- Whoever says, “The score doesn’t really matter,” isn’t winning.
- The batteries of your flashlight will die only when you need light the most.
Last night we had two Eagle boards of review. The Scout first scheduled was 30 minutes late. As we sat there waiting, I’m thinking, This is a pretty big deal… Why would a Scout be late for it?
But as Paul Harvey would say, “And now,the rest of the story.” Turns out this Scout had stayed a bit past quitting time at his job, then hopped in his car and promptly got stuck in traffic. Finally gets home, he swaps his civvies for his Scout uniform, hops back in the car knowing he needs to hurry it up now. More traffic! Finally gets through it and puts the pedal to the metal, until… Oh, No! Stopped by a State Trooper. He’s way over the speed limit.
Trooper walks up to the Scout’s car, takes a look inside through his mirror glasses. “Son,” he says, “Unless you’re on your way to your Eagle board, I’m writing you a ticket.” Scout reaches over and shows his handbook, project workbook, Scoutmaster-signed Eagle application. “Sir, that’s exactly where I’m going,” he replies.
Trooper grins, wishes him well, waves him on. That Scout’s now an Eagle.
(Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)
Thanks, Bill! And now, in shirt-sleeve English, the rest of the column. Good Day!
I’ve recently found your column and it’s tremendously helpful. I’m slowly reading through the archives, but haven’t found an answer to this question…
I’ve been a committee member for a little more than a year and have recently taken over as Advancement Coordinator. In our troop, this is a uniformed position. I have the uniform, but my question is about what to do during ceremonies. For the Pledge of Allegiance, for instance, do I still use the hand-over-heart, or do I use the Scout salute? Also, when the Scouts are saying the Oath and Law do I do this, too? (Simka Miljkovic, MC, Northwest Suburban Council, IL)
While in most troops the Advancement Coordinator isn’t uniformed because committee members don’t need be, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “suiting up”! In fact, to my way of thinking, you’re now one more positive role model for the Scouts of the troop! (Just be sure that you’re wearing the complete uniform; not just a shirt.)
Anyway, to answer your question, yes, if you’re wearing a uniform, you definitely use the hand-to-eyebrow (sometimes called “military”) Scout salute, just like every other Scout and adult in uniform. And yes, it’s always a positive reinforcement, when the Scout Oath and Law are spoken, to raise your hand in the Scout Sign and say these right along with the Scouts… After all, they apply just as much to us as they do to our sons! Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to write.
My son just had his Eagle board of review and is now an Eagle Scout. Our troop has a court of honor coming up in a couple of weeks. Should my son be presented with both his Eagle Scout badge and his medal at the court of honor? (Ours is a small troop and haven’t run across this situation before.) (Debbie Inman)
First things first: Many, many troops have courts of honor that include all ranks, and don’t have “Eagle” courts of honor, because of the no less than spectacular benefits of doing it this way (all of which I heartily endorse) including a much greater audience of Scouts, parents, and dignitaries, and—unarguably most important—the non-Eagle Scouts get to see what an Eagle in their midst looks like! Also, it’s a heck of a lot easier to plan, and an awful lot easier for everyone to show up for! I hope you consider this approach to advancement, but, if not, have a wonderful event.
Meanwhile, since the purpose of the court of honor is to recognize advancements since the previous court, it’s not at all inappropriate for your son to be given the badge at the next regular troop meeting and then the medal at the formal court of honor. (A while ago, I was asked if a Scout is “really” if he hasn’t been “given the Eagle charge” and the answer is: Of course he’s an Eagle, because the Eagle charge is a nice ceremonial feature but in no way has anything to do with the actual earning of the rank.)
My son just earned his Tenderfoot. His Scoutmaster conference took about 20 minutes; his board of review, about three. In the latter, he was asked just three questions, and that was that. I thought boards of review were supposed to take at least 15 to 20 minutes, with considerable preparation on the part of the Scout. What’s up? (Name & Council Withheld)
For Tenderfoot rank, I’d have to say the board of review was just about on-time, and that Scoutmaster conference may have been a bit on the longish side. The conference may have gone on for a while if the Scoutmaster made sure he got to know one of the troop’s newer Scouts well, and establish a bond with him intended to last for the next seven years. As for the board of review, at this rank the three most important questions would be: Are you having fun? How are you getting along with the Scouts in your patrol? Is Scouting in this troop what you expected it to be, based on what your Boy Scout Handbook says? (Let’s keep in mind that “review” absolutely doesn’t men “re-test”!)
Our troop leadership has had some recent conversations about troop elections… specifically, how often does the troop vote for Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders? In the past, this has been done once a year, either while at summer camp or during the fall kick-off. There’s some discussion about changing this to every six months. Is there any BSA policy or guideline on this? (Mike Cook, ASM, Crossroads of America Council, IN)
There’s no BSA policy on this, except that the troop elect, not appoint, their Senior Patrol Leader, and that all patrols (even new-Scout patrols) elect their own Patrol Leaders. All other positions, including ASPL, are appointed (see the Scoutmaster Handbook). Many, many troops do this every six months; some once a year.
I recently received an email message from a Scout, but the Scout didn’t CC anyone else. I’m pretty sure that I can’t reply to him, since this would be a violation of the youth protection “no one-on-one contact” policy. While this seems to make sense logically, I can’t find any written policy that deals specifically with email contact. Do you know of any written policy dealing with this matter? I don’t want to seem rude by not replying and he didn’t give me any other information about himself, not even his troop number, that would give me a means to contact him any other way. I don’t know this boy personally (I think he must have gotten my name from a list of district committee members). Is there any way that I can reply without violating YP policy (for instance, could I CC another adult leader, such as another member of the district committee)? (Mark Huber, District Committee Member, Seneca Waterways Council, NY)
There’s no specific written policy on emailing, or IMing or TMing either (yet), because there’s the blanket policy of no private one-on-one contact, per YPT and the GTSS that you’re already aware of. So, in replying to the Scout, do just as you came up with: Simply copy someone else…a fellow Scouter, for example. If the communication is of a sensitive or personal nature, then instead of using “reply” (in which the original text will appear in the thread), send a separate email message to the Scout, copying your Scouting friend, in which you suggest to the Scout that further communications will have to include a copy to someone, OR the two of you can meet one-on-one in public (like a Scoutmaster conference is done) in order to converse further (public libraries are made-to-order for this sort of thing).
We’re having a problem and need the BSA policy on this… What is permitted to be worn over the Scout uniform? I’m asking because we have several Scouts who, even at courts of honor, insist on wearing “hoodies” and other sorts of sweatshirts over their uniform, and refuse to take them off, even when we ask them to politely. I’ve checked the handbook and other literature on this, but can’t find the rule. Can you help? (Name & Council Withheld)
The BSA INSIGNIA GUIDE is now online. However, it does not tell you “what can be worn over a Scout uniform” because whether we’re in uniform or not, when we’re indoors, we take our jackets, sweats, hoodies, ponchos, and other outerwear off because we’re now…indoors. Outdoors, if the weather’s cold, we wear that stuff over our “indoor” clothes—“civvies” or uniforms—but if the weather’s warm, we don’t. If we’re wearing a hat or cap, we remove it when we’re indoors, unless it’s a yarmulke or a Sikh turban. This is called good manners and good sense. Nobody needs a BSA rule or policy for this sort of stuff.
If the Scouts aren’t responding to being asked, then tell them: “Get that off. Now.” (Use as few words as possible, don’t raise your voice, and don’t end your sentence with “OK?”) If parents have a problem with this, you can very politely but completely firmly say to them: “Yes, we do have a dress code. It’s the Scout uniform, because we’re Scouts.”
What’s the best way to have the Scouts update their patrols in terms of what patrols they’re in? How and when do they decide what Scouts go in what patrols? We’re a small troop, so our Scouts are split into two patrols now, but I can foresee that some will be moving on while other new ones will be joining. Is there an age split to determine patrols, a size limit, etc? (Shaye Larsen)
The very, very best way to handle this is to let the patrols alone. It’s part of the Scouting learning experience for these boys to work things like this out for themselves. We leaders need to recognize that there’s a profound different between assisting and interfering, and we must avoid the latter at all costs. Meanwhile, patrols can range from four Scouts (the operational minimum in most cases) to an absolute maximum of eight (Baden-Powell use six as the “magic number” and this has been the number used in most adult and youth training courses for many years right up to the present day).
I started reading your columns when I became a Unit Commissioner because I want to learn as much about Scouting as possible. You provide a connection with others across the nation that can make a difference in the Scouting movement by stating facts that guide unsure leaders along the correct trail. However, your statements about the Scout uniform do need some further thought…
The Scout uniform is a great tool to bring Scouts together. It is also a double-edged sword that can cut into the heart of Scout leaders. It’s indeed a challenge to utilize one of the methods of Scouting while simultaneously protecting the core values of Scouting.
As I scanned the Internet looking for Scout uniform information I found troop after troop site that required Scouts to have and wear their uniform in order to advance. Some have even made having and wearing the uniform a requirement for membership. Any leader who knowingly says this is not living by the basic Scouting code. They’re lying to their Scouts. This is dishonest, and certainly not following the Scout Law of Trustworthy
Look in the mirror and ask yourself: When you state that a uniform is required for advancement or for membership in the Scouts is it the truth? The Scoutmaster Handbook itself states that “no uniform is required,” so can anyone truthfully tell Scouts and other leaders that a uniform is required?
No, I’m neither getting something off my chest nor ranting. I’m only expressing my desire to be able to say that “Andy tells it straight.” (Name & Council Withheld)
Well, I’m a bit confused here… There seems to be a suggestion that I’ve said that a complete Scout uniform is required (as in “demanded”) in order to be a Scout and to advance. Nope. Maybe you have me mixed up with somebody else, because I’ve absolutely never said what’s being claimed. Now I’ve definitely quoted Baden-Powell, our founder, more than once:
- “The uniform makes for brotherhood, since when universally adopted it covers up all differences of class and country.”
- “I don’t care a fig whether a Scout wears the uniform or not, so long as his heart is in his work and he carries out the Scout Law. But the fact is that there is hardly a Scout who does not wear the uniform if he can afford to buy it. The spirit prompts him to it.”
- ”Show me a poorly uniformed troop and I’ll show you a poorly uniformed leader.”
The uniform is one of Scouting’s methods because, first, it’s the ultimate equalizer between boys and young men from families of all means, from modest to ample, to quite none at all. In addition to erasing any socioeconomic class distinctions, it also fosters a spirit of belonging to a group of fellows in which all equal to one another and responsible to and for one another. Further, it gives the boys who are Scouts a sense of pride in belonging to a worldwide movement—the largest youth movement in the history of the world, in fact. Finally, the uniform provides a way for each individual Scout to show his own unique achievements in Scouting, whether that be a badge that tells the onlooker that he’s been to a National Jamboree or that he’s a First Class Scout, or that he’s been elected by his fellow Scouts into the Order of the Arrow—Scouting’s Brotherhood of Honor Campers—or that he’s been elected to the top leadership position in the troop—Senior Patrol Leader—by his troop.
From his, it’s easy to see that I absolutely and unequivocally believe in full and correct uniforming. Air Jordan wouldn’t be allowed on the court in jersey-and-jeans, no baseball player would wear a football helmet to a ballgame, swimmers don’t show up for meets wearing baggies, and pro golfers don’t show up for the Masters wearing cut-offs, tank top, and flip-flops. So why should Scouts?
So, with the uniform the way to go, if parents and adult leaders would simply stop walking small around this point, everything would improve, because Scouts tend to act more like Scouts when they’re in uniform!
This is one of the reasons why I’ve consistently gone the extra mile in creative thinking, to figure out how to get uniforms for even the most destitute of Scout families. And it’s also why I consistently recommend that these uniforms be worn everywhere—not just at troop meetings and courts of honor.
But “demand” a uniform “to advance” or even to join? Not a chance.
We were asked if, in a board of review for Eagle, for a disabled Scout, he would be held to the full required expectations, or is there some help in finding an alternative way to carry out such a review? Any thoughts or insights on this? (Neil Hossler, Council Advancement Chair, Black Swamp Area Council, OH)
The first issue to be dealt with, of course, is the nature of the particular disability. For instance, we wouldn’t expect or demand that a Scout in a wheelchair give the Scout sign while standing at attention, but we’d not see a particular problem with a blind Scout doing this. Or, if we had a Scout with a significant speech impediment, we’d probably be quite patient and attentive. For a deaf Scout, we’d probably arrange for a signer to be present. If the challenge were in the mental acuity area, we might keep our questions as conversational as possible, and brief to avoid confusion. But, beyond these obvious considerations, the main thing to always keep in mind is that we’re all here to have a conversation that’s friendly, kind, sensitive, and looks both backward to the young man’s experiences and highlights, and forward toward where he sees himself going next.
What is a board of review? My son has mostly completed the requirements for Tenderfoot; next week he has his Scoutmaster conference. What does he have to do for the last step? (Lizzy Deculit)
Both the Scoutmaster Conference and the board of review are described in your son’s Boy Scout Handbook. After reading about these, if your son has further questions, then he (not you) should simply ask his Scoutmaster! And it’ll be OK – It’s not a “final exam”! Honest!
While speaking with one of our troop’s Eagle Scouts who just turned 18 and is becoming an Assistant Scoutmaster, the troop’s Chartered Organization Representative told him that if this new ASM ever does anything wrong that could hurt the troop,the troop’s sponsor, or the Boy Scouts of America, he could lose his Eagle Scout rank and be removed as a leader. When the CR was asked where she got this sort of information, she said she’d heard that it happened in 2002 with a Scout in California. I’d always thought “once an Eagle—always an Eagle,” no matter what. Is what she’s saying true? Did an Eagle Scout ever have his rank removed? (Scoutmaster in Central New Jersey Council)
Simply ask the CR to back up her statement with facts, either in writing, or an Internet reference, or something else that substantiates her claim and, unless she can do that, inform her that she needs to refrain from making such remarks. Meanwhile, I’m really concerned about the very tone of that conversation and suggest that you consider finding a CR who “gets it” because the present one obviously doesn’t.
We’ve been approached by a boy who wants to join our troop who has all kinds of piercings. I need to know if we can tell him and his parents that our troop doesn’t allow this, based on BSA ethics or other supporting principles. I couldn’t find a definitive answer for or against this topic. Can you help us? (Committee Member in Lincoln Heritage Council, IL)
I’m really puzzled… Why would you want to exclude a boy from being exposed to an educational movement that teaches young people how to make good ethical decisions in their lives? Can you help me out here? Because, frankly, I wouldn’t care if he looked like the inside of my tackle box: If he wants to be a Scout, that’s good enough for me!
For me, personally, I don’t want to exclude this boy or any other, but the troop’s new Scoutmaster wants to make up rules that would keep this boy out, and I told him No—we stick to BSA policies and don’t make up our own. But he kept pushing, demanding that I show him the BSA’s “inclusion” answer, and I can’t find a specific quote. I’m trying to keep him from pushing the committee into a troop bylaw saying no piercings, etc. (MC)
That flea-brained, bigoted, intransigent Scoutmaster needs to be taken out back and shot.
The joining requirements for Boy Scouting are spelled out in the BSA Youth Application. There are no other stipulations beyond these, and no individual, unit, district, or council can add any sort of further stipulation that supersedes national standards. End of story.
If this bone-head doesn’t get that Boy Scouting doesn’t care if a boy’s hair is purple or shaved off, or whether his face or head looks like a wall of hub-caps or not, or whether his skin is red, white, blue, black, brown, yellow, green, purple, orange, or looks like a Picasso painting, he needs to be tossed out of his position before he sends the wrong message and damages perceptions of the very foundation of this movement. How fast? Fast as you can say “You’re history, Bub.”
We have a rather small pack and I’m currently the Cubmaster. We have four boys who want to join (they’d be Tiger Cubs), but we don’t have anyone who wants to be the Tiger Den Leader and we currently don’t have a Tiger Cub den. I don’t want to lose these boys, because we really need new Tigers to join the pack, so do you think it’s acceptable for me to also serve as the Tiger Den Leader and Cubmaster aswell for these boys? (Dee, Longhorn Council, TX)
Listen to what you’re telling me: As many as eight parents are trying to duck the responsibility of providing the Cub Scout program for their own sons. This is positively awful. What do they think is going to happen… that somebody’s going to come along and “rescue” them? WRONG! The flat-out, eyeball-to-eyeball answer to them is this (and only this): “Here’s the deal, folks… Unless one of you parents is willing to register as Den Leader, and take the training necessary to deliver the program correctly, your sons won’t be members of this pack or enjoy the Cub Scouting program, and that probably means they’ won’t get to be Boy Scouts or Eagle Scouts when they’re a bit older. If that’s what you want, that’s your call.” Then stop, be silent, and wait…
Do not rescue these laggards, because it will never, ever get better, and you are going to be the Den Leader for some boys whose parent’s won’t lift a finger for them, for the next four years, and while your doing that, who’s watching out for your own Cub Scout son? Is this really what you want? I don’t think so.
I’m the father of two sons in the early stages of planning their Eagle projects. One son is looking to complete a project at his school. In discussions with the school, the administrator there has asked about liability while adults and youth are working on the schools property (e.g., What if someone’s injured or there’s property damage?). This seems like a reasonable question. My son and I have scoured the Guide to Safe Scouting and other BSA literature, but we can’t find anything on this. Can you point us to the appropriate document? (Paul Downey, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Your council’s service center should be able to provide you with a copy of the BSA insurance coverage for this, and the school ought to be able to produce a “hold harmless agreement” for you to sign (as the parent of your minor son). That said, I can honestly tell you that I’ve never, among well over 150 Eagle projects, across three councils in different states, had any recipient of an Eagle project’s work request anything like this.
If your sonneeds further information on this subject, he can contact your council’s risk management committee.
Can one organization(for instance, a church, civic club, veterans association, etc.) sponsor more than one Scouting unit, such as both a Cub Scout pack and a Boy Scout troop, or a troop and a Venturing crew? (Mark Fury, SM, Istrouma Area Council, LA)
Absolutely. In fact, this is encouraged. How about all three units: a pack, a troop, and a crew.
(NOTE: I received the letter below in March)
All nine Cub Scouts in my den got their Bear badges at our Blue & Gold. Now, they want to start working on belt loops. Can they start working on belt loops required for Webelos? If not, at what point in the year can they start working on these, so they can count toward their Webelos badge? (Mike Zeller, DL)
First, let’s recognize that belt loops are a supplementary program not immediately associated with the Cub Scout advancement program except as related to Webelos and Arrow of Light activity badges. In the meanwhile, there are over 100 electives for Bears to work on, to earn Arrow Points, and these are right in their Bear Handbook. For the short-term, I’d aim their energies in this direction, till the end of their school year. Then, once school ends and they’re officially Webelos Scouts, they can start working on the Webelos Activity Badges, including any necessary belt loops.
It’s my understanding that the Cub Scout red vest (or “brag vest”) isn’t supposed to be worn at formal occasions such as flag retirements, religious ceremonies, or Blue & Gold banquets or ceremonies. Do you know of a specific BSA Policy regarding the appropriate wearing of red vests? (Kevin Knutson, Mount Diablo-Silverado Council, CA)
First things first: Please don’t call these “brag vests” in front of the Cubs… Braggin’ is when you can’t do something but pretend you can; these vests demonstrate that these boys have done it, and, as Casey Stengel said, “If you’ve done it, it ain’t braggin’.”
Next point: They’re legal. They can and should be worn as parts of the uniform, for all occasions where the uniform is worn. These boys are rightly proud of what they’ve done, and who are we to deny them this.
My Life Scout son will probably leave his troop soon, due to his Scoutmaster having deemed him “not Eagle-worthy.” He needs to complete several required merit badges, an Eagle project, his Scoutmaster conference, and then his board of review. He has plenty of time before he turns 18 and is considering joining a Venturing crew instead of another troop. I know that it’s possible for him to earn his Eagle in a crew, but can’t find much about this process on any BSA or Venturing websites. Can you direct me to a helpful website or provide an explanation of how this works? (Name & Council Withheld)
First, absolutely get your son out of that troop! What a crummy thing for any Scoutmaster to say to a teen-aged young man!
As far as the Life-to-Eagle process in a Venturing crew is concerned, don’t worry. The important thing is to find a crew to join and then, when your son signs on, he can conference with his Crew Advisor and get himself on-track. Let your son do this… It’s part of his growing up and taking care of himself!
Just be sure to collect any advancement or other records that troop might have, before your son officially transfers out (yes, it’s a transfer, and costs only a buck!).
Does a Scoutmaster have the authority to have Scouts do more for their rank requirements than what their handbook states? My son has completed beyond what’s required for Star rank, but the Scoutmaster has delayed his last requirement—the Scoutmaster conference—for the past six weeks and continues to ask for him to be a leader, which he’s been doing for the past six months. Another thing the Scoutmaster is insisting on is that merit badges can only be earned by going to summer camp or to a merit badge college. We’re about to change troops. Or is it OK for Scoutmasters to do this? (Name Withheld in Chickasaw Council, TN)
Absolutely change troops, and encourage friends of your son who are equally frustrated to change troops, too! This tin god of a Scoutmaster is either ignorant of the fact that it’s a BSA policy that requirements can’t be added to or changed, which is inexcusable, or he’s deliberately flouting that policy, which is despicable. Run; don’t walk.
A while back, someone asked you about multiple Scouts doing a fund-raiser at the same time, for their Eagle projects. In addition to your own excellent response, I’d like to add two cents more…
The Eagle project is fundamentally an exercise leadership and plan, and follow-through. Fund-raisers alone, we know, don’t qualify as Eagle projects. However, if the concept itself satisfies the stipulations for an Eagle project, then any fund-raising doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of the project itself. That said, I’ve also seen multiple cases where the project itself may not be particularly extensive, but the additional leadership that a fund-raiser demands can give the Scout an opportunity to demonstrate more leadership that the project without any fund-raising component.
In fact, the BSA doesn’t appear to have a specific policy prohibiting multiple Scouts from jointly raising funds for what will later be their Eagle projects. (Scouter in Daniel Webster Council, NH)
I’d say your parsing would be accurate. I would hope district advancement committees might see the possibilities here.
On a related point—the Life Scout who’s told that he hasn’t been active enough—the BSA national office has stated unequivocally that a unit may not define “active.” If the Scout’s registered, he’s active. (Essentially, “active” means “registered.”) However, as far as “position of responsibility,” a unit is permitted to state what a Scout needs to do to have met the responsibilities of his position, and I don’t believe there’s anything in BSA literature to the contrary.
So, if there’s a performance problem, or a problem showing up, the Scoutmaster should be speaking to the Scout, and advising him, “Son, if you don’t start showing up more, you need to let another Scout who can show up fill your Patrol Leader position, don’t you think?” (Scouter)
Interesting approach. Now let me pose a proposition back to you (this doesn’t require an “answer”—It’s one to think on): Patrol Leader misses some meetings (maybe it’s the season for his sport at the moment) but has arranged for his APL to cover for him. Now, everything may be just fine and “resigning” would be the very last thing to be considered, especially because this Patrol Leader is actually sharing leadership (Hey, that’s one of the eleven leadership skills!), which can often be more challenging than merely “showing up.” In point of fact, I don’t think there’s a simple “universal answer” here.
I am the Chartered Organization Representative for a troop and they’ve asked me to sit on some boards of review for a couple of Scouts completing Second Class and First Class ranks. Given that a board of review isn’t supposed to be a re-test of knowledge or a demonstration of skills, what might come up that would qualify as a failure? Apart from simply not showing up, how can a Scout fail a Board of Review? (Name & Council Withheld)
The answers to your two questions are: (1) Nothing, and (2) He can’t.
No board of review is ever “failed.” It’s possible that it might be tabled, to be reconvened at a later date, because something needs to be done that was somehow missed along the way, but Scouting isn’t about “passing and failing”—It’s about doing, occasionally making some mistakes along the way and fixing them, and succeeding, in that order.
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..