Andy’s Rule No. 28:
- Order of the Arrow elections are always “popularity contests.” Scouts who best live the Scout Law with their fellow Scouts will always be the most popular.
Andy’s Rule No. 29:
- Things you never want to see being made: Sausages and Troop Bylaws.
About that conversion in your July 28th column about Scouts and marching and such, yes, there are no rules against marching and drilling, but these aren’t in line with the origins of Scouting. The Boy Scouts in the UK were founded partly in response to cadet-style programs like the Boys Brigade. Baden-Powell said this about drill: “Military drill gives a feeble, unimaginative officer something with which to occupy his boys… Military drill tends to destroy individuality, whereas we want, in Scouts, to develop individual character; and when once the drill has been learned it bores the boy… Our aim is to make young backwoodsmen of them, not imitation soldiers.” So you may want to think very carefully about whether drill is in line with the methods of Scouting and furthering the aims. One quick test is whether the Scouts keep doing it when the Scoutmaster stops making them. (Walter Underwood, ASM, Pacific Skyline Council, CA)
The “Boys’ Brigade,” founded in Scotland, is now approaching 130 years of continuous existence. The BB, from which Baden-Powell borrowed unabashedly however selectively, possesses rather interesting and certainly admirable aims, including: Encouraging the development of a personal Christian faith; providing opportunities for leadership, decision making and skills training; empowering young people by involving them in decision making at all levels…and giving responsibility appropriate to their age and aptitude; raising awareness of young people to the needs of others…and globally and encouraging them to engage in activities and projects in which they can make a difference; being sensitive to the needs and aspirations of young people of varying backgrounds, differing abilities and stages of development and providing appropriate support, advice and guidance; and ensuring the safety of boys and young people through the implementation of suitable procedures for the selection, training and supervision of leaders. While one of this movement’s methods may have included marching and drill, today their national competitions include Badminton, Chess, Five-a-Side football (soccer to us Yanks), and Table Tennis. The BB also has—surprise!—a tradition of camping.
B-P’s remark about incessant drill applies still today, just as it would to an “unimaginative” Scoutmaster or Senior Patrol Leader who uses knot-tying or first aid week after week or the same campsite month after month, and winds up stultifying instead of inspiring the Scouts in his charge. However, teaching how to do something isn’t, in itself, “unimaginative”—it’s the mindless repetition of the same menu that bores Scouts and loses boys.
Of course, none of this has anything to do with Scouts looking sharp when they appear in public, whether it’s in a parade or marching in with the color guard at a court of honor. There’s no substitute for Scouts marching smartly in step with one another, knowing how to execute basics like column-right/left march, right/left flank march, to the rear march, knowing how to do a two-step halt, and coming to attention, at-ease, and parade rest. Now some might call this “too militaristic,” but these skills are no different from what marching bands know how to do, and those are musicians, for goodness sakes! Even choirs know how to move down an aisle in step, as do bridal parties.
Why do we admire close-order drill teams, marching band pattern executions at football half-times, and the sentries at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? It’s not because they’re “militaristic.” It’s because they look bloody sharp!
Name me a red-blooded teenaged boy who doesn’t want to look sharp! In Scouts, looking and acting sharp means being sharp, and being sharp helps dispel the notion that it takes a nerd to be a Scout! They eat this stuff up in part because it sets them apart from rabble, gangs, and riff-raff.
Knowing how to accurately stand, move, salute, and so forth no more conflicts with “individual growth” that knowing how to properly wear the uniform. In fact, learning these skills helps promote teamwork.
Has it crossed anyone’s mind that the aims of Scouting don’t include “making backwoodsmen” out of young people—Scoutcraft and such are some of the tools used to achieve the aims of character development, citizenship development, and physical and mental development—Scouting’s three key goals—but they aren’t aims in themselves.
When I was a Scout, our troop’s cadence count was, “F…I…V…E… F…I…V…E… F-I-V-E F-I-V-E TROOP5BSA-RAH!” In parades as well as at Scout camp on our way to assembly, all fifty of us chanted this in unison, and loved it! And so did the crowds, parents, onlookers, and our fellow Scouts!
As to the notion of a Scoutmaster “making” Scouts do something… Except for keeping clean hands and teeth while camping, when I was a Scoutmaster the idea of “making” the Scouts in my care do anything just never crossed my mind. Sorry. Can’t help you here.
You said, “There’s no substitute for Scouts marching smartly in step, and knowing how to execute basics like column-right/left march, right/left flank march, to the rear march, a two-step halt, keeping time in place, attention, at-ease, and parade rest.” I can think of a lot of substitutes for that and I bet our Patrol Leaders Council could think of more. I don’t see how any of that builds citizenship, character, or fitness. It does build uniformity and instant obedience, which are critical for infantry. I don’t know of a single troop in our council that does drill. The Troop 26 cheers was “Two Six Can Do!” (Wunder)
I think we’ve covered the point of mindless drill, and how it’s as bad as mindless anything. Beyond that, the rest is what makes horse races.
I’m an Arrowman but not active with our lodge (most of my time’s been given to my troops and Commissioner service). Recently I took part in an Order of the Arrow Ordeal weekend. During the weekend there was a lot of discussion about what the Scouts wanted to do, including a variety of possible service projects, but everything came back to the fact that the lodge doesn’t have any money. I asked how they raised funds, and was surprised to hear that, apparently, they’re are not allowed to have fund-raisers. Soliciting from businesses is reserved for the council; selling popcorn or holding dinners is considered competing with the troops. Their only revenue-generators are annual dues and selling lodge flaps. Does this ring true with you? What’s been your experience? (Name & Council Withheld)
Let’s start here: OA lodges don’t exactly need lots of money. Yes, they have dance and ceremonial teams, and those require some equipment (like a drum or two, and maybe some rattles) and Native American clothing and regalia, but in the latter areas more typically the Scouts with an interest in ceremonies and/or traditional dancing will make their own outfits at their own expense. Beyond this, there’s not much required, since the two main “jobs” of the lodge (and local chapters, if you have those) are camping promotion (done via visits to troops, packs, and the occasional Roundtable) and camping service (done via “work weekends” at the local Scout camp). That said, there are still ways for lodges and chapters to earn money, if they find they need to. One classic is the annual “Lodge Dinner,” wherein if the restaurant’s charge with tip and tax is, say, $25, and the lodge charges $30 or so. In some areas, teams of Arrowmen will put on “Arrow of Light” or “cross-over” ceremonies for Cub Scout packs in February, for which the pack will offer a contribution to the lodge. Another equally classic way to generate revenues is the Trade-O-Ree. (Google “trade-o-ree” and be sure to go to www.scouttrader.org/tor/index.
I’m concerned that my son’s troop holds elections—popularity contests—a couple of times a year. Your August 17th column pointed out that only the Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol leaders are elected. Some of the adult volunteers in the troop you’re your columns, but elections are still held, despite your having brought this up numerous times, in response to questions about it. The troop is growing and there’s a real possibility some Scouts won’t get the positions of responsibility they need to advance. My fear is that, if they don’t get these, they’ll drop out of Scouting.
Are there guidelines to help the Senior Patrol Leader assign Scouts to positions based on objectivity rather than popularity, taking into account a Scout’s advancement? More information on the appointment process would be helpful. (Name & Council Withheld)
All elections—whether inside or outside of Scouting—are popularity contests, like it or not.
In a Boy Scout troop, “most popular” invariably means the Scout who lives the Scout law… He’s trusted by and equally trusts his fellow Scouts; he’s loyal to his leaders, be they Scoutmaster or Patrol Leader or any leader in-between; he’s helpful to all Scouts and he looks for ways to be helpful; he’s a friend to every Scout and all leaders (goes with the trust factor); he’s courteous to his fellow Scouts and his leaders, and everyone he comes in contact with, including knowing when to say Sir and Ma’am and Yessir and Yes’M; he’s kind to the new Scouts who join the troop and is willing to help them get adjusted; he’s obedient and follows what his leaders ask of him without grumbling or procrastinating or just blowing them off; he’s cheerful even when it’s raining at the camp-out and the campfire sputters instead of blazes and his sleeping bag is getting soaked; he conserved his patrols budget when it comes to buying food for the next camp-out and doesn’t waste cook-stove fuel; he’ll stand up for his friends and he’ll stand up to bullies; he keeps himself and his language clean; and he respects the beliefs of all others, whether he embraces their beliefs or not. When a Scout is these things, guess what… He’s popular. This is why popular Scouts get elected to leadership positions and others don’t.
Troops don’t “owe” any Scout a leadership position just because he wants one. There’s no “entitlement” here. Every Scout earns his position of responsibility by clearly demonstrating that he can do the job. The operative word here is “demonstrate”— It’s not asking for or talking about how great a job you’ll do or putting down the Scout who already has the job. It’s showing by your actions that you’d be a darned good Senior Patrol Leader or Instructor or Historian or Patrol Leader. That’s cheap; action makes the difference… The difference is as big as that between lightning and the lightning bug.
Thanks. This is the excerpt from your August 17th column that I was referring to: “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).” My concern is this troop my son’s in persists in electing all of the other positions, which is not how it’s supposed to be done. And I do agree with your assessment of popularity. My concern isn’t about my own son. He’s always had the leadership positions he’s needed for advancement, and he’s a popular Scout (in fact, his Scoutmaster’s even asked him to run for another position).
But recently there’s been a large influx of new Scouts who know each other well and don’t know the older Scouts in the troop. In effect, they have a voting “bloc” that appears to have been recognized, because now there are specific requirements for positions that weren’t there before, including age-and-rank for Senior Patrol Leader. (N&CW)
In light of what you’ve just mentioned, I can understand your concern. Somebody needs to either take or re-take Scoutmaster training, and both the Scoutmaster and the Senior Patrol Leader need to read the appropriate sections of the Scoutmaster Handbook and Senior Patrol Leader Handbook. (Maybe somebody needs to make copies of the appropriate pages from each of these, and give them to these two key people, and also to the troop’s Committee Chair, with the suggestion that this isn’t about “Well, in this troop, we…” but, rather, it’s about following the BSA’s expectations about how a troop is to be organized and run.) Understand: It’s OK for a troop to establish criteria for an important position like Senior Patrol Leader, but it’s equally important to deliver the full program as it’s written, and not “invent” it.
For Star and Life ranks, is there a difference between “service hours” and “a service project”? The requirement for Star and Life refers to “a service project approved by your Scoutmaster.” Our Scoutmaster believes that “a project…” should encompass a few organizational details to make it more substantial, and not just an accumulation of simple hours. He wants a Star of Life candidate to spend no more that two to three hours on this project, including making a plan, talking to an adult, presenting the plan for Scoutmaster approval, and managing project’s completion. (We refer to it as “practice” for the Eagle project.) However, others in our troop are saying that Star/Life req. 4 means a straightforward minimum of six hours of time devoted to service on a project approved by the Scoutmaster; nothing more. Do you have an opinion on this?
Yes I do… My opinion is that this Scoutmaster needs to re-read the exact language of the requirement, and show you all where it stipulates that a Scout shall make a plan, consult with an adult, present a plan for approval, and personally manage a project to completion. You see, if this is what the BSA had in mind, then that’s how the BSA would have written the requirement. The fact that it’s not written in that fashion is the first and most important clue to the fact that this well-meaning but somewhat overstepping Scoutmaster is “interpreting” the requirement well beyond the words.
Fact is, except for Eagle, Scouts participate in but do not create or plan “service projects”—they give service to others or participate in the service projects of others. So, that Scoutmaster is, despite all good intentions, wrong. Moreover, Scouts don’t develop and carry out “mini” or “practice” Eagle projects, either; they simply pitch in where needed—pre-approved by their Scoutmaster, of course. Further and importantly, the “service project” that a Tenderfoot or Star Scout might participate in doesn’t even need to be a fellow Scout’s Eagle project! The project can be a school service project, a project by their religious institution’s youth group, or even a neighborhood or town project!
This Scoutmaster needs to follow the language of the requirements and stop adding further stipulations of his own making, because this isn’t what’s supposed to be going on, nor does he have the authority to do this.
I’m a member of our district’s Eagle committee. Among other things, we review theEagle Scout Leadership Service Project workbooks when they’re submitted to the district for approval. A question that’s recently arisen concerns the first bullet-point in the “Limitations” section of the workbook: “Routine labor (a job or service normally rendered) should not be considered.”
Different members of our committee have different ideas, which have generated some heated discussions. I’ve searched but have been unable to find anything more specific than what I just quoted. If you’re willing, it would be helpful to have your perspective, as we try to resolve this issue among ourselves. (Name & Council Withheld)
Let’s first say that you all are doing the right thing. You all definitely need to work this issue out among yourselves, and quickly, so that the troops and Scouts whom you serve can be correctly guided.
Now you do also know that if you want an actual “OBS” (“Official Boy Scout”) answer, you’ll need to contact the national office in Irving, Texas. But if the perspective of a fellow volunteer of several decades experience, including reviewing a few hundred Eagle project proposals and workbooks, would be useful, then here we go…
First, let’s see if the BSA has anything written that we all, here in the trenches can refer to… Yes! We do have something! The 2011 Boy Scout Requirements book, page 21, says that a project for Eagle must be “big enough, appropriate, and worth doing.” We also know, from Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures, page 28, that and Eagle service project must be “of real value” to the recipient.
Based on these statements, any district or council advancement committee, and certainly any Scoutmaster or committee representative can realize without much difficult that trash collections (even town-wide), or leaf-raking, or lawn-mowing, or other labor that would ordinarily “evaporate” over time and require continuing repetition would not be “Eagle project-worthy”—that’s pretty much a no-brainer. Even re-painting something that will require continuing repainting in the future might well fit this genre, too, unless the kind of paint used has a known multiple-year life-span (very long-lasting paint is often used on fire hydrants, storm sewers, and the like, making the painting of these something considerably beyond “routine labor,” especially if we’re talking about multiple hundreds of, say, fire hydrants). How about making sandwiches for a soup kitchen or food pantry? Well, if these are made day in-day out, or week in-week out, they’re probably pretty routine, too. So, with these as sort of ideas about stuff that wouldn’t be Eagle-worthy, it’s fairly easy to figure out the sorts of things that would indeed be worth consideration. But these do need to be taken on a one-by-one basis, and evaluated on their own merits (or lack of, as the case may be).
Thanks, Andy. Your thoughts are in line with what several on the committee, a particular Eagle candidate’s Scoutmaster, and I understood to be (and not be) “routine labor.” This issue came to a head when a Life Scout submitted his workbook for review and he proposed to clear non-native invasive plants from mudflats along a length of riverfront in our city, to prepare the area for the planting of native plant species later in the fall (not part of the Eagle project). He had spoken with a local civic league that had had this on their “wish list” of several projects they wanted to see done in their part of the city. From this, the Scout developed the concept and fleshed out the actual plans himself. Most of the review committee voted to approve the project; however, one member didn’t, and he explained his primary objection as follows: “The general format of this project is what could be considered routine labor—“a job or service normally rendered”—and would therefore not be considered appropriate for an Eagle project. Based on your write-up, you are doing the work that the civic league would be doing and have added no original planning or design to the project.”
Those of us who gave the project the “thumbs up” disagreed with his three major objections, because, first, there’s nothing “routine” about this project and it won’t require continuous repetition of invasive plant removal over this particular length of riverfront; second, the fact that a civic league had this on their “wish list” and thus did the “original planning” is immaterial; and three, that the Civic League could have done the project themselves is also immaterial. As we see it, almost any Eagle project could be planned and executed by someone else. The fact is that the Civic League can’t do the project and the Scout can and wants to.
Ultimately, we approved the project, but it’s caused some hard feelings. The committee will be meeting as a group soon and several of us are sure this project will still be a topic of discussion. We’d value your opinion about the merits of the project as a dispassionate “third-party” observer with plenty of experience on the subject of Eagle projects. Whichever way you side, we’d value your opinion as the “expert witness.” (N&CW)
I’d like nothing more than to give you an unbiased viewpoint on this, but that may be difficult. In my neck of the woods, we have a county park system that’s forever trying to get Life Scouts and their friends to clear designated areas of “invasive, non-native flora.” What we discovered in time is that this stuff has been going on for well over ten years, and the Scouts and their helpers are considered (and treated like) nothing more than free day-laborers. The proof of this came through asking the park commission folks, “What do you do, after the Scout and his helpers have done the work, to maintain this now-pristine area in the park? Do you have a way to make sure there’s no further invasion by these non-native plants?” Their answer was an astounding, “Nothing. When it re-grows with non-native stuff, we assign the area to the next Eagle candidate looking for work.” Folks, if that doesn’t sound like “routine labor,” I must be tone-deaf! Needless to say, we’ve since reached out to every troop in the area and suggested that they keep their Scouts away from these predators!
So, with this still a quicksand pit for unsuspecting Scouts, I’m reluctant to comment further on the merits or dangers of similar-type projects, but I do urge you to find out as much as you can about what’s going on when you’re not watching.
Thanks for the input. Even if you couldn’t provide an unbiased viewpoint, the insight you provided based on your experience will be invaluable to us. The situation with your county park system sure does sound like routine labor. At this point, however, I don’t believe the situation with our local civic league is the same (thank goodness!). I think this is the first time a project like this has been considered around here. I’m going to share your thoughts with both the Scoutmaster and the District Advancement Committee, to assure that this doesn’t become merely the first of a series and ultimately devolve into “routine labor.” (N&CW)
Try this as a question that may provide an interesting perspective, since this is a project of a physical nature…
If the Scout were to return to the general area in, say, a couple of years or so, would he be able to find his Eagle project? If the answer’s in the affirmative, it’s probably worth considering. If it’s a “not sure” or less, then maybe there are better opportunities?
One of our Den Leadersbelieves that once a boy’s a Webelos, any belt loops or pins he earned as a Wolf or Bear are no longer valid, so that all belt loops and pins have to be re-earned. I’m of the belief that only belt loops pertinent to a specific Webelos Activity Badge would be re-earned, using the Webelos requirements, to earn the Activity Badge, and all others are still valid, regardless of when they were earned. Can you clarify this for us? (Heather Brandow, DA, Indian Nations Council, OK)
How about letting that one disoriented Den Leader show you, in writing, where the BSA says this. He or she can refer to the Cub Scout Leader Book or the Webelos Leader Book or the Webelos Scout Handbook or an online resource (like the usscouting.org) or anywhere else he or she chooses, and in the meanwhile everyone else is going to proceed as normal.
I understand that the main requirement for the William D. Boyce New Unit Organizer Award is: “With the approval of the district committee chair, the volunteer serves as the organizer and completes the successful organization of one new traditional unit.” But what about reviving a dormant pack? A Scouter in our area re-opened up an older pack that had been dormant for years. Would this qualify? (Bryon Alford, CM/ASM, South Texas Council)
For the BSA description go here: scouting.org/filestore/pdf/04-
I suppose the key to your questionlies in what “dormant” means… If the new pack that an individual organizes is new in all respects except that it uses a number that was used at some time in the past by a unit that closed its doors, then my own thinking on this is that it would be, for all intentions, a new unit. But maybe that’s not what you meant by “dormant,” so maybe your council folks who decide this stuff see things differently. Ask around, just to be sure.
The troop my son’s in has imposed a rule that if you don’t finish a merit badge in a year from when you started you have to start over. Can they do that? (Name & Council Withheld)
No troop is authorized to impose an advancement requirement that varies in any way from the BSA’s specifications for requirements or advancement. That makes this troop’s notion that a “partial” is good only for a year unequivocally wrong. So that everyone involved in this issue understands that this isn’t my “opinion” and that a matter such as this isn’t open to either discussion or “interpretation,” let us bring to mind that, per the BSA, a Scout may begin work on any merit badge at any time he chooses and he may continue to work on requirements for merit badges and ranks until his 18th birthday, which statement can be found in a variety of BSA literature and handbooks. As a parent, you have the right and obligation to your son to demand that this so-called “time limit” be shown to you in writing, in an official BSA publication—which, of course, can’t be done. Moreover, the BSA does not permit any sort of “troop bylaw” that attempts to supersede a BSA national policy in the area of advancement. Finally, only a registered Merit Badge Counselor has the authority to stipulate that a merit badge has been completed, there are no “boards of review” for merit badges, and a merit badge—once duly earned—can’t be revoked. Any troop or group of leaders violating these policies and unwilling to conform with BSA standards need to be walked away from instantly, by your son and by as many of his friends whose parents want their sons to receive the Scouting program as it’s written and not as some renegade wishes to arbitrarily reinvent as possible. Neither you nor your son should knuckle under to this blatantly erroneous and damaging edict.
Our troop’s Scouts and adult volunteers are having differences of opinion on whether a Life Scout working on his Eagle project workbook should have access to other Eagle project workbooks. In other words, should we maintain a “library” of these, available to all Scouts, or not? Most of our Eagle Scouts don’t want this, but may occasionally let a Scout look at one, to get a sense for form. (Andy Schmidt, CC, South Florida Council)
What’s the big deal here? Are these Scouts not interested in helping a fellow Scout? That sorta sucks, IMHO. Eagle projects, sez the BSA, don’t have to be original, and the workbook write-up is a record; not a term paper that’s “graded,” so looking at another Scout’s work to get an idea of what a good one looks like is hardly “cheating”—It’s one Scout helping another, and isn’t that what we’re here for?
My son is 15 and has been a Star Scout for two years now. His troop won’t advance him to Life rank even though he’s done all the requirements for it because, according to them, he “doesn’t have enough Scout spirit: because he’s missed troop meetings. I’d thought that “Scout spirit” was supposed to be your way of life outside of Scout meetings. What do you suggest? (Name & Council Withheld)
The short answer is this: Get your son out of that miserable excuse for a troop. What they’re doing is flat-out against the way the BSA says a troop should be handling Scout advancement. I’m dead serious: Get him into a troop that knows the program and delivers it just like your son’s handbook promised and leave these self-important dolts in the dust. (No, it’s not “quitting”—Would you stay in a movie theater and watch for the entire 90 to 120 minutes a movie that bore no resemblance to what was advertised?)
Per the BSA (not my “opinion”), absences from troop meetings and activities, so long as the Scout is generally “doing his best” to attend, cannot be used as a rationale for claiming that a Scout isn’t “showing Scout spirit.” The BSA national council defines Scout spirit as “living by the Scout Oath and Law in one’s daily life”—just as you already knew—and so this obviously has nothing whatsoever to do with attendance.
So, either these people have had no training in what they’re supposed to be doing or, having taken the necessary training, have consciously chosen to not follow what they’ve been taught to do. Whichever it is doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they don’t deserve to have your son to inflict their personal predilections on, and they don’t deserve to have any boys under their thumbs like this, so get him out and talk with the other parents in this troop about walking away from these miscreants.
Is there a set number of award “square knots” allowed on the uniform? (Mike Bowman)
The current version of the BSA Insignia Guide recommends that these be limited to nine; however, there is no actual stated maximum.
What about earrings? Does the BSA have a policy? If the Patrol Leaders Council has voted to allow them, is it a good idea for the troop committee to go against that, even though the Scoutmaster supports the PLC position? Help! (Ray Passeno, Lake Huron Area Council, MI)
No Scouting council, district, unit, or individual, or PLC for that matter, has a thing to say about anything personal to a young person other than hygiene… like washing up, brushing teeth, etc. while camping. The BSA’s “policy” if you will on such things as jewelry, piercings, tats, hair style, etc. is that we have no right to dictate in these areas. End of story. Think about it… Are you, as a parent, willing to risk losing a son over a tat or piercing, or a daughter over a nose jewel or navel ring? I didn’t think so. Same with Scouting.
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