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Ask the Expert: Can a troop prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Updated May 15 with some clarifications.

Not all merit badges are earned in the traditional troop setting.

Enterprising Scouts can earn them at council-run merit badge “colleges” or workshops, summer or winter camps, or on their own with a registered counselor.

But some troops restrict or even prohibit this practice, insisting that merit badges must be earned under their own roof — with only troop-sanctioned counselors.

True, the Guide to Advancement says Scouts must discuss their choice of merit badge counselor with their Scoutmaster, but some troops take it one step farther, declaring that merit badge workshops themselves aren’t kosher.

Is that OK? That’s what a Scouter named Thomas wondered in an email last week. In his troop, Scouts cannot earn Eagle-required merit badges at events like workshops, instead needing to earn those merit badges in-house. He writes: 

Bryan,

Our BSA district holds various workshops such as Merit Badge Saturday and has arranged for qualified and approved MB counselors to run these sessions. The workshops offer many merit badges including some that are Eagle Required. This is supported by the “blue card,” which states the Scout “may also want to take advantage of opportunities at merit badge fairs or midways, or at rock-climbing gyms or whitewater rafting trips that provide merit badge instruction. This is acceptable …”

A concern is that our local troop had established a policy that no Scout in our troop would be allowed to earn an Eagle-required MB at a merit badge workshop. Some of the adult leaders in our troop voiced an opinion that we can and should place this restriction on the Scouts in order to ensure the Scout has a good experience using our troop approved counselors. Does the BSA allow for a troop to establish a local policy that prohibits the Scout from taking Eagle Required MBs at fully sanctioned and approved events? There are good intentions on both sides of this debate in the troop and we want to align our approach with BSA national policy.

Can you shed some light on this topic?

Sincerely,

Thomas S.

So what’s the answer? As always, we turn to those prolific light-shedders in the BSA’s Advancement Team.

The gist of it is this: Though Scouters can get away with it under current rules, the BSA highly discourages troops from restricting where Scouts can earn merit badges. And the practice of preventing a Scout from choosing his own counselor (be it at a workshop or elsewhere) will be prohibited in the 2013 edition of the Guide to Advancement, due out this summer.

Here are some other key points on the matter from the upcoming 2013 Guide to Advancement:

  1. Unit leaders must have a discussion with a Scout before the Scout gets the signed blue card. This discussion is meant to be a “growth-oriented and positive conversation” rather than a restrictive one. 
  2. Any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may begin work on any badge at any time, provided he’s had this discussion with his unit leader as indicated on the blue card.
  3. But to elaborate on points 1 and 2, the blue-card signature no longer indicates “approval to begin work,” meaning a Scout may count certain requirements for a merit badge before he has the blue card. For example, nights of camping completed before he has the blue card for Camping merit badge will still count. (See this Ask the Expert post for more clarification.)
  4. Units, districts and councils do not have the authority to implement a different system for merit badge approval or documentation.
  5. The Scout and unit leader should come to an agreement as to who the merit badge counselor will be. Lacking agreement, the Scout must be allowed to work with the counselor of his choice, as long as that person is registered and approved by the council committee.
  6. A Scout may want to take advantage of merit badge fairs or midways, or merit badge instruction at rock-climbing gyms, whitewater rafting companies, or museums. That’s acceptable, provided the counselors are registered and the Scout has a discussion with his unit leader and gets a signed blue card.

What I’ve written above is just an overview, and those changes will be further explained and made official when the 2013 Guide to Advancement comes out this summer.

(Update May 15): To give you a taste of what’s to come, I have uploaded the relevant page from the 2013 Guide to Advancement (clicking opens PDF). Take a look, but remember that it won’t become “gospel” until the advancement guide releases this summer.

I hope that clears things up a little. Thanks to the BSA’s Advancement Team for handling all the questions I’ve been throwing their way recently.

Have a question?

Send it to me, subject line “Ask the Expert,” and I’ll try to track down answers when possible.


Photo: From Flickr. Some rights reserved by Fort Meade. “David E. shows his Lego robot to James L. during S.T.E.M. Merit Badge Day when 430 Boy Scouts were scattered throughout the post to earn merit badges in science, technology, engineering”

211 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: Can a troop prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp?

  1. Sorry, I have yet to see a merit badge fair that was anything more than a merit badge giveaway. It’s not possible for a kid to end up with 2-5 merit badges in a day without having started work on it first.

    Merit badges at summer camp aren’t much better, in reality, after traveling, settling down and getting started, figure 2.5 hours over the week (30 minutes a day) for most merit badges. That’s no where near enough time for badges like Emergency Preparedness, First Aid, etc. where *each* person is supposed to demonstrate knowledge of all the requirements, etc.

    I generally will not inform any of my units about any district or council run merit badge fairs. I will always help my youth find a regular counselor for them to do their badges with.

    • Our Merit Badge Days are typically only 2 badges and that is if you did the prereqs prior to the day.

      • Our MB events are run that was as well Rhonda, the same for summer camp. Most of the MB’s have pre-req’s ESPECIALLY eagle required. This program is about and for the BOYS, they are suppose to work as fast or as slow as they wish, if you take that away what’s the point?! We have 45-50 active scouts in our troop and some are extremely active and driven, while others are moving leisurely through the program and we support ALL of them!!

        • Agreed, only ours are even stricter. Very few they offer can be done in less than the whole day. And many of them (the citizenship ones) require things to be done ahead of time. Most of our MBU’s are one badge for the entire day short of Fingerprinting, Indian Lore and a few others which are half days.

    • Where do you go to camp? Our camps the MAX a boy can get is 4. 30 minutes, are you kidding? Our boys do a total of 6-8 hours per badge. Some badges, like the ones you mentioned diminish the numbers they can get because those (EP) are 4 hours a day for 4 days. Other badges like metalworking is another one that is a full 4 hours a day for 4 days. there are no badges at our camp that you can get in 30 minutes.

      • If you have a “Gimmee” mb counselor, he is either not trained or just not doing his job.

        Inform your District Advancement chair, let them resolve the problem.

    • growing up in the scouts, My personal experience may be different from everyone else. but as I earned my MBs, I actually had to WORK for them. both at our Council-run Summer camps (upwards of an hour to an hour and a half per day on one badge) as well as on my own (finding approved MB counselors). the idea that they “give away” badges at these fairs without the kids really working on them is preposterous. it goes against the things we teach our kids about hard work and dedication to an idea.

  2. Our older son, who is an Eagle with a few Palms under his belt, always enjoyed getting to meet new adults at these events. Some of the adults were even professionals in their fields. All of our adults are great but the scouts see us all of the time. It is just not the same.
    I would hope troops would consider this and reconsider!

    • That’s what our MBU’s do….all the counselors are professionals in their field – for instance, the Fish and Wildlife is done by a conservation agent, First Aid is done by either Red Cross or registered nurses or doctors, etc.

  3. I have to agree with Jo above. If the Scout has prepared the preliminary work for a Merit Badge day, and has a great understanding of the balance of the requirements, then it may be OK. I have seen multiple instances of Scouts earning multiple MBs in a weekend, then bringing it back to the Scoutmaster or ASM for signature.

    The problem I have in this process is when the Scout hands the SM or ASM the Blue Card, and the adult leader asks “what MB did you earn?” and the Scout responds with a blank look and says “It’s there on the Blue Card”.

    • Oh, thank God I never had that experience. But then we were a small troop and I knew every single badge they earned….usually because I had to get a cattle prod to get them going, lol! good boys just needed a fire lit sometimes.

    • I would also have a problem with that. We have had Scouts bring in the card and say this is what is signed off but I did not complete some of these requirements so we just asked them to complete it before we ordered it. It does happen but I hope that it is just an oversight on the counselors part.

  4. Actually, the troop is missing the forest for trees.

    One of the original secondary goals of adding outside counselors to the Merit Badge program back in the 1930′s was to give boys the experience of having to telephone a stranger, make an appointment, visit him, and demonstrate knowledge of a subject. That directly translated into practicing the skills needed for applying for a job as an adult.

    So while the troop mentioned might be concerned about the quality of counseling in a mass setting, they are also eliminating that “job interview” experience when they have boys earn all their merit badges with adults that they already know in their home troop.

    It’s important for Scouts to have earned their merit badges in a variety of settings. I also doubt a troop has in-house counselors for every merit badge.

    • I have also seen “in house” troop MB councilors pencil whip merit badges, If you ask a scout about what they learned, you get a blank stare. I know a troop that tries to get as many in house MBC just for the reason of a give away troop. The boys don’t know anything. Their Eagle scouts can’t even tie a square knot!
      The Advancement Fairs in my district are well run. I taught Chemistry, but almost all of the boys needed to visit a lab for a requirement, so they got partials. A few boys came to my lab for a tour and talk and got the badge completed in one day. It was a long day though.
      When I worked at summer camp I taught Pioneering. Some scouts came to work on their project and others did not. I was told by the camp and program directors to sign off on all the blue cards even if the boys did not work or attend class. Of course I refused to sign off on unearned badges. There were about 8 other camp staff that were coerced into signing off badges with the work not completed. Just because a person pays for a week of summer camp does not mean they bought the merit badges as well.

        • mariahwwa,
          I did not take that your comment was aimed at me. I was stating what I have observed over the years. I went back over your comments and I have not connected the dots yet to where you thought I was offended. I guess I am being thick in the head. I read them over 3 times and I still can’t find a link in your statement. I must really be thick.

    • sorry, I think being that controlling is just downright ignorant. If we had done that my grandson would not have attained all 4 of the 100th anniversary badges. I, for one, could not have guided him through those, and neither could anyone else in our troop. For instance, SIGNALING. Now, here you go. That badge was STARTED at an MBU, but it is/was WAY too extensive to complete in a day. It took him 5 separate meetings with PROFESSIONAL ham radio people to earn that badge. It means a lot to him because he had to work hard, it wasn’t GIVEN to him. But it DID START at an MBU.

  5. Eagle required badges earned at workshops where the scout (or his family) pay a fee for the one day event ($75 for two badges) looks questionable. Even if we assume that the counselors are registered with the local council, can we be comfortable that the counselors are maintaining high standards, rather than focusing on their profit?

    • I have a huge problem with charging to do merit badges as a counselor. I can understand charging when there is a facility or materials required, like for any water sport where you need to have a life guard. I tell our scouts to come to me for the merit badges that I am a counselor for and save the money.

      • At our MBUs most if not all of our counselors are volunteers. The money paid pays for the patch they get just for coming (not the badge). And our fees are $8 – $15 if you get pizza. The University of Missouri who puts one on – it’s done by the students in those particular fields, and it’s a little higher. It costs $20. So maybe all you guys who are paying these exhorbitant amounts needs to do an audit, lol, and find out ust what they are doing with your money!

    • Costs associated with these events are usually for building fees and a participation patch. I have NEVER seen a MB counselor get paid – EVER!

    • Well, I don’t know about your MBU’s….but every single one of them we have are done by volunteers – no pay. And the money….again, I don’t know about your council, but ours sucks. Sorry, being blunt. They take ALL the money. We get nothing for putting it on. I guess ours are just run differently. AND we don’t get 2 badges a day – just one unless they are simpler ones like Fingerprinting. Out of all the badges offered only 6 are 1/2 day ones.

      • I’ve been a counselor at a couple of MBUs. Did Citizenship in the World and Citizenship in the Nation a couple of times. The Scouts were advised before the MBU that there were prerequisites required to be finished and paperwork brought to the class. Most Scouts complied and most participated in the discussions. Taught the Law merit badge at the last MBU I worked and that experience soured me on doing it again. Some Scouts failed to bring the prerequisite(s) paperwork, it was hard to get them to participate, and the general attitude was “I showed up. Now give me the MB.” Maybe the different attitude was fostered because Law is an elective MB, not Eagle required. Now I help out with the administrative side.

  6. Hank. I’ve seen Scouts leave a 8 hour merit badge fair with 4-5 merit badges without doing any real previous work. I’ve seen a Scout come in, ask his leader for blue cards for the Citizenship badges (yes all three) and come back with three completed blue cards in less than two hours at these fairs. So “control freak”, no. Someone who thinks that the Scouts should do the requirements as written.

      • I agree that change needs to happen if your fair becomes a mill for paperwork. Someone does need to stand up for quality but the idea of the fair is a good idea.

    • The only MB colleges my troop has been involved with provide opportunities for scouts to earn 1 or 2 badges in a day (two classes of 3.5 hours each, or one 7-hour course). Many classes have published prerequisites and at least 1/3 result in partial completion. The counselors are all council approved and unpaid. It is common that an Eagle-required badge will not be completed in a full day class and MUCH less likely in a half-day class. These events aren’t perfect, but I am comfortable with them overall.

    • We have a “Merit Badge College” held in Fort Wayne, Indiana every year and it’s very well organized. It’s a shame that your experience with a merit badge fair has been so bad Mr. Poplawski. You really should come check ours out some time, you would be impressed!

    • Where on earth are these ‘fairs’? I’ve never heard of getting that many badges in a day. It can’t be done. Ours are almost always ONE, two in some circumstances. But only 6 of the 30 or so badges offered are 1/2 days. I don’t understand the concept you are seeing. It doesn’t happen here.

  7. What recourse does a Scout have if his rogue Scoutmaster refuses to give him a signed Merit Badge Application (aka Blue card)?

    • 1. Troop Advancement Chair.
      2. Troop Committee Chair.
      3. District Advancement Chair.
      4. Council Advancement Chair.

        • I’ve heard of a Scoutmaster who does not permit a troop member to finish the Eagle requirements before he is 15. I used to have a jaded opinion of 13 year old Eagle Scouts until I sat as our troop representative on the Eagle BoR for one of our troop’s Scouts. The young man was very articulate, expressed himself well, and at the Troop Court of Honor just before he aged out, he received his fourth Bronze Palm. He served in many leadership positions and definitely “gave back to Scouting . . .” Now what would his attitude have been in the other troop?

    • From the conversation at the start, it appears this SM has to control everything. My guess is that this is the tip of the iceberg. With this attitude, things are not going to get better. The parent and/or the scout will soon get a rep as being a troublemaker for making waves. They should leave, and take as many scouts with them as they can….maybe the SM would wise up then.

      BESIDES, according to BSA’s response – he won’t be ALLOWED to do that as soon as those rules he just posed are finalized.

  8. As a Counselor who just conducted a troop-based/specific MB fair this past weekend, you can provide the structure for expedited badge achievement – you just can’t cheat the requirements. With a little thoughtful communication in advance of the event and offering selected (lighter requirement and not time-bound) badges, both young and experienced Scouts can knock out a few to completion over a weekend. It’s all about Being Prepared, right?

    And, if you can’t feel comfortable about encouraging your Scouts to attend a Council-supported local Camp or Fair, you have bigger issues than merit badges.

  9. Hey Scouting magazine, you guys should reconsider your practice of putting questions in your headlines when there really is no question. Readers may think that the subject of the article is open for debate, rather than answered by National Council and the Advancement Committee. And you should stop with the ambiguities, like “highly discourages” — that’s a loophole big enough for some adults to drive a truck through…

    • But the post is a response to a question. People have the question that is put in the headline. The post then explains what the answer is according to current BSA policy. That’s the whole point of the ‘Ask the Expert’ series of posts.

      • Yeah, I get that. But as you can no doubt tell from the posts here, some readers interpret the question in the headline as invitation to discuss and debate the subject. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But a minor tweak to the headline might at least get them to read the article before jumping in:

        Ask The Expert: Can a troop prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp? Answer: No.

        or

        Expert Answers: A troop cannot prevent a Scout from earning a merit badge at a workshop or summer camp.

        Anyway, just a thought. Keep the tough topics coming, especially as the new GTA gets closer to release.

    • Jack, as Brian said, that’s the style for these Ask the Expert posts. My hope is to make these search-engine compatible, meaning if someone Googles this question, they’ll find this answer near the top of the results.

      As for the ambiguities, that one is intentional. Because technically, a Scoutmaster can get away with this practice under the 2011 Guide to Advancement. But he or she won’t be able to do this once the 2013 version comes out.

  10. With our troop it really depends on the workshop. Some are excellent and we are happy to support them, others are poor quality and we don’t support those. We explain this to the boys and we’ve never had a problem.

    • But it should still be the boys/parents choice, not the troops. It’s entirely possible (not saying in your case) that perhaps the SM or committee members have a beef with the troop putting on the MBU and are projecting their personal animosities forward. Don’t get me wrong. WE ARE ALL HUMAN, and are prone to this sort of thing whether we want to admit it or not.

      So, bottom line, if you don’t approve of an MBU, most definitely tell the scout how you feel and why, but the ultimate decision of whether to attend or not should be theirs, not yours (or any SM)

  11. I too have found several Scout Masters that discourage boys from going outside the troop sanctioned events for merit badges. Some were doing this because they didn’t want initiative oriented scouts to “advance to quickly”. Others were due because they have been doing this for so long and on their own, that they consider anything outside as never as good as what they provide. Some may call these “Rogue Troops”, or troops that participate in the bare minimum that their council provides. These troops do tend to have a top notch program, unfortunately it is only for those involved in the troop. I would recommend that those leaders be challenged to step up and make those merit badge fairs and summer camps more successful rather than requiring their scouts to only attend their sanctioned event. I am glad that this is being spelled out in the Guide to Advancement. I commend Hank in keeping his scouts experience of high quality. I would recommend that he motivates those regular counselors to provide a better program to the district/council. Maybe think outside the box for a longer event for merit badge work or over a series of events.

    • James: That’s a great idea that if a Troop doesn’t think a MB Forum/Fair is doing the requirements right, they should volunteer to do one of the MBs at it. I’ve never seen any volunteers turned down.

  12. I gotta tell ya, some of the points listed above for inclusion in the new GTA are barely an improvement over the wording in the current GTA, and still leave some unanswered questions, loopholes, and inconsistencies. Hopefully, the following will be addressed in the full text of the new GTA:

    * “Unit leaders should still have a discussion with a Scout before he begins work on a merit badge.” — *should* have a discussion? So the discussion is optional? And what if the discussion doesn’t happen, is that a problem for the scout when he submits a completed and signed blue card to his unit leader? What about requirements that are completed before this discussion? Do they count? Why should the timing of a discussion with a unit leader — or lack of a discussion — have any bearing on whether a properly registered merit badge counselor accepts or does not accept work done by the scout?

    * “The blue card signature no longer indicates “approval to begin work,” meaning a Scout may begin work on a merit badge before he has it, in most cases.” — In most cases? So there are some cases where a scout *cannot* begin work on a MB before this optional discussion? I hope the new GTA will clearly describe those cases, and why they are exceptions to the rule.

    * “Any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may begin work on any badge at any time, provided he’s had a discussion with his unit leader as indicated on the blue card.” — So the Scout can only begin work on an MB provided he’s had a discussion with his unit leader? Isn’t that inconsistent with the above points, which indicate that the “Scout may begin work on a merit badge before he has it, in most cases”.

  13. I’m a registered counselor with my Council and have helped numerous boys with obtaining Merit Badges. I have a son now who is 12 and is wanting to earn as many merit badges as he can. We try and find counselors for the badges he’s trying to earn, but is there an ethical reason why I can’t work with him on these badges or does he need to have a different counselor?

    • No, there is nothing that says the MBC cannot be a parent. How about a MB that is done at the Troop? Does everyone, but the son of the Instructor get the MB? Of course not. In our council, MBCs are encouraged to only due 6 MBs. In our Troop, our SMs would like for parents who are MBCs to offer to do the MB for everyone in the Troop that wants to do it. We are now doing the Personal Fitness MB every other week for the 30 minutes before the regularly scheduled meeting. They gave the test on the 1st meeting & are covering all the requirements in the other meetings (along with homework) until they reach the 12 weeks (3 month) requirement. If a parent signs up for a dozen MBs & the Scout does them in a short time, that may mean that the requirements are not being actually met.

      • We require the MB councilor to offer the class to everyone. If no one takes up the offer and she/he only does his/her son then that is the way it is.

        we have one parent that has done most of her son’s badges due to “sports conflicts”. Not much we can do as Council never backs us or loves to avoid conflict.

        • MIke, what do you mean by “not much we can do”? Assuming that the scout’s parent is a registered MBC with the Council, there is nothing you need to do. If she is not, then you cannot accept the blue cards as completed. If she is, and your unit leader feels that she is not doing a good job, then the unit leader should alert the District/Council Advancement Chair and she may be removed as an MBC.

        • Jack- Yes she is a MB councilor. It is one of those situations where the kid never attends meetings until right before eagle time (eagle now) and never attended campouts with us. He came from another troop alrady pre-advanced to life so have no idea how involved he was there.

          His younger brother is very inactive also but since we have him from the beginning we have more info to work with when advancement comes around.

          Like I said we have the rule that a parent who is also a MB counselor has to offer the MB to all scouts when doing a secession. If no one takes them up on the offer we tried.

          We have no proof the MB was conducted correctly or not. It just doesn’t look right. I am a MB counselor and would love other kids to join in but I know how I teach it and know I would treat my kid no different than another.

        • I am a scoutmaster for a very small troop in Wisconsin.

          On the point if merit badges, we make our son completely fill out the available online worksheets. He has done the work.

          My wife and I file each merit badge in its own folder along with the completed work. If we are ever questioned, we have the proof.

          Second, we participate in two troops. One locally so our son can be with his friends, and the other to double check his rank advancement. As a star scout, it would be far to easy for us to initial away the final steps to Eagle.

        • I do the same thing that Dan does and that is to file away each MB Worksheet in its own folder with its supporting documentation. The only difference is that I make my son file the stuff in the folder sometimes standing over him to make sure it gets done.

    • Legal is one thing, ethical is another. To avoid any possible appearance of favoritism, AND to give the boy and opportunity to interact with another adult (the Adult Association method) I recommend that counselors avoid working with their own sons. But it is not forbidden by the advancement guidelines.

      • To avoid the appearance of favoritism as a merit badge counselor. Offer to do the merit badge as a group.

        I offered the Computers mb to my entire troop. Helped the scouts with each requirement before moving on to the next one. I was totally open about the whole process.

        If you are a counselor for a rare mb, your child should not be punished because of appearences, again the ideal is for your son to be exposed to new people and make new friends. A group setting accomplishes that ideal.

        • Daniel-Agree. I would much rather work with a group than an individual. My time is precious but I want to share these topics with as many boys as possable. I teach both rare and popular Mb’s.

    • Not only is it not forbidden for a parent to counsel his/her own son, it is is expressly permitted by the GTA.

      • Thank you all for your comments. What I try and do with him is work through all the prerequisites together and then help him find “experts” in the related fields. For example, for the new Game Design MB one of the requirements is for him to visit with a Game Design Professional. It just so happens in our area is a division of EA which we both had the opportunity to go together and visit with some amazing people, making some neat video games. The sad part about it is I approached his SM and asked if he’d like to accompany us when we do these things and was turned down, so we went about it alone.

        I find the time we are spending together has been valuable and we’ve had a great time figuring out a lot of new things.

      • I am a MBC for Coin Collecting, but had my 1st Year Scout son do it at a MB Forum in one of the other council districts so he could do it through another MBC. Of course, I checked with MB Worksheet & that he had all his coins before he went. I also went over each requirement as there are times that with a group, there is not much individiual attention.

    • I believe the new guidelines for Eagle from National prevent you as a parent from signing off an Eagle Required MB for your own son, unless it was done as part of a group setting. Our Troop policy has been to have another leader present when the scout goes over the completed requirements and they counter sign the blue card.

      • Steve, by “new guidelines”, are you referring to guidelines that are coming, but have not yet been published? Because all the current publications that I’ve seen explicitly state that it is OK for a parent or guardian to counsel their own son, as long as they are a registered MBC. Without special restrictions for Eagle MBs or requiring group instruction.

        • On the other side, we assume a scout is honest as so is the MB counselor. But we probably all have seen cubscout parents with sharp pencils.

      • For clarification, does this mean that your Troop has at least 2 Scouters trained in every Eagle required Merit Badge so the 2 Counselors’ sons can go to the other for counseling/signatures? Or does this mean that the Troop allows their Scouts to work with non-Troop MBCs as long as they are not their parents? The reason that I am asking that in a small troop w/o a lot of adult participation or in a remote area (I grew up in a small town w/o a whole lot of adult participation so the SM served as the MBC for most MBs), it would not make sense if a parent who was a qualified MBC was doing the Hiking MB for the entire Troop could not sign off on his own son’s Blue Card.

        • We do. The policy is used to avoid the appearance of nepotism/favoritism, although I am sure that the father would probably be even more thorough with his son.

  14. Sorry, but “in house” MB counselors, chosen by the Troop encourage inbreeding and mediocrity, and discourage new points of view.

  15. As a district advancement chairman and counselor. I have an exellant merit badge staff. I review each counselors application prior to approval as a counselor. We have 2 Merit Badge Midways, that offer between 15 and 20 merit badges throughout the 8 hour day. We also offer a training class for both present and future counselors. I stress that it’s OK or permissable to give partials if the scout does not come prepared or has not done the pre-requisites needed, such as meeting with the counselors prior, as in some of the Citizenships and Family Life.. As a counselor for Collections, I’ve had boys walk in wih no preparation. If they haven’t contacted me prior to the event They don’t know my pre-requisites and are thus asked leave. I agree that these midways/fairs should limit the number of classes a scout should be able to take. Unfortunately I have encountered one counselor that apparently passed boys in his two hour class for Inventing merit badge. After each midway my MB coordinator, his staff and myself sit down and discuss any concerns and try to come up with ways of providing a quality merit badge midway. I know our First Aid MB classes run 4 & 6 hours. Both couselors require pre-requisites. As a suggestion to those who run Midways, each counselor should post what his Pre-Requisites are and what is expected from each boy when they attend their class. I make sure that the boy has read the book, as I have them bring a ‘book report’ answering questions from throughout the book. Remember counselors “NO MORE, NO LESS”.

    • Frank: There is no requirement to read the Merit Badge Pamphlet even though it will help the Scout complete the MB easier so you are asking the Scout to “DO MORE”. You cannot also ask the Scout to do a “Book Report” if that is not one of the requirements. You can ask the Scout to use a MB Worksheet to complete some of the requirements, but again there is no requirement that the Scout must do so.. The MB Worksheet, however, allows the Scout to take notes so when it says “discuss”, “explain” as it jogs his memory for discussion with the MBC or gives the Scout a place to make necessary drawings w/o doing it on a blank sheet of paper. Both reading the MB Pamphlet & Book Report violates the “NO MORE, NO LESS” for meeting the requirements.

      • Our MBU’s (not mine – but those in our area) always list the classes along with any required pre-requisites BEFORE you enter. You know before you pay. I understand no more, no less. However, coming prepared so that you can actually get your card signed off, is simply part of scouting – BE PREPARED.

  16. As a former advancement chair for our troop, I have seen many boys go to workshops and colleges for their badges. Our only rule was pertaining to Eagle required badges. We would allow the boys to take these classes at camps or workshops, but when they were done, they had to conference with one of our troop Eagle MB guys. This was done similar to a scoutmaster conference, simply to ensure that the boy got what he was supposed to get from the badge work. Never had a problem with this practice and we have had an awesome number of good Eagle Scouts over the years!

      • C.G. You are right that it violates the “NOTHING MORE, NOTHING LESS” rule because it adds an additional hurdle for the Scout to jump over. Once the MBC signs the Blue Card that the requirement is met, the Troop has to accept the Badge as complete unless there are very extenuating rules. Accoring to the GTA, there is still wriggle room for the Troop not to accept but it is says that the Scout should not be punished for the mistakes of an adult.

  17. It depends! Our troop avoids some workshops and fairs due to their reputation of being “merit badge mills” while we allow Scouts to attend others. The Merit Badge College at Baylor University is an example of an excellent event.

  18. I take exception with those that equate ALL MB Forums/Fairs as being MB factories. If a MBC is not doing it right, talk with the District Advancement Chair so that the MBC is counseled to take corrective action or to recommend to the Council that the MBC be decertified.

    I taught at my 1st District MB Forum in March and asked the Scouts to meet the requirements, “nothing more, nothing less.” The MB Forum was done in 90 minutes over 2 days (Scouts could only do 2 MBs) about a month a part from each other. For Coin Collecting, I went over the material in the 1st meeting. The 2nd meeting was spent making sure that each Scout met the requirements as stated. I did this thru a quiz, the presentation of their Coin collections, hands on (show how to look up a coin in a catalog), and homework (show that you went to a website & provide information about what you saw).

    Scouts who did not meet the requirements, did not receive a completed Blue Card. I even had 2 Scouts that did not return to the 2nd session for whatever reason as many thought that I was just going to sign off on their card because someone else in the class answered the question & they heard it. Those that did not do their homework or forgot to bring in their coin collections for the 2nd day did nto receive credit for those requirements. Only about 75% of the Scouts completed the requirement.

    A couple of weeks ago, two other MBCs & i conducted the 2nd American Heritage MB Forum at the National World War I Museum. We had 28 Scouts for a class limited to 24, but we survived. It took the Scouts from 8:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon to complete the requirements. If the Scouts failed to do the prerequisites, they did not receive a completed Blue Card.I thought it was interesting that at least three of the Scouts that had been in my Coin Collecting MB at the Forum also chose to take the American Heritage MB from me.

    The quality of the MB Forum/Fair depends upon the instructors and if a Troop has an issue with the quality of the instruction, they need to follow the proper channels to get the MBC retrained or eliminated instead of just declaring outside MBs off-limits for their troop. As for all Boy Scout requirements, no one–even Scoutmasters–cannot add anything or take away anything from a requirement. This includes Merit Badges also.

  19. Thomas S asked: Does the BSA allow for a troop to establish a local policy that prohibits the Scout from taking Eagle Required MBs at fully sanctioned and approved events?

    Answer: No

    A couple of comments on MB events and Summer Camp MBs..National has 2 separate groups looking at these areas. The recent May Advancement News has a survey on Summer Camp MBs which I encourage everyone to take and give your opinion and experiences.

    MB events and Summer Camp MBs are both under the purview and oversight of your Council Advancement Committee and as such should have their program reviewed before the event is offered. For MB Events as some have said there are good ones and not so good ones (like one day ones). The one I’ve run for 8 years starts with registration in October, prereqs are announced and expected to be completed before the first session in January. Each class is an hour and a half and has a max of 10 scouts. Then there is a month break for the scouts to do any additional work/projects etc and they return for their second hour and a half in February and hopefully receive a completed blue card. We do 14 different MBs and have about 325 scouts attend. This model has been cloned for at least two other MB events in our council.

    • Ok, I’m trying to bite my tongue. You are calling one day events ‘not so good’, and yet you have the audacity to say that doing 2 90 minute sessions is better? WHAT? How? In what universe? Our scouts have to learn patience, lol, as well as the badge. They are in school (usually done in spring) and they are giving up a WHOLE DAY – 8 hours – to earn ONE badge. How in blue blazes is this less quality than a 3 hour course. I’m confused!

      • You have to add in the time the scout has before and between the actual on site times. If the one day event is truly 8 hours on one MB that’s one thing but my experience is that they are not especially if scouts are “earning” multiple MBs as some have described at the event

  20. This has always been a place where our Council has excelled, IMO. Our normal day of Summer Camp or Winter Camp consists of 4 – 1 hour, 15 minute sessions during the daytime plus 1 or 2 2-3 hour classes in the evening. On top of this, there are a few times during the year where a Scout has an opportunity to work on 1 or 2 merit badges during special events. No matter the environment, they will be told up front if a badge cannot be completed, and their leader will be given their paperwork along with a list of incomplete requirements. As one who grew up as a Scout here, and having experienced it first-hand, it works very well.

    • Our council works like this (camp). On Monday-Tuesday mornings (3.5 hour period) is one badge. On Monday-Tuesday afternoon is one badge. And likewise repeaetd on Wednesday-Thursday same format. Therefore the most they can get is 4 badges MAX. If they take Em. Pr. – that is all morning or afternoon for all 4 days. Fridays are reserved for fun and/or completion of requirements not finished M-Th. Evenings are reserved for fun – no badge work. So our camp is definitely NOT a badge mill.

  21. The key here is District/Council involvement. Merit Badge Colleges are supposed to be held to standard and if they aren’t it’s time to discontinue it. If you see questionable standards, address it at that level. They boy cannot be required to earn it again, but you can prevent others from falling through the cracks.

    Bottom line, don’t penalize the boys for the shortcomings of adults.

  22. I completely understand why Scoutmasters do not want their scouts going to these merit badge factories. The problem is that all events aren’t bad and they do widen a scout’s prospective. What would be interesting is to know the success rate for each badge at an event vs in the troop. I think some percentage would clearly define if it is a MB factory or not. I personally like a strict troop. I feel my son has to earn his way. These days there are too many giveaways. It’s ruining out country.

    • I would also like to add that there are also factories in the troops themselves. That’s why the scouts should visit several troops and decide which one will work best for them. District and Counsel and National can make all sorts of policies but the troop is where the scouts are developed. You will never get every troop operating the same. You can’t and why would you, each has it own set of challenges and objectives and leadership.

    • I don’t know what the overall completion rate is for MB Forums/Fairs, but it was only about 75% for Coin Collecting (Fairly easy one if the Scout brings in his coin collections & does his prerequisites). Two Scouts did not even return for Day 2 of the MB Forum. For the 1st time I did the American Heritage MB Fair at the National WWI Museum, 16/18 received it. The 2 that did not receive it did not do their pre-requisites. When we did it the 2nd time, 100% did but I really pushed making sure everyone brought their homework/prerequisites with them and most were from the same Troop whose SM made sure the prereqs were done.

  23. As a scoutmaster, it is my responsibility to review the requests of my scouts and determine if the merit badge they are attempting is appropriate to their abilities.

    If a scout has a bad experience with a counselor, ie one who rubber stamps a blue card, the scoutmaster should give future scouts the name of a different mb counselor to work with.

    Unfortunately with over 130 merit badges, getting a counselor may be difficult with harder lesser earned badges. It then makes it necessary for the scout to go elsewhere to earn a badge.

    The National Railroad Museum in Green Bay, WI offers a great clinic every November. The clinic was fun for our whole family. I doubt that the same experience could have been achieved by a scout having a session with a counselor and a few other scouts.

    My family looks forward to travelling to new cities. We meet new people, make new friends, and allow our son to spread his wings as a young man.

    If a troop limits a scouts ability to earn merit badges by using restrictive policies, go to a new troop.

  24. No wonder BSA is in the mess it is in. ll you have to do is read the rules for receiving a merit badge, then follow them. No more, no less! Oh wait, in the currently PC-BSA the rules can change in a six month period.

  25. My son took Chemistry merit badge at the local museum this past weekend (6 hours, minus 30 minutes for lunch.) The instructor started the class by telling the Scouts that their parent had paid to rent them a seat, purchase the chemicals, and pay for his time. Their parents had not purchased a merit badge, and if they didn’t participate in the discussions, take notes, fill out the paperwork, and help their table with the experiments, that they wouldn’t be getting a blue card.

    I sat through the whole class, and saw good participation from everyone, so I don’t know if he would have actually followed through on it.

  26. Thank you for the clarification and ban on restricting scouts from getting merit badges outside of the troop setting. I always felt that some scouts may have gotten a pass on requirements from troop adults because of being connected to the troop. My experience is that the counselor should be extremely familiar with the badge topic. Such as a teacher, civic leader or historian for the citizenships type badges or an EMT, Paramedic, Nurse or Doctor for first aid, medicine and public health badges, etc. Most troops may not have a person of expertise in the 21 different topics needed for Eagle Scout.

  27. I don’t think that any unit or unit leader should ever hold a scout back from working on a MB. He’s not going to become a expert from doing any of these MBs. But they will give him more insight, and open his eyes to a subject. I do think that doing th eMB correct is justified. But not allowing a scout to earn MBs at events etc??? I mean what is this about anyway. Your not making super scouts here. YOu opening doors and teaching boys to become men. I do agree that some MBs should be done later in age. Some boys really aren’t ready for some of the MBs out there. So this helps with the SM talking over with a scout and if needed his parents first. Example, of a parent doing the work or pushing the scout to work on MBs. I talk to my son about it, and give him advice when he needs it. But I don’t do the work for him. Nor do I tell him which MBs to do. He does tend to work on MBs to discover something new as he’s gotten older. And I think that the majority of the MBs are meant more for that. Giving the scouts a subject to learn about, and open their eyes to different things.. Things they might not normally look at..

    • Amen- we aren’t building “super scouts”. Merit badges are an introduction into a topic, and hopefully builds in interest that the scout will pursue at a later time.

  28. I don’t think it should be prohibited. However, I do think that the organizers of merit badge fairs etc. and unit leaders alike need to realize that for most merit badges, work outside the event is required to complete them and that MBCs MUST NOT sign off for completion of merit badges UNLESS the Scout has done this work already.

  29. What about National Jamboree?? How does a youth get pre-approval for a MB that they don’t know is going to be happening? WHICH SM has to approve? Is it the ‘home troop’? Is it any one of the Jambo SMs?

    My (Eagle with Palms) son earned RailRoading MB at the 2001 National Jamboree. He did not go w/ the intention of earning the badge — we went to check it out. It was only a day trip. As we were passing MB Midway from where we parked the car, he was OFFERED to take the class to ‘fill openings’. He took the class, and his father and I wandered around the National Exhibits/MB Midway for a few hours.

    When we returned to his home troop with the ‘bluecard’ (third sheet of carbonless paper) from the National Jamboree, his Scoutmaster nearly turned it down because it had not been ‘pre-approved’. Railroading is not a MB offered in our council (by any of our MB Counselors). The SM eventually relented when my son was able to tell him all about trains, crossings, train safety, etc. He did **EARN** the badge. But then had to ‘prove’ it later.

    As a part of the Electronics and Electricity MB’s at National Jambo for 2005 and 2010, I can say that the youth who participated in those two MBs (nearly 1,000 each year!) EARNED their MBs. Electronics was a 5 to 5 1/2 hour commitment to get the whole badge — and walk away with a cool device with LEDs and switches, etc that the youth built themselves. Electricity was 3 hours with nothing they built, but they got a voltmeter to take w/ them. (Thank you sponsors!)

    • From what I understand what we are doing here, we work out pre-approvals with the JAMBO SM. Also National has provided special processes for the JAMBO which is why they don’t use Blue Cards.

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