I am a fairly new Scoutmaster and I asked the committee to present merit badges and rank patches in troop meetings and present the certificates for those badges at the court of honor. They declined out of fear that no one would attend the court of honor.Next thing you know they are handing out the Eagle award to a scout who was not not in 100% uniform!How do I change a committee stuck in their old ways?How do I ensure parents and Scouts attend our quarterly courts of honor even when they did not advance?
What you write about is a good example of a troop practice running up against ‘recommended best practices’.
A ‘recommended best practice’ is something in the literature or training that’s not a mandated procedure and is explained this way in the Guide to Advancement:
Mandated Procedures and Recommended Practices
This publication clearly identifies mandated procedures with words such as “must” and “shall.” Where such language is used, no council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to deviate from the procedures covered, without the written permission of the national Advancement Team. Recommended best practices are offered using words like “should,” while other options and guidelines are indicated with terms such as “may” or “can.” (on page 2)
You’ve understood the best practice about presenting badges, here’s where it’s mentioned in the Guide to Advancement:
188.8.131.52 The Scout Is Recognized
When the board of review has approved his advancement, the Scout deserves recognition as soon as possible. This should be done at a ceremony at the next unit meeting. The certificate for his new rank may be presented later, during a formal court of honor.
Your committee is worried that if they don’t hold on to badges that Scouts won’t attend the next court of honor. I suppose that’s an understandable concern. I’d be more concerned that there’s one or more things with the way your troop is presenting courts of honor that may be causing the problem:
Who is running the court of honor? To my way of thinking the senior patrol leader ought to be the master of ceremonies aided by his fellow youth leaders. If it’s the Scoutmaster or troop committee handing out badges and the Scouts just watching it’s not likely that they will be very interested in attending.
How long is the court of honor? Our troop has about 35 Scouts on average, even when we have a table full of things to present to them the court of honor lasts less than an hour – about 30-45 minutes at the most, if we are presenting an Eagle rank (which we do as a part of our regular courts of honor) we may go a bit longer.
What’s the program at the court of honor? Is it appropriately formal without being overblown? Simple words spoken in honesty are always better, at least to my mind, than a lot of pageantry. Scouts want some formality and ceremony but not to the point where they are reluctant to participate.
What else is happening at the court of honor? We usually combine the court of honor with some announcements and discussion with our families. We have a parent’s business meeting for a few minutes before each court of honor to talk about the schedule of camping trips, rechartering, etc. this added value is an encouragement for parents to attend.
When is the court of honor? We hold our courts of honor in the place of a regular troop meeting, that way it’s already on everyone’s schedule. A family with a couple of active children is likely to have a pretty involved schedule of meetings and activities. I think it’s important to make things easy for them to remember and easier to fit in their already busy schedules.
If you apply some of these ideas you may find that parents and Scouts are more interested in courts of honor and make a point to attend. There’s little chance you will get every single scout and family to any given court of honor, so do what I do – concentrate on the ones that show up and change things around so that more will show up.
It’s not always the fault of families and Scouts when they don’t attend; we ought to look at what we are doing, how we are doing it and why we are doing it before we get upset that nobody is showing up for what we are doing. Scouts and families vote with their feet – if they aren’t showing up it’s likely we have something off base.
You also touch on something that many Scoutmasters ask – how do you get a committee to change their old ways? It all begins with training and studying resources like the Troop Committee Guidebook, the Guide to Advancement and the Scoutmaster’s Handbook.
We too often think that we have to wait for a training event. Don’t wait! Take the initiative and get your adult volunteers the resources and work with them to learn about these things together.
There’s a number of ways to get trained; there’s online training through Scouting.org, traditional events in your district or council, asking someone to come and hold a training session for for your troop adult volunteers, and studying things together as a group. Think creatively and get everyone trained or retrained on an annual basis.
Finally an observation about the Eagle presentation you mention. Uniforms are a ‘best recommended practice’ and are not required by policy at any time or in any place. You’ll find this in the Guide to Awards and Insignia on page 5:
While wearing the uniform is not mandatory, it is highly encouraged. The leaders of Scouting, both volunteer and professional, promote the wearing of the correct complete uniform on all suitable occasions.
Hope that helps!