstrated non-Scout behavior by intimidating other Scouts and causing disruptions. If he wants to join the troop, must we accept him? (Name & Council Withheld)
The troop has the right to accept or not any prospective member. That said, does “intimidating” mean bullying, or something else? How long did this go on? How was it spotted? How was it dealt with while at the camp-out? (You do know, of course, that this should have been nipped in the bud, so that there’s no carry-over beyond the camp-out, and if the “intimidation” were truly significant, the boy should have been instructed to call his parents, to be picked up and taken home, even if it was in the middle of the night.) As for “causing disruptions,” this term is entirely too vague for me to respond to it, except to note that teens and even pre-teens are notorious for getting out of hand from time to time, and can usually be settled down with a simple look or word from the Scoutmaster, if not Senior Patrol Leader. If, on the other hand, this disruptive behavior was permitted to continue, then by what right would you, at this now later time, exact some sort of “punishment”? Have you considered that boys with behavioral problems are exactly the kinds of boys who need Scouting most?
My son, age 18, just received his Venturing Silver Award this evening, of which I’m very proud. But he came home with news about one of his fellow crew members who wasn’t so lucky. This young woman, age 15, had satisfied all of the requirements for both the Gold Award and the Silver Award, but she was turned down despite all of her hard work and is now in tears over this because the reason the board members told her she wasn’t receiving these awards was because of the immaturity of her answers during the board of review. Is this justification for refusing her the awards? I guess I’m curious as to what, other than lack of completing the requirements, would cause the board to refuse her the awards? Also, does she have the right of appeal like in regular Boy Scouts? (Troop Advancement Coordinator, Council Withheld)
My knee-jerk reaction, of course, is that if she’s done the work for these two awards, both of which demand planning, carrying out, teaching, and an overall sense of maturity just to complete the requirements, then what have these review people done to sabotage her ambitions at the very cusp of success?
Before proceeding further, let’s establish some backgrounding on this young woman and her quest for the Venturing Gold and Silver Awards. You note that, via hearsay, a “board of review” was conducted and she was turned down for both awards “due to the immaturity of her answers…”
First, for Venturers, a review for these awards will be made up of between four and six people, among whom will be fellow Venturers (i.e., this is not to be all adults; no less than four in total and no more than six), all appointed by the crew president. Was the correct procedure used to convene the review, was the number and composition of the review correct, or was this a renegade review board that, by not following formation procedure has repudiated itself and is therefore invalid?
Second, the primary purpose of the review is to assure that all of the requirements have been completed, which is done by reviewing the paperwork. Since the alleged reason for turning this young woman down apparently had nothing to do with any missing or incomplete requirements, we will assume that all requirements, for both awards, were indeed completed. Therefore, the secondary purpose of the review—to determine whether the Venturer “grew” as a result of the effort—now comes into play. This review is obligated to have recorded and retained the specific questions that were asked in this subject area, this young woman’s answers, and a statement as to how these answers were unsatisfactory. If this has not been done, the review may be considered invalid.
Third, as with all non-completed boards of review, this young woman will have been immediately given a written statement of her shortfall together with an agreement on what corrective action is needed and on what date everyone will reconvene to review this matter again. Note that if this has not been done, this board has repudiated itself by not following stated procedure and their purported “decision” is invalid.
Have you or anyone gone to this url – scouting.org/filestore/pdf/
What this is all leading to is that you, as an advancement coordinator for a troop, may be able to suggest to the crew’s advisor and committee chair that the “review” was invalid for one or more reasons and therefore needs an override from them while they put the applications through so that this diligent young woman may be recognized for her efforts and wronged no further.
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