A Scout is RECOGNIZED
In addition, a troop holds a court of honor every three months—a formal recognition with families, friends, and the public in attendance. All Scouts who have moved up to any rank except Eagle Scout, or who have earned merit badges since the last court of honor, should be recognized.Scoutmaster Handbook
In the fourth step of Scout advancement a Scout is recognized twice, he receives the badge or emblem as soon as possible, and is also recognized at a court of honor. Every advancement award offered by the B.S.A. has two components, a badge and a certificate (the card that accompanies the badge) present the badge as soon as possible and hold on to the certificate to present at a court of honor.
A Scout should receive his new badge as soon as possible after his achievement has been certified by a board of review.
The whole idea of this first presentation is putting the badge in the Scout’s hands quickly. He’s earned it, it’s been recorded properly and we want the Scout to have it as soon as possible. There’s no reason that it needs to sit around for weeks or months waiting to be distributed.
The Scoutmaster Handbook mentions “a simple ceremony”. During our closing at a troop meeting I hand the badge to the senior patrol leader, hold the certificate so he can read the name, the Scout steps forward and receives the badge with a handshake, his fellow Scouts applaud, and that’s it.
Court of Honor
Periodically (every three months is recommended) a formal court of honor is held to recognize ranks, merit badges and other achievements since the last court of honor.
I know of no official policy or directions from the B.S.A. describing THE WAY to hold a court of honor, or any particular rules about what has to happen. You will find suggestions for courts of honor in the Troop Program Resources Guide. These are, of course, suggestions; not directions or policy statements.
When the Scout completed his board of review and the paperwork was signed he was moved from one rank to another; it’s already happened, a court of honor recognizes the achievement, it does not bestow the achievement. A court of honor it is not like a wedding ceremony or swearing in a public servant where some combination of actions and words change a persons status as a result of the ceremony.
Nearly every troop has their own specific way to do a court of honor and I would never say any of them were flat out wrong, I prefer some ways over others, but that’s just a personal preference; so what follows are my own ideas of the way things ought to be, read on with that in mind.
Simplicity, Predictability and Consistency
Simple, predictable ceremonies that are presented consistently have a lot to recommend them.
- Scouts will be familiar with the ceremony (fewer terrified vacant stares form the presenters and less uncertain wandering and shuffling of feet).
- Awards are presented in the same way over time so there’s a consistent recognition of the same award from one year to the next.
- Repetition brings home the messages in the ceremony.
- Simplicity means brevity, the audience stays engaged and interested.
We've used the same basic court of honor script with few changes for the past twenty years or so. You’ll find all manner of ideas and court of honor scripts on line, there are books about Eagle courts of honor. My advice is keep it simple.
I have written and directed two plays and acted in many more, and I can tell you that dialogue, blocking, scenery, costumes and the technical aspects of staging a play require about 2-3 people behind the scenes for every person on stage, what you see from the audience is the tip of the iceberg.
If you have the resources and energy for an elaborately staged court of honor, more power to you! What you may not know is that once you’ve staged a big elaborate court of honor once you’ll have set a precedent that you’ll be expected to meet for all subsequent courts of honor.
I’d also suggest that your youth leadership, led by the senior patrol leader, do the presenting. Our Courts of honor are emceed by the senior patrol leader and he invites the scoutmaster to the stage to help him present ranks from 1st Class up.
Formal and Relaxed
While the court of honor should have formality and gravity commensurate with honoring achievements they don’t need to be stilted and uncomfortable. There ought to be smiles and any mistakes in the presentation should be taken lightly. Nobody get’s laughed at, no gasps from the audience if something goes wrong, no reason to feel bad or be embarrassed, but still maintaining an atmosphere that something important is happening.
The Eagle Court of Honor
There are folks who insist that the Eagle court of honor must be a separate presentation from a normal court of honor. There’s no policy statement I can find defining such a distinction. Some troops have the tradition of holding separate presentations for each individual Eagle Scout, some present them at a normal troop court of honor, there’s no absolute rule to follow.
Some troops delegate the planning for an Eagle court of honor to the Scout and his family. If that works for you, fine; but I think it can lead to problems. Some parents loose the distinction between an eagle court of honor and a coronation. One huge, expensive, court of honor sets a precedent for the next family to meet or surpass and soon there’s an upward spiral that’s hard to stop. I have seen it happen, and it’s not all that pretty (think a catered reception with a live band; yes, I am deadly serious).