Troop Policies, Merit Badges, Uniforms
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG)
Tue, 11 Jul 1995 04:59:18 -0400
Glad to have you participating in the endless roundtable that is
Scouts-L. In your posting you wrote:
> At our summer scout camp this last week, we had a father/committee member
> acting as one of the leaders. In the course of the week it became obvious
> that he was going to buck the current adult leadership and will be fighting
> in upcoming committee meetings to modify the current troop policies and
> pratices. He does not beleive that the uniform is important and favors a
> very loose interpretation of BSA policies. He has begun questioning each
> decision and policy of the leaders and wants "PROOF" that it has to be as we
This is not all bad, though it can be a pain. At least he is interested
in his son's Troop and its never a bad practice to evaluate how you are
doing and whether you are doing things the best way. His attitude may
leave a bit to be desired, but it may that he is struggling with
understanding Scouting and trying to apply his own ideas. Some suggestions:
1. Encourage him to sit through a Fast Start training session to get an
overview of the program.
2. Encourage him to join one of the leaders in going to a roundtable
where he can see how things really are with other Troops in the area.
3. Take the time to help him understand the whole program and why
Scouting uses the methods it does including uniforming.
4. Encourage him to raise his concerns and ideas in the committee
meetings - this is the right place.
5. Encourage the Committee Chair to have a private discussion with him
to remind him that on outings, the SM and ASMs are the adult leaders in
charge and that it is damaging to leadership to second guess them all of
the time in front of the Scouts, something that the committee can't
tolerate; e.g., he will be asked to leave if he can't behave himself.
6. Invite him to go with you to your local Scout Shop and show him the
available literature that he can buy with answers to hundreds of
questions - suggest that he buy A Thousand Campfires, Sign's Up, and
Woods Wisdom first. <g> Yea two of these are not program guides, but if he
reads them first, he'll get a better perspective on Scouting and maybe
take a few hints from the authors. May be worth the investment to get
them and share them with him.
7. Help him to understand the patrol method and the role of the PLC.
This is very important to understanding the requirements for Camping.
8. If this fellow was just associated with a Cub Scout unit, it time
someone explained that unlike Wolf and Bear, parents do not decide
whether the Scout has completed a requirement and that the PLC not "Den
Leader/ASMs" run the Troop.
> We feel that only BSA events should be counted towards the merit badge
> requirements. We have so far refused to credit his boy with school and/or
> church camping/hiking events for the merit badge work. Our troop provides
> opportunities for over 30 nights camping per year and several hundred miles
> hiking per year so there is no lack of opportunities within the troop. Do we
> have the right to restrict credit to BSA events? If so, where can we find it
> in writing?
1. Time for reevaluation here. From page 10 of the 1993-95 Boy Scouts
Requirements (lists all of the requirements for ranks and merit badges):
"You are expected to meet all of the requirements as they are stated --
no more and no less."
2. Read the requirements for Hiking Merit Badge again. There is no
requirement that any of the hikes be part of a Troop, District or
Council activity. And the Scouts should not be subjected to a local
Troop policy that is more restrictive. However, you should be aware
that in meetings with the Merit Badge counselor, Youth Protection rules
require that at least two Scouts be present - no one-on-one meetings.
3. Regarding the requirements for Camping Merit Badge: Many of the
requirements for this Merit Badge relate to patrol activities and must be
completed with the patrol. The requirement for twenty days and nights of
camping does not state that all of them must be with the Troop or
Patrol. Whether the Scout's "camping" outside Scouting counts towards the
requirement is up to the Merit Badge Counselor. Some parents have wanted
to have nights spent camping in a family tent/trailer, trailer or cabin
count. The requirement is for the Scout to spend those nights under the
stars or under a tent he has pitched. The counselor can judge whether he
pitched the tent or not.
> Likewise, this father insists that the troop can not insist on full uniforms,
> including approved head gear, BSA belts, BSA shorts or trousers, and BSA crew
> socks. He points out that many other Troops only require the BSA shirt. How
> do we combat this and prove to the questioner that the Troop has the right to
> insist on full proper uniforming? By the way, the is no question on
> economics involved. The family could afford uniform costs and the troop
> maintains an inventory of uniform parts free for the asking. We provide the
> head gear, scarf and slide to all incoming scouts.
Of course this father is free to move his son to one of these Troops, but
did not. Why? Is it because of the better program in a unit that has
more spirit and coincidently better uniforming?
BSA does not require, but strongly encourages uniforming. If you look at
the Rules and Regulations of BSA 1993, you will find that BSA authorizes
the use of insignia and uniforms for Scouting purposes. BSA's
encouragement is evident in all of the handbooks and training materials.
Take this from BSA's Troop Committee Guidebook:
"The uniform makes the Scout troop visable as a force for good and
creates a positive youth image in the community. Wearing the uniform is
an action that shows each Scout's commitment to the aims and purposes of
Scouting. The uniform gives the Scout identity in a world brotherhood of
youth who believe in the same ideals." Other training materials that I
have seen make the point that uniforming can:
1. Act as a social leveler - everyone wears the same outfit with
distinction based on family means (yes I know that in many areas this is
difficult when the uniform can run upwards of $100, but this can be
addressed by uniform recycling, fundraisers, etc.)
2. Encourage a sense of pride in belonging resulting in better group
3. Act as means to display recognition and motivate achievement.
That said, remember that B-P's first Scouts, especially those in the
inner-city of London didn't always have uniforms or complete ones. The
uniform is a method or tool of Scouting.
Does your committee have the right to set rules on uniforms? The BSA
literature I have (and that's plenty) is silent on the question. What is
clear, however, is that Chartered Organization is charged with carrying
out the Scouting program and that the unit committee can establish the
necessary by-laws or unit rules to carry out the program, whether the
rules pertain to finances, uniforms, etc. The only restraint is that the
rules must comply with the By-laws, Rules and Regulations of BSA - See BSA
Rules and Regulations at Article VI, Section 3, Clause 1.
To the extent that your committee establishes unit operating rules that
further Scouting aims and methods, I see nothing wrong with them per se.
This would include a rule on uniforms. I've seen many units with similar
rules and varying degrees of success in its execution. I've also seen
units that get to carried away with rule-making to the extent that it
starts to detract. The key is to continually self-evaluate whether the rule
is necessary and whether it contributes to the purposes of Scouting.
You will find some rules work and some, though initiated with good intent
serve to limit or harm the unit's ability to provide the best program.
Personally, I think uniforming helps and has a lot to offer. It seems
like this may be an area where education is warranted.
One final thought - as you and your committee are challenged and
self-evaluate, don't hesitate to call on the help of your unit
commissioner or District Commissioner - they can be a wealth of ideas,
information and help.
Speaking only for myself in the Scouting Spirit, Michael F. Bowman
DDC-Training, GW Dist. Nat Capital Area Council mfbowman@CAPACCESS.ORG
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City