We have a Star Scout who’s our troop Scribe right now and has had two previous, successful terms as Quartermaster. He’s 14. He’s outstanding in service to others, camping, and overall participation. He’s been a Troop Guide at Webelos Woods and District Camporees, and last summer successfully completed NYLT (National Youth Leadership Training) program.
Due to the distance he must travel to troop meetings and his parents’ busy schedules, he’s missed two or three PLC (Patrol Leaders Council) meetings during this current leadership cycle.
In three weeks he’ll be eligible for his Scoutmaster conference and board of review for Life rank. All his other requirements are fine—excellent, in fact—but our Scoutmaster is concerned about this Scout’s lack of attendance at PLCs and so hesitates to let him move ahead in rank.
What is the BSA policy on a situation like this? What will serve the Scout, his troop, and the program in the best way possible under these circumstances? (Steve Huey, ASM, Capitol Area Council, TX)
Relax. And tell the Scoutmaster and this Star Scout to relax. Scouting isn’t about finding ways for Scouts to fail; it’s all about succeeding.
Since the Scout hasn’t moved homes after having been appointed Scribe, the Senior Patrol Leader and Scoutmaster knew full well of possible travel problems before appointing him; therefore, they would be repudiating themselves in a most dishonorable way if they were now to use this as a way to deny this Scout advancement. Moreover, the Scribe takes notes at PLC meetings—he’s not an active participant (so says The Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, among others—and someone else could easily take notes in his place, then send them to him for polishing up, recording in the troop file, etc. Therefore, he will still be carrying out most of what he’s responsible for, anyway. Finally, the Scoutmaster Handbook has already told your Scoutmaster that his primary responsibility is to train the youth leaders of the troop. So, if the Scoutmaster has failed this Scout in his area of responsibility, we don’t turn around and punish the Scout for the shortcomings of his Scoutmaster. This is not about some BSA policy; this is about having and applying good sense.
I’ve just been assigned a new troop to provide commissioner service to—No, not a brand-new troop; just one that I haven’t been assigned to before. They have an interesting quirk, or at least I think it’s a quirk. Their PLC (aka Patrol Leaders Council) includes every Scout with a position badge on his left sleeve! Quartermaster, Historian, Instructor, OA Troop Representative, Webmaster—you name it, they’re all there! There are something like a dozen-and-a-half Scouts involved in PLC meetings (which take “forever,” every week, by the way, because “every voice needs to be heard or how can we be democratic!”). Is this right? Are all of these leadership positions members of a troop PLC? If they are, then I guess I’d better re-take Scoutmaster Training! (Name & Council Withheld)
Let’s use The Senior Patrol Leader Handbook as our source, although this same information can certainly be found in other BSA literature. Referring to page 50: “The patrol leaders’ council is made up of the following… Senior Patrol Leader; Assistant Senior Patrol Leader; Patrol Leaders of each patrol, including the new-Scout patrol and the Venture patrol, Troop Guide. The Troop Scribe may attend to take minutes but is not a voting member of the council.” (Note that, if there are no new-Scout patrols in the troop, there is no need for Troop Guides.) That’s it, and this is what establishes the difference between “leadership position” and “position of responsibility”—the former includes the positions just noted while the latter includes the positions of Scribe, Quartermaster, Historian, etc. Since the latter positions are members of patrols, there is no need for them to attend PLC meetings, because their own Patrol Leaders already represent their point-of-view and interests (per the democratic process).
Now that we’re on the same page: Move carefully here. If this troop has been doing what they’re doing since before there was dirt, it’s unlikely that they have much interest in changing (if only because change is difficult, regardless of situation in or out of Scouting) and you don’t want to be “the new guy who thinks he knows better than we do!” So apply diplomacy: Defined as pressure ever so gentle, applied ever so relentlessly.
Can a Scouter wear the “University of Scouting” Badge (with the bachelor degree tab) on the right pocket, where the “temporary insignia” is authorized? Is there any other place where it’s authorized to be worn? (Bryan Raines, PT, Lincoln Heritage Council, KY)
Such insignia, including “rockers,” are considered “temporary” by the BSA and are therefore to be worn only on the right pocket of the uniform shirt. What throws a lot of people is the word, “temporary,” which, as used by the BSA, actually means “at the wearer’s discretion” (meaning that the wearer can pick which one he or she wants to wear). Importantly, adult volunteer uniforms are, per BSA guidelines, intended to be relatively “subdued” (the BSA word), meaning that just because we do things that have patches associated with them doesn’t mean that we slap those patches, willy-nilly, on our uniforms wherever we please.
If a Scout has one month of leadership from a previous position, can he use that toward the 6-months tenure in a position of responsibility that he needs for Life rank? (Sandy Siemens, TAC, Crater Lake Council, OR)
Yes, of course multiple positions are just fine, so long as they add up to the months of tenure required! They don’t even need to be consecutive! That’s right…There can be a “break” of some sort between months 3 and 4, or 1 and 2, or wherever, and so long as the total adds up to what’s needed, that’s just fine! They can be even be with another troop! Let’s say a Star Scout transfers from troop 1, where he’s been their Quartermaster for four months, and joins troop 2, where a little bit after he’s nested into the troop and his patrol, he’s actually elected Patrol Leader! Well then, two months into his leadership of his patrol, he’s completed the requirement for Life!
We’re in a transitional time in our district and council, and our newest District Advancement Chair (aka “DAC”) has specified that, for all Eagle boards of review beginning immediately, there will be three district advancement committee representatives and three home troop adults. Also starting immediately, all Eagle Scout rank applications must be submitted at least two weeks before the review date. Third, all reviews will be held at the district office; not at the troop’s preferred location (which effectively means that some troop-level folks may be facing a drive exceeding an hour, each way. These are major changes: For decades up till now, reviews were held at the troop level, typically on a troop meeting night and location, with one district advancement committee representative in attendance, all arrangements being made by the troop’s advancement coordinator. I’ve not seen the latest edition of the BSA’s book, Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, but in all editions up till now, these sorts of decisions were described as being made at the discretion of the council advancement committee, not the district. who. Can you help? (Name & Council Withheld)
The BSA’s Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures book (New 2010 Edition, Cat. No.33088, revised 20092) makes two very clear statements about Eagle Scout boards of review (underlines mine):
1 – Page 14: At the discretion of the council advancement committee, the district advancement committee (will) participate in unit boards of review or conduct district-level boards of review.”
2 – Page 30: “The Boy Scouts of America has placed the Eagle Scout board of review in the hands of either the troop…or the district or council committee responsible for advancement. The council will decide and promulgate which method or methods may be used.”
It’s perfectly obvious—no “interpretation” required—that the council will decide which method is to be used; the district has no decision-making authority in this area. Therefore, this new person’s purported “mandates” are inappropriate because he does not have the authority to make such decisions. He needs to be told this immediately, by the Key 3 of this district: The District Chair, the District Commissioner, and the District Executive. If he fails to immediately comply, the District Chair, with the agreement of the District Commissioner and District Executive, should instantly remove him from his position, which the District Chair has the absolute authority to do. Importantly, since we’re talking about a volunteer here, and not an employee or even a contractor, supplier, or vendor, no explanation needs be offered, no “:three letters” (or any other such nonsense) need be on file, no “opportunity to improve himself” is required, and he is not “entitled” to a defense of his actions. It’s over.
In light of his immediacy in turning the district’s process around to suit himself and add further burdens to the units and Scouts he’s supposed to be serving to the best of his ability, I can pretty much assure you that if you keep him on the district committee in this or any other capacity, he’s going to be poison…and now with a vendetta to carry out (and I can assure you: he will).
End this right now. Then, let your troops know that the problem has been dealt with and it’s “business as usual,” starting right now.
(The more time you spend pondering the “wisdom” of this, the more damage to the relationship between the district committee and the units the committee’s supposed to be supporting will be damaged. Never overlook how the math works: When the district does something good for its units, that’s worth one point; when the district messes something up, that’s worth 1,000 demerits.)
When it comes to recognition for Den Leaders and committee members, is there a best time to do this? Is a Blue & Gold Banquet the right time? Who does the presenting? Also, who is responsible for keeping records of Den Leaders’ completion of requirements for the various awards? Is it OK to present some Den Leaders with their “square knots” at a Blue & Gold when others haven’t completed yet? (Kristin Anderson, PT, Grand Canyon Council, AZ)
Recognitions for adult volunteers in a pack are presented the same way as for Cub Scouts: As soon as they’ve earned ‘em, they get ‘em! We try very hard to make it our practice to recognize achievement as soon as possible upon completion of all tasks (e.g., Den Leader Award, Webelos Den Leader Award, Cub Scouter Award, all of which have progress records and are signed off in all areas on completion). When it’s a recognition by nomination, such as the Unit Leader Award of Merit, this would be presented at the very first pack meeting following receipt of the certificate and “square knot.”
That said, if some significant recognitions are available for presentation in late December or in January, it’s perfectly OK to wait until your pack’s February Blue & Gold Banquet to make the actual presentations. But this is assuming that your pack does indeed hold its B&G in the month that it’s logically and traditionally supposed to be held (remember that it’s essentially a “Birthday Party”—celebrating the founding of the BSA on February 8, 1910 and also the birth of Lord Robert S.S. Baden-Powell on February 22, 1857)
Awards with progress records can be presented by you, the pack Trainer: This would be absolutely appropriate. But these can also be presented by the head of your sponsoring organization (this is a great way to invite them and give them something important to do that will instantly tell them that the volunteers in the pack are fulfilling their obligations to the pack and the boys). For unit awards, like the Centennial Quality Unit Award or the upcoming Journey To Excellence award, invite your Unit Commissioner, or in the absence of a UC, your District Commissioner.
Progress records are kept and maintained by the individuals in process of earning the awards they signify; when a requirement is completed, they go to the appropriate person in the pack to obtain the signature and date of completion.
Some leaders will receive more or less recognitions and/or awards than others, based on their own efforts, training, and tenure in position, and presentations are made in as timely a fashion as possible. We don’t “hold back” adult recognitions till every Den Leader has completed the requirements any more than we hold back presenting rank badges to Cub Scouts who have completed the requirements and make them wait till their slower-moving friends catch up. They earned it: They get it. Simple as that!
My 18th birthday is fast approaching, and no amount of Googling has been able to give me a complete picture of how the Scout-to-adult process works. As I understand it, once I turn 18, I’ll no longer be a Boy Scout, and I’ll have to re-join the troop as an Assistant Scoutmaster. Does this mean that, from the day I turn 18, I’ll no longer be able to evertent with, be alone with, or have “one-on-one contact” with any of my Boy Scout friends who aren’t 18 yet? I realize that the youth protection guidelines are there for good reason and are very effective, but a pure black-and-white reading of them seems like it would be a very difficult transition for a brand-new 18 year-old. So I guess my question is this: Is a black-and-white/no “gray area” interpretationcorrect, or is there a chance that, with parental and Scoutmaster permission, I could continue to tent with the same Scouts I’ve camped with for the last several years?
Assuming the youth protection rules can’t be bent, how would my joining a Venture patrol or Venturing crew affect things? (As I understand it, Venture Scouts are considered “youth” until their 21st birthday.) Would that mean I could continue to participate in the regular troop (on top of the Venture activities) as a “youth” until my 21st birthday?
I realize that youth protection should be taken with the utmost seriousness, so any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated. I’d really like to stay involved in the Scouting program along with my friends, and I’d really like to have a complete picture of exactly what will change before the changes actually startoccurring. (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)
Yes, in the Boy Scout program it’s absolutely black-and-white and there’s no “gray area” whatsoever: Boy Scouts camp with Boy Scouts and “adult leaders” (i.e., anyone age 18 or over) camp with adult leaders.
That said, if you, at age 18 through 20, and your older (but not yet 18) Boy Scout friends want to still go camping, hiking, and so on together as a group (where you’re not an Assistant Scoutmaster), then start up a Venturing crew! You and your friends can “double register” as both Boy Scouts and Venturers in the crew you’ve started, so those who are under age 18 can still fully participate with their troop and patrol, but then, as Venturers, you can do some really cool high adventure stuff! Check it out: The BSA’s Venturing program is for the 14 through 20 age group, and it can be co-ed! (Yeah, you can get some of the girls you know at school, church, and so on, and who are into outdoor stuff to join up—just get one of their Moms to sign on as a crew advisor or assistant advisor, and you can all get out there together!)
Now, just so we’ve covered it, a “Venture Patrol” is a patrol of older Boy Scouts who are registered members of a troop; the 18-to-21 age rule doesn’t apply.
Thanks, Andy. I appreciate your insights and advice… I was kinda afraid that would be the answer. I guess I should look into starting up a Venturing crew, then. I find it sort of strange that this is the first I’ve ever heard of this being an issue—I figured there’d be a “usual” way of handling the transition in a less of a “culture shock” way. I guess not!
Actually, if you step back and take a broader view, you’ll notice that this isn’t really so strange after all… You wouldn’t want to be splashing around in the kiddie pool at age 10, or doing Cub Scout crafts, as a 12 year-old, or being in high school at age 20 or beyond, or even still being an apprentice plumber at age 50! Which is precisely why, for generations, the BSA offered (and still does!) the Explorer program for older guys (and gals, too!), and why the Venturing program was created in 1998. As a Venturer, you’ll get to do things Boy Scouts can’t do, like driving ATVs and snowmobiles, flying (hands-on, with ground school too, to get your pilot’s license), SCUBA, caving, lead climbing, C.O.P.E., snow/ice climbing/glissading, and firing hand guns, to name just a few, in addition to general hiking, camping, backpacking, and so on. These kinds of “super-challenges” are precisely where you’d want to take what you’ve learned as a Boy Scout and now raise the bar. And you now have the opportunity to do this co-ed, in which the girls are actual registered Venturers and not merely “guests” at some event.
More specifically, take a look at some of the special programs at Philmont Scout Ranch. There’s the OA Trail Crew program for ages 14-20, the Rayado Trek for ages 15-20, and there’s more! (Do some checking for yourself.)
In short, a whole new and very large door of opportunity is about to open for you and your friends, and the only question is how much do you really want it— Because if you want it and you’re ready to make it happen for yourselves (instead of having a group of parents always deciding for you and then setting stuff up for you) it’s right there in front of your nose! I’d say GO FOR IT! You’ll have a blast and you’ll carry yourself to places you’ve only dreamed about up till now!
Want “real” adventure? I know a Venturing crew that right now—this very day—is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa! You sure don’t get to do that as a Boy Scout!
Can a Boy Scout be registered in two troops at the same time? In our troop, we have a parent who’s saying that her son knows and likes spending time with Scouts in another troop as well as ours, and he wants to be able to hang out with both troops. If you can give me the lowdown on this, I’d sure appreciate it. (Joe Trimboli, SM, Theodore Roosevelt Council, NY)
The law against being registered in two troops simultaneously is the law of common sense. The intent of Scouting is that a boy bonds with his peers in his patrol—The patrol, as you know, is the essential unit of Boy Scouting (the troop is simply the “umbrella” under which the patrols practice democracy-in-action, plan and carry out outdoor adventures, learn and practice Scouting skills). So how is a boy supposed to bond with five or six buddies in the Antelope Patrol of Troop 1 and then do precisely the same thing with five or six other buddies in the Buffalo Patrol of Troop 2? That’s two troop meetings every week, maybe separate patrol meetings too, plus camp-outs on two to four weekends a month, eventually holding a position of responsibility in both troops, and on and on. Plus, keeping track of advancement will be an exercise in sheer mayhem, to the point where the council service center’s computers will start rejecting two different sets of troop advancement reports with his name on it, and he’ll have two different member identification numbers and on and on. In short, and I’d tell the parent exactly what I’ve laid out here—and I haven’t even discussed all of the problems; just the most obvious at first blush—this is the pathway to an absolute mess.
Bottom line: it’s decision time. The boy picks the patrol and troop he wants to be in, and that’s that. If, at some future time, he decides that he’d like to change troops, he can do that and it only costs a buck to activate the transfer formally.
Once this boy chooses, be sure that you and your fellow Scoutmaster in the other troop check with one another to make sure no one tries to pull off an end run anyway.
Between you n’ me, this is nothing more than a parent just so impressed with her little Fargus, who’s so much more advanced and smarter and more skilled and athletic and on and on than other boys his age and he just needs special treatment because he’s gonna be so popular that the Scouts in both troops are just going to adore him and he’s going to be an Eagle Scout by his 12th birthday if not sooner and he earned every Webelos activity badge all by himself and he’ll be president some day you just watch and see and need I go on? <wink>
I finished my Life rank two-and-a-half years ago and in the time between then and now I’ve been active in my troop and patrol, and have participated in most meetings and campouts. Also, in the middle of this time-period I was an elected Patrol Leader for six months. However, now with my senior year of high school upon me, I’ve been busy working on my studies and my college applications, and I was Captain of two varsity sports teams at my high school, and I haven’t attended very many (actually, hardly any) troop meetings or outings. In the last month, I started getting active again, and I’ve now completed all of the requirements for Eagle. Based on this history, doI meet Eagle requirement 1: “Be active in your troop, team, crew, or ship for a period of at least six months after you have achieved the rank of Life Scout”? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)
Of course you’ve met these requirements! Nothing in the Eagle Scout rank requirements for either “active” or “position of responsibility” states or even implies that the required six months must be the six months immediately before your Eagle rank Scoutmaster conference or board of review, and no individual, unit, district, or council is permitted to change either of those requirements or how they’re written in any way whatsoever! In fact, your handbook (or wherever your troop keeps advancement records) should have shown initials for having completed Eagle req. 1 in November 2008 and Eagle req. 4 in April 2010.
Now understand this: The point-of-view on requirement completion is
not my “opinion”—these are the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.
Our Scoutmaster is about to receive his very well-deserved District Award of Merit. I’d love to be able to explain at the ceremony why this is the only “square knot” that’s actually an overhand knot. I’ve searched the Internet, but to no avail. I’ve called the BSA national office, and someone there is researching the answer, but I’ve not heard back yet. Any chance you can tell me why it’s an overhand knot?
I have a complete conjecture that the overhand knot may be symbolic of the recipient having contributed vitally to Scouts in their learning/maturing process, hence the overhand knot, which can be considered an “uncompleted square knot.” If you can help identify the true reason for the overhand knot I’d greatly appreciate it and I’ll bet others would enjoy learning about the meaning behind this unique badge. (Ken Edwards, ASM, San Gabriel Valley Council, CA)
It’s simple, but not necessarily worth explaining at a ceremony, IMHO…
– The Silver Buffalo is a national-level award presented by the national council. It’s a square knot.
– The Silver Antelope is a regional-level award presented by the national council. It’s a square knot.
– The Silver Beaver is a council-level award presented by the national council. It’s a square knot.
– The DAM is a district-level award presented by the local council. Hence overhand knot.
Thank you for responding, but I must confess I don’t understand the explanation. Why would a district-level award warrant an overhand versus a square knot? The “hence” part is what I don’t understand. Is the district “incomplete” versus national? Also, since the DAM is described as the highest recognition that a district can award, doesn’t imply that there are “lower” district recognitions? With square knots? It doesn’t state that it’s the only recognition that a district awards.
Isn’t the Scouters Training Award a district-level award? In reading award descriptions, there appear to be others at the district level. (There are so many more awards than Silver Buffalo, Antelope, and Beaver, and almost all of them have a square knot.
You maybe need to do a little bit more reading… Training awards, Scouter’s Keys, Den Leader Awards, and so on are all earned awards: They have requirements (refer to the various progress records) that a volunteer completes, then files his or her completed progress record, and receives them. This process is quite different from the DAM, Silver Beaver, Unit Leader Award of Merit, and so on, because these can’t be earned… these are recognitions for which recipients are nominated. As for language like “highest award…” no, there are no “lesser” awards; this is simply the language used. As to the overhand knot, I’m sure that the original designers of the DAM chose this some 40 years ago because it’s a district recognition presented by a local council instead of a council, region, or national recognition presented by the BSA national council (therefore one rung below the others, so to speak). Further, whether you or I or anyone else happens to “like” that thinking is sort of interesting but not necessarily actionable—it’s been this way for 40 years and is unlikely to be revisited or revised anytime soon. That said, if you choose to, you certainly have the right to assemble your facts and logic, and then write to the BSA national council, suggesting a change. The BSA is always open to new, fresh ideas and approaches—this is how Scouting continues to grow and remain relevant! Remember that the very first Pinewood Derby was simply done by one Cub Scout pack in California, back in 1953. Same with the Order of the Arrow—an “honor society” started in 1915 at a Scout summer camp by two camp staffers!
I work with inner-city youth. I have a young man who can’t get to a pool to practice, even if he had the money for the lesson or just to get in the water. The only time he has this opportunity is at summer camp. He’s now been Second Class rank for two years, due to the First Class swimming requirement. Is there any way to solve the problem and get him to First Class? (John Shurig)
For three summers, I was a Scout summer camp aquatics director and each week we had any number of Scouts from inner-city troops come to camp. We knew that, for many of these boys, this one week at camp would be their only opportunity to learn to swim, and to complete the swimming requirements for Second and First Class ranks. We created special times for “anyone” to come for “extra time in the water” and many of these Scouts showed up. We made them a promise: You show up every day and you’ll leave here a swimmer! We kept every promise we made; and so did they!
Yes, it’s tough. But it’s not impossible. The requirements can’t be bent or changed. If they were, the Scouts would know it and they’d never feel right about being short-changed or being considered “less than really qualified.”
If your Scout is already Second Class, that’s great, because it means he’s capable of swimming. To get to First Class, he just has to build up his form and his stamina. This isn’t out of reach! He can even practice strokes on a bench, with a “spotter” to make sure he gets the movements right. And he can do some running, to build up his wind and strength. Bricks will suffice as “free weights.” This is called “get creative”!
No one ever said this stuff was easy, and no young man wants to be spoon-fed or handed a badge that he knows he hasn’t earned. This is a challenge, and it’s his challenge. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that, if asked him how he’s going to swim 100 yards, he’ll rise to the challenge. Never do for a Scout what he can do for himself.
I just read your column (Jan. 21st) about how to form patrols. Fabulous! Exactly what we needed to know! I’m on my way to training soon, but troop elections will be arriving sooner. Can you direct me to a resource, or provide a recommendation, on how the Scouts should elect their “non-patrol” leaders, such as Scribe, Senior Patrol Leader, Historian, etc. We’re moving the troop back to being “boy-led” and I’m hoping that all we have to do is make sure the Scouts know what the options are, with regard to leadership positions (and that they have a good idea about what leadership’s all about), and then leave it up to them to devise a plan for electing their own leaders. Scouting is so much easier (and a lot more fun) when we do things the BSA way! (Barry Croom, MC, Occoneechee Council, NC)
In a Boy Scout troop, the first Scout to be elected by all Scouts (i.e., “the troop”) is the Senior Patrol Leader. Then, after patrols are formed according to the way the Scouts want to organize themselves (the only stipulation being size, 6 being the “magic number”), each elects their own Patrol Leader. After these elections, all other positions of responsibility are appointed. The first appointees are the Assistant Patrol Leaders: One per patrol, personally selected by the Patrol Leader without voting of any sort). If there’s a new Scout patrol (a den of Webelos Scouts that’s just graduated into the troop together), they elect their own Patrol Leader, who chooses his APL, and then a Troop Guide (who is a member of a different patrol, by the way) is assigned as a coach for the new Patrol Leader for the first six months or so. No new Scout patrols? Then no troop Guides need be appointed.
The Senior Patrol Leader selects an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, who has specific responsibilities related to the other appointed positions—Scribe, Quartermaster, etc.—who remain members of their own patrols. (This is just a fast overview. Refer to the Scoutmaster Handbook, chapters 3, 4, 7, and 8, for additional details.)
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