Please take a moment of silent personal reflection before reading this column, in respect to the victims of the Las Vegas massacre and their families, and to honor all those who responded immediately and afterward to this singular tragedy. Thank you.
Great column last week! I have a situation to share—somewhat related—that, if you can address, would sure be helpful…
Our troop has recently grown from about 18 to over 40 Scouts, quickly. It’s a good “problem” to have, but it does come with challenges. One of our troop’s ongoing goals is to camp every month of the year. An agreement I’ve made with my ASMs is that, because I can’t be there for every campout, if we spread the load around we can succeed so long as we all commit to attend at least three apiece per year. Turns out, though, that I’m struggling with both ASM involvement and parents’ support when it comes to driving our Scouts to and from campouts and other outdoor activities, and—even more important—staying for the outing as adult secondary leaders, to fulfill the “Two-Deep” BSA stipulation (which I totally get, by the way). Just the other weekend, we had to cancel a campout because we couldn’t get a second adult—per GTSS guidelines—to commit to a Saturday-to-Sunday overnight. This “loss” of a fundamental Scouting opportunity really saddened me. Following the example of that Cubmaster you described, I really like the idea of posting our PLC’s annual plan and dates on a “billboard” and then making it obvious that one or more are crossed out because, although we had plenty of Scouts who wanted to go, we couldn’t get enough adult coverage or enough parents to help with the driving or staying with the Scouts. I’m hoping that, if we do this, the fact that “BSA” doesn’t stand for “Baby Sitters of America” might just sink in! (Lee Murray, SM, Nevada Area Council)
This is, unfortunately, a very common problem, especially for Scout troops. One of the smartest Scoutmasters I’ve ever met found a “silver bullet” for this one. (He got lots of resistance from the troop committee on this, but he won out! His statement was simple: “If you want me to be in charge of a successful troop program—a program created by the Scouts themselves—we’re going to have to get parents in line for what we’re going to do. If you can’t or won’t help me with this, you’re tying our hands and I think you’d better look for another Scoutmaster.”)
The change was this: All patrols became 100% responsible for themselves, for all outings. In addition to being responsible for checking out tents and cooking gear from our Quartermaster, making a menu for themselves, buying the food and supplies they’ll need, creating a duty roster for the weekend, they now arranged for their own patrol’s transportation plus one “patrol parent” who will stay for the length of the trip.
Bottom line: It worked!
At first, parents ran like field mice, each with a ton of excuses. But, when their sons spoke up and said, flat out, “Dad/Mom, if you won’t drive/stay for the weekend, it doesn’t just mean that I can’t go. It means our whole patrol can’t go! All six of us are going to be stuck!”
(A “guardhouse shrink” would tell you how it’s pretty easy for anyone—parents included—to ignore “broadcast” announcements and requests, and it’s almost as easy to duck a one-on-one “ask,” but when you sic Scouts on their own parents, you get a completely different animal!
What quickly happened for this troop (about the same size as yours) was that the fathers (yup, it was 99% male) quickly started to bond, because the dads on these overnighters didn’t camp with the Scouts. Instead, they set up their own campsite just out of eyesight but within earshot of the Scouts. So they wound up doing their own cooking, too, and usually had a great time with one another! Soon, the patrols had more adult volunteers than they needed and eventually the parents had to take turns going on these trips, so as not to turn this into “family camping.”
It also turned out that none of the mothers minded this one bit! After all, they’d gotten their “two big boys” out of the house and they had more personal time…even those who had another child or children at home.
All-in-all, it was a “win” for everyone!
That original Scoutmaster moved on over 20 years ago. A couple of years ago I revisited the troop. They still were a 100% Patrol Camping troop, and they were up to some 50 to 60 Scouts. So I guess we can say the “silver bullet” worked.
Thanks, Andy! This is definitely worth more than a sideways consideration. On another topic from your last column—divorce situations—it can be more difficult at the Cub Scout age, but in Boy Scouts it’s pretty straightforward. We encourage the Scout (and sometimes even do a little “coaching”) to have a sit-down with both of his biologic parents and tell them that Scouting’s important to him, and it’s not about “Dad time” or “Mom time”—it’s about HIS time as a Scout with his patrol and troop friends. He also tells them that it’s important to him that he attend certain (not necessarily all) outings, activities, and events, and it would mean a lot to him if they’d support him by getting him to meetings and activities as necessary—by talking with one another and with him, too. It’s a big step towards manhood to be able to do this, and it’s much more effective coming from the Scout himself and not the Scoutmaster, committee chair, or someone else. (Lee)
I think you’re right on the mark! If a Scout’s parents don’t both support their son—regardless of what issues they may have with one another—it’s not “Scouting” that will fail: It’s they who will have failed their own son.
Recently I’ve had several people talk about how a boy who earns his Arrow of Light is automatically a Tenderfoot Scout. I’ve tried to find this somewhere in a BSA handbook or online, and I’m having no luck. Can you help? Is this correct? Do Arrow of Light Webelos Scouts just automatically get their Scout or Tenderfoot rank and start by jumping straight to earning Second Class? (Based on the similarities of some of the Arrow of Light requirements, to requirements for Scout and Tenderfoot, would they still have to at least demonstrate they have those skills when they transition to Boy Scouts, or does this follow the “once earned, it’s earned ” rule?
As a Unit Commissioner, how do I counsel Scoutmasters on this? Many of the Scoutmasters in our district are concerned about the AOL youth’s skills retention when those who preceded them had to meet the requirements as a Boy Scout even if they had completed a similar requirement in Cub Scouts. Can you point me to any written BSA policy on this subject? Any light you can shed on this would sincerely be appreciated. (Bill Cox)
Luckily for all of us, the 2017 BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS book (SKU 637685, see page 6) are clear: “All requirements for the Scout rank must be completed as a (Boy Scout). If (the Scout has) already completed these requirements…(he can) simply demonstrate (his) knowledge or skills to (his) Scoutmaster or other designated leader after joining the troop.”
On January 1, 2017, “Scout” officially became the first of Boy Scouting’s now seven ranks. This is where the footnote on page 7 of the same book is important to recognize and abide by: “The requirements for the Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks may be worked on simultaneously; however, these ranks must be earned in sequence.”
With further regard to the statement immediately above, it is absolutely acceptable for a Scout to complete his board of reviews for more than one rank on the same date. Beginning at the very beginning, let’s say a new Boy Scout has been signed off as having completed all requirements for both Scout and Tenderfoot ranks. In this situation, since no board of review is held for the rank of Scout, the troop committee will hold a board of review only for the Tenderfoot rank. Now let’s change the scenario and say a Scout holds the rank of Scout and has now completed all requirements for both Tenderfoot and Second Class. In this instance, the troop committee will first convene a review for Tenderfoot, and—presuming this concludes successfully (which it should in 99.99999% of all cases)—the reviewers will congratulate the new Tenderfoot Scout and then hold his review for Second Class rank right then and there. After having concluded this next review successfully, the Scout becomes Second Class rank at that very time.
A final note on all of this: Scoutmasters and especially the troop’s adult volunteer who files advancement reports with and buys the necessary rank and merit badge pocket cards and badges from the council’s service center need to know that the expectation of the BSA is that the Scout receive all cards and badges at the very next troop meeting. In other words, neither rank or merit badge cards or badges are held back until the next troop court of honor—they are presented to the Scout as rapidly as possible. (Courts of honor are distinctly not for the presentation of badges and such; courts of honor are for the public recognition of all that the Scouts of the troop have achieved and earned since the last court—in other words, the rank badges should already be on their uniforms and the merit badges on their sashes!)
Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Just to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. 545 – 10/3/2017 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2017]