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Issue 459 – November 3, 2015

Dear Andy,

I usually agree with most everything you have for us out here in the field, but I disagree on the point you made in your October 22 issue (No. 458), when you said, “One of the saddest things I ever heard was just a few years ago at an Eagle court of honor, when the new 18-year-old Eagle Scout publicly thanked his father for having attended every single hike, camp-out, and other outdoor activity with him since he was a Tiger Cub.”

I take my own grandson to every campout he has. I also haul anyone who needs a ride, coming or going or both, and I haul Scouts and their gear to summer camp along (at summer camp I stay usually the first day and then come back for the last two days). I don’t go on the hikes—I would if I could, but age has slowed me down. What I’m saying is that, by my being involved in my grandson’s life, as he gets older he’ll treasure the memories of the times with his grandfather. I tell these boys I’m not a teacher; I’m a guide: I point the way for you, and it’s your choice to follow or not. I also sit in on boards of review (I like them the best), and I’ll tell the Scouts this is like a job interview (although they’ve already earned the rank). So I would think that this father should be congratulated for spending time with his son and the other Scouts. (Paul Peery)

For a father to spend as much time as possible with his son, and his grandfather to do likewise is both correct and commendable… And I’d be a fool to discourage or demean this—which of course I don’t. Fathers and sons can do an enormous number of things together, from fly or cast fishing, to re-building the family’s old “jalopy” (if these even exist anymore), to one-on-one sports (racquet sports are a good example), to learning chess or card games, home repairs, and even camping and hiking together, and the list is nearly infinite. But that’s not what Boy Scouting is for. Boy Scouting isn’t designed to be a “Dad n’ Lad” activity. It’s designed to be a boy-to-boy experience with adults in the background as more or less “safety nets” and guides—actually, just like you’re doing as a driver and board of review member.

If you step back for a moment, you’ll realize that the most important leadership position in a troop isn’t the Scoutmaster. It’s the Senior Patrol Leader. And the second-most important positions are the Scout-elected Patrol Leaders.

Want to support your son (or grandson)? Great! Do this by getting him and his friends to and from his patrol’s and troop’s outdoor events—just as you’re doing now. And then let them learn about the world through one another during their camping experience—just as you’re doing now, when you stay for a day and then leave the Scouts to themselves.

Want to spend personal time with your offspring in the out-of-doors? Great! Go hiking and camping TOGETHER and then step back and allow him to grow into the man you want him to be side-by-side with his fellow Scouts.

Read the first couple of chapters of the SCOUT HANDBOOK and you’ll see that it’s all about the boy and his fellows. Allow him to have the adventure Scouting promises him by giving him “room.” And then, when he comes home, go do something—whatever you like—together.
Dear Andy,

Last issue, you noted: “I’m told that, upon enlistment, Eagle Scouts are jumped a pay grade for being such.” I’m not nitpicking, and I know how hard you strive for accuracy, so let me shed some further light….

My son is an Eagle Scout and spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, where Eagle Scouts are awarded an extra (higher) rank when they graduate from boot camp (but not when they first enlist). Keep up the good work! (Greg Maus, Scoutmaster, William D. Boyce Council)

Not a “nitpick”—new information, for which I’m grateful. Thanks, and especially thanks to your son for his service to our country!
Hi Andy,

While counseling a Scout on his Communication merit badge req. 2b (set up a website or blog, etc.), he’d set up an Instagram account for me to view. Okay so far, but in looking through his pictures, I found numerous pictures of partially nude girls (e.g., partially exposed breasts, fully exposed side views of same, frontal view of female crotch with very short underwear, breasts overflowing from very small bra, some animated and some real). When I asked where these had come from, he told me his Instagram “friends” had sent them, so he added them to the file. What do I do? What’s the protocol with this? (KNB)

While no Scouting volunteer is expected to be a professional counselor or such, the obvious “protocol” here, my Scouting friend, is YOU and your own good, sensible judgment. Part of your responsibility as a counselor (read: mentor) is to help steer this Scout along a correct, good sense pathway. So explain to him that, with an Instagram utility, he needs to function as what’s commonly called “Moderator.” As Moderator, his responsibility is to decide, on a case-by-case basis, what an appropriate posting is, and what’s not. And just because a “friend” sent in something doesn’t automatically make it okay to post as received. He needs to take a cold, hard look at what he’s received and decide whether or not it should be posted. (This is where his “delete” key will come in handily.)

(This is why a passworded website is the better option—as suggested by the Communication pamphlet. This gives the webmaster complete control over content.)

So, with a second adult present (your wife would be perfect, because she can provide a mature woman’s perspective), sit down with this young man and review each image, one by one, and provide him with guidance on what’s appropriate and what’s not. (This is actually a powerful opportunity for you, and I suggest you take full advantage of your role as his Counselor.)
Dear Andy,

Do merit badges fall under “immediate recognition,” like rank advancement? Or can a troop withhold earned and completed merit badges until a court of honor? Would you point me to any documentation clarifying this issue, please? (Name & Council Withheld)

Yes, they certainly do. Only a very foolish (if not renegade) troop would arbitrarily withhold presenting a Scout with his newest rank or merit badge(s) as rapidly as possible. A court of honor is for acknowledging what Scouts have accomplished since the last court of honor. It’s not for the actual presentation of the ranks or merit badges. Check the BSA’s GUIDE TO ADVANCEMENT for details on this and much more.
Dear Andy,

About two months ago, my 13 year-old son signed up for his Scoutmaster conference for Star rank. In response at that time, the Scoutmaster told him there were two Scouts who were carryovers from the previous week, so they would go first. But, when he ran out of time at the end of the meeting, the Scoutmaster told my son, “Next week.” The next week, three other Scouts had also signed up for a conference and—for no known reason—the Scoutmaster conferenced with them first, and again “ran out of time” just as it became my son’s turn. So my son sent the Scoutmaster an email requesting the following week, and received a “yes” reply from him. But, for the third week in a row, he “ran out of time” and my son was told he’ll have to wait till the next meeting (we’re up to four, now). That next week, you guessed it…Three other Scouts and then no time for my son. This has continued, and now we’re right up against a court of honor and still no conference.

My son says this is no big deal, and that he’s feeling like he’s pestering the Scoutmaster, who seems to continue ignoring my son or coming up with “no more time” excuses week after week.

For now, I’m reluctantly willing to honor my son’s request that I don’t interfere, but it’s very frustrating—my son or not—to watch this play out the same way, week after week. And the fact that it is indeed happening to my own son just makes it all the more disheartening. What, if anything, can I do to break this pattern? (Name & Council Withheld)

The irony to this is that it’s fundamentally the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to keep track of Scouts’ advancement and then be certain to conference with them as they’re proceeding toward their next rank.

(Does everyone know, by the way, that it’s absolutely not required that the Scoutmaster’s conference come last among all rank requirements? That’s right: A Scoutmaster’s conference can take place anytime along a Scout’s path toward his next rank.)

The further pity is that such conferences should be taking perhaps 5 but certainly no more than 10 minutes, at the very most.

As a parent, I’d be concerned that this Scoutmaster seems to be avoiding a key responsibility. I’d be tempted to have a quiet, unofficial, personal conversation with the Committee Chair (remember that the Scoutmaster ultimately reports to the Chair) about this inordinate delay and ask what can be done to alleviate this sort of log-jam in the future.

(If a Scoutmaster is truly short of time, it’s not against the rules for him to ask an Assistant Scoutmaster to help ease the burden by doing a few conferences so that the Scouts can continue to move forward without adult-caused delays.)

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. 459 – 11/3/2015 – 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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