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Issue 286 – January 16, 2012

Rule No. 52:

• Conscience is what you do when nobody’s looking.

Rule No. 53:

• The Scouting units that actually thank their commissioner are often the ones for whom he’s done the least.


Every now and again a movie comes along that fits closely with one or more of the values or fundamentals of Scouting. “Miracle” is one of these; “Remember The Titans” is in there, too. Here’s another. Rated PG-13 (Warning: There’s an unmistakable “F-Bomb” in there), it’s “Stand By Me” meets “War Of The Worlds,” with a few twists. Writer-director J.J. Abrams has crafted a coming-of-age sci-fi period piece about six young people on the cusp of their teen years who, while trying to create a short film for a school assignment, witness something totally unexpected. What makes this story special is how the group evolves. The ostensible leader at the outset isn’t necessarily the natural leader, who emerges as the suspense thickens and action accelerates. Ever wonder if Patrol Leaders are “made-not born”? Part of the answer’s in this film, and well-done to boot! Watch it with your son, and enjoy a conversation with him about the way things evolved. I don’t think you or he will be disappointed.

Hi Andy,

In your December 22, 2011 issue (No. 281) you put out the call for anyone who had experience with Youth Roundtables. Well, I’m one.
As a Boy Scout Leader Roundtable Commissioner, I organized a bi-monthly Roundtable last year and invited two youth leaders from every troop in our district (sometimes their Senior Patrol Leader wasn’t available, and I didn’t want to discourage troops from participating, so I made it a blanket invite). The forum was run by two youth members of our council’s NYLT (National Youth Leader Training) staff, with oversight by two adult volunteers. We wanted a peer group atmosphere, taught by a trained Scout, using parts of the NYLT curriculum for a half-hour, followed by a half-hour cracker-barrel so they could have time to “talk shop” and get to know each other better.

The results were highly encouraging. The Scouts learned how other troops operated and what they did, and this also provided insights for the adult troop-level volunteers. In fact, the quantity of positive feedback on this youth forum is just too numerous to count! The only negative we encountered was that we did this on a school night, so we right away made sure we closed out no later than 9 o’clock. As for having NYLT staffers run the show, they were first-rate!

I’d absolutely encourage and recommend this type of forum to any district or council! The excitement I saw from our pilot was extraordinary. (Michael Scotto, BSLRTC, Monmouth Council, NJ)

Thanks! That’s great news and I’m sure will help others! Hey, if any other readers have a story about youth forums or roundtables and you’re willing to share ‘em, I’ve got the “space” for you!

Dear Andy,

Can you share any observations about some comments from adult troop leaders that I’ve been hearing recently? Here are a few…

“I can’t get my Eagle till the Scoutmaster’s son gets his first.”

“These Scouts aren’t ready to advance in rank yet; they need to slow down.”

“You can’t be an Eagle advisor till you’ve been certified.”

“Any time our Scouts go to summer camp or to a merit badge fair, we don’t feel they learn the requirements, so we review the requirements again with them before we give them the badge.”

“You’re not ready to be a First Class Scout, so I’m not going to give you your Scoutmaster conference.”
(Matt Price, UC, Occoneechee Council, NC)

Of course every one of these statements is bogus. You and I both know this. What’s horrible is that Scouts won’t, because they’ve been taught throughout their young lives that “adults are always right.” Teachers, their religious leaders, coaches, their former Den Leaders, certainly their parents, and just about all other adults they’ve ever encountered are “always right.” So when some little tin god in Scouting feeds ’em malarkey like this, Scouts will naturally assume that this sort of nonsense is right, too.

As an extension of this, many parents upon hearing such horsepucky from their son’s Scoutmaster assume such statements must be correct, too. After all, they think, no Scoutmaster would make false statements, would they? Of course not! They must have my son’s best interests at heart, or they wouldn’t be Scoutmasters, right? Wrong. Both the parents and their sons, being fundamentally honest and forthright, project these same qualities on others—this is normal.

What rarely if ever crosses anyone’s mind is that there are people who choose Scouting as an avocation because it allows them to fulfill their own particular distorted perspectives on life and human relationships, including being an “ultimate authority” and controller of others’ destinies…or worse (and rarely but not impossibly very much worse).

The best way to combat this sort of stuff is through knowledge. When boys actually read their handbooks, and when parents do the same, they then have the opportunity to recognize statements that run counter to what the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK tells them Scouting is all about.

Keep in mind always: The demagogue’s greatest fear is of a knowledgeable Scout or parent, because they have the ability to “call the bluff.” And one of the best ways to do that is to say, eyeball-to-eyeball, “That’s not what the handbook says.” Another excellent way is to say, “I’d like you to show me that in writing.” Either of these should have the effect of flummoxing the falsehood perpetrator.

The first thing that challenges like these will produce is something along the lines of, “What! Don’t you believe me?!” To which the response is a calm, “That’s correct: I don’t.”
Knowledge is the best “BS Detector” one can have. It’s more than a tool; it’s a weapon against mal- and mis-treatment, and it works.

Another superb BS Detector is one’s own “inner voice.” Sometimes we’re told something—like “Your son’s advancing too quickly, so we’re going to slow him down a bit,” or “Even though you’ve done all the requirements, you don’t have the maturity, yet, to appreciate what it means to be an Eagle Scout, so I’m going to have you wait a while”—that your inner voice tells you just isn’t right; it just doesn’t sound or feel right. Guess what… Your own inner voice always tells the truth. Our greatest problem—throughout life—is that we either don’t hear our inner voice, or we ignore or override it. Big mistake, because it never lies.

All of which leads to the next question: What to do. Here are three solutions for parents, not in any particular order. The first of these is to finesse your way into the position of Chartered Organization Representative, from which position you are quite literally the final arbiter of who the unit’s volunteers will—and won’t—be, and so once in place you throw the rascals out and replace them with people whom you know to be square-dealers. The second is to rally other parents and, in overwhelming numbers, meet face-to-face with the unit’s Committee Chair and demand that the rascals be given the heave-ho and replaced, and if this doesn’t happen every one of your sons will be transferred out within the week. The third is to quietly find a nearby troop that gets it right and transfer your son…and then tell other parents what you’ve found and urge them to check it out, too. For Scouts, the most important thing they can do is talk with their parents about what they’ve been told, and how it doesn’t match up with what their handbook says.

Finally, remember this, the adult who’s dishing out this nonsense is fundamentally a bully. The best way to deal with bullies is to face them down. They’ll bluster first, but they’ll ultimately crumble. I guarantee it.

Dear Andy,

I’ve been reading your columns for years, and I finally have a question of my own…

After six years with our pack, my younger son is bridging to Boy Scouts. I’ve been in charge of pack ceremonies for the last three years. Each year, the Webelos Den Leaders create the bridging ceremony, and this year I have that opportunity. Usually, the Order of the Arrow has conducted the ceremony and done a great job, but this year I’d like to do something different. (Actually, I believe that there should be at least six different ceremonies, so that the boys have never seen their own ceremony in advance.) Problem is, I’m out of ideas. Any guidance that you can provide would be helpful. (Dan K., Baltimore Area Council, MD)

Go here

However, consider that such ceremonies, which represent the culmination of a boy’s Cub Scouting experience, are OK when they’re a tradition of the pack, because they can become aspirational: Even Tigers and their parents get to see “the top of the Cub Scout mountain” when the same ceremony is used each year… They look forward with anticipation and excitement to when it’s gonna be their turn! So, change the bath water if you really must, but maybe you’ll want to keep the baby.


Hi Andy,

I’m the Committee Chair of the first and (so far) only Venturing crew here. Sometimes it’s difficult to get information due to our isolation. Here’s my question: Can (or should) an 18-year old Venturing crew member wear the Eagle badge on his uniform right shirt pocket, or does he wear the square knot above the pocket flap? Also, do position badges exist for Venturing crew LNT Trainer and Webmaster? These positions are approved for Eagle advancement, but aren’t available at (I’m asking because our Crew is heading to Japan this spring to do disaster relief work for 11 days, and I want our members to be correctly uniformed when we meet members of the Japan Scout Association.) Thanks! (Ray Heberer III, Far East Council, Taiwan)

As a Venturer, this young man, although 18, is still considered a “youth.” However, we’re talking about a Boy Scout rank here, and the BSA tells us that, in the Boy Scout program, one becomes an “adult” at 18. So, since he’s an adult by Boy Scout policy, and this is a Boy Scout rank, I’d say he wears the square knot. (If he were a Venturer in the 14-17 age range, I’d say wear the oval badge.) If you want to check further, the authoritative work would be the BSA’s INSIGNIA GUIDE, available at the website.

As for the position badges, apparently they’re not made for Venturers (at least not yet), but you might want to write directly to the BSA’s Supply Division:

Hi Andy,

I’ve been searching everywhere, and I’m downright stumped. I’ve just earned my Arrowhead Honor as a UC, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it means. Can you shed some light on the history of the Arrowhead Honor, and how it connects to Commissioner Service? (Chris Snider, UC, Occoneechee Council, NC)

An absolutely marvelous history of commissioner service, including a chronology of badges, can be found at:

Although the Arrowhead Honor is mentioned, Mr. Brown didn’t provide its origin or lineage, most likely because it was tangential to his thesis; however I’m writing to him in the hope that his perspective and research may shed some light on your question.

And Ed Brown writes…

Hi Andy,

Here’s quick answer from Randy Worchester’s Commissioner College thesis (his entire thesis is at

You’ll find some similarity between his and mine, as we shared notes and information. My thesis deals with the actual insignia whereas his goes into a little more history. As Randy points out, the Arrowhead was also available to Scoutmasters (silver) and Assistant Scoutmasters (gold), but since 1970 it’s been available to Commissioners only. The current requirements can be found on the Commissioner Key score card.

Here’s what Randy wrote:

“The silver Arrowhead Honor Award was introduced in 1952. The Arrowhead was an award that fit between the Scouter’s Training Award and the Scouter’s Key for Scoutmasters and Commissioners. It was brought out as a part of the three-year leadership training plan. At one time, there was a gold arrowhead for Assistant Scoutmasters. Originally pointing down, it was turned around in 1954. The Arrowhead Honor was changed to white in 1970. It is now a symbol of pride and identification of a well-trained Commissioner. This award is unique to the Commissioner Service and is unusual in that it requires the application of the knowledge learned in basic Commissioner training. It means that you have proved yourself on the job.” (Ed Brown)

Dear Andy,

I just received an email question from the mother of a Bear Cub Scout. Here it is…

“It was brought up at the committee meeting last night that unregistered adults could no longer attend pack meetings or den meetings. So this means if a Cub’s grandmother or grandfather wants to see their grandchild receive their rank, they must first register. Are they going to start checking everyone’s registration at the door for pack meetings? I’m registered but my husband isn’t. When I have other commitments, he has to drive our son to meetings and sit outside in the parking lot. Pack meetings have no specified end-time, and parents can be waiting in the parking lot for hours wondering when their son will come out. This pack is slowly shrinking and I think it will slowly shrink to nothing since 8 year old boys can’t drive themselves to meetings when parents work late.

“I’m thinking about transferring to a more accommodating pack since I can’t find where it’s written in ‘official rules’ about unregistered adults at pack meetings. I can understand campouts, but meetings is getting a little ignorant. Can you please send me the link to the new rules? I found where it was written that you can’t have a secret organization, which is what this pack is becoming.

“I’m not trying to cause any problems; I just want to see the new rules, since they can’t be provided by anyone in the pack, when I’ve asked for them.

“At the last meeting, our son didn’t want to go inside while his father had to wait in the parking lot, and we’re not going to force him to go in alone”
Andy, can you shed some light on the question and direct me to the written rule? (Greg Carr)

There’s no “written rule”! Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even snotty little sisters are—believe it or not—actually encouraged to come out to pack meetings! Why there’s no point at all in having pack meetings—where the Cubs put on skits, sing songs, get their badges and such, and share in ceremonies—if there are no families there in the audience to witness, cheer, and applaud these going’s on!

Whoever, at that reported committee meeting, made that alleged statement has taken leave of his or her senses! (Or is secretly a Gestapo overlord.)

To even suggest that Cubs’ families aren’t welcome at pack meetings is utterly ridiculous! And the best way to prove this isn’t through “committee litigation” or trying to find a “rule” that doesn’t exist—It’s proven by masses of families showing up at the door of the next pack meeting with their Cub Scout sons, and if somebody’s stupid enough to try to “card” them, they grab their sons, turn around and walk away from that silly pack leader…Forever. Or, simply barge right through the door, sit down, and refuse to budge. (Frankly, I’m amazed that any parent would meekly sit in a dark parking lot, with no idea about what’s going on with his or her own son! Time to grow some spines, folks!)

Parents at den meetings? Slightly different story—but only slightly. Of course no parent can ever be excluded from visiting a den meeting. But, not as participants or as “helpers” unless asked by the Den Leader. Parents, etc., can wait on the sidelines or in another nearby room while the meeting’s going on, but at den meetings they do need to become “wallpaper” while the Den Leader manages the meeting. And if, God forbid, a parent brought a sibling screamer along, then the polite thing to do is take the brat outside till the kid’s calmed down. But be “refused admission”? Not in this lifetime!

Campouts for Cub Scouts? Here, it’s absolutely mandatory that each boy be with a parent or an adult approved by the parent, and BSA registration is completely irrelevant.

Sounds to me like a Unit Commissioner needs to drop by and find out what’s really going on here, before this goes nuclear.

Dear Andy,

Is there a limit to how many and what positions and adult can hold with Boy Scouts? (Kimberli Brewer)

Other than the fundamental requirements for holding adult volunteer positions, the BSA doesn’t have stipulations on what positions, the number of positions, or for how long a volunteer might hold one or more of these. Parameters on number and tenure are most frequently managed by units and their chartered partners, districts, and councils.

HappY ScOuTing!
(No. 286 – 1/16/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012)


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.

Read Andy's full biography

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