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TryingToMom

Normal or Time to Find a New Troop?

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I'm used to cub scouts, so I'm trying to get a consensus on whether my issues are typical in boy scouts or if I should talk to my son about finding a different troop. Talking to leadership has gotten me nowhere but frustrated, and yes, my family volunteers already to try and help or fix any issues we can, but we mostly get blown off and told this is how they do things.

 

1) No one explains how to do anything. If the scout asks, he's often given bad information that later makes the situation worse. For example, when he asked he was told his blue card didn't matter because the troop already had a record of it. We found out this was false after he lost the card.

 

2) Wouldn't sign off on rank requirements for 3 solid months, despite scout asking various leaders every week.

 

3) after participating in mountain man at camp, we were told he has to redo all of the rank requirements in front of an asm to prove he actually did it. But the authorized person in charge of that class already provided a list of requirements earned, and he was forced to take mountain man at camp. Camp was 2 months ago and he's still not gotten all of those signed off on yet because of the issue in #2.

 

4) Scoutmaster adds age restrictions to certain merit badges that he is not counseling himself.

 

5) Extremely difficult to schedule or keep scheduled Scoutmaster conferences because he's out, busy, or changes the meeting to an outdoor activity with less than 24 hours notice.

 

6) They don't keep records well, so if he attends something needed for advancement, it's not in the system, or if he's due an award, it's multiple courts of honor late. We've tried specifically to help here, but committee members over this do not want to allow it.

 

7) Changed his camp badge schedule without telling us, including that he'd now need extra money to buy a kit to work on a badge.

 

 

I find this is very controlling and unorganized, but can anyone tell me if this is normal troop activity that I should expect in any troop?

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Welcome to the forum, TryingtoMom!

 

Before I suggest any answers to your questions, I am wondering how long your son has been in the troop and what rank he is now.

 

Also, is "mountain man" a program for first-year campers (new Scouts) at summer camp? If that is the case, the situation in your point # 3 may not be a problem. Many troops (including mine, at times) regard the "signoffs" in first-year summer camp programs as meaning that the Scout has been taught the subject matter of the requirement, not that the Scout has necessarily passed the requirement. The Scout can then be tested and signed off within the troop. This is especially true if what the camp provides is a "report card" rather than a signoff in the handbook. In fact, I believe the "report card" provided by the summer camp that my troop usually attends specifically states that the Scout's knowledge of the subject matter should be reviewed by the troop before it is signed off in the handbook. Or words to that effect.

 

The other situations you report do seem like cause for concern, but again I am wondering how long your son has been in the troop.

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If you already talked to the leaders and you still don't know how they do things, I think it's time to move along.  If they wanted to tell you exactly what they are doing, it sounds like they have had the opportunity.

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That may be the issue with the camp fulfilled requirements then.  It was a first-year program that didn't sign the books, but the transcript says "scouts completed the following requirements," so that made us believe they were done and ready to be signed off on.

My scout likes the other kids in his patrol but he's getting really discouraged with the leadership.  He joined about 9 months ago, just this past week he finally got his scout rank, and that was only because we had to step in as parents and chase down the scoutmaster to sign off on the conference after he'd scheduled and not shown up for multiple conferences.  If signing off on requirements weren't an issue, he would have earned Scout rank in January, and he's been ready to complete Tenderfoot sign offs since March-ish.  When he was given his first badges (earned between January and July), some of them were the wrong badges and they said they forgot to bring his Totin/Fireman chits in.  He's been waiting 4 Courts of Honor for some of those badges because of the logging/communication issues, so he's really frustrated at this point.

Edited by TryingToMom

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Your son has been in the troop for 9 months and 4 Courts of Honor have already passed in which he was supposed to get a badge but did not get it? How often does your troop have Courts of Honor? The BSA recommends quarterly. What is the practice in your son's troop?

 

I think F-P raises a good question. Have you asked the Scoutmaster these questions?

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@@TryingToMom

 

Welcome to the forum, just got back from camp and getting caught up.  My comments are in blue.

 

I'm used to cub scouts, so I'm trying to get a consensus on whether my issues are typical in boy scouts or if I should talk to my son about finding a different troop. Talking to leadership has gotten me nowhere but frustrated, and yes, my family volunteers already to try and help or fix any issues we can, but we mostly get blown off and told this is how they do things.

1) No one explains how to do anything. If the scout asks, he's often given bad information that later makes the situation worse. For example, when he asked he was told his blue card didn't matter because the troop already had a record of it. We found out this was false after he lost the card.

 

Depends on who your son asks,  If he asked his PL, the PL probably might have heard of others in the troop having the same problems.  If the PL doesn't know go get info from your Council as to how they handle MB's.  Adults tend to be unreliable with valid information and often times make up rules as they go along.

2) Wouldn't sign off on rank requirements for 3 solid months, despite scout asking various leaders every week.

 

This depends on who's supposed to be signing off.  If the "leader" is the PL, report him to SM.  If the SM or an ASM is supposed to be signing off and won't report him to your PL.  What excuses are these "various" leaders giving.  Not all troops allow just any old person to sign off on advancement, so this may be a problem, but they should be explaining the program clearly so your son doesn't need to run around guessing as to how the system works.

3) after participating in mountain man at camp, we were told he has to redo all of the rank requirements in front of an asm to prove he actually did it. But the authorized person in charge of that class already provided a list of requirements earned, and he was forced to take mountain man at camp. Camp was 2 months ago and he's still not gotten all of those signed off on yet because of the issue in #2.

 

I just got back from camp where I had 7 new scouts in the First Year Camper (FYC) program.  I got a sheet of paper at the end of the week on each one of the boys that basically said they all passed.  I sat in on a few sessions and had to address major problem issues to the program director who retaught much of the program.  I wouldn't trust the quality of the program for one second.... and neither would my boys.    They all passed the the First Class swimmer test according to the report but 3 of them didn't according tot he waterfront.  Major disconnect.  I wouldn't take the word of the camp staff over a unit testing by the PL's who are responsible in my troop for making sure their boys know their stuff.

 

After a few camps I have attended, the first year programs pretty much are a good introduction to a variety of different skills in a fun setting, but once they are home, they all need to show that they actually paid attention in the sessions.

4) Scoutmaster adds age restrictions to certain merit badges that he is not counseling himself.

 

I encourage certain MB's for boys based on their age, maturity, etc.  I want them to feel successful in the first few years of scouting.  4 of my boys this past week did not pass the Indian Lore MB.... I asked about it, and NO ONE passed it!  Me thinks the problem was the CIT instructor and not the MB.

5) Extremely difficult to schedule or keep scheduled Scoutmaster conferences because he's out, busy, or changes the meeting to an outdoor activity with less than 24 hours notice.

 

Not all SM's are in the program "for the boys". 

6) They don't keep records well, so if he attends something needed for advancement, it's not in the system, or if he's due an award, it's multiple courts of honor late. We've tried specifically to help here, but committee members over this do not want to allow it.

 

Sounds like a well entrenched adult agenda going on in the troop.

7) Changed his camp badge schedule without telling us, including that he'd now need extra money to buy a kit to work on a badge.

 

This may or may not be the fault of the adults.  I had to make some changes in the boys MB schedules due to circumstances.  One boy didn't pass the swimmers' test and his small boat sailing MB came to a quick halt.  Another signed up for Swimming MB, didn't pass the test, an alternative was necessary.  This one might be a "normal" situation dictated by the camp and circumstances.

 

I find this is very controlling and unorganized, but can anyone tell me if this is normal troop activity that I should expect in any troop?

 

This stuff sounds like a typical adult run program.  Some boys like it, some don't.  Instead of asking US what WE think, It might do better for the situation if you asked your son what he thinks and is willing to tolerate.  If he's not happy, move on down the road.  If he's okay with it because he doesn't want to leave his buddies, then that's okay too.

 

There are a ton of adults out there that will say everything mentioned is "normal".  I'm not one of them.

Edited by Stosh

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@@TryingToMom, welcome to the forums. And thanks for all you do for the boys!

 

I firmly believe that no SM/ASM should sign off on scout skills, ever. The most precious initials in that handbook (should it survive the next 6 years and be unearthed by chance in a couple of decades) will be those of his buddies who happened to be his PL/SPL when he was ready to demonstrate his skill. As an adult leader, my goal is to get the right boys together to ensure that transaction happens.

 

The blue cards have written on them very specific instructions as to how they are to be handled.

 

When adults meddle in that process, all of a sudden their time is consumed signing hundreds of little boxes instead of holding conferences with boys about their scouting career.

 

So, if your son is bothered by this, you can now explain why. How to fix it is another thing. All of the above have offered good suggestions. One more: forget about advancement. Focus on your son successfully acheiving the pinnacle scouting experience of hiking and camping independently with his mates. If he's moving in a direction where you could see him being more self-reliant every month, savor that. The rest will follow.

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All the issues he's hit have been from the adults. His ASM told him the blue card didn't need turned in. The PLs can sign on rank reuirements? We've been told only the ASMs can do it. If the PLs could I imagine he'd be a lot farther along. My son's goal was to get 1st class around the year mark so that he could do the jamboree next summer, and I think he's realizing it's not happening.

 

But we had a CoH in February, May,June, and just this week. I'm not sure their reasoning and I have no idea when they're next is. We often get told on Tuesday that we're having a CoH or other event later that week. But, yes, it took 4 CoHs to get badges, and some were the wrong ones.

 

With the camp substitutions, they were all beginner badges like art, fingerprinting, sculpting, ones where you could earn multiple badges in one time slot over the week. They said his schedule looked perfect with 6 badge classes and a 5 mile hike, but then they changed it to 3 classes and no hike, and he only had 1 class that he picked. I get things change, but if he now needed money for kits that's something I needed to know.

 

I guess I'm just asking here to see if there are variations or if we'd run into the same things in every troop - is it us or them kind of thing.

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TryingToMom,

 

 

     For your scout's sake, find a new troop, and take his friends with him. This program is wrong and will NOT change.

 

sst3rd

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I guess I'm just asking here to see if there are variations or if we'd run into the same things in every troop - is it us or them kind of thing.

Without going point-by-point, some of what you describe is not typical. Certainly not typical of a well-run troop. The one thing that I have no problem with is having the Scouts who learn things in the "new Scout" ("mountain man") program be tested within the troop before having those requirements signed off in the handbook, regardless of what the camp says. I am talking about Scout through First Class requirements here. Merit badges are different. A fully signed blue card is the final word on a merit badge.

 

Although it isn't really important in the greater scheme of things, your description of the troop's Court of Honor schedule boggles my mind. Are you sure they have regular Courts of Honor in May and June? I don't get the point of that at all. Are you sure one of them wasn't an Eagle Court of Honor, just for a particular Scout?

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@@TryingToMom, FYI - we try to discourage boys from taking more than 3 MBs a week. So packing more than that in a 1st year's schedule would be atypical.

We had a situation two years ago in the troop we merged with where PLs were not signing off in good faith, so the SM insisted that adults sign off. It was an anamoly, and I encouraged him to back away from that. I am working now on having him get the scout's portion of his blue card back to him ASAP instead of waiting for the CoH to include it with the badge. (Actually, many troops award badges during regular meetings so this is almost a non-issue. I say almost because the scout's record should be returned to him the minute the SM signs it. The point of the signature is to confirm that the unit copy was recieved and will troop will order the badge for the boy -- kind of like the your dry-cleaning receipt confirms that they have your clothes and will get them cleaned and pressed.) Again, our adults were doing things one way for a reason, but now with hundreds of badges being earned, and boys going to different camps, we have to get back to a more boy-led routine.

 

Your troop may have gone through something similar, but the adults got stuck in that routine. In my opinion, you're son is bearing the brunt of that added Beurarcracy in slower time to advancement. In all likelihood another troop in your vicinity would operate differently.

 

Be that as it may. If your son likes his patrol and his troop, it's a minor thing to squabble over. The really important thing is: can you now trust him to go out on the woods on his own? Does he have new skills to forstall death? Is he a better citizen? Can new sew his own patches (what few they gave him) on his uniform? If he's at least going in that direction, you're winning.

Edited by qwazse

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I haven't been called on to do a MB for many years even though I have been registered as one.  I always thought the 3 part Blue Card was so that the MB counselor, the unit and the scout all get a copy.  What is the SM doing, keeping the portion that is not the property of the unit?  He doesn't need the Scout's copy to register the MB with the council, the unit copy is sufficient.  There is no blue card available to be given to the scout at the COH, This is what the presentation card is for.  At the COR, the PL's all have a sorted handful of MB presentation cards.  So does the SPL or APL's depending on the situation.

 

Emcee calls up the first PL, he reads the name on the top presentation card of his deck for advancement and MB's   Then reads the presentation cards for that scout as he comes up to receive his recognition.  Then he reads the next name in the stack of cards, etc. At the end the SPL reads the name of the PL who has cards in his deck and if there is no SPL, the APL presents to the PL.  No patches are involved in the process, those have all been given to the scout when he earned them.  Blue cards are record keeping documents, not COH material.

 

If the SM has the scout's blue card, it would be appropriate to have the scout respectfully ask for his property to be returned to him.

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Pretty much agree with the Stoshster on this one...  the only time I have more than just the "Unit Copy" piece of a blue card is after Summer Camp, and that's only because they tend to get wadded up in backpacks along with dirty socks, and then windup going through the wash.

 

If a Scout come up to me during a troop meeting and says, "Mr. Bob, I'm done with my Hiking merit badge - here's my blue card", I pop the perforation and hand back his copy immediately.

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Pretty much agree with the Stoshster on this one...  the only time I have more than just the "Unit Copy" piece of a blue card is after Summer Camp, and that's only because they tend to get wadded up in backpacks along with dirty socks, and then windup going through the wash.

 

If a Scout come up to me during a troop meeting and says, "Mr. Bob, I'm done with my Hiking merit badge - here's my blue card", I pop the perforation and hand back his copy immediately.

That is basically the decades-old practice. Straightforward (need I say military standard) operating procedure: everything in triplicate. In fact, I vaguely remember my SM giving us our copy or partial the morning we returned from camp. It might have even been before we got in our cars at camp.

 

We have however, been hearing a lot of this lately. It would be nice to find out where the idea is coming from.

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Yah, @@TryingToMom, welcome!

 

As yeh can see from da various replies, lots of good scouters here (who are unusually dedicated by real-world measures) do things differently from each other.  Sometimes different is just different.

 

Sometimes, too, not every scouter is so dedicated that they spend lots of their free time honing their knowledge on internet forums or readin' hundred-page BSA documents.  

 

I'd say overall your experience in a troop from your perspective is not that unusual.  Da Scoutmaster has a lot goin' on, and gets behind or messes up SM conference scheduling, notices for events like COHs don't go out with locked-down dates months in advance, etc.    Da procedures for advancement aren't as tightly adult-managed as they were in Cub Scouts, and there isn't an expectation that boys advance on a schedule like you're used to (and like your son may have planned if he was into that as a Cub).  While high-functioning troops typically have PLs sign off on requirements, da official word is that the SM gets to choose who signs off.  Sometimes, it can be just adults.

 

Lots of stuff tends to get re-arranged at camp, eh?  Many camps have the lads register for badges Day 1, and sessions can fill or a SM can try to talk new lads to goin' to somethin' together or whatnot.  Officially camp staff should not sign off on S-T-2-1 stuff, that's supposed to be the troop.  The camp teaches in Mountain Man/BrownSea/new boy program, but da test happens in the troop.   Camps sometimes put age restrictions on badges (Shotgun comes to mind), and wise Scoutmasters often discourage first year boys from badges where success is unlikely.

 

Da only thing that seems "off" to me is all da fumbling with advancement tracking, and even that's not all that unusual.  That and the fact that you as parent seem to be doin' a bit more than is healthy about your lad's advancement.  Yeh aren't Akela any more, eh?  :o

 

I'd say if your son likes the boys he's with and likes the events, that's what really counts.  Have him find an older boy he likes and ask that boy how best to navigate the way the troop does advancement.  The older lads have likely figured out da system.   Might be as simple as bring your book every meeting and pester Mr. Flubberdub, because Mr. Scoutmaster is always dealin' with da PLC.  You might consider talkin' to a parent of an older boy, since they may have figured out da system, too.

 

Not a situation where a move is in order unless your son initiates that inquiry rather than you.  

 

Beavah

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