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Issue 327 – September 26, 2012

Rule No. 90
The Scouts who show up for every meeting are usually the ones who don’t need to.
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Dear Andy,

I returned from Scout camp after spending six days with my son and his troop a couple of weeks ago, and I have to say is I’m shocked. I was there with the Scoutmaster, and he never lifted a finger to help the boys. All he did was sit in his lawn chair and watch them fail, time after time. I’m still so angry I’m ready to pull my son out of Scouts. This was a “patrol cooking” camp that had no dining hall like I had when I was in Scouts. For the first two days, the boys were late with every meal. They had to figure out how to get the propane stoves lit by themselves; the Scoutmaster just sat there and watched them struggle. Same thing happened with setting up their tents and everything else. They didn’t get themselves organized till sometime around Wednesday of that week, and camp was already almost half over!

When my son was in Cub Scouts, his Den Leaders and Cubmaster helped the boys all the time. They showed the boys how to do things and did all the meals so the boys could enjoy themselves at the day camp. Here, there was no help at all. It’s not like the Scoutmaster didn’t know; he did all the cooking for him and me, and for the other parents who shared parts of the week. But—and this makes it even worse—he wouldn’t let us help our own sons, either. We had to stand there and watch them fail, time after time!

What’s wrong with Scouts, that adults can’t show the way and make sure their sons succeed instead of fail? (Name & Council Withheld)

Sounds like your son has a pretty savvy Scoutmaster! Boy Scouting isn’t “senior Cub Scouts.” Boy Scouting is all about peer-group relationships, learning by doing (even when the first time doesn’t come out perfectly), and learning from one-another. If you want the BSA to stand for “Baby Sitters of America,” you’re not going to find it in a troop that “gets it.” It only took till mid-week? That’s pretty darned good! So instead of angry, you need to be thankful your son has a Scoutmaster who’s a “safety net” instead of a nursemaid. (Safety nets allow Scouts to figure out for themselves how to build the fire, and just keep them from burning down all the tents!) Keep your son in Scouting, and in this troop. He’s right on the cusp of growing into the kind of young adult you want him to be, thanks to a Scoutmaster who doesn’t do for boys what they can and will do for themselves.
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Dear Andy,

There are Meritorious Action and Heroism medals available to Scouts and Scouters. As I search the net, there doesn’t seem to be much “meat” out there on what qualifies, nor even any “informal” rules that the national court of honor follows, concerning qualifying acts. I’ve found the application, and Mike “Settumanque” Walton’s ceremony, but that’s about it.

How does BSA view outstanding and/or meritorious military service during the last eleven years of the War on Terror? Specifically, I’ve witnessed a Navy Corpsman and Eagle Scout in my organization, who through knowledge built on a foundation he gained as a Scout, and in service to his nation that was instilled in him as a Scout, has directly contributed to life-saving actions for over 200 Afghans, Americans, and coalition troops: men, women, and children.

I feel my fellow Scouter is deserving of the recognition, as I’m sure hundreds of other Scouters have likewise saved lives in this conflict, whether there have been bullets and RPG’s flying on dusty streets in Iraq, or they’ve served in combat hospitals scattered throughout Afghanistan.

Has this been addressed before? Can direct me to a resource with more substance than the scouting.org’s web page on awards? (John Ruppe, DL & ASM, San Diego-Imperial Council, CA)

The most likely reason you haven’t found anything that even halfway resembles “requirements” is that these recognitions relate to exceptional situations—not the everyday—and so it’s probably an exercise in futility or omission or both to attempt to list what might or might not qualify.

The best approach I can think of, in your situation, is to insert “receives bsa honor medal” and then “receives bsa heroism medal,” etc., into an online search engine and read about incidents that have resulted in these recognitions. Further, you can talk to your council’s advancement committee chair about this, including what may have happened in the past, in your own council. Also, the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (available for download) has a section on these as well.

As to the specific Navy corpsman you refer to, the first logical questions are these: Was he acting in the line of duty; did the Navy see fit to recognize his actions? Depending on the answers, you may wish to gather the details (as many as you possibly can, with as many witness statements as possible) and provide your council’s advancement committee with a recommendation for him. For further information, check out doubleknot.com/openrosters/DocDownload.aspx?id=74325)
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Hi Andy,

I’ve been asked to chair my district’s leadership resource committee. This role includes distributing a survey/questionnaire to local community leaders and business folks to see how we’re perceived in the eyes of the community. Aimed at non-Scouters, we’re looking for feedback and opinions of Scouting. Can you direct me to a source that would provide this type of questionnaire? (Pat Wofford, Alamo Area Council, TX)

I’m guessing there’s more than one district in the Alamo Area Council… Have you had a chance to check with your counterparts in the other districts? Or asked your District Executive to check around? These may be your best and easiest-to-contact resources. If nobody knows, then this is something your Scout Executive might be able to ferret out of a nearby council.

Further thought… You can’t do a survey unless there’s a data base of businesses and key people in them to send a questionnaire to. Have you verified that such a data base exists in your district or council?
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Dear Andy,

Over the summer, my son completed from the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience (NAYLE) at Philmont. There appears to be some confusion as to where the NAYLE badge is placed on the uniform. I have documents that show it above the right pocket, and others showing it above that pocket next to a Jamboree patch. The NAYLE staff said that it’s the only patch other than a Jamboree patch that can be worn above the right pocket, but on-line it’s stated that the NAYLE patch may only be placed on the right pocket (but without citing a guide or regulation). Can you please clarify? (Mark Smith)

Sorry to break the news here, but both the documents you say you have and the Philmont NAYLE staff are incorrect. The BSA is 100% clear on where the NAYLE patch goes. It’s in the category of “temporary” (which really means “at the wearer’s discretion) and therefore the only place it can be worn is centered on the right shirt pocket. Check the INSIGNIA GUIDE so you know this isn’t my “opinion.” So, if you see it worn anywhere else except on the back of a merit badge sash, you’re looking at someone who has either listen to someone who’s incorrect or hasn’t taken the time to check a direct BSA source, or both.
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Hi Andy,

Last month my son, who’s a Patrol Leader, took it upon himself to arrange for a city council member to meet with his patrol before the start of a regular troop meeting. The purpose of this was to discuss our constitutional rights, which would then complete First Class requirement 5. Everything was in place. His Scoutmaster made him postpone it. The first reason the Scoutmaster offered for this plan change was so that the whole troop could participate, which neither my son nor his patrol had any problem with, although they did want to do that requirement sooner rather than later. But, instead of this happening, the Scoutmaster then said that since the troop wasn’t scheduled to meet until later on that evening, the patrol needed two-deep leadership in order to arrive early for this talk. So, OK, my son was next told that the room would be open and that there would be two registered adults present. But next, the Scoutmaster told my son that he wanted to talk beforehand about what was supposed to be discussed at this gathering, and went on to say that my son shouldn’t hold his patrol meetings in a time-window before troop meetings, even though this had been the patrol’s regular practice for more than four months prior to this situation. Then he pointed out to my son that he couldn’t hold patrol meetings at sponsor’s location any longer because the troop was responsible for whatever happened at those meetings, and there could be liability issues.

Not really knowing for sure how to advise my son, I told him that, since a Scout is obedient, he should probably ask the city councilperson if the gathering could be rescheduled at a later date, which he did. The result was that six out of seven Scouts in his patrol who needed to fulfill this requirement were unable to do so at that time. This was the last requirement that they and my son needed to advance to First Class. Because the gathering didn’t happen and the requirement remained uncompleted, none of these Scouts advanced, with the further consequence that the patrol didn’t complete the requirements to be an Honor Patrol. He’s really upset by all of this. What do you suggest? (Name Withheld, Orange County Council, CA)

My takeaway on the incident you described is this: Despite a Scout’s initiative (initiative is one of the key qualities the Boy Scout program is intended to instill), his Scoutmaster—consciously or unconsciously—sabotaged a perfectly good plan. The details are secondary; the main problem is the sabotage. A Patrol Leader’s creative solution to an advancement challenge was torpedoed. This troubles me greatly. Your son and his fellow patrol members have every right to be not only disappointed but angry at how their plan was interfered with and ultimately deep-sixed.

My recommendation is that it’s time for you, your husband, and all the parents of the other Scouts in this patrol to demand a face-to-face meeting with the Committee Chair. (NO EMAILS!) At that meeting, you all describe what happened and insist that, from now on, when a Patrol Leader, on his own initiative, develops a plan that will positively affect the members of his patrol, the Scoutmaster will refrain from inserting himself in such a way that the plan fails. This is definitely not to be left to your son or his patrol friends to deal with—in most any confrontation between a Scout and an adult, the Scout won’t be the “winner”—and this is without question a confrontation situation.

You parents have the absolute right to insist that the Scouting program your sons receive is one of positive reinforcement, especially when no “youth protection” or “safety” rules are being violated. (It’s perfectly acceptable by the BSA for Scouts to meet at the troop meeting location with a single adult—”two-deep leadership,” etc. applies to outings away from troop meeting locations.

Overall, I get the impression that this is a troop in which the adults think they’re in charge. They’re not, and the BSA’s Boy Scout program is specifically designed so that they’re not. The SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK makes the crystal clear statement that the Scoutmaster’s primary responsibility is to train, guide, and coach the Scouts so that the Scouts can run their own troop and its program.

If you all get push-back from either the Committee Chair or Scoutmaster, you have two choices: Replace these misguided folks, or find a troop for your sons where the adult volunteers understand the limits of their involvement and responsibilities.

Andy, here’s an update: The committee thinks the troop is run just fine. The fact that boys keep leaving for other troops doesn’t seem to concern them. A committee member said, “The troop can’t be completely boy run. There has to be a balance, otherwise ‘boy run’ quickly becomes ‘boy run amok’.” Four of the boys from my son’s patrol are planning to leave.

This whole situation is hard for my family, because the troop is chartered by the church we’re members of, my husband and I were married there, and our five sons were baptized there. Our family has been part of this troop for ten years and two of our sons are Eagles from this troop (this situation is upsetting to them, as well). With ten years of Boy Scouts still ahead of us, it’s obvious that we need to find a new troop. Unfortunately, my son is so upset that he doesn’t even want to be a Scout any longer, so it might be that he needs to take some time away. Does he need to finish up all his merit badges and current rank advancements in this troop?

BTW, he finally contacted the city councilperson and helped his patrol get that requirement signed off, so he is ready for his Scoutmaster conference, but he refuses to do it with his current Scoutmaster. I’m trying to convince him to do it now with an Assistant Scoutmaster because I don’t want anything to keep him from advancing later if he takes some time off. Can you offer any further thoughts? (NW)

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the committee happens to think. What’s important—in fact, it’s the only thing that’s important—is how the Scouts and their parents feel. You’re telling me that four families are about to pull out, and maybe five if your son does, too. Join them and keep the patrol intact. But before you do, rally the parents of all five of your families and demand a confrontation with the committee, chair, and Scoutmaster. If, after you’ve told them what you want—which is 100% boy-led, with the Scoutmaster in the background, coaching only—they remain stuck in their misguided rut, you all walk out, taking your sons with you. This is where you set the example for your sons by walking tall; this isn’t the time to have your sons think you don’t have backbones. There’s a huge life lesson here, and I truly hope you all are up to the challenge. You’re doing nothing less than shaping your sons’ lifetime view of the world and human relations.

Let’s say no light bulbs go on with the committee or Scoutmaster. Now, especially for you and your husband, you need to let “history” remain history and, instead, focus only on what’s best for your son, right now. To be extra-blunt, I don’t care if you and your husband were made saints in that church—this isn’t about the church, or about you, or even about the troop; it’s about—and only about—your son and his younger brother(s). Get him out of that growth-diminishing situation, immediately.

Do not go into denial or delude yourselves into believing that this will just “blow over” and won’t recur. It’ll happen again and again, each time in more soul- and spirit-crushing ways.

Don’t allow your son “take a vacation” from Scouts. Instead, along with the other four families, demand copies of his advancement records and all his merit badge “blue cards,” and make certain that all requirements for ranks that have been completed are dated and initialed in his handbook. You all need to do this, the same night as the confrontation meeting. If you don’t, you’ll be chasing this stuff fruitlessly forever and the ones most damaged will be your own sons.

Your son already knows what’s up. That’s why he refuses to do his conference with that Scoutmaster, and he’s right! Don’t try to “convince” him to negate his own correct judgment, and besides, ASMs aren’t authorized to fill in for Scoutmasters when it comes to scoutmaster conferences (that’s why they’re called *Scoutmaster* conferences and not “conferences with any available adult”). Moreover, just what are you imagining is going to happen when your son has his board of review? If you’re imagining that everything’s going to be just wonderful and supportive, think again.

This is the time for a show-down; make no mistake about that. Are you and your husband, and the four other families, up to it? For the sake of your sons, I sure hope so!

Now, let’s turn to the bright side for a moment… Question for you: What’s the fundamental Boy Scout unit? If you’re thinking “the troop,” guess again. It’s THE PATROL. That’s what Baden-Powell, Scouting’s founder, discovered and built into Scouting one hundred and five years ago. So, when these five Scouts change troops, they all hook up with the same troop, and remain an intact patrol–name and all. And what next? They go on a day-hike together, or do a cook-out in one of the families’ back yards, or go swimming at the local pool together. In short, they re-bond.

Go for it. As parents, you hold the final power over that misguided troop. Use it. No more excuses or equivocating. Now. With five families, you can mount a force of as many as ten parents in the room with the CC and Scoutmaster, and that’s exactly what you want!

Happy Scouting!

Andy

Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to askandybsa@yahoo.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. 327 – 9/26/2012 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2012]

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About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner. He has previously served in a number of Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and Senior Patrol Leader as youth member. His awards include: 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 & Cliff Dochterman Awards, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

Read Andy's full biography

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