Avoiding Courts of Foolery



I’m writing this post just after April Fools Day, the highlight of the year for practical jokers the world over. In recent years, April 1 gags have gone beyond whoopie cushions and prank phone calls to include elaborate hoaxes planned months in advance by major companies, websites, and media outlets. For example, the Scouting magazine blog this year offered “breaking news” that merit badges will soon double in size.

Online pranks are fun to follow because you can see people’s reactions in the comments. Some people play along, helping make a prank seem legitimate; others cry uncle when they realize they’ve been had. (My favorite comment on the merit-badge hoax: “I promised myself that none of these would catch me off guard today. I made it to 9 a.m. Doh.”)

Unfortunately, some people take offense at April Fools Day gags, demonstrating the truth of what Erma Bombeck once said: “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

People planning Eagle Scout courts of honor should keep those words in mind. It’s fun to have people share anecdotes about the honoree–as long as those anecdotes don’t cross the line between humor and hurt. If your next ceremony will include anecdotes–and especially if you plan to offer an open-mic opportunity–be sure someone previews the speakers’ comments. Remember that you’re planning a court of honor, not a court of foolery.