The long wait is over. I can finally put the 2004 Scoutmaster Handbook in the recycling and enjoy the new Troop Leader Guidebook by Mark Ray. I was embarrassed to recommend the earlier handbook, but the new one is beyond excellent.
Listing the wonderful things about this book would be nearly as long as the book itself. The point is probably better made by listing the areas where I was disappointed. I had to dig pretty deep to find two disagreements.
I was hoping that I’d finally find some direction about a Venture Patrol in the troop. This has been a thing for a very long time, going back to “Exploring in the Troop”, which replaced “Senior Scouting in the Troop”. No joy, but there was discussion of an “older Scout patrol”. National does still sell the Scout Venture strip, so I guess the Venture Patrol is still a thing.
Also, the book comes down hard in favor of new Scout patrols, regular patrols, and older Scout patrols as the way to organize a troop. I’m sure that works, but I’ve seen the mixed-age patrol model work wonderfully for twenty years in our local troop. The older Scouts in the patrol teach the new Scouts and pass on the patrol traditions. It is a perfect match to the EDGE requirements for ranks, something that is harder to achieve with the recommended patrol organization. I’d prefer a balanced presentation of the two models.
That’s it. I can’t think of anything else in this book that is not wonderful.
A few exceptionally great things, though:
- Pointing to the Service Project Planning Guidelines. This is a tremendously useful worksheet that I recommend to all the Scouts I counsel on their Eagle projects. Every service project should use these when planning.
- Moving the annual planning process out of the Troop Program Features and into the handbook. I discovered that documentation a year after I was no longer Scoutmaster. Oops.
- Strong, strong emphasis on the aims of Scouting over the methods of Scouting.
I recommend buying at your local Scout Store, especially if that store supports your council. But you can also buy it at scoutstuff.org.
We all need to thank Mark Ray for writing this new edition of the Scoutmaster Handbook. He’s taken it from a nearly useless manual to an essential one. I’ve been recommending that Scoutmasters read the Senior Patrol Leader Handbook to get the real information on running a troop. That is still a good idea, but now there is a proper handbook for Scoutmasters. A handbook which happens to recommend reading the Senior Patrol Leader Handbook, of course.
And in your spare time, follow Mark Ray’s blog. If you are like me, you want to read everything he writes.
Meanwhile, I’m standing in line for volume two.