Rule No. 89
• All ninety-minute meetings last two hours; all thirty-minute meetings last two hours.
Thanks for your patience! For nearly three weeks, I’ve been in Alaska, with little time to respond to questions or put a column together. Most of this past week has been devoted to answering everyone who’s written to me since September 1st, and to putting this one together. More columns to follow soon– We’re back in action!
Help! I’m a new Scoutmaster with a Life Scout doing his Eagle project. He’s right now on a class trip in Bermuda. In his absence, his mother believes that the helpers for his Eagle Scout Service Project should come to the family’s home, to paint his project without him being there. This goes totally against my train of thought because the Scout himself needs to be present so he can lead his helpers! Am I right or wrong on the point that the Scout himself needs to be there, to provide leadership; not his mother? Thanks! (Steven Oliwa, SM, Housatonic Council, CT)
You’re spot on! That mother (and her sonny boy) need to know that if he’s asked, at his board of review, how he led his painters, and he tells ‘em he was out of the country when they did the work, he’s just torpedoed himself and will likely need to do a whole new project because he didn’t meet the “give leadership to others” expectation.
I’m a Counselor for Personal Fitness merit badge with a specific question about pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups. Does the Scout have to improve in his ability to perform the pull-ups, and such? For instance, if the Scout can do half a pull-up at the beginning, can he improve to, say, three-quarters of a full pull-up to complete this requirement? Rolando Cruz)
Yes, a Scout is expected to show improvement in all test areas after his 12-week (or longer, if necessary) improvement program. In this regard, “half” of a pull-up is, technically, zero. So is “three-fourths” of a pull-up. He would need to go from zero to at least one, or there’s no way to “record improvement”—zero is still zero. This is why the 12-week program can be extended until the Scout is actually able to fulfill that portion of the requirement.
If some of the troop committee members and some parents as well are unhappy with the Committee Chair, what can be done? He wants the troop to be run just like it was when he was the Scoutmaster. He believes that Scouts shouldn’t “rush” to earn Eagle; they should be no less than 16 years old, ever. He also doesn’t “like” merit badge universities, and he puts restrictions on a Scout’s age before the Scout can work toward a merit badge with him. He uses demeaning “nicknames” for first-year Scouts. He’s been know to speak negatively about other volunteers, but only when they’re not around. He’s removed all but three people as committee members, ostensibly to “save the troop the registration fees,” but he wants to put $5,000 from our troop account into a CD account, “for a rainy day,” yet he refuses to release any funds to pay for troop volunteer training, because his wasn’t paid when he took training. I’ll stop there, but I could go on.
Is our first step talking to the Chartered Organization Representative (aka “CR”), or can the troop committee simply vote him out? (Name & Council Withheld)
There’s no other term for it: This guy is bad news on steroids. He’s got to go!
No, the committee doesn’t have the authority to “vote him out.” But the CR does! All it takes are these four simple steps…
1. The CR informs the head of the chartered organization of the problem and the planned solution (i.e., the next three steps), and gets an unconditional green light.
2. The CR and troop committee identify a person who understands how the Boy Scout program works and believes in the troop’s responsibility to deliver The Patrol Method and advancement at each Scout’s chosen pace (and no one else’s); and then recruit that person to take over as Committee Chair.
3. The CR (and, ideally, the CO head as well) meets with the present CC, thanks him for his services, and tells him (point blank) that his services will no longer be needed.
4. The newly recruited CC takes office on the same date as the now-retired CC.
That’s it. It’s over. The removed CC has no recourse through the district or council because the CO literally owns the unit and the CR has complete discretion to install and remove adult volunteers associated with it. No one at the district or council level has the authority to supersede a CO and/or CR decision.
Is there an Interpreter Strip for the international language, Esperanto? (Vilchjo de Mesao Arizono)
Scouts Canada has one, and maybe other Scout associations too, but I don’t believe the BSA does. You may want to double-check with the folks at www.scoutstuff.org. However, there is a new one, for Morse code!
We had a unit committee meeting the other night. At the meeting the Committee Chair handed a letter out to one of the members, we’ll call him “Bob.” The letter stated that there had been some complaints about Bob and that the committee wanted him to take six months off from all meetings and campouts, with no contact with the Scouts. Then the CC went through some of issues in generalities so that the Scouts who had complained remained anonymous (no complaints were of a criminal nature, I’m happy to report).
Bob had no idea that this letter was coming; nor was the committee interested in his side of the situations.
I know this about Bob: He does make the Scouts follow the rules the Senior Patrol Leader sets, and holds them to Scouting virtues. I’m aware that Bob doesn’t always follow the proper chain of command, and sometimes interferes with the youth leaders as they’re trying to lead, but I’ve been trying to work with him on these things. He’s one parent who’s always willing to help out, and, as Scoutmaster, I don’t want to lose his assistance.
My question is about how the CC should have handled the situation. Was this handled properly? I’ve looked through some BSA literature but I’ve not found out how this should have been handled. (Name & Council Withheld)
Seems to me there are two hiccups here.
The first is with our friend “Bob.” Bob’s a committee member; not the Scoutmaster or even an ASM. Consequently, he—like every other committee member—has no direct contact with Scouts, except when he’s sitting on a board of review or mentoring a specific youth leader, such as Quartermaster, Scribe, or Chaplain Aide, but then only if he’s the committee member responsible for troop gear or troop record-keeping (other than advancement), or he’s the troop’s Chaplain. Beyond this, committee members don’t interact with Scouts… Not even the Senior Patrol Leader. So the first thing to do is for everybody to understand that except for the Scoutmaster-Senior Patrol Leader relationship, or ASM-Troop Guide relationship, adults and Scouts don’t mix. The BSA’s “Troop Organization Chart” confirms this, it’s in the SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK and TROOP COMMITTEE GUIDE, and it’s available via an online search.
As Scoutmaster of this troop, you need to stop “trying” to get other adults to recognize this fundamental structure of a troop. Like Yoda of “Star Wars” said, “Do. Or do not. There is no ‘try’.” The Scoutmaster needs to tell committee members and parents that there is to be no contact with the Scouts, period. If there’s some terrible urgency that demands adult-to-Scout interaction, that adult (or Scout) needs to clear this with the Scoutmaster first, with the understanding that the Scoutmaster has the right and the obligation to say no, and this will be a judgment call.
The second hiccup is, of course, how the Committee Chair handled the matter. The CC apparently forgot the essential rule, “Praise in public; correct in private.” This would have been better handled had it been a private conversation between the CC, the Scoutmaster, and Bob.
Finally, absent any direct information from the Scouts on what transpired, I’m of the opinion that the “punishment” was over-the-top. Why effectively kill-off a dedicated volunteer, when other solutions—such as giving him a “job” that’s needed but has no Scout contact—were available. This is like “docking” as Scout from the waterfront for the week because he dropped his buddy tag in the lake. It’s a grenade to kill a flea.
I’m having a hard time finding the troop planning video mentioned in the article, “How a Scout Troop Works.” Any suggestions? (Marie Wilson, SM, Texas Trails Council)
It’s not a video… It’s a PDF file: “Troop Meeting Plan” is what it’s called. Any search engine will take you there.
I’m planning a troop activity at a camp for disabled kids and veterans. The Scouts will be earning the Disabilities Awareness merit badge, which requires volunteer hours. Can these hours be used for rank advancement service hours as well, or is that considered double-counting? (Alan MacQuoid, ASM)
Here’s one where you’re not going to find a “rule”… Except for (a) good sense and (b) and understanding about what’s the right thing to do.
Scouting isn’t about “racking up hours.” Scouting’s about doing a good turn every day and helping others at all times. It’s about being friendly, helpful, and kind. Ask your Scouts to reflect on these tenets of Scouting. Then ask them if they really, really want to “double-dip.” Since there’s no BSA “rule” about this, your Scouts will need to consider the ethics of it. Guide their decision, but don’t pull them by nose-rings to it. Whatever they decide, stand by them. When we trust our Scouts to get it right, we shouldn’t be surprised when they do!
We had our troop leader position elections for the coming six months. We’ve chosen our Senior Patrol Leader, ASPL, Patrol Leaders, etc. Can we have a “Webmaster” as a youth position of responsibility? This would be given to a Scout whose duty would be to update our troop website, and keep access open for iPhones and Droids. Is this position OK? (Shiraz Kheraj)
The folks in that troop really need to catch up on their reading! The SCOUT HANDBOOK shows this position on page 58. The Senior Patrol Leader appoints a Scout to this position, on consultation with the Scoutmaster, just like the SPL appoints all other non-elected positions of responsibility in the troop. The badge of office is no. 18088 and its price is $2.59 at your local Scout shop or at www.scoutstuff.org.
I’m also getting worried about something else… Do these people understand that the Senior Patrol Leader is elected by the Scouts of the troop, and the Patrol Leaders are elected by their patrol members? Do they understand that the SPL appoints all other troop positions, including ASPL, and that Patrol Leaders appoint their APLs? If this isn’t happening, IT’S NOT SCOUTING.
I’m a Unit Commissioner for a troop. In it, many Scouts come to me and ask me to do their Scoutmaster conference. In my position, can I do this? (Name & Council Withheld)
To begin with, I’m wondering how Scouts even know who you are. UCs work with Committee Chairs, committee members sometimes, and Scoutmasters occasionally; UCs have no direct contact with youth except briefly while conducting annual uniform inspections and en masse when making the annual charter presentation or having perhaps something to say at a court of honor. So I’ll first suggest that you re-read your COMMISSIONER FIELDBOOK FOR UNIT SERVICE.
As to your specific question: Of course not. In fact, such conferences are the exclusive responsibility of the Scoutmaster (that’s why they’re called “Scoutmaster conferences” and not “Assistant Scoutmaster conferences,” “unit leader conferences,” or “adult volunteer conferences”), and are not to be delegated to anyone else. This is a conversation you need to have with the adult volunteers of the troop you’re serving, so you can help them get it right.
Over the past 15 years our troop, like many, has had its ups and downs. About four years ago the troop was down to just five Scouts; now we’re back up to 30. But we don’t have a lot of older Scouts as leaders. We’re having problems with Scouts giving their peers who are leaders any respect during meetings. What happens when a Scout won’t be quiet during a meeting and keeps interrupting? What resources are out there to help? (Name & Council Withheld)
Let’s start here: “Leadership” doesn’t come from the Scoutmaster (or any other adult, for that matter). The key to a well-led troop is trained youth leaders. This means, in particular, the Senior Patrol Leader and the Patrol Leaders. The Patrol Leaders need to be coached, guided, and mentored on the leadership skills they need to manage their patrols. The Senior Patrol Leader needs to be coached, guided, and mentored on the leadership he needs to manage, direct, and delegate to the Patrol Leaders. Start by giving the SPL and the PLs copies of their respective handbooks: The SENIOR PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK and the PATROL LEADER HANDBOOK. Then, provide coaching from the contents of these handbooks.
For the situation you’ve described, that talkative Scout is the direct responsibility of his Patrol Leader and no one else. The SPL needs to coach the PL on how to handle the Scout in his patrol. Neither the SPL nor the Scoutmaster should be taking direct corrective action, because that’s not their job! Keep the responsibility where it belongs.
As for the Scout, two possibilities are that he either needs lots of attention or he’s not being kept busy enough. His Patrol Leader needs to consider perhaps putting this Scout in charge of something constructive and beneficial to the whole patrol. This will use his energies and refocus him on others instead of himself. Maybe he needs to teach a skill? Only the PL will know for sure. So get your youth leaders the training they need, and they’ll run their own troop in fine fashion! As for “interrupting,” if this is during a learning moment, his Patrol Leader or whoever is doing the instructing simply needs to tell all Scouts that there will be a Q&A at the end, so save their questions till then.
Camping merit badge requirement 9 says that a Scout needs 20 days and nights of camping. Can a Scout use 20 previous days of camping, or does he have to go on a whole new 20 days/nights? (Alex)
Yes, a Scout can definitely count days/night camping that he’s done prior to beginning this merit badge (that means getting a signed application from his Scoutmaster and then meeting with the Merit Badge Counselor), so long as those camping experiences conform to the balance of the conditions for that requirement (at a Scouting event, in a tent he pitched or “under the stars,” no more than the maximum allowed at a Scout resident camp).
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to email@example.com. 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. 326 – 9/22/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]