There’s been much talk in your columns over time about the old custom of the snipe hunt and how today it’s considered hazing. It’s all in how you approach it. In our troop, the snipe hunt is a well-enjoyed tradition we include in our first year Scout camp weekend. It’s actually become a bonding activity between the new young Scouts and their older mentors, who accompany their charges on the hunt. After a few hours of completing rank requirements and learning outdoor skills, the young Scouts are charged with creating the tools they’ll need for their hunt. From twigs and twine, we’ve seen them design marvelous, inventive and imaginative contraptions of all sorts. Their anticipation builds around dinnertime, and the Scouts are excited about their evening adventure. At dusk, the older Scouts lead the newer ones out of camp, their makeshift nets, traps and other devices in hand, while we adults remain behind in camp and listen to the whooping and hollering as the Scouts try to lure the snipes into their clutches. A few young Scouts have claimed they’ve nearly captured a snipe on several occasions. Of course, some of the older Scouts will return to camp victorious, and then we all enjoy a late evening snack of snipe cooked over the campfire—and we’re often told that snipe tastes better than chicken! Then of course this year’s new Scouts will host next year’s first-year Scouts, and by then they’ll know that the snipe we snacked on was actually Cornish game hen (we even have a recipe for stuffed snipe in our troop cookbook!).
In essence, I don’t consider our snipe hunt anything less than a fun team-building activity for the Scouts that hurts no one. Incidentally, our local nature center has a (stuffed) common snipe on display. (Jim Kangas, MC, Northern Star Council, MN)
Thanks. What a creative way to convert an old tradition that didn’t necessarily have a positive outcome for the uninitiated into a way to produce team-building and Scout bonding.
I’m interested in obtaining ideas for service projects. My two nephews are First Class and have completed everything but the six-hour service project. Any suggestions will be appreciated. (Lori Lipton, Greater Cleveland Council, OH)
First things first: There are no specific “service projects” required for Star rank.
What your two nephews need to do (that’s right: They need to do this for themselves) is have a conversation with their Scoutmaster and tell him that they’d like to do requirement 4, and do any of the Scouts in the troop have an Eagle project they’re starting that could use some helpers, or is the troop going to do a service project for their sponsor soon, that they could help with? If their Scoutmaster tells them that these things aren’t coming up anytime soon, then they might want to ask him what they can do. Or, they can ask other Scouts in the troop who are already Star and Life what they did for this requirement. Or, they can go to their minister, priest, or rabbi and ask what they can do that would help the church or temple, and then ask their Scoutmaster if the suggestion they received would be OK to do. If there’s a Y in town, they can ask the director there how they could help out, and then clear this with their Scoutmaster. But the most important thing about this is that they do it—not somebody doing the investigating for them.
My son is a Star Scout. For his four-month tenure in a position of leadership for Star, he served as the Troop Historian. Then, as a Star Scout, he was elected to that same position for a second term. He’s a quiet young man, and not a strong leader, but he takes Scouting very seriously, and his work as Historian was outstanding. But both his Scoutmaster and the board of review coordinator have said that they won’t advance him to Life until he serves in a “real” leadership position, such as Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, or similar. I borrowed and read my son’s Boy Scout Handbook, and as a result I’m feeling that he’s met the leadership requirement for Life rank, and that the Scoutmaster and others are, in effect, adding to a requirement that’s already been met. Does a Scoutmaster, or committee member, actually have the authority to change or add to a requirement? Should I challenge them on this? (Name Withheld, Santa Clara Council, CA)
First, let’s understand that this troop is getting another fundamental wrong: Only the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leader are elected; all other positions of responsibility in a troop or patrol are appointed (most by the Senior Patrol Leader).
The BSA informs us that Historian a position of responsibility that, with proper tenure, qualifies for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks. To insist that a Scout, after having completed tenure in this qualifying position, must do yet another stint in any other position is a violation of BSA national policy. The Scout, having served as Historian, has indeed served in a “real” position of responsibility and is not required to repeat that requirement; nor can that requirement be added to, says the BSA.
Yes, the troop’s adult volunteer leaders need to be shown the language of the requirement and politely asked to revisit their decision on this. If they don’t conform with BSA policy, regardless of the rationale they might offer, you need to get your son out of that troop as fast as you can and get him into a troop that follows the BSA rules.
There’s no place in this movement for renegades, mavericks, or people who place their own misguided “standards” above those of the Boy Scouts of America. This is not a personal fiefdom; adults are here to serve youth; not play “tin god” with them.
I’m currently having some problems getting my son to finish the Personal Fitness merit badge. He only needs this and one other to complete all merit badges for Eagle.
Today he finally located two counselors for this merit badge, and they both told him that they only do the badge as a class, and only in specific months. Effectively they’ve told him that he’ll have to wait eight months to begin work on this merit badge. When I talked to these gentlemen—Counselor-to-
I understand your son’s dilemma and I can tell you straightaway that the two counselors he’s spoken with are sadly mistaken about how merit badges are to be earned, and they’re even further mistaken about how Personal Fitness requirements 7 and 8 can be carried out by the Scout. I’m obliged to point out to you, however, that unless shoveling water upstream with a pitchfork is something you particularly enjoy, there may be better ways to approach the problem here.
A BSA fundamental is that any Scout, your son included, is at liberty to earn any merit badge under the counseling of any registered Merit Badge Counselor, for that particular merit badge. On this basis, I concur that looking beyond your immediate troop and finding counselors for Personal Fitness elsewhere whose approach to counseling is in alignment with your own thinking (which is 100% on the money, by the way) is the path to take. Then, finding one who’s not horribly distant, your son can sign up with him to begin. In fact, if you happen to live near the border of a neighboring council, you can even check with that council for a nearby Personal Fitness Counselor! (In this regard, it’s important to know that a troop can’t “dictate” which counselor a Scout goes to, for any merit badge—the Scoutmaster’s job is simply to provide names and contact information, and that’s it. While this isn’t described terribly well in the newest—12th Edition—of the Boy Scout Handbook, it’s spelled out in detail on page 187 of the prior—11th Edition—handbook, and that information remains valid.
But let’s say that that effort fails, for whatever reason. OK, now we get creative, while still operating within the bounds of BSA policies and procedures. In your own travels, perhaps you’ve met someone whose approach to merit badge counseling parallels your own. He or she may already be a registered Merit Badge Counselor, in which case, just ask him or her to contact your local council and apply to be a counselor for Personal Fitness. Then, when this application is approved, your son goes to this person and completes the merit badge per the written requirements. If the best “candidate” you know doesn’t happen to be a registered Merit Badge Counselor, then there’s just one more step involved: Ask him or her to fill out the BSA Adult Volunteer Application and the MBC application, too, to qualify as an MBC for your son (and maybe his Scout friends, too!). In your conversations with these folks, don’t beat around the bush. Be absolutely straightforward about what the current problem is and ask them for specific help for your son (and probably a few of his up-and-coming friends as well!). Be very clear on the point that you’re not asking them to “slide” your son through; you’re looking for someone who will stick to the requirements exactly and they’re written, but without adding any stipulations of their own.
I know your temptation will be to “fight the good fight” and/or to “help” these otherwise well-intentioned volunteers to understand what they’re really supposed to be doing,” and I’m asking you to resist these temptations. This is in the best interests of your own son, as well as your own mental health (to say nothing about keeping Momma happy!).
Finally, be sure your son understands that this temporary impasse isn’t “about Scouting”—for the rest of his life he’s going to run into folks who think their way is always better than the boss’s, or the company’s, or the department’s, or the manager’s, or the dean’s, or the teacher’s, and on and on! In short, it’s about people and how they can sometimes lead themselves astray.
Thank you for your column—It’s a great resource. I noticed that the latest Eagle application had a few changes—mostly minor and all understandable. However, our council is now requiring all Eagle candidates to personally submit three letters of recommendation in sealed envelopes prior to their boards of review, and among these there must be a letter of recommendation from their Scoutmaster (apparently, somebody feels that the Scoutmaster’s signature on the application itself is no longer “valid” enough). Have you seen any change to the process that requires the letters for boards of review? I know the application still says “references who would be willing to give a reference.” I’d sure appreciate your help. (Scouter’s Name Withheld in Seneca Waterways Council, NY)
The BSA National Council would, I’m sure, consider your local council’s additional requirements out of line. According to the BSA, as stated on the Eagle Scout rank application, the Scout is required to provide the names and contact information (only) for up to six people who would be willing to act as references for him. While it may be asked of the Scout to deliver one or more requests for references, it is absolutely not required of the Scout that he, personally, obtain the references themselves. This is, and always has been, the responsibility of the council or district advancement committee, or the troop advancement coordinator, and unequivocally not the Scout. To demand this sort of thing of the Scout is blatantly exceeding the written requirement, and the BSA has a very clear prohibition of this sort of thing. To further require a reference letter from one’s Scoutmaster is taking the ridiculous to the sublime—this is a second violation of long-standing BSA policy.
I can only hope that someone has the courage to bring these violations to the attention of someone with the authority to remove them and return to correctness. We are in the business of growing tomorrow’s citizens; we are not in the business of ambushing, road-blocking, or otherwise sabotaging this process.
If this is unsuccessful, I’m going to recommend that a letter be sent directly to the National Advancement Director at the BSA’s national office, being as specific as possible, including naming the people responsible for these inappropriate requirements.
The only other course of action available (at least that I know of) is to knowingly creating a “test case” that follows the application precisely and when the council fails to carry out the board of review, the Eagle candidate and his champions appeal that decision at the national level. This, however, is an absolute last resort, because it significantly affects the Scouting life and all future memories of a young man at the apex of accomplishment.
As a Pack Trainer trying to update our records, I recently uncovered a concern with the leaders of one of our two Webelos dens. It seems that this den had dwindled down to only four Cubs in their Bear year. The purported reason for this is that the other boys in the den were very active with other activities and their parents were unable to agree on a day and time for them to show up for den meetings. Unbeknown to anyone in the pack until now, the den’s “co-leaders” had decided on their own that the four remaining Cubs should work on advancement on their own time, in their own homes. They further “decided” that because they “didn’t like the way pack meetings were run” they’d stop showing up…which they’ve now done for almost a year. Actually, we’d thought we’d lost all the boys in the den, because repeated attempts to reach these families came up dry. Ultimately, with neither den nor pack meetings, three of the remaining four lost interest and did indeed drop away, leaving one. One of the “co-leaders”—a parent of the one remaining boy—decidedthat she was going to run a one-boy “den” by herself, and then graduate her son at the end of his 18-month Webelos program. When she asked for the various badges and such that her son had earned over the past year, we advised her that this happens at pack meetings. So she said that she’s coming to the next pack meeting so her son can receive these. Since, at the Webelos level, the Den Leader does sign off on requirements completed, we have no quarrel at all with presenting her son with his Webelos badge and the various activity badges, belt loops, and whatever else that he’s earned, and we’re pleased to see that he’ll be coming to a pack meeting and, hopefully, more. Meanwhile, the Den Leader mom has come to our recent committee meetings and it was great to have her back with us. But this does raise two concerns that I need some help with…
My first concern arises in that this boy’s mother expects him to receive his Arrow of Light, and then cross over to Boy Scouting next Spring, but the very first Arrow of Light requirement says, “Be active in your Webelos den for at least six months…” However, this boy has had no den meetings and his family has chosen to not attend any of our pack meetings for a full year, so how could he possibly have met that requirement, even allowing for “Do Your Best”? Consequently, we suggested that this boy simply join the other Webelos den, which is doing just fine in every regard. This was rejected, because, apparently, the boy’s mother “doesn’t like” that den’s Den Leader. So we offered an alternative: Her son can meet along with our pack’s Webelos I den, to conform with the language of that requirement. Again, a no. She wants to maintain the “den of one” platform, rather than attempt to fit with that den’s meeting schedule.
Our reason for wanting this boy to participate with a den is that, in addition to fulfilling the requirement, it perhaps even more importantly helps him understand how a Boy Scout patrol will work, after he crosses over to a troop, and we explained this to his mother. Her response, however, was that her son was already going to troop meetings (he has an older brother in the troop) and even going on campouts with them, so the den participation idea isn’t necessary. But I did a little research and discovered that it’s OK with the troop and Scoutmaster for a boy to attend up to three troop meetings or outdoor events if he’s eligible to be a Boy Scout. Moreover, the BSA strongly advises against younger siblings tagging along on Boy Scout hikes and campouts, because it’s simply inappropriate. (I’m getting the feeling that this family might be bringing their younger son along regardless of what the troop may have to say.).
We’d like this boy to have a successful Cub Scouting experience, but we want him to do so within the structure of the program as it’s supposed to be. But every suggestion we develop that would fit is rejected, and the boy’s mother finally said that if her son can’t be a “den of one” and ultimately receive his Arrow of Light and then bridge over to the troop, he’ll just quit, and then join the troop officially when he completes fifth grade. Is there some solution to this apparent impasse that we’re not seeing? (Name & Council Withheld)
Based on what you’ve told me, it sounds like you’re dealing with a “my way or no way” parent. So, based on your description, I’d say let her cut herself and her son loose. We simply can’t save boys from their own parents. In your shoes, I think the way I’d put it is this: “The way this pack and its dens function isn’t going to make you happy, so may I suggest that starting right now you remove your son from this pack and, if you want, go find a pack where you’ll be happy.” Why do it this way? Simple. If you cave in on this, you’ll be caving in again and again for the next four to six months, and who has the time or energy for renegades when there are so many more boys and parents who play the game by the rules.
(BTW, please express my sympathies to that troop’s Scoutmaster… This “take no prisoners” attitude isn’t going to go away.)
But here’s the biggest part: What are you going to do, from now on, to make sure you don’t have the den collapse problem happen again? This is issue you need to address, because this is where the breakdown began. (Hint: Begin with the plan to eliminate the concept of “co-“ anything. It just never has happy endings.)
What does the saying “asphalt moon” mean? (John Campbell, Wisconsin)
I can tell you about crescent and gibbous, waxing and waning, new and blue, but not a thing about asphalt moons, except that Asphalt Moon is the title of the eighth novel Ronald Tierney’s “Deets Shanahan Mystery Series.” If you ever find out, let me know!
I’m involved with a troop that’s about two years old; started by a small group of like-minded families looking to follow the Boy Scout program as it’s written. Following The Patrol Method and being Scout-led, the troop recently had a Senior Patrol Leader election. Unfortunately, the Scout elected rapidly turned out to be difficult; some say immature. He was out and out defiant to the Scoutmaster and other adults, he bullied the Scouts, and told lies about other Scouts. His term ended and he returned to being a patrol member; but they recently elected him Patrol Leader. There were no significant consequences for his actions while Senior Patrol Leader and there are unlikely to be any as his un-Scout-like behavior continues in his latest position, despite efforts by the Scoutmaster to enforce some discipline. This Scout’s parents have told the Scoutmaster that they don’t want him disciplining their son. This has been brought up to the Committee Chair, the Chartered Organization Representative, and our Assistant Scoutmasters, to no result.
Personally, I believe that constructive discipline is part of the Scouting program. I expect to be asked to serve on a Life rank board of review for this Scout. He’s already been told in his Scoutmaster conference that it’s recommended that he wait to advance, while he demonstrates proper Scout behavior, but he’s ignoring the recommendation.
At the board of review, I intend to ask this Scout about specific incidents that I’ve either witnessed or been told of, to get his perspective. I feel this is in line with the rank that he’s hoping to earn. I expect, however, that the other members of the board will want to award him the rank. All of which leads me to wondering…
What actions, if any, can be taken toward a Boy Scout who’s a liar, willfully disobedient, and who doesn’t live the Scout Oath and Law, and, if so, who can take these actions?
As a registered troop committee member, what actual standing do I have? (I’m current on my training, but feel I have to follow what the Committee Chair says should happen.
In general, if I see this Scout misbehaving, do I step in or do I merely report it to the Scoutmaster and/or Committee Chair?
If I decide that this Scout isn’t living the Scout Oath and Law (Life req. 2), is that enough to deny him advancement?
If I’m the only board member to vote this way, does the Scout advance, or not?
If this Scout continues to be willfully disobedient, what can be done? How is this accomplished? By whom?
I want to make it clear that I want this Scout to succeed, but I don’t wish to award a rank I don’t believe he’s earned. (Name & Council Withheld)
You’ve described an interesting multi-faceted situation and asked considerable interwoven questions. Let’s see if I can help untie this Gordian’s knot by providing some clarifying observations…
In the BSA, adult unit-level volunteers may guide Scouts in establishing a troop culture of order and correct behavior; however, punishment in any form is not a part of the Scouting experience.
The absence of overt punishment does not mean, suggest, or imply that actions have no consequences. All actions have consequences; they are commensurate with the nature of the action.
The Scoutmaster is ultimately responsible for the Scouts’ behavior and comportment. If the Scoutmaster is unsuccessful in finding the best in a boy and bringing it out, then he can ask for help—this is his choice. If, however, the Scoutmaster is unable or unwilling to correct aberrant behavior on the part of a Scout, the Committee Chair is obligated to decide whether or not the volunteer in the Scoutmaster role is the right person for the job, and if the decision is in the negative, to replace the Scoutmaster with someone who can fulfill the responsibilities of the position.
If a Scout in a position of responsibility continually flouts the Scout Oath and Law, and after counseling is unable or unwilling to alter his behavior, the Scoutmaster is obliged to remove him from this position so as to prevent the further infection of the troop.
One purpose of the Scoutmaster conference is for the Scoutmaster to determine whether or not a Scout is ready to advance. Being ready includes having completed all requirements. If a Scout has—as this Scout has—demonstrated that he’s not living the Scout Oath and Law in his daily life, then he hasn’t completed all requirements. When this happens, the Scoutmaster informs the Scout and together they create a plan and a time-line for all requirements to be completed successfully. Until then, the Scoutmaster doesn’t ask the committee to schedule a board of review. (In your troop’s case, the Scoutmaster walked small around the problem and instead of dealing directly with it himself—which is what he’s supposed to have done—he passed the buck to the committee and the board of review. This isn’t right, and he needs to be told this in no uncertain terms.)
We must steadfastly refrain from making characterizations. Yes, a Scout may lie: This is a behavior. But when we call him “a liar,” we are cutting to his very nature and branding his character rather than dealing with an inappropriate behavior.
We must equally steadfastly refrain from relying on hearsay in forming evaluations of Scouts. If you need to know whether something really happened, or not, you need to speak with both the accuser and the accused concurrently and face-to-face.
It’s highly unusual for any group of people—Scouts or otherwise—to elect as their leader someone who lies, cheats, and abuses them by bullying. Something’s very wrong with this. It’s the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to unearth what’s going on sub-rosa and stop it. One solution may be youth protection training for the Scouts, so that they learn how to deal with bullies. If this is unsuccessful, the Committee Chair and Scoutmaster may need to consider removing the transgressor from the troop, to prevent further harm to the victimized Scouts.
The decisions of all boards of review must be unanimous. While no Scout ever “fails” a board of review, if one or more members of the review don’t believe that a Scout has correctly or “in the spirit” fulfilled all requirements of a rank, they’re free to vote in favor of not approving the rank until, at some specified future time the Scout has succeeded in meeting the requirement, at which point the board of review will be reconvened.
Any adult or youth who observes aberrant behavior on the part of a Scout is obliged to invoke corrective action. The adult would naturally speak to the Scout directly if there is immediacy to the situation, such as physical contact or emotional abuse (The command words are: “Stop That, Now!”). The Scout observing such behavior would immediately report the behavior to his Patrol Leader, the Senior Patrol Leader, or the Scoutmaster.
Finally, you didn’t describe why you believe that the other people on the troop committee who will sit on this particular Scout’s board of review will vote in favor of his advancement. What’s going on here? What are they afraid of? The Scout? His parents? Are we sure it’s only the boys in the troop who are being bullied? If not, why is yours the outlying opinion of this Scout? Have you indeed seen things no one else has? Your letter remains a bit of a mystery. I hope I’ve given you enough information to resolve this current situation and, ideally, prevent repeats in the future.
In the 2009 edition of Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, there’s a statement on page 27 about Eagle Scout Leadership Service Projects: “For a service project to qualify as an Eagle Scout service project, the Scout…must plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project benefiting any religious institution, school, or community.”
The 11th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook states (page 173): “You must plan develop, and provide leadership to others in a service project of real value benefiting the environment, your community, or a religious group, school, or other worthy group.”
It seems to me that I’ve read or heard that it’s “government, school, church, or non-profit organization other than the BSA.”
Have things changed or am I picking nits? Are non-profits such as the Red Cross or Salvation Army out? What does “benefiting the environment” mean? (Does this mean that an Eagle project can be building a bunch of bird houses and putting them up on a farmer’s property as opposed to putting them on community or government land holdings, because they qualify as “benefitting the environment”? (Bill Casler, Great Alaska Council)
The language and even the approval process for these projects has changed some dozen times, at various intervals, since the idea of a service project as a requirement for Eagle was first introduced. So, don’t get yer knickers in a knot! Stick with the current language and don’t look back, or you’re gonna drive yourself nuts each time you think of a new “what if…”
Simply counsel with the Scout, and see what he’d like to do, then confer with your district advancement person who handles Eagle projects. I’m sure that, the fewer restrictions you put on your (and the Scout’s) thinking, the better off everyone will be!
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