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Issue 344 – January 24, 2013

Dear Andy,

I recently heard about the “American Heritage Award.” It states that Scouts helped in the curriculum and design of the medal and patch that can be earned. Is this medal authorized for wearing on the BSA uniform? (Bill McClain, District Advancement Chair, West Tennessee Council)

The BSA does allow certain non-BSA recognitions to be worn on special occasions (courts of honor, for example). The various religious emblems and awards are the best examples of this. Consequently, my guess (repeat: guess) is that this is going to be OK for the United States Heritage Award (that’s its official name). But for official confirmation, best to check directly with the BSA Advancement Team.
Dear Andy,

Who determines when and where the Scouts go “summer camping?” And, on a completely different subject, how are you supposed to have a PLC meeting with only the Scoutmaster present and still be in compliance with “Two-Deep Leadership”? (Name & Council Withheld)

First: Camping. If, by “summer camping,” you mean Scout residence camp for one (or two) weeks, this would be selected by the PLC, in collaboration with the Scoutmaster, ASMs (if any) and committee, plus available parents. The idea is to find a week (or two—not necessarily consecutive, although this is always a good idea)—when (a) the most Scouts are available to go and (b) adult “coverage” can be provided.

Second: “Two-deep leadership.” This applies to events away from the usual troop meeting location (e.g., hikes, camp-outs, etc.); it doesn’t apply when the Patrol Leaders are gathering with their SPL for conducting the “business” of the PLC, with the Scoutmaster (only) sitting off to the side to guide the SPL (only as needed). (BTW, if PLC meetings are held, let’s say, at the Scoutmaster’s home or other in-town location, just the Scoutmaster need be present, in the same way that a Merit Badge Counselor meets with two or more Scouts in the absence of any other adults.) ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Is the National Scoutmasters Award still an award, or has it changed to the Scoutmaster Award of merit? (Mike Bowman)

The National President’s Scoutmaster Award of Merit, shortly thereafter known as the Scoutmaster Award of Merit, began in 1972. More recently, it was converted to the Unit Leader Award of Merit, so that key unit leaders beyond Scoutmasters (specifically, Cubmasters, Team Coaches, Venturing Advisors, and SS Skippers) might be nominated and recognized as well. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

I’m doing a session for our Scout troop on the Scouting Heritage Merit Badge, and I need to know where and who designed the first Scout emblem. Can you help? (Ray Colclough)

Baden-Powell himself designed the first Scout Badge, which he described in SCOUTING FOR BOYS as: “The Scout’s badge is the arrowhead, which shows the north on a map or compass. The motto on it is ‘Be Prepared’… Its scroll is turned up at the ends like a Scout’s…smile. The knot is to remind the Scout to do a good turn…daily.” Shortly, B-P added two stars, but he didn’t state at the time what they signified (the American BSA did: “Truth” and “Knowledge”). He did, however, note that the three points of the “arrowhead” signify the three points of the Scout Promise, which the American BSA preserved, along with the initial descriptions. Here, of course, we’ve added the eagle (our national symbol) and a 13-star, 13-stripe shield.
Dear Andy,

It seems to me that, in the past, it’s been a Scoutmaster’s responsibility to assign a Merit Badge Counselor to a Scout when he signed the Scout’s “blue card.” More recently, the BSA National Advancement Committee has stated that “conferencing with the Scout” is sufficient. So, can the scoutmaster assign a Merit Badge Counselor that he wants the Scout to work with, or can the Scout go to a MBC he chooses for himself? The reason I’m asking is that there’s a great variation in the quality of work demanded by many of the MBCs for the same merit badge, and the Scoutmaster is trying to make sure that the Scout actually learns, and doesn’t just get a “pass” with little or no learning or work. Any thoughts on this? (Name & Council Withheld)

It’s never been the Scoutmaster’s responsibility or authority to “assign” a Scout to a Merit Badge Counselor, if by this you’re suggesting that the Scout’s preference has no part in the process. The Scout not only can choose the merit badge he wishes to work on but he can choose the Merit Badge Counselor he wishes to work with as well, including a MBC at a merit badge midway, summer camp, merit badge fair, parent or other relative, etc.

The reason for the new language by the BSA is to stop Scoutmasters from thinking they can employ some sort of personal control or authority over merit badge issues such as these. They’ve never had this sort of authority and now the language tells them that in what’s intended to be no uncertain or “re-interpretable” terms.

That said, I do understand that variations between MBCs can occur, in relation to how well they assure that the Scout meets the stated requirements of a merit badge, as written. This, however, is not for a Scoutmaster to decide; it’s for the council’s or district’s advancement committee to decide. If the Scoutmaster becomes aware that a particular MBC is not following the requirements as written, he definitely has a responsibility to report this to the CAC or DAC, so that corrective actions can be taken by those responsible and authoritative bodies. It’s OK, however, for a Scoutmaster to suggest to a Scout that he consider one MBC over another, along the lines of, “I think you’ll enjoy working with Counselor X…” But, if the Scout prefers Counselor Y, for whatever reason, and Counselor Y is indeed correctly registered, then a Scoutmaster isn’t permitted to block this from happening. ________________________________________
Dear Andy,

Our troop will be doing a Youth Leader Training program soon. We did this last year and had a great time, but we’re having communication problems. We older folks just don’t communicate via the “new” media, such as social media, texting, etc. We still use the telephone (voice) and paper. But today, everything’s txt and “in The Cloud.” What do we do, to communicate with our Scouts anymore? (John Neuhaus, Laurel Highlands Council, PA)

Yup, I hear you, five-by-five! Scouts hardly even email anymore. It’s virtually all texting. So, how about this: At your next PLC, ask the Scouts themselves—The Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders—to coach you on how best to stay in touch with them. Actually, I’ll bet this turns out to be a no-brainer, because all you’ll need do is establish two-way contact with the SPL, and he takes it from there! (Ahhh… The PLC and The Patrol Method in action! Life’s good!)
Dear Andy,

When a troop is planning a high adventure outing and they need to add a few individual Scouts from other councils to fill out the size of the crew, do the out-of-council Scouts each need to file a personal travel permit from their own council, or are they covered under the travel permit of the troop hosting the outing? (Vik White)

The fill-in Scouts are “guests of the troop.” Usually, they’re listed with the other troop members on whatever documentation you have or file, just like the “home troop” Scouts. But do double-check with your own council’s risk management committee, just in case they have a different procedure (yes, there can be slight variations). Of course, ALL Scouts and accompanying adults need their proper medical forms, and these must be brought along on the trip itself.
Dear Andy,

When a boy becomes a Boy Scout and is working to fulfill the joining requirements for his Scout badge, can he also work on Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class requirements at the same time, before he completes the Scout badge requirements? For example, a boy joins a troop on a Monday and attends a hike or campout the subsequent weekend. He still hasn’t discussed the pamphlet requirements with his parents or discussed the other Scout badge requirements with his Scoutmaster; however, on the campout he completes several skills. Can the campout count as an activity, and the requirements he did on the campout count toward earning those ranks, or should he have earned Scout badge before getting credit for anything else? (Name & Council Withheld)

OK, let’s assume this boy joined the troop from a Cub Scout pack, since that’s the way at least eight out of ten boys become Boy Scouts. If so, the Arrow of Light and the Scout badge (not a “rank,” by the way… the first Boy Scout rank is Tenderfoot) have virtually identical requirements, so earning his Scout badge should be a no-brainer (ten minutes with the Scoutmaster, and that’s that!).

So, to answer your question: Yes. Since the boy has joined the troop, and the requirements that you’re talking about say, “Since joining…” receiving credit for any of the requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and/or First Class is perfectly legitimate. As for merit badges, so long as he’s a registered Boy Scout, he can begin any merit badge any time he chooses to—there are no restrictions whatsoever!

That said, the Scoutmaster will want to have that “Scout badge conference” with the Scout as fast as possible, and present him with his Scout badge equally quickly (meaning: don’t wait for a court of honor to present it; give it to him at the soonest troop meeting available).
Dear Andy,

I’m struggling with a question that relates to conducting an Eagle Scout board of review. I’ve read and re-read the GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT (Section about a board of review not being a “re-test” or “examination,” and it shouldn’t “challenge” a Scout’s knowledge. But the previous paragraph says that “meaningful questioning” should exist.

So, how does a reviewer know that the Scout knows such things as first aid, camping or cooking skills, flag etiquette, etc. if he or she doesn’t ask or question the Scout for answers? (Name & Council Withheld)

Let’s start at “square one.” The BSA advancement process is: The Scout learns, the Scout is tested, the Scout is reviewed, the Scout is recognized.

Step 1: The Scout “learns” from his peers—his fellow Scouts—how to tie the knots, identify the poisonous plants, tend a cut or abrasion, etc.

Step 2: He’s “tested” by his leader(s)—can be his Patrol Leader, a Troop Instructor, or (last resort) his Scoutmaster—and the requirements are initialed and dated in his handbook. He repeats Step 2 for all requirements until everything for his next rank is initialed and dated. As part of Step 2, he meets with his Scoutmaster and they talk about how he learned what he learned, how he’s getting along with his patrol, how’s school going, and is he ready for his board of review.

Step 3: He’s “reviewed,” which really means the troop’s committee members get to learn about how well they and the Scoutmaster are delivering the Scouting program to him and his friends; they encourage him to reflect on what he’s accomplished, and then they encourage him to continue along his chosen pathway.

Step 4: At the very earliest opportunities, his new rank is acknowledged and he receives his new rank badge and card. In a well-organized troop, the announcement’s made as soon as the review concludes (i.e., while the troop meeting’s still in progress) and he gets his badge and card the following week. (NOTE: At the next court of honor, all Scouts who have advanced in rank and/or earned merit badges are re-acknowledged.)

That’s it. Simple, Straightforward. Uncomplicated. Now let’s see where we go from here…

Right: No board of review for any rank is a re-test, re-examination, or “challenge.”

“Meaningful questioning” refers to asking open-ended questions that allow a Scout to speak freely and with confidence that (a) what he has to say is important to these men and women, and (2) they’re not “out to get him” and there are no “trick” or “catch” questions (i.e., nobody’s going to ask him a question that makes him the “goat” or embarrasses him).

It’s therefore correct that no questions that require specific knowledge or skills are appropriate at a board of review, because that’s not what this review is for.

It’s not within the purview of a board of review member to assess whether or the degree to which a Scout knows first aid, the hiking “rules of the road,” how to orient a map, or any other Scout skill, but if he or she is curious, all that needs be done is open the Scout’s handbook to pages 432 through 447 and take a look.

No Scout can really “fail” a board of review; that’s simply not the purpose of this process. That is, unless something absolutely unforeseen (and, in all likelihood, bizarre) occurs, such as the Scout blurting out that he’s given up God [by any name] and has taken up worshiping chairs and tables!)

Are boards of review for Eagle rank any different? Not really. Except that a bit more time is allocated for the Scout to reflect on his six-rank journey along the advancement trail and explore the key question: What’s next?
Dear Andy,

Do you have any thoughts on how I might convince a troop’s Committee Chair that boards of review aren’t participated in by Assistant Scoutmasters? His point of view is that they know more about Boy Scouting than committee member do, so they’re better qualified. In one of the troops I serve, an Assistant Scoutmaster is also their advancement coordinator, even though he’s not registered as a committee member.

Related to this, what, if any, decisions by a board of review can appealed at the district or council level? (My understanding is that an appeal can be made up the line if a troop’s board of review denies a Scout advancement to his next rank, and the board must give the Scout and his Scoutmaster written record of the denial and reason. Is this accurate?) (Richard Slider, UC, California Inland Empire Council)

Invest in a copy of the current GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT. Then show the CC, committee, Scoutmaster, and ASMs sections and Explain to these folks that there’s no room for arbitrary decisions on board of review composition. Further explain that Scoutmasters and ASMs are specifically excluded because one of the key purposes of such reviews is for committee members to learn how well the Scoutmaster and any ASMs are delivering the Boy Scout program as it’s intended to be delivered.

The subject of appeals, including written statements, is also covered elsewhere in Section 8. Best to go straight to the well on that subject, especially since it’s covered so well!)
Dear Andy,

For Christmas, I received a copy of the “Boy Scouts Handbook-The Original 1911 Edition,” by Skyhorse Publishing Company. It was printed in China. I think this is unethical. We are the Boy Scouts of AMERICA. I’ve been a Scouting volunteer for over 30 years. In that time, I’ve participated in countless council and unit fund-raising projects. I don’t like to see Boy Scout fundraising money sent to China to print Boy Scout materials. It’s a disgrace to see this book and any other material for the BSA printed and manufactured in China. (Dustin Fuller)

First, know that you’re not alone in your thinking about BSA materiel outsourced from China (or anywhere else outside the United States).

The specific book you were given is not an official or authorized BSA edition; it’s a reprint, in the category of what the book business calls a “trade paperback.” “Originals” become public domain material when their copyright expires, and then anyone, anywhere can re-print them, which seems to be what Skyhorse Publishing has done.

One tip-off to what’s going on here is the title itself. “Boy Scout Handbook” wasn’t introduced as the title of the handbook until the Sixth Edition, in 1959! Until then, it was “Handbook for Boys”!

Right now, you can buy a real First Edition of the HANDBOOK FOR BOYS for about $100 (do an Internet search), or you can buy a BSA-authorized reproduction of it at for $13.99 plus tax and shipping (SKU 33100).

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. 344 – 1/24/2013 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2013]


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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