Here’s an excerpt from Ask Andy’s December 10th column.
My question has to do with BSA national policies and why so many troops seem to stray… For example, my son recently “failed” his Scoutmaster conference for First Class… His Scoutmaster will quiz the Scouts on all requirements up to the rank being sought. I know of a troop where Scouts are required to present to their Scoutmaster the completed merit badge worksheets for all Eagle-required merit badges, for his final approval, even if the Scouts have signed blue cards from their Merit Badge Counselors.
… does the BSA just assume that people will read the policies and then simply apply a basic understanding of the English language? If so, based on what I’ve seen and read in your columns, it ain’t working.
How do I, as a parent and troop committee member, bring up these concerns, knowing that my son has at least three more Scoutmaster conferences from now to Eagle, and I sure don’t want to cause additional problems for him?
Yours is the universal question, that people like yourselves have been asking for the past ten years that I’ve been writing this column, and I’m convinced for many decades before that.
Why are there deviations?
First, there’s the famous caveat: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That is to say, there are volunteers in Scouting who derive great personal satisfaction from “failing” boys and making boys jump through hoops that the BSA never intended be there, and these people are unlikely to be swayed by training, reading, or confrontation by knowledgeable people—their purpose in joining the BSA in the first place would be ultimately thwarted if they had to conform to BSA standards, and so they ignore those standards, find supposed “loop-holes”… , and other means so that they can continue doing what satisfies their own sick egos and warped emotional needs.
The third is lack of knowledge by accident, and is fixable by attending training and reading the leaders’ materials available.
The fourth is ignorance by design, by people who, in their misguided “infinite wisdom” believe they know better than anyone else how the program should “really” be delivered, and so they do for as long as you parents, the committee (which is sometime culpable as well, so be cautious here), and the sponsor allow them to get away with it.
In your son’s troop, if the Committee Chair does understand that the Scoutmaster’s off-base, and is willing to have a serious chat about getting right, your son and every Scout in the troop will stand a chance at not being mistreated any further.
If not, then the Chartered Organization Representative or the head of the sponsoring organization might want to have this conversation.
But if neither of these happens, and you don’t want to get yourself into the Chartered Organization Representative position—where you can really make a difference!—then your only two options left are to tolerate these injustices (baaaad idea!) or find a better troop for your son and his friends, and then get them over there as fast as you can.
Now, a couple of simple details…
The BSA clearly states that merit badges are absolutely not subject to further testing or re-testing once signed off by the Merit Badge Counselor. That Scoutmaster is totally out of line in what he’s doing.
The BSA is equally clear about the purposes of Scoutmasters conferences. They have noting whatsoever to do with re-examining the details of any requirements, current or past. The reason the Scoutmaster Handbook doesn’t say this is because the book states what is supposed to happen, and therefore assumes that no one is stupid enough to do what isn’t described or mean-spirited enough to use these conferences as their own judgmental fiefdoms.
Further in this regard, the BSA is equally clear that boards of review are not for the purposes of retesting anything, ever.
Yes, the BSA does (and must!) assume that intelligent people who have the best interests of our young people at heart will follow the program as it’s written. The BSA doesn’t presume that the program will be delivered by idiots or miscreants. Maybe that’s a mistake…
Andy doesn’t mince words does he?