As the tagline promises, I’ve created this blog as a repository for ideas related to writing, Scouting, and writing on Scouting. I talk about the books I sell at EagleBook.com, my other Scouting-related writing projects, and other items of interest. I hope you find the blog of interest. If you have ideas to share, just post a comment on the About page.


Seven Thoughts on Girls in Scouting


As you doubtless know by now, the BSA decided on October 11, 2017 to welcome girls at the Cub Scout and Boy Scout levels over the next two years. My take? I support the decision, but I’d like to take more than the length of a couple of tweets to explain why. Here are seven reasons:

  1. We’re already co-ed. And I don’t just mean in Venturing, Sea Scouting, and Exploring. The day the news came out, I happened to be interviewing a pair of married Scouters for an upcoming project. They told me that their now-adult daughter was an active participant in their son’s troop for years. She couldn’t register as a Boy Scout, of course, so she registered and completed advancement as a Juliette, the Girl Scout equivalent of Lone Scouts. And I’ve spoken with other leaders over the years whose Boy Scout troops just happened to meet at the same time and place as Girl Scout troops. Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh talked about cases like that in a national office town hall meeting.the day after the announcement. (The video is well worth watching, by the way.)
  2. The experts aren’t worried. It’s been interesting (and often disheartening) to read reaction to the decision on social media. According to my very unscientific tally, those who have had experience with co-ed Scouting activities (mostly Venturing leaders and Philmont staff members) generally support the decision. Many of those most strongly opposed, including some of my fellow Eagle Scouts, aren’t even involved in Scouting right now.
  3. People on both sides are dissatisfied. It’s a truism that a good compromise is one that leaves both parties dissatisfied, which is the case here. If your troop doesn’t want to go co-ed, it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can’t. Girls will be in separate units.
  4. We aren’t living in the 1950s any more. One former Scout posted on Facebook last week that back in his day his Scoutmaster was a former special forces soldier who made his Scouts into manly men who could stand up to campsite pranks (which I took to mean things like initiations) and “take a whiz off the side of a cliff.” News alert: That’s not the way Scouting or polite society works these days. And that’s not just because we have female adult leaders and soon will have more female youth members. But, again, boys and girls will be separate at the Boy Scout level. (While we’re at it, if the good old days were so good, why don’t we still have separate camps for African American troops?)
  5. We’ve already figured out facilities. Some argue that bathrooms and showers are a barrier. I would argue that we’ve already largely solved that problem. For example, when the Philmont Training Center rebuilt its showerhouses a few years ago, it opted for single-user unisex facilities, which I’ve also seen in other camps. Of course, Philmont’s backcountry latrines often have no walls at all, but that hasn’t stopped co-ed crews (or all-male crews with female Rangers) from enjoying the backcountry for years. And camps across the country have made accommodations for female leaders and Cub Scout family members.
  6. Good people made this decision. Many critics have claimed that this decision was made by “suits” at the national office who are either out of touch or are only trying to pad membership numbers or feather their own nests. The truth, of course, is that the decision, which was unanimous, was made by the National Executive Board. I reviewed the board roster this week in the BSA’s 2016 Annual Report (click the second red link at the bottom of the page) and found the names of several Scouters I either know personally or by reputation. Those people would not make a rash decision or one they felt went against the best interests of Scouting. And it’s important to remember that many of the “suits” people like to disparage are Eagle Scouts, Scouting parents, and/or current or former Scouting volunteers.
  7. Our young men need to learn the right way to treat women. There have been plenty of headlines recently about shocking treatment of women, most recently by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. (Speaking of not living in the 1950s any more!) Where will our Scouts learn better attitudes? Here’s what a female Venturing Advisor told me several years ago in an interview: “The boys were in their tent and were talking. It’s amazing how they think that one micron of nylon can prevent you from hearing. They were talking about girls in a way that we don’t often get to hear them talking. For me as a woman, it was pretty hair-raising—this sexual objectification of women I was hearing. I thought, ‘They need an experience with girls where girls are their friends and their comrades, where they can work alongside each other and learn about each other as people. What I’ve observed is that that’s actually what happened. [Venturing] promotes friendship as opposed to dating. It’s hard to be romantic about someone you’ve hiked 20 miles with and is covered with dirt. They really isn’t a whole lot of intra-crew dating and romance. I won’t say there’s never been any, but it’s far, far less than you might imagine.”

So those are my top seven reasons for supporting the BSA’s recent decision. I’m sure I’ll think of a few more as soon as I hit publish. I’m also sure some of you can think of reasons to oppose it. Feel free to post your comments below. Just remember that a Scout is courteous.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Girls in Scouting–Please Read the Fine Print


Unless you’ve been in the backwoods this week, you have probably heard that the BSA’s National Executive Board voted unanimously this week to admit girls into Cub Scouting (effective in fall 2018) and into a new program that will parallel Boy Scouting (tentatively effective in 2019). At some point, I’ll take the time to share the reasons why I think this is a good idea, but right now I have a different message: READ THE FINE PRINT!

Maybe it’s because we live in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts” or maybe it’s because people don’t want to read more than headlines and tweets, but I’ve been amazed at the amount of misinformation I’ve read online about the decision. One Scouter said we have 2 1/2 months to adjust. (The earliest change will come next fall–and then only at the Cub Scout level.) Another Scouter predicted that the BSA will be sued when a female member gets pregnant because guys and girls are sharing tents. (Such tenting arrangements are already against the BSA’s Youth Protection policies, and at the Boy Scout level, the programs will be separate.) And lots and lots of people have speculated about what the board’s real reason for the decision was. (I happen to know several of the board members personally and know several more by reputation. They are all men and women who want only the best for the Scouting movement.)

Before you decide how you feel about this issue, I hope you’ll take the time to read the material on the Family Scouting webpage. And for more background on the research that led up to the decision, watch Mike Surbaugh’s video, which was shown in councils across the country this summer (and which I blogged about in August). That video runs nearly 30 minutes, but it’s well worth your time if you want to have all your facts straight before you start posting on social media!

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Units Helping Units After Hurricanes


The hurricanes of this summer and fall don’t often appear in the headlines anymore, but people in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still working to recover from wind and flood damage. And of course, Scouts have been deeply involved in recovery efforts. Councils located not far from the disaster areas have organized crews to remove drywall and soggy carpet. Philmont Scout Ranch has sent workers to Sea Base to help restore facilities. And Scouters around the country have opened their wallets to support groups like the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

So what you can your troop do? Assuming you’re in Peoria, Pittsburgh, or Portland, it might look like there’s not much you can do that would make a difference.

Fortunately, the BSA has come up with a couple of good options. The first is to donate to the BSA Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps rebuild Scouting in affected communities. The other is to connect directly with a unit in need and to help them replace lost equipment, flags, uniforms, and books. For more on both of these options, visit the BSA’s Disaster Relief web page.

I’m especially intrigued by the idea of units helping units. I think tangible projects like that are more meaningful to Scouts than simply giving money, and I could easily see two troops becoming long-distance brother troops as a result. That said, money is very much needed, and it would be neat for a troop to earmark a portion of popcorn profits, for example, to support the Emergency Assistance Fund.

For all the damage they cause, natural disasters offer us in Scouting the chance to teach what it means to help other people at all times. How are you doing that this season?

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

Sister (and Brother) Acts at Eagle Courts of Honor


A reader of The Eagle Court of Honor Book asked me this week how to involve her honoree’s Cub Scout brother in his ceremony. I suggested he could serve as the Scout equivalent of a ring-bearer, as I discussed in an earlier post.

Her email sent me back to my tip archive (which dates to 1999) for other ideas about including, or at least recognizing, siblings. One great idea came from a reader who was worried that her son’s little sister would be jealous of all the attention he was getting on his big day.

She told me her son solved this problem by presenting his little sister with a small rose corsage, similar to the ones often worn by Eagle moms. As that mom explained, the cost was minimal (under $5), but “the look of delight on our daughter’s face when her big brother presented this corsage to her before the ceremony was priceless. She knew that even though this was his big day, he was thinking about her.”

Rose corsages wouldn’t work for little brothers, but with a little imagination, you can come up with something to present to them. A Scout lapel pin backed with a small piece of red, white, and blue ribbon would be appropriate, for example, or the new Eagle might present his nine-year-old brother with his very own Boy Scout handbook.

How do you recognize siblings at Eagle courts of honors? Post your thoughts in the comments section on the blog.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

Not Your Father’s Eagle Project


Birdhouses. Toy drives. Hiking trails. Flag retirement ceremonies. Park benches.

Those words describe just a few of the tried and true Eagle Scout projects that are done by countless Scouts across the country each year. There’s nothing wrong with those ideas, but there’s also nothing that says Scouts can’t be a little more creative.

Or a lot more creative, in the case of Skyler Chapman from Lehi, Utah. Skyler made the local news recently for his truly unique project: fixing a traffic problem in his hometown. According to a Fox 13 report, he used a camera drone and a team of traffic observers to figure out just why traffic was building up for long periods at one particular intersection. (Spoiler alert: the problem was the lack of a dedicated turn lane.) Armed with the data he’d collected and the results of resident surveys, Skyler crafted a plan that he presented to the city council. His project was quickly approved and implemented, and tie-ups are reportedly a thing of the past at the problem intersection.

So how can you get your Scouts to think more creatively when they’re looking for Eagle projects? One option would be to have them look around their community for problems that need solving. Another would be to encourage them to talk with local nonprofit leaders about what’s on their wish lists. You could also suggest they spend some time browsing the Boys’ Life Eagle Project Showcase.

Then, when they come back to you with some apparently harebrained idea, don’t reflexively say no. Evaluate the idea against the actual advancement requirement, not against your experience and preconceived notions. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the project requirement:

While a Life Scout, plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community. (The project must benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting.) A project proposal must be approved by the organization benefiting from the effort, your unit leader and unit committee, and the council or district before you start. You must use the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook, BSA publication No. 512-927, in meeting this requirement.

Will your Scouts do projects that end up on the evening news? Perhaps not. But perhaps they’ll do projects that excite them more than the same old projects everybody else in the troop seems to do.

And who knows? One of them might even do a project that cuts your evening commute!

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.

A 20-Cent Court-of-Honor Treasure


These days, technology has made it easier (and cheaper) than ever to include a slide show in a court of honor. The hardest part, in fact, is sorting through hundreds of images to find those that chronicle the honoree’s growth in Scouting. During the sorting process, of course, you’re likely to find far more pictures than the two or three dozen you’re likely to use in the ceremony. After all, you don’t want the slide show portion of the show to balloon out of control. (If you’ve ever sat through a relative’s marathon showing of vacation pictures, you know how easily that can happen.)

I recommend burning all the relevant pictures you find onto a CD and presenting it to the honoree. One of my readers named Hal Smith did just that several years ago for his son’s best friend. The CD he created contained about 200 photos (culled from a collection of more than 7,000–yikes!) and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by the new Eagle Scout for years to come.

But the best thing about the CD, Hal said, was that the Scout’s mother got to share it with her terminally ill father before his death. Looking at the photos together allowed them to talk about happier times and not dwell on thoughts of cancer and loss. Not bad for a 20-cent piece of plastic.

For more great ideas, check out my ebook, Showtime: 45 Top Tips from EagleBook.com and The Eagle Court of Honor Book; it costs just $2.99 and is available for immediate download from both EagleBook.com and Amazon.com.

What’s Your Troop’s Digital Emergency Plan?


A year or so ago, a friend’s husband passed away suddenly in his late 50s. In the aftermath of his death, my friend felt lost–and not just because her husband had died. You see, he had handled the household finances, and she had been blissfully ignorant of things she suddenly really needed to know, like account numbers and online passwords.

Steve’s death prompted me to create a file of things my wife would need to know if I were gone. She now knows what our various account numbers are, how bills arrive (electronically or by snail mail), which bills are paid automatically, how to access online accounts, and where to find the keys to the safe deposit box. She also knows not to cancel my email and cellphone accounts since so many financial organizations now use two-factor authentication when you try to log into their websites.

What does this all have to do with your troop? You probably don’t have a safe deposit box, but you almost certainly do have other important data that could be lost if a key leader died–or simply decided to take his toys and go home. There’s your troop checking account, for example (which ought to have multiple people on the signature card). You may also have a Square or PayPal account you use for fundraising. There are the login credentials for your website (perhaps including separate domain-name registration). And what about your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts? Who is listed as an administrator there?

Most troops have relatively transient leadership, so it’s easy for the wrong people to still be listed as contacts or administrators for various accounts. You shouldn’t wait for a crisis to do a digital inventory.

Need more great troop program ideas? Check out the new edition of The Scoutmaster’s Other Handbook, which is now available in both print and e-book formats at https://www.eaglebook.com/products.htm#scoutmasters.