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Issue 238 – December 29, 2010

In my December 18th column, I made the comment, in response to a question on whether or not a Doctor of Commissioner Science candidate writes a thesis or carries out a project, and under what circumstances, that there’s no national standard on this particular issue. I might have chosen less comprehensive terminology than “national standard,” as several readers—including Ben Ward of the Heart of Virginia Council and Randy Worcester of the Middle Tennessee Council—believe. So, to make certain we’re all singing from the same sheet music, the following quotations are from the ADMINISTRATION OF COMMISSIONER SERVICE and CONTINUING EDUCATION FOR COMMISSIONERS:

“The purpose of (this book) is to provide a resource of practical, usable information…The material reflects the experience of hundreds of commissioners…”

“The (local council) dean’s cabinet may adjust the course offerings to meet the current needs of commissioners in the particular local council. When a curriculum has been agreed upon, the (local) council (prepares) a course catalog…”

“Suggested Degree Requirements…DCS Degree—Thesis or Research Project: Completion of a thesis or research project on any topic of value to Scouting in the local council.”

Dear Andy,

At our courts of honor, we’ve had a tradition that, after a Scout is presented with his newest rank, he honors his mother with a miniature rank pin, which he gives to her with a hug or handshake. (If the Scout’s mother isn’t a part of this, then the Scout chooses an alternate person who’s special to him.) This tradition has been with our troop for a long time. However, at our court of honor just the other night, no mother’s pins were presented at all, despite our troop having any number of Scouts who were recognized for having advanced in rank since our last court. As an active troop committee member as well as the mother of one of the advancing Scouts that evening, I couldn’t help but wonder: Where are the pins? This certainly hadn’t come up for discussion at any committee meeting since our last court of honor, so I asked our Committee Chair at our very next committee meeting (the night of the court, I felt uncomfortable asking about this, so I waited a bit): What happened to the mothers’ pins? His reply was that we will no longer be doing the mother’s pin presentations because this is a form of hazing.

I’m quite shocked. Is this now truly considered hazing? Does BSA actually have a new policy or some guideline banishing the presentation of mothers’ pins? (Name & Council Withheld)

In a calm and reflective moment, I might take the time to guess that somebody thought up the notion that “forcing” a boy to acknowledge his mother publicly, by sharing a hug—which is the most usual—or with at least a handshake, is somehow some form of “hazing.” However, a little bit of research informs us that hazing is actually more usually associated with an initiation of some sort; nevertheless, hazing does have to do with subjecting someone to a humiliating or degrading situation or action. Consequently, I’m further suspecting that someone on the troop committee perhaps, or one of the uniformed adult volunteers, thinks that having to publicly hug or shake hands with one’s own mother is a humiliating or degrading act and therefore must be put to a stop. Now I’m no psychologist, but it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the person who thought this up has “parent issues” and was “projecting” his or her own emotional state onto all Boy Scouts and their mothers. You see, I somehow doubt that any serious poll or survey has been taken among mothers and their Boy Scout sons to determine if this purported concern had any basis in reality or not; moreover, if a survey were to be done, I seriously doubt that it would support the notion that a boy presenting a pin to Mom accompanied by a hug is humiliating or degrading, in any culture. I further believe that, if we take hugs of this nature out of Scouting, we’re diminishing Scouting and its meaningfulness to both boys and their parents. So, I would recommend abandoning any further conversations about this and, at the next court of honor, call up the most recently rank-earning Scouts and their moms, announce that someone “forgot” to do this last time, and ask the Scouts to make the presentations. And, in this regard, if the troop would like to follow a Scouting tradition that’s been around for about a hundred years, ask the Scouts to actually pin the miniature rank pins on their mothers’ lapels or ribbons.

All that said, I’m actually feeling far less sanguine about this than one might normally assume, so let’s also recognize that, if this baloney bore any resemblance to reality, there would be no mother’s pin and no father’s pin in the BSA’s Eagle Scout rank presentation kit, nor would there be mother’s pins for every other Boy Scout rank. So tell the jackwagon who came up with this pin-headed nonsense to fix it, now.

Dear Andy,

There are times when we don’t have a Merit Badge Counselor for a particular merit badge. In these situations, who signs off on the requirements and the badge—the Scoutmaster or the troop’s advancement coordinator? (John Andersen, SM, East Texas Area Council)

Neither Scoutmasters nor advancement coordinators nor anyone else not registered with their council as a Merit Badge Counselor for the specific merit badge sought by the Scout is authorized to sign off on requirements for a merit badge. Let’s say that again: There are no “authorized alternatives” or “authorized designates” to Merit Badge Counselors. Outside of a local council’s summer camp program, only registered Merit Badge Counselors are authorized by the BSA to sign off on merit badges.

With that point now established, my best recommendation to you is that you reach out to the advancement committee of your local council—your troop is located in the same city as the council service center—and ask for a copy of their most current Merit Badge Counselor list (which every one of the BSA’s 300+ councils is supposed to be maintaining for use by Scoutmasters like you!).

Hi Andy,

I have a question about the requirements for having guests do the flag ceremony at a Cub Scout pack meeting. The idea is that we’d like to invite a local group of volunteers from the “National Star Wars Characters Group” to be guests at our pack meeting and we think a great way to introduce them to the Cubs would be to ask them to do the opening and closing flag ceremonies. But, we don’t want to violate any rules in doing this. If you could clear up the requirements for us on this issue, we’d really appreciate it! (Chuck Glover, Pikes Peak Council, CO)

Breathe easy… there aren’t any BSA “requirements” for inviting guests to do an opening or closing ceremony at a Scouting unit’s meeting—even those wearing costumes! (Just pleeeeeeze don’t include Jar-Jar Binks!) In fact, if your guests bring in the American flag, you can have your Cubs bring in the pack flag, and after Luke, Han, and Obi Wan do the Pledge of Allegiance, your Cubs do the Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack—and be sure folks bring their cameras! <grin>

Dear Andy,

I’ve been Cubmaster of a very active pack of some 60 Cubs for the past four years (Den Leader before that). But now that our youngest son is about to cross over into Boy Scouting in a few months, following his brothers, I find that I don’t have anyone to replace me. I’ve been trying to find a replacement for the past year, including telling folks that I’ll mentor the “Cubmaster-elect” through the summer activities, popcorn sales, Pinewood Derby, and the Blue & Gold Banquet before I move on, so that they’re completely up to speed. There are three Assistant Cubmasters, but none of them will step up, and no other parents have come forward, either. I’ve preached about it, asked, cajoled, and nothing seems to work—nobody will get off the dime. In the time I’ve been Cubmaster, I’ve worked very hard to present a great program, and now I’m afraid that it’ll all go away when I leave with no replacement. In fact, I’ll consider the absence of a replacement a failure on my part, that after everything I’ve done to build and promote this program, I can’t find anyone who thinks it’s important enough to keep going. Do you have any suggestions at all? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, I do have a suggestion: Put the responsibility for identifying and recruiting a new Cubmaster where it belongs. This is the stated responsibility of the pack’s Committee Chair and chartered organization (aka “sponsor”), and that’s who needs to take charge of this, says the BSA. Your only responsibility is to make certain that everyone knows that, on the night your son moves on to Boy Scouting, you’ll be moving with him. No guilt or remorse, and no waffling. This is their job to do and they need to do it.

Now one might say you shouldn’t “quit” the pack—that you should stick it out through the end of the school year and then resign. Maybe that’s a possibility, but your first responsibility is to your sons—always! Your older boys have sort of “lost” you to their younger brother and you can’t be in two places at the same time! So moving on the cross-over night make sense. Besides, if these folks have had a year to get with it, and they haven’t yet, it likely means they’re in denial—and that ain’t a river! So, it’s more than likely that, come June, they’re still playing deer-in-the-headlights, so your waiting till June won’t really change a thing.

Dear Andy,

Can you tell me if there are any belt loops or other awards for the Webelos Scouts in my den to earn for fencing? This is what they’ve just done, along with me, including learning about the history of the blade in combat, working up to the modern-day sport of fencing. They learned how to salute, basic fencing steps, and fenced with each other for 30 minutes. (Jennifer Buckman, WDL, Northeastern Pennsylvania Council)

Fencing is a fine sport and wonderful discipline (I’m a former college-level fencer—Saber); however, my research tells me that fencing isn’t a BSA-authorized activity for youth members at this time.

Hi Andy,

What’s the best way to deal with a person who carried a firearm on a back-country Scout hikingtrip? The person in question was licensed to carry a firearm under state and federal law, and is questioning our right to restrict the Second Amendment. What do we do? (Name & Council Withheld)

On page 33 of the BSA publication, Guide to Safe Scouting, you’ll find this statement: “Except for law enforcement officers required to carry firearms within their jurisdiction, firearms shall not be brought on camping, hiking, backpacking, or other Scouting activities except those specifically planned for target shooting under the supervision of a currently certified BSA or NRA firearms instructor” (boldface mine). So, for your individual, he or she needs to read this statement and understand that this is a policy of the Boy Scouts of America—not you or me or your troop or your council or anyone locally—and is a national policy. If, as a result of this reading, this person wishes to take issue with the policy, there are avenues for doing this; however, ignoring or flouting the policy is not one of the avenues.

If you need more, or if this person is reluctant or unwilling to comply, I recommend that you immediately contact your council’s Scout Executive for information and guidance on how this is best managed.

As for myself, I usually find that guys who need to carry long barrels— especially those who choose to make a point of it—often come up short in other departments…

Dear Andy,

Often, descriptions of the merit badge-earning process mention that “after the Scout completes the requirements with the Merit Badge Counselor, his Scoutmaster will review and sign off.” This can be misleading, because Scoutmasters actually don’t “review and sign off” on merit badges—only a Merit Badge Counselor is authorized to do this. The Scoutmaster’s final signature indicates that the MBC-signed application (aka “blue card”) has been received and will be recorded in the troop advancement records. (Larry Geiger)

Right on the money! A Scoutmaster doesn’t “review” any merit badge or any of the requirements for a merit badge. The signature of the Scoutmaster means exactly what you’ve stated and absolutely nothing more.

Hi Andy,

Concerning the Tracking merit badge, and seeing as how the requirements didn’t become available until the spring of 2010, can the deadline for completion be extended? I have six Scouts who haven’t been able to finish this merit badge because our ground has been frozen or generally uncooperative in other ways.I’ve had conversations with Counselors who are doing the other historical merit badges and they’ve voiced the same feelings. (Mark King, MC & MBC, Five Rivers Council, PA)

I sure wish I had a magic wand for you, but that’s a decision belonging to the BSA national advancement committee. Nevertheless, you might broach this subject to your own council’s advancement committee and see if they can find a work-around (like a “force majeure” extension, perhaps). Good luck with this!

Hi Andy,

In the BSA book Advancement Committee Policies & Procedures, page 27 it says this about Eagle projects: “(The Scout) does the project outside the sphere of Scouting.” I’ve encountered two ways of interpreting what the “sphere of Scouting” means, and they’re not even close to one another. Here they are:

First interpretation: A careful, literal reading of this section will dispel many myths. For example, on the perennial question of whether “two-deep leadership” is required for Eagle projects, the answer is no. The project provides an opportunity for the Scout to demonstrate the leadership skills he’s learned. He does the project outside the sphere of Scouting. As a demonstration of leadership, the Scout must plan the work, organize the personnel needed, and direct the project to its completion.

Second: The “outside the sphere” statement refers to the fact that an Eagle Project may not “involve council property or other BSA activities” and that the recipient of the service is “clearly not the Boy Scouts of America”–it must benefit either a religious institution, or a school, or a community. Since the BSA is none of these, therefore the project must be done “outside the sphere of Scouting.” They don’t want Scouts fixing up the Scout council’s service center, or a BSA camp property, for instance—the Scouts have to look elsewhere.

Any thoughts on either of these interpretations? (Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)

The good news is that no “interpretations are necessary, because the BSA explains exactly what’s meant by “the project outside the sphere of Scouting.” A little further down, on the same page, this section goes on to say that “An Eagle project involving council property or other BSA activities is not acceptable.” And, above the phrase in question, it’s also stated that the Eagle Service Project is to benefit “any religious institution, school, or community.”

This central idea is repeated in the all-important Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook (No. 18-927E), and Requirement 5 of the “Eagle Scout Rank Application” states, in part, “…a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.”

Notice the absolute consistency across all three of these important documents. It’s been made crystal-clear!

As regards issues of safety, these are separate from the first discussion (above). It’s correct that, according to the BSA, two-deep adult leadership is not required (nor would the Eagle candidate benefit from same) for Eagle projects. Further in the arena of safety, we know that the Guide to Safe Scouting is silent regarding the use of power tools by Scouts, and so a fair number of volunteers (and parents, too) believe that adults must be present to provide “supervision” of the use of power tools. Of course, the way to keep in balance, with the Eagle candidate as the “site foreman” at all times, is simple: use hand-tools instead of power tools. Just be sure to use safety goggles.

That’s one question and two answers… Today’s a Two-Fer Sale Day!

Dear Andy,

Can you offer any observations on a Scouting unit having a husband-and-wife as Scoutmaster and Committee Chair? Thanks. (Tina Rowe, Chickasaw Council, TN)

In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter one way or the other. But husbands and wives tend to either share a “household opinion” or are sometimes sort of polar opposites—there’s often not a lot of “middle ground”. When the point of view is shared, and it’s accurate insofar as understanding how the Boy Scout program is supposed to work, then this can be a blessing. However, if the shared point-of-view is off the mark, then the parents and committee members have their work cut out for them if they want a correctly run troop, because the SM and CC now present a united front against all attempts to change things. In a situation in which one is going one way and the other’s headed off in the opposite direction, a sort of stalemate can occur where nothing really happens one way or the other except that the troop is unhealthy or unhappy or stagnant, or some combination of those. There are, of course, all sorts of additional scenarios and even variations on the ones I’ve mentioned. But if you notice that among these three main situations only one produces a positive outcome, you quickly realize that the odds of this pairing having a happy ending are one-in-three, or 33% at best. Let’s couple that with other occurrences, like their son (or last son) ages out, or they move, or something else happens that knocks both of them out of their boxes at the same time. Now there’s a headless committee and a headless troop, and the upward slope to fill both positions concurrently is pretty steep. Add this to the mix and it tells me that the idea of a husband and wife becoming SM and CC may be expedient, but not necessarily best for the troop as a whole, in the long run.

Dear Andy,

Is it acceptable and proper protocol for me to wear my Eagle Scout medal to our troop’s courts of honor? (Bill Rush, MC, Eagle ’66, Middle Tennessee Council)

Absolutely! Pin it on your uniform shirt centered immediately above the left pocket or at the top of the breast pocket of your jacket.

Hello Andy,

I would like to know how many miles are required to earn the Historic Trails Award? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)

This award is earned by Scouting units (like, your troop), and after your troop completes the requirements, all Scouts who went on the trip get the patch, to sew on their backpacks. (In other words, Scouts don’t earn this as individuals.) All of the requirements are described in the Boy Scout Requirements book, and I’m sure you can use the USSSP search option or Google to find them. They’re not about “miles.” Talk to your troop’s Patrol Leaders Council about going out and earning it!

Hi Andy,

My question’s about who should have access to a unit’s bank account. The unit’s treasurer should obviously have access, but should anyone else have access, or should it be limited to one person? Any thoughts or insights would be greatly appreciated. (Aaron Tuttle, UC, Hudson Valley Council, NY)

Of course, there’s no universally perfect answer here, and for every ten people you’ll have twenty opinions on what’s right. The BSA’s fiscal guidelines and recommendations are almost silent on this subject. My own personal take on this is that there should be three signatories: The head of the chartered organization (or designate, such as the Chartered Organization Representative), the unit’s Committee Chair, and the unit’s Treasurer. I also believe that there should be a document retained by the bank, which states that, for all expenditures over a set amount ($100, say), two signatures are required, and if the bank can’t accommodate that, then set the account up so that every check requires two signatures (this should provide no hardship for troops that meet weekly and have formal committee meetings monthly). The idea behind this is simple corroboration.

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for the words that we use for the closing ceremony of our meetings. It goes something like this: “For all Scouts before us…past, present and future Scouts…” I’m trying to find the rest of it. Can you help? (Alta Brewer)

Wow! This one has me stumped! The only Scout benediction I know is: “May the great Master of all Scouts be with us till we meet again.”

Maybe one of our readers knows yours? Folks, if you’re reading this and know the rest of what Alta’s looking for, please send it to me and I’ll forward it on and put it in my next column!

Dear Andy,

I’m a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout volunteer and also an American Legionnaire. The American Legion has a three-inch patch that it’s approved for wear only on BSA uniforms. I’d like to know where it’s to be properly worn on the uniform. (Al Haynes)

Thank you for your service to our country. The American Legion may well have approved a badge for wear on a Scouting uniform, but has the BSA likewise approved it? I’m guessing the reason you haven’t found an answer on where to wear it is because there’s a BSA policy prohibiting non-BSA emblems, etc. from being worn on a BSA uniform. The purpose of this policy is obvious, if simultaneously disappointing to someone with your background and dedication, I’m sure. Nevertheless, that’s the policy, and I’m personally not aware of any changes to it.

Dear Andy,

It’s been a bit since I took BALOO training or staffed a course, and I have a question… When I took this training, we were told that for a pack to camp someone in the pack must have BALOO training—this includes unit, district, and even council camping events, because you’re still camping as a unit and the district or council doesn’t have someone to stay with your unit at the event. We were OK with that. But then just the other day two of our District Executives told us that if it’s a district or council event you don’t have to have someone who’s BALOO trained. So which is it? (Angel Anderson)

The BSA informs us that “Basic Adult Leader Outdoor Orientation (aka BALOO) is a one-day training event that introduces leaders and parents to the skills needed to plan and conduct pack outdoor activities, particularly pack camping.” “Pack camping” means independent of a district or council event. When participating in an event planned and conducted by one’s district or council, the knowledge inherent in BALOO has already been provided by that district or council. Consequently, it’s not mandatory for each pack to also have a BALOO-trained adult, because that aspect’s already covered under the auspices of the district or council. Of course, if you have a BALOO-trained person in your pack, it certainly does no harm for that person to be along with the pack at a district or council Cub camping event. For further information, contact your council’s health and safety or risk management committee.

Dear Andy,

Where is the World Conservation Award worn on the Webelos Scout uniform? (Andy Illingsworth, CM, Revolutionary Trails Council, NY)

It’s centered on the right shirt pocket.

Hi Andy –

Our Patrol Leaders Council meetings have devolved into merely monthly status reviews of upcoming outings. This strikes me as less than “leadership” and it’s certainly not “Scouts running the troop.” I’d like to reorient these meetings so that they’re focused more on the issues facing our troop, such as declining participationat outings, selecting outings that generate interest and enthusiasm, picking high-adventure and summer camps to go to, reporting on recent patrol activities, and so on. Our PLC meetings are also large: In addition to Patrol Leaders, they include the troop Historian, the Librarian, the Chaplain’s Aide, Troop Guides, Instructors, and more. What are some good ways to reorganize and refocus our PLC to make it more pertinent, involved, and vigorous? I’d like to give this challenge to our Senior Patrol Leader and ASPL. (Andy Kegel, SM, Chief Seattle Council, WA)

Sounds like it’s high time for some serious training—Troop Leadership Training, in fact! Run don’t walk over to your local Scout Shop and pick up the materials for training your PLC at the troop level. Then DO IT!

Go here: Read the front end, but be sure to get to the part headed: What Is Troop Leadership Training (TLT)?

Meanwhile, get out your own Scoutmaster Handbook, because there’s something fundamentally wrong with the makeup of your PLCs that can be fixed overnight: The PLC is the Patrol Leaders, led by the Senior Patrol Leader. That’s it. Patrol Leaders represent their patrols, as in a mini-democracy, and the SPL runs the show, like a committee chair. No other leaders belong in PLC meetings. Not Historians, Librarians, Chaplain Aides, or even Troop Guides and Instructors. And no Assistant Scoutmasters, either. The Scoutmaster’s there, as wallpaper, backing up the SPL, and that’s it. Yes, the Scribe should be there, to take notes on what’s discussed and what decisions are made, but he doesn’t have a voice and he doesn’t have a vote. This is in your own handbook, spelled out and even in org chart form. Follow it. Even to the point of the ASPL isn’t there, either, except in the absence of the SPL. Fix this and train these key leaders, and all of a sudden you have a core group that can actually make decisions!

Hello Andy,

Can you please explain who’s be eligible to vote at a pack committee meeting and the reasoning behind this. Our pack is going through a major committee leadership change and I just want to be clear on this issue. (Den Leader)

First, let’s pout right at the front of our thinking that a pack committee is a support team; not a legislative or judicial body—in point of fact a pack committee has virtually nothing to require a formal vote. Members of the pack committee are those unit volunteers who are registered as such (registration code: MC). All other unit volunteers (e.g., CM, DL, ADL, PT, etc.) are not committee members because they’re not registered as committee members, and this is in turn because they have other responsibilities to the boys in the pack. These people are the pack’s direct leadership team. They work closely with the pack committee—through the Cubmaster—to assure a quality program for the boys served. No one is “double-registered” either.

The most important thing to remember is that you all have only one job: Deliver a quality program to the youth you all signed on to serve. All of this, and more, is described and explained in the Cub Scout volunteer training provided by your district and council. I’d recommend that you all take this training together, so that you’re all singing the same tune.

Dear Andy,

This is about whether or not a Scoutmaster can stop a Scout from working on a merit badge. I understand the position that the Boy Scout Handbook supports is that any Scout can begin working on any merit badge at any time he chooses. However, when looking at the front of the “Application for Merit Badge” (aka “blue card”), above the signature of unit leader, the card says: “Name, Address, City is a registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, Venturer” of District/Council and is qualified to begin working for merit badge noted on the reverse side.” Doesn’t this imply that the unit leader is signing off that the Scout is “qualified” to begin working on the badge? What if the unit leader believes that the Scout is not qualified to work on the merit badge… Does the unit leader still have to provide a blue card and sign it? It does appear that there are contradictory signals here. One appears to tell the Scout to go ahead and earn merit badges, while the other says to earn Merit Badges when you’re qualified. Your thoughts on this apparent contradiction would be appreciated. (Karie Gillen, Orange County Council, CA)

The young man is, in fact, automatically “qualified” by way of being a registered member of a Boy Scout troop, Boy Scout team, Venturing crew, Sea Scout ship, or Explorer post. So, that language is a little nicety that reinforces to the Scout what he’s about to embark upon. It absolutely does not mean that a Scoutmaster or anyone else has the authority to withhold a “blue card” from a Scout who declares that he’s interested in earning whatever merit badge he names. That any Scout can work toward any merit badge at any time is a BSA policy, and policies supersede everything, including a Scoutmaster’s perhaps well-meaning withholding of a blue card. Remember that “blue cards” are merely forms of convenience; they do not express BSA policy.

Greetings Andy,

My question’s about “double-dipping” for rank and/or merit badge requirements. Specifically, if a Scout, in completing a merit badge requirement (approved by his Counselor) has also met a corresponding rank requirement, can he use it for both the merit badge and the rank requirement, or does he need to demonstrate the skill a second time? Taking it one more step, if a Scout leader witnesses a Scout performing the skill to a Merit Badge Counselor, can that leader sign the Scout off on the rank requirement, too? (Michael Tomaso, Old Colony Council, MA)

Fact is, there are very few exact matches between merit badge and rank requirements. There are a few, of course, few, such as Swimming, for which a Scout will demonstrate that he can successfully complete the First Class swim test, and in that instance both requirements would receive completion initials—one set by the unit leader and the other by the Counselor. But other than the rare situation like this, there’s little precise overlap. This is a good thing, because it eliminates the need to spend unnecessary time pondering the purported double-dipping issue.

Hi Andy,

I just want to ask about Scouts using power tools on an Eagle project. I was present at a Eagle board of review recently, at which other members of the review claimed that it’s “against BSA policy” for Scouts to use power tools, using the Guide to Safe Scouting as their source. But I’ve reviewed this book cover-to-cover and found not a single word on this subject. Am I missing something here? What’s the real deal? (Mike Trotter, Pacific Harbors Council, WA)

Yup, your research is spot-on: The GTSS is silent on power tools. Probably for the good. A “power tool” is, of course, any tool powered by anything other than human muscle (e.g., electric, pneumatic, etc.). This would include paint sprayers, drills, burnishers, acetylene torches, can openers, nail guns, soldering irons, leaf blowers, shop vacs, and of course the infamous chain saws (for which there actually is a policy). I don’t know about you, but I’d sure hate to be the guy who had to make up the list of what’s OK and what’s not! Plus, how do we account for the difference between, let’s say, an 11 year old wielding a chain saw (wearing a hockey mask to boot!) and a 17 year old using a burnisher. Maybe that’s why the BSA’s stayed away from it. As for me, I ain’t gonna touch it with a ten-foot pole! I’d sooner debate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin!

So the bottom line, for the moment at least, is that the BSA makes no policies about power tool use except for chain saws. This means that the likely well-meaning folks on that board of review were dead wrong.

Want to avoid the whole issue? Use hand tools.

Hi Andy,

Thanks so much for all your work. Please give me permission to use your November 2002 “The Other 98” column for communicating with the Scouts in my troop. I left Boy Scouts in 1974, to join an Explorer post. I didn’t earn Eagle, but I never tell anyone I’m “only” a First Class Scout—I tell ‘em loud and clear that I AM a First Class Scout! I’ve been telling all my Scouts how important it is to stay in the program, have fun, and reach as high as they can—the most important thing being to remember that once a Scout-always a Scout. We have high ideals to live by and just because we turn 18 doesn’t mean we stop living by the Scout Oath and Law! (Your friend in Scouting, Gary Bouwmans, Patriots Path Council, NJ)

Give me ten with your approach to Scouting and life, and we could fix the whole planet! Yes, of course you can quote me or excerpt that (or any) entire column, and you can reproduce my “logo” too, if that would be useful—all I ask is attribution. (I can tell you, too, that I’m gratified to know that something I wrote eight years ago can still be useful today!)

Happy Scouting!



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

(December 29, 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.

Read Andy's full biography

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