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Issue 289 – February 6, 2012

Rule No. 55:

  • In phone conversations with fools, say whatever will make them pause; then hang up.

Dear Andy,

Do the Scouts themselves need to raise whatever funds may be needed for their Eagle Scout Leadership Service Projects? (Name & Council Withheld)

For projects that require funding of some sort (for materiel, etc.), there’s no BSA rule that says the Scout must do this.  Funding can be provided from various sources, including from the actual recipient of the service.  For instance, if the project involved building or painting something, the organization receiving the service can provide either the materiel or the funds necessary to purchase whatever’s going to be needed.

Dear Andy,

In the Journey To Excellence (JTE) “FAQ” section, this Q&A appears:

 “17. Should the silver award be higher than gold to match other hierarchy in the Boy Scout program?   This was discussed by the task force, which decided that Journey to Excellence would be better understood by the majority of volunteers—especially new volunteers—if the program followed the bronze, silver, gold sequence.”

It seems to me that the so-called task force itself was clueless.  They’re willing to throw out a hundred year-old Scouting tradition that’s used in every program segment—Cubs, Scouts, Venturing, Sea Scouting, even Exploring—because Scouting volunteers…what? Might get confused?  Are new and haven’t learned Scouting traditions yet?  This is absurd and will do nothing less than cause confusion and diminish impressions and aspirations.  Now, the Venturing Silver Award runs the risk of being considered “second-best” while at the same time a unit, district, or council earning the “gold” JTE level runs precisely the same risk, in the opposite direction!  Here we have people asking us volunteers, and professionals, too, to meet a set of standards and the dopes that came up with this alternative hierarchy don’t themselves have a clue as to what “standards” means.  And they sure are even more clueless about tradition.  Besides you, who do I write to about this?

Mr. Robert J. Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive, Boy Scouts of America, 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane, Irving, Texas 75015-2079

(Dave Baran, who mentioned “patrols of 12 Scouts each” in an earlier column, writes again…)

Sorry, Andy, I think I mis-communicated in my earlier message.  We’re shooting for eight Scouts per patrol (it had previously been six per, but we often had too few Scouts from each patrol on campouts, due to sports), but had a lot of late arrivals that pushed us up to 12.  We got into this because we weren’t willing to say “no” to incoming new Scouts.  

Our patrols do elect their own leaders, however; we wouldn’t have it any other way.  The challenge for us is that the base of the pyramid suddenly got a lot wider, what with brand new Scouts, and we’ve traditionally tried to put a mix of different-aged Scouts into each patrol: This assures that there’s a mix of ranks in each patrol, which has worked well for us in the past.  This way, also, the younger Scouts can learn from the older ones, instead of from the “really older” (like Assistant Scoutmasters).  That’s what I mean by “boy leadership”—having an experienced older Scout to learn from.

We’re effectively capped on overall troop size by the size of the meeting space and by campsite size availability.  We’d like to manage the influx better, so that we can stay with six to eight Scouts per patrol, each lead by a Scout of their own choosing. (Dave Baran)

I’ll bet nobody remembers that patrols are actually supposed to include Scouts of comparable ages and grades.  For example, when a Webelos den joins a troop, it comes in as a new, intact patrol rather than “seeding” the new Scouts into existing patrols.  Yes, it used to be done differently, back in the days when boys—even Cub Scouts—graduated into troops shortly after their 11th birthdays, and I can tell you from my own experience as a kid, that sucked.  I was the “newbie,” the “low kid on the totem pole,” and I didn’t learn squat from my Patrol Leader except lay low when he’s dishing out assignments.  So when my own son graduated into a troop—with his den-mates, by the way—I made sure they all joined a troop that believed in keeping boys like these together, and guess what happened… That’s right, they stayed together straight through to their 18th birthdays (five of the six made Eagle, along the way, but that happened when they were mostly 14 or 15).

When it’s done this way, natural leaders emerge in each patrol and, for the newly elected Patrol Leaders, they have a Troop Guide to coach them.

Patrols of 12 just don’t work, ever.  Nor 11, 10, or 9.  Eight means they’re maxed out before they even get off the ground.  Six is near-perfect.

For camp-outs, a patrol of six that loses two can still function extremely well, and absolutely doesn’t need to be bolted to another bunch of Scouts to make up some sort of hybrid “patrol of convenience.”  Plus, the only way to go hiking and camping is by patrol; not by “troop.”  The troop is simply the umbrella under which the patrols operate.

This is how The Patrol Method works.  If a troop isn’t doing it this way, it’s simply not Boy Scouting.

Patrol Leaders who are new to the troop learn from their assigned Troop Guides, who are coaches and not “acting PLs.”  Then, ALL Patrol Leaders, and the SPL, are coached by their Scoutmaster, in TLT (Troop Leadership Training) and beyond… “OJT,” it’s called.

Campsite too small?  The PLC needs to pick a location that has bigger campsites.  Meeting room too small?  Talk with your sponsor.  Or, consider creating a second troop entirely, allowing the Scouts to decide which one they’d like to be in, with input from parents about geography.  Your Unit Commissioner and District Executive can help you all with this.

Hi Andy,

I’m not sure what Kimberli Brewer, in your earlier column, was getting at with her question about how many positions a Scouting volunteer can hold (perhaps there was more to the question that you didn’t print?).  Isn’t there some kind of rule about Chartered Organization Representatives (CRs), Committee Chairs (CCs), and Scoutmasters (SMs)?  Hey, here it is, I found it (Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, Article VI, Section 3, Clause 7): “…each chartered organization shall appoint a volunteer, other than the unit leader or assistant unit leader, as its chartered organization representative to represent it as a member of the district committee and as a voting member of the local council.”  So a SM can’t also be a CR.  Maybe that’s a technicality that doesn’t matter with Kimberli’s question, but maybe it does? (Larry Geiger)

That was the complete question, but you’re right: My answer may have fallen short. You’re correct that the one place where a unit volunteer may hold two positions in that same unit are when the CC is simultaneously the CR.  Other than this, while we can hold multiple positions in different units and/or for the district or council, we can’t hold more than one position in the same unit.

Hi Andy,

In your January 8 column about a Cub Scout group starting a new troop with eight crossing Webelos Scouts you commented: “As for ‘mothers helping out,’ to be real blunt, now it’s time for the fathers to step up to the plate: Boys can’t get male role-modeling from women.”

I fully understand that this is your opinion, but it sounded to me as if you want the women to go back home and have another child if they want to continue in Scouting.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the boys to learn that in the real world men and women are equals, they can have the same jobs, be bosses, and underlings.  How will these boys learn how to deal with women if not through Scouts?  I surely hope that any women related to those eight boys that want to step up and become part of the committee that they are not told No, you are a woman so you cannot be in Boy Scouts, period. Let’s leave sexual discrimination out of Boy Scouts.  I hope that when this new Scoutmaster goes to Roundtables and sees all the powerful men and women working together he’ll understand that boys need to see a good role model of men and women working together (and) not just be another jock-filled, all-male environment where disparaging the other sex becomes far too likely and more allowable.  I agree they need male role models, but they also need to see the male and female creatures working together outside of home life. (Nicole Swenson, RT Staff, MC, WDL)

I’m delighted that we agree on the point that boys need male role models.  This is why fathers’ involvement is so important for boys of Boy Scout age.  As for the idea that these boys’ mothers should “go back home and have another child,” I’m afraid I have to disagree with you.  I believe that mothers and fathers continually provide modeling for their sons (and daughters also) on how the adult genders interact at home, in the workplace, in education, religion, sports, and beyond.  There are also many places for both men and women in Boy Scouting, and the program always needs solid volunteers.  The important takeaway here is that, especially at their sons’ present ages, fathers need to significantly increase their involvement—the “jocks,” as you put it, and the non-jocks, too.  As for (your words) “disparaging the other sex,” you must know, as a Scouting volunteer, that disparaging attitudes or remarks toward any person or persons based on gender, religion, ethnicity, appearance, or anything else is absolutely, positively not a part of the teachings of Scouting and is never, ever (again, your word) “allowable” under any circumstances or for any reason.

Hello Andy,

I’ve been involved in Scouts most of my life.  My dad was a Scoutmaster for over 20 years; I’m currently a Cubmaster. Our pack draws its new Scouts from two local elementary schools, in a town with a total population around 20,000.  This past fall, our council implemented a ScoutReach program in both of these schools, with paid staffers running an after-school Cub Scout-type program once a week.  I’m concerned that this may negatively impact own recruitment this coming fall.  In today’s busy life, it’s easer to leave your child in an after-school program than to attend a traditional Cub Scout meeting, or even to step up and volunteer.  I’d appreciate your thoughts on this situation. (Nolan, Ohio)

The traditional Cub Scout pack is always the best place for boys to learn-and-grow in the values of Scouting, and have fun doing it!  But there are circumstances at home that often keep boys from enjoying the Cub Scouting experience.  These circumstances include single-parent households, multiple children, caregivers other than direct parents, multiple employments and employments that don’t correspond with den and pack activities and/or meetings, and the list goes on and on.  In short, if only the traditional den-and-pack Cub Scout format existed, there are any number of boys who would simply never participate in Cub Scouting.  As an educational movement, the BSA is attempting, through such programs as ScoutReach and Learning for Life, to reach these important children; these programs serve a distinct purpose and have true value to society at large and the future of our country through its citizens.  The intent is certainly not to “shanghai” boys away from traditional Cub Scout packs but to offer parents whose sons would simply not be able to participate at all a viable option, so that Scouting values can be imbued in their sons through the classic “fun-with-a-purpose” Scouting methods.  So, while the iron’s still hot, reach out to your local District Executive and start laying plans on how best to recruit the “graduating” ScoutReach boys into your pack next fall!

Dear Andy,

I’m a new District Commissioner and I’m trying to find out what badges I’m supposed to have on my uniform. I have my old troop numeral and my Wood Badge patrol emblem—are these allowed?  I also have my District Commissioner patch, my “trained” patch, and a square knot.  Can you help? (Patty Lemoine)

The square knot, of course, is centered immediately above the seam of your shirt’s left pocket flap.  The numeral on your left sleeve and the patrol emblem on your right sleeve both come off.  Leave the council shoulder patch (aka “CSP”) in place on your left sleeve and place the Commissioner badge in the position shown on this guide:

If the “trained” badge is for Commissioner training, wear it as shown on the same guide; if it’s for some other volunteer position in Scouting, it stays off.

BTW, you’ll wear silver shoulder loops, and of course the World Crest.

Dear Andy,

Can a Scoutmaster use a Scout’s percent of attendance at outings and meetings as a requirement for Scout spirit? (Anne Michilini, Chester County Council, PA)

These aspects of a Scout’s involvement relate to requirements dealing with being active in one’s patrol and troop; “Scout spirit” has to do with the extent to which a young man “lives by the Scout Oath and Law” in his daily life.  So the direct answer to your question is: No.

Hello Andy,

We’ve got our new troop up and running, and we’re interested in starting a new pack, too.  Whose job is it to do this?  Is it the troop’s Chairman or Scoutmaster, or the District Executive, or the District Committee Chair, or the District Commissioner… or is it up to the Den Leaders who want to start it up? Thanks! (Name & Council Withheld)

To begin the initial steps of forming and registering a new pack, the two key people are (1) the District Executive and (2) either the executive officer of the chartered organization or the Chartered Organization Representative designated by that executive officer.

Dear Andy,

So what’s supposed to happen, now that the BSA’s advancement task force has dumbed-down Eagle projects?  All the Scout has to do now is show his idea.  How come Eagle projects aren’t significant undertakings anymore? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m guessing you may have mis-read the new EAGLE SCOUT SERVICE PROJECT WORKBOOK (No. 512-927 – 2011 Printing).  The workbook, on page 5, states: “Your proposal…is an overview.”  Frankly, this is brilliant.  It means that the Scout no longer needs to write the entire plan (and often re-write it, edit it, re-proof it, ad nauseum) in order to have his fundamental idea approved!  He will complete the 11 sections on pages 8-10 of the EAGLE SCOUT SERVICE PROJECT PROPOSAL, sign it, and then obtain the four necessary approval signatures (unit leader, unit committee, beneficiary, and council or district).  These sections cover, in broad-brush fashion, the major factors of the project concept, including overall description and benefit, leadership, materials, supplies, tools, permits and permissions, preliminary cost estimates, project phases, logistics, safety issues, and further planning.  The elegance of this approach means two things, it seems to me.  First, these eleven sections (not all of which would necessarily be filled in; only those which apply to the fundamental idea) facilitate clear thinking by the Scout, as he envisions his idea and how it will present itself once underway.  Second, it forms the template for the more detailed write-up that he’ll do once the concept is agreed upon and approved, using the EAGLE SCOUT SERVICE PROJECT FINAL PLAN, which provides a matching set of sections but allows for not only more details but commentary on any necessary changes once the project work itself has actually begun.  It strikes me that this new approach is consistent with the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK/HANDBOOK FOR BOYS of many generations, by providing the Scout with the requirements for advancement and then providing the information needed to complete the requirements (e.g., the requirement is “Show how to bandage…” and “Bandages for…” is the hands-on learning, in a later chapter).  “Dumbed-down”?  I’d say smartened up is more apropos.

Dear Andy,

My First Class rank son was elected Patrol Leader, and during his tenure the family court ordered an amendment to the visitation schedule with his biological mother, giving her more weekends than the original schedule.  She lives in a different town, and these additional visitation weekends for the most part corresponded with the troop’s monthly camp-outs.  As a consequence of this change, my son was able to attend only two of the five camp-outs during his Patrol Leader’s tenure.  When he went to get his leadership for Star rank signed off, his Scoutmaster told him he didn’t qualify, since he hadn’t attended all the required camp-outs. 

Besides the leadership requirement described in the BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, are there any requirements for meeting and/or camp-out attendance?  Can a troop or Scoutmaster add that, as a requirement or condition for rank advancement?  (For instance, a Scout going for Star rank will serve for four months in leadership (handbook requirement) and attend 50% of all troop meetings and 75% of all camp-outs in that period.)  I’ve been searching for anything to support this and haven’t found it. I’m about to send a “Where is this written?” email, as well as have that face-to-face conversation. (David Gower)

Definitely have that conversation.  But to cut to the chase here, that any troop and/or Scoutmaster who would choose to road-block a Scout’s advancement because a situation utterly beyond the Scout’s control has interfered with his ability to attend as many Scouting events as he had planned on and would otherwise want to do is unconscionable and…I’ll say it…about as mean-spirited as they come.  What this erstwhile Scoutmaster has done is a repudiation of the aims of Scouting, and its ideals and values.  This isn’t so much about “rules and policies”—although the BSA certainly expects reasonableness and understanding in situations like this, and provides for this in all advancement guidelines and policies—as it’s about having the interests and situations of the young men in one’s care at the front of one’s thinking.  To be blunt, I’d start looking for an alternative troop, where there are people who place the Scouts first, and get your son into that troop fast as possible.  This martinet of a Scoutmaster doesn’t deserve a minute more of your son’s or your time.  Somebody needs to take him out back and put him out of his misery.  Which leads us to the final rule for today…

Rule No. 56:

  • Sometimes the most essential quality a Scout parent needs to have is a built-in crap detector.

HappY ScOuTing!


(No. 289 – 2/6/2012 – 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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