The Traditional Court of Honor


I thought it was a Ceremony?

Traditionally, when Scouting first started in England, the term “Court of Honor” had a different meaning than it has today in the Boy Scouts of America. These days, “Court of Honor” refers to an award ceremony held every so often to award merit badges and rank advancements. The earlier concept that the term “Court of Honor” referred to is closest to today’s “Patrol Leader Council”. I don’t know the exact history of how the names got to be changed, but I do know that the term “Court of Honor”, captures a special significance that is often forgotten in today’s Patrol Leader Councils. Throughout this post, substitute “Court of Honor” with “Patrol Leader’s Council” and think about how this looks in your own Troop.

What is this thing about ‘honor’?

The first and foremost responsibility of the Court of Honor is to guard the honor of the Troop. What does this mean? What does this look like? What separates this from any other committee of Scouts? Well John Thurman, an influential British Scouter, had a few words to say about this in his handbook on the Court of Honor:

I want you to face up to this responsibility for the guardianship of the honor of the Troop; I want you to accept that this is the first and most important function of the Court of Honor and that unless you can get across to your Patrol Leaders this sense of responsibility for tradition and honor, both personal and corporate, then your Court of Honor will be not as the Founder intended it to be but just another committee meeting.

Committees, of course, have their place in Scouting as in all democratic institutions: they have problems to resolve and duties to fulfill, but the Court of Honor is on a much higher plane; it is concerned primarily with those hard-to-put-into words but nonetheless real things which concern the emotions, the feelings, and the sensibilities of people. It is out of the Court of Honor that the true spirit of Scouting and, therefore, the true spirit for our Troop must grow and flourish.

Could you be a little more specific?

This might be an entirely new way to look at the Patrol Leader Council to many who are reading this. However, I ask you to think about this a little more deeply and go back and re-read the quotes here. Is this not an important aspect of Scouting that needs to be rediscovered?

There is a lot more I could talk about in regards to the Court of Honor, but my purpose is not to give a detailed guide. I want you to think about it and come up with the best way to implement it in your own Troop. In the book that started the Scouting Movement, “Scouting for Boys”, it did not go into a lot of detail on what the Court of Honor should do. I think this is because each Troop, each Patrol, is a little different.

Once the groundwork has been laid, it is up to the individual Patrol Leaders and Scoutmasters to find the best way to implement these principles in their own Patrols and Troops.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Please help others rediscover this important aspect of Scouting and share this post with others.

Scout on!

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