In my work with our local planning commission we are charged with interpreting and applying standards in the Zoning code. These interpretations often turn on little words; in fact one becomes adept at finding the little words because they usually clarify the situation quickly. Terms like ‘must’ and ‘shall’ are understood to indicate things that are mandated; others are necessarily broad an use terms like ‘may’.
The Guide to Advancement makes specific points of language clear in defining what is a mandated procedure and what is a recommended practice. It’s important to understanding and applying the concepts in the guide to know what the authors mean when they use specific terms. This statement is found on page 2 of the guide:
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.” Refer questions on these to your local district or council advancement chairs or staff advisors. They, in turn, may request interpretations and assistance from the national Advancement Team.
In rare instances the planning commission can’t clearly decide one way or another because code language is unclear. When this happens we ‘go upstream’ to regional or state authorities to seek clarification and resolution. The Guide to Advancement, in full knowledge that the terms and procedures described may need to be clarified, gives a clear path to resolving these issues.
Clear language is great, but there’s still the chance that you may end up chasing your tail. In planning and Scouting alike most of the time folks chase their tail because the written rules aren’t what they expected and will make them change their project or practices. Instead of making the changes they want to bend the language to meet their preconceptions; this isn’t a useful path to follow. While the human condition usually battles change change is not, in itself, always a negative thing.
I will say again that I think every Scout leader should devote some time to studying the Guide to Advancement. Knowing where we are headed and how we get there is important to realizing the promise of Scouting.