Maybe it’s not exactly a Scouting question, but do you happen to know the origin behind the custom of saying “to” (or “too” or “two”) after saluting for the Pledge of Allegiance, or the Scout sign for the Scout Oath and Law? This is the signal to put your hand back down at your side. I’ve seen it spelled variously as “to,” “too,” “two,” and “2” and I have no idea which, if any, is correct. I favor “to,” in the sense of meaning “…to the resting position.” Any idea? (Bill Ewing, Great Southwest Council, NM)
The salutes we use in Scouting are derived from the military salute, of course. They’re done in a “count” of two, from the previously instructed position of “attention.” The first count is “hand, salute” (“hand” meaning get ready and “salute” meaning do it), sometimes also called off as “right hand, salute” and we often say, “Scout, salute.” The salute is then held until the second count, on which count the hand is dropped to the side. The second count is “two.”
To look sharp, on the “salute” command, the Scouts (and Scouters) raise their right hands smartly in the most direct manner while at the same time extending and joining the fingers. Keep your palm and extended fingers in a straight line with your forearm, so that there’s no “break” or “angle” between the fingertips and elbow. Hold your upper arm horizontal, ever so slightly forward of the body and parallel to the ground. The tip of your middle finger will touch either the right front corner of your cap, if you’re wearing one, or the outside corner of your right eyebrow or the front corner of eyeglasses glasses, if you’re not wearing a cap.
Teach this to your Scouts, and a little practice never hurts! Make sure your uniformed adults get it right, too. It’ll make ’em look sharp and may come in handy, in other ways!
I’m a Commissioner. I was approached by a new Den Leader, fresh from basic training in her previous council, who noted that Den leaders aren’t supposed to serve in any other unit position, including unit committee positions. When I asked her where she got that information, she could only remember reading it in some BSA publication, like the Den Leader Guidebook, but I’ve looked through my own small collection of guidebooks, going back ten years, and can’t find any references to her statement anywhere. Do you know if this policy that she mentioned is correct and, if so, where it’s printed? (Mike Czyzewicz ADC, Blackhawk Area Council, IL)
In various BSA training guides as well as in various BSA guidebooks for adult unit volunteers, it’s pointed out that the Chartered Organization Representative (code CR) is the one position that can multiple-register as a unit committee member (it’s often suggested that the CR and the unit committee chair are frequently the same individual). Implicit in this is that other adults do not have multiple registrations within the same unit: A Cubmaster, for instance, doesn’t simultaneously register as a committee member, or a committee member as a Den Leader, and so on. But if you need to have absolute “proof,” then just look at the BSA’s Adult Volunteer Application, page 2.
OK, but what if a pack committee chair wants the committee to call a vote to amend the pack’s bylaws so that Den Leaders can attend committee meetings and vote on all pack issues? Can they, as a pack committee, decide this? Does this in any way interfere with BSA policy? (Mike Czyzewicz)
This sort of “vote” is unnecessary, and its intent is not according to the way a Cub Scout pack is structured or run. Had these people paid attention when they took training this would be a non-issue.
Den Leaders have no need to attend pack committee meetings. Den Leaders attend monthly Den Leaders meetings, which are run by the pack’s Cubmaster and pertain to the pack’s yearly program and monthly themes. The Cubmaster, following these meetings, attends the pack committee meetings and informs the committee of the pack’s program initiatives for the current month and plans for upcoming months. Following this, the Cubmaster keeps the Den Leaders informed on how the committee will be supporting their efforts.
In a well-run pack, “voting” is simply not necessary in either of these monthly meetings. There’s simply nothing to “vote” on. The purpose of the pack’s committee is to support the Cubmaster and Den Leaders. It is not to “vote” on the plans they’ve made. Consequently, the idea of “allowing” Den Leaders to “attend committee meetings” is effectively adding to their burden by anticipating yet another meeting for them to go to, when they’re already busy enough! Moreover, there’s absolutely no need for “pack rules” or “pack bylaws.” BSA policies and procedures have already taken care of this. All these people need do is follow the BSA model for how packs are organized and run, all of which is described in detail at training sessions that they all should have already taken and in BSA publications.
What are the uniforming standards for the position of Chartered Organization Representative? Around our district, the response I get is that Chartered Organization Representatives don’t usually wear uniforms. I’m told that there’s a position insignia (although it doesn’t seem to be available on scoutstuff.org, our local Scout store manager recalls one and is investigating) and the placement of that item should be clear enough. But what about shoulder loops? Is it red or the new green for Scouts? (Thank goodness we don’t have a cub pack or I’d be even more confused!) Or is this technically a district or council position requiring silver shoulder loops? What about unit numbers? Can you help here? (Bill Knutson, CR, Ventura County Council, CA)
The badge you’re looking for is BSA No. 00490, worn in the usual position on the left sleeve. It’s not necessary to wear unit numerals, because the Chartered Organization Representative is considered a council-level position (you are, in fact, a voting member of your council). As for wearing a uniform at all, “The BSA is a uniformed organization”—so says the BSA itself. Although in your position a uniform is not quite as necessary as it would be if you were, let’s say, a Scoutmaster or a Commissioner, there’s certainly nothing wrong at all with your wearing your Scouter’s uniform—this is one of the ways we “set the example”! As for shoulder loops, CRs wear silver, because this is considered a council-level position.
I am preparing to volunteer to be our troop’s treasurer and fundraising chair. I’ve been searching for guidelines, policies, or rules and regulations that address the do’s and don’ts of Boy Scouts selling products. For instance, should Scouts wear their uniforms or not if they’re going door-to-door? Or, if we choose to sell items such as first aid kits or wooden toys, are there risks or limitations to the type of items we’re permitted to sell? Can you direct me to a resource for getting some of these answers? (Karen Chuvalas, Simon Kenton Council, OH)
Your two best resources are the BSA book, Guide to Safe Scouting (No. 34416), and training! Get the book, read it (not just page 44—get a handle on the whole thing!) and then sign up for New Leader Essentials followed closely by Committee Member Training. Trust me on this: It’ll be time well-invested because it’ll save you hours and hours of trying to find answers!
We’re a very small pack. I lead the Tiger Cubs and the other two leaders, who are husband and wife, lead the Wolves, Bears, and Webelos. Their son is a Webelos Scout. Our problem is that their son and another Webelos Scout have continuously had personality conflicts, and their behavior has been getting out of hand. One will start picking on the other one, which leads to fighting, name calling, and has lead to encouraging other boys to join the chaos. Den meetings end up with the one boy being upset, crying, and coming to our den (where his younger brother is), which makes for a very unhappy scout experience for all. His mother has talked to the Webelos Den Leaders, but their attitude is that “boys will be boys.” Their own son and two other boys have brought knives to at least one den meeting.
I know that kids who aren’t behaving and won’t listen need “time-outs” until they can behave civilly and if they still won’t cooperate need to be sent home, but these boys are in the other den. I’d go to the Cubmaster for help, but their Den Leader is the same person.
I told the upset boy that he should come to a District Roundtable meeting and talk with the District Executive, and see what kind of solution he can come up with for this problem. Do you have any recommendations? It’s upsetting to me and our den as well, since we share the same facility for meetings. Our Tiger Cubs even witness the bad behavior of the older kids and comment on how it’s not appropriate. I could try to talk to the leaders, but feel that if the mother of the boy who’s usually the victim didn’t get anywhere with them, I won’t have any better success, mostly because these parents feel that their son isn’t the instigator, and so they let him continue as always. Can you Help? I’d appreciate any advice you have to offer! (Name Withheld, DL, Buffalo Trail Council, TX)
I understand your situation and your concern. First, here’s what you can’t do: You can’t fix the boys not in your own den, you can’t fix the wayward leaders, and you can’t fix the pack. But what you can do is protect your own den. This is “Job One” for you! Lock that classroom door, and keep it locked. If there’s no lock or key, then enlist at least two other parents to literally stand guard outside that door and bar entry by any boys other than those in your den. If you can’t do that, then get out of that school entirely and meet at some other location—your own home, if at all possible. It has to be one of those three. Nothing else is going to work. You have a responsibility to only the boys in your den: Stick with them and keep them safe.
I’m a Life Scout and I’m planning my Eagle project. My project involves painting a building, and I need to include some ladder safety rules. The project is approved, and I’d included some OSHA ladder safety guidelines, but I’d like to include some BSA ladder safety. I’m having difficulty finding any information on it, so if you have any suggestions for resources, they’d be greatly appreciated. (Scout’s Name Withheld, Penn’s Woods Council, PA)
First, thanks for using what I’m guessing is your mother’s email address, otherwise, as an adult (Scouter or not!) I wouldn’t be able to respond to you directly, per youth protection guidelines.
Your diligence is to be commended. This may be a little easier than you think. That’s because most modern ladders have safety instruction decals all over them! If you use those instructions, and have all ladder users read them first, I’m sure you’ll be just fine. If you want to be extra careful, assign a “spotter” to each ladder user—Yup, the good old “Buddy System”! How about that! Best wishes for a successful project!
What are the permitted types of hats an adult leader may wear with his Class A uniform? What are the permitted types of hats an adult leader may wear with his Class B uniform? Please provide your authority for the above answers. (Bill Ward, Capitol Area Council, TX)
If you don’t have a Boy Scout Handbook, and don’t have a Scoutmaster Handbook, then for everything you could ever want to know about uniforming and badges and badge placement, and such, go buy yourself a copy of the BSA’s Insignia Guide (No. 33066—and $4.99 shouldn’t break the bank).
Our son has completed all the requirements for Life rank with the exception of holding a leadership position. He’s been an Assistant Patrol Leader for the past six months, but he’s just recently been informed that this position doesn’t qualify for advancement. So, instead, he’s identified a service project for the troop related to disability awareness and he’s seeking approval. The question: Can a Scout proceed to work on identifying and getting approval of an Eagle Scout project at the rank of Star, based on the completion of all other requirements for Life with the exception of the leadership position?
While it’s expected that a Scout would read his handbook to learn about things like leadership positions for advancement, isn’t it also the responsibility of the troop advancement coordinator, Scoutmaster, and others to help Scouts to become knowledgeable of information like this? My perception, based on observation, is that some Scouts receive more attention in being monitored and supported than other Scouts. Of course, that will be the parents’ issue to resolve. (Name & Council Withheld)
While I’d agree that a Scout should receive support from his Scoutmaster and the other adult volunteers associated with his troop, I’m obliged to observe that one of the things Scouting attempts to instill in our youth is a sense of personal responsibility for self. In this regard, pages 177, 444, and 446 of your son’s Boy Scout Handbook stipulate exactly which leadership positions—both elected and appointed—qualify for advancement to the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle. Unfortunately, as your son has recently learned, Assistant Patrol Leader is not among these. In reading and fulfilling the other requirements, while earning the prior four ranks, it’s truly a pity that your son didn’t note that Assistant Patrol Leader isn’t a position that qualifies for any of Boy Scouting’s final three ranks. There’s no question but that it’s also unfortunate that his Scoutmaster and/or the troop’s advancement chair didn’t have a conversation with your son about this, but we must keep in mind that this is primarily the responsibility of the Scout, and rests squarely on his shoulders. However, if your son accepts or is elected to a qualifying position right now, then in a few short months he’ll be eligible to advance, and in this time he has the opportunity to earn a bunch of merit badges that will make his advancement from Life to Eagle much easier, because he’ll be able to devote his attention to his Eagle service project without having to worry about merit badges!
In his attempt to substitute a “project” for the leadership position, your soon needs to understand that this is to be a leadership project, just as his handbook tells him; not a service project.
As for beginning work on an Eagle service project while a Star Scout, your son needs to read the specific language of that requirement. It means exactly what it says. I’m sure he can find the correct page in his handbook. Scouting, like life, presents us each with a series of lessons to learn. What’s important is not so much what happens, but, rather, how we respond to what has happened. In the case of your son, it’s unlikely that any inequities of attention on the part of the Scoutmaster et al will change, so the question becomes: What will your son do as a result of what just happened. Now he certainly could shout “unfair,” or complain about “losing” six months, and he’d be at least partly justified in these responses. But, if he’s been learning along the way, I’m hoping he’ll instead say, “Well, that’s the first and last time that that will ever happen!” As his parent, and one who “gets it,” I’m betting you can help him come out of this OK!
My son is now a Boy Scout. I wasn’t in Scouting as a boy, and so I’m very little help to him at certain times when we discuss the ins and outs practical Scouting. In a recent, discussion we were talking about sanitary protocols on campouts and I was at a loss on what to do when it comes to sanitary toilet clean-up on hikes and camping trips. Any tips? (Dennis Mansfield, Ore-Ida Council, ID)
Thanks for finding me, and for writing! It’s OK that you weren’t a Scout —You’re giving a fine gift to your son by encouraging him and supporting him along the Scouting trail. The values, skills, and aptitudes he’ll pick up along the way will truly last him a lifetime! As for yourself, the best way to “learn” about Scouting is to “borrow” and read your son’s Boy Scout Handbook. Read the first couple of chapters in a straight line, just to get a handle on things in general; then, just sort of randomly pick a section or chapter and read away! When you do, you’ll find some basic information on your question on pages 242-243. There’s more, of course, and his troop leaders will help with this out on the trail itself.
Something you can do at home that will help is, for a while, buy biodegradable or “septic safe” TP, then use it down to about half-size, and change it out, taking those half-rolls, flattening them, and stuffing each one into its own “Zip-Loc” bag. When your son goes camping, he takes one waterproofed, flattened half-roll with him, and he’ll always feel secure. Another thing you can teach him (forgive the expression, but I guarantee he’ll not forget it!) is: Pick your nose with one hand, but wipe your butt with the other! Also, if you use a search engine for the phrase, “cleanliness on the trail,” you and your son will pick up some good insights! (Do this together with your son—It’s a great way to do some “bonding”!)
Three Scouts in our troop just took First Aid merit badge with a new Merit Badge Counselor and some of us—the Scoutmaster, Assistant Scoutmaster, and me the advancement coordinator—aren’t comfortable that all the requirements were met. Do we have the right to quiz the Scouts, even though the Counselor signed off on merit badge as completed? (Steve Ricard, MC, Narragansett Council, RI)
No, you sure don’t, and thanks for asking a very important question! Once the merit badge is earned, it’s keepers. Done deal. End of story. You absolutely do not have the right to “quiz” the Scouts on requirement details. Further, that place for the Scoutmaster’s signature after the blue card’s been signed by the MBC is an acknowledgment of receipt and recording; it does not signify that the Scoutmaster has in any way tested or re-tested the Scout, or “approved” the merit badge.
That said, you do certainly have the right to have a gentle conversation with the Merit Badge Counselor, to learn a bit about what he taught, and how he taught it. Keep in mind that your Scoutmaster is the one who decides what MBC a Scout goes to (refer to page 187 of the handbook), so if this one’s getting it right after all, then keep sending your Scouts there, and if not, then choose another MBC for your Scouts.
Recently our committee told me that, as Scoutmaster, I can’t require Scouts to take a specific merit badge while at summer camp. Cooking is what I had in mind, because we have several second-year Scouts who can’t cook for beans, and this has been a source of problems on campouts. The committee also said that I can’t deny any Scouts from having steak on their menu if they want to, even though I’ve had parents complain to me that the cost of Scouting’s too high—especially campouts, which is why I said no to steaks; but I suppose the rub is the “adult patrol” sometimes cooks themselves steak on campouts. What do you think? (Tom Commander, SM, Tidewater Council, VA)
OK, let’s start with a question for you… Do you use the Patrol Method, especially on camp-outs? That is, does each of the troop’s patrols plan their own menus and buy their own food and cook their own food? If you’re doing it this way—which you definitely should, by the way, because the Patrol Method is a Scouting essential—then simply let each patrol fend for itself! Yes, I really mean that. First off, it’s definitely inappropriate for you or anyone else to require any Scout to earn any particular merit badge—this is 100% up to each individual Scout (check the Boy Scout Handbook). Second, when patrols manage their own menus, the patrol members themselves will put the necessary “pressure” on their members who are lousy cooks. Third, when they plan their menus and do their own budgeting and buying, the parents can “complain” to their own sons and take the pressure off of you (where it doesn’t belong, anyway).
As for adults who come along on the campout, they shouldn’t be camping, cooking, or eating anywhere in sight of the Scouts. Even better, each adult can be a “patrol guest” for the dinner meal (only), on a rotated basis (and yes, the adults underwrite the cost of their meals by “seeding” each patrol with some food money to do the extra buying that will be necessary). Do either one of these and “steak envy” will disappear!
Do you see anything wrong with holding a “pre-Eagle” board of review, before the “official” board of review with council representation? As Eagle advisor, I’m trying to prepare the Eagle candidates for what to expect. (Jeffrey Scott, CC, Cradle of Liberty Council, PA)
Yes, I see everything wrong with anything that suggests that a Scout will go through two boards of review, or that a “pre-” thing is a sort of “dress rehearsal”! Lest we forget, the Scoutmaster’s conference is designed to prepare the Scout for his board of review, and an Eagle board of review is fundamentally no different from a Scout’s five previous boards of review. In fact, if anything, the Eagle review’s more interesting and enjoyable, because it’s no longer mandatory that all reviewers be registered members of the troop committee—now, they can be the Scout’s teacher or school principal, local police chief, mayor, pastor or priest or rabbi, long-time neighbor, and beyond! So please let’s just stick to the process that’s been in place for more decades than you and I have been alive.
I have a “he says- you say-they say” situation going on and it’s about the training requirement of the Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills (aka “IOLS”) course, as it relates to the training for Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters. I say that, in order to be a trained Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster, IOLS is required, per the Scoutmaster Handbook (page 4): “…Outdoor Leaders Skills is the required outdoor training for all Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters.” But we have a Scoutmaster whose position is that IOLS is only for Scoutmasters who don’t have camping skills or knowledge, which he’s claiming was told to him by a District Executive. The only other reference I could find was on the www.scouting.org website, that taking IOLS is required to earn the Scoutmaster’s Key. Apparently, in a newsletter published in January 2010 on the BSA’s website, IOLS is for Webelos Den Leaders, Scoutmasters and Assistant Scoutmasters, and Varsity Team Leaders, and it only needs to be taken once. Can you shed any further light on the extent to which IOLS training is required or not? (Jack Mitchell, Istrouma Area Council, LA)
I love “he says-she says” scenarios about as much as I love poison ivy in my knickers! Go to the national or any local council website, look up “Introduction to Outdoor Living Skills,” and read this: “IOLS is the required outdoor training for all Scoutmasters and assistant Scoutmasters. The skills taught are based on the outdoor skills found in The Boy Scout Handbook. The course is normally a day and a half long and conducted at a local scout camp on a weekend.” Notice the word, required. Notice the absence of “optional” or “only for woods neophytes” and such. If this Scoutmaster can show you in writing by the BSA (not some remark attributed to someone else, which is nothing more than rumor-mongering) that he, by way of his intimate and Dan’l Boone-like knowledge of the woods is somehow exempt, and he can do this, then butter my butt and call me a biscuit. But if he can’t, then he shuts up and does what he’s supposed to do, just like the Boy Scouts he serves are expected to do what they’re supposed to do.
Now a perhaps kinder and wiser approach might be to put it this way to him: “For a knowledgeable guy like yourself, Mister Scoutmaster, why don’t you sign up to staff an upcoming IOLS course? It’s only a day-and-a-half, with a single night tenting, it’ll be fun, and you can share your knowledge with others who are there to learn!” Yep, I’m absolutely serious! Staffing courses really is a heck of a lot of fun, camaraderie, and friendships that can last a lifetime!
Can you confirm for us that a young man is still considered a Boy Scout if he turns 18 years of age while he’s still in high school, and so an 18 year-old high school Boy Scout can run for and be elected to for a troop or patrol leadership position, as long as the election doesn’t occur after the end of his high school graduation year? (Sandy Siemens, Advancement Coordinator, Crater Lake Council, CA)
The day before a young man’s 18th birthday is his last day as a Boy Scout. Beginning on his 18th birthday, he’s considered an adult by the Boy Scout program of the BSA. So says the BSA, beginning with the youth application (refer to page 3).
Recently, our District Chair made this comment in our council’s monthly newsletter: “Year after year, our district appears to take serious hits in membership numbers after the rechartering process is complete.” This is becoming more and more apparent as our overall numbers continue to drop. We have fewer units and that means lower participation in things like Camporees. It seems like a gradual downward spiral.
At a Roundtable, our District Executive said that, program-wide, we are down about 50 percent over the last decade. We push for membership, membership, membership, but no one seems to have a real program for upping membership; and at the same time we’re having a retention problem.
We lose boys from Boy Scouts when they hit age 14, so troops have no older, more experienced boys to lead or instruct. Out of 27 units eligible, we had just two attend our last Klondike Derby and seven attend our fall Camporee. Our own troop has had one year go by without a single high school student attending a troop meeting or event. Our District Chair suggested calling the Scouts on the phone to find out from them and their parents why the boys have left, or to personally invite them back. Some Scoutmasters and Assistants have said they won’t do that because it’s not their role and not their business, and they don’t care about kids who don’t enjoy the program. My thinking is that we need to hear from boys and parents to see where we’re not getting their interest (much less, enthusiasm!). As you can imagine, it was a little tense.
I think we’re in need of some fresh ideas, but I keep being told the program’s been around for 100 years. Any suggestions on the recruitment/retention issues? What’s working and why? Or have we become anachronistic, as some have suggested. You always seem to come up with a valid and fresh and logical approach that really clarifies issues. Any thoughts on this one? (Name Withheld in Northern New Jersey Council)
PROGRAM PRODUCES PARTICIPANTS. Burn that into your brain. That three-word phrase is the key to all of your woes. Your Scoutmasters must buy into this, and then start delivering, or we’ll all be out of business within the next decade.
As for any adult who says he or she “doesn’t care about kids who don’t enjoy the program,” take ‘em out and shoot ‘em. These people don’t get it. They don’t understand that it is their job to serve youth, and not the other way around. We’re Scouting volunteers because we want to improve the quality of the next generation of Americans. How, may I ask, are we supposed to be doing this when we’re delivering a program that turns kids off instead of becoming a magnet that attracts them and keeps them coming back? No, it’s not “Scouting” that turns ’em off—It’s the way these people have chosen to deliver the Scouting program.
If the program a unit is delivering is causing more to leave than join, there’s something seriously wrong with the way the Scouting program’s being delivered! And, no, it’s not about “high school is a busy time,” or “we have too much competition from sports,” or anything else. It’s POOR PROGRAM DELIVERY, pure and simple.
Example: One of the finest troops I ever provided Commissioner service to had some 50 to 60 Scouts and was growing each year. It had Scouts from brand-new Webelos cross-overs to young men who literally drove their own cars to their troop meetings! That’s right: They drove themselves. Why? Simple. Every week, this troop delivered the Scouting program precisely as it was written to be delivered. And, just to anticipate a counter-point, no this wasn’t out in Buffalo Chip, Wyoming, 200 miles from nothing, where there was nothing else to do —This was in Southern California, which I will tell you with assurance had many more “distractions” year-round than any town in Northern New Jersey!
So tell these people to get themselves trained or re-trained, and get with the program. And while you’re at it, make my column, “Are We Really That Smart?” required reading. (No, I sure don’t have all the answers, but all I need do is to get it right 51% of the time. Same with you.)
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