November-December 2011: Letters to the Editor

Below you’ll find letters about the November-December 2011 issue, which you can read here. Read more Letters to the Editor from the current and previous issues, here.


I connected with the article “Sweat Equity” by Joe Guinto about the Order of the Arrow SummitCorps for a number of reasons. Having worked on multiuse trails in the nearby Rothrock State Forest of Pennsylvania, I could relate to the challenge of roots, rocks, dirt, and yellow jackets. Knowing that these well-made trails are part of a developing high-adventure area accessible to thousands of Scouts and others on the East Coast is a great thing.

Like many others, our Troop is anxiously awaiting the opening of the Summit Bechtel Reserve. There was only one trivial mistake that caught my attention in the photo caption on Page 25. The caption reads the span “towers 3,030 feet above roaring rapids.” I wonder if any Scouts caught this … the bridge spans this distance but is a mere 876 feet above the river.

A vehicle, perhaps a tractor-trailer, is visible on the span, which might give some reference length (these are usually just more than 50 feet). The entire 3,030 feet is not visible in the photo and would actually require a much wider photograph but would allow a good comparison of height to width.

Thanks for the great work you do and we look forward to visiting wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Joe Young
Committee chairperson, Troop 4
Lewistown, Pa.

FROM THE EDITORS: Thanks for bringing this error to our attention. The correct height of the bridge is 876 feet. We suffered momentary “dimension dyslexia” and regret the error. You can find a printed correction on Page 12 of the January-February 2012 issue of Scouting.


Guidelines on using power tools
I was just reading through the current magazine (November-December 2011) and noticed the article in Trailhead regarding the new Welding merit badge. I’m hopeful that this will lead to other real-world, hands-on, industrial-based badges.

But on Page 16 in the Cub Scout Corner (titled “Pinewood Practicum”), you have a statement in the middle of the article that is particularly bothersome. You note, “It’s not appropriate for Scouts of any age to use power tools.”

I think you need to clarify what you mean by this statement, as it is not conducive to leading to merit badges such as the Welding badge, which involves using electric tools that are obviously dangerous if improperly handled.

Yes, an unsupervised Cub and some Boy Scouts should not operate power equipment, but to make it a blanket statement is a mistake on the author’s part. How do you expect young boys and men to develop an interest in woodworking or metalworking if they are not able to somehow utilize those required tools? Say, for instance, a Scout has wood shop available in school and he want to earn a merit badge while taking the course and building something. Is this possible if he must utilize some sort of large manual or powered tool?

I realize I may going into this more than needed, but the message is not clear on what you want to say. Not everything in Scouting has to be manual labor, but if a Scout can learn something in a supervised environment with a powered piece of equipment, why not let them if the opportunity arises?

Just a thought. I’d appreciate a policy clarification.

Henry Yerger
Committee member
Tucson, Ariz.

RESPONSE FROM RICHARD BOURLON, THE BSA’S HEALTH AND SAFETY TEAM LEADER: The BSA does not advocate that youth use any equipment (powered woodworking equipment is specifically called out in DOL/FLSA standards) that is considered hazardous.Youthrules.gov is a great site to see what your state might consider hazardous.

For projects like building a pinewood derby car or a service project involving construction, The BSA cannot support youth using power tools, as these activities are not currently set up to teach safety. Also, there is no current way to validate the qualification of adults who could supervise youth and power tools. Thus, we rely on the existing guidance from the experts in the field—in this case, the Department of Labor.

However, the Boy Scout merit badge program does require that someone with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities be vetted as a merit badge counselor. The BSA would also like to point out that with revised and new merit badges, a risk-based approach is being used as requirement No. 1. This calls for discussion of the risk or hazards associated with the merit badge, and how to prevent, mitigate, or address those risks—it is no longer just first aid for the exposure.

With this approach—and with qualified supervision from a merit badge counselor—the BSA feels merit badges like Welding can be conducted safely. As to using a shop teacher as a merit badge counselor: this could also be a great idea. Conducted as a Scouting activity, the shop teacher would be required to complete screening to serve as a merit badge counselor. After this screening, this person would be good to go.

The Advancement Team has been working closely with the Health and Safety Support Committee and other subject-matter experts to incorporate this risk-based approach.


Words of thanks and encouragement
I have been in Scouting since 1948 when I joined Cub Scouts. I’ve been reading Boys’ Life since then, and in the early 1960s I started receiving Scouting.

During the years, there have been changes to both magazines—some that I’ve enjoyed and some that have been questioned in my mind.

Never in all those years has either Boys’ Life or Scouting magazines been other than a great source of ideas or a help in planning.

May you keep up the good work.

I’ve been in Scouting in California, Missouri, Maryland, Idaho, Illinois, Japan, Israel, and Korea, and I never saw a program that wasn’t good for adults or youth.

At 72, I was asked if I’d still be interested in serving on the committee. My answer? Yes, with my vertigo and the rest of me—as long as needed.

James W. Cutshall
East Moline, Ill.


Gear gift guide too expensive?
The Great Gear section of the November-December 2011 issue has suggestions that seem unnecessarily expensive. I know that it is a “dream or wish list,” but a $135 flashlight that uses four $6 batteries every three hours seems impractical. I think you should include some low price alternatives, like the $10 three LED clip-on cap light or the set of four sporks for $5—both from Walmart. Scouting is expensive enough without tempting readers with a $450 power station so you can do Facebook on the top of Mount Everest.

Paul F. Jacobs, Sr.
Manns Choice, Pa.

RESPONSE FROM JOHN CLARK, SCOUTING‘S MANAGING EDITOR: 
Paul, I agree with you—up to a point. But I feel strongly that some items in Great Gear need to be aspirational. We try for a reasonable range, but some cool stuff is just pricey. We’ll keep your comment in mind when planning future columns. Thanks for reading. —John Clark


Ideas for your next ethics discussion with Scouts
I enjoyed your article, “What Would Socrates Do?” In my first assignment at a COR, we had an excellent Scoutmaster who used a great approach to teach our Scouts a high set of values. He let all adults and Scouts know from the first day they joined the troop that the standards of behavior were the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan. When he saw an example of good behavior on the part of a Scout, he was quick to point it out to the troop’s adult leaders and Scouts at the same time.

When he saw an example of bad behavior, he would counsel the Scout individually and point to the aspect of the law, oath, motto, or slogan with which the behavior was inconsistent. He used his weekly Scoutmaster minutes to emphasize a particular element of Scouting. And, when a Scout’s repeated behavioral trait was inconsistent with Scouting, he assigned the dreaded written essay, which required the Scout to relate the correct behavior to a specific Scout concept.

Finally, we adults would ask a couple of questions relating to Scout standards of behavior in each and every board of review. Questions like, “What is your favorite (or least favorite) part of the Scout Law, and why?” Or, perhaps, “Which of the parts of the Scout Law is the most difficult (or easiest) for you to consistently achieve?”

For boys seeking Star, Life, or Eagle the board questions were a bit more philosophical, such as, “Define honor and how to achieve it,” or “Identify the most important part of the Scout Law and tell us why you think it is the most important.” The intent was to focus the Scouts, their parents, and all adult leaders in the troop on the

Scouting movement’s intended character of each Scout in all we did and at each level of rank attainment.

John Bredfeldt
Macon, Ga.


Behind the scenes of loop and pin creation
Hi, I first have a comment about the article titled Belt Loop-a-Looza (published in May-June 2010).

What a cool idea! I will certainly tell everyone in our pack about Belt Loop-a-Looza!

My question though is actually about the belt loop and pin program. Who comes up with the belt loops and pins? How often are new belt loop or pins added?

I have some ideas that I think would make good belt loops and pins for boys to earn.

Stephanie L. Funk
Stayton Cub Scouts Pack 50
Strayton, Ore.

RESPONSE FROM JANICE DOWNEY, THE BSA’S SENIOR INNOVATION MANAGER: Anyone can come up with a belt loop or pin idea (or merit badge). Just send your request for a proposal form to merit.badge@scouting.org. Complete the form, and then the vetting process begins.

Something on your mind? Click here to send us a letter to Scouting magazine’s editors.

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