Frequently Asked Questions!
Over the last ten years, I've collected questions that Scouts and Scouters have asked me. Some are kind of personal and some address specific problems or concerns that they want "my take" or "my answer" on. I try my best to answer them as if they were sitting or standing across from me, and I do my best in researching the answers based upon the materials that I have access to and the people whom are willing to talk with me in resolving a question or issue. I learn something new about Scouting in America every single day, and I would never assume that I knew EVERYTHING there was. If so, I would be a cross between "Green Bar" Bill Hillcourt and one of our senior BSA national executives.
I'm not. I'm just a guy that knows how to find answers, how to get and give information and why the BSA in many ways, choose to do things the way they have chosen. I get things wrong frequently, and I'm not "big enough" to publicly admit I was wrong or incorrect about an item and I do accept criticisms with a humble heart and an open mind. Most of all, I LOVE what I do and I would not have been doing for such a long time if I truly did not believe in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America, what it can do for a young man or woman, and what it means to a community and this nation.
Here, in no particular order (except for the last one), are the 27 most frequently asked questions of me over the last 10 years. There are other questions which are off-shoots from these which I've "lumped" together to make those questions; and there are other questions which didn't make to the "top 25" but in which I could easily make it to the second "27" frequently asked questions.
In answering these questions, I provide links to pages that explain in more detail the answer they are seeking. This is exactly what I do when people post me asking me those questions, so it's only natural that I point you too to those specifics with those answers I provide them as well.
These questions don't necessarily address National BSA policy, but are my answers to their concerns and questions:
But the biggest question of them all concerns how much email I receive a day and how I read and answer it all:
- How many of those "knot things" do you have and have you earned them all? Why are you wearing EVERYTHING you've earned on your shirt? Are you trying to show off or make a point?
- If the BSA is volunteer-ran, why do we have professionals? Other countries have very few professionals, and their program runs really great. Why do we have to raise money for our professionals? Were you ever a professional and is that the reason why you sometimes don't "side" with the volunteer on questions? Why did you become a professional and why did you quit?
- I want to write (someone) at the BSA (for whatever reason). Why don't they have email access so that we out here in the sticks can write and ask them questions without getting your or other people's "interpretation" of what the answer is? What is their regular address? Will I get into trouble or be kicked out of Scouting if I write to them and tell them my problems or questions without writing to my District or Council guy? My "person" is (too young, too old, doesn't know squat, thinks he/she knows it all, never around, a lunatic) and I want a "second opinion."
- Do you have any brothers or sisters or are you an only child? Have they ever been Scouts before? How far did they get? Are they Scouters too? How about your Mom and Dad?
- When did you earn Eagle and how many merit badges did you earn before you got too old for Scouts?
- Where is all of the Black people in Scouts? I've been to a lot of different things at the District, Council and National Jamboree and I can count the number of Black kids and adults on two hands. Are Black people "boycotting Scouting" for something I don't know about? Are there some other Black people other than you that you can point out for me? Why don't we see those people?
- Why don't we have commercials about Scouting on TV anymore?? We used to have them all of the time when I was growing up...and TV shows with Scouting themes. I heard that this is because the BSA is spending too much money on court fights and things like that. Is that true?
- What is your view on Gays in Scouting? On Girls as Eagle Scouts or as members of Scout units? On the relationship between believing in God and being a Boy Scout? Are your viewpoints the same as the BSA's or different and why? How can you call yourself a "good Scout" if you don't believe the same way as (or "how can you call yourself a "good Scout" if you can't make up your own mind without being influenced by") the BSA? Are you a Christian or are you "Mormon" or some other religion? I heard that the "Mormons" run the BSA anyway, and that if you're not a "Mormon", you won't get any awards or anything. So, you must be a "Mormon" if you've gotten all of those badges and things, right?
- I want to meet you. Can I or are you a made up person that the BSA placed out here like they did "Pedro", the donkey that's really someone at National answering kids' mail in Boys' Life? Can I call you and talk with you or will I receive an automated answering machine thing? Photos can be "stuck together"; even with the Internet and all…how do I know that's you and not some composite like they did for the Betty Crocker box? Do you have a booth at the National Jamboree where my Scouts and I can come and meet you in person?
- Will you write a letter of recommendation/a reference/a letter of congratulations for me/my son/my daughter/our unit? Can you come to my Eagle Scout Court of Honor/District Recognition Banquet/Council Recognition Banquet? Do you charge for coming to those things, or does the BSA foot your bill for going? Will you please come and present my Eagle Scout Badge/Wood Badge beads/other award on (date)?
- Are you "on loan" from the Army to the BSA? How come you have so much time to respond to so many Scouting things, and to go to Scout stuff, and to do all of this research? Does the Army pay you to do Boy Scouting stuff? Why don't you "go to the field" and blow up things like all other Army guys do? Are you retired from the Army? What is your "grade" or "Military Skill" (like "11-Bang-bang" or "42 Alpha")?
- What is this "settamankie" and what does that have to do with Scouting? Why do you put it on the end of all of your postings? How do you pronounce it? What does it mean if I said it out loud somewhere? Do you have to be in a certain group or section in Scouts to understand it? Is it a "black thing" or a Scouting thing? Are you an Indian?
- Are you in the "order with the arrow?" Do you wear the red arrow and the white sash? Do you take part in the secret meetings and ceremonies, and why is it all secret anyway? I thought that the Scouts had no "secret groups"? If you are not in the OA, then why aren't you? Are you a "virgil"? What did you have to do to get it? Did you cut your thumb and do "blood brothers" with someone or is that a secret?
- When are your books going to be published? I love reading your stuff, but I would rather see it in print.
What gives you the motivation to write? Are all of your stories based on personal experiences or are they made up to illustrate various parts of being a Boy Scout or Boy Scout leader? Why sometimes you talk about "your former wife" and sometimes about "your wife Jessi"? Are you trying to tell us something in your stories? Why do you post them to the (name of mailing list)? I'm not really interested in reading them there, and you're wasting someone else's posting. What do I care about your life?
- How many states have you visited? Countries? Have you been to (name of Council or District) before?
- I earned the Eagle in (year) and my Eagle Scout card/badge/medal is now lost/destroyed/framed at my parent's home/in my drawer. How do I go about getting a replacement/duplicate/extra Eagle Scout card/badge/medal? Can I sell my Eagle Scout Badge/card/medal or is that against some BSA law or rule? Can I purchase a group of them and then sell them off on (name of online trading or auction site)? How do I become a member of the Eagle Scout society? Can I be a member of the Eagle Scout Group without earning Eagle...I was "this close" to getting it but because of (any number of situations), I wasn't able to earn the Eagle. What's the good of belonging to it, anyways? Do they have national conventions like Rotary or other groups? What does NESA stand for and is that the same as the Knights of Dumanis or the Eagle Scout Service? How do I reach the people that have my Eagle Scout records? Can I get a copy of them? Can anyone else get a copy of them? How do I as an employer know that when someone gives me a resume that says "Eagle Scout...", that he's indeed an Eagle Scout? Can a girl be an Eagle Scout? Are there any exceptions to receiving Eagle, like being in a war zone for a certain number of days or being a professional Scout executive for a few years or serving at Philmont or camp staff for a certain number of years? Can people whom are not American citizens earn Eagle? Can I award an "honorary Eagle" to someone whom have helped me out greatly in my life? Do you get a Gold Eagle for earning ALL of the merit badges offered at the time you were a Scout? If a kid dies, and he didn't get his Eagle yet, is there a special Eagle that he gets?
- Is there a book or web or something that tells me how to wear/earn/apply for/recommend someone for/purchase a particular badge or uniform item? Why does the BSA make everything a search... the people in the Council office should have all of these answers? Why do you have those answers when they do not?
- How do I /my son/some kid in my unit earn or get the (say a name) knot? If he becomes a (Boy Scout, Venturer, adult), can he still wear the knot on his uniform or must he take it off? Can youth members get knots or are they just for adults? What's the one with the trident for? Why don't I see my professional wear his or her knots? Are they just for volunteers?
- I became a Cub Scout in (year). I later became a Boy Scout in (year) and now I'm a Venturer leader.
Can I wear the old Cub Scout and Boy Scout year pins on my shirt? What color of the "backs" do I wear now that I'm a Venturing leader - green like in Boy Scouts to match the shirt or red for the old Exploring color? I was an old Explorer Scout and now I'm a Venturer. Do I wear two separate year pins with red backs to represent the year I spent in Explorers and the year now spent in Venturing? Can I wear my Girl Scout year pins on my Boy Scout uniform - the pins are different, you know?
- Why did they do away with Explorer Scouts? That was a great program!! I loved being able to work with youth...I think the BSA made a mistake with doing away of Explorer Scouts!! Did you earn the Silver Award? Did you get one of those BSA scholarships for Explorers that they advertise in the magazines?
- Why is the BSA so resistant to the 21st century?? Why can't I call up National and have them to send someone down to our Council and fix our problems with our (title of professional)? There should be a person at National that gets all of the complaints and then figures out if they are valid or not and then sends them to the Chief Scout or someone to get them all fixed...is that why you're online?? Is that what you do in Scouting?
- I have a situation, and I can't talk with my Scout guy about it because he/she doesn't listen to me. Can I send you the situation and see if you can solve it for me? Are you obligated to tell the BSA about my (our) situation or are you like a chaplain or something... once we tell you, that's it. (Name of other Scouter) told me to write to you and seek your advice, and I understand that you don't speak for the Scouts and all...but how do I know that whatever I tell you will stay between us? How would I write to you? Can I send you a regular letter instead?
- I don't like you. You've got the "big head"; you think you know everything there is about Scouts! You've got all of those things which just tells me that you want to show off, I bet you've NEVER been a Scoutmaster or a Den Leader with kids running around yelling at you to do stuff... and you're black. Is there anyone else who's NOT on the 'net that I can send my questions and comments to so that I don't have to see your signature nor anything else? Besides, my Council says that I shouldn't trust you or anyone else on the Internet because none of you speak for the BSA or have enough experience with the BSA and none of you are professionals. Where do I send my letter to?
- If I became an Eagle Scout, and then joined the service, will I come in as an officer or will I still have to go to "boot camp"? I don't feel I need to go to "boot camp" because I know how to march, how to sleep outdoors and how to take care of myself…Scouting taught me all of that. Is there a way that Scouts can bypass the "boot camp" and come straight in as an officer? Or do you have to earn something else to get to do that, like Silver or Ranger? I heard that if I/my son became an Eagle Scout that I/he gets to be paid more money than those that just came in. Is that true or is the recruiter lying to get me in? I had a (military) recruiter to tell me that if I provide him/her a copy of my Eagle Scout card/OA Card/other items, that he/she can get me in the (branch of service) and guarantee that I get a college education. Is that talk or is he/she serious? I can't find that anywhere in a BSA book, and the recruiter won't show me in writing!
- Have you ever been discriminated against while you are in Scouts? I don't think discrimination is right, and I think that everyone in Scouting should be equal except for the professionals since they get paid to work on Scouting. Were you a Scout? In your group, did you work on something and didn't get it, while the white kids in your group worked on the same thing and got their badges and what nots? What did you do about it? Did you get every badge you went out for or were there some badges that you could not get because you lived in a place that didn't have all of the "good stuff" like a swimming pool, or hiking roads or things like that? Did you buy your uniforms from the store or someplace like Goodwill or Salvation Army or (name of thrift store)? Did anyone know the difference? How did you raise the money to go to camp or were your Momma and folks rich? Did your Daddy help you to earn your badges or was he gone?
I ask all of these questions, not because I want to get into your stuff, but because I'm a Scout and I want to someday get all of the things you have...but I want to know will I have to be around all kinds of other people to get them or can I do them by myself and with my Momma's help?
- I read or heard someplace that the BSA will exchange worn uniforms for new ones if you wrote them and provided the worn ones. Is that an "urban legend" or is that true? Who at National do I need to write to and what are the "exceptions" or "buts" to the exchange? I have heard that the BSA will make a uniform for a guy/gal like me, large (or small), with (certain dimensions and measurements). Is that true or did I misread something? I want to wear the uniform but I also want to be comfortable, and every time I go to the Scout office, they have the same uniforms which start in small and end in 2X. I don't want to be laughed at either, so if this is a "patch up job", I'm not interested. The uniform may be important to people like you, but if I can't get into it and wear it conformably, I don't need it and any ridicule that would come with it!
- Why don't you work for the BSA? You've truly have helped me and so many other Scouters out over the months/years! You explain the rules and policies in ways that I can understand them -- I may not like them - but I can understand them and I'm able to tell my people without pulling out a lot of books. You take the time to answer all of our emails! I know your wife must be a really patient person to put up with that, and the phone calls and other things I'm sure you get. It's a shame, though, that you do this as a volunteer. You should be paid by the letter for each item you post to the lists, to the newsgroups, and to individuals like me with some many questions. And to answer one of your questions - why don't I call my professional and ask him these things I'm asking you and others?? Because they seem not to have time for me. They don't answer my questions and when they do, they tell me to "look it up" (like I'm supposed to have the entire BSA library in my home!) or tell me to "see (name or position of individual)", who doesn't know because they're asking ME. He tells me that "people like" you don't have the right answers, and that I should rely on what he tells me because "he's there and you're not"... but he NEVER gives me the answer!! Then, to beat it all, when he DOES finally break down and call me back or see me at a meeting, he gives me this dance about "I'm sorry, but I don't know the answer - give me a couple of days and I'll have it for you." By then, I've already gotten the CORRECT ANSWER from you or someone else online... so, Mike, Why AREN'T YOU employed by the BSA to answer our questions and to be our sounding board? It would surely cut some of the "crap" many of us out here are getting from our professionals and some of our fellow volunteers!! I tell you what, Mike Walton, if you EVER decide to relocate to (name of Council, country, state, or city/community), I will personally see to it that you be named (Council or District volunteer position)!! You're too valuable to have sitting "on the sidelines!"
Yes. I truly receive between 185 and 400 pieces of electronic mail A DAY.
100 of those pieces comes from various mailing lists that I've subscribed to dealing with youth programs, the BSA's Order of the Arrow, Scout patch trading and collecting, weight loss and maintenance, Scouting reflections and inspirations, website design and creation, and the GEOS operating system and applications.
All of the remaining mail is sent to me personally, either to my primary email account or through my account on America Online(tm). In addition, other Scouters whom are "stumped" or whom wish to receive another "slant" or opinion on a question or issue will write and forward me postings.
I do my best to answer each question as if it was the most important question I was to answer that day; to answer it with as much information and reflection that I can provide; to trust that their question, concern or issue is authentic and not "made up just to post me"; and if I am incorrect or inconsistant with the policies of the BSA, to explain that inconsistancy or to apologize for providing the incorrect information and will provide the information I have on hand to answer their question or concern.
I do NOT speak for the BSA, in anything I write or say electronically, and hope that those posting me take my response and answers for what they are: advice given from one Scouter to another on the basis of "here's what I think, here's what I've been able to find out what the BSA says or doesn't say about the issue or concern. You can either use this or toss it." It is ADVICE, and not neccessarily POLICY. I also strongly caution private posters to NOT place me into a position between them and their local Councils, because I'll side with the local Council in such "positions" every time. It is THEIR program. They have a role to play and that is to take the BSA rules and regulations and adapt them to their situation and their environment.
When I do side with the individual is when a local Council DISOBEYS or DELIBERATELY moves around those stated policies and rules in order to avoid being equatable to all members and components of their Councils.
I do field questions from professionals, both those currently in the profession and those former professionals, and I can answer quite a bit of their technical questions, the ones that they are shy about asking their primary supervisor. But I always tell them that I've been out of the profession of Scouting for some 20 years or so. A lot of things happen in a 20 year span. So again, they take my advice for what it is...advice.
Most of the questions I ask come from people that have had little to no previous contact with the programs of the BSA, and those are the ones in which I take the greatest pleasure in answering. Parents want to know "the straight story" about wearing uniforms, about this "order for the arrow", about the dues and fees, and about Scouting in general. "Will it help my son" and "If Scouting is so universal, where are all of the black and brown and yellow Scouts and Scouters?" are two of the most frequently asked of the questions above.
I use Eudora and NewMail to respond to and file electronic mail and to archive my electronic mail. I additional use the old Global Network Navigation (GNN, which at one time used to be a part of America Online (tm))'s software for some of my older postings. I find Eudora and NewMail easier to use and very user-friendly.
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