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Issue 472 – February 2, 2016

Dear Andy,

A tradition in our troop is to have a Scout who’s about to age out do the Scoutmaster’s minute at his last meeting as a youth member. I think what our most recent “Scoutmaster-for-the-moment” and Eagle Scout had to say to his fellow Scouts. Here it is. (Stuart Weinberg, SM)

Hi everyone. As some you may have noticed, I’ve been in this troop for a bunch of years now and tonight is my last night with you all as a Scout. So I’d like to share what I’ve learned in these past eight years by giving you my own version of the Scout Law. If you follow it, I think you’ll get everything out of not only Boy Scouting, but out of this troop too.

1. First off, a Scout is INDEPENDENT. A Scout doesn’t need Mom and Dad to help him every step of the way. He can stand up on his own two feet and carry his own weight.

2. A Scout is DEPENDENT. A Scout can’t try and carry the whole weight of the world on his shoulders, though. He needs to be able to depend on his friends, family, and fellow Scouts to help him along the way.

3. A Scout is OPINIONATED. He pays attention to the world around him and adds his two cents when needed. He should ask questions about what he knows, unless he’s driving his poor Senior Patrol Leader crazy.

4. A Scout is BAE. I hope some of you get the reference, and if not, I’m really getting old. Either way, the lesson here is that a Scout needs to make sure he’s having fun being a Scout because that’s what we’re supposed to be about: learning new things and having fun doing it.

5. A Scout is PROUD. He takes pride in his both his accomplishments and mistakes because…

6. A Scout is IMPERFECT. He makes mistakes just like anyone else. But what separates him from others is his ability to take a lesson out of them.

7. A Scout is CREATIVE. This one doesn’t mean just being able paint a picture, write a poem, or play a song. A Scout’s creativity comes into play when he faces a problem. He’ll need to be creative to find a solution, whether by facing it head on or by looking at it from a different angle.

8. Lastly, a Scout is UNIQUE. He leaves an impression on those he meets and makes memories with others that will last him, and them, a lifetime.

Notice I didn’t say anything about rank advancement or becoming Eagle. That was on purpose because becoming Eagle Scout shouldn’t be your primary goal as a Scout. Sure, you learn a lot from going down that road, and I totally recommend it. But if you focus solely on advancing to Eagle then I’m sorry, you’ve missed the point of being a Scout. Being a Boy Scout is about the adventures you go on, the people you meet, and the lessons you learn. So look around, enjoy yourself, and be happy you have this opportunity. (Chris March, Troop 125 Commack, NY)
Dear Andy,

I have a Scout who earned his Arrow of Light earlier than the other boys in his Cub Scout den. He left the den to be a Boy Scout eight months ago and now he or his mom (I’m not sure who’s more invested in this) wants to participate in the Arrow of Light presentation ceremony in his former pack, with the other boys from his former den. I feel it’s a mistake for him to go back to show off that he’s already a Boy Scout to the other boys, and many of the parents also think this could diminish their own sons’ achievements and sense of loyalty to the pack. Should it be allowed now that he is already a Boy Scout, or not? (Rick Bensco)

You’ve got it right: The ceremony is for current members of the Cub Scout pack; it’s not for Boy Scouts. You might want to try explaining to this boy and his mom that it’s like a high school freshman going back to middle school for some sort of belated graduation ceremony—it’s just sort of inappropriate…borderline lame, in fact, and he could wind up embarrassing himself more than anything else.
Hi Andy,

I have a question about the National Outdoor Awards requirements. Each of the possible six segments call for the activity (hiking, rafting, snowmobiling, etc.) to be done “under the auspices of the Boy Scouts of America.” On the surface this seems pretty clear: Go to a BSA camp and participate in the activity, and it counts towards the requirement. By extension, I would think that if the activity were done as part of a troop event, or even a patrol activity properly supervised, the activity would still count. Then we get into a gray area (maybe it’s clear and I’m just not seeing it). If a Scout’s dad is an Assistant Scoutmaster, say, and the family’s go-to activity is spending the weekends riding ATVs in the sand dunes, could that be considered “under the auspices”, provided that all BSA safety protocols are followed? Similarly, if the family’s activity is backpacking, and the Scout logs a mountain of miles hiking with the family, do any of those miles count? (Lee Murray, ASM, Nevada Area Council)

You’ve already answered your question… You clearly know the difference between a “Scouting” activity and a “family” activity. Just stick by what’s pretty obvious and you’ll be just fine! It’s not “common” sense—it’s good sense.
Dear Andy,

I’m preparing to lead a discussion on the 2016 requirement changes at our district’s Boy Scout Roundtable. One of the changes is the “tell how you have done your duty to God” requirement added to each rank. I’m fine with the new requirement and everything I’ve read on it…that is, until I came across the following Q&A in Bryan On Scouting‘s column at:

Question: What if, during a Scoutmaster conference or board of review, a Scout says that he does not believe in God?

Answer: A Scout is called to do his duty to God by both the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and his belief in God should be acknowledged by his parent or guardian’s signature on the BSA Youth Application. A Scout’s declaration that he does not believe in God is grounds to deny rank advancement and could affect his continued membership in the troop. The situation should be approached with the utmost caution, recognizing that the Scout and his family are best served by a process in which the Scout remains positively engaged in his Scouting pursuits. Troop leadership should not attempt to counsel the Scout, but should contact the boy’s parents or guardians and allow the family time to discuss the situation with the youth. If the issue arises at a board of review, the board should be adjourned and reconvened at a later date, giving the family an opportunity to conduct that discussion with their son.

Is this really the BSA policy? First of all, the use of the word “God” should be replaced with something like “a higher power.” Would a Scout really be denied rank if he stated he didn’t believe in a higher power? Like I said, I agree with everything else on this new requirement. It should be a monologue by the Scout and not a dialogue with the leader. The leader should not measure the Scout’s response against some sort of religious standard. This discussion should not be used for proselytizing a particular viewpoint. I understand the part about it being a family decision and the reasoning for reconvening a board of review after the family has had an opportunity to have a discussion with their son.

I have Scouts in my troop that would say they truly believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny to get rank. I guess I would have to admire a young person who felt strongly enough about his religious beliefs, or lack thereof to risk not receiving a rank.

If a Scout firmly maintained that he does not believe in a higher power, would he actually be denied rank? Would this Scout be allowed to remain in the unit and do all the fun stuff and earn whatever awards that don’t require a board of review (like merit badges, for instance) and just not achieve rank? (Name & Council Withheld)

Find and re-read the BSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle. If, after this, you still have a question, let me know.

As for Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, let’s get real, shall we?

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. 472 – 2/2/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


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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