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Issue 374 – December 5, 2013

A Scout recently earned every merit badge Scouting has to offer. Here’s the link…

It’s interesting that this clip talks about some folks not “approving” of this—as if their lame-brained opinion had any weight or merit. To Scout Carter, GREAT GOING! To anyone who doesn’t “approve” of a Scout setting a goal for himself and then achieving it, go pound sand down a rat hole.
Hi Andy!

A short while ago, our troop’s Committee Chair asked an Assistant Scoutmaster to resign over a difference of opinion. To avoid a confrontation, he did so. But now the CC has announced she’s stepping down. Can that former ASM re-register as a committee member? Is there any reason that might prevent him from having his re-submitted application approved? (Name & Council Withheld)

The original scenario is somewhat weird, since ASMs and CCs rarely if ever interact; ASMs work with and ultimately report to the Scoutmaster. So, first thinking about that ASM slot, it’s really up to the Scoutmaster. If he and this ASM worked well together, then the Scoutmaster can certainly ask the former ASM to re-up, and the new CC would be wise to accept the Scoutmaster’s judgment on this. If, on the other hand, the former ASM would prefer to serve on the committee, instead of returning to his ASM position, then he’d want to have a conversation with the new CC and go from there. In either case, there’s absolutely no reason why not to sign off on his application resubmission.
Dear Andy,

I need help in explaining to my son’s Webelos den that he has special needs (ADHD-Autism). Some of the boys treat him unkindly and tease him because he has a hard time focusing and too much stimuli affects him. Plus, the other boys’ parents aren’t much better. Is there a letter that can read to the boys about being kind to others who are different from you? (Name & Council Withheld)

If you’re a parent but not the Webelos Den Leader, then you need to speak with that person, since he/she is in charge of the den, and would be the best communicator. This would be a wonderful opportunity for a field trip to a local children’s hospital or other facility, where all the boys can learn first-hand about disabilities and challenges faced by young people, including autism, by a licensed professional and by other children as well. This would be followed by a sit-down conversation with all the boys about how lucky they are and how they would treat other children with challenges. Allow the ideas to come from the boys themselves, so that they can grasp an understanding of the various challenges, and appreciate them. The wrap-up would be for the boys to make a list of how they would treat others. This way, your own son isn’t singled out and he can learn, too. Done well, this could be an incredibly bonding experience for all and a happy outcome for your son and his den friends.
Dear Andy,

Are two adults required to be present during all parts of an outing, or just for the outing in general? Here’s a “for instance”… The troop is camping at a national park. There’s a ranger-led evening program in another part of the park, far enough away that we’ll need to drive to it. Some of the Scouts want to attend the program, and some want to just hang out at the campsite. We have three adults on this trip. Can one or two adults take the several Scouts to the evening program, or would that violate the ”Two-Deep” rule since there would be either only a single adult going to the evening program, or only a single adult at the campsite? (Name & Council Withheld)

It sounds like a controlled environment (i.e., you’re not in back country) with other adults (e.g., the ranger) around. Plus, the base camp area’s secured for the night. Sounds like you’re just fine. As always, if the “Good Judgment” voice inside you is smiling, listen to it!
Dear Andy,

As a Merit Badge Counselor, I understand that the 2013 GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT-Topic (Statement on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement): “No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.”

I also understand that requirements can be interpreted differently by different people. I’m having a problem with Scouts interpreting them in such a way as to do the least amount of work possible. In most cases, their interpretation completely misses the purpose and spirit of the requirement. It often seems like their only interest is in “badge-bagging” and nothing else. Unfortunately, they’ve become accustomed to this by arguing about rank requirements with some poor Troop Guide. Then, what I get, as a MBC, is Scouts’ parents screaming at me to I should sign off on something because if you interpret the requirement a certain way, their sons completed it. I’m not alone in having to deal with this. When I talk with other leaders, they all have stories about ridiculous ways in which requirements have been interpreted.

What should a MBC (or other leader) do in a situation like this? In the past, I’ve said I won’t sign off on the requirement. I’ve told them that if they can find a MBC who’ll sign off on it, that’s fine, but I’m not going to sign off on a requirement I don’t honestly believe a Scout has completed. (John Pinchot, Longhorn Council, TX)

Requirements for ranks and merit badges are specific; they aren’t subject to so-called “interpretation.” So when any parent “screams” at you, your very best response is to walk away. That’s right: walk away. Nobody has the right to “scream” at anybody, in or out of Scouting. For parents who might have a legitimate concern and are willing to converse in civil tones, your response is equally simple: “If your son has a question about a requirement, he needs to speak with me personally. I’d be happy to help him.” That’s it.

As for Scouts who choose to “interpret” requirements, I fail to understand how this would happen, because, as their Merit Badge Counselor, it’s your responsibility to review each requirement with them and describe expectations, so that you’re both on the same page before the Scouts begin any requirement. If they’re harassing Troop Guides or other youth leaders, these Scouts need to immediately report this to their Senior Patrol Leader who, together with the Scoutmaster, can set these Scouts straight.

As for this this stuff about “…if you can find a MBC who will sign off…” let’s stop that right now, because all MBCs are expected to assure that Scouts fulfill each requirement precisely as it’s written. Your “…if you can find…” statement suggests that there are differences between MBCs’ application of requirements and this is simply wrong, wrong, wrong.
Hi Andy,
I’ve just discovered your column and I’m enjoying learning more about Scouting.

My son is struggling with some changes that have happened in his troop over the last year that seemed to have started with the last group of Scouts who crossed over, along with some recent changes in adult leadership. Camp-outs, hikes, and other types of outdoor activities are now attended by family members: moms and dads along with little brothers and sisters too have been camping with the troop and participating in the activities. Sometimes there are just as many parents and siblings as Scouts on these outings. After the last one, my son doesn’t want to go anymore. He told me about how another Scout’s mother was telling them all what to do while they were preparing their patrol’s dinner. Then she ate with them while giving them suggestions on how they could improve the way their patrol operated. He felt like he was back in Cub Scouts. Who, exactly, should be attending the outings with the Scouts? And do adults and siblings eat with the Scouts in their patrols? (Name & Council Withheld)

Thanks for finding me! Don’t hesitate to dip into the archives and read back columns—there’s ton of good stuff in there.

Sometimes, I’ve referred to situations such as you’ve described as “Webelos 3″—but this is much worse. In fact, it’s barely even Cub Scouts. I think the best description for what your son’s encountering is “Tiger Cubs 5.”

New Andy rule. Number 101: You can’t single-handedly save a troop from a bunch of misguided parents.

This simply isn’t Boy Scouting. It’s not what your son’s handbook promised him; it’s unlikely to change anytime soon. So, unless you really like shoveling water upstream with a pitchfork, my advice is pretty simple: Get your son out of there!

Go find a nearby troop that gets it right, and transfer your son and as many of his friends from his former den as you can—right away! Offer no explanations; just do it. Tell your son this isn’t “quitting” because HE is Scouting’s first volunteer, and he deserves better than this. (So do you, his parents!) Run, don’t walk!

Thanks, Andy. This may be a hard sell for my son. He’s a Star Scout and his patrol members are his best friends. His troop hasn’t always been like this. Who exactly should be attending the outings?

This means your son and all his friends need to move to a new troop, as an intact patrol, because “family camping” for Boy Scouts is baloney. In Boy Scouting, the ones who go camping/hiking are the Scouts, with the Scoutmaster and an ASM, and that’s it, because Scouts are supposed to be interacting with one another under the guidance of two trained adult volunteers. If other adults want to go along, they camp separately (meaning: out of sight) from the Scouts, cook for themselves, and largely stay away from the Scouts. Anything else is really messed up.

Now if you parents are willing to band together and get this fixed, that would be a wonderful thing. But if this isn’t going to happen, your sons simply aren’t getting the Boy Scout program—they’re getting Tiger Cubs 5. End of story.
Dear Andy,

Can a troop be too small to have more than one patrol? The troop that my son is involved with has officially ten Scouts; however, we may be losing one with the new year, and we have two others who have very sporadic attendance at meetings. Effectively, we only have seven active Scouts. Since the recommended size for a patrol is six to eight, is it feasible to only have one patrol, and then at crossover, if we gain any Scouts, break into two or more patrols at that time? (Steve Paulsen, Northern Lights Council, MN)

If you have only one patrol, you don’t have a troop and the patrol will have limited growing room and limited if any fun. Even with as few Scouts as this troop has, there absolutely must be two patrols, minimum. With ten Scouts, you have room for one elected Senior Patrol Leader and two patrols: one of five Scouts and one of four. Manage this outcome by first holding a troop election for the SPL slot (SPLs aren’t members of any patrol). Then, ask the remaining nine Scouts to divide themselves into two groups: one of four and the other of five (and nobody gets left out!). Each then elects their own Patrol Leader, who chooses an assistant. They then come up with names for themselves, patrol yell, and they’re given materials to design their patrol flag. Next, they have some simple competitions in the troop meeting (this helps build teamwork and solidarity). The rest is straight out of the book, including inviting non-Scout friends to come to meetings, etc.

As for the two Scouts who are frequently absent, find out why. Maybe the troop needs to switch to a different meeting night. Or, maybe the troop needs to have an honest-to-goodness fun troop meeting agenda! Or both! Google “Troop Meeting Plan” and make sure the Patrol Leaders Council (that’s the SPL and the two PLs) use it for planning every meeting.

Anything less than this and you may as well fold the troop right now, because it’ll be gone inside of six months anyway.
Dear Andy,

My older son completed, or was very close to completing, both Personal Management and Citizenship in the Community merit badges with one of the leaders, who is a Merit Badge Counselor for both of these, in his old troop. It seems that the troop and the leader are now actually attempting to stiff my son on both of these merit badges. I’ve emailed him several times over the past few months to see about getting things reconciled for these two very important merit badges, but he’s been non-responsive. Now I’ve learned that he’s moved out of the area and no longer involved with the troop, and that, when he left, he took a lot of the troop’s records with him—including my son’s advancement and merit badge records.

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for addressing this, so that my son doesn’t have to re-do these two merit badges? (Name & Council Withheld)

To try to track down the guilty will—I guarantee you—be an exercise in futility and frustration. This isn’t where to put your (or your son’s) energies.

It strikes me that what needs to happen here is for your son to get the name and contact information for two local Merit Badge Counselors—one for each of the two merit badges—from his Scoutmaster and then go and visit with each counselor, to describe what’s happened and then develop a work-plan for completing these. Any counselor with a boy’s well-being in his heart and a belief that “A Scout is trustworthy” will help you son through this mess as painlessly as possible.

What’s the “life lesson” for your son? Keep your own accurate records of your efforts and accomplishments.

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. 374 – 12/5/2013 – 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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