Scoutmaster Musings - Active Participation

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Scoutmaster Musings

Active Participation
I received a question from a visitor and thought it might be good to share with you...

Question: My husband and his friend lead a local Boy Scout troop. They have attempted this year to bring organization to a Troop that had some lax requirements for advancement. One of the things they require is a 60 percent meeting attendance. Word is that several of the older boys working toward their Eagle are leaving the troop for another church troop that only requires 50 percent attendance. Is there a national requirement for meeting attendance? If so, we want to do what the national office requires, regardless of the loss.

My Reply:
The short answer is "No, there is no meeting attendance requirement."

I'm a Scoutmaster of a troop of 60 scouts now. I try to manage our troop following the BSA guidelines and rules all the time. I've been through Scoutmaster training and I read the Scoutmaster Handbook, Field Book, Guide to Safe Scouting, and any other BSA literature I can acquire. I use these as my sole direction when it comes to requirements, rules, and regulations. I've spent lots of hours talking with other Scoutmasters just to find out how their troops are run. I've sat in on their troop meetings and talked with scouts in other troops as often as I can. The reason I do this is because I'm always looking for ways that our troop might improve.

The requirement to be 'active in your troop' for Star, Life, and Eagle scout rank advancement is a difficult one to interpret. The BSA has purposefully made it vague because every scout's situation is unique. This gives the Scoutmaster leeway for each scout. Without specific requirements such as "attend 60% of troop meetings", a Scoutmaster could play favorites or could make things very difficult for some certain scouts. Unfortunately, I know that has happened.

Many troops have done exactly what your troop is doing - setting a percentage requirement. That is not a good thing. It tells scouts they 'have to' attend a certain number of meetings rather than having them 'want to' attend. It also takes a great method of self-evaluation away from them. I believe a better solution is to talk with the scouts as they advance and let them know that 'being active' and 'demonstrating leadership' are requirements they need to fulfill in order to advance. I try to have a Scoutmaster Conference at least every 6 months so the scout can check in and let me know how he is doing. The best way I've found to decide if a scout is being active or not is to ask him. Usually, a scout knows if he is participating enough or not and will tend to be harder on himself than I will. There are some that will try to fake their way through, but they tend to be pretty obvious too, and then I pull out the report of how many activities he has participated in and ask him to explain how his participation equals 'active participation'.

If a scout no longer enjoys scouting, then he should not be in scouts. Whether it is 10% or 80% of the troop activities that he is being forced to attend just to get the next rank, he is not a scout fulfilling the requirements to advance. If a scout is active in football and track and comes to the 40% of troop activities that he can and demonstrates scout spirit, leadership, and fellowship while he is at them, then that is 'actively participating'.

Just to be sure you understand, it sounds good on paper, but every 6 months when the scout leadership changes, I start over from scratch training the new leaders on expectations. Sometimes it works great. Other times I find myself looking forward to the next 6 months. :-) When a troop is really led by the scouts and supported by adults, it will have high times and low times, very dependent on the scouts in leadership positions. If a troop runs efficiently and consistently, it is probably too dominated by adults.

Scout On

Posted: 14:33 04-30-2008 324
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