Author Avatar

Issue 292 – February 24, 2012

Rule No. 59:

• When your good work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.

Dear Andy,

You noted, recently, that the new EAGLE SCOUT SERVICE PROJECT WORKBOOK allows for a project proposal to be presented as an overview, instead of (previously) a full-blown work plan, and commented that this was both a step in the right direction and in keeping with the way all other rank requirements are described in BSA publications. I’d like to offer commentary on the removal of the need for the Scout 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.

My son was the first Scout in our district to use the new procedure for approval for his Eagle Scout Service Project, and it worked! In the past, some district advancement committee members had been a little imperious when Scouts came forward with their work using the now-obsolete process for approval. The new forms and the very explicit guidelines served my son well as he was able to move smoothly through the review process. In no way was the project anything less than rigorous. But instead of focusing on the project plan as a “thesis,” the Scout was focused on delivering a project and leading the effort; rather than continual re-writing until the project signers “liked” the literary style! (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks for writing! I’m sure our readers will be happy to know that “new stuff can work, too!”

Dear Andy,

In a recent column, you mentioned that NCS training for Camp Commissioners isn’t mandatory, which is technically accurate: Not all Camp Commissioners need to be NCS-trained, and there’s a further option as well. Currently, the Camp Visitation Standard (No. 81) for this area states: “One Commissioner must have a valid certificate of training from the Commissioner section of National Camping School or (is) a currently trained unit, district, or council Commissioner.” The allowance of having a “currently trained unit, district, or council Commissioner” does represent a departure from prior standards. Some councils will, of course, want to have at least one of their CCs trained at NCS, but others may not be quite so rigorous—It’s each council’s decision to make. (Ken King, NCS Staffer, Three Fires Council, IL)

Thanks for the further information, and I hope that more council than not opt for the NCS training. (Having been to NCS twice—once for Program and once for NAS—I can attest to the value of this experience not only for the camp staffer but—most importantly—for the Scouts attending the camp.)

Dear Andy,

We’re going to Sea Base in a few weeks and my Senior Patrol Leader is looking to prepare a duty roster. I’ve scoured the Internet looking for a template specific to that particular high adventure camp, but no luck. Do you know where I can find such a thing? I’m sure we can get it all together on arrival, but I’d like to sit with this Scout and sort things out beforehand. (Bill Egan, SM)

Well blow me down! A seagoing question! Since it’s Sea Base, maybe a good place to look for a duty roster is the SEA SCOUT MANUAL. If not, consider sending an email message to the folks at Sea Base, asking them to send a duty roster as a reply email attachment. Fair winds and following seas —

Hi Andy,

I’m a Scoutmaster who “gets it” that Youth Protection is even more important today, and I make sure to sit our Scouts down and run the “It Happened To Me” and “A Time To Tell” videos at least once a year. But every time I do this, the Scouts sort of laugh and make jokes about the characters in the videos. Can’t the BSA get better actors to do these, instead of ones who get made fun of? (Name & Council Withheld)

Here’s some good news for you: The videos you’re showing are definitely working, and getting “inside” your Scouts. Keep up the great work! It’s a known factor—particularly among film directors who specialize in suspense or horror movies—that when an audience laughs it’s to relieve tension. This is an almost universal human trait: Laughter relieves tension. You can even see this happen in the popular cable TV show, “Pawn Stars,” when pawn shop owner Rick Harrison, on entering into a negotiation with a seller who’s walked in the door, always accompanies his opening gambit with a laugh. So, what your Scouts are doing, when they laugh or make fun of the characters, is telling you they got the message and they’re trying to open the “emergency valve” of their own emotions.

Hello Andy,

I’ve searched your columns and found lots of advice on getting the CR (Chartered Organization Representative) to help solve problems within a unit, but what do we do when the CR is the problem? Our troop’s CR refuses to get proper training for his position and at the same time totally oversteps his bounds. If you ask him what he thinks is job duties are he’ll tell you, “My job is to run this troop,” yet he has no clue on what’s going on with the pack and Venturing crew the chartered organization also sponsors because he has no contact with them whatsoever. He attends every troop committee meeting and gives his opinion on everything! The committee is all too aware that he holds the power to “hire and fire” everyone on the committee, because he reminds us of this at almost every meeting. Because he has a son in the troop, he feels he must attend all committee meetings, but he seems to use his power as CR as a sword hanging over the committee’s heads. The Committee Chair is no help; he seems to be intimidated by the CR. We all know that the CR can indeed “hire and/or fire” all of us, but how do we fire him? He just won’t get off his power-trip and is totally out of control. (Name & Council Withheld)

There are two possible ways to approach this, which can be done interchangeably or in sequence, as you see fit…

Plan A: Go here——and print out the entire booklet. Then highlight this passage (found in the lower-left of page 8): “Occasionally you should attend one of the (committee) meetings. While there, you should have an attitude of interest and helpfulness. At the same time, you should be careful not to take over the meeting or to supplant the chair…” and point out that nowhere in this booklet, which describes the CR’s responsibilities in detail, does it state that the CR is either a member of or ongoing “voice” in unit committee meetings. Following this, inform the CR that his/her point-of-view and information pass-though are—as written—to be conveyed to the CC, but absolutely not at each and every committee meeting. If the CR is unable to abide by this, then take the issue (and the booklet) straight to the head of the sponsoring organization and demand that it be enforced (yes, you all have that right).

Plan B: If the CR remains intransigent and the CC won’t get a spine transplant, then the rest of you–all of you who are being driven nuts by this tyrant—go and speak (all of you in-person—no email “grenades”!) with the head of your sponsoring organization. Speak out on exactly what you’ve told me here, and demand that the CR be replaced. If the sponsor’s head doesn’t do this, then you have one option remaining: All of you resign. If it comes to that, alert your District Executive and your Unit Commissioner of what’s going on and what’s about to happen, and ask for support in starting up new units with a new sponsor.

Dear Andy,

I’m looking for any upcoming badge-work classes for our Scouts—Do you know how I can find any? I’ve searched online via both Google and Yahoo!, and I’m going to contact the local universities, to see if anything’s available for them. (Tina Baker, CC, Greater Pittsburgh Council, PA)

I’m guessing you’re talking about merit badges. If that’s the case, merit badges aren’t really something that are ideally done “en masse.” Scouts find a subject they’re interested in, from among the 120+ merit badge subjects available, get a “blue card” and ask their Scoutmaster for the name and contact information for a local Merit Badge Counselor who handles that subject, and then get on the phone and make an appointment with that Merit Badge Counselor. Your home council’s advancement committee provides all troops with Merit Badge Counselor lists, and their handbooks already tell the Scouts how to get started earning a merit badge. They simply repeat this process till they run out of subjects that they’re interested in (or are required for Star, Life, and Eagle ranks). Keep at the forefront of your thinking that a significant goal of the merit badge program is to develop young men’s sense of individual initiative.

Further consideration: This is part of the troop’s program area, thus it’s the province of the Scoutmaster. The Committee Chair’s responsibility is to coordinate the efforts of the troop committee in administrative and logistical support of the troop’s Scout-selected and run program. Check out the TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDEBOOK.

Dear Andy,

My son is currently 12 years old and First Class. He’s an overachiever and wants to earn Eagle by the time he’s 14 (in part so he can go on to earn Palms). He recently finished all the requirements for his Star rank, but his Scoutmaster is refusing to sign him off, claiming that my son “needs more time camping” (even though he already has spent 19 nights “under canvass”—or should I now say “rip-stop”), he “needs to hold a leadership position in the troop (even though he’s been a Den Chief for no less than six months since earning First Class rank), and he “needs to slow down” (no explanation as to why an enthusiastic, energetic boy should slow down). Should I fight for my son, or just let it go? (I’m concerned that if I allow this to drag till the Scoutmaster’s “satisfied,” my son could become discouraged in the “dead” time.) (Concerned Parent, Council Withheld)

First, some perspective… My youngest son was a Life Scout before his 13th birthday, I earned Eagle by age 15, and my brother earned Eagle at age 14…yet not one of us either considered ourselves or were considered by others to be “overachievers.” Having fun, motivated, and busy: Definitely yes. Over-achieving: Nope!

The fact that your son is 12 and a First Class Scout tells me he’s on-track. This is wonderful. Remember that Boy Scouts isn’t like Cub Scouts. In Cub Scouts, it was “one year/grade=one rank.” Not so in Boy Scouts: A Scout moves at his own pace, whatever that might be, and is supported and encouraged by the volunteer adults associated with the troop. This is spelled out in just so many words in your son’s BOY SCOUT HANDBOOK, and it’s a point importantly made in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK and in the training sessions that all Scoutmasters are expected to take (and then follow, to the letter).

If your son’s Scoutmaster is refusing to hold the Scoutmaster conference, and then escort your son to his next board of review, and remains intransigent in withholding advancement from your son even though your son has completed all other stated requirements, then it’s time to get your son away from a road-blocking adult despot who thinks his personal “judgment” supersedes BSA policies—especially when that judgment is warped, wrong-headed, and ultimately damaging to a boy’s naturally effervescent spirit.

Immediately start searching the neighborhood for another troop, and, for $1, transfer your son to where the Scoutmaster isn’t a tin god jerk. If your son doesn’t want to leave his friends behind, then show these messages to his friends’ parents, and all of you transfer your sons.

No adult who mistreats boys whom they’re supposed to be serving, guiding, and growing into solid manhood deserves one more minute of anyone’s time. (B-P would have recommended taking a duckwank like this out back and shooting him.)

Dear Andy,

Is alcohol allowed at a troop fundraiser? For example, if the chartered organization holds a spaghetti dinner fundraiser and alcoholic beverages (e.g., beer and wine, in this case) are being served, do BSA guidelines allow Scouts to be there to help serve? My own feeling is that if the event has our troop’s name on it, or our Scouts are assisting in some way, there should be no alcohol. Your opinion would be helpful and appreciated. (Jim Patchen, SM)

You don’t need my “opinion”… If there are no youth present, alcohol is not prohibited; however, if even one Scout is in the room, the BSA GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING informs us that there must be no alcoholic beverages of any kind (not even in the proverbial “back room”). As to a fundraiser advertising that it’s for a Boy Scout troop, and alcoholic beverages are served even though no Scouts may be present, this looks to me like a “gray area”—and my own viewpoint on “gray areas” is simple: If it’s not white; it’s not.

(Note to my overseas readers: The BSA policy on this is strictly an American stipulation.)

Dear Andy,

The question I have is about the relationship between Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, and I’m unable to find anything on the BSA website about this. I understand the whole “pack-to-troop transition” thing, and I know that the requirements for Arrow of Light include visiting at least one troop. But, in general, is it OK for troops to actively have Cub Scouts in their troop meetings and activities? I’m talking about Cub Scouts meeting with the troop in which they may, for instance, have an older brother. Our troop has somehow adopted the idea that the pack and troop will meet on the same night at the same location. I’m just wondering how this is supposed to work.  What are your thoughts? (Libby Wallace, MC, Chippewa Valley Council, WI)

No, the BSA informs us that it’s definitely not OK for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts to have regular “joint meetings.” The structures of troop meetings and den or pack meetings are entirely different and they also have entirely different purposes. They also have different leaders: Boy Scout troop meetings are run by the Senior Patrol Leader (a Scout), whereas den meetings are run by (adult) Den Leaders and pack meetings are emceed by the (adult) Cubmaster with the Den Leader team. Your Cub Scout Leader and Boy Scout Leader training (even “Fast-Start”) points this out clearly and unequivocally.

Hello Andy,

When attending an Eagle ceremony as a guest, do I wear my uniform and do I bring a gift? (Hayden Garay)

If you’re a registered Scout or Scouter, it’s totally appropriate to wear your uniform to a court of honor, whether for Eagle or all ranks. A small gift is a thoughtful but non-mandatory gesture; your decision will be based on how well you and the Scout(s) are acquainted. Your presence is a gift in and of itself, remember.

Dear Andy,

Our troop is having a fund-raising spaghetti dinner; volunteering on the part of the Scouts, is optional. For those Scouts who do come and help out, can they get service hours? (Kathy Petersen)

As this is a fund-raiser for the troop, the Scouts who help out can absolutely be recognized for their service! (It’s only the Eagle service project that can’t be for the BSA, or council, district, or unit.) That said, do also keep in mind that what we’re trying to instill in these young men is the spirit of helping, whether “credit” is given or not!

Dear Andy,

My son earned his World Conservation badge as a Wolf Cub Scout. He’s since graduated to Webelos and switched to a tan-and-green Boy Scout-style uniform. In researching the World Conservation badge, the BSA says it’s to be worn as a “temporary” patch centered on the right pocket. But there’s no way to attach it: There’s no loop to suspend it from the pocket button (all other temporary patches I’ve seen are made with a button loop, but this has none—it appears to be designed to be glued or sewn on). What’s a very proud Dad to do? (Robert Doblmeier)

Just glue or sew it on, if this is the one your son wants to wear. Although the BSA describes the right pocket position as “temporary” a more accurate definition would be “at the wearer’s discretion,” meaning that any one badge can be sewn/glued there, subject to change-out if the wearer chooses to wear a different badge there. A “dangle” badge can be hung from the button there, too, but just one, please.

(Although more of an initial nuisance, perhaps, sewing is actually better than gluing, especially if the wearer decides he’d like to wear a different badge at some later date.)

Happy Scouting!

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 292 – 2/24/2012 – 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

Comments are closed.