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Issue 270 – September 25, 2010

Rule No. 31:

  • Sometimes it’s OK to be average: It still means you’re ahead of almost half the group.

Rule No. 32:

  • There are five types of people in brainstorming sessions: Yes-But-ers, Not-Now-ers, It’ll Never-Work-ers, We Tried it Before and it Didn’t-Work-ers, and Why-Not-ers. Rally the Why-Not-ers; shoot the rest: The Why-Not-ers will get the job done!

Rule No. 33:

  • No book (or column like this one) is totally error- or typo-free.

Question: Were those Regional NAYLE courses anything less than complete successes?

Answer: You bet they were, Jack! We liked ‘em, we loved ‘em, we want some more of ‘em, Yeah! The two courses—first in the Central region and the second in the Northeast region—were “mountaintop experiences” and sure signs of things to come! Our Venturers and senior Scouts can start looking forward to 2012, where your can get to NAYLE at Philmont and also in your regional “back yards” (with a lot less travel expenses, too!).

Just take a look at the kind of spirit we generated! The photo’s from the Northeast Region, where even nine days of rain out of ten couldn’t dampen spirits. The challenges—ranging from team-building games to realistic first aid, search-and-rescue, and even geo-caching, coupled with campfires, cracker barrels, and dining hall cahoots produced a sense of unity, team bonding, and a whole new way of thinking about leadership—Primus Inter Pares!

NAYLE Group Photo

click to see larger image

Keep your eyes peeled for the 2012 NAYLE schedule, at Philmont, and for experiences of a lifetime closer to home too! And did we mention…They’re Co-Ed and peer-to-peer! More coming…

Dear Andy,

Our troop recently returned from summer camp in another state. While there, we witnessed a troop perform a flag ceremony in which they used hand-made wooden carbines (basically short M16s). Their Scoutmaster apparently asked at a Roundtable prior to camp if they could do this, and he said no one objected, so he went ahead wit this. I have to say that the actual ceremony was pretty poorly performed. The Scouts were haphazardly uniformed and weren’t very sharp about either movements or salutes. It seemed to me that their time would have been better spent learning the basics of raising the flag rather than making rifles. What, if anything, does BSA policy have to say about this sort of thing? (Dennis Freeman, SM, Trapper Trails Council, WY)

Every time I think I’ve heard ’em all, well, you know the rest…

All that’s necessary for Scouting’s idiots to prevail is for those who know better to not speak up. The response, at the Roundtable, by anyone, should have been, “That’s nuts. Boy Scouts don’t carry weaponry, either real or fake. End of story.” As for the camp staff permitting this, well, I wasn’t there so maybe the fact that the “ceremony” was largely a shambles said more than enough all by itself.

Hello Andy,

I’ve heard many different stances on whether or not a troop can hold a bingo night as a fund-raiser. Does bingo fall into the category of gambling? If a permit is obtained, would that work? If cash prizes weren’t used, could that work? I’m trying to figure out what the correct answer is. (Michael Dominguez)

You can confirm this with your Scout Executive (your very best source for a question like this) but do understand that as harmless as bingo may seem it’s nevertheless a game of chance and it’s therefore prohibited by BSA policy. You’ll find a description of this on the Unit Fund-Raising form that’s filed with your council service center. Do check it out, because this is a matter of policy; not opinion.

Dear Andy,

In my role as Assistant District Advancement Chair, I’ve learned a great deal by reading your column over the past couple of years. Thank you so much for your wise insights and solid advice.

I have a comment regarding the Scoutmaster who questioned whether a Scout had truly completed all the requirements for the Hiking merit badge while at summer camp. I agree with you of course, that once a blue card is signed by the Merit Badge Counselor there’s no going back. However, were I in that Scoutmaster’s position I believe I’d have had the same concern. The Hiking merit badge has five 10-mile hikes and one 20-miler. So unless that Scout came to camp with a partial already, it’s highly unlikely he could have done all those hikes in a week— unless he did little else. Not knowing all the facts, I can’t make a judgment, but I’d certainly pursue the matter with the Counselor or the camp’s Program Director, as you accurately suggested. I attend summer camp with our troop, and I’ve been known to do just that whenever I or my Scouts felt that the teaching by camp staff wasn’t up to par. (Diane Berson, Atlanta Area Council, GA)

Yup, we don’t “ding” our Scouts when it might be the adult who’s messing up in some way. I used to run MBC orientation sessions for two camp staffs during their staff development week—the week before the campers arrived—and one of the things we stressed was “the requirements as written: Nothing more; nothing less.”

Dear Andy,

We’re having a small disagreement with in our pack. There are some who think the Webelos“crossover” should be at the Blue & Gold dinner; others say there isn’t enough time to meet the requirements by the time of that dinner; still others want to move the Blue & Gold Dinner toa later date, to accommodate a graduation. What’s the BSA’s take on this? (Art Aigner, CM, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)

A B&G is designed to be held in February, that being the “birthday month” for both the BSA and the founder of Scouting, Robert Baden-Powell. For the past 22 years, the Webelos program has been implemented nationwide on a maximum 18-month basis, culminating in the earning of the Arrow of Light (followed shortly thereafter by graduation into a Boy Scout troop) by February, or certainly by early March at the very latest.

It’s in no way mandatory that the B&G and the pack meeting at which the Arrow of Light is presented to the Webelos Scouts be the same meeting, or that the cross-over ceremony be held at the B&G! Yes, it can be very nice when this happens—everyone really gets to have a party—but the BSA tells us that it’s perfectly OK to have the B&G in February and the AoL-and-graduation pack meeting in early March.

Dear Andy,

My boy will be working toward his Bear rank this year, but first I must be sure he can restate what’s required for Bobcat. He must repeat the Cub Scout Promise and the Law of the Pack, tell what WEBELOS means, and say the Cub Scout motto. For these, I have all the information needed. But he must also the show the Cub Scout salute, sign, and handshake, and then tell what they each mean. It’s this last part—telling what each means—that I can’t seem to find the answers to, online at least. Can you help me? (Lisa Lander)

You bet I can help. The meanings of the sign and handshake are described on pages 17 and 18 of your son’s Bear Handbook! The salute is on page 20, and after your son’s read pages 17 and 18, he’ll be able to explain why the salute uses two fingers and why, unlike the Boy Scout sign that has the upper arm horizontal and the forearm vertical at a right angle, his arm is straight up from the shoulder without a bend at the elbow for the Cub Scout sign.

Dear Andy,

I’m a big fan of your columns, and I have two items I need your advice on…

Our troop has a Merit Badge Counselor who does merit badges at troop meetings. At a recent meeting I spoke to him aside and asked him to do merit badges on our Scouts’ personal time, noting the need for initiative on the Scouts’ parts and other points you’ve mentioned in other columns. But then another adult volunteer, who wanted me to show him where the BSA says that merit badges aren’t a part of troop meetings. My response was that it’s not that the BSA says “don’t;,” we just don’t do this because it takes away the purpose of having the Scouts go out on their own (Buddy System, of course) and work personally with a Merit Badge Counselor. I further explained that troop meetings aren’t the place for “Scout school” and showed him a Troop Meeting Plan; however, this bothered me a bit so I did look into the question because I’d love to show this to everyone. I looked in the Scoutmaster Handbook and the Boy Scout Handbook and I couldn’t find it. Can you point me toward a good reference?

The second issue is different. At summer camp, we had a major incident when a few Scouts started making racial slurs toward one another. For one Scout in particular, this was his third offense (others included waving knives and axes at other Scouts and not following the requests of his Patrol Leader). For the other Scouts, this was their first time in getting out of line; but that’s no excuse. I plan to get them all together at the next troop meeting to discuss this issue as a group (no emails), get to the bottom of this, and be forthright in explaining that this isn’t tolerated under any circumstances. My question is, what do I do about the Scout with the third offense? (The other Scouts include two Tenderfoot, a Star, and an Eagle). I want to be fair to all but I don’t want this to ever happen again. (Jeff Roddy)

On your first question, actually, the “Troop Meeting Plan”—which shows no room for ongoing merit badge “classes”—is your absolute best reference document. This is because the BSA isn’t in the habit of making policies about stuff that should be self-evident, like “merit badges are done by Scouts on their own initiative, away from regular troop and patrol meetings.” If anyone continues to try to pressure you, turn the tables on them: Ask them to show you a BSA document that includes merit badge requirement completion work as a regular part of troop meetings and, until they do, it’ll be done per the “Troop Meeting Plan,” end of story.

That said, since it’s definitely convenient to work on merit badges on the same night and at the same venue as one’s troop meeting, if a couple of Scouts can arrange with their Merit Badge Counselor to meet, let’s say, a half-hour before the start of the troop meeting, this can work out quite nicely for all.

On your second issue, you have a problem, and that’s for sure. As for the repeating Scout, if his behavior is such that he demonstrates the potential to bring physical harm or injury to himself or other Scouts, the Scoutmaster and troop committee are obligated to remove him from the troop until such time as these behaviors are 100% gone. Now understand: You’re not “de-registering” the boy—he’s still a member of the BSA—he’s simply not on the troop roster any longer and won’t be until his behavior has changed. Inform the Scout of this decision in-person, then inform the parents in-person as well, advise the council registrar, and alert your council’s Scout Executive and the head of your chartered organization. In so doing, stay completely observational and factual and resist the temptation to engage in characterizations or judgments. In this regard, whether it’s a “third offense” or not isn’t the point. This isn’t a “workplace” or “employment” situation’ it’s about the safety of the Scouts.

As for the other Scouts, do not read ’em the Riot Act as a group—This is done on an individual basis, and you can put the fear o’ The Almighty into them for having the insensitivity and ignorance to use ethical slurs, to the point where, when they’re ready to advance in rank, and they get asked, “Do you live the Scout Oath and Law in your daily life?” they’d better be ready to be challenged if they try to white-wash their behavior!

Hello Andy,

I’m a Scout parent with a question about how a unit committee is run. Specifically, can a Scoutmaster call a committee meeting without the Committee Chair present, and can that Scoutmaster run the meeting and vote on issues? (Jenn Queener, Mid-America Council, IA)

In a correctly run Scout troop, the Scoutmaster isn’t even a member of the committee. In fact, the Scoutmaster reports to the committee and the Committee Chair. So obviously, he has no “vote.” But then it’s really a very rare circumstance that would call for any sort of a “vote” by a troop committee, because a troop committee get the administrative and logistical stuff done and the BSA has already provided all the policies and procedures a troop will ever need. Moreover, as far as the troop’s program is concerned, the committee has no creative or decision-making authority—the troop program is created and decided on by the Patrol Leaders Council, which is chaired by the Senior Patrol Leader. This is according to the BSA and can be found in the Scoutmaster Handbook and Troop Committee Guidebook.

Dear Andy,

How often should a Cub Scout pack be visited by their Unit Commissioner? My son is currently a Webelos II (now called Arrow of Light) Scout and we’ve never seen our Unit Commissioner at a meeting. About a half-year ago, when I found out that our pack was making some very unorthodox rules regarding which boys would be allowed to apply for day-campscholarships, I actually called our Unit Commissioner and asked her to get involved in this mess so that she’d override the Cubmaster and sign a Cub’sscholarshipapplication, but that’s the first time she ever got officially involved. Shouldn’t she be showing up for the occasional planning meeting? This pack is in a lot of trouble, and it would be a shame to see a 30 year-old pack go under because nobody cares to step up and help us! (Name Withheld in Cornhusker Council, NE)

If your pack is wandering off the course of Scouting’s True North and you don’t have an engaged Commissioner helping you get back on course, maybe it’s time to contact the District Commissioner and ask for someone who’s pro-active and knows the Cub Scout program. Do understand, however, that Commissioners have no direct authority over the pack or its adult volunteers—a Commissioner is an ambassador and diplomat, a guide and mentor, and sometimes a mediator, but not a “council cop.”

Dear Andy,

I have a silly question… Can a round of mini-golf satisfy the requirement for the Golf belt-loop? (Isabel Lopez-Causley, CC)

It’s not a silly question, and the answer is: The belt loop requirements specifically refer to a driving range and a chipping/putting range.

Dear Andy,

Do you know what paperwork needs to be submitted to change the Committee Chair prior to recharter? (Gerry Miller)

If the incoming Committee Chair fills out the BSA Adult Volunteer Application and submits it, properly signed and with the “CC” position code filled in, to the council service center’s registrar, then the only other thing that needs to be done is to concurrently alert the registrar that the position code of the prior CC is changing to (fill in the blank)…

Dear Andy,

I’m a Shooting Sports Director and I’ve been told that the BSA national office has engineering support services. I’d like to find out who I need to contact in order to obtain plans for a “high-low house” for sporting clays shooting, for a BSA-designed and approved set of plans with a material list, so we can make forward progress at our council’s camp. (Ed Bailey, Cherokee Area Council, TN)

In your shoes, I think what I’d do is pick up the phone and call 972-580-2000… That’s the BSA national office. Alternatively, ask your friendly Scout Executive to assign someone to track this down for you.

Hey Andy,

We’re planning my Eagle ceremony, and I’m wondering if you know where I could get the symbols for the Trail To Eagle, and the candles to go with them. (Rodney Andes, Louisiana Purchase Council)

Call your local council’s Scout shop… That’s where you buy the big cardboard rank posters. Candles can come from any craft or card shop, or often even your local supermarket. Bases for the candles are a great buy at your local “Dollar” store.

Dear Andy,

Our troop is having an Eagle Scout court of honor for multiple Eagle Scouts. Some of the new Eagles have brothers who are Eagle Scouts and who will be participating in the court. I’m wondering if there’s a rule for attire for those brothers who want to wear their uniforms (they still fit them). Someone said that they can only wear their uniforms if they’re currently registered with BSA, but someone else says that the new Eagles should be the only ones in uniform because it’s their special day. What’s appropriate and is there a rule for attire? (Susan Mayer, ASM, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

While it’s certainly accurate, from a purely technical point-of-view, that “only currently registered members of the BSA may wear the BSA uniform,” we equally need to keep at the front of our thinking that Scouting is a movement more than an organization (even though it’s quite obviously “organized”), and that we’re talking about a couple of hours, to honor fellow Eagle Scouts—who are brothers, no less. In other words, there’s nothing conspiratorial, surreptitious, intentionally misleading, or evasive going on here—this is about former Scouts wishing to honor the next generation. Taken in this light, my own opinion is that uniforms are absolutely OK—especially when worn with their Eagle medal pinned on.

It would take a pretty rigid-backed curmudgeon to would walk up to an Eagle Scout of any age and tell him his uniform’s got to go.

For those without (or who outgrew) their uniform, a suit or sport jacket with the Eagle medal pinned to the breast pocket is the next-best thing. This goes for any adults attending as well, by the way

Hello Andy,

Can you refer me to any information or give me any suggestions on how we can motivate a Life Scout to finish up his project and become the Eagle we know he wants to be and can be? I’ve had some good chats with this Scout, but sometimes he just seems indifferent. (Bill Rush)

Anyone who “wants to be an Eagle” and is correspondingly “indifferent” has sure figured out how to send two opposing messages at the same time. As for what to say next, maybe it’s nothing… Scout advancement is based on each Scout’s own personal initiative and goals, and maybe he’s quietly telling everyone exactly what he wants for himself, but nobody’s paying any real attention. But I can certainly have read this wrong, so let’s see what we might suggest here…

No point in my saying what another Eagle Scout’s already said (a lot better than I might have, despite our perspectives matching up pretty well), so, the first thing for the Scout and his Scoutmaster to read is this…

After they’re done reading it, a little chat about the ideas in it would be a good thing.

Then, just to ice the cake, they need to both go here, read this, and talk it over after they’ve read through it together…

Dear Andy,

Help! We’re trying to prepare a “cross-over” ceremony for a wonderful Cubmaster who is going to be going to a troop along with his son. For five wonderful years he’s done an amazing job for our pack. Are there any websites that have suggestions or ideas for this type of ceremony? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m guessing that more Webelos Scouts than just the Cubmaster’s son will be crossing over, and that you’re already planning on a ceremony for them, to make them the “featured event” of the evening. As for an “adult crossover ceremony,” I’ll admit that I’m a bit stumped, because we Scouting volunteers usually like to make sure we focus on the youth we’re here to serve than on ourselves. Moreover, I’d also want to make certain that no Den Leaders are “crossing over” too, since it would certainly be appropriate to recognize them as well. Nevertheless, if, in fact, your Cubmaster is the sole adult in your pack who’s actually taking on a registered volunteer position with a Boy Scout troop, then a ceremony that’s brief and complimentary, perhaps by the intake troop’s Scoutmaster, would be a very nice idea. I’d be tempted to model it after the one that you use for the boys, just make it briefer.

Hey Andy,

We are having a court of honor soon. It’s for presenting ranks and merit badges. We don’t have any Eagle Scouts for this one. So, is there a program template for just a court of honor? I’ve researched the web and found most of them are for Eagles. Our chartered organization is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This is my first court of honor to manage and if I had a few programs from some of our same sponsor types, this would be a big help. (Ricki Wilkerson, SM, Alapaha Area Council, GA)

Courts of honor are for all ranks, not just Eagle. Let’s remember that Eagle might also be described as—importantly, but simply—the final of the Boy Scout ranks. So, feel free to include as much pomp and circumstance as you’d like, with special (but reasonably brief) recognition ceremonies for your Scouts who earned Tenderfoot (call ’em all up front for the ceremony), then a ceremony for your new Second Class Scouts, and so on right up through Life rank and any palms. Have a special recognition moment for all those who earned one or more merit badges, too! Work hard to avoid the “recognition-by-Zip-Loc” syndrome! Remember, also, that all of these Scouts should already have received all of the badges they’ve earned—these would have been given to them at the troop meeting the week after their boards of review for the rank, or the week after they turned in signed merit badge “blue cards.” Courts of honor aren’t for handing out badges; they’re for publicly recognizing advancements and achievements since the last court of honor.

If you do a web search for “boy Scout ceremonies” and/or “Scout rank ceremonies” you’ll be delighted to discover that this path’s already been walked, and you’re the newest beneficiary! In doing this just now myself, I found which has some pretty cool stuff! (Some refer to “present the pin/badge,” but we’ve already been over that point.)

Dear Andy,

We have an issue of a Scout bullying another about the selling of popcorn. The Scout doing the bullying has a dad who’s a leader in the Cub Scout pack. The dad also bullied the same Scout trying to sell popcorn. The dad has a younger son who’s a Bear, who was also in on the bullying. That makes three members of the same family bullying one boy. Here is what transpired… The Scout went to a nearby family friend’s house to sell popcorn (he wasn’t just going door-to-door). The bullying family noticed the Scout as he was approaching the house; their older son ran to the same house beat the Scout there; then the father called out to the boy, calling him over where he proceeded to tell the boy that he’s not allowed to sell popcorn without his uniform on, and that this was “their” neighborhood and he couldn’t sell there. The boy went home instead of completing his intended visit. To muddy the waters further, the father of the bullied Scout is the Scoutmaster, and the bullying father is the troop’s former Committee Chair.

This happened a month ago. Since then, the Unit Commissioner was brought in to help resolve the issue, but didn’t bring this up when he met with the two fathers. The District Commissioner and the Chartered Organization Representative from the church that sponsors the troop got involved, too. Meanwhile, the church wants to follow disciplinary procedures but doesn’t know what they are. (The BSA boasts a “zero tolerance” policy on bullying, but apparently no one wants to enforce it.) The two bullying boys are now bragging about the event at school as well as at troop meetings. The troop committee said they’d talk to the bullying Scout and tell him to stop, but then, when they met with him, their conclusion was that they didn’t see where he’d done anything wrong.

I’ve been a volunteer here for seven years, and I’m now at my breaking point. The structure of Scouting is letting us down by not providing a clear definition of “zero tolerance.” If you were working a job with a zero tolerance drug policy and tested positive for drugs, you’re terminated. Why does the same not hold true to a zero tolerance policy in Scouting? I’m really concerned because the outcome of the bullying is going to affect the fifty-plus members of the Scouting units at this church. Please help us clear a path through this issue. (Name & Council Withheld)

The BSA is perfectly clear: zero = 0. What you folks apparently haven’t figured out yet is that this is your own problem to fix and no one else’s. It’s the specific responsibility of the sponsor and the unit committee to deal with apparent troublemakers like these people, including removing them from the unit(s) if necessary. If you all did your jobs instead of hoping somebody will do them for you, this problem would have already been resolved. Do you all not know that the sponsor—not the BSA or the local council—owns the unit, and that it’s your own responsibility to apply the Zero Tolerance principle when it requires applying?

Yes, we’re aware that our chartered organization owns us, and we have also come to realize that this issue should have been solved within the unit. One thing I may not have made clear enough is that the committee is intimidated and appears to be threatened by the former CC father and would rather not deal with this issue.

Of course the committee “would rather not deal with this issue.” Nobody enjoys having to deal with something like this. But here’s the principle that applies: You’re not expected to like it, but you are expected to do it. And of course they’re “intimidated” by this person. That’s what bullies do: They gang up on and intimidate people. That’s why the best way to stand up to a bully is as a group (not one-on-one), shoulder-to-shoulder, and tell him flat out, You’re history, Bub. That’s how this committee needs to stop walking small and team up, instead. It’ll work for one elemental reason: Inside every bully is a frightened little child.

Happy Scouting!


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

September 2, 2011 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2011)

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..


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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