About a year ago I wrote to you about my son’s Cub Scout pack that blatantly refused to follow BSA stipulations regarding program delivery.Your advice to me was to take my son, and any other families that felt the same way, and transfer out.
At first I didn’t take your advice, hoping instead that somehow this pack would change when the then-current Cubmaster and Committee Chair retired. It was only after seeing that, despite these “retirements” no change was going to happen. That’s when my own and twelve other pack families decided to transfer to another local pack.
Please tell your readers that although they might be apprehensive about transferring, even when they know they’re somehow in a maverick unit, our families have never regretted it! Our new pack’s membership has doubled in the last year and we’re described as a “model pack” by our District Executive. So here’s my advice to anyone considering transferring: Don’t be afraid of change—it may be the best decision you can make for your son andyou. And one other thing: When you ask Andy for advice, you’ll be well-served to use what you’ve asked for! (John MacKinnon, Los Padres Council, CA)
I’m delighted your story is having a happy ending, and a great future!
What determines the orientation of the two stars found under the eagle’s wings on the Boy Scout fleur-de-lis symbol? In some cases I see them with a single point “up” (as on the American flag), and in some I see them rotated so that a single point is pointing down. Any ideas on that? (Clay Riales, ASM, Tidewater Council, Norfolk, VA)
Nothing in particular determines the orientation of the stars other than, seemingly, the era in which the emblem is from… There’s no significance that I’m aware of to be attached to what’s commonly called (at least among collectors) as “point up” and “point down” stars. No matter the orientation, they still mean truth and knowledge! That said, if I’ve got a knowledge gap here, and one of you collectors can add some better, more accurate, or more detailed information, I’d sure appreciate hearing from you!
My son recently crossed over from Webelos to Boy Scouts. While he was a Cub Scout, he earned his Whittlin’ Chip. We were told he will earn his Totin’ Chip at Boy Scout camp this summer. Is it OK for him to bring his pocket knife to camp, even though he hasn’t earned his Totin’ Chip yet? Can his Whittlin’ Chip “cross over” to Boy Scouts with him until his Totin’ Chip is earned? (Jen Haubrich, Cornhusker Council, NE)
(Your son earned the Whittlin’ Chip as a Bear Cub Scout.) Yes, I’d say he should definitely bring his pocket knife with him, along with a sharpening stone (they’re also called whetstones and if you don’t buy one at the Scout shop, most hardware stores carry them), and his “Chip.” Then, when he gets to camp, he goes to the Scoutcraft Area and tells ’em he wants to earn his Totin’ Chip. At least that’s how it was done when I was a Scoutmaster, so check with your son’s Scoutmaster before camp, OK? (I’m thinking: How can a Scout practice safely using and sharpening his knife if it’s at home!)
Life rank req. 4 states: “While a Star Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least 6 hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster.” Does this mean I have to do my own project or does it mean that I need to have 6 service hours? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld)
It means 6 hours of service. This can include one or more along the lines of helping a fellow Scout on his Eagle project, participating in a troop service project for your sponsor, 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”—an earlier version of an Eagle service project! That would be an entirely incorrect reading of this requirement.
Do you know where the new National Outdoor Award is to be worn? Since it has all of the segments I’d vote for above the right pocket, but I’m afraid that you’re going to tell me it’s to be centered on the right pocket and then our troop’s moms will be upset because they have to take the pocket off each time to sew a new segment on. So what’s it going to be? Are you going to make me smile or make the moms upset with me? (Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)
Not counting the BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA strip that comes already sewn on the shirt, except for interpreter strips and VENTURE (for a member of a Venture patrol), the only badges permitted above the right pocket are Jamboree (national or world—not both), and then only one. The NOA and its segments are in the “temporary” category, which really means, “at the wearer’s discretion,” so that puts it centered squarely on the right pocket. To verify this, just look on the inside front cover of any handbook.
Moms need to know that that shirts looking like “Charlie Christmas Tree” aren’t really all that cool, and they also need to accept that just because a badge has been earned doesn’t mean it gets sewn on someplace that doesn’t have a patch yet! Life is a series of decisions…even decisions about which badge we want to wear on our right shirt pocket! (It’s a good lesson in prudence, too.)
We have a new Scout just joining our troop, and his family raises horses. He hopes to go for the Horsemanship merit badge right away, as he works through his early ranks.For earning that badge, would the parent be accepted as a mentor for it…as someone with expertise that none of us in our small troop has? One of ourASMs is already a registered Merit Badge Counselor for Animal Science, so if we added Horsemanship to the list of merit badges he can oversee, with theexpress consultation provided by this horse breeder, would that be acceptable, or do we have to getone of the parents to sign up as a Horsemanship Counselor?(Jan Kimbrell, CC, Coronado Area Council, KS)
Since there’s no such thing as a merit badge “mentor” and only a Merit Badge Counselor qualified by way of vocation, avocation, education, etc. to counsel a specific merit badge can sign the “blue card,” how about getting his dad or mom to sign on with the BSA and local council as a Merit Badge Counselor for Horsemanship. This takes just two rather simple applications and there’s no annual fee for MBCs, ever. Besides, this gentleman may well be interested in counseling other Scouts for this merit badge, so now there are even more “wins”!
The only drawback here is that there’s a bit of reluctance in our area (Kansas) to put Social Security numbers down and undergo the background check. We know this really isn’ta reasonable objection, but it’s a realistic assessment of how folks around here react. It’s been a struggle to get new people to sign on, and we’ve had many, many turn-downs for precisely these reasons. Mostly our ASMs, our Scoutmaster, and I are signed up as Merit Badge Counselors, but we did secure a banker, an accountant, and a YMCA director this year.
I understand the reluctance on the social and background check (your neighborhood hardly has an “exclusive” on this!), so the next time somebody balks, try this: “Interesting point, so let me ask you something… How would you be feeling if you knew that the adults who take your son and his friends into the woods, camping, have also refused a background check?” Then wait for the “pregnant silence” and add, “So, if you don’t want to be checked, just like all of us have been checked out, that’s OK—it’s always an individual choice. But just so there are no misunderstandings here, we don’t let people who refuse to do this have any sort of direct contact with the Scouts in this troop, and that’s a national policy of the Boy Scouts.”
Yes, it sounds like “hard ball,” and that’s because there’s a limit to how much of this stuff we have to listen to, especially when we know that the sole purpose is to protect our own kids!
On another point you may want to consider: When Scoutmasters and ASMs are the primary Merit Badge Counselors, fifty percent of the purposes of the merit badge program will be denied the Scouts in the troop, and that’s just a cold-hearted fact. So good for you, for reaching out and recruiting new faces that the Scouts won’t necessarily know from attending troop meetings!
I’m the Committee Chair for a Cub Scout pack. We’re a new pack —just five months old. To help us get started a man who’d been a Cubmaster at another pack nearby offered to be Cubmaster for our pack even though he has no sons either in the pack or attending the school on which the pack’s youth membership is based. He, apparently, resigned from the other pack in order to be Cubmaster here… Perhaps I should have seen this as a “caution” sign back then, but we agreed to bring him on board because he had experience that we didn’t.
To date, all of the Cubs’ parents have been so pleased with our efforts, and we’re now working towards our pack meeting later this month, that will culminate our first “year” with advancement ceremonies. But earlier today, this gentleman who’s the Cubmaster sends out a broadcast email message to our Den Leaders and the all committee members in which he has “graded” our “performance” in managing the pack. In sum, it is a negative review with significant criticism of the job we’ve all been doing. A lot of our volunteers are upset to the point where I’ve reached out to our Unit Commissioner for guidance. At this point, his “report card” on us is in distribution and the negative remarks can’t be recalled. I believe he overstepped his role’s boundaries and did so without consulting the Committee Chair (me), adding insult to the injuries. Can you offer any guidance here? (Kayleen Maya-Aviles, San Gabriel Valley Council, CA)
My guidance is: Fire him. As Committee Chair, with the support of the Chartered Organization Representative, you can and should do this immediately. The “Scouting year” is almost ended and you probably have just this one remaining pack meeting before the summer, so between you and the Den Leaders, I’m sure you all can run a 60-minute gathering in which the Cubs get the spotlight and the parents get to see their sons advance in rank, receive belt loops, perhaps Arrow Points, and so on! Have a fun meeting, and be sure to have refreshments afterwards!
As far as this about-to-be-former Cubmaster is concerned, all you need to tell him (you don’t do this alone, and you don’t use email!) is: “Thank you for your services up till now.We’ve progressed far and won’t be needing your services any longer.Best wishes in whatever you decide to do next.” That’s it. It’s over.He can’t go to “a higher power” to be reinstated because there isn’t any! (Unless he’s buddies with the head of your sponsoring organization, which is the only person who might reverse this—so get that person on your side, too!)
Ask your Unit Commissioner and District Executive for help, too. They know how to do this, where for you it’s going to be a “first time.”
Here’s the fundamental problem, which you may remember from the training you all took: The Cubmaster reports to the Committee Chair, always and no exceptions. He didn’t follow that rule and he knows it (trust me on that last point).
Troops want to recognize Scouts’ advancements as rapidly as possible—in keeping with the BSA advancement program—and at the same time local councils’ Scout shops are pretty handcuffed when it comes to providing rank badges and such in the absence of troops turning in the corresponding advancement reports. If somebody from the troop can get to the shop and back in the time between the boards of review and the next troop meeting, there’s no problem. But logistics, geography, and work schedules don’t always make this easy. Moreover, there are many troops who would really like to be able to present at least rank badges to the advancing Scouts before the troop meeting closes, but there’s no easy way to build up an inventory of badges for this purpose. So what to do?
For troops that hold boards of review before or in conjunction with troop meetings, why not purchase the metal rank pins in advance, instead of the patches? Most Scout Shops ask for the advancement report only when a troop is buying the patches, so buy the pins instead, and these can go right on the left pocket right then and there (with no sewing!), and the cloth badges can replace the pins at a later date. (Scout Shop Manager’s Name & Council Withheld)
Simple, non-volatile, non-confrontational, efficient—Thanks for the tip!
I appreciated your suggestion about the Star Scout whose mom wanted him to take NYLT as part of helping him mature. As a loyal reader, I see some common themes in the letters you get. This mom’s letter is yet another example showing that one of the biggest challenges we have as Scouters is to see beyond the boy as he is today and see the young man he hasn’t yet become. If this boy benefits from NYLT, then the reality is that everyone he’s around will benefit from the new person he will have become. My son’s troop has a number of sixth graders and older Scouts who at times are out of control (my own son being one of them). I suggested to our Scoutmaster that he has two possible paths with these unruly boys. He can continue to view them as the screwballs they’ve been up till now, and continue to just treat the symptoms, or he can give them a leadership position with clearly defined responsibilities and equally clearly articulated changes in their behavior that will be necessary for them to be successful in those positions. We discussed how, over the past year, these Scouts have been treated as if they’re screwballs, and they lived up to our expectations, so that if we continue on this path, so will they! But if we can give them the opportunity to be different, and treat them as though they’d already succeeded, then perhaps there’s a chance that there will be a true change.
As a result of these conversations, several of those Scouts, including my son, will begin serving as Instructors to the new fifth grade Scouts who just joined our troop. Each Instructor will be buddied up with a new Scout, whom he’ll be expected to teach and mentor. Now an Instructor’s role is perhaps not as glamorous or demanding as Patrol Leader or Senior Patrol Leader, but to become one of these requires election, and election is often based on performance, so here’s the chance! It’s also a way to keep their energy aimed in a positive direction —helping a new Scout get to First Class—and hopefully will be challenging without being too demanding on boys who’ve never led before. We’ll see… (Bob Elliott, UC, Northern Star Council, MN-WI)
I do believe you’re on to something… If we respond and react to the boy as he is, he’ll remain as he is; if we treat him as the Scout we know he can be, he can now catch hold of that vision and rise to become it! B-P put it something like this: “The Scoutmaster’s job is to find the good in every boy, and then bring it out in him. It’s there, only to be caught hold of and brought out.”
If we give a Scout a task, and do so in such a way as to let him know that we already have every confidence in his success, he’ll succeed. If not, then the reverse will be just as true.
I’m a Den Leader in a relatively small town. There are currently three packs in our town. We have Cub Roundup this coming weekend and I just don’t know what to think about the way it’s being organized. This is primarily because all three packs hold their roundup together. I think it’s fairer this way but I just wonder about the logistics. I really like the Cub Roundup plan but how would it work with three packs involved? Apparently, there was some strange animosity among the packs before my son joined, and I don’t want to be a part of that. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions concerning this matter? It just feels like a competition of sorts and I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but maybe I’m wrong. (Name & Council Withheld)
I don’t really know about “fairness” in a multiple-pack recruiting event such as you’ve described. Most Cub Scout packs have their pack meetings at grammar schools, and new Cub families usually gravitate to the pack that meets at their son’s own school. Is this your situation, or is it different in some way?
Actually, only one of our packs meets at the grade school. Our recruitment was this past weekend and it was held at the fire house. It ended up creating some hurt feelings. All three packs met in the firehouse and put out their displays. We encouraged parents and kids to visit all three displays and make their decisions afterward. All three packs had very nice displays.A lot of our Cubs were there in uniform to answer any questions potential new Cubs might have. Our own pack had a good leader turnout. After the event, the leaders from the two other packs asked how many new boys we signed up. They then made negative comments about our display and said it wasn’t fair (we had set up a mock campsite with tents and things). Before the event, several of the leaders in our pack talked with leaders of the other packs and expressed an interest in occasional joint activities with them. We really wanted to convey a positive attitude about Scouting and open up communication. Looking back, I think I dislike the idea of having a combined recruitment day. It turned into a competition. I would really appreciate your thoughts, because in the fall our council has all three packs doing their recruitment together again. If there’s some way to organize it better, or to make it less competitive, I know I, for one, would like it better. (N&CW)
If all three packs are indeed “sharing” the same venue for a recruiting event, then I’m thinking that you all need to collaborate and partner for the event itself. To keep the playing field level, I’d suggest that all three packs put on a shared “This Is Cub Scouting” demonstration and display, which is directed at all of the visiting boys and their parents and doesn’t distinguish between one pack or another. Then, afterward, parents can be told where each pack meets during the year, so that folks can pick the pack that’s most convenient to where they live, or where their son goes to school. Let’s remember that den meetings are often the driver, because people will want to be in their own neighborhoods as much as possible.
Everyone needs to put at the front of their minds that the overall objective here is to enroll as many new boys as you all possibly can, and that this is no place for criticism, rancor, or sniping at one another. Besides, that sort of behavior isn’t exactly Scout-like, is it? Time to walk the talk, folks!
I’ve been reading your column for a few years now, and I’ve gone back and read all of the past issues. There’s a lot of help in them! In your June 10th column, there was a question about Webelos patrol versus den. I must admit that mine did the patrol patch, in the belief that it’s correct. My information’s from
That’s correct: It’s not a policy. It’s an option. Says so right there in the answer. My own Webelos Den (Yup, I was a WDL!) chose to stay with their number, which they’d had from “day one” and refused to give up… You see, it meant as much to them as any name! If you think a number can’t carry the same gravitas as a name, just ask any G.I. from the 7th Cav, or the 101st, or the Fighting 69th, and that list goes on and on!
Several Scouters have written to me about this one, so let’s go on record: Converting to a patrol, with a name, is absolutely “legal” for a Cub Scout den to do once they’ve reached the Webelos level…If they choose to. It’s not mandatory; their original number can stay with them right up to graduation (in some packs, den numbers like these are often “retired” in the same way that The Bambino’s 3 is retired). Converting to a patrol name isn’t necessarily “the norm,” however, which is the point the writer raised and to which I responded—she didn’t ask me what’s “policy” and so I didn’t address that at that time. However, since a bunch of readers thought I had, I figured I’d better make this point clear, here and now.
My own preference is to stick with the number and let the patrol name, yell, flag, and emblem come naturally when they become Boy Scouts. But over all the most important thing for us all to keep in mind is that the seminal unit of Boy Scouting is indeed the patrol!
I’ve read your June 10th response about a Scout earning more than one rank on the same date. We ran into this ourselves a while back and ended up calling the BSA national office. They told us this was not allowed, but that one day apart was OK. (David Harkey)
I regret to say that whoever the “they” was, that made that statement will not be able to back it up with anything in writing by the BSA. This is pretty rare, but it can happen (we’re all only human, or we wouldn’t be on this planet!). What is, in fact, not permitted is the combining of more than one rank in an individual Scout’s board of review, and this is indeed in writing as a BSA advancement procedure. The BSA’s writings on advancement, to date, are silent on conducting a board of review for one rank, concluding it, and then convening and conducting a board of review for a second rank.
My son is a Star Scout working on Life. What is the policy on the six month leadership requirement? Do the six months need to be consecutive?
I’m asking because my son earned Star after serving four months as a Patrol Leader. He then served out the remaining two months of his term, then he took six months off for sports, following which, four months ago he started a new position as ASPL. So, has he now completed the six months by adding up the two months as Patrol Leader and the past four months as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, or does he need two more months in the ASPL slot to qualify for tenure in position, because the time needs to be consecutive months? I can’t find any documentation stating either way. Is this up to the troop, district, council…? I’d appreciate your help in understanding how this works. (Greg Stocking, ASM, Occoneechee Council, NC)
The BSA says “six months” in “one or more…” There’s no mention of either “consecutive” or “single position.” Which means that months can certainly be added together and when they total for for Star or six for Life and Eagle, the tenure’s complete. Same with positions. There’s nothing whatsoever that says it must be in a single position. In fact, the Eagle application itself has lines for writing in more than one position, and that should be “proof” enough for anyone!
I’ve been following your column for a while and want to underscore the value of the advice you’ve given that I, frankly, ignored for a while. Maybe my story will save another Scouter or Scout a lot of time and misery (although there is a happy ending here)…
My son came from a very well-run pack with strong adult volunteerism and a very tight-knit group of boys that bridged up together to Boy Scouts from Webelos II. Since the pack’s chartered organization also sponsored a troop, this made a fairly logical choice. Unfortunately, I did almost no homework on the troop, and overlooked the fact I hardly knew anything about the chartered organization, even after several years with the pack.
Turns out the Scoutmaster was new at his post but an easygoing chap. He knew I had some experience so he asked me to be an ASM and I agreed, completed basic training, and suited up.
It soon became apparent that the troop was struggling. No meeting program, no long-range planning, no patrols, no Scout leadership, no Order of the Arrow involvement, partial uniforms and then only for boards of review and courts of honor, and little adult training beyond the most basic. Meetings consisted of ad hoc advancement for the older Scouts or the entire troop with concurrent committee meetings at the back of the room. On all occasions, adults were the driving force in program content, including doing Eagle projects and merit badges during the meetings. The Scouts met at a third-party location (not the property of the chartered organization) and the troop was on a year-to-year lease with provisions for fines of $50 per incident whenever the landlord was dissatisfied with the grounds-keeping. Since the troop was often broke, the treasurer was paying these fines (fairly regularly) out of his own pocket so that the Scouts wouldn’t lose their hut because of a missed week of mowing. The actual chartered organization had almost zero contact with the troop and the Scoutmaster had literally never met the Chartered Organization Representative. Their support consisted of a check on Scout Sunday every year, to be split with the pack. They said that they had no knowledge of the problems with the meeting place and the troop’s landlord.
Needless to say, the new Scouts where pretty disappointed and right away started dropping like flies. Some of the old pack leaders asked me to consider forming a new troop or looking into rechartering this unit elsewhere, before their sons quit, too, but I naively assumed that all this was fixable if I just put my back into it. I approached both our District Commissioner and District Executive and asked for help, but no Unit Commissioner was not available. I boned up by reading lots of BSA publications and started footnoting all of my ideas with BSA policy. Things started to look up. The troop eventually did split into patrols and a new-Scout patrol was formed. I conducted TLT which led to the first Patrol Leaders Council in anyone’s memory, and a return to wearing our uniforms. In the course of this progress the Scoutmaster and Committee Chair seemed genuinely willing to make further positive changes and I got a chance to actually meet our Chartered Organization Representative to discuss a few of the overarching issues, and received tacit agreement for help with the meeting place situation.
However, push-back began with some of the older Scouts, who threatened the Scoutmaster that they’d quit if they had to wear a uniform. Then the parents started grumbling that their sons would never advance in rank if the Scouts planned and led the meetings and outings. Next, the Scoutmaster—who up until now had had no involvement with the PLC—took it over from me and immediately started running things the “old” way, which included a supposed “vote” that uniforms were out and another that, for programming, the Scouts would simply select from a “menu” of activities provided to them by the troop committee.
That night, I made a decision to leave that troop, along with my son, and seek an opportunity to charter a new troop. I found an organization that was willing to charter a troop and provide a committee chair and a permanent meeting place free of charge. The district and council, well aware of the issues at the former troop, were more than willing to facilitate a new unit charter process. Even though it meant rewriting my Wood Badge ticket, I immediately felt something different while developing this new troop: Happiness. Six Scouts from the old troop requested transfers to the new one and we’re now receiving inquiries from inactive and disconnected Scouts. The old pack leaders came on board as additional committee members and immediately went to work doing what they do best: supporting a unit. Predictably, someone from the old troop has registered a complaint about “recruiting violations.” Regardless, I have a huge opportunity in front of me and can’t wait to see what results it produces.
So, what “Ask Andy” advice had I ignored? Well, how about…
– Do your due diligence on a prospective unit before making a commitment. Look for the signs of an “at risk” unit.
– If the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster or Cubmaster aren’t on the same page, working the methods of Scouting and largely in line with BSA policy already, forget it, unless you really enjoy shoveling water upstream…with a pitchfork.
– Don’t try to teach pigs to fly. It wastes your time and annoys the pigs!
(May I withhold my name and council, to protect the Scouts and adults who simply haven’t “gotten it” yet?)
Thanks and thank goodness there’s a happy outcome here! Keep on keepin’ on –
I see the NAYLE program in your columns, and my oldest just got back from NYLT. Why is the Southern Region not among those listed? (Damon, Atlanta Area Council, GA)
First, your son is not restricted to doing NAYLE only in his region… He can take this dynamic course anywhere! So if he’s considering it, sign up now, before the opportunity evaporates. The BSA Southern Region was originally scheduled to have NAYLE this summer but lost their Course Director (a volunteer position) and couldn’t re-fill the slot in time to launch. But there are still several other wonderful opportunities! Go for it!
National Advanced Youth Leadership ExperienceHas 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!
NAYLE COURSE DATES
|Central Region||August 1-5|
|Northeast Region||August 7-11|
|Western Region (No. California)||July 5-9|
|Western Region (So. California)||August 8-12|
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..