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Troop Leadership -- appoint or elect?

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pargolf44067 writes:


Any thoughts?


If you want to follow the BSA's methods, you can't do better than the thoughts of William Hillcourt, who brought the "Patrol Method" to the BSA from Denmark. In this BSA model the SPL is selected by the PLC, but Hillcourt's advice on electing Patrol Leaders is relevant to this discussion. The first paragraph has always worked for me:


The Scoutmaster's Part


"If a very definitely unfortunate selection seems imminent to the Scoutmaster, through his more mature knowledge of the Scout in question, he may decide to call the Patrol together and give it a talk on the necessary qualifications of a Patrol Leader. This talk may even be so designed as to narrow the choice to the boy the Scoutmaster would like to see chosen. Almost invariably the boys will follow suggestions thus diplomatically given--and will feel that they, after all, did the choosing.


"A modified election scheme is the method by which two or three boys in each Patrol are nominated by the Scoutmaster or the Troop Leaders' Council ["PLC"] and one is elected by a vote of the Patrol.


"In some Patrols every boy writes out the names of the fellows he thinks are the three best leaders in his group. The results are not made known directly to the Scouts but practically every boy in the Patrol has some kind of rating placed upon him as a leader. At the Troop Leaders' Council meeting, with all the senior and junior leaders present, the ratings are gone over and it is decided just who will be the best leader for the group. In this way both Scouters and Scouts have a share in deciding who the Patrol Leaders shall be and the possibility of embarrassing situations is eliminated.


"In all instances, the appointment of the Patrol Leader should not immediately follow his election or selection. It should be definitely understood that he has to prove his mettle before the appointment is forthcoming. For this reason it is advisable to institute what might be called a "period of probation" during which the Scout is given the chance to prove that he is worthy of the high office of Patrol Leader. This period may be of one month or six weeks' duration, and should seldom be longer [Handbook for Scoutmaster, 3rd Edition, pages 184-186]."





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Thanks for all the thoughts on the matter. It has been very helpful. The committee and ASMs are a good group leaders putting on a great program for the boys. They have just been "burned" in the past with elections and are trying to ensure the troop remains boy led but also stays strong!

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New Scoutmasters can learn more about the Patrol Method by reading William Hillcourt's 3rd Edition of Handbook for Scoutmasters. This two volume masterpiece by the man who brought the Patrol Method to the BSA from Denmark is a thousand pages longer than the current Scoutmaster Handbook, counting all of the current edition's pictures, blank pages and even the index!


I finally got around to reading the whole thing by adding it to my Wood Badge ticket. Even though some of the information is dated, you will find that every page contains at least one valuable "new" idea!


Used copies can be found at the following URL, to find the third edition, look for copies that indicate volume 1 or 2 in the description:




When you read in Internet forums that the "job" of the Scoutmaster is to allow Scouts the absolute right to make bad choices, no matter what the cost is to the Troop and to the other seven Methods, remember always that the official rules of the BSA usually appear in secondary BSA publications in bold print. The BSA certainly does not specify how Troop elections are to be run, nor have I seen anything in bold print that overrides anything written by Hillcourt.


There is certainly no rule prohibiting Scoutmasters from approving PL and SPL candidates as they do candidates for Order of the Arrow: "To become eligible for election, a Boy Scout must be registered with the Boy Scouts of America and have the approval of his unit leader prior to the election."


Regarding the topic of this discussion, Hillcourt takes the middle road that was more common in the Boy Scouts of America when the Methods of Scouting included "The Scout Way (1. A Game, NOT a Science):"


How to Select Patrol Leaders


"The Question then arises: "Should the Patrol Leader be elected by the Patrol or selected by the Scoutmaster?" The answer is an emphatic--and apparently paradoxical--"Yes!" As a matter of fact, he should be either elected by the Patrol or selected by the Scoutmaster, or maybe preferably both--according to the Troop's age and its peculiarities.


"Since the Scoutmaster has the ultimate responsibility, he naturally should decide upon the method to be followed. It is obvious that under different conditions it may be necessary to use different methods. A new Scoutmaster starting out with new boys with no previous Scout experience might want to select the leader himself, while a Scoutmaster, himself a Scout and with several years' work with boys to his credit, because of this experience or viewpoint, would follow an entirely different course.


"Under the ideal Patrol Method, the Patrol Leader is selected by the expressed wishes of the members of the Patrol he is to lead. There is seldom any danger that the boys will choose the wrong boy for their leader. If they have had a chance to come to know each other through association in the Troop, their choice is usually the boy peculiarly fitted to their needs. The chosen leader may not always be the one the Scoutmaster might have most preferred, but the wise Scoutmaster should not override the Patrol's choice, except in a serious emergency, in which case he exercises his power of veto. It may be preferable to let the Patrol suffer [during the trial period before the Patrol Leader is officially sworn in] for a short while, the handicap of an unwisely chosen leader and thus learn by its own mistakes [Handbook for Scoutmasters 3rd Edition, pages 182-183]."


By the way, Baden-Powell was not above appointing scoundrels:


One of our methods in the Scout movement for taming a hooligan is to appoint him head of a Patrol. He has all the necessary initiative, the spirit and the magnetism for leadership, and when responsibility is thus put upon him it gives him the outlet be needs for his exuberance of activity, but gives it in a right direction ["Are Our Boys Degenerating?" circa 1918].





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