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What to do when you it is not what you expected.

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This is my first post to any of the topic boards in the forum. I have been reading the message boards for several months and realize that there are lots of "wise and knowledgeable" scouters here. I hope the wisdom of this forum can help my son and I make the right decision in our scouting future. The following is quite long but hope you can tolerate my venting of dissapointment and frustration.


My son is a 12 year old that started scouting around 6 months ago. The troop he joined was the same troop that the last 3 groups of Webelos from his school had joined. We seemed to think that knowing quite a few boys in the troop might make a more comfortable situation.


Both my wife and I were quite active in Cub Scouts and wanted to continue on in Boy Scouts. I asked the Scoutmaster before our son joined if the troop had opportunities for more active adults and was assured that the troop could always use the help. We were given adult registration forms and told to fill them out and bring them to the next meeting. I was told by the Scoutmaster to register as an Assistant Scoutmaster but realize that I would not serve in that position or have any duties. That was not a problem to me as I realize that the "new guys' have to put their time in.


This troop also has an adult serving as a merit badge coordinator that asked both my wife an I if we would be counselors for the troop. Wanting to help as much as possible we said yes. I have several serious hobbies and have worked in several fields of employment and figured I could benefit the boys in some ways. My wife is a very busy physician and has limited free time but wanted to help when possible. We told the coordinator to tell the boys we would make ourselves available to them for badge work as often as possible. After saying that we were told that in this troop the counselors were expected to come to the boys. Leadership had decided that all troop meetings would be merit badge classes. The troop would teach 4 to 5 merit badges is sessions lasting 5 weeks. There would be four sessions per year and and 4 or 5 Courts of Honor at troop meetings. The troop had become a "Scout School".


My son likes scouting very much and is interested in earning lots of merit badges. Both he and I feel that merit badges should be earned outside the troop. In the 6 months he has been in scouting he has earned 7 merit badges of which 4 are the required ones. 6 of the 7 have been earned through our councils Adopt- A- Merit Badge Program and through merit badge work shops. A couple of months ago another area troop sponsered a merit badge work shop. I brought this up at a troop meeting and out of about 30 active scouts only 2 besides my son were interested in going. The other 2 boys were from my sons Webelos class. This workshop turned out to have over 300 boys in it. My son has had a lot of fun interacting with boys from other troops and adults from business people in the area that have set up the merit badge classes.


A few days ago I found out that a major University in the area was have a merit badge program with around 30 badges available. I heard this through the "grapevine" as it was never made available to any of the boys in my sons troop.


At one troop meeting I was reached 25 to 30 type written pages of lists of scouts and merit badges that had been started but never completed. I was told that there would be a couple of make up sessions and I should get with these boys and get them signed off for completion of these merit badges. After looking at the list I saw that most of the badges were in areas that I had no skills in and some being started as long as 3 years ago. I advised the coordinator that I did not feel comfortable signing off in areas I did not feel qualified in. At that point I was told that the troops Rank Advancement Chairman would not have a problem with me doing it. I refused to do it and did not make them very happy by doing so.


As far as the boys learning any scout skills in this troop is wishfull thinking. Most campouts are setting up camp and taking a hike. Several boys have gotten their cooking requirements signed off by bringing a box of instant oatmeal and heating some water and calling it cooking a meal. At a recent fall camporee several boys were signed up to cook for meals. Their parents showed up and did the cooking and clean up for them and they were signed off as completing that Tenderfoot requirement.


All campouts, high adventures and other troop outings are decided by 2 or 3 of the adults that have been there for sometime. The boys are told where they are going and when they are going. The troop has patrols and a PLC but when they meet everthing has already been planned for them.


My son was ready to do his Scout badge requirements from the first day he joined the troop. At every troop meeting he would ask the Scoutmaster if he could do the requirements and get his Scout badge. It took 3 months for the troop to find time for him and 2 other boys to do that requirement.


He started working on his Tenderfoot requirements a few months ago. He did a few on a couple of campouts and a few more on some day activites that myself and a couple of other adults did with some of the boys. At the last Court Of Honor (2 Weeks ago) he went expecting his Scout Badge and 5 merit badges that he had turned the paper work in for. Before the Court Of Honor he made the comment that he would try to have his Tenderfoot requirements done before the next one. He said that he still need a couple of requirements and a Scoutmaster conference and Board of Review.


During the Court of Honor he was called up for his Scout badge and then much to his surprise he was awarded his Tenderfoot badge along with 2 other boys in his patrol. All 3 of them had the same requirements left to complete. When it came to merit badges he only got 2 of the 5 he had turned paper work in for. Some of the paperwork had been turned in 2 months earlier.As you can see organization is not a strong point of this troop. I asked one of the other boys if he did a Scoutmaster conference and a Board of Review and he said he was told not to worry abut that untill he got to the upper ranks like Star, Life and Eagle.


As for the merit badges I contacted the Scoutmaster and Advancement Chairman. The Scoutmaster said he remenbered my son turning in the paperwork but he had misplaced it. The Advancement Chairman said paper work wasn't important and she would take care of it. We can always go back to the merit badge councilors and get new paperwork so that doesn't concern me very much.


The real problem I am having here is what to do about the Tenderfoot badge. My son fully realizes that he did not really earn it and so do I. We have already decided that we will be looking for a new troop to join. I would like to hear would any of you would do in this case. Before leaving should he return it and start over in a different troop on earning the Tenderfoot rank?


Before you say it we now know that we should have looked at this troop closer before joining. We do know a lot of parents that have boys in this troop. We talked to several of them before and after joining. Most seemed very happy with it. Now we realize that they also want the easy way out for their sons and as parents want to do as little as possible.


Around 35 years ago I was in scouting for a period of time. I grew up in a very rural area and the troop could never find dedicated leaders to keep it going. I always wanted to be involved in Scouting if I had a son that had any interest. My son is very dedicated to it at this point and says he wants to remain active for as long as possible. I want to avoid the "merit badge factory and Eagle factory" attitude that most troops are taking. It seems that the real meaning of scouting has been lost or at least in the troop we are involved with. I know that there has to be someplace out there that still believes in it. JUST HAVE TO FIND IT!


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Looks like lots of advancement policies are not being followed. Too many to mention. Other folks may break it down for you. Definitely find a new Troop. Since your son is working on his Tenderfoot, the bottom line is what is signed off in his handbook. He can keep the badge, but at this level, the handbook is the official documentation. Even if this current Troop went ahead and submitted an Advancement Report to Council with this bogus Tenderfoot recorded, his handbook will maintain priority. And when he REALLY finishes his Tenderfoot, and his handbook is signed off, he can give his bogus Tenderfoot patch to the new Troop for a real presentation at a real Court of Honor. The integrity of Scouting and your son's experience rests with you. Use your experience to steer him in the right direction, and show him how to have FUN in Scouting. The Eagle will take care of itself.



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If your council has an advancement comm. they need to be given this information. Also you may try the district comish. This troop is not upholding the standards of scouting. I have seen Eagle mills but they usually just bend the rules, this troop is just ignoring them. If you don't get any action, write a letter to national. It may take so time but things will improve.

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Another viewpoint if I may....Some of what you say sounds like what goes on in our council/district but with huge exceptions. The biggest being standards. We insure that all boys actually do the work and we keep track of the paperwork. We have a merit badge coordinator in the troop to whom the boys go if they want to complete a merit badge. They get a blue card, a workbook and a counselor assigned...and we try to keep them buddied up so we don't get into any one-on-one counseling. Recors are kept with a file for each boy. I don't see anything wrong with this. When we go to "merit badge university" sessions we (SM,ASMs) personally monitor the instruction and if we find it is not up to the merit badge book standard we bring it to the attention of the folks running the university then and there....don't wait. As far as parental involvement we, along with many other troops, insist that parents be involved. BSA doesn't stand for Baby Sitters of America. We insist that parents become merit badge counselors or uniformed leaders or committee members or special event coordinators, etc., and that everyone participate in the fund raisers so that when we spend money on a boy for an activity there is a sense of equity. All of us are busy but if everyone does a little the burden is lessened for the few. We also have goals. Our goal is for a boy to make 1st Class in one year and Eagle in 4. We have sessions for the more academic Eagle required merit badges during troop meetings but still require work at home and counselors. We encourage the boys to take merit badges at summer camp that require facilities and instructors that that the troop doesn't have such as swimming, lifesaving, etc. I see nothing wrong with all of this either. If the troop has a viable, exciting program, the Scout attends meetings, campouts and summer camp our goals are easily attainable. We have laid it out on a calendar and can prove it. Nearly everything you do in Scouting can be counted for an advancement requirement. You just have to know what they are and keep records. Tonight we promote 13 boys to 1st Class who followed our program for the last year. They are happy and proud of their accomplishments and so am I.

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"Before you say it we now know that we should have looked at this troop closer before joining. We do know a lot of parents that have boys in this troop. We talked to several of them before and after joining. Most seemed very happy with it. Now we realize that they also want the easy way out for their sons and as parents want to do as little as possible. "


I can relate to that statement. I have found the same things with most parents. Most just seem to accept "this is the way it is done" and move on.


Even though the troop my son joined was not as bad as the one described here. I also see the merit badge class mentality as norm around here. Everyone in the district and council knows who does it and tells them to stop, but they don't. The parents and other adults seem to think it is just fine to have troop meetings be merit badge classes, especially for Eagle Required badges. It would be different if the boys were asking for speakers to come in and help with them with scout skills or specific badges they wanted. This is why my son hasn't been to a troop meeting in months.


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Correct me if I'm wrong, but it does not sound like your troop is boy led. If the adults lay out a calendar of how to advance a boy from here to there in a certain amount of time and use meetings to work on advancement, then you are missing the point of scouts. It is not to attain the highest rank, it is to develop leadership skills and better citizens. Something like a ball player who plays for love of the game and to reach his personal best as opposed to one who only cares about winning the world series.

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We are very much boy led. But Boy Led doesn't mean no guidance, no help, no suggestions, no goals. Our schedule is fungible and very much influenced by the boys. In fact if we were just pushing one could make Eagle even faster than we lay out. I guess it depends on one's view point. We have some kids that really advance quickly at a pace they set for themselves. We have some that don't advance rapidly at all because they are not consistent participants. But the average kid who attends meetings, camp, outings, etc. can make Eagle. Most of our boys LIKE to succeed, advance, learn and get rewarded for it. I will have to turn this back to you and ask...If you don't have goals then what are you doing? If you don't know where you are going then any road will take you there. If your program is not at once exciting and liberally sprinkled with the skills the boy like to learn, advancing all the while, then what are you doing? We design our campouts with skills in mind and make it fun. Why go on an outing as a Scout and not try to learn something new...and get credit for it? Further...Advancement is one of the eight methods of Scouting so...silly me...I thought we were trying to put advancement in the program...correct me if I'm wrong. My experience is that troops that don't have active advancement programs have lazy adults and the boys suffer. The troop that I took over last year had gone for a full year without advancing one boy one rank, there was no committee and only two adults in unifoem. 6 boys out of 22 registered were coming to meetings on a weekly basis. It was a shambles. Now 19 of 22 show up on a regular basis, 13 get promoted to 1st Class tonight, and two get promoted to Life. We have a full committee, and 5 dads in uniform. At the Fall Camporee in November the troop won a blue ribbon for it's campsite which was 100% designed, laid out, erected and cleaned by the boys...led by the Senior Patrol Leader. They are still beaming about that. And so am I. Yes I take credit for being the "engine of change" and fixing the mess I inherited and I'm not as humble in this as I should, be but we really strive to do things right and deliver a great program. Most of all...the boys are proud of their troop.

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Man...what an eye-opener this forum is!!!! I never realized there were so many troops/Councils operating in Bizarro world! My advice...find another troop...and council if you can! There is nothing I can see about this troop's operation that upholds the Scout Oath and Law, not to mention those "Rules and Regulations" that no one has seen.


My only hope is that with over 400 "active participants" logged on at a given time, some of those lurkers are from the Council/Regional/National level.

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>>We are very much boy led. But Boy Led doesn't mean no guidance, no help, no suggestions, and no goals. Our schedule is fungible and very much influenced by the boys. In fact if we were just pushing one could make Eagle even faster than we lay out. I guess it depends on one's view point.

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I find that merit badge troops are taking the easy way to do 'scouting'. It seems that success is measured in the 'ticket punch' syndrome. Sad, sad, sad.


Teaching the concepts of scouting is hard work. Standing back to let the scouts make mistakes and then try to guide them into the learning process of what they did and how to avoid the issue in the future is not easy. But it is what we have to do.


Try to find a troop that teaches proper cooking, knots, and camping skills and I think that you will find a troop that views merit badges as they should. Skills that the scout will learn from as the SCOUT does the badges.


Good luck on your search.



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There is so much more to who we are and what we do than merit badges. Troops that use merit badge factories as their program do so because they fell they do not have the skills, knowledge or attitute to teach character and leadership. They cant teach things, they understand what they can touch. It is a crutch used not to enhance the life of the scout but to stay in the comfort zone of the adult leaders.


One person alone will never change these troops. It will require the infusion of a whole new group of adults or it will simple collapse on itself since it has no real foundation or substance.


Your best bet is to leave for another troop. If no other troop is near or none use the scouting program then take the time you would have spent as a leader adn spend it on outing with your son. Sit down and learn the camping skills together, borrow merit badge books from the library and use friends, relatives and community leaders as counselors. Even if your son never wears the uniform or earns a badge, he will grow to be a better more capable adult than he would of become as a member of that troop.


In fact I bet that after a very short time he would ask you if a couple of his friends could sit in on your lessons together. Then they would ask if their friends could join. Before you know it you will have a ptrol and soon you will find that you are the Scoutmaster you always wanted your son to have.


The strength of this program is not in the Eagle Badge it is in the shared acceptance of the ideals we gain as we take the trail of scouting.


Best of Luck,

Bob White



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Ditto, ditto, DITTO!


As I have seen Bob White and others say a few times, advancement is a RESULT of a good program, not the purpose of it. If the boys put together a quality program, with the purpose of developing Scout skills, then if I'm not mistaken (and I'm going from memory here), only two requirements for Tenderfoot through 1st Class cannot be learned and earned properly (The drug program, which at least in our area is done through the schools, and meeting an elected official, which, although it would be possible to arrange for one to visit the Troop, we feel there is value in asking the boys to do this on their own. There is a wider range of types of officials contacted, and they get the experience of calling a stranger to request a meeting).


Merit badges are specifically inappropriate for Troop meetings. We sometimes ask the SPL to schedule 10 - 20 minutes of Troop meeting time to gather a group of boys who are interested in doing a badge to discuss enmasse the requirements and expectations of the councelor, but no work, and no one-on-one discussion ever takes place at a Troop meeting. This time is far too valuable to the overall program to allow serious chucks of time to be taken away on individual merit badges.


I think you should be commended for standing your ground, and continue doing so. And, I am suprised it hasn't been asked or mentioned here, but what is the training level of the existing leaders?


I have often said that if our Troop Flag said "Mark's Troop XXX", things would be different. But it says "Boy Scout Troop XXX", and as such every member of the Troop, directed by the adults, should be utilizing the program of the BSA, not their own concept of it. As I have seen discussed between Bob White and others, including me, there has to be some latitude in how the program fits with particular groups. But the program is the program, and nowhere does it allow for boys to be given Tenderfoot with a few requirements undone, nor does it provide for using MB topics as the sole activity of Troop meetings.


Good luck to you and your son.



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some really good advice here -


just some comments -


I wish we had your family in OUR troop! Parents and a boy who REALLY want to do the program right and get involved - you are a treasure and please don't let this troop sour you on scouting!


If your son has been in 6 months and already earned so many badges, on his own or with the troop - you should be proud of him. But in that time period his troop should have been concentrating on bringing his scouting (and therefore advancement) skills to where he can be a fully functioning member of a boy-lead troop. That's what the advancements are all about - benchmarks to show a boy has learned the skills to be a usefull member of the team! (and one thing drives me nuts - if a boy has earned his Arrow of Light in Webelos - then he IS a SCOUT rank almost right away! all it needs is signatures. WHY do troops make them do this stuff over again????)


You are perfectly correct in refusing to sign off on badgework that is not in your area of expertise. Badge counselors sign up to counsel specific badges - not all in general. They are specified on your application to become a badge counselor. Stick to your guns. Being a badge counselor is great. But the purpose of badges is not to aquire as many as possible - they are meant to let the boys get some in depth experience and knowledge in a field of interest in a way that is not available to them otherwise (through school or other avenues)


Badgework should not be done at meetings. SOME badges lend themselves to being done as a group or troop - by that I mean badges like hiking, biking, camping - when possible, if our troop is going on a bike trip or campout - someone takes a look at the requirements for those kind of badges and we try to conform to the requirement providing ample opportuinities for cooking, planning and trip length(a 40 mile bike trip, we might add 10 miles onto the end for those who want their 50 mile requirement)


Merit badge classes, esp. for the "school like" badges are great - but they should be done outside meetings. Boys should have to put forth some initiative to get a badge-not just get credit for it by showing up at regular meetings!


Out troop was decidedly NOT boy lead. It was not a badge mill like yours - but was a "boys club" not Boy

Scouting. For the most part - the boys had fun - they had some great trips and activities - but it was not teaching them independance and leadership. It's been a long haul to get back to the program and we still have a long way to go - but I look at the boys I have worked with in the past two years and I see tremendous growth and enthusiam. I see adults-in-the-making that I am SO proud of.


You have a choice - try to fix the troop you are in or go to another.


"fixing" a broken troop is difficult - if you have other parents who feel as you do - it is possible - but it is tough to fight the established leadership - esp if many are happy with it as is.


your other choice is to move - You seem to have a line to activities on your district and council level. Any boy or family can participate in these - go to them, talk to other leaders, have your son talk to other boys. Find out from them what troops are truly boy lead and following the program. and make your choice. Parents of boys in a troop don't always know (or care!) what the program is supposed to be, as long as their child is happy. The Scouters in the district and council DO know. Even boys in the troops won't know if they are missing out - they've never known any other way. Adult lead troops can be loads of fun, they can teach alot of skills - but they are not what scouting was meant to be for the BOYS.





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Yea Dutch do what you want. But I'll stick to my guns too. Go find a troop that doesn't require anything from you personally. Don't volunteer to be the next Scoutmaster and fix the problems and don't volunteer to be the advancement chair on the committee. Lots of work there. Lots of troops out there that meet your criteria. Let me describe "Generic Troop" and it's leaders. They don't really want your help or ideas because they have been doing things the same way since Napolean was a road guard and don't want you mucking around in their empire and upsetting their delicate ego balance. So you have a way out. They are in this scouting thing for their own gratification and glory not the boys. You will probably find that Scoutmaster Generic only made it to 1st Class when he was a scout and has lots of reasons for not making Eagle. He can quote chapter and verse on stuff that sounds real official about the program but when you peel the onion back he has no program. The first indicator is that he will say the Troop X is certainly not an "Eagle Factory" and Troop X is "boy run". He probably picked up those notions from hanging around others at the local camporee (that are just like him...birds of a feather...) and from the wonderful basic training he got. (The only leadership traing he has ever attended and he has actually never led anyone himself...he just talks about it). He is proud of the one kid that made Eagle last year and that he's not associated with an "Eagle Factory"...but don't ask about the 90% that got away. You see, Dutch, he doesn't really understand what motivates kids and having a program that produces Eagles as a result of a good program is really hard work for him. Too hard. You see deep down he resents the fact that he didn't make it and it really galls him that others do. And since he has no clue what right looks like he maintains a program like the one that caused him to personally fail...in a Freudian way that he doesn't understand. The "boy run" part means that the SPL does the opening and closing but the kid hasn't a seed of knowledge about planning for example. Scoutmaster Generic can usually be found at the back of the scout hut talking with the other adults during the meetings and doesn't really like to give guidance to the boys except in a pontificating way. He has a "comfort zone" and is not going to step outside that zone. When boys do ask him questions, seeking guidance and help, he will usually answer their question with a question. He wears a big leather scout belt and may or may not wear lots of adult knots on his uniform depending on his point of view.(Some wear lots of knots to show their personal standing in the organization and the other may not wear what he has legitimately earned because he'll say, "I'm not in this for me" or he doesn't want to be counted with the "Eagle Factory" crowd. The notion of lifelong learning and setting an example by achievement is lost on him). Probably has a campaign hat that is trotted out for official occasions. He probably doesn't wear a neckerchief and the boys don't either. He frequently bad mouths the District and it's committee but hasn't volunteered to help fix anything. His idea of junior leader traing is to send the boys to the council run classes...he doesn't actually teach leadership in the troop because it's hard to do right. He'll probably say that Troop X has XX boys are registered (makes him look good you see) but when you look around only 30% actually attend meetings and go on outings. Troop X goes on outings but not every month, especially if the weather is not clear, blue and 72, and they go to the same place alot(comfort zone). I guess they don't actually do anything on the camping trips because, gee, it may be perceived that they are actually accomplishing advancement tasks if they went on a hike or cooked their own food. (Oh...Scoutmaster X doesn't actually go on hikes anyway cause he is too something...fat, bad knee, gotta guard the camp). Can't go canoeing because there may be an advancement task hidden in there somewhere and gotta avoid that "Eagle Factory' moniker. Can't go fishing because, oops, some sneaky person made have made that an advancement task. Bike riding is probably out too. Don't bring a compass guys...some new wave thinker may actually want to pull it out and teach you to read it. And since the boys didn't think of doing any advancement tasks for the campout then it's not going to happen. (Please forget that Scoutmaster Generic gave no guidance to the Patrol Leader Council and has no goals). SAD, SAD, SAD. When the boys break down for the patrol part of the meetings he really has no idea what they are discussing because heaven forbid that he or other adults sit in to teach and guide...it's a "boy run" troop you see. So in the end Scoutmaster Generic can talk about Scouting Ideals (Promise, Law, Motto etc), uses the Patrol Method when it's convenient, is disdainful of a viable Advancement Program ("Eagle Factory" syndrome), has a weak Outdoor Program, THINKS he's a great Adult Role Model but doesn't really get it, pays lip service to Leadership Development since he really hasn't a notion of what it's about (although he knows it's hard), Personal Growth kinda falls off the plate at this point and Scout Uniform well we'll wear the pieces we like. The eight methods of Scouting are not realy followed and the boys LOSE.

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Huh?! What is your beef with Dutch in telling him to go find some place that doesn't expect anything from him personally? Go back and read his post.


"Both my wife and I were quite active in Cub Scouts and wanted to continue on in Boy Scouts. I asked the Scoutmaster before our son joined if the troop had opportunities for more active adults and was assured that the troop could always use the help. We were given adult registration forms and told to fill them out and bring them to the next meeting. I was told by the Scoutmaster to register as an Assistant Scoutmaster but realize that I would not serve in that position or have any duties."


He wanted to make a difference and was snubbed. He then was asked to be a MB Counselor and sign off on things he knew nothing about. Also, to pass kids who had not done the work. He refused to bend the rules.


Just what was it Dutch said that makes you think he doesn't want he and his son to participate in a well run troop?

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