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Ask the Expert LIVE: Your advancement questions answered in real time

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Updated, Nov. 22 | The chat is over, but the transcript remains. See below. And stay tuned for future Ask the Expert: LIVE events!

You’ve got advancement-related questions. He’s got answers.

At 11 a.m. Central Time on Friday, Nov. 22, Chris Hunt, the BSA’s Advancement Team leader, will join us for an hourlong live chat, which you can access at the link below. (That’s noon Eastern, 10 a.m. Mountain and 9 a.m. Pacific.)

I’ll moderate, and Chris will answer your queries live. If you’d like a head start, feel free to comment below with your questions, and I’ll try to incorporate them into the live chat if there’s time.

And if you can’t make the chat, don’t fret. I’ll update this post with a transcript soon after we’re done.

If this Ask the Expert: LIVE experiment succeeds, I’ll find other BSA experts to answer your questions about other topics, including Health and Safety, the Eagle Scout Award and more.

LINK FOR THE LIVE CHAT Transcript

Click Here for the transcript (opens in a new window)

48 Comments on Ask the Expert LIVE: Your advancement questions answered in real time

  1. Lisa Wimberly // November 18, 2013 at 5:08 pm // Reply

    If the Venturing Silver Award is the equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award, why do we not have to do District Boards of Review for the Silver Award? Our District Advancement Chairman wants to start holding Boards of Review for the Silver Award. I am concerned that it would not be appropriate since that would be adding a step that other Venturers in other Districts would not have to do.

    • There are a number of reasons, among them is that not very many Venturers utilize the Venturing advancement program, and we don’t really want to put up additional hurdles, and most feedback that we receive indicates that crews do a fine job of conducting the reviews on their own. We would also prefer that advancement committees turn their attention to helping increase the number of youth who advance.

  2. Please see an excerpt below from an email I received from our scoutmaster. Is this allowed?
    I don’t believe it would be fair to punish other scouts to preclude them from appointed leader positions. Especially the outgoing patrol leader.

    Also, it seems that it is requiring another scout to be part of another scouts advancement.

    Please let me know your thoughts! Thanks so much.

    Excerpt:

    The June PLC also made a change to the process for requesting an appointed leader position. Before a scout from a patrol can request an appointed leader position, someone from that patrol must be running for patrol leader. If no one has spoken with me regarding running for patrol leader, then the scouts in that patrol may not request to serve in any appointed leader positions.
    End of excerpt.

    .

    __,_._,___

    • Interesting way to solve a problem of youth not stepping up. It would be interesting to hear how other troops handle it.

    • It’s a moot point, because you can’t have a patrol without a patrol leader.
      If there is no patrol leader, the patrol dissolves and its members join other patrols.

    • There is nothing in our advancement policies and procedures that precludes this practice. That doesn’t mean we endorse it, however. Unless there are some particular issues behind the decision, on the surface it seems arbitrary and counter productive.

  3. Brian J. Woznicki, M.S. // November 18, 2013 at 6:09 pm // Reply

    Is there a standard process for proposing a new Merit Badge? Thanks!

    • Yes. Send your suggestion to merit.badge@scouting.org.

  4. John Hammonds // November 19, 2013 at 12:02 am // Reply

    How about some Insight Into The 4X4 Matrix Changes Coming To Venturing. Is Ranger Award Staying?

    • Ranger award is staying.

  5. If a Scout attends summer camp as a Counselor In Training (CIT), which is usually a week-long training session, and upon successfully completing the training, he is offered a summer camp staff position the following summer, why can’t that Scout be allowed to wear a “Trained” badge? BSA has certain training programs that are less strenuous and comprehensive as CIT training, but Scouts in those programs are permitted to wear the “Trained” badge. This discrepancy does not seem fair. Thanks!

    • Matt Culbertson // November 19, 2013 at 9:54 am // Reply

      My understanding from the BSA Insignia Guide is that only “Boy Scout youth leaders who have completed Introduction to Leadership Skills, den chiefs (Boy Scouts or Venturers) who have completed Den Chief Training, and elected Venturers who
      have completed the crew officers’ seminar or Introduction to Leadership Skills may wear the Trained Leader emblem with their badge of office”

  6. Can the Arrow of Light rank combine the 3 & 6 months time requirement into 6 months. Or is it 3 months and then 6 months, making it a total of 9 months active. Also, what’s Active mean in Cubscouts/Webelos. Since there is that requirement.

    • Your first is an interesting question. I am curious about that too. I can see that being an issue if you have a new fifth grade Webelos Scout. In my experience, 9 months is the answer.

      My Den earned the Webelos Rank Badge after the first 3 months of 4th grade. The AOL Award time requirement didn’t start for most until the following mid-May when they were promoted to 5th grade. (They had summer birthdays.) They earned the AOL Award in late November of 5th grade and crossed over to Boy Scouts in January. Rarely was a Scout absent, so we didn’t have the “What is Active?’ issue. The Boy Scout Trooop is an entirely other animal.

      • H. David Pendleton // November 21, 2013 at 11:39 am // Reply

        I interpret this the other way. The Webelos Badge requires 3 months active time in the den. The AOL requires 6 months active time from the end of 4th grade or their 10th birthday, whichever is later. It also requires the Scout to earn the Webelos Badge, but it does not say to earn the Webelos Badge first before starting the clock for the AOL. Thus, a 5th grader who joins on 15 August would reach the 6-month mark on 15 February. If they worked on their Webelos Badge & AOL at the same time, I would think that they have met the requirements of both awards.

        I think that National should come up with an exact interpretation so different councils are not doing it differently.

        • I would agree with David here. The requirement is clear: 3 month for WEBELOS rank. 6 months total for Arrow of Light. If they wanted it the other way, it would read 6 months after obtaining the WEBELOS rank. To me, it’s clear, and makes it more obtainable for scouts to earn both.

  7. Matt Culbertson // November 19, 2013 at 1:44 pm // Reply

    What are the levels of approval for Advancement Changes?

    For example…what can you do at your level?

    Does the National Advancement Committee vote and approve all minor changes to MBs/Rank requirements?

    Which ones would need National Executive Board approval?

    We’ve heard of the impending Cub and Venturing Program changes in 2014/2015. Are there any major changes to Boy Scout requirements?

    • The National Advancement Committee approves any and all changes to advancement requirements (including merit badges) as long as they don’t affect the essential content, purpose, or intent of the requirement. For changes that go beyond this limitation the National Program Content Committee must approve the change. Normally changes at that level must also get final approval from the National Executive Board.

      There are changes coming in Boy Scout advancement, too, but they are not as extensive. Service and fitness, for example, will get some additional emphasis. Most of the requirements, and also the structure of the ranks will remain the same.

      • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm // Reply

        Thanks Chris…so would a new MB or extensive change like Cooking and Cycling MBs fall under the NPCC as an essential content change since they are handled by a separate office? I would assume that the NEB had to approve Cooking becoming Eagle Required again?

  8. My concern as a troop advancement chair, is that the transition between programs seems to be caught between the two centuries: no longer just paper application forms (in triplicate), not yet digitized, and ripe for data loss.

    Webelos advancement to Scouting, for example: The information about a Cub and his family is recorded, hopefully accurate, and not terribly difficult to pass along to a troop. At least in my experience, however, year after year we use the paper forms to transfer or re-register people. I can count on Data fields being left blank, such as ID# or birthdate, perhaps because the person filling the form out is in a hurry, and certainly would not know their ID — making for extra work to reconcile unit records with the Council — in addition to Internet Advancement and the MyScouting records.

    My question is, is there a best-practice source that you or others in this forum, might recommend? I’m acquainted with the link on the new MyScouting, but that’s not the answer — yet. It may be as basic as having our UC provide the unit rosters for the pack(s) that feed into the troop — at least that’s where I’m going to start once I post this. :)

    • The new MyScouting tools will eventually solve these issues. Advancement will be the next release–sometime in Quarter 1, 2014, we hope.

  9. Mark Scheiderer // November 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm // Reply

    Question 1
    What is the proper flow of the “Application for Merit Badge” (or Blue Card) once it has been completed and turned into the unit by the Scout?
    Is it to be turned into the Council as an attachment to the advancement report?
    Is it to be retained by unit for their records? Note there is a space on the application for the unit advancement chair to record that the merit badge was presented and recorded.

    Question 2
    Is there a complete list of awards that require applications that must be submitted with advancement reports? Every time I go turn in an advancement report I am told that despite having it on the report form an award requires an application. Could Internet Advancement be programmed to provide a warning?

    Question 3
    With regard to the long standing axiom of advancement as found in the 2013 Guide of Advancement “5.0.1.4 Statement on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement
    “No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements.”

    Can a council advancement committee require the submission of the Eagle application and associated required documents (workbook, life statement, reference letters) in a three ring notebook with everything in page protectors. In our council this book is ALSO required to contain:

    council Eagle checklist
    pocket certificates of all past boy scout ranks in baseball card storage sheets
    pocket certificates and Blue cards for the 21 Merit badges required for Eagle in baseball card storage sheets
    additional certificates for Scouting, school, church, and other extra curricular activities-this may be perceived as minor and optional but some BOR members interpret it as required and because there is and additional pre-review as noted below in question 4 the process will not be allowed to continue beyond that step unless it is corrected and in the case of my troop we stopped presenting certificates for troop leadership positions. The multiple signatures on the Eagle applications should suffice.

    Question 4
    Can a council advancement committee require the youth to attend an additional pre-review called a Scout Troop Eagle Evaluation Review in which a district advancement team members chairs and three unit members attend where both the book as noted above is administrative reviewed as well as a pre-Eagle BOR is held?

    • I second question #2. We use Troopmaster software and it popped up notifying me that one of the Scouts had earned the World Conservation award and printed out the form for me. Went to turn it in and was told it wasn’t really needed. We also have some scouts that completed LNT training and when I tried to get their patch I was told I needed a form. The forms required for knot patches are also too hard to find. Too much inconsistency.

    • Question 1: See GTA 7002. Troop should keep one portion of the card. Scout and counselor get the other two portions. There is no requirement that blue cards be submitted to the council.

      Q2: I cover the advancement program, so can’t really address this one, except to say that the only application that’s required is the Eagle Scout Rank Application.

      Q3: No. Councils are not authorized to add the requirement that a binder must be submitted, nor are they authorized to require the certificates you mention. That said, however, they could ENCOURAGE such a practice–there may be some good lessons involved–but they can’t make this a REQUIREMENT.

      Q4: No again. In fact such a practice could detract from the process. We don’t want Scouts going through mock boards of review either. Simply put, these sorts of things that establish additional hurdles are misguided and inappropriate. If we wanted Scouts to go through them, we would write them into the program.

      • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 3:05 pm // Reply

        My comment on #2 is that the only other application I’ve had in addition to the IA report is one for an Eagle Palm since the Scout Exec has to sign and they want to verify that you haven’t already used a MB on a previous Palm app

        My comment on #3 is it isn’t a requirement but to me it falls under the category of “Just do it”. It makes a nicely organized and presented package that shows the EBOR that the scout put forth some effort to show off his achievements and can transition to a nice memento.

  10. Wozzo the Wonder Dog // November 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm // Reply

    Not directly on topic but I’d like to see the Blue Card re-designed to include (at least): (i) the counselor’s BSA ID number, (ii) the counselor’s email address, and (iii) a notice regarding YPT completion for the counselor.

    • We thought about doing this, but decided not to. Too many counselors won’t know their ID, some won’t be willing to share their email address. Adding something about YPT may have merit, but I’m not sure the blue card is the place to provide this notification.

  11. QUESTION 1: When Merit Badges are done during summer camp but not completed at summer camp, it is my understanding that the scout needs to find a counselor in the same area and finish up the requirements. He would receive a new card for the new counselor to fill out and NORMALLY the previous work would be accepted and the scout would just complete. Is this the correct route or can the Advancement chair / SM just sign off that the scout finished it outside summer camp?

    QUESTION 2: In my readings the one thing that the Scoutmaster should do and not delegate is the Scoutmaster Conference for Rank Advancement. Is this true? And what responsibilities should the Scoutmaster not delegate if possible?

    QUESTION 3: Merit Badges done during troop weekly meetings. Should this be considered normal and acceptable for the PLC’s to schedule Merit Badges during Weekly meetings and in what situation and number of merit badges a year should this be done? It is my understanding MB is an individual scout’s choice and should be limited during Troop meetings, for this process is to encourage individual interest and interaction in planning / working with MB counselors.

    QUESTION 3: Parents teaching their own son’s merit Badges. How many merit badges would be considered acceptable for a Parent sign off on a siblings blue card when done within a group setting? I have been reading this and it appears that Parent/sibling relationship should be limited in order for the scout to grow in scheduling and talking to “unfamiliar” adults to work on merit badges.

    QUESTION 4: When a scout refuses to do his responsibilities in his position (over several situations) what are the acceptable routes to take after speaking to parents and scout many times of the importance of his responsibilities? Go to next leadership chain? Remove leader and have scouts re-elect? Ect…

    • H. David Pendleton // November 21, 2013 at 11:59 am // Reply

      Tom: Your second Question 3 is answered in the 2013 Guide to Advancement. There is nothing wrong with parents that are MBCs signing off on their son’s MBs that they qualified for either in a group setting or an individual setting.

      That being said, a Troop can set a limit on how many MBs a Scout can get from one particular MBC. The Troop, however, must hold all Scouts to the same number and make it applicable for all MBCs. In other words, the Troop CANNOT say that Mr. Johnson who is Johnny Johnson’s Father can only be a MBC for 3 of Johnny’s MBs, but the Scoutmaster can be the MBC for 10 MBs just because he is the SM.

      Our Troop highly encourages parents who are MBCs who are going to work with their son on a MB to offer it up for the entire Troop. I counsel 6 MBs & offered up the 4 my son did not have for the Troop. Each MB was the type that could be done in 2 sessions with work done either before or between the sessions. Thus, I set it up to do it before 2 Monday meetings 2 or 3 weeks apart starting an hour before the meeting. I did a different MB in Aug, Sep, Oct, & Nov. Aug was American Heritages: 3 Scouts showed up in addition to my son. For the next time we met, only 2 showed up besides my son. My son was the only one that completed all the work. I gave a partial to the other two & the next week they saw me after the regular meeting to finish it up.

      For September, 2 Scouts showed up besides my son for Photography. Two weeks later, only one showed up. Both met all the requirements so they completed the MB after we watch slide shows of their presentations. I haven’t heard from the other Scout.

      For October, we did Genealogy but only one other Scout showed up besides my son. For the second meeting, my son was the only one with the requirements completed so the other one got a partial. That Scout has failed to followed thru even though I am at almost every Scout meeting.

      For November, we did Collections. Another Scout showed up for the initial meeting, but not the second one. My son earned his by completing all the requirements.

      I offered the MBs to the entire Troop, but my son was the only one that completed them all. None of these were Eagle so maybe that is why the other Scouts didn’t come. I’m still available if the others want to finish the MB they started or if another one wants to start.

    • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm // Reply

      Q4…Easy..the GTA covers this…if the scout is not meaning unit expectations and producing results in his POR, remove him immediately as to not give him any further credit. Have aSM Conference telling him he will not be assigned to any further positions until he gets his act together.

  12. My question: Is it permissible for a troop to require their Scouts to use ONLY troop adults as counselors for Eagle required merit badges and to set specific age requirements for scouts working towards eagle? e.g., the troop does not allow Scouts under 14 to advance to Eagle.

    • That’s an easy question to answer. NO.

      Any Scout can earn any Merit Badge at any time from any counselor. It is strongly recommended that Scouts use counselors other than their own parents or parents from within their Troop–that’s the whole purpose behind the Merit Badge program, to introduce them to subjects and people outside their own areas.

      If your Troop does not allow Scouts under 14 to advance to Eagle, you need to find another Troop NOW. No one can add, change or otherwise alter any requirements.

      The debate on how young is too young to earn Eagle has gone on for decades, but the policy is quite clear from the BSA on this: you can’t set up your own rules regarding advancement, and that is clearly what is going on there.

      • H. David Pendleton // November 21, 2013 at 12:10 pm // Reply

        While it is recommended for Scouts to use other MBCs besides their parents, it is not forbidden. Direct from the GTA:

        “Approved counselors may work with and pass
        any member, including their own son, ward, or relative.
        Nevertheless, we often teach young people the
        importance of broadening horizons. Scouts meeting with
        counselors beyond their families and beyond even their
        own units are doing that. They will benefi t from the
        perspectives of many “teachers” and will learn more as a
        result. They should be encouraged to reach out.”

        A Troop can also limit the number of MBs a Scout can receive thru any one MBC, but it must be consistent throughout the entire troop. See my other post above for more details.

  13. John Pinchot // November 22, 2013 at 8:44 am // Reply

    As a MBC is understand that the 2013 Guide of Advancement “5.0.1.4 Statement on Unauthorized Changes to Advancement “No council, committee, district, unit, or individual has the authority to add to or subtract from advancement requirements”. Requirements can be interpreted differently by different people. I am having a problem with scouts interpreting them in such as to do the least amount of work possible. In most cases, it is actually the scout parent screaming at me that I should sign off on something because if you interpret the requirement a certain way, his or her son completed it. What should a MBC do in a situation like this?

    • The best thing to do is to read the requirements literally, as they are written. If they require minimal work then “it is what it is.” We TRY to write requirements so they don’t need a lot of interpretation. Sometimes we do that well; sometimes not. If you have questions about the interpretation of specific requirements, please send them to advancement.team@scouting.org and we’ll help you out. Questions directed to that mailbox have helped us clarify a number of requirements so it helps us too. Don’t be shy.

    • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 3:21 pm // Reply

      You don’t say which MB this is and give examples of which requirements

      However, excuse the screaming, helicopter scout parent from the area and tell the scout that unfortunately you will not be able to continue as his MBC and you will assist him by telling his SM to find you another one. I’m going to guess the SM will not be surprised.

    • John Pinchot // November 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm // Reply

      There are lots of examples. At Roundtable, leaders often exchange stories about some of the ridiculous stories they have heard.

      E-prep has the following requirement.

      8. Do the following:

      a. Prepare a written plan for mobilizing your troop when needed to do emergency service. If there is already a plan, explain it. Tell your part in making it work.

      b. Take part in at least one troop mobilization. Before the exercise, describe your part to your counselor. Afterward, conduct an “after-action” lesson, discussing what you learned during the exercise that required changes or adjustments to the plan.

      We have an Eagle scout that is about to age out and is doing his Eagle project this weekend. He had the SPL send a text to everyone telling them he is also going to do this requirement at his Eagle project this weekend. The troop does not have an existing plan. He is not going to discuss this plan with the troop or MBC or get any kind of approval.

      For part a., he can write down that his mobilization plan is to have the SPL text everyone. The entire plan would be one sentence. The requirement just says “plan”. It does not have to be a good one.

      For part b., he is telling everyone who attends his Eagle project that they too will get credit for this requirement. It does say he is supposed to discuss it with his MBC before. It does not say the MBC has to agree or approve. All he has to do is say, “hey I’m going to do this. The “after-action” report, “I did it, now sign my blue card”. “Hurry up, my dad’s waiting”.

      • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm // Reply

        The Plan is for “Emergency Service”. The soon to age out scout may think his EP is an emergency. An Emergency Service plan requires more than one email.

        • John Pinchot // November 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm //

          The requirement just says “written plan”. It does not specify that it has to be more than one sentence or that it has to be a good plan.

        • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm //

          John…one word or sentence plan or not this scenario still doesn’t meet the requirement as it is not an emergency service. If he balks, tell him you will not sign it off and suggest he contact his SM to find another MBC. You are under no obligation to put up with this nonsense

    • John Pinchot // November 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm // Reply

      One of my favorites was we had a scout at summer camp who was working on the First Aid merit badge. He received a partial and was supposed to do the part on teaching a first aid skill to another person on his own. His mother was at camp and was upset that he was not getting the badge. Before we left. He taught her how to treat a blister and wanted me to sign his blue card. The requirement does not say who you have to teach or what skill. It does not even say you have to teach the skill correctly. He (more like his mom) picked the easiest skill and had him teach it to her.

      I usually have scouts working on the First Aid merit badge teach ta skill to first year scouts. I had three scouts who needed to complete this requirements and gathered a group of first year scouts. The first two did great. They were obviously prepared. The third obviously wasn’t and provided incorrect information. He and his father insisted I sign his blue card because he had “taught” someone a skill.

      • Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm // Reply

        The requirement is “Teach another Scout a first-aid skill selected by your counselor.” So Mom is out of luck and incorrectly teaching a skill is not teaching so Dad is out of luck too

  14. At our last roundtable there was some discussion of Life Scout Requirement 6g, the EDGE teaching option using an Eagle required merit badge. A question came up about the merit badge counselor’s role in this process. It seems logical that any affected MB counselor should be involved in this from square one, since he/she will be the one signing the blue card. Should the counselor participate in coaching the Scout who will do the teaching on both the skills to be taught and application of the EDGE method? Should the counselor be involved in all phases of observation of the teaching, and in approval of the teacher and learner in passing their respective requirements?

    • Hi Steve! Thanks for all your help with our educational presentations. You’ve helped take us to another level.

      To answer your question, a MBC could be involved, but this is not required. The idea is simply to provide another option for the teaching Scout. The Scout, of course, must not sign off the merit badge requirement. He’s just providing some teaching that may help the “students” when the time comes to meet with the MBC. It would enhance the result if MBCs were involved, but not all troops would be in a position to do this.

  15. Love this idea of asking an Expert.
    Not so much a fan of the coveritive.com format.
    Seems slow waiting for questions to be typed and answered. Thought we’d be able to “hear” conversations on the topics.

    Anymeeting.com’s free service (advertisements on the sides) allows 200 people to log in, you can have powerpoints, screen shots, etc. You can mute everyone, allow certain people to talk and best of all, we can HEAR answers. I don’t work for the company, but we used it here in the Atlanta Area Council for a popcorn training session and it worked great!

  16. The annual Boy Scout requirements book (33216) is not currently available as a downloadable PDF, that could be saved and used on a iPad/iPhone. What can be done to make this available in soft copy? It’s not always handy to have to carry the hard copy, when we have our tablets already.

  17. Matt Culbertson // November 22, 2013 at 12:42 pm // Reply

    Bryan…how will the questions posted above be answered? Thanks

  18. Can we get a copy of the Q&A?

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