Andy’s Rule No. 8:
- Scouting’s first “volunteers” are the Scouts themselves.
Andy’s Rule No. 9:
- Program produces participants. Show me a dull, no-show troop or pack and I’ll show you dull programs.
Andy’s Rule No. 10:
- Cleanliness is next to godliness; except at camp, where it’s next to impossible.
My son took the NYLT training four years ago, and for the last three years, he’s staffed NYLT as a Troop Guide, then Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and this year he’ll be Senior Patrol Leader and Youth Course Leader. Is there really still more he could learn by attending NAYLE? (Marci Nystrom)
Absolutely! Thanks for asking! NAYLE is totally unique in format and the learnings and team-building are different, too! So if there’s no conflict in dates, your son could be this year’s NYLT Course Leader and also either attend or maybe even staff the NAYLE in your region! For the most current information, reach out to John Glockner at QPI@mail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org – They’ll both get you to the same place.
Readers: If you haven’t checked out NAYLE (my April 18th column) for your sons or your friends’ sons yet, run don’t walk!
I’m the incoming Committee Chair for a 15 year-old troop with about 60 Scouts. I’m reviewing troop records, to get my legs under me, and I just learned from our treasurer that we have over $10,000 in the troop bank account! That seems like an awful lot of money for a troop that has all the tents, canoes, and patrol cooking gear it could ever possibly need, and a trailer to haul it all in, plus a pretty large “experienced” uniform bank, flags, stands, and so on. In asking around, I’ve also learned that most of the other troop committee members not only want to hold onto this money, but want to continue doing troop fund-raisers, selling popcorn for the council, and so on, “in case of a rainy day.” But, truth told, I can’t think of a “rainy day” situation that could possibly use up that amount of money, even if the storage locker and everything in it was burned to a crisp or stolen lock, stock and barrel! I’d like to put that money to use somehow, but not just by writing a check to our council, even if it’s for the council’s endowment fund. Any thoughts or ideas? Help! (Name & Council Withheld)
You’re right: That amount of money is pretty much unnecessary for any Scouting unit of any size to be holding on to, even if for that proverbial “rainy day”! Half a lifetime ago, the BSA rule was that troops and packs would “zero-out” at the end of their charter year, on the principle that money earned by this year’s Scouts should be invested in this year’s Scouts. Not a bad rule at all, to my way of thinking!
I also agree with you that, while I’m sure your council would appreciate additional funding, and a reasonable portion of that sum you all have right now would certainly make a difference, the money would sort of disappear into larger accounts and that would be the end of that! So, how about this…
What could your troop do with a significant portion of those funds that would leave a legacy? That’s right: a legacy—Something that comes from your troop and with which your troop would be identified, pretty much in perpetuity. Such as: a new war canoe for your councils’ camp, with “Troop XXX” painted right on the bow and stern. Or how about a new pole barn in the council camp’s Scoutcraft area, again with your troop identified. Or maybe the famous bronze Scout statue by R. Tait McKenzie for the front lawn or foyer of your council’s service center. Or, for your troop’s sponsor… if a church, a stained glass window; if a synagogue, something equally appropriate; if a school, a new backstop for the baseball diamond; for any of these, a gazebo with benches… You’re getting the idea, yes? This is a wonderful opportunity to truly create a legacy that reminds all who see or use it that “Troop XXX Was Here”!
I’m going to ask about a Scout who recently advanced from Star to Life, and the requirement that a Scout has to serve in one or more of the positions of responsibility. This particular Scout served in one position of responsibilityfor three months and then another position for another three months, for a total of six months. Is this OK, or should it be in just one position for a total of six months? (Bill Korpecki, ASM, St. Louis Area Council, MO)
This is absolutely OK! The requirement states, “one or more…” so he’s perfectly “legal” on this! Thanks for asking an important question!
I’ve looked all over a bunch of websites, trying to find the proper placement of mother pins on a ribbon. I’ve been told, many moons ago, that you work from Scout up to Eagle, making Eagle the top pin. Is that correct? (Wesley Crew, CC, Pinetree Council, ME)
Bottom line: It doesn’t really matter much. Mom’s gonna do it the way she wants to, anyway! But, whichever way you do it, it won’t be wrong!
I’m an Assistant Scoutmaster for a new-Scout patrol, working with the Troop Guide and Patrol Leader to deliver the First Year=First Class program. Some of the troop’s other volunteers (other ASMs and committee members, too) not only don’t support this but are in fact very much against it, and it took us some time to find the BSA literature that says this is the way to go. Along with my effort to get new Scouts through to First Class by the end of their first year in the troop, I often encourage Scoutmaster conferences right away—as soon as the next-to-last requirement’s completed—even when we are on campouts, and when these are successfully concluded, I’ll recruit at least three committee members, so a board of review can be done right there! Now I’m told that the troop’s “usual system” is for the Scouts to first sign up for a Scoutmaster conference and then sign up for a board of review, in two sort of appointment calendars or books. Is this a case of just one’s right, or are they both OK to do?
Now several people in our troop have read your columns (at least some of them), but several of these are saying that you’re “not official,” and that they don’t have to follow your opinion any more than anyone else’s. How do I reply to that? (Name & Council Withheld)
Let’s get that last point out of the way, first: Yes, when I’m asked for my opinion, take, or point of view, I’m certainly going to provide it, and when I do I’ll tell you without hesitation that it’s my own opinion. But, that’s not what usually happens. What usually happens is that folks ask what the BSA policy or rule is on whatever question they might have at the moment, and when this is the way the question’s asked, I’ll absolutely never offer an opinion; instead, I do my homework, check my references, and provide the policy, word-for-word whenever possible, and cite the source, right down to page number and paragraph whenever possible. So, don’t let these otherwise good folks try to duck or dodge an issue that’s not going their way using the subterfuge that it’s only one opinion versus another—That just ain’t so, and any of my columns proves that beyond a doubt.
Now, let’s take a look at the BSA-stipulated procedures for Scoutmaster conferences and boards of review…
The conferences are scheduled by…wait for it…the Scoutmaster himself, because it’s the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to know how close a Scout is to completing all the requirements for any rank that Scout’s working on, so when he sees that the Scout’s on the eve of completion, the Scoutmaster pro-actively schedules the Scout to have a chat (otherwise known as the Scoutmaster conference).
Next, Scouts definitely don’t “sign up” for boards of review. After their Scoutmaster conference concludes, the Scoutmaster informs the troop’s advancement coordinator (or the committee chair) that this Scout is ready to advance and needs a board of review, which is then duly scheduled. Consequently, your idea of “on-the-spot” reviews is completely in keeping—in process and in spirit—with the BSA-mandated advancement plan. As a matter of fact, there’s no acceptable rationale whatsoever for delaying a Scout’s advancement by delaying his board of review (especially if that delay is for the convenience of the troop’s committee members, who it must be remembered serve for only one reason: to serve the Scouts. It’s not the other way around!).
It’s interesting that the “documentation” on these subjects is fairly light. The Scoutmaster Handbook states: “A troop should schedule its boards of review to occur on a regular basis, so that Scouts and leaders can plan for them well in advance.” The Troop Committee Guidebook notes that one of the stated duties of the troop’s advancement coordinator is to “arrange quarterly boards of review,” but there is no statement to the effect that quarterly is the maximum frequency.
So, to better understand what’s going on here, let’s step back and take a look at the overall methods of Scouting, advancement being one of these… Here, we encourage Scouts to advance in rank; we encourage them to come out on hikes and campouts so they can complete requirements to advance; we stress staying as active in the troop as possible; in the Scoutmaster’s conference we tell the Scout, “OK, you’re ready to advance!” But then, when a Scout does all this, the very next thing some misguided troop committees tell him is, “OK, now you need to wait till it’s convenient for us to meet with you for a board of review.” Does this make sense? Does this fit with everything else we’ve encouraged the Scout to do? And what, finally, does this tell the Scout about how really “important” his advancement is to the men and women who are supposedly there to aide and encourage him? In short, it’s a disconnect… Psychologists call it “cognitive dissonance.” In other words, it becomes the antithesis of what we profess to be instilling in the boys and young men we’re here to serve.
So, the solution—for better or worse—is for good folks like those in your troop to pull back the shades and see the light. See that the more frequently they can hold boards of review, the more frequently Scouts can advance! Just like hikes and campouts… We do these as often as possible so that we offer a solid and active Scouting program. Wouldn’t we want to think of boards of review in the same way? After all (from the Scoutmaster Handbook again), a board of review for all ranks from Tenderfoot through Life isn’t like orals for one’s terminal degree: They last maybe 15 minutes, tops! And, yes, they can be done anywhere! (At a campout or during lunch break on a hike can be a perfect time for three committee members to visit with a Scout and ask him about his experiences and how well he’s liking his troop’s Scouting program.)
I truly hope you’re able to describe this idea to the other volunteers with your troop in such a way as they come to realize that this is a greater benefit to the Scouts they’re there to serve! Doing this will contribute greatly to the enthusiasm of the Scouts, and this is how we continue to engage the young people under our wings!
My son, who’s an Eagle Scout, will be participating in an Eagle Scout court of honor. He’s currently in a Venturing crew and will be wearing his green Venturing uniform. What’s proper for him to wear? My understanding is that he can’t wear his Order of the Arrow sash at the same time he’s wearing a merit bash sash. Is it proper for him to wear his merit bash sash with his green Venturing uniform shirt, or should he wear his OA sash instead? Also, where does his OA knot go, on his Venturing shirt? Thanks for your help! (Sandra Carter, Central Florida Council)
If your son is a Venturer and will be attending this event as such, then wearing his full Venturer uniform—shirt, pants or shorts, belt, and socks –is totally appropriate. But not just the green shirt; it needs to be the whole nine yards!
Since this isn’t an Order of the Arrow event, and since your son isn’t representing his OA lodge at this event, he leaves his OA sash home (now he may be tempted to wear the OA sash draped over his belt, but he needs to know that there’s an actual BSA uniforming rule that says no dice!)
The merit badge sash is optional. He should take a look at himself in a mirror, wearing it and with it off. Which “look” does he prefer? My guess is that he’s not going to like the color clash—it can be pretty gross to some eyes—so he may want to leave that sash home, too (like the OA sash, there’s another BSA rule that says merit badge sashes don’t get worn over the belt, either!)
By “OA knots” if you’re referring to the OA Distinguished Service square knot (it’s a white square knot on red cloth, with a red border), it’s worn centered and immediately above the seam of the flap of his LEFT shirt pocket.
I’m a Senior Patrol Leader and I need to know how I should address my Scoutmaster about problems in the troop. I don’t want to be too confrontational, but I don’t want to not speak up at all. One of the problems in the troop is that the Scoutmaster has trouble with the idea of letting a 13 year-old Scout (me!) run the troop. He doubts my ability to successfully do my job as Senior Patrol Leader. He has us do everything as a troop; we do nothing as patrols. I’m trying to get all the new Scouts to First Class, so that we don’t have to keep working over and over on the same requirements all the time. Since I joined the troop two years ago, we’ve done exactly the same requirements on all outings and at all meetings. We need to do things with what the patrols and Scouts need done, and have the more experienced Scouts help teach the newer ones what they need to learn, and then we all need to move on to new stuff. Another thing that has me bothered is that I’m trying to get all the new Scouts to do “TNT”—these are Scout camp sessions that help Scouts complete the requirements from Tenderfoot to First Class, because if we can get the new Scouts to First Class then we can all work on merit badges instead of the same basis requirements all year long. I said this at a meeting and the Scoutmaster said that all we would be doing in TNT is what we’ll be doing at troop campouts, so why waste your time doing that when we’re going to be doing it anyway as a troop.
I’d very much appreciate it if you could please give me all the advice you can for these situations. Thank you. (Scout’s Name Withheld, Northeast Georgia Area Council)
From your letter, it’s not difficult to figure out that you don’t really have a Scoutmaster… You actually have “the world’s oldest Patrol Leader”!
I understand how boring this is for you all, and even for the younger Scouts who have to do the same stuff over and over and over! Here’s the thing: THIS ISN’T SCOUTING! But I’ll bet you’ve figured that out already. Here’s about the only suggestion I can offer, other than to go out and find another troop that gets it right, and then transfer into that troop (you’re not “married” to a troop—you do know that, yes?)…
Show what you’ve written to me to your parents, particularly your dad. Then ask them to read the first couple of chapters of your handbook, so they can see what you’ve been promised, and then make a comparison to what you’re getting. If they believe that what you’re getting isn’t Scouting the way it’s supposed to be, maybe they can talk to some other parents in the troop, and find out if their sons are as unhappy as you. If this is the way it is, then your parents will need to talk with whoever sponsors the troop, and speak up for you boys—They need to say they want a change, and that unless this happens they’re going to have to find another troop for you all to be in.
After you’ve shown this to your parents, and you’ve talked it over a bit, you or they can write to me and we can talk about what to do. I’ll wait to hear from you…
When a Scouting unit is traveling, must they wear either the Class A (Field) or Class B (Activity) uniform? Is this an issue on the legality of Tour Plans and/or BSAinsurance? There are several of us within the organization—in packs, troops, crews—who have all sorts of different opinions on this. Can you shed some light? (Leigh Ann Bostian, Marin Council, CA)
The BSA is indeed a uniformed organization (the uniform is in fact one of the eight specific methods of Scouting).
I’ve written about this question before—it’s in several different columns—but it’s certainly worth reviewing again! The short version is this: No, it’s not mandatory for Scouts to wear their uniforms while traveling; however, there are simply too many good reasons for doing this, compared to not doing it. When we travel in uniform, we look like a Scouting unit and we make it easy for ourselves to spot one another, and keep one another safe and out of harm’s way. Additionally, our boys and young men also tend to behave more like Scouts when they’re in uniform, thereby minimizing behavioral issues. Further, in uniform, we show the world that we’re Scouts and thus receive positive feedback. By “uniform,” I’m referring to the standard, complete Scout uniform; not parts. And I’m definitely not referring to “activity uniforms”—tee-shirts with the rest of the standard uniform—because the tee-shirts are for rough, dirty, or sweaty work; not simply traveling from one point to another. (Wear the tee-shirts under the uniform shirt.)
Obviously, adults who normally wear uniforms (e.g., Den Leaders, Scoutmasters, etc.) need to be absolutely letter-perfect in their own uniforming, so as to set the highest example. (Part of our responsibilities is, after all, as role models for the boys and young men in our care.)
Our family’s new to Scouting. Our son is 7 and just joined as a Tiger. As a family, every year we raise money for breast cancer awareness, because our family has been severely affected by breast cancer. Last year, my son raised $1,000 on his own. Is there anything we can do to get the other Scouts involved with us? Most would be happy to, especially if there’s some sort of achievement relating to it. Although I’ve looked and looked and can’t find anything to do with charities, I’m new, so I could have missed something. Please let us know! Thanks! (Lacy Clagg)
The BSA itself is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and, as a Cub Scout member of the Boy Scouts of America, your son (and, likely, your family) will be involved in fund-raising and donations for the BSA, which is totally appropriate. That said, do have a conversation with your pack’s committee chair and see what he or she has to say about your interest. But also keep in mind that sometimes, we don’t need to hand a kid a badge…sometimes we do things purely because we’re Scouts!
Isthere a minimum age or minimum rank requirement for a Scout to be a Den Chief? Wehave a 10 year-old Scout who has been with our troop for a month, and he wants to be a Den Chief at his old pack. Although he doesn’t yet have any Boy Scout experience to share with a den, this Scout is interested in the role and has even signed up for Den Chief Training. His former Cubmaster is fine with this, and actually would like to have his help. What do you think? (Name & Council Withheld)
First, let’s remember that “age 10” really means “pretty close to being 11.” And let’s also remember that, for Tigers, Wolves, Bears, and even first-year Webelos, “teaching Boy Scout skills” isn’t what a Den Chief does. With these understandings, I think this is just about wonderful! There’s no specific age prerequisite to being a Den Chief (although it’s suggested—but only suggested—in the Scoutmaster Handbook that DCs be “older,” there’s no hard-and-fast requirement here). Most Scouts don’t want to be a Den Chief, even though it’s definitely one of the most challenging leadership positions a Boy Scout can tackle. So, in light of this Scout’s desire and enthusiasm, and the known interest by that Cubmaster (and Den Leader too, I’d assume), let’s get out of this Scout’s way, so he can get his training and then go for it!
I’m an advancement coordinator. Am I allowed to wear my “Proud Parent” ribbon on my uniform? (Manuela)
If you can find it in the BSA Insignia Guide, or the “Leader Inspection Sheet,” go for it!
Here’s a link to “spoof merit badges,” for that Scouter who was trying to find them, a while ago. Some are really fun to present as gag awards (but I personally don’t think they belong on an actual sash): www.streamwood.net (Marc Garduno, MC, Far East Council)
These are hysterical! I especially like “Citizenship in the Universe,” and “Finger Carving.”
(I’ve for years thought there should be a real merit badge called “Badge Placement”—Teaches a Scout how to sew, and where to sew stuff on the shirt correctly!
You’re always right on the money<grin> Thanks for providing your magnificent columns. I hope I can one day meet you in person, once Ihang up my military garb and get back home. Take care. YiS. (Marc)
While you’re wearing your military garb–BE SAFE! And come home safely. THANK YOU for your service to our country.
Here’s a simple question that I can’t seem to find an answer to, about the process for completing merit badge requirements. Specifically, is it a BSA policy that a Scout must have a “Blue Card”—filled out by the Scout and signed by the Scoutmaster—in hand before starting work on a merit badge? Everybody I’ve asked thinks yes, and, by extension, merit badge requirements can’t be met by work done prior to starting a merit badge. On the surface this seem reasonable and seems consistent with verbiage like “While a (rank) Scout, take part in …” But is there anything that’s actually official on this and, if so, where can I find it? (Marc Strohwig, SM, Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council, CA)
Couple of years ago, I would have said something like, “Start by taking a look at page 187 of the Boy Scout Handbook (at that time, that would have been the 11th edition). There, you’ll see that a merit badge isn’t begun until the Scout has spoken with his Scoutmaster, obtained a merit badge application (aka ‘Blue Card’), called and then met with his assigned Merit Badge Counselor. This procedure is readily available to be read by every Scout and Scouter.”
But that was yesteryear; not today. Today, I’m going to say: 2011 Boy Scout Requirements (SKU 34765) is the source you want. Swing on over to page 22, and check out the very last sentence in the fourth paragraph: “You should also discuss (with your counselor) work you have already started or possibly completed.” Need verification? OK, then take a look at the two sentences that are boxed and highlighted, also on that same page, at the bottom, that talk about “…the work you have already started or completed.”
However, there’s a leavening process involved in this, as well. Take a look at the second paragraph on page 23, where it further states, “The counselor will…make sure you know your stuff and have done or can do the things required.” This means that, ultimately, the counselor is still the final arbiter, as should be.
For instance, if I were the counselor for Camping, and a Scout came to me with a note from perhaps his Scoutmaster saying that he’d already completed, let’s say, a dozen or so days-and-nights of camping, I’d say OK. But if the note said that all 20 had been completed, then I’d have a serious problem, because I wouldn’t be able to counsel the Scout on the wood skills that make a novice camper into a backwoodsman. This is where I might even tell the Scout that, since he’s not going to learn anything from me, maybe he’d better go find a counselor who’s content with just signing stuff off. (Understand clearly: I have that right, as a counselor.)
OK, let’s try another situation… How about Swimming. If a Scout brings a note stating that he knows and can perform all the required strokes, I’d still have him swim for me, if only because I’m a counselor and I want to impart some of my own knowledge, to help this Scout “polish the chrome” and be an even better swimmer. But if it’s simply that he’s already a First Class Scout, I’m not going to demand that he repeat the swim test.
Now let’s take Communications. The Scout brings a note saying he’s done a five-minute speech (one of the more energetic requirements for this badge). I’ll probably say OK, but I want to see the written speech before I’ll apply my initials, and I’ll absolutely talk with the Scout about the process he went through, the setting of the speech, and his impression of the audience’s reaction. And I’ll probably ask what he’d do differently, or say in a different way, if he could do it over again.
In sum, while it’s perfectly legal to have started or even completed one or more requirements for a merit badge in advance of meeting with the counselor, unless a counselor gets the opportunity to actually counsel, what’s the point? The point of merit badges is for a Scout to gain new skills and/or knowledge under the guidance and tutelage of an experienced and knowledgeable adult. To me (and this is absolutely my own opinion), it’s pointless for a Scout to work in isolation on all of the requirements for a merit badge, using work sheets he’s made or taken from some Internet site, and then go find a counselor to look over the stuff and sign him off. That’s just way too “sterile” for me!
Our troop’s parents committee will shortly be electing a new Scoutmaster, and it’s going to be a very close vote between two Assistant Scoutmasters, each with very different ideas of how the troop should be run. The final vote will likely be swung by just one or two ballots. My questions are: How are votes distributed? Is it one vote per family, per adult present, or per Scout in the troop? Or, if this is at the discretion of the troop, who decides? This is important, because whoever the new Scoutmaster is, he’ll likely be the Scoutmaster for the full duration of my son’s time in Scouting, and I’d like to see the wiser choice prevail. Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)
Scoutmasters aren’t “elected” by anyone. Scoutmasters are appointed. The head of your Chartered Organization (sponsor) or that person’s designate (registered as Chartered Organization Representative), with input from the registered unit committee chair, makes the selection, does the recruiting of the right person, and then encourages that person to take the necessary training for the position. The decision of the COR and chair must be based on one key criterion: Who will best deliver the Scouting program, as it’s written, to the youth members of the unit.
Parents, in general, do not get to decide. And what’s really scary is two individuals with widely differing viewpoints on “how the troop should be run,” because THERE’S ONLY ONE WAY, and if they don’t understand that, then you don’t want either one!
I’ve noticed that there are three different “trained” strips available from the BSA Supply Division… the old red version, the centennial version, and a small red one to fit on the centennial uniform for Cub Scout leaders. Which do I wear on a Venturing uniform shirt? (Adam James, Cradle of Liberty Council, PA)
Which one do you like the looks of the most, when you pin it on and take a look at yourself in the mirror? If you’re going to wear one, then at least make it the one you sorta like, there being no particular hierarchy or specific meaning—overt or hidden—to each or any of these. These are pretty cool and lots of good folks like to wear ’em. I did, for a while, and then, after I’d completed Wood Badge, I decided to take the “trained” strip off and let the Wood Badge speak for itself, it being the highest level of training in the Cub Scout/Boy Scout programs available. On the other hand, when I completed Sea Badge, on one shirt I wear the square knot and on another shirt I wear the pin instead (never both on the same shirt, of course), but I digress… Training is critical to your own sanity, efficiency, and ability to deliver to youth what their handbooks promise to them, so don’t ever feel shy about training and don’t ever delude yourself into thinking you can stop!
I’m currently serving as a troop committee trainer. I was asked about when did the BSA change or drop the left-hand hand shake as a must for any Scout? At a recent court of honor, the Scoutmaster used the left hand while some of the ASMs used their right, claiming that they’d heard at their last position-specific training course for Scoutmasters and assistants that the left-hand handshake has been dropped. What’s the real skinny here? (Mike Czyzewicz, MC)
Look in any—that’s ANY—handbook, from any year in the past hundred, and you’ll find the Scout’s left-handed hand-shake. Those ASMs need a lesson in fundamentals and tradition, and while we’re at it, those trainers needs some fresh training. Your troop’s Scoutmaster needs to straighten out his assistants before their ignorance transfers to others, including the Scouts! The left-handed Scout hand-shake is GLOBAL for goodness sakes!
There are several icons that absolutely and universally say “SCOUT.” They are (not necessarily in this order): The neckerchief, the “Smokey Bear” hat, shorts-with-knee socks, and the left-handed hand clasp.
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..