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Merit badge requirements completed but no blue card — now what?

expertlogo1Four years ago, Boy Scout Aaron, now 15, began working on Theater merit badge.

He acted in school plays and worked backstage at school musicals.

There’s just one problem: nobody told his Scoutmaster.

That means Aaron didn’t have a blue card. Or a merit badge counselor, for that matter.

So are the curtains closed on Theater merit badge for Aaron? Or can he still count some of that experience toward the badge requirements?

The basic answer is this: It’s up to the merit badge counselor, not the Scoutmaster, to determine whether the requirement was fulfilled. The Scout will have the burden of providing evidence that he indeed did the work — in this case we’re talking about requirement 3 for Theater. But this rule can apply to other merit badges and other requirements as well.

See Aaron’s question and the expert’s full response after the jump.

The question

My name is Aaron, and I am a 15-year-old Boy Scout. My question is regarding when I was in sixth grade (I am now going into 10th) when I was a Boy Scout.

I was working on the Theater merit badge without a blue card, and my Scoutmaster didn’t have knowledge of me working on it.

We now have a different leader, and she says that I can’t use my acting and help with the musical or anything involved with it for fulfilling the requirement because the old leader didn’t have knowledge about my work, and I didn’t have a blue card.

Is she right, or am I allowed to use this as fulfilling requirement 3 for this merit badge? Any help here would be very appreciated. Thank you so much.

The expert’s response

Frank Ramirez with the BSA’s Content Management Team offers this official response:

In all likelihood, the Scoutmaster would have issued the Scout a blue card to take to his counselor if the Scout had asked.

Section 7.0.0.3 in the “Guide to Advancement” states the Scout must discuss the merit badge with his unit leader and get a signed blue card from him or her. The leader then proceeds to give the Scout contact information of a registered, approved merit badge counselor. The new leader is probably using this policy to justify her decision.

However, we live in the real world where some motivated young men do begin working on merit badges without first having had the initial discussion with their unit leader. However, they run the risk of meeting with people who may or may not be currently registered, approved counselors.

The real issue here is the Scout is saying he has completed the three required options that satisfy requirement 3 of Theater.

The new Scoutmaster, taking the role of an understanding coach, should discuss her concerns with the Scout, i.e. merit badge goals must first be discussed with the Scoutmaster before blue card is issued, then proceed contacting an approved merit badge counselor to begin working on the merit badge.

Then, issue him the blue card with appropriate merit badge counselor contact information.

Ultimately, it will be the counselor’s decision whether the requirement was fulfilled, or not. The Scout will have the burden of providing evidence that he indeed did the work. For example:

  • 3A: video showing him acting in a full-length play
  • 3B: video of him directing a play, or a script he wrote showing which character does what
  • 3C: showing his counselor the model of the set he designed
  • 3D: pictures of costumes he designed of five characters in the play
  • 3E: showing his counselor a video or pictures of him applying stage make-up
  • And so forth

See also

From 2013: Ask the Expert: Can merit badge progress begin before a Scout gets his blue card?

Ask the Experts your question

Find other expertly answered questions here, and ask your own by emailing me. I can’t respond to each question, but I select commonly asked questions to answer on the blog.

63 Comments on Merit badge requirements completed but no blue card — now what?

  1. I would be more than happy to be a Theater merit badge counselor for Aaron. I am a registered merit badge counselor as well as a scoutmaster for a troop in Illinois. Even if its long distance it can be done. The scout would have to prove to my satisfaction that he was a registered Boy Scout at the time the requirements were met and show me what he did to fulfill the requirements. I talk to the scout on the phone (with the parents as badge buddy) or email again with parents copied to fulfill youth protection. The experience is making sure the scout has done and understands the requirements.

    • ScoutingManiac // August 26, 2014 at 10:19 pm // Reply

      I would be willing to do the same for the Scout as well. Lets not turn a simple mistake made by this Scout punish him because of a lack of education of leaders. This really isn’t the Scouts fault, so lets not blame him. However, it is still important to tell the Scout the proper procedure and from there on expect the Scout to do the process correctly next time.

  2. I think Mr Ramirez’ answer is the correct answer. The new SM doesn’t really have a say in the merit badge attainment other than provide a connection with a registered counselor. The reason why we register counselors is two fold – one is for Youth Protection. The second is because they have some knowledge of the field of study and are best able to determine whether the Scout has completed the requirements.
    This doesn’t mean the counselor has to accept previous work. Too often Scouts show up to a counselor with a folder full of completed requirements and ask for a signature to earn the merit badge. This completely negates the point of the merit badge. The Scout is supposed to start by having a conversation with the counselor so the counselor can share what he expects and how the Scout should fulfill the requirements. The point is a journey guided by a knowledgeable mentor. A counselor can share insights and give ideas that will make completing the badge more worthwhile. Otherwise you really don’t need a counselor and we just check off squares.
    Of course, this happens all too often as we teach Scouts to run around filling squares to get another rank. Often we confuse the attainment of rank as the goal rather than building young men of skill and character.

  3. MAJ Burnham // August 25, 2014 at 8:36 am // Reply

    Agreement and then two questions.

    Sure, a Scout could be so charged up about a merit badge that he would dig in before obtaining his Scoutmaster’s approval. Let’s not punish that kind of positive energy! But, there are a number of valid reasons why we should teach Scouts to Honor the process. A Scout should certainly choose which merit badges he does (whether Eagle-required or elective) and when he does them. And a Scoutmaster should have an opportunity to mentor the Scout and make sure he understands the consequences of merit badge selection. That’s part of teaching young men how to lead themselves–and then letting them do so!

    Here’s something that could affect a Scoutmaster’s blue card approval. The Guide to Advancement states, “…in situations where a Scout is earning a large number of badges from just one counselor, the unit leader is permitted to place a limit on the number of merit badges that may be earned from one counselor, as long as the same limit applies to all Scouts in the unit.”

    Scoutmasters out there (and Bryan, too, if you read this), what is the maximum number of merit badges that you allow Scouts in your troop to earn from a single counselor?

    And, have you set a lower maximum for cases where the counselor is a parent?

    • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 9:39 am // Reply

      Our troop has no limits on maximums from any MBC at this time. Our council “suggests” that MBCs counsel no more than 6 Merit Badges, but the council does not hold fast to this rule. We have both urban & rural districts. In the districts, there are fewer MBCs so some counsel more MBs.

      Our troop does not limit the number by any parent. The troop does suggest that parents who are going to work with their son to offer the MB to anyone in the troop so they can get the benefit. I did several of my MBs last fall and offered them from 6-7 PM before the troop met at 7 PM. My son did them all & 1-3 Scouts joined in. My spouse also does a few MBs, but hers are not conducive to doing them before the regular meeting (gardening, reading, & scholarship). My son is 1 requirement short of earning Gardening (it took him 2 summers to meet them all), but she would serve as a MBC for any other Scout in our troop that wanted to earn them.

    • ScoutingManiac // August 26, 2014 at 10:14 pm // Reply

      The statement about the SM having the right to place limits on the number of MB’s earned per counselor was a horrible decision. IMHO will only cause more power hungry adults to abuse their power.

      I personally, do not place a limit on the number of Merit Badges a Scout can earn from a single MBC because in Alaska we have very few counselors to begin with and it is hard to provide MBC to communities off the road system.

  4. Our troop does not use blue cards, nor do they have merit badge counselors. They pretty much have to take the word of scout and/or the scout’s parents on what was done or trust that the guy who puts in requirement achievements is at the meeting, or the scribe has taken good records or at the meeting, or the SM or ASM remembers what every scout did on a camp-out or at a meeting. It is very frustrating having to constantly “prove” that the scout has done certain things. My son just earned Eagle and he had to “prove” he had done certain requirements for merit badges. He even had to prove things he had done with the troop on camp-outs because we have had a SM change over the last year. Thank goodness for other scouters who had known him and camped with him and could say he had done certain requirements, because his Eagle rank achievement could have been delayed longer than it already was because he had to re-do some requirements. It would be nice if there was a required standard for merit badge requirement recording that troops had to follow. Just letting troops pick there own way is confusing to the boys, the leaders, and the parents.

    • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 9:31 am // Reply

      1. If the Troop is not using Blue Cards, they are not following BSA policy.
      2. Scouts should have their HBs with them at all times & when they complete a requirement, they should get the SM, ASM, or Youth Leader (if authorized) to initial the book.
      3. Scouts might want to do the same thing for Merit Badges also by printing off the requirement sheets available on the Internet. Put them in a 2-prong folder like used in schools for essays. When the requirement is done on a campout (i.e., for camping), get a SM/ASM/SPL/ASPL/PL to sign off on the requirement. This sounds a lot better than trying to remember what someone did 6 months. Yesterday I heard a good one: “A short pencil is better than a long memory.”

      • David;

        Believe it or not, not every council actually uses Blue Cards! (I know, I know, but…)

        While mine does, we have had youth out of council at BSA camps which issue a simple report of who got what, and have the unit leaders worry about producing the cards. It’s a bit of a pain for us who follow the procedure trying to reconcile things.

        • luvmyscout // August 25, 2014 at 9:52 am //

          Thank You…

        • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 9:53 am //

          Rob: I know that other councils don’t use Blue Cards, but that doesn’t make it right (I may have been speeding at 75, but that other guy was going 85). Even my own council doesn’t use Blue Cards for summer camp, but some electronic system. My son has gone to other councils & I have seen all sorts of cards but they were all some sort of tracking system.

          It sounds like this woman’s troop doesn’t use any system at all and that all MB “counseling” is done within the Troop based on memory. Probably not the optimal solution for actually having Scouts meeting the requirements.

        • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 10:00 am //

          Straight out of the 2013 BSA Guide to Advancement, Page 45 Call out Box, “Though it has not been clearly stated in the past, units, districts, and local councils do not have the authority to implement a different system for merit badge approval and documentation. In any case, through the years, many councils have created new forms and approaches to the process, some including IT components. In an effort to gather and consider these potential best practices, councils are now asked to submit descriptions and copies of their blue card alternatives to the national Advancement Team.”

    • Matt Culbertson // August 25, 2014 at 9:34 am // Reply

      Yes it is called a blue card and the scout should be using a valid merit badge counselor not troop leaders to remember what might have been done

      • That is great, but when we began the troop leaders and committee stated that “they kept up with all of the merit badge requirements earned, you don’t need to worry about bringing the scout manual with you…blah blah blah”. We did find the Meritbadge.org sheets a year or so ago and as a family we started using them. The troop doesn’t say anything about using them. I didn’t even know about blue cards until earlier this year (my son has been a scout for 4 yrs) when I read a blog from Bryan On Scouting on them. I am just saying some troops have formed their own policies and it does not appear to be standardized (or required) that troops follow a singular policy and as new parents you go with what the leaders say if you do not know better. It is easy to play arm chair quarterback or as they hind sight is 20/20. I just feel it should be clear across the board and parents and scouts be given accurate information from day one. It doesn’t help to get to Eagle time and realize what you were told wasn’t the way it was. And they continue to have the same policy so new scouts are going to have the same issue 4 yrs from now when they are trying to wrap up Eagle. Example our troop just spent 3 months of working on the pioneering merit badge in meetings and there is still no record of the requirements they worked on in troopmaster.

        • matt culbertson // August 25, 2014 at 10:14 am //

          Obviously from what you have posted your troop’s policy isn’t working. One of the reasons the Guide to Advancement was written and made available to everyone was to get the information on proper procedures out to all folks and get troop leaders out of their own rules interpretations.

      • Matt and David are absolutely correct…

    • What? No blue cards? No merit badge counselors? What program do you belong to — it’s certainly NOT the Boy Scouts of America!! I take it you don’t document that those Scouts have actually earned a merit badge either, just go down to the Scout Shop(tm), pick up the badges and award them to the Scout the following week, right? There is a required standard for merit badge recording which ALL Troops — including yours — should follow. Look it up. Oh…you probably don’t have access to the basic Scouting manuals either. Nevermind…I think you’re a part of the wrong program!

      • Wow….. I don’t guess you are either!!!

        On my honor I will do my best
        To do my duty to God and my country
        and to obey the Scout Law;
        To help other people at all times;<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
        To keep myself physically strong,
        mentally awake, and morally straight.

        A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful<<<<<<<<<<<<, friendly<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<,
        courteous<<<<<<<<<<<<, kind<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<, obedient, cheerful, thrifty,
        brave, clean, and reverent.

        They enter it into troop master.

        No need to be rude

        • Let’s see, which division of BSA develops TroopMaster . . . Oh, that’s right, none; it’s a privately developed commercial program out of Virginia.

        • EagleRay CA // August 25, 2014 at 10:06 pm //

          I have resisted getting into this all day long. When I saw Mike’s reply on your thread, I knew I had to toss my $.02 into it. Mike is one of the most knowledgeable contributors here. Please do not insult him.

          I am NOT disappointed that your son had to DOCUMENT his accomplishments, and I am sort of amazed that he was able to get his Eagle so young. HOW IS HE GIVING BACK TO THOSE THAT ARE FOLLOWING BEHIND HIM? There is a lot more to the Eagle than that piece of cloth on his chest.

          The EAGLE is granted to Scouts that have demonstrated Leadership by doing a Significant project, given Leadership to his troop, and fulfilling 21 Merit badges along with other REQUIREMENTS.

          One of those methods involves the BOY maintaining DOCUMENTATION of his achievements. The BOY is supposed to interface with his Merit Badge Counselors (THIS IS NOT A privilege to be assigned to or taken by the parent). The BOY is supposed to maintain HIS records, including his Scout Book. The MB “Blue” card is to be treated like a piece of gold (Don’t lose it, but it comes in THREE pieces in case it is lost, so that the record can be resurrected). What did your boy learn on his trail to Eagle, that he “didn’t have to follow the rules?”

          What happens if TM (TroopMaster) crashes, the computer is stolen gets a virus, etc. TM is only there to be a backup for the Original records in the Book and on Blue Cards.

          How can your troop function without MB Counselors? Do you scab off of troops that are doing their job? I suppose that your troop does not follow Youth Protection guidelines and training either. Have the leaders (ALL LEVELS) taken ANY Training courses so that they understand their “jobs”? The Guide to Advancement is available to all, parents included. Does your troop attend the district Roundtable?

          As a district Advancement Chair, I am glad that I did not have to be on his Eagle Board.

          Read THIS WHOLE SUBJECT THREAD AND TAKE UPON YOURSELF TO CHANGE YOUR TROOPS BEHAVIOR. DO IT FOR THE BOYS, please.

        • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 4:25 pm //

          EagleRay

          While I agree with you on most parts, it isn’t fair to place responsibility on the Scout because of a unit leader that either failed to complete training.

          “I am NOT disappointed that your son had to DOCUMENT his accomplishments, and I am sort of amazed that he was able to get his Eagle so young.”

          “Luvmyscout”, son was in the program for 4 years. How long is long enough for someone to earn their Eagle? Let’s just say his son joined Boy Scouts when he was 10, that would put him at about 14, to me that is a long enough time. I do not approve of leaders who judge Scouts by length of time in Scouting or by age. It isn’t helpful and fails to encourage other Scouts to earn their Eagle before they are 16 or 17.

          “HOW IS HE GIVING BACK TO THOSE THAT ARE FOLLOWING BEHIND HIM?”

          I’m not sure what your trying to say but to me it sounds like you are passing judgment on someone you have not met. Sure by today’s standards earning Eagle this early is surprising but it technically is possibly. And for some is the age they should’ve earned their Eagle.

          “There is a lot more to the Eagle than that piece of cloth on his chest.”

          I absolutely hate this statement, it is quite frank inappropriate and down right rude. This does not exemplify the values Scouting is trying to teach. Furthermore, it saddens me to know that you are the advancement chair for your district because having this attitude only cases unrest between the district and the unit. As a district advancement chair you are expected to uphold the guidelines and policies for advancement but this does not entitle you to make judgments or statements like you have made.

  5. Elizabeth Esper // August 25, 2014 at 9:08 am // Reply

    Sometimes scouts on family travel are invited to join their cousin’s or uncle’s/aunt’s MB activity without much prior notice. I know my scout has used another SM to obtain blue cards in other parts of the country. My point is… I’d hate paperwork to be the reason a scout doesn’t participate in a learning opportunity. I’m all for scouts having the opportunity to meet other scouts from other parts of the world. In this scenario, maybe this scout didn’t know about the requirements since he was a new scout at the time of his theater activities. I would keep the focus on encouragement and building this young man. He might only have a few more things to accomplish and his prior experience from 6th grade is to his credit. I would encourage him to build on his past experience by giving him credit for what he finished in 6th grade.

    • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 4:31 pm // Reply

      I’ve had that happen to myself and several other opportunities I know of but I still earned those MB’s. I encourage Scouts to take advantage of every opportunity to earn a MB, while that said I would prefer the Scout to contact me in advance to inform me that he is starting work on a MB. However, I would not deny the Scout of having time or finishing a MB. To me while the Guide to Advancement is necessary and should be followed, nitpicking some minor detail or technicality does little to help the Scout become a better Scout and a better person.

  6. JWR Blackhawk // August 25, 2014 at 9:19 am // Reply

    We have never set a limit on the number of badges a Scout may earn from a single counselor, but have stated that a parent is not allowed to be the MB Counselor for their own son with exception.
    The exception is that they have offered the MB Sessions to the Unit at large and multiple Scouts are signed up. If this is no possible , then the SM and/or Advancement Chair will seek a different MB Counselor within the dist for the Scout to contact and work with. The intent is not to stop the Scout from progressing with the MB, but making sure he has the opportunity for the full experience doing the MB.
    This rule was only created with in the Unit due to parents rubber stamping their own child’s MB. This ends up hurting the Scout by other adults challenging the Scouts work, whether directly or indirectly. It builds mistrust and hurts the Scout’s and the Unit. Sad but true!
    It’s been a legacy rule with in the unit for many years. It seems to work really well to keep the mistrust of the Scouts/Parents work out of the Unit.

    • Yikes! The G2A specifically states that a Scout MB can be signed by the parent, if the parent is a registered MB councilor.

  7. H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 9:26 am // Reply

    There are several appropriate paragraphs from the 2013 BSA Guide to Advancement (copied from the GTA):

    7.0.0.2 About the Application for Merit Badge (“Blue Card”)

    Typically after the unit leader signs the blue card, the Scout contacts the merit badge counselor and sets an appointment. While a boy may begin working on a merit badge at any time after he is registered, it is the counselor’s decision whether to accept work or activities
    completed prior to the issuing of the signed blue card. Common sense should prevail, however. For example, nights already camped as a Boy Scout, or coins or stamps already collected, would count toward their respective badges.

    7.0.0.3 The Scout, the Blue Card, and the Unit Leader

    A few merit badges have certain restrictions, but otherwise any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified Venturer or Sea Scout may work on any of them at any time. Before he begins working with a merit badge counselor, however, he is to have a discussion with his unit leader.

    7.0.3.1 The Buddy System and Certifying Completion

    When the Scout meets with the counselor, he should bring any required projects. If these cannot be transported, he should present evidence, such as photographs or adult verification. His unit leader, for example, might state that a satisfactory bridge or tower has been built for the Pioneering merit badge, or that meals were prepared for Cooking. If there are questions that requirements were met, a counselor may confirm with adults involved.
    Once satisfied, the counselor signs the blue card using the date upon which the Scout completed the requirements, or in the case of partials, initials the individual requirements passed.

    Based on these 3 pargraphs, once the Scout receives his Blue Card from his leader & meets with his Theater MBC, the MBC then determines what previous work he/she will count, but it says common sense should prevail (7.0.0.2).

    Scouts can start working on any MB at any time, but do not have to get a Blue Card until he wants to meet with the MBC (7.0.0.3)

    If the Scout can prove he has done the requirement by visual means (video, photographs) or by an attestation (Theater Sponsor at School?), the work could could (7.0.3.1).

    I am not a Theater MBC, but I would talk with the Scout about why he did not get a Blue Card sooner. I would probably count any work completed that can be proved, however, because that is using common sense. If the Scout has already done 3 plays, there is not reason to make him get a role in another one.

    • That’s a great point to consider. The school likely has the biggest determining factor in when the young man is cast in the play, and who he’ll be playing, etc. So it’s not like the boy said, “I’m going to be in the school play tomorrow!” That’s the faculty member’s decision exclusively so it’s not like the boy had any influence as to when it happened. Especially if it was for a theater class as opposed to an extra-curricular club. I would say that the Scoutmaster and Counselor would be doing right by the boy by taking these factors all into consideration as they review this.

      • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 10:11 am // Reply

        Rob: The SM has no say unless they are the Theater MB Counselor. It is up to the MB Counselor to make the final determination if previous work will be counted (7.0.0.2). If the MBC approves it and the SM does not believe the work was actually completed, they could use the limited recourse available. The work, however, must have been impossible to perform such as earning a large number of MBs at camp that is impossible because they had to be at 2 places at once OR earning the Personal Fitness, Family Life, Or Personal Management MBs in a weekend MB College when no previous work for the 3-month charts were prepared. The SM just saying, “I am not going to count it is not an option” available. If that were to occur in my unit, my son & I would be transferring that week to another troop.

        The appropriate paragraph from the 2013 GTA;
        7.0.4.7 Limited Recourse for UnearnedMerit Badges

        From time to time, however, it may be discovered that merit badges could not actually have been earned. For example, a Scout who returns from summer camp or a merit badge fair with signed blue cards for an extraordinary number of badges could raise concerns. If, after consulting with those involved in the merit badge program—such as an event coordinator, the camp director, or a merit badge counselor—it becomes
        plainly evident that a youth could not have actually and personally fulfilled requirements as written, then the limited recourse outlined below is available. It may
        result in a decision that some or all of the requirements for a badge could not have been fulfilled, and thus, that the badge was not actually earned.

        • David;
          Methinks you are arguing and citing sources to one who has taken your position. While the choir might benefit from a little preaching, they are not the only targets for the sermon my friend. :)

        • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 11:17 am //

          Rob: I had no issue with what you posted except that the way you wrote it, it appeared that the SM could influence whether the past activities could count or not. While the Scout & MB Counselor “could” take the SM’s recommendation, it is not mandatory. In fact, it is not even addressed in the GTA. The MBC is final arbitrator of what previous work counts.

          I know that it is probably not good to make the SM upset. Is the SM living the Scout Oath & law if he/she is not abiding by the natonal BSA policies, holding a grudge against a MBC or Scout, or just putting up his own rules/hurdles in front of Scouts?

          The bottom line is that Boy Scouts is for the youth NOT the adults. We are to be teaching them and personal vandettas or arbitrary rules are probably things we do not wish to teach them.

        • David;

          My apologies if my choice of words proved to be inadequate to make your point for you. Although I think they were specifically chosen to make my own point for myself, and so you’ll forgive me if I say that your opinion of the choice wasn’t then nor is it now a factor of my consideration. I see that you are interested in provoking argument, but when one is on the same side of the argument a tactic such as this doesn’t really do anything to positively move the topic forward but rather draws negative attention to oneself, which I would hope wouldn’t be your intention at all. So please consider this my last personal reply to you on this matter.

          In this particular case, I think we both agree that the Scoutmaster is the issue. So I happily stand by my comment that the Scoutmaster should reconsider the young man’s circumstances and follow established procedures by getting this boy to a certified counselor for a proper review of his established work.

          I feel that the SM is in the wrong holding the young man back, but as I am sure you can understand, I can’t “make” the Scoutmaster “do” anything, just as I haven’t been able to make you stop posting lengthy citation-filled responses arguing for the same side of the issue as I have been.

          While I can certainly draw attention to those behaviors which I feel are errant, and I can certainly express why I feel the behaviors are not acceptable or such, in reality it has to be the one committing the action which realizes their own behavior is the issue and makes the decision to apply the change for themselves. So where I will leave this topic for now is with my opinion that the Scoutmaster needs to review policies and reconsider his/her actions.

          Cheers.

    • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm // Reply

      David

      I do not think that you needed to quote that much of the Guide to Advancement to prove your point. Most of us have either read or at least heard of the Guide to Advancement.

      Addressing those who haven’t heard of the Guide to Advancement (GTA) I would highly recommend downloading or purchasing a copy. However, I would remind you that the GTA is not the end all be all document for advancement in the BSA and I encourage you to use common sense when it comes to using the GTA. Because, Scouting isn’t about technical little details and instead is about developing good men through the Methods of Scouting.

      One thing that I would like to remind you of is that advancement is only 1 of the 8 Methods of Scouting and shouldn’t be the primary focus of your unit. Too often have I seen units and leaders focus on advancement and advancement alone. Focusing only on advancement will drive away your members and make members unsatisfied with the program. Whether or not you believe me, advancement will come naturally if you focus on providing great program that practices the use of all the Methods of Scouting.

      • EagleRay CA // August 29, 2014 at 9:36 pm // Reply

        Scouting Maniac:
        There is the saying “Once an Eagle, Always an Eagle” There is NO way that a Scout (especially a younger one) can achieve the Eagle rank without a LOT of help. Many Boys do not realize that the Eagle badge is NOT a conclusion, but only a START of their Scouting career/obligation. [GIVING BACK] A Boy, and I was on a BOR for the 13 year old, who due to his troop size was only able to be Troop Guide, was going for his Eagle. Thus he got the question, “How will you be able to Give Back?” He had to think.

        When I help the boys get prepared to work on their Project leading to the Eagle Rank, I emphasize that there have been a lot of people that have helped them get where they are ( parents, fellow scouts, MBCs, leaders, etc.) Once a boy has that “Piece of Cloth” on his chest he has assumed a life long obligation to help other scouts to learn the Skills and leadership so that they can achieve the rank if they wish to. That is why at almost age 64, I am still involved in giving back.

        Much of what I wrote was directed to the parent of the Scout. THERE ARE RULES,(GTA), If there were not rules for the EAGLE Rank it would not be what it is [RESPECTED].

        I received my Eagle many years ago. When my son entered Scouting in the 90s, I volunteered to be an ASM, and then assumed the Advancement Coordinator position using TroopMaster to help the boys. The previous person was only tracking events for their scout. I went into the history and entered everything for everybody. (A lot of work, yes). Thankfully, he achieved his Eagle with 3 days to go. I will not go into the reasons that he did not put priority into his personal rank, but he was a hugely active Scout. I do not have WB beads, due to circumstances; regrets No. The training was helpful, but what was Iearned was valuable for the BOYs, and not my chest.

        “Luvmyscout” has no reason to complain about her boy having to document his accomplishments (THE RULES). That is why I questioned the training of the troop leaders. Sometimes a boy has to suffer when the adults are not doing their jobs. The boy should ask his parents, “why?…” THAT NEVER feels good, but there is a saying “If it seems to be too good to be true…” Most of the time there is another troop that the boy can transfer to.

        Back to the rules. MBCs are supposed to be registered and undergo YP training. They should have MBC training so that they realize and understand the process,(especially many of the subjects that have been discussed here) NOTHING can be added, or removed.

        The requirement for the boys to interface with the MBCs and other adults in their advancement process is so that they get familiar with interaction with Adults, and can learn to express themselves. These are skills that will serve them in further years.

        We, regretfully have some troops in our district that will not train their adults. It is from those troops that we have the most problems with boys and the Eagle process.

        IF the process is not upheld, the value of the EAGLE will decline to nothing. I hope that never occurs.

        YIS,
        Ray

        • ScoutingManiac // August 30, 2014 at 4:31 pm //

          Ray

          First off, I would like to say I am an Eagle Scout as well. I have been in Scouting from the time I was 7 until this very day (Now 23), I understand some of your concerns about the Rank being treated as the end of your Scouting path. You and I both realize that becoming an Eagle is more of just a step on the Scouting trail. However, I think that your insistence towards blaming leaders or the boys themselves, is highly inappropriate. If we continue down a road of complaint after complaint and not actively educating leaders this advancement issue is only going to get worse. As, district volunteers, our job isn’t to punish leaders but instead to serve as mentors and teachers while passing along the traditions of Scouting.

          I hear again and again, we are moving far away from the traditions of Scouting and while that is most certainly true, we must also accept that Scouting must change to stay relevant to not only the boys but the parents as well. However, that doesn’t mean that changing the perspective that Eagle is the absolute goal of Scouting (its pinnacle). But again this won’t change until we demonstrate what Scouting is and what Scouting can accomplish.

          I understand your concerns over the parent being irritated about providing proof that the Scout worked through all the requirements but I want you to ask yourself this……………..”Is this the parents/Scouts fault alone or is there something bigger going on here that needs to get addressed?”

          I think that the answer to this question should be very clear and to me it is that way because of a lack of understanding and training in the Methods of Scouting. The majority of the leaders in Scouting now probably have no clue about the traditions and Methods of Scouting. But this isn’t necessarily the leaders fault and anyway does blaming the person actually help? No it doesn’t, it only creates a stronger “us” verse “them” attitude. The “us” in this case is the representatives of the district and council.

          If we are ever to slow down the loss of the traditions/methods of Scouting we must be educators. Educators that are willing to spend the time and have the patience to work through the issue or concern in a friendly Scout-like manner.

        • EagleRay CA // August 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm //

          Scouting Manic:

          Thank you for the considerate response to my arguments. You are right that the boys should not be blamed.

          What do we do as Districts or Councils do when National keeps pushing down on the road the standards for training of units?

          BSA gets vilified when there are discovered instances of abuse.

          BSA develops YP, and says that you will not get re-chartered until trained; then … Next year…

          Basic training of all youth encountering leaders… Next year…

          The Eagle Project has been reduced to a group of judgments, the “standards of the past have been removed”. WE cannot ask for a minimum number of hours, or a minimum number of people being lead.

          luvmyscout’s unit did not follow, apparently, Scouting’s minimal standards. Blue Cards, advancement Documentation, etc. ‘We work on memory’ WHAT are we teaching the BOYS with that kind of standard?

          At what point do CONCERNED volunteers say “NO MORE”?

          IF there is/are no more standards, should we resign our positions of responsibilityleadership to maintain the reputation of the EAGLE? What is the meaning of Eagle?

          luvmyscout’s boy got his Eagle ~15 years. HE NEEDS to give back. I have more concern for the boys that have lost some of their motivation, and then cave into their parent’s wishes or traditions; and then in the last months of their eligibility try to jam through one of those “no standard” Eagle Projects. That is leading to the destruction of the Eagle.

          Our district (as a merge of three districts in our Council) provides the basic training twice a year to leaders of troops/packs. Many units do not partake of that training. But there are upheld STANDARDS, and no consequences.

          I have been a major supporter of Scouting, James West, etc. That doesn’t matter. I have participated in training of adults, and boys, since the late 90′s, originally part of WB ticket/s. I still do all/most of those jobs these many years later, without the beads, since it is for the boys and not me.

          The comments of the past communications come from frustration at the lack of support by National (that apparently is so concerned on much more major issues) that they ignore the real base of Scouting.

          YIS,
          Ray

        • ScoutingManiac // August 31, 2014 at 8:46 am //

          Ray

          Thank you for your response. I think that while we seem to disagree on many issues, I think that our opinions are of similar nature to each other. I know and am very appreciative of leaders like you that have served in Scouting for so long.

          “Basic training of all youth encountering leaders… Next year…”

          You and I both know that requiring basic training of all unit leaders would lead to a much stronger and much more interesting Scouting experiences. However, due to one reason or another, the BSA refuses to require leader training beyond Youth Protection. It refuses to take a stand because they don’t want to offend or drive people out of the program. What they don’t realize though is:

          [A] 90% of youth serving organizations require much more substantial training.
          [B] Youth protection doesn’t cover everything it should, especially in regards to 21st century specific issues that fail to be addressed.
          [C] Every other Scout Organization that is WOSM recognized, that I have researched requires way more initial training than the BSA. The average number of required hours of training is about 20 hours.
          [D] Many other Scout Organizations, also require more continuing education to keep up to date.

          “The Eagle Project has been reduced to a group of judgments, the “standards of the past have been removed.”

          Agreed but this isn’t going to change. This happened IMHO for two different reasons (1) lack of leader training and (2) the inability of society to accept that failure is perfectly okay. Failure in reality is a necessary evil in life.

          “At what point do CONCERNED volunteers say “NO MORE”?”

          Very good question but I have no clue on how I would even begin to address it.

          “What is the meaning of Eagle?”

          ls there a universal meaning of Eagle? I don’t think so because each person has a unique set of circumstances and challenges to overcome. Sure, are there certain challenges everyone who earns their Eagle go through? Of course, but from my own experience and watching the experience of others I know it is also a very personal experience as well.

          “But there are upheld STANDARDS, and no consequences.”

          I think as a society more and more often there are no consequences because people are fearful of the backlash that may occur if they enforce consequences. However, not enforcing consequences teaches people nothing and reinforces the idea that people can do whatever they want and not be held accountable.

          “The comments of the past communications come from frustration at the lack of support by National (that apparently is so concerned on much more major issues) that they ignore the real base of Scouting.”

          True but it is because of the fact that the BSA must play a “chase the numbers” game instead of providing quality program. We are a society that only measures quantitative standards and ignores qualitative standards. Even though the truth is valuing qualitative standards are really the best thing we can do to stem the decline in membership.

  8. Steve Pendry // August 25, 2014 at 9:29 am // Reply

    Another valuable source of guidance on this situation can be found in section 7.0.0.2 of the Guide to Advancement:
    “While a boy may begin working on a merit badge at any time after he is registered, it is the counselor’s decision whether to accept work or activities completed prior to the issuing of the signed blue card. Common sense should prevail, however. For example, nights already camped as a Boy Scout, or coins or stamps already collected, would count toward their respective badges.”
    There are multiple references to “common sense” in the Guide, and for good reason. We stand to lose some young men of real promise if we let the absolutist position always define the acceptable solution, especially when there have been honest misunderstandings. As a good friend of mine put it, “If it’s not for the boys, it’s for the birds.”

  9. Paul Minenna // August 25, 2014 at 9:55 am // Reply

    A n issue related to Scouts earning a MB. If your scout is going out of district to a place where they advertise their staff as having counseors, make sure to check that the MB counselors are current and have not let theit BSA status expire. Our troop has run into this problem and now our Advancement Chair calls ahead to verify that MH Counselors are current.

    • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 10:17 am // Reply

      Paul: The BSA 2013 GTA addresses this concern (I’ve only copied the appropriate part of the paragraph). BLUF: The MB counts as the district or place he went for the MB, he was told that the MBC was current. It is not up to the Scout to question every MBC he visits & tell him/her, “Let me see your current MB Counselor card” for XYZ MB. In our council, I reapply before January 1 every year and if I am lucky I will get my current card to be a MBC by April . . . if I get it at all. My name, however, stays on the Internet list in the interim.

      7.0.4.6 Once It Is Earned, It’s Earned

      The same holds true if a Scout, without intent to violate national BSA procedures or policies, fulfills merit badge requirements with someone who is not registered and approved as a
      counselor. This could happen, for example, if a Scout, in good faith, contacts someone who has inadvertently been dropped from a unit or district charter or otherwise has an expired membership, but who remains on an approved list of counselors.

  10. Do you have to have a blue card for each merit badge? Does that requirement vary by state? I’m in Alabama and I havent really heard about using blue cards since I was a scout 20 years ago. I am currently a scoutmaster and we have worked on and awarded several merit badges without blue cards. We use other documentation and track their progress online.

    • As a SM, then maybe you should consider reading the books: Guide to Advancement, SM Handbook, Guide to Safe Scouting, Guide to Awards and Insignia, Patrol Leaders Handbook, Scout Handbook.
      The patch doesn’t come with knowledge, which is why you’re ignorant. You have to do your homework; I can’t stand adult leaders who don’t turn the first page. You will be amazed to find that MBs aren’t even part of the troop program.

  11. H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 11:10 am // Reply

    Wesley: No, the requirement does not vary from state to state. There are several reasons to use the Blue Cards & these are some (but not all). (1) It teaches the Scout the recommended methods as listed on page 50 of the 2013 BSA GTA. Not having the Blue Card may interupt that procedural flow. (2) The Blue Card teaches the Scout some accountability. The Scout has to maintain the Blue Card thru the MB process & ultimately get a copy to the unit’s Advancement Coordinator/Chair. (3) There are 137 Merit Badges & will increase. It may be impossible in some units to track the requirements as they are completed if done electronically in the unit. This is especially true for MBs earned outside the troop. (4) The Blue Card allows the Scout to complete most requirements with one MB Counselor & if they move across the country, they can show their Blue Card to their new MB Counselor? What if a council/troop uses their own style? Would the unit 3000 miles away accept some locally produced form from their old unit/distric/council? Would this force the Scout to do all the requirements for that MB again?

    • What troop does not honor TroopMaster?

      • As great a tool TroopMaster is, it is NOT OFFICIAL. It is a privately developed product that tries to keep up with the changes BSA makes (and they do a pretty good job). I used it myself when I was Advancement Chair/ASM for my Troop. IT was ONLY a backup for the official methods of the Scout Book and Blue Cards. I could enter nights camped, miles hiked, outings, etc. It was VERY handy for generating reports to go with the boy to his Eagle BOR.

        Again it is not official. I would not, as an Advancement Chair, absolutely rely on the transfer report for a boy that had come from another troop. By the way, there are other electronic record keeping programs also, so TroopMaster use is not universal, and it is not official.

        There are minimal arguments with a properly filled out Blue Card.

        Please see my entry at the bottom of this blog for more reasons to PROPERLY use the Blue Card.

  12. As a merit badge counselor, I would chat with him about the proper procedure for next time, but also allow a few mistakes along the way. He was only 11 & probably a brand new Scout when he started. There are going to be a couple little “oops” moments. It’s part of letting boys grow and learn to lead. They need to make safe errors! In my opinion, that’s part of the patrol method.
    But then I’d offer this boy a chance to prove his work. Video is a great example. Maybe talk to the theater advisor/teacher at his school. I’d trust that another non- parent adult could vouch for him.

    • Hear, hear!

      This scout, although active in theater and starting up in scouts, may not have realized a Theater Merit Badge even existed when he was involved in his plays. My son and I have several times realized he has been participating in an activity for a long time that, oops, there is a merit badge that relates to that subject. Frankly, in those areas, he has a better understanding of the topic than if he had been working to meet just the badge requirements. There have been some where the academics associated with the subject listed in the badge have added to his understanding of the activity, but he isn’t circumavigating the process.

      As a SM and as a Merit Badge Counselor to several members outside my troop, I make it a point to accept any work accomplished while a registered scout that meets the requirements as written as long as I have a reasonable assurance the work was accomplished as required.

  13. The Advancement Guide makes it pretty clear that the scout has to get a signed blue card, it does NOT specify when. As such, I would agree that the scout can get the card signed anytime prior to awardment. Now, the intent is for it to be the first step, but the aim us for the boy to learn and have the experience. Not to play “got ya!” with requirements.

  14. This just seems like an odd question. It implies that nothing a scout does counts towards a merit badge unless they have received a blue card first. So, for the 20 camping nights to count towards camping MB, a scout has to get a blue card first? A scout goes on the troop’s annual 10-mile hike each year, and after 4 years realizes he has most of the hikes done for Hiking MB, those don’t count? That visit to the state capitol as part of a social studies field trip can’t be used? I can see the issue if the requirement includes “With approval of your counselor…” as he should have a blue card prior to talking to a counselor, but most requirements do not stipulate this.

    • Camping question answered: http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2013/04/30/ask-expert-mbs/

    • ScoutingManiac // August 29, 2014 at 4:48 pm // Reply

      Ed

      It gladdens me to know that their are other leaders out there that understand there are circumstances where using common sense overrides following the Guide to Advancement to the letter.

  15. It is my humble opinion; a Scout must have a signed Blue Card from his Scoutmaster before he has any requirement signed off; 1st So that the Scoutmaster knows he is working on a Merit Badge.
    Major Reasons for this, the maturity of the Scout: think about a Tenderfoot Scout working on E-Prep with out a real knowledge of any first aid. Also completion of rank advancements (ie; 1st aid req#1)
    The 2nd reason would be so the SM knows the Scout is working with a qualified MB councilor. Trust me, I tell my Scouts all the time, you don’t want me teaching Auto Maintenance MB, its not my thing…

    The MB Councilor will decide whether the Scouts work toward the MB qualifies for completion.
    It is important to remember, anything/work done prior to becoming a Boy Scout does not qualify toward rank advancement or MBs. That includes Cub Scouting. Although there are a few exception like the Collecting MB previously mentioned.

    • H. David Pendleton // August 25, 2014 at 2:35 pm // Reply

      While it may be great to have the First Aid Merit Badge before E Prep, there is no requirement to complete the requirements in numerical order. In order to earn the E Prep MB, the Scout must complete the First Aid MB sometime in the process.

      There are only a couple of MBs that have MB prerequisites. In fact, there is no requirement to earn the Swimming MB before the Lifesaving MB . . . but most Scouts do. For the Scuba Diving MB, Scouts must earn the Swimming MB as it states “2.Before completing requirements 3 through 6, earn the Swimming merit badge.” For the Whitewater MB, a Scout must have the Canoeing MB or Kayaking Patch (I am guessing that the Kayaking MB will now work also) for the equipment they will be in the water with for the Whitewater MB as it says, “3.Before doing requirements 4 through 13, earn the Canoeing merit badge if you will be using a canoe to earn this merit badge. If you will be using a kayak, earn the Kayaking BSA Award.”

      Yes, before any MBC signs off on a requirement the Scout must present a Blue Card to the MBC. It does not preclude the Scout from working on requirements ahead of picking up the Blue Card as you stated with the coins or in the GTA such as camping nights.

  16. It sure sounds like the new SM wants to be the “Big Boss” rather than a coach, helper, etc.

  17. Gene ORourke // August 29, 2014 at 11:00 am // Reply

    Brian – Here’s a suggestion for a new thread….

    The “Guide to Advancement” states that “It is important to note the “blue card” is the nationally recognized merit badge record.”

    However, our troop (and, I assume, most troops) also issues the “Merit Badge Pocket Certificate” for each badge earned. That certificate states that has met the requirements for Merit Badge,” and carries the signature of the Scoutmaster.

    The reason I point this out…. I’ve heard people say that the signed pocket certificate would not be sufficient proof of having earned the badge during, say, an Eagle Board of Review. That is, if a scout had the certificate, but could not produce the blue card, then he might not receive credit. This could obviously pose a problem.

    Following the spirit of “once it’s earned, it’s earned,” I would hope that most people would do the right thing here. It is absolutely incumbent upon the Scoutmaster, Advancement Chair, etc. to ensure that the badge is truly earned, and the blue card processed, before issuing the Pocket Certificate. But once the certificate carries the Scoutmaster’s signature, attesting to the completion of the Merit Badge, then it seems to me that this record should be equally valid.

    Thanks,
    Gene O’Rourke

    • Gene ORourke // August 29, 2014 at 11:02 am // Reply

      Correction, since some of my formatting didn’t make it through….

      However, our troop (and, I assume, most troops) also issues the “Merit Badge Pocket Certificate” for each badge earned. That certificate states that “Scout” has met the requirements for “XXXXXX” Merit Badge,” and carries the signature of the Scoutmaster.

  18. At Troop A for Advancement,
    We make it simple by meeting each new Scout at the end of the Weblos crossover bridge (or other new recruit) with 120 some signed Blue Cards, plus record the initial Tenderfoot physical fitness test.
    When BSA adds a new MB, all the Scouts get an additional Blue Card.

    • Troop A:

      From the Guide to Advancement:

      7.0.0.3 The Scout, the Blue Card, and the Unit Leader
      A few merit badges have certain restrictions, but otherwise
      any registered Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or qualified
      Venturer or Sea Scout may work on any of them at any
      time. Before he begins working with a merit badge
      counselor, however, he is to have a discussion with his unit
      leader. That a discussion has been held is indicated by the
      unit leader’s signature on the Application for Merit Badge,
      No. 34124, commonly called the “blue card.” Although it
      is the unit leader’s responsibility to see that at least one
      merit badge counselor is identified from those approved
      and made available, the Scout may have one in mind with
      whom he would like to work. The unit leader and Scout
      should come to agreement as to who the counselor will be.

      A unit leader should consider making more of the process
      than just providing a signature. The opportunity exists,
      then and there, to provide inspiration and direction in a
      young man’s life. Preliminary merit badge discussions can
      lead to conversations about talents and interests, goal
      setting, and the concept of “challenge by choice.” The
      benefits can be much like those of a well-done
      Scoutmaster conference.
      The discussion a Scout is to have with the unit leader is
      meant to be a growth-oriented and positive conversation.
      The unit leader should discuss any concerns related to
      working on the merit badge and provide appropriate
      counseling. It is then the Scout’s decision whether or not
      to proceed with the merit badge. The process is intended
      to inform the Scout about what he may encounter along
      the way, and perhaps to give him suggestions on how the
      work might be approached. It also has the purpose of
      keeping the unit leader up to date with what the members
      of the unit are doing.

      So WHERE is the Counseling and Discussions between the Scout and the Scoutmaster with your system? It sounds like the method that you have chosen is “Don’t bother me with the details, here is your permission pack to work on whatever you wish to do. Where are the discussions about choosing a MB Counselor?

      By the way, I think that your troop may be violating some of the tenants of the new Sustainability Merit Badge. Most boys will not earn Eagle (4-6%), some will drop out. I assume that you are stating that all 120 Blue cards have the Boy’s Name, the name of the MB, and the SM’s sig. What happens if the SM changes in your troop? What do you do with all of the wasted Blue cards?

    • H. David Pendleton // September 2, 2014 at 9:44 am // Reply

      EagleRay: I think Troop A was being facetious in his comments as he appears to be in the group that wants a Scout to have a Blue card signed by the SM before starting work on any Merit Badge.

      • I certainly hope so. I guess I was tired yesterday, after looking at Iceland Volcanos, and didn’t vet the whole list of comments

  19. D Do you accept a completed blue card from say a summer camp when you know the scout does not have enough nights camping, done the 90 days, cooked for their families, etc. Camp counselor’s sign off that everything is completed, but as the advancement chair I know ALL of the requriments are not really done?

    • H. David Pendleton // September 4, 2014 at 2:17 pm // Reply

      Dan: The GTA provides a remedy for the situation listed. If the Scout COULD NOT have done it, than the SM needs to sit down with the Scout & explain it. When he has the camping nights or whatever was impossible to complete at camp is done, then it is turned in. If the situation is that the SM just thinks the requirement was not completed, he cannot hold it back for that reason alone.

      The SM could hold it back if a Scout got his Blue Card from the SM on Monday & went to a Merit Badge Clinic on Saturday AND did not already have his 90-day charts completed, he COULD NOT have earned Personal Fitness, Personal Management, or Family Life over a weekend. If the requirement was to “visit historical site X” and the MBC counted the Scout’s family trip last summer (as long as he was a registered Boy Scout at the time) to the state capital building, then the requirement was met. The SM in that case could not hold it back just because the Scout had already completed the requirement before getting the Blue Card.

      See 7.0.4.7 Limited Recourse for Unearned Merit Badges

    • Excellent point Dan. That is EXACTLY the SM Must be involved in the process.

      There are TWO SM signatures on the Blue Card, at least on the ones that I have in my file. 2001 is the latest one that I am referencing.

      1a. There is the Sig on the front side of the “APPLICATION for Merit Badge”, that should signify that “Counseling by the SM” has been done before the Boy starts.

      1b. ON the reverse of the Application, is the Contact Info for the Counselor, as well as the Checked and Recorded space and when the badge was presented (I confess that 15 years ago, during my stint as Advancement Chair, well…) I entered it all into TroopMaster.

      2. On The “Applicant’s Record” there are two Signatures, One for the Counselor, and maybe the KEY Signature, again the SM certifies that the requirements have been completed.

      Perhaps the mistakes being made are not to utilize that SECOND signature, rather than the initial one that gives permission to work on the MB. THE SM OR THE ADVANCEMENT CHAIR SHOULD BE ABLE TO VERIFY with the MB Counselor, especially if it is from a Summer Camp. If the Camp Counselors are not doing their job properly, then the Council Advancement Chair should be contacted.

      The SM has the option ‘IN MY OPINION’ to say “NO” if he/she believes that the requirements have not been accomplished. The question can be “Johnny, on YOUR honor, did your really cook all of those meals?” Maybe this is where communication between the Advancement Chair and the SM is ESSENTIAL.

      LUVMYSCOUT, if you are still monitoring this BLOG, THESE are some of the MAJOR reasons that I OBJECT to how your troop is run.

    • After looking at David’s comment,
      The GTA section 11.1.0.0 Reporting Merit Badge Counseling Concerns is the method to report the Summer Camp Problems.

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