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Issue 265 – July 28, 2011

No. 22:

  • Any adult leader who can’t make his point to a group of sharp teen-aged boys in under three minutes is in the wrong job.

No. 23:

  • “Because I said so” is often reason enough.

Dear Andy,

Our troop will be going on a week-long camping trip soon. I’m curious if it’s “Scout legal” for me to bring a Zippo lighter with me. I’ve earned my Firem’n Chit, I don’t smoke, and I’d only use it for Scouting purposes. So is it Scout Legal? (Scout’s Name & Council Withheld—Cc to Third Party)

Your Zippo lighter contains a flammable liquid. Flammable liquids are a no-no. So, leave it home. And before you decide to bring waterproof, windproof matches, make sure you and the troop’s Scoutmaster are on the same wavelength—Tell him what you want to pack, and then abide by his decision.

Thanks, Andy, but just about every Scout in my troop carries a butane lighter with him and our Scoutmaster says these are OK if we have our Firem’n Chits with us and follow what it says. (SN&CW-CTTP)

OK, here’s the real deal: The most current edition of the Guide to Safe Scouting says this: “Using liquid fuels for starting any type of fire—including lighting damp wood, charcoal, and ceremonial campfires or displays—is prohibited” and “No flames in tents.” Now take a look at the Firem’n Chit’s very first statement: “This certification grants a Scout the right to carry matches and build campfires” (underline by me). When this says “carry matches” this means carry nothing but matches.

So, the first two things we now know are that (1) liquid fuels (like Zippo lighter fuel and butane) are prohibited and (2) the only combustible tool for lighting a fire a Scout’s permitted to have is matches, and these are straight from the BSA.

Scouting’s here for you and your fellow Scouts to have fun, friendships, and experience challenges and adventures. Scouting has very few “No” rules except in the safety area—and this is one of them.

Hi Andy,

Our Scouts just returned from camp and some of them came home with merit badge “partials.”Before they left camp, they were told that they need to complete the requirements within one year of camp in order to earn the merit badge, or they start over. I can’t find anything about this “rule” in any BSA book or pamphlet except that merit badge and rank requirements can be worked on until a Scout’s 18th birthday. What’s your opinion on this? (John Frazier, CC, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

My “opinion” is that somebody at camp’s dishing out horsepucky. What you’ve found is exactly right: The cut-off is the Scout’s 18th birthday—and that part isn’t my opinion; that’s straight out of BSA policies and procedures.(Which means you don’t have to waste time listening to other “opinions” on this—It’s a done deal, and that’s by the BSA.) Thanks a bunch for asking. We can’t stress this one often enough!

Hi Andy,

This summer our troop went to Camp Kern, in the Sierras, and while there the troop in full uniform marched down to the camp’s evening flag ceremony using a simple left-right-left-right cadence. (They took pride in getting it right, and looked really sharp—they liked this!) Afterwards, a leader from another troop approached me and told me that according to BSA regulations, Boy Scouts are not allowed to march, and that his council had recently removed two Scoutmasters because they encouraged their Scouts to do this. Is this really true? Are Boy Scouts really not permitted to march in unison or call cadence? (Steven J. Hull SM, Western Los Angeles County Council, CA)

Is Camp Kern still as good as it was 18 years ago, when my troop and I were there, two seasons in succession, and loved it? What a great camp, and better staff development won’t be found anywhere (not even Philmont, good as it is!).

Anyway, whoever pontificated about Scouts marching is full o’ beans. There’s no such policy, and never was! Learning how to march in cadence, so we look sharp, has been a part of Scouting from the very beginning, and most Scouts love doing it and looking and sounding sharp. (However, close-order drill using rifles with fixed bayonets is usually frowned on.<wink>)

(One old Camp Kern joke used to be… Q: What does the camp use ice cubes for? A: To warm up the lake!)

Dear Andy,

Some leaders in our district insist that Senior Patrol Leaders shouldn’t participate in the inter-patrol competitions at our Camporees because they’re not members of any patrol. Others say that while that may be true, the Senior Patrol Leader “came” from a patrol, and so for the inter-patrol competition he can compete as a patrol member and have fun, too, because just standing around watching is almost like a punishment. They go on to say that, other than the competitions, he’d still be the Senior Patrol Leader and responsible for all of the troop’s patrols. I haven’t found anything that says a Senior Patrol Leader can’t join a patrol for competition at a Camporee. What does your insight tell you? (Anthony Moreno)

Senior Patrol Leaders aren’t patrol members, whether on or off the playing field. Of course they were in a patrol at one time, but they’re not as Senior Patrol Leaders; it’s as simple and straightforward as that. To place him in a patrol “so he can have fun” is as bogus as “making up” patrols just to compete in Camporees.

What do Senior Patrol Leaders do at Camporees? That’s a no-brainer: They run the challenge stations for the inter-patrol competitions!

Dear Andy,

On the subject of re-testing merit badge requirements, our troop had an issue with Camping merit badge, signed off at a summer camp. Four of our younger Scouts had received signed-as-completed blue cards from the camp staff for Camping merit badge, but we knew, and our records showed, that they didn’t have the required 20 days and nights of Scout camping. We were obligated to hold on to their blue cards until (not much time later as they’re good Scouts who are very active) they had met that requirement. Then our troop’s camping Merit Badge Counselor signed a new blue card with the current completion date.

It seems to me that there’s a disconnect with summer camp Merit Badge Counselors who neglect to ask a Scout—or check with his troop—to verify requirements like the one I just mentioned. All they have to do is simply ask the Scout if he’s completed such pre-requisite requirements. For the future, we’ll review the merit badge choices our Scouts make and determine if we need to forward their records, so that the camp staff has and uses all of the correct information.

We’ll also continue to suggest to Scouts that they sign up for only certain merit badges that they’re likely to be successful in, like Environmental Science for older scouts, no Shotgun Shooting for 11 year-olds, and so on.

Any suggestions on how to handle merit badge prerequisites at summer camp would be appreciated. (John Dyckman, Troop Advancement Coordinator & MBC, Connecticut Rivers Council)

I understand the kind of merit badge disconnect that happened. One way to handle this might be to have an up-front conversation with the two summer camp staffers who can have the most influence on the future of the process: the Camp Director and the Program Director. And I agree completely with you about bringing the troop records to camp, so that if a Scout does sign up for Camping (which, of course, you’d know about on day one of camp because that’s when the Scouts sign up and you give them “blue cards”) you can have a chat with whichever camp staffer is handling the merit badge that week, letting him know which Scouts in your troop will qualify to complete and which ones will come away with a “partial” because they need a few more days-and-nights.

You can do this with other merit badges, too. Environmental Science isn’t “only” a summer camp merit badge; some of your Scouts may have started this one while back home, in which cases you’ll want to make sure they bring their “working” merit badge blue cards along with them, so they can fill in the requirements they haven’t done yet.

Now here’s one other thought: Remember Clint Eastwood’s famous line about “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”? Same applies to Scouts… If a Scout sincerely wants to go out for Shotgun Shooting and he’s 4’10” and 85 lbs., let him go! Now maybe the camp’s Shooting Sports Director will tell him it’s OK because they have 20-gauge shotguns as well as 12-gauge, or maybe he’ll redirect the Scout to Rifle Shooting, or maybe even send him over to the Archery range… Let the designated expert call this shot! He’s better equipped, has more experience than all of us rolled up into one, and this is one of the things that good camp staffers thrive on!

Dear Andy,

My son justcompleted Personal Management merit badge and has started work on Family Life. While reading over the worksheet for Family Life, I noticed this: “Clarifications from National: These 90 days do not have to be in a row but can be from any time while a Boy Scout.” Can you please clarify whether the samethree-month requirement of chores used for Personal Management can be used to satisfy requirements for Family Life asstated on the worksheet? (Scout Parent, National Capital Area Council, MD/VA)

First, we need to recognize that this needs to be is a conversation between your son and his Merit Badge Counselor for Family Life. It’s a wonderful thing that you’re a supportive parent. However, now that he’s a Boy Scout and no longer wearing a blue uniform, you can help him best by stepping back, so that he can take charge of his own Scouting experience, including conversations with his Merit Badge Counselors.

In taking a good look at the requirements for both merit badges, your son may discover that there are actually no matching “chores” requirements between them. Personal Management req. 8 is all about time management, and is based on what the Scout largely does for himself, such as homework and so on, and lasts a week, and while req. 9 is about a “project,” it doesn’t involve the actual doing of the project but, rather, the thinking-through and planning of it. Family Life req. 3 on the other hand specifically refers to the carrying out of a minimum of five home duties and chores for 90 days (Note: This doesn’t mean every one of the 90 days, as his Merit Badge Counselor will explain to him). Of course, “home duties” are quite different from “homework.” Thus, there really isn’t a match between these two, and I believe this is what he should be prepared for his Merit Badge Counselor to tell him. But let’s let that conversation happen, please, because these are merit badges for him to earn, under his own steam. Thanks for finding me, and for taking the time to write.

Hello Andy,

Our troop has had a debate about wearing red berets. We have a few Scouts who wear the old BSA red berets, and I’ve heard and read some stuff that seems to say that this is OK. But we also have some old hardliners with the troop who are very much opposed to Scouts wearing them. We’ve provided our Scouts with a nice troop baseball cap, but these don’t get worn much, so a proposal to outfit the troop with berets is being considered.

Are BSA red berets an approved part of the Scout uniform? Is a red beret the only color a Scout can wear, or are there options? Is it OK to purchase berets and apply a Scout logo to them, no matter the color? Or, to be “official,” must Scouts only wear a BSA-approved red beret? Can you help shed any further light on this? (Roger Burcroff, Great Lakes Council, MI)

On headgear: The Scouts of the troop make the decision. The Scouts themselves can decide what the headgear for all Scouts in the troop will be, and then they all wear what they decided (no exceptions). This can be done as a “vote” of the entire troop, but my own personal preference would be to do this through the Patrol Leaders Council, with the Senior Patrol Leader chairing the meeting, as always, and the Patrol Leaders polling their patrol members and then bringing those preferences to the PCL and arriving at a decision for the troop—That’s “representative democracy in action.”

According to the BSA Scout Uniform Inspection Sheet, if the Scouts decide on berets, they’re not restricted to red—If the Scouts pick a different color, and they all agree, that’s OK. Per this Inspection Sheet, the BSA is silent on headgear restrictions, except that this be a troop (i.e., the Scouts) decision. Personally, I like the idea of putting a Scout emblem on the berets. Those over-sized First Class pins that are available at Scout Shops or at can work perfectly!

One suggestion: People in general—including Scouts!—have a tendency to care more for things they have some sort of “investment” in, whether it’s monetary or “sweat equity.” Consider developing a way for the Scouts to “earn” their new headgear, rather than merely giving it to them. I think, if you do this, there will be not only more responsibility but more pride.

Dear Andy,

We’ve started a new troop, and we’re having a hard time finding where to buy an official troop flag. Can you tell us where we buy these? Thanks! (John Gaudion, Old Colony Council, MA)

Congratulations on your new troop! The BSA National Supply Division makes troop flags on a custom order basis. Your local council’s Scout Shop people can help you place the order.

Hello Andy,

We have a discussion going on about Boy Scouts and double-headed or double-bit axes—are they allowed or not? I’ve looked all over to find the answer and can’t seem to locate anything—there’s just no mention of them. I know axes are allowed, and I remember that double-headed axes weren’t allowed, but seeing that I can’t find even a single a mention of these, I’m really wondering now. I hope you can help. (Shawn Stiner, Scenic Trails Council, MI)

I think there are two approaches here. The first is to notice what else isn’t mentioned in the Boy Scout Handbook or other BSA publications, and I’m going to exaggerate a bit here to make the first point… You’ll notice that the BSA doesn’t talk about the care and use of machetes, pistols, grenades, chain saws, “flash-bangs”…or double-bit or double-blade axes. From this, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that these fall outside the realm of “Scout tools.” A second approach is to recognize what double-bit axes are for. When the blades are honed identically, they’re used by professional loggers for efficiency: The logger can keep working after one blade becomes dull by switching the “business” blade to the other side, so as to not have to stop. And when the blades are honed at different angles, the more wedge-like blade will be used by the professional logger for splitting, while the other will have a narrower angle, often used for limbing. So, in this day and age, considering how little Scouts fell trees or cut firewood, even single-blade axes and hatchets have almost gone the way of the Dodo Bird, from a practical backpacking perspective. That being the case, good sense (which is several rungs above “common” sense) tells us that if axes and hatchets are largely left home nowadays, then double-bladed axes would be the first to be left home.

The foregoing not withstanding, if you’re going to operate from a base camp, with a designated, roped-off, and supervised axe yard, and you have someone among you who is completely proficient in the use of a double-blade axe, this can make for an impressive demonstration—after which it’s put under lock-and-key for the duration.

Dear Andy,

Our troop, like many, maintains individual accounts for the Scouts as they earn money through fundraisers, sales, and the like. The Scouts may use their accounts for anything Scouting-related: camp fees, equipment, dues, and so on. The difference of opinion seems to be about whose money is actually in these accounts. The troop committee’s position is that this is the troop’s money, so that if a Scout should leave the troop, the money stays. But the other opinion is that the money belongs to the Scout, and if he leaves he should take it with him. Is there anything by the BSA that supports either point of view? (Name & Council Withheld)

I understand your fund-raising dilemma, so I’m going to suggest an alternative approach. Let’s for a moment, reflect on what councils largely do, when it comes to, say, selling popcorn or other council-wide fund-raisers: They don’t couch this as “Scouts earn money;” it’s done as “Scouts earn prizes” (like flashlights, pocket knives, canteens, back-packs, and so forth) and there’s never mention of “cash” or “money.” So first, consider sticking exclusively with council-wide fund-raisers, which will help keep things really simple. But if you do carry out troop-level fund-raisers, then consider the same approach: Scouts don’t “earn money”—they earn prizes (given out when the fund-raiser’s concluded) or perhaps “credits” toward summer camp (good way for more Scouts to get to camp!), but no “cash,” per se. And, like many organizations do, it’s “use it or lose it.” If the Scout drops out of the troop, or “ages out” or whatever, well unfortunately that’s that—the “camp credits” aren’t transferable. Now maybe some parents will have a hissy fit over this, but, well, parents can often have hissy fits over most anything, and there’s rarely a way to satisfy everybody (maybe the Scout uses his “credits” to collect extra prizes). Anyway, the main idea is take the “money” aspect out of the equation. But I’m just one guy, so get more insights by going to your monthly roundtables and talking with other Scoutmasters and Committee Chairs about how they handle this. And also have a face-to-face conversation with your Unit Commissioner and your District Executive, both of whom may be able to add further perspectives. There may be no easy answer, but I’m sure you can figure out one that 51% of folks are happy with, and that’s often the best we can do.

___________________________________________________ Dear Andy,

Our troop committee, although aware of the BSA definition of “active,” stipulates that a Scout must attend 50% of meetings and 50% of all other troop activities, for a 90-day period, to be considered active (for the purposes of advancement).This has proven a problem for Scouts who are in sports, extracurricular activities, have jobs, have family problems, are in an orchestra or marching band, and the list goes on. We have Scouts who want to be as active as they’re able, but because of this stipulation they’re put on the troop’s “inactive” list. We’re generally considered a good troop, and an active one, but this problem continues to bother at least me. Do you have any ideas on how to deal with this? (Name & Council Withheld)

So let me see if I have this right… The troop committee has arbitrarily established a renegade policy designed to penalize the young men in the troop who have the greatest number of all-around interests. Well isn’t that just special (see my Rule 20).

Go invest in the 2011 Boy Scout Requirements book and read it. You’ll discover that the BSA is absolutely steadfast on the point that troops don’t set “metrics” like number or percent of meetings and/or outdoor activities. “Active” means “do your best.” This is what permits Scouting to coexist with band camps, sports seasons, choral and other musical groups, CCD and confirmation classes, Bar Mitzvah preparations and Hebrew school, Chinese school, and so on. Apply more rigidity and the big loser is Scouting (just in case your troop committee hasn’t figured that out yet). Scouting is intended to be the most flexible of youth programs, and these people have found a way to repudiate this at one of the most fundamental levels.

Same with that oh-so-clever “90 days before the conference and board of review” baloney. Toss it. So long as a Scout has been active (per the BSA’s definition; not your troop’s) for the period stated in the requirement—whether consecutive or not—it’s a slam-dunk.

Do these people not understand that their responsibility is to help young men advance in life? That it’s not their job to find ways to road-block, ambush, and arbitrarily sabotage their advancement! This sorry troop’s adult volunteers need to recognize immediately that they’re in violation of current BSA policy, and stop this nonsense, now.

Dear Andy,

I’ve served as a Commissioner beginning 19 years ago, through 2002, when I took a break, holding every Commissioner position at the district level and along the way earning Arrowhead Honor, Commissioner’s Key, and Distinguished Commissioner Award. Early on, I attended several annual Colleges of Commissioner Science, earning the Bachelor and Masters degrees, and had just started work on my Doctorate when my council ended the CCS and its degree program in favor of an alternative method. I’ve now returned to active Commissioner service and the council has returned to the CCS and degree program that I’d first started with. This leads me to wondering if my previously earned degrees would still be considered valid, along with the work I’d started toward the third and final degree. I’ve asked CCS’s dean about this, and sent him copies of my original degrees, but so far there’s been no reply. I’ve also tried on several occasions to contact him again to find out where it stands, but still to no avail. I’d just like your own perspective on this. I’m willing to attend training again, but most of the courses offered in the two lower programs I’ve already taken and put into practice during my tenure in service. I’d like to continue in the program, if I can take courses I haven’t already had, but I’ve also been asked to help out at a session for the American Labor merit badge on the same day and can’t be in two places at the same time. Please let me know what you think. (Claude Graf, Dan Beard Council, OH)

First, THANK YOU for all you’ve done, and all you’re doing, for Scouting and the youth of America!

Twice, for two different councils, I’ve been the initiator and “dean” of Commissioner Colleges, one of which was expanded to a five-council annual event (we went from 55 Commissioners attending the first year, to 95 the second, and then 155 by the third year, after which I turned the reins over to the successor I’d trained to follow me). In these capacities, my perspective has always been to give credit where it’s due, and to try as hard as possible to keep good people from having to repeat sessions and work they’ve already done. As for Commissioner College degrees, I think they should function like merit badges—if you have a “partial,” you just pick up where you last left off. In your case, where the hiatus was created by forces totally beyond your control or influence, I’d absolutely make sure you could concentrate on completing what you have remaining, rather than having to endure the potentially stultifying task of back-tracking. In fact, I’d do my level best to recruit you to serve on staff, as well!

Sometimes, we rely too heavily on the apparent convenience of email, forgetting how meaningful and powerful face-to-face conversations can still be. Have you considered meeting with the new dean, giving him a sense for your background and experience, offering to help him as needed, and agree with him that you can be a good example of “taking it all the way” when you complete your doctoral work by the time of the College and receive that third degree as part of the closing ceremonies? Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to set the example for others to follow!

Dear Andy,

I’m our troop’s Senior Patrol Leader. My Assistant Senior Patrol Leader and I have a question about service hours for rank and service projects to earn the National Honor Patrol Award. When apatrol performs service for the National Honor Patrol Award, can those hours also be counted towards service hour requirements for individual Scouts’ rank advancement? I said yes, but our Scoutmaster said that service time to earn the National Honor Patrol Award should be above and beyond the time devoted to service for rank advancement. However, he also said that I have the final decision. Since our opinions were opposite one another, he suggested that I write to you. Can you help us clear things up? (SPL, Los Padres Council, CA)

The BSA itself doesn’t have a specific “rule” about this, relying instead on the good judgment of Senior Patrol Leaders and Scoutmasters. So, my particular “opinion” on this is nowhere near as important as the agreement you and your Scoutmaster come to. So, with one of you thinking in one direction and the other sort of facing in the opposite direction, maybe there’s a place in the middle that the two of you can agree on, that’s fair to all Scouts performing the service (remember that “service project hours” aren’t required for Tenderfoot, First Class, or Eagle), regardless of the rank they’re working toward. Have another conversation, and let me know what you two come up with.

That said, here’s an insight to consider: The rank requirements stipulate a set number of hours’ participation in a “service project,” and for Star and Life the requirement goes on to say that the service to others may be done “individually or as a patrol or troop project.” So, if a Scout helps his fellow patrol members carry our a service project or “Good Turn,” it looks like this fits the requirement just fine, especially since the Honor Patrol requirement (no. 4) doesn’t say that this needs to be “above and beyond” what a Scout might do for Second Class, Star, or Life ranks. (Are you and your Scoutmaster getting the idea here?)

Dear Andy,

Is a Scoutmaster required to dress in Class A during specific ceremonies such as Scoutmaster conferences, flag retiring ceremonies, courts of honor, and such? I’m wondering if this is optional, or required? (Sue Avril, Colonial Virginia Council)

The uniform is one of Scouting’s eight specific methods. Scoutmasters are the key role models for the Scouts of the troop: Whatever the Scoutmaster does and says, the Scouts will emulate. If we expect our Scouts to show up for troop meetings, patrol meetings, outdoor events, ceremonies, and courts of honor in uniform—which we do!—then it’s the Scoutmaster who leads the way. Show me a well-uniformed and sharp-looking troop and I’ll show you a well-uniformed Scoutmaster!

Hi Andy,

Can a Life Scout select his Eagle board of review members? Also, who acts as chair of an Eagle board of review? (David Harkey, ASM)

Let’s begin by observing that BSA national standards always supersede anything a council, district, unit, or individual might do or say, for the obvious reason that without this, mayhem would ensue.

The BSA stipulates that a Scout will have no input as to who will (or will not) be members of his board of review for Eagle rank.

As to who chairs Eagle boards of review, the BSA leaves this to the discretion of the local councils.

And, as long as we’re on the subject, we do know that only registered members of the unit committee (no less than 3 nor more than 6) may sit on boards of review for all ranks from Tenderfoot through Life, and Eagle Palms, yes?

Thanks so much for clearing these up. As for who sits on the Eagle board of review, my understanding is that one (or possibly more, if requested by the unit) advancement committee representative from the district or council must attend if the review is conducted on a unit level. Interestingly, “The 12 Steps from Life to Eagle” listed on the back of the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project Workbook (2009 Printing, 512-927), doesn’t state that Eagle board of review members must be BSA- registered volunteers; only that they understand the importance of the ranks and the review… which would seem to allow for non-registered parents and/or guardians.

And that raises another question… At a recent Life-to-Eagle training session, we learned that only adults may sit on boards of review, yet I know of at least one troop where Boy Scouts are regularly sitting on boards of review for all ranks through Life, along with three adults. One Scout recently sitting in was a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, another was a Quartermaster. Do you happen to know the national BSA position on this practice? (David Harkey)

No parent or guardian ever sits on a board of review, for any rank. You know this from your other readings, which specify very directly that no parent, guardian, relative, Scoutmaster, or Assistant Scoutmaster sits on any board of review for any rank (“any” includes Eagle).

The reason behind the apparent openness of the board of review for Eagle is so that special people, such as a mayor or principal, minister or priest or rabbi or other religious leader, local police chief or EMT chief or fire chief, executive officer of the unit’s chartered organization, and so on may be invited to sit on it.

Regarding who sits on boards of review for the ranks from Tenderfoot through Life, and Eagle Palms, you also already know that the BSA specifies that this will be only registered members of the troop/team committee (obviously excluding the parent or guardian of the Scout being reviewed). And we further know (referring to page 2 of the BSA’s Adult Volunteer Application) that a troop committee member must be age 21 or more; consequently, having a Boy Scout other than the one for whom the review is for is an inexcusable violation of BSA policy.

Hello Andy,

I read the question and your answer regarding adult-youth emailing and one-on-one contact in your July 6th column, so I thought you might like to know that the BSA has recently come out with guidance on the subject that’s completely consistent with what you suggested. (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks. Good to know we’re on the same page!

Dear Andy,

Today, my eight year-old Cub Scout son jumped into a crowded swimming pool and saved the life of a ten year-old child who was silently drowning in nine feet of water. No one but he and his friend noticed the child in distress. The other boy pointed it out and my son immediately leaped into the pool and pulled the submerged child from the water. (I’m so PROUD of him!) Is this something I should submit an application for a lifesaving award? (Janie Garner, MC, St. Louis Area Council. MO)

Without mentioning anything further to your son, gather the names of as many witnesses to the event as possible, write down as much detail as you can remember, and concurrently contact your local council’s service center and tell them that you need to speak with the Council Advancement Chair and the Scout Executive.

Hi Andy,

I was surprised the other day when I ran into an Assistant Scoutmaster who had, by his own admission, never been aScoutmaster wearing the white-on-tan Scoutmaster Award of Merit square knot. I’ve also seen a man who’d been a registered pack volunteer for less than a year wearing a Webelos Den Leader Award square knot. But the topper was a 17 year-old Scout wearing a Silver Beaver square knot, which he claimed he was allowed to wear because his father had received this recognition (so he bought it at the local Scout Shop!). What’s going on here and what do we do about it? (Name & Council Withheld)

Why do horses wear “blinders”? Because, in certain situations, if they didn’t have them, they’d be distracted by too much stuff that doesn’t really matter in the long runbut which can mess up their ability to stay on course. Sometimes, I think, we Scouters need to do the same thing —take out our own blinders and strap ’em on. With so many larger issues to deal with, some embroidered pieces of cloth measuring barely more than an inch square just aren’t worth our energy, even though they can sometime threaten to set our hair on fire. We’re a volunteer movement, let’s not forget. So while there’s certainly a standard, it’s really not enforceable unless we enjoy gaining the reputation of Patch Police. So, for your own sanity (and cardio-vascular health), how about just grinning, shaking your head in wonderment, and moving on to the stuff that matters.

Happy Scouting!



Got a question? Have an idea? Send it to (Please include your POSITION and COUNCIL NAME or TOWN & STATE)

July 28, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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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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