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Issue 259 – June 10, 2011



National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience

Has your son signed up for this adventure-of-a-
lifetime yet? There’s still time! Go to my April 18th
column, read up on it, and then follow the steps
needed to get your Scout on that course! Do It Now
— You snooze—you lose!


Central Region August 1-5
Northeast Region August 7-11
Western Region (No. California) July 5-9
Western Region (So. California) August 8-12

Several columns ago, I put together a list of movies appropriate for Scouts that teach a solid lesson of one sort or another. Let’s add two more to that list…

Twelve Angry Men,” the original black-and-white, with Henry Fonda, deserves to be at the top of the list, especially these days, because it’s fundamentally about a man who refuses to be intimidated by bullies.

The Pistol-The Birth Of A Legend,” isn’t a western shootemup, it’s the story of the beginnings of basketball great “Pistol” Pete Maravich, and it’s all about goal-setting, vision, dedication, devotion, and discipline. And yes, at 13 years old, Pistol Pete really did play Varsity high school ball…and was the team’s high scorer and star play-maker! This one’s an absolute must for Scout-aged boys!

Dear Andy,

In your June 4th column, one of your readers asked a question about Wood Badge, but being hesitant about it because it includes Sundays. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this was from a member of the LDS Church… So am I! And I have been for over 16 years!

It’s been my experience that council in general will offer “LDS-friendly” Wood Badge courses if they happen to be heavily LDS in membership. When this isn’t the case, it does kind of leave us out in the wind.

Several years ago, President Dahlquist offered guidance that LDS leaders should take Wood Badge training in the first year of their calling (source:

Locally, our Wood Badge class operates on the traditional Friday through Sunday schedule. I really wanted to take this training, so I spoke with my Bishop; he agreed that it was important, and since the training was directly related to my calling, it would be appropriate. Once there, I found that there were several other LDS present (four guys, and two women). Again, I contacted my Bishop, and we received permission to hold our own Sacrament service. I then spoke to our Wood Badge Scoutmaster and Troop Chaplain, explained the situation, and despite a very tight schedule, they made a 15 minute “window” for us to do this, right after the Scouts Own. I hope this helps! (Robert Schleich, ASM, Occoneechee Council, NC)

I’m formerly a volunteer in a west-coast council that was heavily but not dominantly LDS, as were several surrounding councils. Our Wood Badge course was a multi-council, and a three-weekender. Several members of Troop 1 Gilwell and several members of my own patrol were LDS, as were several course staffers, yet we had no problem because we handled things just as you described in your own case!

Moreover, I was a JLTC staffer for any number of years and frequently we had Scouts as well as both adult and youth staff who were LDS, and this was a week-long course at the time. Again, no problems, even when our Senior Patrol Leader was LDS (we later sponsored him to attend NJLIC at Philmont, which is a course that includes a Sunday).

Scouting and the LDS Church have had a close bond since 1912, and there’s certainly no reason why something like this should get in the way… There’s always a work-around when people mutually understand the greater goal!

Dear Andy,

I’ve been a First Class Scout for a year now, and I’m looking to advance to Star. I’ve held numerous leadership positions in my troop that total over four months while I’ve been First Class, but, I’m being told by the adult leaders that a position needs to be held for four consecutive months in order for it to qualify for the requirement. Nowhere in my Boy Scout Handbook or in the Boy ScoutRequirements book does it say consecutive months; it says “four 4 months.” I lost my opportunity to advance last year because my troop doesn’t count the summer months toward tenure-in-position; but since earning First Class rank, I’ve held leadership positions for over eight months in total. What do I do? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)

Of course you’ve got it exactly right. Somebody sure doesn’t know how to read a Boy Scout Handbook or the Boy Scout Requirements book, and it’s not you! If these people don’t get it that there’s absolutely nothing that says those four months must be consecutive, they have to be about as dumb as a sack o’ hammers. This means it’s time for you to go shopping for a new troop. (Try to find one that has an IQ higher than plant life, this time.)

Dear Andy,

One of the requirements (no. 4) for Life Scout rank says, “While a Star Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least 6 hours…These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.” Does this mean that I have to do my own project, or have 6 service hours? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)

It means: 6 hours of service. This can include helping a fellow Scout on his Eagle project, or participating in a troop service project for your sponsor, or taking part in the troop’s annual “Scouting For Food” national service project done by all 300 plus councils across America, or something else entirely. It absolutely does not mean that you’re doing some sort of “Life Scout project,” as if it’s some sort of “early” or “mini” Eagle service project. If that’s what’s being told to you, you need to know that that’s an entirely incorrect reading of this requirement.

Hi, Andy.

My son’s Boy Scout troop is pretty small; only about 15 active Scouts. We recently went through elections for our senior positions and Patrol Leaders, and we’re trying to make sure our Scouts are placed in positions appropriately. Two of our Scouts have expressed an interest in become Instructors. Can or should we have more than one Scout in a position like this? Also, is it possible for a Scout to hold more than one position? We have one Scout, for instance, who wants to be our Bugler, but we really need him to be a Chaplain Aide. Can he be both? (Greg Bourke, Louisville KY

Yes, a Scout can hold more than one position. He could be, for instance, the troop’s Quartermaster and still be an Assistant Patrol Leader, if he wants to (and his Patrol Leader selects him). Or, he could be Bugler (this talent’s pretty rare!) and almost any other position in the troop, including Chaplain Aide, Senior Patrol Leader, and so on, if he wants to. (The key is: does he want to, meaning that just because a troop might need a Scout in a particular position, Scouts are volunteers, too, so if he doesn’t want a particular job, it shouldn’t be foisted on him!) Then, there are situations where wisdom says avoid dual roles, such as being Senior Patrol Leader: This position is so important and so intensive that the Scout in this slot would be foolish to take on anything else (save Bugler, because while it’s a “position of responsibility,” it isn’t a “position of leadership.”)

BTW, I do hope that the Patrol Leader elections were done on a patrol-by-patrol basis! And I also hope your troop has an adult who is the Chaplain, to provide knowledge and guidance to the Chaplain Aide (which is a gentler way of saying: Don’t bother with the Chaplain Aide position unless there’s a troop Chaplain).

Dear Andy,

A Scout asked me about using his Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project to satisfy Family Life merit badge requirement 5, which is to do a family project, since his Eagle project it involved his family.As a general principle, I don’t consider that the same hours or work can be used for more than one requirement, whether for a rank or a merit badge, and in this case I don’t feel it’s in the spirit of Scouting. Thoughts? (Rob & Christine Lane

There’s really no match between the “family project” done to meet the FL req. 5 and an Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project, in either scope or level of planning detail, or—especially—in leadership. So for me (as a former Family Life MBC) the answer would be no. That said, rather than you handing down “Solomon’s Law,” how about asking the Scout to explain to you how the two requirements align. I’m thinking here that this may be a good lesson for this young man in precisely following precise language.

For the record…

Eagle req. 5: “While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community…use the ESLSP Workbook…”

Family Life req. 5: “Plan and carry out a project that involves the participation of your family….discuss…the objective, how individual members of your family participated, (and) the results.”

Dear Andy,

The Sports merit badge includes this requirement: “Take part for one season (or four months) as a competitive individual or as a member of an organized team in two of the following sports: baseball, basketball, bowling, cross-country, field hockey, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, water polo. Your counselor may approve in advance other recognized sports, but not any sport that is restricted and not authorized by the Boy Scouts of America. Then with your chosen sports do the following: a. Give the rules and etiquette for the two sports you picked, b. List the equipment needed for the two sports you chose; describe the protective equipment and appropriate clothing (if any) and explain why it is needed, c. Draw diagrams of the playing areas for your two sports.” Would swimming on a swim team be an individual sport? How about wrestling? (Nigel Andrews)

I’d agree with you that while there certainly are wrestling, swimming, tennis, badminton, track-and-field teams, these are different from teams for baseball, lacrosse, volleyball, football, and so on, where multiple team members of one team are pitted against multiple team members of the opposition. In the first cases, these, to my mind, would be “individual-team” sports, because although the athlete is a member of a team, he competes individually (even in swim medleys, only one team member is active in the lane at any one time!). Wrestling’s the same: just one team member, from each team, on the mat. Just be sure that the sport is “on the list.”

Dear Andy,

As the new Committee Chair for our troop, I have two questions:

Can a Scout earn Eagle too quickly? You see, we have a Scout who’s 13—he joined the troop by earning his Arrow of Light when he was still 10, but that does qualify him o be a Boy Scout. He’s already a Life Scouts and has all but two of the merit badges needed for Eagle. However, his mother is the troop’s advancementcoordinator and also a Merit Badge Counselor for 14 merit badges, while his father is an Assistant Scoutmaster and a Merit Badge Counselor for another 11 merit badges, and the Scout’s earned 17 of his merit badges, so far, with one or the other of his parents. We don’t feel this is honest and even the head of our sponsor is concerned about this aspect.

Can a Scout advance more than a single rank on the same date? We have a Scout who completed Tenderfoot and Second Class on the same date, and First less than two months later. (Name Withheld, Aloha Council, HI)

No Scout can earn Eagle or any other rank “too quickly,” providing the troop assists him in following the requirements as written. It’s definitely possible for a bright, energetic, and focused Scout to complete all requirements for all ranks and accompanying merit badges in just a couple of years, so Eagle at 13 isn’t out of the question at all. Let’s remind ourselves that the Scout’s own handbook tells him that his advancement is up to him! Moreover, among our reasons for volunteering at the troop level should be helping Scouts succeed per their own vision for themselves. Lord knows we praise concert pianists who accomplish this before their teen years, athletes that are pro draft material before they’re out of high school, kids who enter Harvard at age 14, and the list goes on and on. So why, then, do we do an about-face when a young man decides he wants to be an Eagle Scout before he needs to seriously shave? Especially when the BSA national council has no objections to this!

That said, this troop has made and is making a monstrously big mistake by having so many merit badges counseled internally. Again, let’s remind ourselves that one of the two purposes of the Merit Badge program is to connect Scouts with adults whom they don’t know on a regular basis. The ideal, in this regard, is that the Scout earns all of his merit badges from men and women whom he’s never met before! This is where true growth and maturing flourish, along with tons of self-confidence. So, in this troop’s mode of operating, they’re depleting their youth members’ Scouting experiences when the Scouts go to the same few people over and over again… While subject matter is certainly important, where’s the learning as it relates to interpersonal skills? Now one more that we have to deal with: Honesty. “Honesty” cannot be challenged: If a merit badge card has been duly signed by a registered Merit Badge Counselor, that’s it, it’s done and over, and can’t be reviewed or repeated, and this is a BSA policy. Besides, if requirements aren’t followed to the letter by supposedly well-meaning parents, they make a life-time mistake because they’ve just taught their own son that playing by the written rules isn’t necessary. But we’re not in the business of saving children from their own parents! And we’re not “watch-dogs” or, worse, “vigilantes.”

So, while it’s not “illegal” for a Scout to earn one or more merit badges with his parent(s), this troop is way, way off-base in allowing so few individuals to be responsible for so many merit badges! (Frankly? It sounds like a classic case of “Webelos III” and Mommy and Daddy are still “Akela”.) Since we can’t penalize the Scout for what the troop has allowed his parent to inflict on him, we can say “enough.” Change this one dimension and you change the entire nature of advancement—for all Scouts and for the better!

Yes, a Scout can advance more than one rank on the same date, by simply doing his boards of review back-to-back in proper sequence. This, again, is perfectly “legal,” per the BSA (that is, it’s not my “opinion”–it’s per BSA policy).

What you all need to do is to reexamine the overall infrastructure of this troop—not at the boy level but at the adult volunteer level. I get a very strong sense that this troop has been drifting away from Scouting’s True North for some time now, and needs to re-set its sails and realign its rudder. The Committee Chair’s the Skipper. Make it happen!

Hi Andy,

I’m a grandmother who’s going through Cub Scouts again with my grandson. When my own sons were in Cubs in the 80’s and 90’s,as soon asthey hit Webelos, they picked a patrol name (Eagles, Sharks, etc.) and sewed the small round patrol patch on, replacing their den number. Is this still the norm? I don’t seem to see any references to it in the Webelos Handbook. Has this practice fallen out of favor? (Susan)

This may come as a jolt, but what you’re describing was never either “the norm” or “in favor.” It was, in fact, inappropriate, which is probably why you aren’t finding it in your grandson’s handbook. Of course, you’d have had no way to know this, at the time, if you were associated with a pack that set its heading somewhere other than Scouting’s True North. So, stick with the den numerals and the graduates into a troop get to pick their patrol name…when they graduate.

Hi Andy,

Our troop has eleven Scouts, all in one patrol. When is it time to divide into two patrols of five to six Scouts each? (Leonard Willhite, Santa Lucia Area Council, CA)

Now! Don’t wait another minute! You don’t have a troop yet, except in name. Moreover—and, interestingly, most folks really haven’t figured this one out—the essential unit of Boy Scouting is the patrol; it’s not the troop! It’s the patrol because this is where active democracy, up close and personal, actually happens in Scouting.

So, the first thing all the Scouts do is elect their Senior Patrol Leader. At this point, since they’ve all been with the troop for a bit, now, I don’t think I’d put any requirements on being elected, but I would point out that it’s a serious responsibility and so if you want to be a candidate for the slot, raise your hand (but don’t do this if there’s an atmosphere that’s telling you that every Scout might raise his hand!).

OK, now the troop has a Senior Patrol Leader. He’s not in a patrol, so that leaves ten Scouts. With a troop this size, an assistant (aka ASPL) to the Senior is pointless, so don’t waste any time or energy on that.

As soon as the SPL election’s completed, congratulate the Scout and turn the troop over to him (which is done no more than a minute after the election results are tallied). Then, the SPL announces to the remaining Scouts: “Divide yourselves into two groups of five (option: two groups of four to six) Scouts each—and no matter what, every Scout must be in one or the other of the two groups—no ‘strays’.” Then the SPL and you walk away and give the Scouts a few minutes to do this. Take no questions. If they’re dawdling, the SPL announces, “One minute more before I start making assignments.” The Scouts’ll get the message.

Once the two groups are formed (they’re just “groups” at the moment; they haven’t become patrols yet), play a game or give them a challenge that requires all members of each group to do something—no one left out. A simple knot-tying relay will work fine. Then play another game that requires some up-front planning and then collaboration. Kim’s Game is excellent for this. Each game as a winning group, and each winning group gets a prize (a Tootsie Roll for each group member works fine). Now, it’s time for the SPL to tell the two groups to huddle in their own spaces and do two things: (1) Elect a Patrol Leader and then (2) the Patrol Leader chooses his assistant (aka APL). Yes, that’s correct: APLs aren’t elected; they’re appointed by the PLs (if in doubt, go read the Scoutmaster Handbook again). Again, this shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. The SPL asks the groups to send their PL to him, so the PL can report his name and the name of his chosen APL. After writing this down, the SPL gives the two PLs this instruction: “Return to your group and decide what your group’s name will be, plus one alternative name, then report back to me so I can clear it for you” (this heads off names inappropriate for Boy Scouts).

Got that? OK, next step… Now go play some more inter-patrol games, run by the SPL, then call it a night… The Scoutmaster gets his “minute” (which had better last not more than 60 seconds!) and the SPL closes the meeting with the Scout Benediction. Before doing this, however, he asks the two new Patrol Leaders to meet briefly with him after the benediction. Now it gets really interesting! There’s lots and lots to do, but you have a real troop now! HooRah!

(Oh, yeah… Next week, the SPL kicks off the meeting with a uniform inspection! If you don’t look sharp, there’s no way you can be sharp!)

Hello Andy,

Our troop is having a discussion on encouraging more of our older Scouts to attend more outings. The requirement for Star, Life and Eagle says that the Scout has to be active in his troop for a four- or six-month period, depending on the rank. We read that to mean that they need to be actively participating in meetings and outings; however one of our committee members found a definition of “active” on the USSCOUTS website. In the reading of that definition, there is nothing that says a Scout has to attend a meeting at all! So long as the Scoutmaster lets the Scout know about meetings and talks with him four times in the course of a year, the Scout can complete all of his requirements for, say, Star Scout and yet not show up at another meeting for six months, or a year or more, and still earn his next rank the very day he returns! How can that be correct? How can a Scout be “active” while never showing up? Could that possibly be the same for a boy earning Eagle? Has Scouting been watered down so much that a Scout can still be considered active even though he never shows up for anything? (Dave Zeller)

Yes, I understand that the BSA’s definition of “active” appears to be a conundrum. To solve it, we first need to understand that, as written, those statements are correct, not by accident, and subject neither to “interpretation” nor to a troop deciding to apply any sort of numerical or percentage rubric. The second thing we need to remind ourselves of is that Scouting is purposefully the most flexible and accommodating of all youth-oriented groups, movements, or associations; compared to, let’s say, sports teams, or orchestras and bands, often for which total attendance at practices or rehearsals is fundamental to remaining on the team or ensemble. The reason underlying Scouting’s different philosophy about this is simple and transparent: Scouting is a volunteer movement and the primary volunteers are the youth themselves. Our objective here is not to police their attendance but to praise it and to offer programs that are so stimulating that young people want to attend and do so, but not because they “must,” as in other organizations. Finally, no Scout actually “advances” by doing “nothing.” Even if he’s missing meetings or outings and may appear “invisible,” we need to open our eyes further and see that he’s still working on the necessary merit badges with multiple Counselors across a variety of Scouting-related subjects and activities; he’s carving out specific amounts time per rank to service projects; he’s functioning successfully in a position of responsibility; and he’s devoting significant time and energy to planning and leading the carrying out of his service project for Eagle rank. These factors make any statement to the effect that “the Scout’s doing nothing” considerably off the mark, relative to the world of the Scout himself.

So, although “active” often becomes a misinformed troop’s “ambush” for Scouts aspiring to Eagle rank, please resist the temptation to blind-side him in his final push to the top of the advancement mountain. It’s steep and challenging enough without the troop’s adult volunteers adding some further aspect on which the BSA national advancement standards are purposefully silent.

Thank you for the response and the information and while our troop will certainly follow the guidelines, I fundamentally disagree on this aspect. The outdoor code and experience, in my opinion, is so interwoven into Scouting that I find it hard to believe that the organization feels that a boy is a shining example of the highest rank that they can achieve in Scouting without attending one outdoor activity after the time that they become a First Class Scout. Certainly we hope to make our outings attractive to him and will encourage him to attend, to put into practice the skills we seem to deem so important and to give him the opportunity to show his leadership skills in a setting that might be more unpredictable than in a sheltered planned meeting. It just shocks me to think that the Scouting organization would not put more importance on the need to experience these things as well. Has it always been like this or is this a more recent change? I know that when I inform my dad of this (he was a Scout) he’ll be in shock and disbelief as well.

I do understand your feelings, and I offer the following for you to consider… “Shining example” can often be hyperbole, and potentially misleading. If a mountaineer ascends K2, the Matterhorn, or even Everest, that person isn’t considered “a shining example of mountaineering.” What’s considered is that this person accomplished a significant task that most have not. In other words, the person met the requirements of the task. Eagle Scouts do the same: They become such when they complete all the requirements… not when they’re coronated or anointed.

If a Scout has had “no outdoor activities” since First Class, how did he earn Camping merit badge, which requires 20 days and nights of camping? How did he emcee a campfire, learn to swim and/or hike with strength, or learn about our environment, the rudiments of First Aid, how our towns, country, and the world are governed? Nuff sed.

Moreover, outdoor activities are the “bait” Scouting uses to entice boys to join and stay with the program. Outdoor activities are a tool for teaching good citizenship, character development, and physical and mental strength. Nothing less, but certainly nothing more. Scouting is not in the business of creating consummate outdoorsmen, contrary to considerable mistaken belief. Remember that the outdoor program is one of eight methods of Scouting; advancement being another one of the eight.

Your father may or may not be “shocked” but I can assure you that your great-grandfather wouldn’t be. This aspect is likely no different from in his day and is actually more stringent than it was when Eagle (originally called a “merit badge”) was first created in 1911. At the outset, the ranks beyond First Class—Life, Star, and Eagle—required only the earning of additional merit badges; nothing more. Later, additional requirements came into play, and still later, tenure-in-rank was added. So no, Scouting’s advancement program hasn’t been “watered down” (or “dumbed down” either, for that matter).

The above are facts; not my opinion, and they derive from the BSA; not me. My personal opinion is that while Eagle is a significant milestone in a young man’s life and often considered a rite of passage, the unfortunate albeit perhaps unintended consequence of elaborate Eagle-only courts of honor is that we treat the rank as tantamount to the Medal of Honor, when it’s not. It’s an earned rank than any Scout with moxie and sticktoitiveness can accomplish and, should not be treated as anything more or less than what it is.

Finally, let’s remember that Scouting, while steeped in tradition, is none the less evolutionary… This is how such big concepts as the Order of the Arrow, Cub Scouting, Sea Scouts, Air Explorers, and, more recently, Venturing came to be, and also how the ranks of Scouting have seen their requirements transition as each new generation straps on his uniform. Heck, by the time I’d made First Class, I’d learned to send and receive Morse Code, tracked an animal for a quarter-mile, opened and maintained a savings account, learned to read trail signs and followed them for a half-mile, stalked another Scout for a half-mile without being spotted, could find True North in the day and the night without a compass, and where are those requirements today?

Dear Andy,

Our troop’s chartered organization won’t agree to register a trailer that we need to purchase to accommodate a growing (52 Scouts) troop. Other troops in our district that I informally surveyed have had some of their leaders form an LLC in order to register. Do you have any advice on this matter? Obviously, there’s also the matter of insurance, which must be in place first before the State of Connecticut will register the trailer. We’ve considered leaving this sponsor for another that would be more willing to register trailers, provide us a suitable meeting space, be more involved, and perhaps tender some monetary support for certain things like NYLT. (John Dyckman)

I’ve asked around, just enough to say that your best bet is to contact your own council’s risk management committee. Locally, a troop that has one enclosed equipment trailer and two canoe trailers registers these through one of their long-time troop committee members, who simply uses his address and social, but simply writes “Troop XXX” on the state registration form.

Hi Andy,

The whole cell phone issue is one I’ve pondered for a couple of years. I’ve yet to find a written BSA policy on it, and I’ve witnessed lots of troops struggle and wander from left to right and back again, trying to work out their own policies. I’m thinking, however, that maybe these little electronic wonders can be used for teaching moments or learning experiences.

For instance, how about a Patrol Leader who’s trying to maintain his patrol members’ attention on a campout, due to their using electronic devices, so he rises to the occasion and successfully makes his plea for courtesy, in a courteous fashion.

Or a patrol that’s hiked over a mountain strengthens their bond at their campsite with a few members doing a “show” to music played from an iPod, with battery-powered speakers.

A patrol admits that they didn’t complete a rank requirement because they were distracted by one patrol member’s new cell phone, and they resolve to maintain focus on this requirement at the next hike, and then they complete it with some peer coaching like, “Put that away! We’ve gotta get through this!”

A Scout loses his phone and earns his own money to replace it. Along the way, he recognizes the futility and high cost for a premium phone and buys one within his means.

Patrol members text each other to plan the date of a patrol meeting at a member’s house.

A Scout correctly demonstrates using a cell phone to call 9-1-1 in a First Aid skit, including the proper way to relay pertinent information to the operator.

A couple of Scouts realize the foolishness of texting for hours past bedtime and have a rough time the next morning. The Scouts voluntarily shut down their phones the next night.

A Patrol considers the necessity of their pack contents, opts out of individual cell phones & designates only two Scouts to carry cell phones (one for back-up).

While these moments can certainly happen without electronics, the fact is they still happen with electronics, and electronics are here to stay. There are still camping places where cell phones don’t have coverage, and that provides its own teachable moment.

To emphasize another point, when I was growing up the rule in my house was no music playing while doing homework, while my wife had no such rule. To this day, I am amazed at how much more productive she is with the music on, whereas I have to concentrate more, to maintain focus. I want Scouts to learn how to manage commonplace distractions before they go off to a college dorm or an industrial work environment, where the consequences are more severe. (Chris Boix, MBC, Connecticut Rivers Council)

Yes, these electronics do present opportunities such as you describe. And yes, you’re not likely to find a BSA policy on cell phones and the like. However, I could make the same case for surface-to-air missiles, and I also won’t find any BSA policies on SAMs, either. Of course, I’m deliberately being silly. I simply don’t want to have to deal with cell phones and the like. I don’t want to write a rule book about them; I don’t want the PLC to spend otherwise productive planning time discussing how to handle them, and I don’t want to deal with parents who will invariably find exceptions to the so-called rules, and lastly I don’t want to have an “open troop” with regard to all electronics (after all, why single out just one type of device.

What I might consider doing is permitting cell phones that have only one function: They can place and receive phone calls; they can’t do anything else (e.g., they don’t have a built-camera). But see, if I go this route, somebody’s gonna say, well, what about cameras? Are they “illegal” now, too? and the whole thing starts to go right down the tubes. So, opportunities or not—and I do believe I can find many other teaching opportunities and learning moments—if I were a Scoutmaster or Committee Chair, my response to cell phones would be: No. And my follow-up to any argument at all, any rationale at all, any “what if…” or “what about…” at all, would be: You’ll need to find your son another troop, where you’ll be happier, because even though your son seems pretty happy here, you’re not, and that can be fixed by simply transferring your son to some troop that does things more to your liking.

But that’s me… Having just downed a large beaker of curmudgeon juice I’m feeling ornery at the moment…

Hi Andy,

Our troop’s now-former old Scoutmaster was removed because he clashed with some parents, there was a general lack of planning for troop meetings and camp-outs, and a lot of boys just quit because the whole troop was boring.

Despite lots of positive stuff going on, we have a parent-Scout pair that’s becoming more difficult by the day. Seems that nothing the troop ever does pleases either one of them. The mother’s been on the troop committee for two years but she’s done nothing in that time, and now what to be an Assistant Scoutmaster. Meanwhile, I’m wearing two or three “hats” on the committee and knocking myself out!

Anyway, a couple of days ago she “accidentally” sent an email to me that was meant for her husband. I didn’t respond to it, but I did discuss it with our troop’s Committee Chair. The message made disparaging remarks about the Scoutmaster (my husband) and then about both of us. We’re shocked to learn that she thinks so little of us and what we’ve done to create a vibrant program in such a short time. I’m confident that if she realizes she accidentally sent me that email she’ll pull her son out of the troop! Do I just continue pretending I didn’t read it? Do I talk with her about what she wrote? Then I ask myself, WWAD? So that’s why I’m writing. (Name & Council Withheld)

Consider returning the email message with a brief note that simply says, “I believe this was intended for someone else.” That’s it. Nothing else. And nothing in-person, either. It’s been returned; end of story.

Next, two things need to happen with this parent. The Chartered Org. Rep. and Committee Chair need to take her aside, thank her for her services to the troop, and tell here that they’ll no longer be needed, effective immediately. Then, these two people along with the Scoutmaster need to inform her that while you all appreciate her interest in an Assistant Scoutmaster position, that’s simply not going to happen, now or at any time in the foreseeable future. (If she threatens to “pull” her son out of the troop if she doesn’t get what she wants, she’ll have identified herself as the bully she truly is, and your only possible response is to present a 100% united front and tell her that no boy is in any way “married” to any troop, and in fact you agree that her son would probably be happier in a different troop, so you’ll be providing a transfer form for him, along with his advancement records promptly, and will mail them within the next day or so.)

As for your own “two or three hats,” it’s the Committee Chair’s job to take them off your head before they all topple by themselves. Tell the CC what you’re willing to continue doing, and what you’re not, so that you and the CC can reach an agreement that these “extras” will be removed from you right away, and other volunteers will be found and recruited. In this regard, the best way to recruit a new parent volunteer is for the CC and CR to sit down with the parent, describe two jobs that need to be done, and then ask which one of the two he or she would prefer. If it’s “neither,” the response is, “I’m afraid that’s not possible; this is a volunteer-supported program and without your help the program we’re trying to offer your own son will suffer. We can’t really believe that you want to see that happen, or are we mistaken?” Then see where the conversation goes…

With regard to getting volunteers, I saw a superb Cubmaster-Committee Chair team tell pack parents that certain pack events needed champions, to make them happen, recruit others to help, and so on… The list included, among other events, the annual Pinewood Derby. They asked for a champion. No parent spoke up. They turned to the chalkboard on which “Pinewood Derby” had been written, and they erased it. Parents immediately got agitated and started asking, “Where’s the Derby?” “You don’t mean you’re not having it?” The team replied, “We said that events like these happen for your sons when there are champions to make them happen, and we just asked you to step up and take this one. No one spoke up, so that says very clearly that you don’t want a Pinewood Derby for your sons this year. Did we miss something here?” Well, you know the rest of the story… Yes, a couple of parents who figured out that, just because none of the parents would do it didn’t mean that the Cubmaster and/or CC would automatically pick up the pieces, raised their hands and took the job. (Sometimes folks need to know that you really do mean what you say.) Well, that’s probably more than enough. Try to separate out your issues, rather than trying to deal with them all at once. Think like a smoke-jumper: You can only douse one fire at a time!

Dear Andy,

With the advent of Facebook, we often know too much about some of our Scouts these days. We know when they’re sneaking posts during school, cheating on tests, sneaking electronics into campouts, and so on.

I’m a District Commissioner, and I have a multitude of Scouts who have “friended” me on Facebook because I’m very present at many of our district’s functions and the Scouts know me either personally, or as “that Scout guy who stands up and gives out awards and trophies.” Twice now, I’ve had Scouts post such troubling things on their pages that I’ve clicked on their profiles to see what it says about them. Both times, the “info” button has revealed that the posts are consistent with their info provided…that they’re atheists. In both cases, they posted their distain for religion out in the open and listed their religion as “atheist” on their “info” screen.

I know these Scouts personally; they happen to be in my son’s troop. They’re both nice boys, although both are sarcastic and a bit cynical about everything; however, I’m guessing my liking or disliking them is pretty irrelevant to the larger picture. The question is: What do we do when we’re made aware of an issue like this? One of these young men, an Eagle Scout, is now 19 and both an active Venturer and an Assistant Scoutmaster. The other is 17, a Life Scout working on his Eagle. I’ll be sitting on his Eagle board of review and he’d better have a really good explanation about this atheism stuff or he’ll never make Eagle as long as I’m here. (Name & Council Withheld)

My call on this: Don’t ever “friend” anyone who’s a minor and don’t go looking in any Scout’s profile. In fact, stay off Facebook altogether, if you’re able. And consider “un-friending” any Scout who’s presently in your profile. But at the very least: Don’t friend Scouts and don’t accept Scouts as friends. For reasons why you need to chill on this, let’s start here: You make yourself way too vulnerable for one-on-one stuff which you know isn’t cool and which you know can bring big accusations, and your counter-argument of “well, it’s all in public” won’t stand a chance if some irate mother decides to put you in the cross-hairs.

Second, you absolutely need to stay away from kids’ “public faces”—that’s the way they choose to present themselves to their peers, so they can be perceived as cool and accepted. If one of your Scouts has a friend in high school or his neighborhood or whatever who says he’s into skin-head devil-worship anti-organized government anarchy, what do you think that kid’s going to do in his own profile if he wants to “fit in” and get accepted by this leader-of-the-moment? That’s exactly right: He’s going to try to match his own profile to his online role-model as best he can (and still feel comfortable). So you can wind up with a “professed Facebook atheist” who’s an acolyte every Sunday morning!

Bottom line: Leave it alone and get out of there. This is not your turf or territory.

Last item: You’re going to “challenge” a Scout on something like this in a board of review and he “better have something good to say”? It sounds to me like you’re going in with a prejudicial point of view, and not neutral, and on that basis alone, if I were the chair of the review, I’d give you the opportunity to recuse yourself.

Happy Scouting!



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June 10, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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.

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