Fulfilling responsibility

The new BSA Guide to Advancement lays out and clarifies what it takes for a troop to evaluate whether a Scout has satisfactorily served in a position of responsibility as required for the ranks beyond First Class.

While this is primarily handled by the Scoutmaster and assistants, the final evaluation takes place at a board of review. In most cases, the Scoutmaster conference will determine whether the requirement has been satisfied, and the Board of Review can concentrate on other areas of a youth’s development.

However, the troop committee can establish expectations for satisfactory performance in a POR, as long as these expectations are reasonable – there’s that word again. In other words, they must substantially comply with the position descriptions outlined in the Scoutmaster Handbook and Patrol Leader Handbook. A troop cannot impose additional requirements that go outside the scope of what would normally be considered for a given job.

Key in all of this is the need to follow the Scout as he works his POR and if there are shortcomings or difficulties, they must be communicated early in his term. It is unacceptable to wait until his four or six month term is nearly up, and then inform the Scout that he isn’t doing his job. It’s always been this way, of course, but now the BSA is telling us in no uncertain terms in an official handbook.

Should the troop committee establish a metric? Say, a minimum number of events attended or a maximum number of troop meetings missed? My feeling is that they shouldn’t, and for a good reason. There are many youth positions, and they are all different in their scope. Some, like the Senior Patrol Leader, need to be there at nearly all troop meetings and campouts – though in our troop the Assistant SPLs do a great job of leading when the SPL can’t make it, and when that happens, leadership is still taking place. Other jobs don’t require perfect attendance at troop meetings. The Quartermaster, for instance, is very important on campouts, but doesn’t have too much to do during a troop meeting other than perhaps to collect equipment taken home following a campout. Applying a rigid attendance metric to boys in all PORs is a disservice.

The best way to measure whether a POR is being fulfilled is to set reasonable expectations at the beginning of the term, evaluate whether those expectations are being met periodically (monthly or so), and have a look toward the end of the term. (We have a newly-revised tool for doing this – the Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops course, which I’ll look at in a future article.) BSA says it’s unacceptable for a Scout to hold a position but do nothing and produce no results, but neither can a boy be held responsible for not meeting unestablished expectations.

In all cases, the most important consideration is what’s best for the boy and for his development in Scouting. Rather than measuring against an arbitrary standard, let’s try harder to evaluate each boy on his strengths, and the fulfillment of his position on its merits.


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