Scouts-L Mail Archive for June of 1999: Re: ASM father signing off on rank advancement? (Long)
Re: ASM father signing off on rank advancement? (Long)
Wed, 9 Jun 1999 10:46:14 EDT
On Tue, 8 Jun 1999, Sarah Nunez <trinoaks@FLASH.NET> wrote:
>>One of our ASMs asked me this evening about BSA policy regarding signing
his son off on a couple of the requirements for Tenderfoot. At the
time, neither the SM or other ASMs was available. The boy passed his
Scoutmaster Conference and BOR, but one of the BOR members was
questioning it. I don't know the answer, and I'm not sure where to find
it. I've looked in Advancement Policies and Procedures, the
Scoutmaster's Handbook, and Basic Scoutmaster Leadership Training
manual. Can one of you gurus out there help me out?
In our troop, we do not do it. Period. However, to make it easier for the
younger Scouts to get "signed off", most of the older Scouts (i.e first class
and above) have been delegated to "sign off" for various advancement items.
Generally, these are the troop juniore leaders. In my experience, if
anything the boys are harder on the boys, for the simple fact that the new
Scouts can't pull their weight if they don't know the skills, and therte is
no incentive to learn the skills after they have been "signed off". This may
be a problem for a young troop, but really makes a difference for a more
mature troop. The old saying that an adult should never do something a Scout
can do applies here.
For example, we have one Scout who handles the woods tools requirements. You
do not get a Tote'n Chip card (or second class woods tools sign off) in our
troop unless you get past him. And he expects the Scouts to be PROFICIENT in
use of the tools before he will sign off. That means lots of practice under
appropriate supervision. Patrol leaders sign off for cooking requirements.
Who knows better than the PL whether the Scout did the cooking? Or if it was
edible? PL also signs off for things like selecting patrol site and sleeping
in a tent you have pitched. Others are experts for things like knots,
lashings, first aid, etc.
We have one dad who is a town councilman, who does the first class
citizenship requirement for everyone (except his son, who went to one of the
other councilmen). There are very few requirements in fact that can't or
shouldn't be signed off by Scouts. I do the participation (x activities
including y nights camping) based on the roster maintained by the Activities
Chair, at the time of the SM Conference. I also do the Scout
Oath/Law/Motto/Slogan/Spirit requirement as part of the SM Conference, or if
the Scout prefers, at a separate discussion prior to SM Conference.
Everything else can be done by the older Scouts.
When we first started, we had a young group, and tried to ensure that they
were proficient in the skills before signing off, so that they would be able
to take over that task once they reached first class. It took a couple of
years, but seems to have worked.
The "don't do what a Scout can do" also applies when the only reason the
Scout can't do it is because he hasn't (or won't) learn the skill. For
instance, the Tenderfoot may be able to tie two half hitches and tautline
hitch in a meeting, can tell you when and where to use them, but that doesn't
mean he can use them to put up a fly in the rain. In the "old days", several
of each hitch were used every time a tent was pitched, and a Scout who
couldn't tie them probably didn't have a tent to sleep in. With most of
today's tents, that is no longer the case (and that's probably why they
changed the requirement a few years ago). The adults don't want to get wet,
so they pitch in to get the fly up. If you're lucky, the Scouts hold the
poles. If the adults put their hands in their pockets instead, the Scouts
HAVE to learn how to put up the fly. And they will. And they probably
won't complain as much the next time the program includes knot practice,
because now they know there is a reason to be able to tie a tautline hitch.
If the adults want a fly up NOW so that THEY can be dry, bring another fly
for ADULTS ONLY.
I know this is getting a bit off-topic, but these things tend to run into
each other. If the older Scouts know their stuff, there is no reason they
can't teach and test the younger Scouts, which eliminates the problem of SA
(or SM) dad (or mom) signing off on any advancement. Note that we also do
not let older brothers sign off for younger brothers.
The other thing is that it is not the SM's job to sign off on advancement, or
to teach the basic skills. His job is to train and mentor the Junior Leaders
so that they can run the troop. Part of running the troop is seeing that the
program provides advancement opportunities for the Scouts. If the SM is
spending too much time doing basic skills, he has no time to do his real job.
When that happens, boy leadership doesn't work because the junior leaders
don't know how to run the troop, and the troop does not function the way it
should. While one or more SA's could be delegated to work skills with the
younger Scouts, this should be done with the goal of getting past that point
as soon as possible for most skills. Then the SA's can assist the SM in his
primary function, with for example, one SA mentoring each PL in the running
of his patrol.
How do I know this? Simple - we're going through this right now. I'm guilty
of spending too much of my time on basic skills and not enough on junior
leader training and mentoring. But we are working on fixing the problem. It
takes time. But with time and a little effort, I know it can work. Which is
what keeps me going.
Back to your original question. I don't think that there is a BSA policy
prohibiting a SA or SM parent from signing off on his/her son's advancement
requirements. But I don't think it is a good idea either. Unless you have a
very small troop, there should be someone else who can do the sign offs. No
harm in dad working with son to learn the skills and become proficient
outside of troop meetings (this is true whether dad is SA or other leader or
not), but let someone else sign off. Builds other people skills for the
Scout. Nobody can complain that dad works with son away from troop
activities (I wish more would). There might be a question about sign offs.
Although dad may be harder on son than on others (not a good thing either),
there may be a perception that junior is getting away with something, and
that's not fair to the Scout, whether it is happening or not. I assume that
SM did the SM conference, not SA dad. If so, the SM shouldn't have signed
off if he was not satisfied that Scout knew his stuff. He signed off, so I
assume he was satisfied that SA dad did not cut any slack for junior. This
was for Tenderfoot. A question has been asked. Eliminate the possibility
for the future by setting a troop policy (or at least a family policy) to not
do it in the future, so there will never be a question again. It will also
short stop someone else from doing the same down the road. If the problem is
that the troop is small and there was no one else for the son to go to, it
provides the opportunity to recruit more help. "Mr. X questionned SA signing
off for his son. We agree this is not the best way to do things, but if he
hadn't, it wouldn't have gotten signed off because there was no one else for
Johnny to go to. SA is working with the other boys including your son, Mr.
Y, why don't you sign on to work with Johnny?"
In this case, you seem comfortable that the facts are the facts, and that
there really was no one else for the Scout to go to (what about 2-deep? where
was the other adult?). However, he could be working now on requirements for
first class, and not go before the board for some time. Who will be able to
say there was no one else then for something signed off now? Better to just
stay away from it in the first place.
I have worked with my son Michael on a lot of his skills, at home, mostly on
weekends. I have never signed off on any of them. What have I signed off on
his advancement? Unit Leaders' approval on Merit Badge Blue cards - but he
goes to the same counselors as every other Scout in the troop. Unit Leader's
approval on Eagle Scout Application. But this was co-signed by my SA, who
was his advisor for the project, and who conducted the SM Conference.
Nothing else. He passed his BOR in April, waiting for papers to come back
from Irving TX. BOR asked him if he was ready to take over as SM when he
turns 18 in November. He said yes, but that he can't because BSA requires SM
to be at least 21. They liked the answer. I guess that means I'll have a
replacement in 3 years and 5 months? . I know he'd do a good job. (Guess
who does the Tote'n Chip??) BTW he spends LOTS of time with younger Scouts
on their skills. He is going to summer camp this year and plans to do zero
MB's. Says he wants to relax. But he is taking a truck load of tools (he
has a few camp fix projects in mind) and will work with the new guys on their
Sorry for the length, but it covered more ground than I expected.
River Vale, NJ