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Issue 436 – March 10, 2015

Dear Andy,

I have all the original “See-N-Do” series of slides from the 70s, but I don’t have the script to go with them. I’d like to make a PowerPoint presentation out of these and add a narration. Would any of your readers happen to have anything that resembles the original script, or a guide I might use? Thanks! (Ron Nowaczyk, Woods & Water Council, Flint, MI – Email

Well there you have it, folks! If anyone can help Rob, just get in touch with him directly at the email address he’s provided.
Hi Andy,

Our troop committee’s been discussing whether it’s okay or not to ask Scouts to demonstrate a knot or two in their boards of review. One of us doesn’t think so, some side with the idea, and others just aren’t sure. We get it that reviews aren’t re-tests, but it is a review, after all. As a matter of course, we ask Scouts to recount some of their experiences from camp, earning merit badges, their perspectives and aspirations, and so on, so what’s wrong with asking them to show us what they’ve learned with a rope? As long as we’ve prepared the Scouts for their given ranks, it seems to us this is another opportunity for us to celebrate their accomplishments. So, with respect, what’s the answer? (Eric Larssen)

Good question. Let’s test it out…

Somebody innocently asks a Scout to tie a simple square knot. The Scout happily picks up the length of rope and ties…a granny knot or a thieves knot. Now what?

Somebody else decides that it might be nice to ask the Scout to orient a map using a simple compass. The Scout unfolds the map and lays it flat, sets the compass on top of it, and orients the map… with the north end of the compass pointing in the same direction as the south end of the map. Now what?

Or how about this: The Scout’s asked to name the two stars on the Scout badge. He says, “Knowledge and Fidelity.” Now what?

Here’s the simple and straightforward answer to your dilemma: The moment you ask a Scout to do something as specific as even tying a square knot, you’re re-testing him.

That said, I’m now going to throw you a curve-ball. I’ve often given a length of rope to a Scout and asked him to tie a knot…but I ask him to tie any knot he wants to. Now that might be “re-testing” except that I don’t care what he ties, because it’s the next question that’s the key… I ask him to think for a moment and tell me how that knot—whatever he tied—might somehow relate to his Scouting experience. This is where some remarkable responses have come forth, because, all of a sudden we’re “thinking beyond the rope,” and it’s truly enlightening to hear from a young man about what his Scouting experience has meant to him when he’s thinking about something other than some geezer’s just asked him a “stumper”!
Dear Andy,

Our district collects registration fees for district events by having checks made out to an individual. They say they do it this way so that the district has direct access to the money, instead of having to run funds through the council’s accounting system. One result of this long-standing practice is that there are several individuals holding hundreds of unaccounted for dollars. What do we do about this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Of course this is patently wrong (or you wouldn’t have written to me). Never ever—not even once—make a check for a district or council Scouting event payable to any individual. You need to bring this inappropriate practice to the attention of your council’s legal counsel and/or finance committee, or—failing that—straight to your council’s Scout Executive. Immediately!
Dear Andy,

Is there a process by which changes to the requirements for merit badges are introduced? I recently was part of a group that taught a class for the Emergency Preparedness merit badge. We were informed the morning of the class that there had been a change to the requirements. We searched all over the Internet, and everything we found showed the requirements we were all familiar with. After the session, we did some more searching, and we found one location on the Internet ( that showed there was one word added. I don’t believe this is an official BSA site. There should be a better way of communicating and implementing changes to merit badges. (Name & Council Withheld)

You’re correct that this website, although in major collaboration with the BSA for two decades, isn’t the official BSA website:

Because of our close collaboration, particularly in the area of advancement requirements, and because we have a dedicated volunteer whose major mission is to get and keep things as current as humanly possible, we often get things posted on our website more rapidly than the BSA (they have employees who are multitasking all the time, and go home at the end of the work day!).

The BSA has significant resources when major changes are taking place, and they employ them, including the 300+ councils, Scouting magazine, and of course their website. However, for the change of a single word, perhaps that slipped through the cracks. If this is really bugging you, consider contacting the BSA’s advancement folks at
Dear Andy,

My son, a Life Scout, has completed every requirement for Eagle, including tenure-in-position, but his Scoutmaster keeps tacking additional time onto this (my son passed the six-month mark weeks ago!). My son’s now almost 18 and is absolutely disgusted with how he’s being treated, and neither the Committee Chair nor my son’s Eagle advisor is willing to stand up to the Scoutmaster on this. In fact, they’ve actually been agreeing with the Scoutmaster that “a few more months” is needed…to the point where that “few more months” is going to cross the 18th birthday line. What do we, his parents, do about this? (Name & Council Withheld)

Your son is being abused by his Scoutmaster, Eagle Advisor, and Committee Chair—abused in the sense that despite his having completed all requirements months ago, they’ve been adding to a requirement in violation of BSA principles and policies.

As his parents, you have the right and obligation to blow the whistle on these people for their despicable abuse of a minor. Since you’ve told me that you have written confirmation of your son’s start-date in his position of responsibility, you can make this right by helping him fill out his application and other paperwork and then demanding that the Scoutmaster and CC add their signatures immediately. If they refuse, go straight to your district’s or council’s advancement chair and request a “board of review under disputed circumstances.” This nonsense needs to end and these people ultimately need to be disenfranchised from their positions. It’s in your hands—waste not a minute more.
Dear Andy,

Ours is a troop in New Jersey. We have a Scout registered in our troop who actually lives now in Texas. He wants to Skype to complete merit badges. Is there any regulation against this? (Cathy Alscher)

Unless he’s going to be in Texas for just a short time—maybe a month or two—he should definitely transfer to a local troop there. Skype isn’t how to have a “Scouting experience,” and his Texas council is certain to have Merit Badge Counselors (he doesn’t have to start over—he just continues where he left off, and his New Jersey-based MBCs can provide either a partially initialed “Blue Card” or a letter describing what he’s completed thus far.
Hi Andy,

Our troop’s Scoutmaster is doing a great job in many ways, and I don’t want to discourage him or cause a stink, but I need advice on how to handle this situation…

My son completed his Eagle project and all other rank requirements several months ago. At that time, he asked our Scoutmaster—a very busy high-school teacher—for a Scoutmaster’s conference, to wrap things up and go for his board of review. The response from the Scoutmaster was that he was busy with exams and could my son wait a few months (three months, to be more precise)? Okay, so my son waited the three months and asked again—and got the same answer: Too busy right now. Then, when a bunch of the older Scouts—my son included—attracted the Scoutmaster’s ire on a camp-out for “not being ‘proper leaders,’” he told son he’d have to wait for some indeterminate time until the Scoutmaster “saw more Scout spirit” from him. Finally, the Scoutmaster agreed to a conference, but when my son arrived at the previously agreed-upon time, he was once more told, “I’m too busy.” There was no apology, and no new time set, except that the Scoutmaster told my son, “You’re only 17, so you have lots of time.”

But, on top of being put off for over five months already, my son had had enough time, and enough merit badges to earn three Eagle Palms, and now time’s running out.

Is there some policy that says only the Scoutmaster can do a Scoutmaster conference? Can my son ask an Assistant? Our Scoutmaster insists on doing all the Life and Eagle conferences himself, but if he never has time, my son—and his friends, too—are stuck. I don’t want to cause hard feelings by asking an Assistant Scoutmaster to go against the Scoutmaster, but what else can I do? My son doesn’t want to switch troops. (Name & Council Withheld)

I’m sorry your son and his friends don’t want to desert this incompetent jerk of a Scoutmaster.

“Too busy” is hardly a valid excuse for his unconscionable delays. One of a Scoutmaster’s very most important responsibilities is to hold conferences with Scouts, especially those who are ready to advance, and even more especially when we’re talking about Eagle rank. “You have enough time” is absolutely not a valid reason for withholding for months a conversation that should take about 15 minutes.

Your son is obviously being buffaloed, and this is hurting him—the absolute antithesis of what a Scoutmaster’s responsibility is.

It’s high time for you and your husband, together, to tell your troop’s Committee Chair (the Scoutmaster reports to the CC) that this conference needs to take place immediately and that, if the Scoutmaster won’t do this in the next 24 hours, then an ASM needs to be assigned, so that it happens immediately. If the CC balks at this, it’s time to immediately contact a neighboring troop, tell the CC and Scoutmaster how your son is being stone-walled for Eagle, and get him transferred over to a place where they put Scouts first. Don’t delay, and stop worrying about “hurt feelings”—the only one who’s being hurt is your own son!

An alternate route, which I also advise, is to immediately go to your district or council advancement chair and demand a “board of review under disputed circumstance.” (This is a provision the BSA has established as a way to circumvent jerks like this Scoutmaster.)

Andy, you rock! My wife and I totally agree with you. I’ve already let the Committee Chair and advancement coordinator know that I think they need to tell the Scoutmaster that, unless he can conduct conferences within a week of a Scout’s request, there’s something terribly wrong—the wrong man’s in the wrong job. We’ve also got one of the ASMs (he was the previous Scoutmaster) to agree that he’ll diplomatically try to get the Scoutmaster to delegate my son’s conference to him.

I guess our real problem is that we don’t want to fire the Scoutmaster or cause a huge row. If we fire him or he quits, I’m not sure who’d be willing to do the job. And nobody’s perfect, so if this is his flaw, he’s otherwise a good Scoutmaster who really gets what the patrol method is all about, etc., and we don’t want to get rid of him. We’re going to let the CC deal with it, because we’ve already expressed our opinion to the Scoutmaster, that this is unacceptable” … and got yelled at. The man is clearly stressed out.

I am heartened by your advice. I wish BSA had some sort of official recommendation about how long is too long of a delay for a conference request. A written rule would go a lot further than parents demanding their son get attention now! (N&CW)

Okay, I’m glad you’re taking action. But I’ll tell you that and Scoutmaster who “yells” at parents when they tell him he’s failing at one of his major responsibilities deserves to have that patch ripped from his left sleeve—in public. You don’t need a “written rule” for a jerk of an insensitive boor who doesn’t understand that he serves the troop; he doesn’t run it. So here are some bolts for your crossbow…

SCOUTMASTER HANDBOOK (page 3): “SCOUTMASTER QUALIFICATIONS: Care about young people… serve as a role model…the way you treat others…will influence Scouts…”

IBID (page 120): “The Scoutmaster conference…is held each time the boy completes the requirements for a rank.” (NOTE: It doesn’t say, “at some arbitrary moment when the Scoutmaster decides.”)

But it’s not about “the rules.” It’s about what’s right. What he’s been doing for nearly a half-year of a Scout’s life is unconscionably wrong.
You have a bum in the Scoutmaster seat. How can you say he’s “a good Scoutmaster” and “gets what the patrol method is about” in one breath and express your fear of a “huge row” (verified by your own description of his yelling at you when you asked a reasonable question) in the next breath? Moreover, how is it that you intend to “change” him? “Change” him? Really?

When a Scout comes to a Scoutmaster and says, “Mr. Scoutmaster, I have every requirement completed for Eagle rank and I’d like to conference with you about this,” I’d say a delay of maybe ten minutes is acceptable.

Besides, it’s actually the Scoutmaster who’s supposed to know about the Scout’s completion of rank requirements and the conversation is actually supposed to happen this way: “Say, Scout,” he says, “I see you have everything done for Eagle, so how about we take a few minutes and have a chat about this?”

So, in your son’s case, from moment one it’s been backwards. (I’ll bet dollars to donuts that your son’s case isn’t unique. This makes me wonder how many other Scouts this bum has stalled while he takes his own sweet time, instead of getting it that he’s there to serve the Scouts, and not the other way around.)

In short, you folks should be absolutely furious. This is YOUR SON who’s getting the crumby end of the stick!

Oh? You might “hurt the feelings” of this bum? Really? OK, so tell me about your son’s feelings. So stop walking small around this bully, team up, and get some action. You don’t need a “rule book” to know right from wrong.

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. 436 – 3/10/2015 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2015]


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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