At a recent Roundtable, our district’s Advancement Committee Chair stated that he has a problem with 13 year-old Eagle Scout candidates, because they’re not mature and have usually been by their parents to make Eagle fast, because the parents want high-performing kids. He went on to say that what he usually does is to tell 13 year old Scouts who have completed all their Eagle requirements to come back in six months to a year—after they’ve been involved in either troop leadership or the Order of the Arrow.
Is there some standard of maturity for Eagle Scout candidates who appear to be ready for their board of review? As I re-read the Boy Scout Handbook and recollect from Eagle Scout rank applications I’ve signed, it’s supposed to be all about completing the stated requirements—tenure, leadership position, merit badges, service project, and so on—or so I’ve always thought. My own son earned Eagle as a 17 year old, but if he’d been 13 and treated like this DAC says he does, I’m sure both he and I would have been pretty mad about getting that far and being turned away for something as subjective as someone’s opinion of “maturity.” What do you think? (Allen Green)
I think that gentleman needs to be taken out back and shot.Twice—first for pulling that nonsense on hardworking young men, and second time for having the audacity to brag about it.
He should be immediately fired from the district committee for his failure to comprehend that there absolutely is a national standard of maturity for Eagle and all other ranks: It’s called completing the requirements.
Any Scout who is at this moment still “awaiting anointment” from this self-important buffoon should instantly appeal this appalling decision to the council advancement committee—There is nothing more wrong than what this pin-headed little tin god is doing.
My son’s troop will not allow every parent to be a committee member. This isn’t in the BSA rules, but it’s in the troop bylaws. Are troop bylaws allowed to supersede BSA rules that have no restrictions on the number of parents whoare allowed to be committee members? (Ruth Raabe, Hudson Valley Council, NY)
There’s absolutely no point whatsoever in having “every parent a committee member.” A Scouting unit’s committee members all have jobs—there are no provisions by the BSA for unit committee “members-at-large.” So, if the committee happens to be full-up at the moment, with all slots filled, while your heart’s certainly in the right place, there’s simply nothing at the moment for you to do. So, let the Committee Chair know you’d like to roll up your sleeves when the time comes, and give some thought to what you might like to coordinate (finances, transportation, membership, etc.), and, in the meanwhile, just enjoy being a “Scout parent.”
I’m a long-time reader but first-time writer. In reading your response about female Venturers and the Hornaday awards, I thought you might like to know that there are actually Venturing-specific requirements for each Hornaday level. Male Venturers who’ve earned First Class and aren’t yet age 18 can continue to use the Boy Scout requirements; while female Venturers and male Venturers who haven’t earned at least First Class rank in Boy Scouting follow a path that uses Venturing Ranger Award electives instead of Boy Scout merit badge requirements. There’s more detail in the Hornaday applications at www.scouting.org/filestore/
Thanks for the additional details!
We’re experiencing some confusion about the Webelos and Arrow of Light requirements in light of the BSA’s definition of “active.” The Webelos badge requirement says, “Be an active member of your Webelos den for 3 months (Active means having good attendance, paying den dues, working on den projects).” The AOL requirement says, “Be active in your Webelos den for at least 6 months since completing the fourth grade (or for at least 6 months since becoming 10 years old)…” Does the definition of “active” for the Webelos badge carry over to the Arrow of Light badge, or does it switch to the Boy Scout definition? I’d appreciate any wisdom you could send my way. (Jeff Giacomi)
That definition you’ve referenced is for Boy Scouting; not Cub Scouts or Webelos Scouts. In the Cub Scout program, the definition you see for the Webelos badge is the one you’ll want to stick with for Arrow of Light. And conceptually, just keep in mind that these are Cub Scout badges; not the Medal of Honor. <wink>
About that question on what training requirements are there to be a Scoutmaster, it may be good to mention that it’s worth checking with their local council, too. Several councils (my own, included, beginning in 2011) are part of a pilot program called “Direct Contact Leader Training,” and require that, for Boy Scout troops, a Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmaster complete YP, “This is Scouting,” “Fast-Start,” “Position-Specific,” and “Introduction to Outdoor Leader Skills” in order to register in that position beginning 2011 re-charter time. There’s more information at:
(Look under “Required Training Update”)
(Ron Blaisdell, ADC, Central Florida Council)
Yup, some councils are piloting more rigorous training standards, and I hope they’ll succeed and that this will be expanded, including becoming retroactive. (Nothing worse than a “20-year veteran Scoutmaster” who’s had one year of experience repeated 19 more times!)
Within our district, we are discussing the need to better handle our communications, forms, and archival documents digitally. As Scouting transitions from paper to electronic forms, records, and communications, we all have different needs and are all at different stages of transition. For our district committee and Commissioner staff, there’s a need for coordinating a variety of administrative information. At the troop level, there’s a need to develop tools for Scouts to effectively carry out the responsibilities of their leadership positions (attendee rosters for the Scribe, for instance). There are also opportunities to share best practices (e.g., a good Pack-to-Troop Cross-Over ceremony) or experiences (camp photos). There is both an official BSA website and any number of unofficial ones as well, some of which address some of these issues, but there are local needs that demand solutions. We old Scouters need to adapt to the digital natives, who are ALL of our Scouts.
In an effort to avoid wheel reinvention, our district would like to learn about successful architectures, get access to successful software products, understand experiences with effective use of various public platforms, and otherwise benefit from others’ experiences. What would be a good forum to make this broad request? Professional Scouters have access to internal BSA communication tools that may be helpful, but we volunteers can’t exactly send an email blast to our tens of thousands of colleagues across the country. (Mitch Erickson, DC, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)
The US Scouting Services website has a forum—Scouts-L—in which you could certainly pose any question you might have along these lines, either all in one bucket, or point-by-point. “Scouting Magazine” is another possible resource: Go to their Cracker Barrel/”Ask the Expert” and see where you can go from there! A third resource is my own Ask Andy columns… If you or any of your colleagues in your district or council has a specific question you’d like to put out there, and you can give me an email address for responses, I’d be happy to add a question or two to a column.
Concerning the Swimming and Lifesaving merit badges, does a Scout have to earn Swimming merit badge before he can go for Lifesaving? (SharonKotter, Troop Advancement Coordinator, Trapper Trails Council, UT)
Your question’s a valid one, because for many years Swimming was indeed a prerequisite for Lifesaving and both merit badges were Eagle-required (with no alternatives). But since there are now alternatives to Swimming (just as there are for Lifesaving), this merit badge is no longer mandatory in order to earn Lifesaving merit badge. Lifesaving will, nonetheless, expect that the Scout has completed both the Second and First Class rank swimming requirements (7a-b-c and 9a-b-c, respectively) plus be able to swim 400 continuous yards in a strong manner demonstrating crawl, side, breast, and elementary (resting) back strokes for at least 50 yards each. (Contrary to popular belief, a “CPR card” isn’t necessary, although there are several CPR-related requirements.)
How do we form patrols? Do we just let the Scouts choose any way they want to? (Steve Sassi)
First, elect your Senior Patrol Leader, since he’s not going to be a patrol member. Then, after that election, he (that’s right, the new SPL) asks the Scouts to divide themselves up into groups of no less that five and no more than six Scouts each, and every Scout must be accounted for (that is, no “leftovers”); then you and he walk away. The Scouts will rise to the opportunity and group up as your SPL has asked. Following this you play a brief inter-patrol challenge game, then you play another one (see the book, “Silver Bullets” for ideas, or use the “Troop Program Features” books). Following these two games, you ask the patrols to elect their Patrol Leader for the next 6 months, and then send the PL over to the SPL so their names can be recorded. At that time, the SPL asks the PLs to go back and select one Scout as their right-hand man (that is, APL), and then he asks them to brainstorm a patrol name with their guys– the patrol names have to meet with the SPL’s and SM’s approval before they can be come “official.” After that, they’re off and running, with more games and then a challenge to bring a patrol flag to the next troop meeting. You can take it from there…
BSA policy allows for father-son tenting; but doing this on a regular basis takes away from the patrol method as well as impedes a Scout from developing independence and self-reliance. Can you offer any ideas on to how we approach fathers and discourage this? I can’t find any BSA guideline that I can refer the father to, as documentary support. (Doug Holberg, SM, Capitol Area Council, TX)
In just about every BSA publication about Boy Scouting, beginning with the Boy Scout Handbook, the Scout (and his parent) is told:
“Boy Scouting is a…program for boys 11 through 17…young men can achieve Scouting’s aims through methods that include the ideals of the Scout Oath and Law, patrols, outdoor adventures, advancement, association with adults, personal growth, leadership development, and the uniform” (BSHB, 12th Ed., p. 15–Note that there is no mention whatsoever of father-son camping). “You and your patrol will work together as a team…” (BSHB, 12th Ed., p. 287–Note that it doesn’t say “You and your patrol, and your fathers…”)
Where the GTSS states that “…no youth is permitted to sleep in the tent of an adult other than his own parent or guardian,” this is for the purpose of youth protection—it’s not meant to describe any ongoing activity in the Boy Scout program.
There are several ways to eliminate this behavior on the parts of fathers (or mothers)…
1 – Tell the parent who can’t cut the apron strings by himself/herself that the troop’s program doesn’t provide “parent-and-son camping” and that the Scout needs to camp with his fellow patrol members.
2 – Tell any parents who want to “tag along” that the parents’ campsite will be out of sight and earshot of the Scouts, and there will be no parent-Scout interaction during the trip, including meal preparation and eating. 3 – Make sure that all camp-outs involve a hike to the campsite of at least three miles, and there will be no “car-camping” or “tail-gating.”
If the enforcement of any or all of these three still doesn’t work to cure this problem, then you may simply need to have a conversation with the offending parent to the extent that “Your family will most likely be happier in a different troop, because we are going to enforce the “no parent-and-son hiking and camping stipulation”…please transfer elsewhere or stop coming on this troop’s camp-outs. Then, make it stick and don’t back down… Not even “just this one time…”
(The reason why the BSA doesn’t deal with this directly because it’s presumed that parents are intelligent enough to recognize that Boy Scouts isn’t “Cubbing but in tan shirts” or “Webelos 3.”)
I’m looking for clarification on the section of the Guide to Safe Scouting, under “prohibited and restricted activities” forbids participation in motorized speed events, specifically: “All motorized speed events including motorcycles, boats, drag racing, demolition derbies, and related events are not authorizedactivities for any program level.” This could be interpreted to meanno Scout group can participate, even as a spectator, at any motorized racing event. Or is this intended only to prohibit participation in the race itself? (Chip Beckham, ASM, Northeast Georgia Council)
The key word appears to be “activities” and so these activities by any BSA member at any program level are, as stated, not authorized. Just as bronco- or bull-riding would be prohibited, but attending a rodeo certainly wouldn’t be. However, to be extra-certain on this, ask your council’s risk management committee.
Can a Boy Scout count things he did prior to beginning a merit badge, if they match a merit badge’s requirement? For example, if a Scout starts Camping merit badge this month but he’s been camping (including summer camp for a week) with his troop during the past year, can he count those days and nights toward the 20 he needs for the merit badge? (MicheleRober, Tall Pine Council, MI)
Yes. The BSA states this clearly in the Boy Scout Requirements book.
Does a Life Scout have to have all his merit badgesfor Eagle completed before he can start his service project? (Walter Clemens)
No. A Life Scout can begin work on his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project the morning after his successful Life rank board of review, if he chooses.
I’m a new Scoutmaster for a troop with about 30 Scouts. When we go to summer camp, it’s been a tradition in our troop that only Scouts who are close to having their Eagle requirements done can participate in a week of high adventure; the rest of the Scouts stay in camp and work on merit badges, with a troop day-hike mid-week. This has served the purpose of motivating the Scouts to advance, and also in keeping older Scouts involved and interested, and I’ve supported it. However, it’s now being challenged by an Assistant Scoutmaster whose 14 year-old grandson has no interest in advancement (although he enjoys the troop and has fun). Does the rule have to be dropped, even though many older Scouts, and their parents, want it, or should all 14 year old boys be allowed to do the high adventure part? (Al Fisher, SM)
The more I think about this, the more I realize you have a number of decisions that need to be made. Here they are, in no particular order…
Since the PLC determines troop program, if an ASM has any point of view he’s like to express, the PLC can entertain to hear him out; however, if they decide not to follow the suggested course of action, that’s the end of the conversation.
No ASM (or any other adult volunteer, for that matter) should be causing divisiveness within a Scouting unit and continuation of this can be considered grounds for removal from position.
Your troop’s high adventure “policy” makes no mention of age; it refers to Scouts who are Life rank, working toward Eagle. Consequently, whether this particular (or any other) Scout is 14 or 13 or 17 is isn’t a part of the equation—it’s whether he’s Life-working-on-Eagle or not.
Unless it’s demonstrably in the wrong, no group sacrifices the preferences of 90% for those of 10%… This is what democracy is all about. Doing it the other way around is called dictatorship.
So, as the Scoutmaster to whom this ASM ultimately reports, you can try to reason with him but you certainly don’t have to accommodate him (or his grandson); you have the right to tell him, if he persists, that his inability to control his tongue about successful troop practices will be taken as his resignation from the ASM position. Then, with the Committee Chair pre-alerted and on your side, make it stick.
All of this said, do understand that advancement isn’t a mandatory thing… A boy or young man can have a pretty darned good Scouting experience without ever earning a single merit badge! However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences. In fact, a lot of Scouting is exactly that: Learning that our actions have consequences.
Our family recently completed trips to four national parks: Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier. My son, a Boy Scout, completed the Junior Ranger program at each of these parks. A Ranger told us that he could put the Junior Ranger badges on his merit badge sash. Can he display these there; and, if he can, is there a specific place? (Rachelle Brinkman, CC, Bay Lakes Council, WI)
Hmmm… Unless that Ranger was also a Scouting volunteer or in some other way knowledgeable about Scout uniforming, there’d actually be no reason to expect that what he said was correct, would there?
The BSA has a policy that only BSA badges and patches may be worn by Scouts. What your son chooses to do in light of this information is up to him. You and his dad can help him consider his options and arrive at a decision.
I’m the Advancement Chair for my district, and I recently had my first appeal by an Eagle candidate. It seems that this Scout’s Scoutmaster and Committee Chair refused to sign his Eagle Scout Rank Application, and the Scoutmaster also refused to sign the Scout’s Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project workbook as completed (even though all of the work is done and the recipient has signified this), because this Scout did not involve his troop in carrying out the project. This young man did, in fact, have Scouts helping him; however, they were from other troops or they were fellow OA lodge members whom he knew. Despite conciliatory efforts on the part of council-level Scouters, over a period lasting several months, we were unable to bring the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair together for a meeting, so I scheduled and carried out a district-level Eagle board of review, which was easily successful. But now there’s some confusion as to who signs the rank application… Can it actually go to the national office absent signatures from the troop’s adult volunteers? (Tom Tiernan)
Without question, the Scoutmaster’s reason for not signing off is both irrelevant and petty, if not actually silly. There’s absolutely no mandate whatsoever that says fellow Scouts from one’s own troop must be the Eagle candidate’s helpers! Moreover, the Scoutmaster’s signature at the back-end of the project is to signify that it’s been completed as planned, and it if has been, then the withholding of that signature is unreasonable bordering on ignorant.
As District Advancement Chair, you were certainly authorized to carry out a board of review in an impasse like this, and you’ve certainly done the right thing! As for the application and sending it to the BSA national Eagle service people, you can write a lengthy letter of explanation, or you can sign in the places where signatures are missing, including your title next to your signature, with no further delay. Personally, I’d go with the second of these options. In short, as Nike advertising says, “Just do it.” Heck, as District Advancement Chair, you’ve already and correctly overridden the mistakes made at the unit level, so why hesitate now!
Looking toward the future, I’m going to guess that this Scout’s troop will be less than overjoyed about recognizing him at a troop court of honor, so you may want to be prepared to discuss with this Scout and his family what the options are for a non-troop-based public recognition of his achievement.
On fundraising, I know that projects begin with the PLC and the Scoutmaster, who brings the Scouts’ ideas to the committee. And I know that the troop treasurer’s duty is to supervise fundraising projects, including obtaining proper permits. But now the committee is telling me that it’s the Scoutmaster who’s responsible for fundraisers, from inception to completion. While the Scoutmaster’s ready to help, it seems like committee’s not willing to do its part. Is it wrong to assume that the committee is responsible for fundraisers, with the help of the Scouts and Scoutmaster? Or does the Scoutmaster supervise the project? Or does the treasurer and/or committee,along with the help of the Scoutmaster, do this? (Rick Miller)
In a Scout troop, you’re all in the same boat. The Scouts set the course, man the tiller, and set the sails under the watchful and helpful eyes of the Scoutmaster (often nicknamed “Skipper” or “Skip,” and not accidentally, in the UK), who’s also on deck. But while the Scouts almost always remain topside, the Scoutmaster often goes below, where the ship’s crew there maintains the larder, plugs the leaks, cares for the ill and injured, and does the things that keep morale high!
Using that ship as our model, since the Scoutmaster’s main responsibility is as the guardian of the above-decks crew, he can’t be expected to do what the below-decks crew might wish—he already has a job. Now the Scouts will do all the promotion and lots o’ leg-work, and this is where the below-decks folks make it work, because they’re the team that gets the “unseen” stuff done, so that it’s a success!
When you all work together toward a commonly agreed-upon goal, and don’t overburden one another, and especially don’t try to create a caste system amongst yourselves, you’ll be fine!
If a boy earns his God & Church religious emblem as a Webelos Scout, can he wear the square knot as a Boy Scout? (Jeff Cox)
Yes he can, and should. Then, when he earns the Boy Scout-level religious award, he can put two devices on the square knot… One for Webelos and one for Boy Scout!
The week-long summer camp our troop goes to doesn’t have cabins and doesn’t have tents that are already set up when the Scouts arrive. Instead, using old-style Army-type green tents and folding Army-type wood-and-canvas cots, they establish their campsite and then pitch the tents and set up the cots, and at the end of the week break everything down and re-stack them for the next in-bound troop. Because of this system, our troop allowed only one week at this camp to be count toward the 20 days/nights required for Camping merit badge. However, in reading your remarks on counting camping days/nights, the “allowance” appears to have been for camps that have cabins or have the tents already set up. So should we be counting both summer camp weeks (in which we pitch the tents) toward the total 20 days/nights? In other words, so long as the camping experience includes Scouts setting up their own personal or camp-owned tents, the total number of days/nights should count, because the one-week limit pertains only to situations where there are cabins or pre-set-up tents.
(Since we camp nearly every month, most of our Scouts have no problem racking up 20 days/nights pretty quickly; however we do have some Scouts who, due to other commitments like band camp or church or sports may not be able to attend some of our camp-outs.) (Name & Council Withheld)
If the Scouts are setting up their own tents, everything sounds just fine! Of course, they need to describe this to their Merit Badge Counselor, because it’s this person who has final say-so – But I strongly believe that the MBC will have no problems with this.
Thanks. Sometimes, odd “rules” come out of nowhere. Latest on this list was that all camping for the merit badge had to be done at an official BSA camp—That one disappeared pretty quickly!
I enjoy reading your columns. They help me discern what the BSA says the requirement is, compared to the famous “well, we’ve always done it that way.”
Camping for the merit badge must be done “at a Scouting activity,” and there are all sorts of these, from troop camp-outs to patrol camp-outs, weekend Camporees, troop treks, Philmont treks, Northern Tier canoe treks, and on and on! But location isn’t at issue (if it were, think of all the neat National Parks, National Forests, and Wilderness Reserves that our sons would no longer get to go to!)
As for “we’ve always done it that way”… Doing something wrong, but consistently, doesn’t make it… well, you know the rest! <wink>
For the Camping merit badge requirement of 20 days/nights, it says, “You may use a week of long-term camp toward this requirement.” As a Counselor, I’ve interpreted this to mean no more than 7 days at a given camp, and allowed multiple multi-night trips to be used, such as our council’s NYLT course and summer camp. But I had a Scoutmaster tell me that I can only allow one campout of two or more days-and-nights, and that the rest had to be one-night overnighters. I’d like some help on this. I thought this stuff had gone away with the new revision. (Mike Holmes, ASM & MBC, Utah National Parks Council)
Let’s first understand that all 20 days and nights can be short-term camp-outs in a tent the Scout has pitched or under the stars; that long-term camping of any length isn’t in any way mandatory. With that understanding, then let’s proceed to the “allowance” the BSA gives to Scouts, by permitting up to 7 days and nights at a long-term camp (i.e., one that typically already has tents set up). Whether those 7 days and nights are consecutive or not, or at the same camp or different camps, is actually irrelevant. As far as only single-night overnights being allowable, that’s simply nonsense. Is this clear now, or has this made things worse?
Worse, I think. Here’s the situation: I have a Scout ready for his Camping merit badge—his 20 days/nights include a 3 day/night trek camp, a 6 day/night training camp (long-term camp with tents set up), and a 6 day/nights troop-based summer camp-out using personal tents (set up/taken down each day). My math says this totals 15 days/nights, or can only one of the week-long camps count as the “long-term” week? (Mike)
OK, let’s break this down…
– 3 d/n on trek: OK.
– 6 d/n on troop camp-out (not “long-term” council camp variety): OK.
– 6 d/n at set-up (i.e. “long-term”) council camp: OK.
– TOTAL: 15 d/n.
– 5 d/n remain, all of which must be in a tent the Scout pitches or under the stars, and Scouting-related; and whether these are single or multiple nights is absolutely irrelevant.
So, next time a Scoutmaster (or anybody else, for that matter) starts blathering about some rule you’ve never heard of, just ask ‘em to show it to you in writing.
My son crossed over to Boy Scouts this past March. I was up at summer camp for a few days helping the Scoutmaster out (I’m BSA-YP trained and will be serving on the troop committee soon). While at camp with ten of our troop’s Scouts, I noticed that the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader filled out the duty roster and left himself conspicuously absent from any of the duties. A number of the Scouts complained about him not doing any work, like they were, and his response was that that’s not the Senior Patrol Leader’s job. I have a major problem with this attitude, since it doesn’t seem to be helpful, kind, or courteous. I can understand how, in a larger troop, the Senior Patrol Leader might not put himself on the duty roster, since he’d be so busy supervising. But here, he should have been leading by example since there were so few Scouts available to do the work. Since I’m a new parent in Boy Scouting, am I wrong to feel this way? (Mitch Marcinauskis, Housatonic Council, CT)
In a word, yes, you’re just a tad off-course here. That Senior Patrol Leader was definitely correct in not placing his name on the duty roster, because, effectively, it’s already there – He’s the Senior Patrol Leader, and therefore responsible for the troop and for the duty roster to work effectively! If he took one of the duty roster jobs, who would be the overall leader?
In managing the troop as he did, he was “loyal,” “helpful,” “friendly,” “courteous,” and, I hope, “cheerful”! Conversely, the Scouts who “complained” about this need a bit of attitude adjustment!
If you do some further homework, and take a look at the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project, you’ll discover that the Scout who leads this service project leads best when he never picks up a hammer, saw, or paint brush—He leads.
Can troop committee meetings be “closed” to members of the troop if they’re not committee members? (ASM, Longhorn Council, TX)
No Scouting function, event, meeting, etc. is ever “secret.” That said, ASMs are not automatically troop committee members, so if you’re asking to attend, understand that “closed” meetings are OK (there are meeting minutes, after all!), but if it’s really important to you for some reason, you can certainly be an observer—so long as you understand that you’re neither a contributor (unless specifically asked) or a “voter.” Moreover, your Scoutmaster (to whom you report, BTW) can easily inform you, afterward, of anything discussed at the meeting that might need action on your part. Bottom line: It’s a mole hill, not a mountain.
I am a Scoutmaster in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Our Scouting organization is PRAMUKA. I would like to talk with fellow Scouters in America and elsewhere, to learn about Scouting in your country and share interests. In addition to Scouting, I cycle, go rafting, and shooting. You can write to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org (Zain Arief)
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