Scouter C.K. asks how best to inform a Scout (and his parents) that the boy wasn’t fully prepared for a rank advancement board of review while still encouraging the youth so the setback won’t cause him to quit Scouting.
First, a Scout should never fail a board of review. If the Scoutmaster does his job, especially at the Scoutmaster conference, the Scout should have no problems.
The board of review should be more like a pep rally for continuing in Scouting. Failure can be extremely humiliating to a Scout, and if it is not handled well, the Scout will quit. Hold a private meeting with the Scout and his parents and explain why you think the Scout is not ready. Keep it positive!
You can turn a board of review failure into a stepping-stone instead of a stumbling block by allowing the Scout to learn from the experience and be better prepared for the next review. A wise leader will use the moment to encourage, not discourage, the Scout into a new level of awareness of support and understanding.
The leader should help the Scout understand his needs, show him how to succeed, and praise positive performance.
Idaho Falls, Idaho
Often failure to pass a board of review is not the fault of the Scout but of the review board. In my 36 years of Scouting experience, from Scoutmaster to district committee chairman, I have found that over-testing of the Scout was the cause of 99 percent of the failures to complete a rank.
A board of review should never be a test. It should be a review of the boy’s Scouting career to the present. It is not the place to ask, “How do you tie a square knot?” but rather, “How are you doing with knot tying as a Second Class Scout?”
Boards of review should be conducted by the troop committee, chaired by the advancement chairman, and never include the Scoutmaster.
Let the Scout and his parents know which items were correctly answered and which items need work. Assign a senior Scout to coach the boy on areas where he is weak. Arrange for another board of review without delay as soon as his mentor says the Scout is ready to show his stuff.
These steps will make it clear to the Scout and his parents that you want him to pass—without compromising the standards expected of every Scout.
I use the Scoutmaster’s conference as a guide both for the Scout and myself. We review his requirements for the next rank, including his strong and weak points.
The conference is the last thing before the board of review, so every requirement for the rank should be signed off in his handbook. We go over them together, and if I feel the Scout is not ready, I suggest that the board be postponed for a short time so he can better prepare himself—with help from older Scouts.
I explain that it’s easier in the Scoutmaster’s conference to see if he’s really ready, so that he won’t be disappointed later by not passing the board. This way, I do not have to explain to parents why he failed the board.
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It is important to stress that advancement is something to be earned and not given away. Thus, when you explain to a Scout that he has not passed, offer encouragement and not disappointment.
With proper encouragement offered, I believe the Scout will then double his efforts to achieve the advancement in rank and will feel 100 percent better about it when he receives it.
If a Scout fails a board of review, I have failed as a leader somehow. After all, I conducted the Scoutmaster conference and thought he would be ready for the review.
It may not be the Scout who failed; it may be the program you provide!
In the one case I had where a boy did fail the review, I told him, “I’m sorry, I failed to do a better job for you. What can I do to help you better prepare for your next board of review?”
At the next troop committee meeting, I also asked, “What did I do wrong with our program?”
If you put the blame on the Scout, he likely won’t attend meetings and outings where the program of troop advancement is being presented. But if you as Scoutmaster take responsibility for the failure, then you will have positive input from the Scout as to what he needs to advance.
(Another question I would ask the troop committee: “What do you do in a board of review? Is it a board of review or a board of final exam?” It should be the former, not the latter.)