Why Verbs Matter in Boy Scout Advancement

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As a writer, I spend my days rearranging the letters of the alphabet and peppering them with various punctuation marks. That means, among other things, that I pay close to language.

I know, as Mark Twain once said, that the difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug. I also know that commas save lives–consider the difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma.”

And I know that verbs matter when it comes to Boy Scout advancement.

Recently in a Facebook group I read a Scout’s request for people to interview for requirement 8 of Scouting Heritage merit badge (“Interview at least three people (different from those you interviewed for requirement 5) over the age of 40 who were Scouts. Find out about their Scouting experiences. Ask about the impact that Scouting has had on their lives. Share what you learned with your counselor.”) Now, I couldn’t tell from this Scout’s post whether he was looking to set up phone or email interviews with random Eagle Scouts or whether he just wanted people to post their Scouting stories to Facebook. If the former was true, he was setting up potential Youth Protection problems. If the latter was true, he was looking to take a shortcut, one that would end up shortchanging him, because he could learn far more by conducting an actual interview than by having a brief asynchronous exchange on Facebook.

Years ago, I came across a great quote in an old Cub Scout handicraft book: “It isn’t what the boy does to the board that counts; it’s what the board does to the boy.”

The same is true of every Boy Scout requirement. That’s why paying attention to the verbs is so important.


Need more great troop leadership 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.

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