How do you know if a campfire skit or song is “Scout-appropriate”?

Just when you thought the Friday night campfire was going smoothly, the Eagle patrol had to do that skit.

You know, the one with salty language, an inappropriate ethnic joke, or sexual innuendo?

Now you, the Scoutmaster, will spend all week fielding angry calls and e-mails from moms and dads in the troop.

If only this could’ve been avoided…

Before your next Scout campfire, let’s work together to answer two questions: (1) How do you screen a skit or song to make sure it’s appropriate? (2) What criteria do you use to determine whether it’s “in good taste”? 

Screening Skits and Songs

Successful, Scout-appropriate campfires start with a great leader. Because troops are boy-run, you’ll want a Scout or three to be in charge of the campfire’s plan. Give the Scouts this BSA-produced Campfire Program Planner worksheet (PDF) to guide their efforts.

Have the campfire leaders request from each patrol leader a skit and/or song. With smaller troops, each patrol will probably need to do both a skit and a song. Be sure the boy leaders don’t let patrols put down something like “TBD skit” — you’ll want the exact name.

Notice the line for “Camp Director’s Approval” on the worksheet. Once the plan is complete, the Scouts should approach you or another designated Scouter for approval.

Now it’s on you, and this is why having names for each skit or song is so important. If it’s one you recognize, fine. If not, take the time to find out more information about the lyrics for the song or plot for the skit. When in doubt, ask the patrol whether they think the skit or song upholds Scouting’s values. Chances are they’ll realize it’s not in good taste and come up with something else. A few minutes of investigation now could save you hours of awkward phone calls later.

OK, but there’s a difference between good, clean fun and skits that cross the line. Where is that gray area, and how is it determined? That brings us to…

Is This Skit or Song in “Good Taste”?

Each Scout unit is different, which is probably why the BSA keeps its recommendation on “good taste” for campfires pretty vague.

The BSA says, “Be sure that every feature of this campfire program upholds Scouting’s highest traditions.”

In other words, how you apply the Scout Oath and Scout Law here is left open for interpretation.

Of course, all skits or songs that use coarse language, disparage a certain demographic group, or involve inappropriate costumes should be banned outright.

That said, don’t overdo it with your red pen. Some of my best laughs at Scout campfires have been from skits that include good-natured ribbing of the Scoutmaster. If the laughs are at your expense, so be it!

Coming up with the perfect litmus test isn’t easy, but here’s one idea: Before the campfire planning, ask all Scouts to pretend the skit/song is being video recorded. Would they be OK with their parents (or grandparents) seeing it?

And in the YouTube generation, that’s not such a stretch at all.

What Do You Think?

What’s your approach to the concern of Scout-appropriateness at campfires? Is it a real problem, or is it overblown? Share your thoughts below.

Campfire Ideas

Find lots of great skits and songs here. Note: As some commenters have pointed out, some skits and songs at online sites are not Scout-appropriate, so please proceed with caution.