Court of Honor
The Court of Honour is an important part of the Patrol system. It is a standing committee which settles the affairs of the Troop (Baden-Powell).
Instruction in the different phases of operation of the Court of Honour is probably best given during meetings of the Court of Honour and, when required, should appear as items on the agenda.
Upon election and appointment, a new Patrol Leader should be inducted into the Court of Honour at a special meeting called for the purpose as soon after his appointment as possible. It should always be his first meeting as Patrol Leader with the Court of Honour. It is preferable that you do not attend this ceremony - let the boys handle it themselves.
In Part III it is assumed that we are dealing with an established Troop in which the Court of Honour is operating satisfactorily under a boy chairman. Scouters of new Troops or with inexperienced Patrol Leaders will have to adapt the situation to the conditions under which they operate, without losing sight of the basic principles on which the Court of Honour operates. You must give guidance but all decisions should be reached by free discussion among the Patrol Leaders.
INDUCTION TO THE COURT OF HONOUR
The new member knows the part played by the Court of Honour from his experience with his Patrol in the Troop, but in this meeting he has his first look backstage. The Court of Honour meeting at which the new Patrol Leader is inducted should be designed especially to give him an outline of its operation. It will follow its normal routine of opening and closing, but there will be no minutes as the agenda will be confined to instructing the new member.
The chairman gives the new member a brief outline of the role played by the Court of Honour and, if possible, quotes one or two examples from recent events in the Troop. The Court of Honour code is produced, read and discussed and possibly a personal copy given to the new member. The chairman will impress upon the new Patrol Leader the added responsibility he has; not only to his Patrol, but as one of the governors of the Troop. It is important the Scoutmaster's role as an advisor in the Court of Honour is made clear.
The Court of Honour treasurer briefly reviews the financial position of the Troop and mentions some of the current plans for which the Court of Honour has budgeted.
The Court of Honour secretary will explain about the minutes and any other aspect of his job. The Court of Honour chairman should then ask the new member if he has any questions and these should be discussed and answered. This should conclude the meeting or, if the Court of Honour wishes, they could then proceed with a routine Court of Honour meeting starting with the reading of the minutes of the last meeting.
Even in established Troops, it is very important that the induction meeting be carefully planned, and that members of the Court of Honour know their respective parts. The new Patrol Leader must realize that being a member of a governing body is not a responsibility to be lightly or carelessly undertaken. The induction should normally be completed within fifteen minutes, and certainly should not take more than half an hour. The new member will gain further instruction from fellow Patrol Leaders and yourself in the course of subsequent Court of Honour meetings and at other times as the opportunity arises.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COURT OF HONOUR AND PATROL
Becoming a Patrol Leader and a member of the Court of Honour is quite a step in a boy's life. Not only does he take on the responsibility of leading a Patrol, but also a share of responsibility for the Troop as a whole. Perhaps for the first time in his life he is going to have to learn to balance his own desires and those of his particular group (Patrol) against the welfare of the main body (the Troop). He has to learn to think for the Troop as a whole, as well as for his own gang. Discussion in Court of Honour may lead him to realize that a view expressed by his Patrol is not, after all, in the best interest of the Troop and he must learn to handle such situations fairly. This requires the development of not only a sense of proportion and reasoning, but also a degree of moral courage. He will also have to learn to judge impartially whether it be a matter of discipline or the setting of a standard - he must judge members of his own Patrol as harshly or as easily as he would those of other Patrols.
Most affairs of the Court of Honour are confidential, and a Patrol Leader will report to his Patrol only those matters which concern them.
NOTES TO SCOUTMASTER
Awareness and understanding of these responsibilities will come slowly, but with careful guidance and help from you and perhaps some of the older members of the Court of Honour, may be developed soundly and surely.
HONOUR OF THE TROOP
The Troop represents Scouting in the community; by its actions is Scouting judged. Thus, any matters, good or bad, which are likely to come before the public must first be considered by the Court of Honour. They must consider the public relations value of all public activities. For example, it would be a fine Good Turn if Scouts acted as ushers at a charity concert, but a wise Court of Honour would see that the boys selected were properly briefed for the job. One poorly dressed, gum chewing, discourteous Scout on such an occasion would negate the fine work of the rest of the boys.
The discipline of any particular boy is the responsibility first of all of his Patrol Leader; any situation which gets out of hand or causes reflection on the good name of the Troop may be discussed and handled by the Court of Honour.
NOTES TO SCOUTMASTER
Help the Patrol Leaders develop the right attitude towards disciplinary action. They must realize that it is much more important that they try to help a delinquent understand what he has done wrong and how he can avoid the same mistake, than to devise diabolical punishments. There is a tendency for boys to think in terms of punishment only and to be a little over-enthusiastic in its administration.
New recruits wishing to join the Troop should be interviewed by the Court of Honour so that they may be told what will be expected of them if they become members of the Troop, and what are Troop traditions. At the same time recruits may ask any questions they wish, which will help them to reach a decision.
In some cases, the Court of Honour has the responsibility of saying whether or not a boy deserves to be awarded a badge for which he has passed the technical requirements. Effort plays a very important part in earning any badge and in some instances behaviour may affect the decision. For example, a boy who normally keeps his bicycle in an atrocious condition may pass his Despatch Rider Badge by putting it into good order merely for the examination. In such a case, the Court of Honour might possibly put a time delay on the award of the badge, saying that they must be satisfied that this Scout will continue to keep his bicycle in good order before awarding the badge. When reviewing the qualifications of a Scout for a grade or proficiency badge, it is particularly important that each boy be assessed on his individual merit and not against a rigid standard. Ability must be weighed against effort and opportunity. Similarly, while it may be right to pass a boy for First Class signalling on very little ability but a great deal of effort, the same reasoning would hardly seem sound for passing a boy for Ambulance Badge.
PROGRAMME PLANNING NOTES TO SCOUTMASTER
When training Patrol Leaders in Programme Planning you would do well to follow the suggestions contained in Chapter 4 of The Troop Scouters Handbook.
It is recommended that the Court of Honour meet once a month, especially for Programme planning for the coming month. Subsequent details and revisions may be added at the regular Court of Honour meetings.
In the early days of the life of a Court of Honour it may be difficult to draw out ideas and to provide suitable discussion for developing programme activities. Later it will probably be difficult to contain discussion and reach necessary decisions.
The Court of Honour should explain to the new Patrol Leader the basic principles of Programme Planning. This will give him direction and help him to realize how Troop planning is constructed on the requirements of individual boys, the wishes of the Patrols and flavoured by outside influences. The new Patrol Leader will realize that he must be constantly alert for programme ideas and activities and that he may use his Patrol-inCouncil as a sounding board for ideas before presenting them to the Court of Honour.
It is not necessary that every idea for programme comes to the Court of Honour via the Patrol-in-Council. Suggestions can be put forward by Patrol Leaders or Scouters and they can be decided upon at once or referred to Patrols for later reference back to the Court of Honour - such things must be flexible.
NOTES TO SCOUTMASTER
To help Patrol Leaders be alert for programme ideas, you must keep them aware of what is happening in the community and beyond. Be constantly asking questions:
"What can we do about it?", or "If that had happened to us what would we have done?". Observation and imagination are key words here. For examples, see Pages 71 and 72 of The Troop Scouters Handbook.
It is important that Patrol Leaders are given some insight into human nature. The thoughts and actions of people do not necessarily follow any set formula, and all activity which was particularly successful once will not necessarily be so a second time. Boys very often do not know what they want until they have it, and conversely, something which was enthusiastically planned may not be well received in practice.
The Court of Honour is charged with the general administration of the Troop, including Troop funds (dues). This includes maintaining all equipment in good condition, drawing up a budget for expenditure and deciding what items shall or shall not be purchased, maintaining effective control on routine matters, operation of Service Patrol, etc., and ensuring that the Headquarters is properly used and suitably maintained.
The degree of responsibility that a Court of Honour can accept will be limited but it is important that they are permitted and encouraged to work out solutions to the problems of the Troop among themselves. This is not only good training but also ensures maximum cooperation.
NOTES TO SCOUTMASTER
Your attitude with regard to the Court of Honour is one of the most important influences in the proper operation of the Patrol System. Once again evidence of your trust in the Patrol Leader is essential. The Patrol Leaders will then know that they have to stand on their own feet and help the Court of Honour reach its decisions. While you may be in the background and may be asked for opinion or help, you will not interfere, and most of the advice that you will give the Court of Honour will be by way of suggestion, or questions designed to provoke their own thinking and to help them reach their own conclusions. This attitude should prevail not only at the Court of Honour but also when dealing with Patrol Leaders and Boy Scouts individually. You should always try to help the boy resolve his own problem rather than try to solve it for him.
Train the boys to prepare for Court of Honour meetings, to think objectively and to express themselves clearly, and to avoid becoming personally or emotionally involved in any issue. If a discussion does not appear to be producing any satisfactory conclusion, it is the duty of the chairman to cut it off or to postpone a decision until the next meeting. However, he should not attempt to hasten the arrival of a decision if genuine discussion on an important issue continues. How well a Court of Honour will handle these discussions will depend to a large extent upon the ability of its chairman and your specific guidance for this job. If you do not feel competent to do this you should find someone in your community who is - perhaps the chairman of the Group Committee. (Helpful guidance on the conduct of meetings may be found in.. "The Conduct of Meetings" by G. H. Stanford, published by the Oxford University Press.)
The new Patrol Leader will have participated in the past in Patrol-in-Council meetings and this training will stand him in good stead now that he has to participate in Court of Honour discussions. His education will be further advanced by observing the way the Court of Honour chairman handles the meeting.
It is very easy and a fairly common practice for those who have achieved a certain rank or standing to want to raise the standard for future generations. The raising of certain standards may be very necessary but they must be raised for a legitimate reason and remain realistic. It is in matters of this nature that your guidance can be so valuable.
Ultimately, the Court of Honour is always responsible to the Scoutmaster who, in turn, is responsible to the Group Committee.
Remember, it is by your actions that you will be judged. Be sure the Patrol Leaders feel that the affairs of the Troop are really in the hands of the Court of Honour.
Expect a great deal of your Patrol Leaders and nine times out of ten they will play up to your expectation; hut if you are always going to nurse them and not trust them to do things well, you will never get them to do anything on their own initiative (Baden-Powell).
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Last modified: October 15, 2016.