scouts-l Mail Archive for February of 2000: Square Knots on the Uniform (longish)
Neil Lupton (NeilLup@AOL.COM
Fri Feb 18 2000 - 15:40:11 CST
Ah Square Knots. There's a topic to get the old juices flowing!
I have read with interest the post on the James E. West knot. I wanted to
combine some facts with some opinions which are strictly mine.
I believe that the purpose of Scouting, of adults in Scouting and of
everything connected with adults in Scouting is to provide service to youth.
We do not have awards like square knots, etc. as a feel good thingy for the
adults. We have them to motivate the holder or others connected with the
holder to perform service and to continue to perform service for youth.
That is their only purpose. Adults may well feel good in connection with
having and wearing them, but presumably that good feeling is motivational.
I wanted to write here about a Silver Beaver selection committee on which I
once served. We were considering the candidates as such a committee does
and considering who would be chosen and who would be deferred. One
candidate had excellent credentials and would likely have been chosen but one
committee member reported from a very reliable source that he had said "I
sure hope that I get the Silver Beaver this year so that I can quit." He
had truly been doing excellent work for a number of years and we believed the
information from this source. We believed that the more we could do to keep
this man active in the program, the better for youth. So we decided NOT to
He was a bit miffed by the selections, but hunkered down, and kept doing
outstanding work for another year. The next year's Committee on which I did
not serve picked him. He showed up for the ceremony with a big smile,
accepted his Silver Beaver and then promptly quit and was never seen again.
Was it "fair" of us not to pick him in spite of his excellent credentials?
Probably not. But our committee's decision arranged for one more year of
excellent Scouting service from this man while the following year's
committee's decision to recognize him likely enabled him to stop serving
youth through Scouting. We saw our mission as a committee not to make
adults feel good or to recognize service but rather to arrange for the best
possible service to the youth of our council through the awarding of the
Silver Beaver. I don't lose any sleep over the decision we made. I have no
idea how many more years of service this man could have been motivated to
give, but youth would have benefitted it we could have found out.
I feel much the same way about square knots. If the square knot motivates
the holder or the potential holder to do something which is good for Scouting
and good for youth, then it is doing its job. For someone who doesn't know
what the square knots mean, seeing a person with a number of colored knots
suggests only that person is someone who has probably been around for
awhile. For someone who does know what they mean, then the James E. West
will never be confused with the training awards or the Key or the District
Award of Merit or the Silver Beaver.
There is no "Law of Conservation of Glory." The fact that person A wears a
James E. West square knot does not mean that person B has less stature or
less glory because they do not. But it does mean that a significant sum of
money was contributed to the BSA to benefit youth.
I have read recently on the list suggestions that it is OK to have the West
fellowship but not as an item recognized on the uniform. There are levels
of giving within Scouting, up to gifts of $1,000,000 or more. I might have
more trouble with the financial square knots if there were separate square
knots for each of these levels of giving or if there were metal devices, etc.
But there aren't. While the West fellowship amount is significant ($1,000
over as much as 4 years), honestly and realistically virtually anyone who
really, really wants a square knot that much can budget less than a dollar a
day for the West fellowship. (I know that there are families for whom this
would be difficult. But do they really, really want a West square knot that
So unless an individual really does believe in the "Law of Conservation of
Glory" it is difficult for me to see how there can be any problem with the
James E. West fellowship or the square knot for it.