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Issue 392 – April 8, 2014

Hello Andy,

I’m confused. In your column No. 390 (March 25th), a reader raised a question about Scouts not being able to repeat the Scout Oath, Law, etc., at their boards of review. Part of your answer was: “To put this in further perspective, although it’s fairly standard practice to ask Scouts to repeat the Oath, Law, etc. at the start of a board of review, we recognize that doing this isn’t an actual requirement for any rank from Tenderfoot through Eagle and Eagle palms as well.” But in the SCOUT HANDBOOK, Tenderfoot req. 7 says, “Repeat from memory and explain in your own words the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan.” Which way is it? Thanks. (Kathy Fields)

You’re one of many sharp-eyed readers who spotted my mistake, and I’ll take twenty lashes with a wet lanyard for not double-checking before answering. Yes, Tenderfoot req. 7 is exactly as you’ve stated and my commentary was incorrect. I’ve revised that portion of the original column. Thanks!

Great lesson is this: Just because I sometimes think I know the answer without double-checking doesn’t mean I’m gonna get it right when I rely on memory alone. Or, as somebody a lot smarter than I am once said, “We all have a right to our opinions, but none of us has the right to be wrong in our facts.” (Including me!)
Hi Andy,

I really like reading your columns! I always learn more things about Scouting, even after 20 years as a volunteer. But here’s a comment about your response to question in your March 25th column (No. 390). You said that a Scout can’t use an indoor area for requirements dealing with camping. I’d like to point out that nowhere in the Tenderfoot requirement does it say that it has to be outdoors. Here’s the actual requirement: “Spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout. Sleep in a tent you have helped pitch.” This is for Tenderfoot. Now I’m not saying that a Scout shouldn’t set up his tent outdoors; however, the requirement doesn’t say he has to do this. Do you have any further thoughts about this? (Mark Kociemba)

I sure do! Let’s start with what the BSA has to say about the outdoors: “Boy Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoors that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with each other. It is here that the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Scouts gain an appreciation
for God’s handiwork and humankind’s place in it. The outdoors is the laboratory for Scouts to learn ecology and practice conservation of nature’s resources.” And just in case that’s not enough, let’s focus on just one word in that requirement: “campout.” I rest my case.
Hi Andy,

I’ve been searching online for regulations about Cub Scouts wearing uniforms to present the colors. I found zilch. Can you help? (Tina Warren, MC)

The good news is that this is really simple and straightforward: All BSA youth members and all BSA direct contact adult volunteers wear uniforms, complete and correct. If we follow this, then any group of Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts will always be correctly attired for flag detail.
Dear Andy,

Recently, you said that it’s okay for a Scoutmaster to sign off on advancement requirements, including the Scoutmaster conference, for his own son. Is this referenced anywhere in BSA materials? (Ken Hess)

Nope, it’s not written anywhere. It’s also not written anywhere that this shouldn’t happen. Doesn’t have to be. It’s simple, and works the same as merit badges, where the BSA does make the statement that one may counsel his or her own son or nephew.
Hey Andy,

If a Scout is Life rank and has 23 merit badges already, does he have to earn 10 more to become Eagle? He already has all the Eagle-required merit badges in the 23 he’s already earned. In the rules, it looks like he’ll need 33 to become an Eagle. (Bob Nelson)

So long as the Scout’s earned all the required merit badges and enough of the elective merit badges to total 21, he has all he needs.

(For others who may read this, it would be helpful for me to understand how you arrived at the idea that this Scout might need to earn 12 more than what’s required.)

Thanks, Andy. The question arose while I was reading the Eagle requirements—the part where it says, “Earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than you already have).” The phrase, “10 more than you already have,” doesn’t appear with any of the other rank requirements, so some of us who are less intuitive felt the need to question a higher source… which is where you come in! (Bob)

Well, I’m hardly a “higher source”… The best source is always the BSA and what’s been written. So let’s review, using the current SCOUT HANDBOOK (I’m going to focus only on the number, not whether they’re Eagle-required or not)…

Star req. 3: “Earn six merit badges…” So, for this one, if the Scout earns 6, he’s there.

Life req. 3: “Earn five more merit badges (so that you have 11 in all)…” For Life, 11 is the magic number.

Eagle req. 3: “Earn a total of 21 merit badges (10 more than you already have)…” The “10 more than you already have” refers to the 11 for Life.

But I can see where the “10 more than you already have” might mislead. Let’s push the envelope a bit and see where it takes us…

Supposed a Scout, between the time he becomes a Scout and when he earns Life rank, has been busy with merit badges. Let’s say he’s already earned a total of 50 merit badges (not impossible, by the way!) by the time he’s a Life Scout. So, does “10 more than you already have” mean earning 10 so that the Scout now has 60 merit badges? Nope. It only means 10 more than are required for Life rank. That’s 21, and that’s what Eagle req. 3 is asking for.

Need more confirmation? Easy! Take a look at the Eagle Scout Rank Application. There’s space for listing 21 merit badges: That’s the required number!

And, as long as we’re on the subject, be sure your Scouts—and adult volunteers, too—don’t think of Eagle as “the end of the Scouting trail.” Eagle is simply a rank. Yes, it’s the highest, but it’s not the “pinnacle” from the standpoint of “earn Eagle and your Scouting ‘career’ is over.” Far from it! In fact, earning Eagle is where the real fun begins! In the first place, the sooner the Scout earns Eagle, the longer he’ll be able to wear this badge on his uniform (instead of receiving it as an “18th birthday present” and never getting to wear it). Then, when he goes to NYLT, or a national or international Jamboree, he goes as an Eagle! When he takes a Philmont trek, he does this as an Eagle! When he’s elected by his fellow Scouts into the Order of the Arrow, he takes his Ordeal as an Eagle! Plus, he gets to work on a bunch of other really cool merit badges without having to worry about whether they’re “required” or not–he does them for the fun of it! And he gets Eagle palms every three months when he earns five more merit badges–he can earn as many as four palms a year!

For Eagle palms, he gets credit for any merit badges previously earned (that is, earned prior to making Eagle). This means that a Scout with, let’s say, 26 merit badges at the time he earns Eagle gets a bronze palm three months later, for the 5 more than the 21 he needed for Eagle that he already has.

Well, that’s probably more than you ever thought you’d get to know about merit badges, so it’s time for me to stop!
Hi Andy,

Do you have any recollection of when National Council went from 12 regions to the current four? Also when did the “new” tan uniforms started replacing the green we grew up in? (Fred Schuhle)

Some quick research puts the region reductions in the 1980’s decade. The current tan shirt-with-olive pants uniform (designed by Oscar de la Renta) became official in 1980. It did not, however, make any prior uniform “obsolete”—any uniform part that was ever official still is.
Hello Andy,

My son is a Life Scout and ready to present his Eagle project proposal. I’m the troop’s Committee Chair. Is it appropriate for me to sign his project approval? And, when the time comes, what about his Eagle rank application? And if not me, who would sign for the committee? (Heidi Bornemann, CC, Westchester-Putnam Council, NY)

There’s absolutely no BSA policy that in any way forbids you from signing as CC, confirming that the committee has approved your son’s Eagle project proposal. Unfortunately, however, some folks like to specialize in being snarky. For this reason alone, you might want to consider having someone else’s signature there. But know that there’s absolutely nothing that says you have to do that. So, how about this: Why not have this conversation with your son, and ask him for his own preference?
Hello Andy,

I’m a second-year Cub Scout Leader. I’m having increasing difficulty with our pack’s other volunteers. In later 2012, when my son was old enough to be a Tiger, I signed on along with him. At the time, our pack appeared to be active, fun, and happy. But over time I’ve come to realize that what appeared to be solid from the outside has some serious cracks inside. We have long-standing pack volunteers who are apparently ignorant of BSA guidelines and policies, current programs and events, and even some of the fundamentals of Cub Scouting. Instead, we have a stagnating “rinse-and-repeat” cycle every year. We hold the same events, again and again with no innovations or updates ad nauseam (for the Cubs, too!). When I’ve occasionally tried to offer suggestions to the Den Leaders, Cubmaster, and committee, I get—literally—shouted down.

Our Committee Chair’s position is intransigent: “I’ve always done it this way and you will, too,” and no one disagrees with her since she has an explosive temper and no social graces, handling even the mildest suggestion with noisy public confrontations. She’s literally dressed me down in front of my Cubs and their parents when I attempted to point out that the various inoculations and immunizations she was demanding for a simple Cub camping weekend were simply not required by either the current BSA medical forms or the GUIDE TO SAFE SCOUTING.

Now, in addition, we have a new Cubmaster who’s more interested in constantly raising money (we doubled our budget with good popcorn sales this year, so it is not needed), so that almost every pack event has some grand get-rich-quick fundraising scheme attached to it that usually takes up most of the time and planning, while the event itself often short-changes the Cubs as far as program content is concerned.

I only want the best Scouting experience possible for my son, and even he is getting tired of seeing his dad treated this way. I do not want to transfer to another Pack if it can be helped, since my son’s schoolmates and den brothers are here. But these people are driving me out of my mind, and are actually blaming the Den Leaders for the fact that their stale program draws in fewer and fewer new Cubs every year.

Any advice you might be able to offer would be most appreciated. (Name & Council Withheld)

First and foremost, there’s absolutely no reason for you to tolerate verbal abuse from anyone. Worse, if your son is seeing you “take it,” and you’re his ultimate role model, things aren’t going to be very ducky for him as he grows up, because he’ll not have been provided any demonstrations of how one should respond to a tyrant. This one you’ve got to fix right away, because what a child sees has a much greater influence on him than anything he’s told or may be “explained” to him after the incident passes. To give him the right tools for life, you’ll need to show him by your own actions how to stand up to a bully.

This is difficult for me to point out, but it must be said: You’ve created your own dilemma, and I can’t solve it for you. On the one hand, you’re saying the program in this pack is dull and boring, and run by a tyrant and a money-grubber. On the other, you’ve found an excuse for continuing to subject your son to an inferior program run in a hostile way.

I can’t help until you’re willing to make a decision, and make it stick. So, how about you and your son visit a couple of nearby packs and see what they look like and how they feel. If your son likes what he sees, then how about asking him if he’d like to switch packs and bring all his den friends along with him? It’s either this, or take on the tyrant CC and the money-mad Cubmaster. Your call.

Gandhi said it better than me: “No one can treat you like a door mat if you refuse to lie down.”

To which, with humility, I’d add this thought: Your spine is an inherently unstable anatomical structure; what keeps it from collapsing under pressure is your spirit.
Dear Andy,

I’m Unit Commissioner for a pack in which the current Committee Chair is moving on to the troop his son is crossing over to, and no one will step up to fill this slot. Meanwhile, the Cubmaster is a low-profile type and doesn’t have a clue as to how to handle what’s about to happen. The CC is a great person and has led everything because there’s no one else to do it. I’m afraid that if no one steps forward to take the CC’s position, we’ll this pack. Any ideas on how to handle this? (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m sorry that the outgoing CC hadn’t trained his own successor in the past 2 years. He’s been “doing everything,” of course, because most likely he’s a lousy delegator. (Lousy delegators always use the rationale that “no one else is willing to step up,” when in fact they don’t want anyone to step up because then they won’t feel gloriously fulfilled and wholeheartedly needed.)

Here’s what to do, step-by-step…

1. On 5×7 index cards, write the positions in the pack that need to be filled for the coming year. Then buy some masking tape.
2. The present CC calls a mandatory meeting of all parents. (No children)
3. You, the CC, and your District Executive gather ahead of time. Before the meeting starts, you and the CC tape the index cards to the front wall, positions facing toward audience.
4. The CC starts meeting with introductions by name all around. He recognizes and thanks all pack leaders in past year or so, announces he’s moving on with his son, and now it’s time for “next generation” of pack leaders.
5. The CC points to cards and reads them off one-by-one. He tells group these need to be filled right now. He uses a few sentences each to describe what each entails.
6. The CC waits. Nobody moves. CC tells ’em: If you’re smart, you’ll get up here and grab a card first–that way, you get the job you want, instead of something you don’t want. Then he steps aside.
7. Folks finally “get the message” and take cards. As they do this, you record who took which cards, and then new CC calls for a leaders meeting next month on a specific date, time, and location (you already have this info in your hip pocket).

In the unlikely event that nobody gets the message, it’s time for the D.E. to step up and tell these parents what will happen to their sons if there are no volunteers for this pack to run. That’s it. Don’t be shy. It works if you believe it’s going to work.

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. 392 – 4/8/2014 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2014]


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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